On the many lessons I learned during and after the weight-loss phase
Aside from my significant weight loss—for which I’m very grateful on many levels—I feel like I got my life back as a result of participating in this program. During MR, I developed confidence in skills I never knew I had: namely, at experiencing all manner of psychological and emotional stressors in my life without eating a single bite of food. I attended a number of social events and parties at which food and alcohol figured prominently, and I didn’t once succumb to temptation for 12 full weeks. This was previously unheard of for me.
I admit that occasionally during MR, it felt like time had slowed to a crawl. I discovered that prior to PfHW, food had taken up a huge portion of my thoughts and activities each day. After eating one meal, I would have almost immediately begun to think about my next one. I would have spent most of my awake hours eating, preparing my next meal, or planning what that next meal might be. Late at night, when my wife and kids had gone to bed, I would throw all of my planning and caution to the wind. In private—quietly and in absolute secrecy—I would let myself sail without restrictions through the contents of my kitchen cupboard, fridge and freezer. I would eat to my heart’s content and whim, according to whatever struck my fancy in my search throughout my house. Before starting this program, I ate mindlessly and with impunity: I ate in great quantities, at all times of the day or night. Prior to starting PfHW, I felt helpless to stop these behaviours.
Once all of those behaviours were effectively deleted during the 12 weeks of MR, I was able to take stock of the content and breadth of my disordered eating habits. Through the means of extensive journaling, self-reflection, some psychotherapy and several discussions with my wife and parents, I learned why I first began to develop these habits as a young child and teen. I discovered that I had been using food for nearly 30 years to comfort myself emotionally, and to soothe my sense of being inadequately cared for and protected from an abusive step-parent from the ages of 8 through 13. Most importantly, I learned that I truly had the power and capacity to get through each and every day without having to turn to food at all. It is not an overstatement to say that I felt like a completely different person than I had been for most of my adult life.
I filled two paper journals with my reflections on these topics throughout PfHW. During MR, I developed a sense of confidence and power over my own dysfunctional eating behaviours that I could never remember having had before. I took an extensive inventory of my former unhealthy eating habits, and I began to develop pre-emptive strategies to extinguish those habits permanently when I went back to eating solid food. Taking advantage of my relatively open schedule as a full-time, stay-at-home dad, I devoted as much time and energy to this as I would have done with a regular job. Aside from rearing my children (with the unflagging support of my wife, who worked full-time outside the home), I couldn’t think of anything more important in my life than my successful completion of PfHW.
Before I knew it, the MR phase of the program was nearing its conclusion, and we were preparing to enter the 6-week-long phase called Transition. Leading up to this point and throughout the first 26 weeks of the program, participants met with each other and PfHW clinicians for 3 hours each week. Learning modules on dozens of topics related to recovery from obesity were presented every week. By the time Group 5 reached Transition, we had attended sessions with program psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and dieticians on how to construct a balanced and healthful diet; on how to begin integrating physical activity into our daily lives; and on how most effectively to develop a “normal” relationship with food and eating. We were then set free to put these new habits into motion for the second half of the year-long program, for the phase called Maintenance.