We have tortured relationships with food. In some times and places, food is simply necessary for survival: It’s not an art form, it’s a matter of life and death.
But here in the land of plenty, we have the luxury of choice. For many people, the question is no longer will I eat today, but what will I eat today.
There are restaurants everywhere. Grocery stores on every corner. Advertisements lure you in at each turn. We use food to console, to congratulate and to gift — and with all the choices available, we don’t always make the best decisions, especially when those decisions are fueled by wounds that haven’t been healed.
Knowing we should do something is one thing, but actually having the gumption to do something difficult because it needs to be done shows someone’s true character and desire to change. Tina Barone took up the gauntlet in her 30s when she weighed 378 pounds, but that decision was a lifetime in the making.
“Everything was centered around food,” Barone told Si Live. “Food meant love, gatherings and family time. I loved to eat, I still do.”
“I never thought there was anything wrong with being ‘chubby’ because most of my family carried extra pounds. I was a kid. I was happy and my family loved me for me.”
She was bullied throughout her school years, with kids in her classes calling her unkind names and poking at her size. Not one to lash out, Barone found a different way to deal with her tormentors. “But, the more I was teased, the more I ate. I was stuffing down my feelings with food.”
Like many people hungry for change, Barone tried a litany of different weight loss methods. Some worked, some didn’t, but even the ones that did were temporary fixes, and it wasn’t long before what she lost would come creeping back in.
“I did all of these things in an attempt to feel normal and accepted by society and my peers, even to possibly attract the opposite sex,” she said.
“I wasn’t able to do the things I loved anymore. I’m an actress/singer and it was becoming increasingly difficult to land roles, to dance at auditions and to have the stamina to make it through a song.”
“I was alienating my friends, my family, my husband. I didn’t like myself or who I was becoming, I was depressed and anxious all the time. I couldn’t recognize myself physically, mentally or emotionally.”
She began to wonder if there was something else hampering her process. “I even went for countless tests by different doctors to see if there was something to explain my inability to lose weight,” Barone said.
Still, no success and she was getting more depressed by her lack of progress — until a friend and a book entered her life. The book, “12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous,” was promptly placed on a nightstand and left there for half a year.
“I remember the day I finally picked it up,” Barone said. “It was about three days before my 38th birthday and I was getting ready to go out for drinks with a friend.”
“I am not sure what possessed me to do it, but I had a little time, so I picked it up and started reading. I read Steps 1 and 2, and immediately tossed the book across the room. In those chapters, I faced myself for the first time. That’s what started my journey.”
The book delves into not just physical aspects of weight gain/loss, but the spiritual and emotional factors, as well, which aren’t always addressed in other programs but are at the root of many people’s overeating.
“Meeting my demons, my defects of character and my triggers head-on was the hardest part of the journey, hands down. If you aren’t ready to meet yourself where you are, you’ll never be able to move forward.”
“Acceptance is key. I am not saying that everyone with a weight issue has a compulsive disorder, but there is a reason why a person’s relationship with food has become unhealthy.”
And for her, the process worked. She’s lost over 100 pounds — and kept them off, an impressive feat on its own.
“In addition to my OA fellowship,” she said, “I am proud to say that in a little over a year, I am 102 pounds lighter and went from a clothing size of 30 to an 18.”
“You didn’t put this weight on overnight. You won’t take it off overnight either, so be patient,” Barone said. “Love yourself, all of yourself, just as you are. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
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