My closet should have a “beware” sign on the door. On any day, opening it is a painful process. On the day I relapsed, it made me greedy. I had lost 40 pounds, but I wanted something that would make it look like I’d lost even more – and there was an outfit from an earlier weight, a size too small for comfort but possible to get into.

In my too-tight clothes I became more and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. Work was awful. I came home stressed out and eager to self-medicate with my drug of choice: food.

So it was the wrong day to have muffins that I’d baked with my nephew in the house. I actually thought I was capable of having just one. Big mistake! Just one taste of a trigger food, and it’s all over: “one” means a box, a sleeve, or, in the case of peanut butter, a jar. I enter the fog of food-addicted thinking. Certain foods act like such poison in my body that my willpower shuts down as soon as I take a bite. And that’s what happened: several muffins later, the flood gates of depression opened and all energy drained out of me, along with my self-esteem.

“Loser, loser, loser, loser, loser” played over and over in my brain as I downed a box of donuts. The shame only made me eat more.

This has been going on for decades. I have lived in a revolving door: diet, relapse, diet, relapse; lose fast, gain fast, lose fast, gain fast. Punitive programs are not a good match for me, but I did them anyway, for years. Before doing experiments at Suppers, I’d always thought I was depressed and miserable in reaction to being fat. But since I’ve experienced what it feels like to eat clean, I’ve realized that the food that makes me gain weight also compromises my brain and robs me of normal thoughts and emotions. I have been more successful doing Suppers than any diet I ever tried. But Suppers is not a diet. It is a program, and it’s meant to be worked.

When I relapsed this time, I was overwhelmed with a depression that had been mostly checked by the clean diet I’d set up for myself at Suppers. Now I missed meetings, felt the shame, and threw myself my own pity party.

One thing pulled me out: my memory.

I had memories of feeling energized and happy; it was while I was eating a diet free of my trigger foods. I had a memory of a period of several months in my life when I didn’t feel poisoned. I could recall all the steps I’d taken to heal on whole food. And I had a clear recollection of supportive relationships with people who were doing something about their health.

Having these memories gave me something to return to. So even through my haze I started to act according to those memories, at first like a robot. My ears whispered: remember nutritional harm reduction. You don’t have to get this perfect, you only have to avoid your triggers: sugar and wheat. My body got me to the grocery store, and suddenly my mind realized I felt better just stocking up on clean food. My hands drove me back to a Suppers meeting and my mind realized that sharing my dark dirty secrets helped clear my head. My mouth told my relapse story and suddenly other people felt better for my honesty, so I started feeling better too.

And with every day that I was off my poison and on my avocados and breakfast chili, my head was clearing.

For over 30 years my life has been all about food and weight. Today it is still about food and weight but also about mood and mental clarity. I’m not sorry I relapsed. I’m stronger now. And I have a memory in my toolbox that I can pull out if I feel overwhelmed again. In fact, I wrote it down on a 3 x 5 card, in case the brain fog gets bad. It says:

“Lucille! You’re not depressed because you’re overweight. You’re depressed because your trigger foods poison your brain.” I continue to do Suppers experiments to see which foods are safe as treats and which ones must never pass my lips because they’re relapse triggers. And if I fall, I know I have a circle – actually, a table – of friends who will help me get back on my feet.

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