Q: Recently, I was diagnosed with non-alcohol related fatty liver disease and have been told to lose weight (I am 15 kgs overweight) quickly but healthily. I have been trying to educate myself about living a healthier lifestyle which, of course, includes exercise and eating well. So far, I have started to walk to and from work (30mins either way) and drink more water. This is working out well but taking the next step and eating better… well, that is where I keep stumbling.
I am very scared about my condition – half of my liver is just fat and if it goes on like this, it will become increasingly scarred and end up with cirrhosis. Yet, despite being very, very worried I can’t quite put the healthy eating and more exercise into action. And I need to – real quick.
I’d really appreciate some advice about where to start and how to take the focus off the panicky ‘argh! omg! what am I going to do?!?!’ + stuffing myself silly when I get scared of this situation and onto making constructive lifestyle changes instead.
The self-sabotage over eating junk food when I know very well that I should be eating good, healthy food to help myself get better is seriously confusing, really stupid and really holding me back… I’ve always been overweight since I was a teen and I’m now 31.
It is most definitely time to make a change but I’m really not sure how… or where to even start. It seems like such a big mountain to climb and all I’ve done is buy a pair of hiking boots!!
First and foremost, I’m so very sorry to hear about your condition. I hate, even more, that the habits you find difficult to give up are the very same habits that are contributing to your disease. Out of curiosity, has anyone explained to us that the chemicals in junk food result in fat buildup in and around the liver? Or did they just start putting this garbage in our food?
Just in case you’re wondering, that works like this: since HFCS is metabolized as fat quicker than regular sugar once it hits your liver, this process triggers something called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This process leads to insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
I said before that I think far more people are food addicts than are willing to admit – I also got chided for it pretty sternly – but this is why. There shouldn’t be such a thing as “I can’t give it up” or “I can’t put it down.” It’s one thing to say that jokingly, but when it gets to the point where you literally cannot? It may be time to consider whether or not it classifies as an addiction, an unhealthy connection to that item, and whether or not you are using junk food as a crutch.
For some people, the answer is simple – “Sure, I can give it up,” and they do. They move on. For many others, it isn’t that simple. If, in the face of disease and illness – especially to the point where you actually know you have the illness and fear worsening it – you still cannot make appropriate decisions, accept that the problem is, in fact, an addiction and it may be time to address the food aspect of your journey as such.
But where do you start?
Spend some time with yourself and a written diary (not a typed one, not a live-journal, but a notebook or composition book) and do a lot of heavy thinking about what it is you might be using food to cope with. An unwillingness to give up junk food even though you know it is killing you is a dangerous choice, but it is a choice that is benefitting you in some way. You have to figure out what “way” you are benefitting from that choice. Almost always, it is providing you with a coping mechanism for hiding from something you don’t want to address or thought you’d addressed before, but may need to revisit.
While you do that, start talking to yourself about the choices you make. Yes, that means loud, vocal, audible conversations with yourself. Start asking yourself why you are eating what you are eating. Why are you picking these things up and putting them in your shopping cart. Why are you even in this aisle? Shop like a clean eater, and avoid the junk.
Address whatever your problem is. Be it sexual trauma, domestic abuse, whatever. Furthermore, understand that you need a new coping mechanism – be it writing, reading, meditation, relaxation, boxing lessons, whatever – because the one you have is terribly destructive. It’s okay to admit these things – failure to do so results in continual downward spiraling.
Accept that if you want to achieve your goals, there is only one way for you to do it, and that’s through the predominately fruit and vegetable diet. That’s pretty much the end of that. From there, grab a few recipes (or a meal plan) and resign yourself to the plan you create for yourself.. and make sure there is no junk food on it.
Self-sabotage is real – we get in our own way far too often sometimes and don’t understand why. It takes hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years worth of soul searching to get it right, so you have to not only be understanding of yourself, but you must also be patient. It’s natural to feel panicked, just know that this isn’t a situation where “panic” can produce better (read: healthier) results than patience. I know we’ve all experienced the situation where you realized you only had 6 hours to finish an assignment and “panic” and “pressure” compelled you to get it done, but this isn’t that kind of situation. Your body has a finite ability and trying to push it to its limits in an unhealthy fashion can ultimately cause more problems than what you began with. To put it bluntly, “panic” will get you nowhere. Chill.
The final matter here is simply to accept that these are conscious decisions that you have to make. They require active thought, constant awareness and the ability to be gentle with yourself so that you can learn yourself. Before you know it, the 15kg will be gone and you will feel much better – not just physically, but emotionally as well.