Inside the Mind of a Fat Man: Emotional Hunger Is Hard - Mercy Medical Center

Inside the Mind of a Fat Man: Emotional Hunger Is Hard

Posted on: July 15, 2013

It’s week two of Eric Buwala’s journey with weight loss. A Mercy Weight Management client, Eric is sharing his story as he strives to return to activities he once enjoyed. He currently weighs more than 400 pounds. Check back here each week to read about his struggles and triumphs as only Eric can explain them: humorously and with lots of honesty.

Welcome back, readers! What a busy first week I’ve had. Lots of stuff going on in my head, as my recent MRI image may suggest.

Let’s start off with the basics. I got through the initial screening for the Mercy OPTIFAST weight management program easily. Last Monday I went to Mercy for an EKG (at least I think it was an EKG – the thing that makes lot’s of squiggles from my heartbeat) and a blood draw. I was in and out in under 30 minutes…just like a Domino’s pizza. (Arrgh! Food keeps creeping into my thoughts!)

On Tuesday I met with a physician who went over my results, discussed issues and side effects, and then cleared me to start the OPTIFAST program. I got a cool binder full of information and coursework to go along with my 18-week program. Of course, I also got my first week of food, along with a nifty shaker bottle to mix the shakes up in.

OPTIFAST to a Foodie Who Keeps Thinking About Food

So, my first day on OPTIFAST wasn’t as bad as I expected. There are basically three types of food:

1. A powdered shake available in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry

2. A “granola-type” bar available in chocolate, peanut butter chocolate and berry yogurt

3. Two soups in chicken and garden tomato flavors

I had already stocked up my house and my office with bottled water, flavored seltzer water and (the most essential ingredient) those little Mio flavoring bottles. They allow you to add a variety of flavorings to bottled water just by squirting some of the “Mio Juice” into your bottle. It reminds me a lot of squirting the Sriracha hot sauce into a hot bowl of Pho soup. (Darn it! Stop thinking of food. Stop thinking of food.)

At the beginning of the day, I had a vanilla shake. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I found it to be pretty good. As the day wore on, I started to get hungry and ate my next item, the peanut butter chocolate bar. It was a little less enjoyable than the shake, but still more than palatable. The little zing of PB and chocolate definitely helped the taste buds.

For lunch it was time for another shake and a little bit of creativity. I put the powder in the bottle, added some Mio flavoring (I think it was black cherry) and water, and shook it up. WOW! I hate to admit it, but it was pretty darn tasty for a diet shake!

I had five supplements in and needed one more for the day: the chicken soup. Now, so far I love this program, and I am so grateful for the people there that are helping me, but the soup is just NOT for me. It was a textural thing I couldn’t get past. They did their best to try to make the soup creamy, but it seemed no matter how much I mixed, it still separated some into layers. Eating out of a clear bowl was just freaking me out. I’m not sure why, as eating Tiramisu out of a clear pie pan never bothered me. That has layers, sweet delicious layers of cake soaked in liqueur…. (Arrrghhh! Food, stay out of my brain!)

The good news is, I found out I don’t HAVE to eat the soup. In fact, the plan allows me to swap in some low-sodium, low-fat broth here and there. I have been doing that when I have the heavy urge to eat at night. A warm bowl of broth seasoned to my liking seems to quell that psychological hunger and get me ready for bed.

Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

So, now you have the basics of the program. How is it to actually eat six dietary supplements a day for an entire week?

Let me explain it this way, dear readers. I have fed sharks while scuba diving. I have been hit by a shark in prelude to an attack while snorkeling. I have jumped off of a bridge and fallen 65 feet into the ocean. I have landed a small plane in 22-knot gusting winds. I have been thrown from a motorcycle at 30 mph. I once had to give an unprepared 45 min presentation in front of 200 people. And perhaps most terrifying, I once had to pick out and purchase a purse for my wife while she wasn’t there. In short, I have been through some scary, nervy stuff.

This first week of OPTIFAST, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. Now, don’t get scared off right away. Let me encourage you with a happy ending at the close of week one: I have lost 15 pounds! You are back in, aren’t you?

Dealing with Emotional Hunger

This has not been hard so much in the hunger category. I haven’t really felt all that “hungry,” like I need to eat. I have felt HUNGRY in that emotionally, I want to reward myself with something tasty. Worse, I have that emotional trigger when things get bad.

What’s an emotional trigger? Here is a great example from the week. I took my family out for a wonderful day on Friday. We went mall shopping, saw the tall ships in Cleveland and enjoyed lots of other activities. For dinner, I took everyone to a favorite restaurant – a little place in Independence that serves home-cooked Polish foods. I sat at the table as everyone enjoyed pierogies, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, chicken paprikash, kielbasa…er, sorry, food getting in the way again. You get the idea. I had two caffeine-free Diet Cokes and great dinner conversation while everyone else ate. But I actually had a good time! I was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of dieting – the craving Terminator!

Then Saturday came. I had a bad day that ended in a fight with my wife. It doesn’t really matter what it was about or who was right or wrong. The fact is that after being her partner for 23 years, if I end up in a fight it means I failed at working my end of the relationship. If I am at my best, things should not escalate unless both parties give up on logic and reason. But sometimes we just want to throw down. Its human nature, just like poutine. (Wait, who thought of that? Someone just throwing away sense when they decided to pile fresh cut fries with cheese, beef gravy, curds, and bacon. I mean…. Aahhhhh…. Please, stop brain! Stop with the deliciousness!)

Anyway, this sends me into an emotional tailspin. As I trudged up the stairs from my mancave to get yet another bottle of water, someone spoke to me in my despair. Who? My old pal Pringles. Yes, Pringles. Not a potato chip mind you; he is a potato-flavored crisp. And this crisp felt my pain. He called out to me, “Dude! It’s not right what happened to you! We can make you feel better!” So a healthy handful of Pringles (cheddar this time, but I don’t discriminate) made its way back down to the mancave with me.

I talked with Pringles; I played with Pringles; I laughed and cried with Pringles. In the end, though, I ate Pringles. Then, a supremely interesting thing happened to me. First, I didn’t really feel any better about my day. They tasted good, but once they were gone, I felt the same. Second, I actually felt WORSE after eating, like I let myself down, like I was letting everyone down. I realized this is the really tough part. Changing my habit of going to food when the wheels come off the proverbial bus of my life was going to be a defining struggle of my diet.

So, to sum up: I came, conquered, failed, regrouped, lost 15 pounds and am really embarking on a journey of changing the way I think about food. I expect lots of adversity in the coming week, so my tales of struggles against food should be epic. Bring popcorn for next week’s blog. Just don’t offer any to me!

Did you miss Eric’s introductory post, “My Weight-loss Journey: How I Became Morbidly Obese and What I’m Doing to Change”? Click here to read it!

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