So, What’s Different This Time?

Someone who used to read this blog back as early as 2005 left a comment on a post I wrote on Babble about Finding A Skin That Fits (I’d love it if you read that piece, and then came back from the rest of this post!), pointing out my frequent forays into weight loss attempts, and asked what’s different this time. I believe her comment was meant kindly, although it mixes in my head a bit with all the anonymous trollish people out there telling me, “You’ve failed before, you’ll fail again, because you will never actually change.” Which is obviously wildly supportive and helpful, thanks!

But it’s made me think about what’s different this time, if anything. Has enough changed to let me stay on this path and reach my goal and then stay there? The answer, I think, is yes.

First of all, on the immediate front, my mother is healthy again. After watching her struggle for more than three years, she’s on a mad path to health (did you know she goes to the gym with me several times a week?), and barring disaster, we aren’t likely to face another debilitating illness situation for a few years (my mom is, after all, only 64, and across the board healthy). My attempts to lose weight in these last three years were stymied by the stress of dealing with her illnesses (not saying it’s her fault – at all – but the combination of time, stress, and comfort eating made weight loss impossible).

On a far more global front, for the first time in my life I have acknowledged and treated my mental health issues. I’ve never attempted weight loss while on this group of drugs, a group that has allowed me to avoid wild mood swings that have always been part of my life. My therapist refuses to label me as Bipolar 2, but her partner had no such hesitation, and it’s clear that I need a combination of both antidepressants and mood stabilizers to avoid both mild mania, crushing lows, and mixed behavior. For many years I used chemical elements that weren’t the right fit to treat these issues: first alcohol, then drugs, then food. I’ve been on this particular regiment now for about eighteen months, and it’s been a pleasant change. While I still have mild issues with PMS, it’s NOTHING like it used to get. Thank the gods.

Another big change, of course, is the lifting of the chronic migraines. Last week when Philly was trapped in a low pressure system for about ten days the headaches returned a bit (mild compared to how they used to be, though) and I found myself marveling that I’d managed to do a goddamned thing the entire eight years I fought the migraines (if you remember, they started when I was pregnant with the boys). I also know, now, that exercising can fight off the headaches about 80% of the time and I can avoid taking medication (and, therefore, avoid the risk of rebound).

Another issue I’ve struggled with in the past when it came to weight loss and exercise is obsessive behavior. When I was about two years sober I began going to a nutritionist and a recovery program for weight issues, and instead of finding healing and a healthier relationship with food I ended up with incredible rigidity. I weighed and measured everything and broke down if a spec of white flour touched my meal (I wasn’t eating sugar or white flour). Yes, I lost the weight, but I was utterly miserable. If I went to a party and there was a cake in the room, I couldn’t relax and enjoy the time with friends; instead, my entire being was focused on the damned cake and how badly I wanted it and how hard I was going to have to fight myself to not eat it. That wasn’t sanity.

I’m not sure if it’s the medication or just maturing a bit in recovery, but I don’t feel like that anymore. I don’t eat wheat now because I know it generally makes me feel bloated and gassy and tired, but I don’t crucify myself if I have some, nor do I forbid it. If I want some damn cake, I eat a small piece and that’s that.

Lastly, I have bulimic tendencies. Before sobriety, I was a typical eat-til-stuffed-then-vomit bulimic, but I had my last episode of that at about five months sober. However, I’ve struggled with the exercise end of bulimia, where I exercise madly just so I can eat more. My workouts would grow and grow until I was spending 3-4 hours at the gym each time I went; again, it was obsessive and unhealthy. This time, while I’ve increased the intensity and tone of my workouts as I’ve gotten into better shape,  I’ve felt no urge to add time to the workout – even WITH the tool I’m using to track food (My Fitness Pal) giving me more calories to eat when I exercise. The reason this was a problem (it doesn’t seem like extra exercise would be a problem, does it?) is that, eventually, I hit a wall where I’ve pushed it too hard and I don’t want to go – or I find life events that mean I can only go for an hour and that doesn’t feel “worth it.” Eventually, the cycle ends and I’m sitting on the couch. Right now, I don’t see that happening, and I plan to stay aware. Because an hour is always worth it.

This has been an interesting thing to think about, so thanks anonymous commenter and former reader for asking the question. It’s definitely something to keep in mind.

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to mention this! The other big change, compared to the last seven years or so, is that I’ve let go of the idea of intuitive eating as a way to lose weight. I’ve gone back to the old standard – calorie counting – and have recognized that I need to moderate portions if I want to be successful. Doh! Very important change.


I also have to share this note Tori wrote yesterday. In case I ever think I’m doing parenting wrong, I’m going to look at this.


Tori is:






talented &

smart &



Comments Closed


  1. says

    My Fitness Pal is so helpful, isn’t it? It’s helped me lose 17 out of the 20 pounds I’d gained so far, so I’m really close to my goal in just about three months. (Clearly I burn more calories per day than MFP gives me credit for, because I’m still eating at least 1600 calories a day even when I can’t exercise.)

    Good luck on your journey!

  2. says

    awe! Mama is Strong, Pretty, Funny, Cute, Serious, talented, smart & Kind too!!! (the serious one is kinda funny!!)

    GOOD FOR YOU! All of this makes sense and sounds like you’re in a healthy, healthy place. Keep up the great work!

  3. 4katnap says

    And another difference is that you took that comment that *could have* led to insult and upset and channeled it in to a thoughtful response that might help someone else get a bit of insight into why things aren’t working for them. (Thank You!)

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Yes, I’m really trying to respond instead of reacting these days. :D

  4. Bella1 says

    What an exciting several posts!! Coupled with the post full of joy from how strong you felt atthe conference, you are on your way to setting new goals. You used to write about how much you missed hiking when Tori was too young to join you. I can see a future for the 3 of you with hiking and camping and other fun activities.

    I hope you stop using the weight number as your benchmark. Think of the number as yet another element that you give up. If you focus on healthy eating and strength and stamina building, you can free yourself from the past. You are already doing all of this, but haven’t labelled it as your goals. I hope you can transition to action goals, like walk 4 miles in an hour rather than the weight number. It’s freeing not to weigh, your activity level and your clothes will tell you how you are doing. (try not to buy things with elastic waists – for obvious reasons.)

    There is so much new information out there about foods that increase metabolism, interval training as the best exercise, etc. I’ve learned a lot from the blog community this year and try to track the science to see what works. Shockingly, a startling thing i’ve learned is how carbonation is a weight loss impediment and how soft drinks of any kind kills your kidneys. So I now only drink what I make, mostly teas and water, of course. And I try to only eat what I make, as I see you are doing beautifully.

    Hope you guys have a great summer. Your attitude adjustment and willingness to explore the past put you on the path to success, however you define it.

    • Phyllis says

      Agree about the beverage comments. My doctor is a stickler about drinking for hydration and not for caloric intake.

      • Cecily Kellogg says

        Thank you both! Yes, I avoid all beverages with calories. Such a useless way to use them up!

  5. says

    I think acknowledging there is a difference is one of the reasons it is different this time around. There are many factors and you took stock of that. Good luck.

  6. Seana says

    Very thoughtful and thought provoking post and it resonates with me.

    I hope you will keep writing on your health journey. It’s empowering to read and perhaps will also serve as additional motivation for you. Wishing you all the best.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Thank you! I will keep writing about it, definitely makes me more accountable.

  7. Grammar girl says

    For the love of god, please figure out the proper use of relative pronouns. “That” is used to describe things, “who” is used to describe people.

    • Angela says

      Here’s what the real Grammar Girl has to say:

      “…on the other hand, I did find a credible reference that says [it's acceptable to use "that" for people]. I was shocked to see that my American Heritage Dictionary says,

      It is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you, or the man who wanted to talk to you (3). [emphasis added]

      Wow. So I dug around some more and found that there is a long history of writers using that as a relative pronoun when writing about people. Chaucer did it, for example (4).

      So, it’s more of a gray area than some people think, and if you have strong feelings about it, you could make an argument for using that when you’re talking about people. But my guess is that most people who use who and that interchangeably do it because they don’t know the difference. I don’t consider myself a grammar snob-–this is “quick and dirty” grammar, after all-–but in this case, I have to take the side of the people who prefer the strict rule. To me, using that when you are talking about a person makes them seem less than human. I always think of my friend who would only refer to his new stepmother as the woman that married my father. He was clearly trying to indicate his animosity and you wouldn’t want to do that accidentally.”

      Also, when referring to people, “that” can be used in informal/conversational language.

      “That” vs. “Who” and “Which”

      The relative pronoun that can only be used in restrictive clauses. It can also be substituted for who (referring to persons) or which (referring to things) in informal English. Whereas that is often used while speaking, who and which are more common in formal written English.

      Conversational, Informal: William Kellogg was the man that lived in the late nineteenth century and had some weird ideas about raising children.
      Written, Formal: William Kellogg was the man who lived in the late nineteenth century and had some weird ideas about raising children.
      Conversational, Informal: The café that sells the best coffee in town has recently been closed.
      Written, Formal: The café, which sells the best coffee in town, has recently been closed.
      Some special uses of relative pronouns in restrictive clauses

      that / who
      When referring to people, both that and who can be used in informal language. “That” may be used to refer to the characteristics or abilities of an individual or a group of people:

      He is the kind of person that/who will never let you down.

      I am looking for someone that/who could give me a ride to Chicago.
      However, when speaking about a particular person in formal language, who is preferred:

      The old lady who lives next door is a teacher.

      The girl who wore a red dress attracted everybody’s attention at the party.

      • Angela says

        And great post, btw. “So, what’s different this time?” is something I need to ask myself not only for my latest attempt to lose weight, but for other changes I need to make. I think if you can’t answer this question — or if you don’t even ask it — the answer is “nothing” and the outcome will be “the same as always.”

  8. suzanne says

    A heavy topic..I truly believe that the meaning of sanity–particularly around food– is different and deeply personal to each one of us. There comes a time when all internal forces manifest to allow for an awakening that just makes sense–to us alone. It doesn’t matter a bit that the rest of the world has known for ages what might be best for us. Try scaring any addict and it is wasted time. The reasons for food addiction are so primal and the solution is not simple. I could write pages on the effects of food addiction in my life. I have tried almost everything except surgery. The freedom and the joy I have today by trusting myself to follow what works for ME is the key to a sane existence. Getting conscious and staying conscious has opened up my life to a better and healthier way. I know what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat and when to stop. This is not and has not been an easy path. I strive for keeping my weight at a place where my knees and back and feet have stopped hurting from lugging around even 20 extra pounds! I am free from self-hatred and use remorse as a wake up call if I do eat too much. I want that alarm triggered. I think as I grow older that my body issues will still exist but they won’t be weight issues any longer. That is my gift to myself. I wish that for you and for anyone reading this that struggles with the same.

  9. says

    I don’t understand why you have to feel like you have to defend your position. That’s annoying to me. Also, why do people who post those things never post their real names? Another annoying thing. My lowly educated guess would be that this person is dealing with some weight issues themselves.

  10. jane says

    I don’t have a perfect positive outlook, but through many years of therapy it has greatly improved. Something about the second paragraph, second sentance of your post stood out to me. Not because you are [insert untrue negative connotation] but because it is a thought process that I used to have and worked hard to change. Perhaps changing your thought pattern from “The answer, I think, is yes” try “The answer is yes.” Start there. Don’t hedge your bets. Don’t do it half-way. Commit to it, go all-in.

    In the words of Yoda, there is no try, only do.

  11. Pris says

    Good for you. Analyzing the pros of losing weight and the cons gives me impetus. Plus, I want to feel better. Exercise helps, but why is it so hard to get out there
    I walk and walk and it also clears my mind.

    Congrats to you!

  12. Jb says

    I may go back to 2005 or so – at least in the time of chez miscarriage. I think the change you didn’t mention is money – I imagine having a more secure financial life has got to be helping too? That’s been a huge struggle for you guys (along with all the other stuff with your mom)…I also think, as my older child turned 8 (I have a 5 year old who ai conceived naturally at 42) – parenting is really changing. You can go experience things together, there is less physical labor, more shared experience. I think it’s probably a phase we will all look back on and think – wow – those were some fun years….anyway, it’s all good – the meds, the eating, your mom, the gym, the weight loss…. It’s going to be an awesome summer.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Both so true! Great points. Yes, it does help to be able to buy the healthy food (I’m cooking far more than I used to) and Tori at nearly seven is pretty awesome. :)

  13. Ebby Thatcher says

    In recovery, we learn that if our spiritual condition is fit, we can go anywhere where alcohol (or food) may be present.

    Do you work a program of recovery today, Cecily?

    P.S. Are those your fingernails or your child’s?

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      I’ll happily answer those questions, even though I hear a bit of pre-judgment in them. Yes, I’m working a program of recovery. Those are my fingernails just after doing some dirty work and before I scrubbed them.

      But maybe you should consider what your motivation is in asking those two questions.

      • Ebby Thatcher says

        My motivation is curiosity, having just read a lengthy post about your struggles to take care of your health and body, how you have tried to get abstinent from food issues, how being around cake would totally distract you. I totally relate. I feel like that when I’m not spiritually fit. I’ve never done Greysheet or FAA, but the weighing and measuring that went with the food plan I chose in another fellowship did rule my life for a year. I lost weight but was obsessed with my food rules.

        Finding the balance between obsession and wearing life like a loose garment is very hard, especially (for me) in food. I still struggle. But I also stopped working a program of recovery in food. Not a coincidence.

        As for the nails, lack of basic self-care is a symptom of deeper issues.

        Now that we’ve covered MY motivation, I’m curious as to why you were so interested in me, a stranger.

        • Cecily Kellogg says

          Ah, gotcha. Ironically, back when I was doing the weighing and measuring was at a time I considered myself my most spiritually fit. It’s a good point to consider; if I was that rigid, I probably wasn’t doing that well at letting go of control.

          As for the nails, yeah, mine are usually clean. It’s far more of a struggle to keep Tori’s clean since she plays in the dirt pretty much daily.

          As for your motivation, well, I apologize for sounding harsh. I’ve got what amounts to a personal internet Greek chorus and when they ask a question it is usually barbed with the hope that they will get the opportunity to further discuss the mess they believe I am. My fault for assuming you were part of that group.

  14. Kim says

    Thanks for sharing this. It is helpful to see other people’s motivation. :) I tend to burn out too, and coupled with I just REALLY love food, it can be hard.

      • Lydia says

        You are doing so brilliantly, so proud of you! I’ve never had addiction issues, but the ‘problem’ with food, is that it is always there and essential to life. You can’t turn your back on it. I’ve always enjoyed it but also used it for comfort/boredom/happiness/you name it, so that healthy relationship with food is so hard to find!
        Oh, and portion control. Darn portion control!

  15. Bayou says

    Bipolar 2 is a serious condition that many of us live with every day. It is not an excuse to go on disability or to stop trying. You have to manage it every single day. This pills aren’t magic. They don’t fix you on their own. You have to manage what you eat, how you sleep, how you exercise. You have to be aware of yourself. I find it disturbing that you’re so willing to saddle yourself with something like bipolar 2 as though it explains away everything. It doesn’t.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Whoa there, friend. Who said a damned thing about disability? I’m perfectly capable of work, thanks. And I do believe this whole post is about how I’m managing eating, sleeping, and exercise.

      And I didn’t saddle myself with the Bipolar 2 label; and experienced psychiatrist did.

  16. cindee says

    Such a uplifting post. You should be proud of yourself on all fronts! Definitely save that Tori note.

  17. Bridget McArthur says

    I was labeled as Bipolar and for 7-years I look Lithium. After I finally got away from my abusive husband that was reversed and I was diagnosed as having PSTD. In some ways, I’ve come a long way. But in other ways I have not moved an inch. Weight is one of the not moved an inch. I have not found that “what’s different this time”. What annoys me most about this issue is that I have the nutritional knowledge but obviously there is something mentally that I still need to fix.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Be kind to yourself… it’s a tough thing. I’m glad you’re on the way to healing.

  18. says

    This whole weight loss thing is so interesting, isn’t it? It has strings that tie it to every other part of life. Being sane and compassionate with ourselves is such a big task when we live in an insane food culture and an insane culture in general.

    I’m proud of you, woman, especially in the face of all the crazy people you have following you around like a Greek chorus predicting doom and picking at your every statement. Just reading some of the comments here made me want to gird my loins, put on armor and take up a broadsword on your behalf.

    I never thought I’d become someone who sweats happily, either, but here we are. And we’re looking pretty good.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      I know, right? It does really get in deep. Thanks for the rallying cry, my dear.

  19. MFP member says

    Do you want friends on MFP? If so, what’s your username? (you probably already have a zillion friends on MFP, but I figured it doesn’t hurt to ask!)

  20. says

    Out of curiosity, what intuitive eating plan did you try that didn’t work for you? I don’t have a significant weight problem but could easily lose 15 lbs to be more my natural size and the last time I gave it a go, I found Paul McKenna’s (ridiculously titled) “I Can Make You Thin” very helpful and effective – it’s essentially a mindfulness approach, i.e. “are you actually hungry?” “do you feel full?” “what do you want to eat?” etc. Is that the kind of approach that wasn’t great for you vs. calorie counting?

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      Yes, it is something similar but focusing more on fighting the “disordered eating” that comes from a lifetime of dieting and overeating. Learning to trust your bodies cravings and relearn to understand your instincts. It kept me from continuing to gain, but it didn’t help with losing weight.