Shirley’s Story: Food Is No Longer My Friend

Shirley recalls that as a child, she ate what she needed and was pretty active. “I didn’t have any issues with food until my late twenties. The problems started after I quit working and had two young children. We lived out in the country and my husband worked out of town during the week. I felt isolated, bored, and lonely. Food became my friend.”

Her mother was really rough on her. Later Shirley set boundaries with her.

Shirley Bohlken 2009As a result, she gained around 20-30 pounds and felt uncomfortable because she wasn’t used to it. She tried Weight Watchers then a popular liquid diet. She had difficulty sticking to anything and always gained back any weight that she’d lost, setting off a pattern of yo-yo dieting.

When Shirley was 44 she was diagnosed with diabetes; she started insulin the following year. Three years later she developed congestive heart failure which was treated with “a bunch of medications.”

“I continued to gain weight but I just couldn’t diet anymore. Dr. Thompson, my doctor, had heard Dr. May speak at a conference and said I should look into Am I Hungry?®  It took me about a year, but I finally got around to buying Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. I got to about page 16 and started bawling. I just couldn’t stop crying. It all finally made sense but I was also upset that I had gone this long without understanding why I had been overeating all those years. All of those diet programs teach you that it is about self-control, but it’s not. I could see what I had been doing to myself and I realized that I needed to deal with all of those feelings that I hadn’t dealt with for 50 years.”

Shirley had the sudden realization that she had been using food to deal with pain stemming all the way back to her childhood. “I took a break from reading the book for a couple of weeks. I decided that I couldn’t control what had happened to me in the past but I can be in charge of what happens to me now. It was like switch. I learned how to decide for myself when, what, and how much to eat.

Shirley Bohlken horseback riding“There was a gradual transformation. I know it’s not about the weight but the first year, I lost about ten pounds; the next another twenty; and I’ve lost six this year already. But even better is that I am taking one quarter of the dose of my blood pressure medications than before and my insulin doses have been cut almost in half. My new doctor is amazed and wants to know what I am doing!”

“I also read Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes: A Mindful Eating Program for Thriving with Prediabetes and Diabetes. I learned a lot about managing my diabetes. I think everyone should read it as soon as they are diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes.”

Shirley shared some of the other changes that she has noticed:

  • I no longer eat by the clock; I eat when I’m hungry.
  • I’m not eating mindlessly. I used to snack all day at work and when I got home, I’d grab a bag of potato chips and eat for half an hour while I watched TV. Then I’d get up and fix dinner and eat again. Now, if I’m hungry when I get home, I might grab one handful of chips in a napkin or have a piece of fruit.
  • I’m a member of the Red Hat Club. We have a monthly meeting at the Golden Corral Buffet. I just check to see how hungry I am  before I get my food so usually my plate is only half-full. Everyone keeps saying, “You didn’t eat very much.” They seem worried that I’m not getting my money’s worth, but I am, because I ate what I needed. I tell people that I’m eating anything and everything I want.
  • I was walking two miles a day; unfortunately I broke my ankle so I need to get back to doing that again.

Shirley decided to participate in the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program Facilitator Training. “One of my workshop participants was a woman in her twenties, like I was when all this started. We were talking about the Overeating Cycle and the woman said, ‘But food has always been my friend. It has never deceived me.’ I told her, ‘Oh, but it has.'”

“I want people to know that you don’t need somebody else telling you what to eat. This is not about the food. If you have issues with your past, or issues you are using food to mask, then when you realize what’s going on in your head, you can finally move forward.”

 

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