Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Stop Holding Myself Back?

Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Stop Holding Myself Back?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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.

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Sica November 2, 2011 - 12:29 PM

Thank you for this. I don’t have a serious condition but these words still went through to me. I do believe that a major part of success comes from understanding what brought us to whatever state we’re in in the first place. It’s very hard and scary to take a cold hard look at ourselves; ask ourselves the right questions and figuring out the answer. The truth can be very scary… But denial won’t get us anywhere. Let’s be brave, guys!

Jewel November 2, 2011 - 4:10 PM

Thank you! I had a friend die from cirrhosis last year due to this very thing. I believe you can get through this, you just have to work at it. Take it one moment at a time if you have to.

Tachae November 3, 2011 - 11:12 AM

Taking small steps in the right direction is better than nothing. A battle for your health can be very challenging, and down right heartbreaking at worst.
The feeling you get after a few small steps, no matter how small, elicits a feeling of …..rebirth almost. Maybe the feeling will be described differently for you, but that feeling, the one of KNOWING that you’re striving towards something positive is a huge reward that will fuel your journey. Be empowered by that feeling, and whenever you feel doubt, and panic, let that powerful, knowing, confident feeling be what lifts you to fruition, and nutrition. 🙂

Starry November 3, 2011 - 6:17 PM

This one is so, so hard… I saw Dr Oz on Oprah a while back discussing visceral fat and livers (there was also a piece on the website about teens and their livers) and I had no idea even then just how dreadful being overweight and eating junk, especially sugary junk, is for your liver. It is the ticking timebomb in a lot of people. I guess, unfortunately, it is something that people still don’t really talk about too much – unless it is related to alcohol – and a lot of people aren’t aware of how important your liver is to your health and how damaged it can get by simply being overweight and eating junk.

I suppose it is at least partly down to the fact that you can’t ‘see’ visceral fat or your liver in the same way that you can, for example, see cellulite (ah, the joys of cellulite!).

My dad is currently waiting for a liver transplant and, let me tell you, it is not a pretty picture. He has non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease and we only wish that Drs had told us earlier that you can prevent it and even cure it if you don’t leave it too long. All the Drs we dealt with had so little understanding of the basics of eating healthily and in a way that supported your liver. They even said he should be eating sugary foods like cake to keep his energy levels up – ditto lucozade and coke. I kid you not. Seriously, if I could sue the lot of them, I would.

I have seen that on Amazon there are some books dedicated to showing you how eating the right sort of food does help you improve your liver and I think I may be getting one or two to help me along the way.

Kristen August 28, 2013 - 5:12 PM

Just wanted to say I’m hoping your dad gets his transplant soon. Hugs.

Stefanie November 4, 2011 - 11:40 AM

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.

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Stop Holding Myself Back? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Agreed! That’s the answer I was going to give. I’m learning that this is all in the choices I make. Once we are educated on something, we are responsible for making the best decisions possible. Yeah, it’s not always fun, but that’s how this thing works. But I will say this too: make a good decision this minute. Then the next minute you don’t. Please do NOT beat yourself up over the not so wise choice. Every opportunity you get you can do better. Keep that and mind. You will succeed in your goals.

Tremilla November 5, 2011 - 2:05 AM

This is one topic I can empathize with. I am pre-diabetic and was also told to lose weight and eat right. This news made me feel discouraged because at the time I had lost 20lbs. Hearing these words from my doctor made me feel like what I did wasn’t good enough. I started back with the fast food and put on 10lbs. Diabetes Mellitus is one disease that I said I never wanted to get and here I am on the verge of getting it. I’m back on my health kick and determined to stay consistent. There are times when I actually forget that I’m pre-diabetic and have to remind myself. It’s no longer about losing the weight so I can look good in a bikini. Now it’s about not becoming a diabetic.

LBrooke February 23, 2012 - 4:02 AM

This article really hit home for me. I too was diagnosed a few years ago with a disease that is usually caused by being obese. However, it’s 3 years now, and I’m STILL right where I was when I started– even though I’ve been told to lose weight.

I’ve never been healthy.. either fat from eating too much, or skinny from starving myself. The thing that I’m always searching for, is like you say, why?? What’s making me do this? What am I hiding or covering up with this food right now? But I don’t know.. I just literally don’t know. I’ve never been sexually abused, if I was- it was at a time where I wasn’t conscious; because there’s no recollection. And I’ve never been physically abused.. but mentally? Emotionally? Maybe.. by peers– by teachers when I was younger and chubby?

All eyes were always on me growing up– what was I eating? Making sure that I didn’t take that second slice of pizza.. things like that. Sometimes I think the fear in our families, because they’re a certain way (namely fat), are pushed on us to be a hybrid of what they want us to be, because it’s what they wanted to be. Ultimately, it could just make us worse, even worse than them.

I always wish that I could have grown up in a house that was normal about food, because then my life would maybe be different– but now that I’m an adult, I know that I need to start being accountable for the things I do to myself.

lol– I don’t know.. just some word vomit on this blog!! It just really struck a nerve and made me think.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 23, 2012 - 9:57 AM

Trust me, if people can read my 2,000 words a day, certainly yours aren’t that offensive, LOL!

LBrooke February 28, 2012 - 12:28 AM

=) I love this blog so much!! I feel special that you replied to my comment- like you’re a celeb! LOL

Erika Nicole Kendall February 28, 2012 - 8:05 AM


Starry February 26, 2012 - 5:13 AM

Hey, LBrooke, It was me who sent the question to Erika and I completely empathise with your post. For so long I spent time food journaling and trying to figure out what it was that created this food-eating-monster inside me… and, to be honest, although I came up with a few possible answers to this… they didn’t really help me eat more healthily or lose any weight. I decided to finally try a new tack on the back of this website and Erika’s reply above. So far, I have to say, so good I think.

I have stopped journaling (with the proviso to myself that when I am ready to start again, I will). Instead, I have decided to continue with those simple, pretty small, changes into my daily life to make my bad habits into good habits.

So, less thinking, more doing for me.

1 – Water – this was a *big* one for me. I spent a lot of my time dehydrated and didn’t realise it. I started starting my day with a small glass of water and making sure I had another one at lunchtime and another one at night. Not a lot, right?! Well, that was back in November/December, and now I start the day with a pint glass of hot/warm water and have at least another 3 or 4 per day. I have actually gone off soft drinks and even freshly squeezed fruit juice isn’t really doing it for me at the moment. I do still like a coffee during the weekdays (1 cup per day) but now I try to have good quality coffee and if I have a spoon of sugar (maybe 2 times per week now but slowly trying to reduce it to nil), I try to make it brown demarara sugar)

I know the difference that being properly hydrated makes, and I’m all for continuing that.

2 – Making my own packed lunches for work. I’m seriously pressed for time so I make these at the weekend. I make huge batches of veg curries or soups at the weekend and freeze them in little tupperware containers or plastic zip-lock bags. That way, all I have to do is cook a little basmati rice the evening before work so I can take it with my rice, or grab a couple of slices of really good bread. I’m saving a *ton* of money and this way I ensure that I get a seriously healthy lunch.

3 – Walking. I’m still walking to work… it is about 35 mins there and another 35 mins back. I even did it in the snow last month(!)

4 – Morning exercises. This has taken me *ages* to start but now that I’ve started, I’m continuing because I *love* it. (Never in my life thought I’d say that(!)) I do just 20 mins of Tracy Anderson mat workout (currently, the standing abs and arms) and 5 mins on the exercise bike.

So, the upshot of all of this is – I started these just one at a time (starting with the water) and it is gradually snowballing. I haven’t a clue if I have lost any weight at all because I refuse to step on the weighing scales. But I have noticed that I do have more energy and I can feel that I have leg muscles these days and also I can see that I’m starting to get something that looks like a waist again.

I’m still very much overweight, but I am finding that now that I’ve stopped trying to overthink this whole situation and find reasons or even excuses for why I am this overweight, and have instead started to simply get on with making small changes … well, I feel as if I am finally starting to get somewhere healthier and more positive.

As a final comment at the end of this serious verbal diarrhoea I’ve got going on at the moment(!), I got my husband to cancel our lunch at a fancy steak restaurant this weekend… guess what? Instead of that, we are going for a really long walk along the river and having (healthy!!) lunch half-way through the walk. Whoop!! Whoop!!

(er, serious apologies for the length of my reply!!! I just wanted to share that it is really possible to make those small changes and start to feel better!)

LBrooke February 28, 2012 - 12:27 AM

That all sounds great. I’m happy for you, and the end about the walk made me smile. That actually seems much more romantic and nice anyway =) Good luck on your venture. I too have decided to stop trying to analyze, and just do what I know I have too. Once again, good luck =)

Mncunn January 14, 2013 - 10:24 PM

LBrooke and Starry bring up a really good point. What if you can’t get to the root of why you eat so much? I’ve tried therapy, reflection and a little journaling but I can’t seem to get at the root of the problem. I do believe it will help me move forward but I don’t know how to get at it.

P.S.- I hope your mom recovers soon Erika!

Kami August 17, 2013 - 4:34 PM

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.

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Stop Holding Myself Back? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Hey I been making changes. I have eating habits that have been holding me back as well. My goal is to cut out the excess treats and sugar. Its like treating my self with sugar does not work. It seems like I crave it. The food journaling is helpful for me. Even though somtimes I feel alone in this journey

Simplefit October 11, 2013 - 7:24 PM


That is why this website was created. Erika and those inspirational folk like her doesn’t want anyone to feel alone on their Journey. There are so many blogs out there for women who are trying to change their lives and health for the better. Seek them out. My favorites are: Mindbodygreen, Cassey Ho (Upbeat and funny), JessicaSmith.com and Fitnessblender.com. Those are a mix of journals and exercise websites that are out there for us,not to mention Sparkpeople.com, although I’ve never tried that one has a growing support group.

Hope that helps you. I am also always and always will be struggling. But that’s OK, as long as I don’t struggle alone:-)

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