It Was Food Vs. Me... and I Won

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I have a great life, if only I could stop eating." Those were the words Nancy Goodman used to describe herself. Like millions of women of all ages, she had an obsession with food. She was obsessed with her weight, obsessed with eating, and obsessed with not eating. It didn't matter that she "looked OK" or "good enough" to most people. She was trapped in a life of dieting and deprivation rather than leading a life true to who she wanted to be.

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I have a great life, if only I could stop eating." Those were the words Nancy Goodman used to describe herself. Like millions of women of all ages, she had an obsession with food. She was obsessed with her weight, obsessed with eating, and obsessed with not eating. It didn't matter that she "looked OK" or "good enough" to most people. She was trapped in a life of dieting and deprivation rather than leading a life true to who she wanted to be.

In It Was Food Vs. Me . . . and I Won, Nancy speaks directly to readers and shares her inspiring story and lessons for breaking free. As Nancy discovered, when she finally began to confront the true issues facing her, instead of the self-created ones about food, she was able to lose weight, start eating the foods she loved, stop obsessing, and flourish in more ways than she had ever imagined. With total honesty and a passion for helping others, she offers refreshing advice on dealing with everything from daily food choices, cravings, and emotional triggers to the realities of binges and setbacks, setting nonweight goals, and living one's dreams. As Nancy says, "Willpower is not about sticking to diets, it's about sticking to the truth . . . when you begin to live close to the person who lives inside you, food loses its control over you."

The real triumph of It Was Food Vs. Me . . . and I Won is Nancy's funny, intimate, charismatic voice, which comes through on every page of this powerful and timely book. Her enthusiasm, directness, and warmth will inspire and motivate anyone who wants to live a healthier, more rewarding life.

Be inspired and learn how to:
* Keep SAFE -- Separate Always Food and Emotion and understand what triggers your overeating
* Feed your cravings and accept your bingesóto take the fear out of food
* Structure your eating -- instead of dieting, to help you lose weight and enjoy the foods you love
* Exercise to feel strong and alive -- not just to burn calories
* Redirect your energy from food and weight to your life -- and discover who you really are

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Goodman suffered with a binge-eating disorder for more than 15 years, sometimes consuming 8,000 calories in a day and spending the next few days burning them off (for reference, a McDonald's Big Mac and Super Size French Fries add up to 1,210 calories). Now that Goodman has overcome her disorder, she's penned this candid autobiographical account of her food obsession, demonstrating that there is an escape route from binge-diet cycles. Based on the idea that "it isn't so much about what you're eating but how you are eating it," Goodman's method is to structure eating habits by keeping two journals. One diary monitors how, when and where food is consumed; the other documents the "dialogues inside your head." For Goodman, food is not the real problem; since "what sits behind food is a feeling." She describes in detail how therapy helped her find those feelings and work through them. In later chapters, Goodman discusses her strategies for food management, and uses personal anecdotes to illustrate such issues as eating only when you're hungry, eating in restaurants, eating junk food in moderation, and preparing for and accepting binges. Fellow sufferers will find Goodman's experience familiar, but her recommended recovery program is somewhat over-simplified. And her conversational, occasionally humorous style eventually becomes repetitive, although some valuable nuggets are buried between descriptions of dinner parties and therapy sessions. (On sale Apr. 26) Forecast: A five-city author tour and national TV satellite tour might draw women in. Goodman's story was featured on Caroline Myss's Web site and received an overwhelming response; readers of that piece may want to buy this book. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Goodman's book came about after her successful food fight was featured on the web site of author Caroline Myss. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670033126
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publication date: 4/22/2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It’s not like the bagel was fresh. It was discarded. It wasn’t sitting on a plate with garnishes of lettuce, cream cheese, or tomato. It was on the car floor. It wasn’t that I had no other options, like the homeless who scrounge for any available food to survive. I had a beautiful family and a wonderful home with a kitchen full of food. Something must have been terribly wrong inside, but I didn’t know what or why. All I knew was that the bagel that lay on the floor of my car, minus three bites from one of my kids, ended up getting eaten. And we had no dog.

It’s not like I was unappealing, grotesque, or unhappy. I didn’t look like the kind of girl who ate fuzzy bagels and cabinets of food. To the contrary, I was admired for my “discipline” and self-control. I was in great shape, cooked healthy foods, and was knowledgeable about nutrition. I knew the fat grams in fuzz. What I didn’t know was why I had this curse. It was private, shameful, and painful. It was devastating and life- stealing. It was a constant in my life; I could not control my eating.

On any given day, weight gain was my fear. Weight loss was my goal. I couldn’t eat a meal, couldn’t eat a sandwich, and couldn’t eat a bite of someone else’s without worrying about losing control. And when I found myself sitting in my car after the kids had gotten out, I couldn’t stop what was happening. I turned around, saw that bagel, and stuffed it into my mouth. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget the feeling of loss. Who was I and what was I doing? And the race to the kitchen that followed. I made a phone call that day that would forever change my life. The Bagel Day was Day One.

I’m not sure why I made the call that day. After all, I had been bingeing since my early teens. If I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about eating. If I was eating, I was devastated by the inability to stop. If I was all right with my eating, I was tormented by the fear of it not lasting. Simple things like making plans were determined by my weight. I never made plans on Mondays; I would be too fat from Sunday. I needed advance notice of social plans so I could lose weight beforehand. Funerals were always a problem because they came without proper notice; I might have to be seen on a Monday. Cancellations were a necessary tool for the times I felt too fat to go.

I had many fears in my life. I was afraid of my husband’s family; they had food everywhere on Sundays. I was afraid of my relatives’ homes. They had cabinets and foods I knew I wouldn’t be able to get away from. My friends’ houses had cookies and chips that I intentionally kept out of my own home but always feared in theirs. Even my grandmother’s house was scary. Parties and dinners were overwhelming. Holidays were useless. Birthdays had cake and goody bags. There were paper plates with pizza crusts, abandoned as kids left to play.

Every event, every home, every night, every day, I was never safe from food. It would be there waiting and there was nothing I could do. I would prepare myself by setting rules. I looked to my husband to help me enforce them. If I knew I was headed for trouble with food, I would ask him to watch and stand guard. “Don’t let me eat,” I would say. I would tell myself to be strong and strategize a plan. Maybe I would eat before I went so that I wouldn’t eat as much there. Or not eat all day so I would only eat there. But all of my efforts would fail. No matter what I did, how hard I tried, nothing ever worked. It would win. It always did. Sometimes I went home and cried.

There was only one place I felt safe in my life and that was on a diet. A diet to me was like a big iron gate that kept food on the other side. I had no choices facing me, no points of decision that might be wrong or might lead me to bad places with eating. A diet was hope. It was success. It was the only way I could live calmly. That wonderful calm would last only awhile. Following it were the inevitable “cheats” sabotaging what success I had.

At the time I viewed those cheats as my own inability to succeed in my goal to be thin. Since small cheats led to larger cheats, which led to lost pounds gained back, I thought I was ruining my own happiness. I looked at my life. It was everything I had ever wished for. What a shame all that was ruined by one horrible problem with food. What would cure me? What would allow me to live my life without fear? Why couldn’t I stop this curse?

Food and weight steered me. Every morning I woke up to another day I would attempt disciplined eating. Every hour was spent waiting to eat and then trying not to. Every place I went demanded a thought as to what foods would face me. Every plan I made included a goal to lose weight beforehand.

There was no such thing as “one.” One cookie was not possible, therefore cookies were not allowed. Allowing myself chips, crackers, or anything with fat, salt, or sugar was asking for trouble. Salads, fruits, vegetables, and other foods that were not threatening would be all right, so I ate them in very large quantities to try to get satisfied. Any day I managed to eat these foods was a successful day.

I weighed myself daily to watch my progress. If I lost a pound or two my mood was happy and energetic. If I wasn’t losing weight my mood was depressed, making it even more difficult to eat in control. Then, of course, after a few days, I would break away from the routine, slip into some “bad” foods, and find myself in bouts of uncontrollable eating.

My mornings and early afternoons were fine, until around four p.m., when I would find myself in the kitchen bringing out the contents of my refrigerator. My kids would be playing at this time and I occupied myself with crunchy, salty foods or just sampling whatever I found. This was why I couldn’t have dinner. By the time my husband came home, I had consumed far more than I should have. Most foods I cooked for my family were foods I wasn’t allowed. So I picked at the food and watched everyone else eat the meal I longed to have. This was a typical day.

At least once a week and usually more often, I found myself in unexplained, unstoppable, frenzied, and ferocious binges. A binge for me would reach many thousands of calories in a short period of time. Sometimes I would eat so much food that I would feel full and sick, only to go back and eat more a few hours later. The only way I can describe the sensation is to say that it felt like a switch had been flicked. Once it was on, there was no way to turn it off.

The cereal box had to be empty; the cookies had to be finished. Salty to sweet, bread and butter, crunchy to soft, then back to sweet again. I explored my cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer, searching to satisfy every craving. Since I knew I could not have these foods again for a long time, I needed to leave no container unturned. I must not leave anything out. I needed to enjoy all that food now so I wouldn’t need it again.

Weekends were always disasters. If we had plans, I needed to have my weight at a certain number and that was my goal for the week. I would typically eat very little in the preceding days in order to prepare. Sometimes, as the weekend approached I ate out of control, not knowing why. Since that would make my weight go up, it led me to not want to go ahead with my plans. As I said, Sundays were never okay. They were the fight I never won. How I wished for a six-day week.

Wherever we were, no matter what time of day, if my bingeing had started while we were out, there was one more hurdle that made me afraid to go home: the kitchen. Coming home late at night, my husband would head upstairs. I didn’t want him to stop me now. I’d wait to hear the water run as he washed up before going to bed, then I’d move into automatic. The cabinets were opened, the foods were pulled out, and then they were returned to their places. Like a good-night kiss that ends a day, I would turn off the lights and head up.

Then I would get ready for bed. Sick and defeated, devastated beyond reprieve. I just didn’t want to be me. I would wash my face and look in the mirror to see the most distasteful girl. I leaned on the counter, close to the glass, supporting my chin in my hands. I talked to my face in the mirror, chanting the words “I hate you.” I would lie in my bed and imagine the food traveling to the various parts of my body, feeling so helpless to stop their route. It felt like a poison to my progress, slowly killing my potential. Morning would come, a new chance to succeed with yet another goal to pursue. Don’t eat. Burn it off. In a few days it will be okay.

I had a wonderful life. I loved my husband and inhaled my children. I appreciated all that we had. I didn’t long for a change and actually wished it would stay the same. I was not unhappy about my life; I was unhappy about my weight. And I deplored my problems with food.

In my mind there was no hope to ever live a life free of obsessions with food. I didn’t know anyone else who had this. I knew there were people with eating disorders who got too thin, vomited, or ate to obesity, but I had never heard of the kind of obsessing that I did. No one except my husband really knew, and he didn’t know what to make of it or how he could help. And with all he knew, he knew only half. I was at a fine weight if judged by the standards of others. I worked out a lot in order to counter what I had eaten, so I had a decent figure. The days following “bad” eating, I made sure to eat very little. This would average out my weight. During the days when the scale went up, I pulled away from my life. I hid behind my kids’ activities, wore bigger clothes, and buried myself under my secret.

As an adult, my weight had vacillated over the years. When I got married I was very thin, not that I could see it. I remember wishing I was just a bit thinner, and then I could have felt perfect. With my first pregnancy I put on more than forty pounds, and never lost all the weight. Depending on my binges and diets, I was between ten and fifteen pounds heavier than my prepregnancy weight. Had I been a hundred pounds more it wouldn’t have made a difference. To me, it was insurmountable.

I used to look at thin people and decided they were one of two types. Either they were selfish or they were lucky, but both left me out of the picture. I would never be lucky enough not to need food, so forget any hope of that. And I would never allow myself that kind of freedom to let myself do what they did, whatever it was that they did. So forget hope of that one, too.

My life with food felt like prison. I felt like an inmate serving a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, waiting for some kind of break. Not able to understand how this could have happened to him, he dreams of the day he’ll be free. No matter how long he’s there, or how futile it seems, he has some hope of a release. One day someone will come to his cell, bang on the bars, and tell him it’s time to go home. I prayed that day would come.

They say that prisoners, once free, repeat their crimes, due to a fear of life on the outside. Prison, while awful, has an element of safety due to the lack of choice and responsibility. It’s structured and dependable. Freedom, while exhilarating, can be frightening. It leaves the door open to trouble and bad decisions. Prison can feel protective. And so can food obsessions.

To someone with eating and weight obsessions, food feels like living in an unsafe neighborhood, always in fear of attacks. It’s an unsafe world of your own obsessions. You can lock all the doors, close all the windows, but there’s nothing more to do. If they want to get in they’ll get in.

The concept of life on the outside means taking full responsibility. The ex-convict would have to live honestly, and he hasn’t a clue how to do that. For an ex–food convict, what would life be like without the food or food concerns? Would it feel like there would be nothing to look forward to, boring and sort of empty? Would there be an absence of comfort? Or would a life without food be the solution to the one last problem? And which is worse, the fear of staying in the prison or the fear of getting out?

Now that I’m living on the “outside,” I have some answers to those questions. Breaking out is hard. Very hard. But living inside is harder. Living inside is full of diets, magazines, books, scales, articles, mirrors, and sizes. It’s waiting for food, avoiding food, trying to cut something out. Living inside is searching for the answers. Maybe more protein, more exercise, cut out the bread and starches. Drink all liquids, fast for three days, find the latest herbs. Eat small portions, eat one meal a day, and never eat after six o’clock. Drink more water, avoid all sugar, and don’t mix food groups together. Get a two-hundred-dollar enema; you’ll lose three pounds in one day. And let’s not forget surgery and the latest remedies for fat. Staple it, stretch it, or suck it all out. Ask about a prescription; it’s so much less invasive. Inside is endless. Inside never works long-term. Successes are pounded down. Inside, too much self-esteem comes from one place. That place is thin and it’s never thin enough.

Living on the outside, however, gathers all of that misdirected energy and focus, and shoots it into life. It goes to us. To who we are, what we really feel, what we really want, and what we would choose if we gave ourselves that choice. To accepting, finally, that our problems with weight have less to do with food and more to do with our needs. Not our need for food. Not our need to be thinner. It has to do with emotion. It has to do with life. It has to do with pain and discomfort, and how hard we must work not to feel it.

An obsession of any kind looks and feels like boundless energy put toward a task. What an obsession really is, however, is an avoided feeling, an avoided truth, or the avoidance of something that hurts. Something we don’t want to face. Something we think we can’t handle. We don’t even know what it is. Or maybe, in fact, we do. The obsession is strong and all consuming. Doesn’t it have to be? To keep us totally distracted and safe from feelings that are simply tremendous.

Remember I said that dieting felt like an iron gate? It kept me safe from eating by keeping food on the other side. In fact, it was that very obsession that kept me safe from feelings. It kept me on the other side of emotions. I wasn’t even aware of them since food was all I could see.

If pain is there, and we’re not sure it is, why would we want to feel that? What purpose would it serve? Why not continue to go on diets and eventually find one that works? Who’s to say that isn’t the answer, especially when life feels just fine? Well, let me pose some questions to you that I know you ask yourself. Questions you ask about food. Why do I always need more? Why isn’t it ever enough? Why can other people eat less and be fine, but for me that just couldn’t cut it?

Can you translate that to your life? What would it feel like to hear yourself say that in your life you want more? That in some relationships you may want more? Would it feel selfish and ungrateful and sound like you’re complaining? Do you feel that even if you admitted it, it would be futile anyway? Since you’re not even sure what you would want more of, or who you would want more with?

If you can somehow open your mind a bit, I want you to envision a gate. Not the one that keeps food away; this is a different one. This one keeps you from your own potential and the energy that you have to get there. All the things you want out of life but you could never let yourself have. Just like all the food you want but could never let yourself eat. Once you move beyond the food and through all the avoidance, you find yourself in a place, kind of like never-never land. All the things that you never believed could ever happen to you. I won’t lie. Some of them are just awful. And some of them are magical, beyond any dream you have dreamed. So if obsessions are that strong, and, boy, are they ever, imagine that strength redirected. Holy smokes. Imagine that strength redirected.

Once you live outside of food you will have joy born of many places. You will also have many fears in your life, but they’ll have nothing to do with food. There will be times you feel terrible frustration, but it won’t be because you gained weight. Other times you’ll feel terribly proud, but it won’t come from losing weight. All of these feelings of pride and remorse will move from the scale to you. Physically, you’ll have no complaints. But emotionally . . . well, there you’ll have some gripes!

That comes only because you have already made the emotional choices necessary to live true to who you are and what you feel inside. This needs to be repeated. Your best physical self comes after you see what hides behind food and weight.

If you’re tired of prison food, prison uniforms, prison rules, and prison life, start to plan your escape. You can share it with a friend or a family member or keep it all to yourself. You can start today, but you need to be ready. It won’t work if you’re too comfortable where you are. Of course, you’re in a hurry. You’ll do whatever it takes, yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s just cut to the chase. The skinny one. Make me thin, you say, and I’ll do anything you ask.

My name is Nancy and I’ve lived the life you call home. I lived inside for so many years and I’m here now to help you get out. Today I eat those foods that I craved, I’m thin, and I live my life. My weight is low because extra food is no longer what makes me feel better. I had to find out what would. My weight doesn’t fluctuate all that much, but my emotions could break any scale!

Like an ex-convict who finally got out, I think about the others still there. Knowing what those cells feel like, I just want to raid the prison. I want to run inside and grab everyone and be their parole officer. I want to teach them a way to live so they won’t end up back in the slammer. I understand all the fears and know they can’t see a way out. But I won’t stop until they do. Freedom just feels too good.

My food obsessions were not a curse. It was not the one horrible problem in a perfect life. It was a quiet scream. Inside me was another me. Apart from my decisions, choices, words, routines, and daily life she was tapping. I just didn’t hear her. She tapped and tapped and tapped until finally I heard her voice. Bagel Day . . . I finally took her call. A call from me to me. And now I’m calling you. I’m outside your cell, banging on those bars. I’m here to take you home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2004


    Hi! I am 21 years old and I have had issues with food since I was 18 months old (says mom). I was overweight all throughout my childhood (now I can say a binge eater) and finally junior year of high school I decided to do something about it. I really wanted to lose weight, and I did with weight watchers, but watch out because 5 years later I could still tell you how many points are in just about every food.LOL Okay, getting to the point I developed bulimia my freshman year of college. Yeah! bad idea cuz that just packed on the pounds sending me on an emotional roller coaster. Lets see; Now I am on my fifth therapist and I have been with him for a year! Nancy's book is great!!!!!!!!! I can finally say that the reasons I binge is because of EMOTIONS. I used to always say I don't eat enough that is why I binge; that seemed easier to say then 'I am an emotional eater.' Her real life examples in the book clearly show how emotions lead to binges. The few bad things about the book are 1) It does not flow chapter to chapter. 2) Her advice on food is kinda bad. I believe that you can eat more than she implies that you can. For example, lunch is her biggest meal of the day and is 400 calories. Dude! I eat 400 calories at Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Plus, lots of snacks. I mean if you are just getting over being really restrictive I guess it could help you. However, I have gradualy moved beyond that. I still can't have cookies in the house without scarfing down the whole bag so I still have work to do! If you are a binge eater PLEASE READ HER BOOK!

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