Monday, January 17, 2011

New Goals

I have been away from my blog for nine months, I was going through a lot of inward struggle, and I was having a hard time figuring out where I was at in regard to all of this weight-loss stuff. I was beginning to question my entire approach to weight-loss, but more importantly, my relationship to my own body. I felt that my constant scrutiny of everything I ate, my weight, my size, were all ways of punishing myself, and that my “problem” with my body was more about a problem feeling comfortable with myself. If I could find true self-love, I knew, my weight would automatically balance itself.
But, in embracing that attitude, I seemed to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’, in that, I rejected everything I was doing. The problem was, not everything was punitive. Finding support from other bloggers for instance, is a very positive way to help keep us honest and on-track. I know I have missed that support, and I would like to add it back into my life.
As for my weight, it’s virtually unchanged, I have avoided the scale, because I used it to beat myself up, and it made me crazy, but my clothes all fit pretty much the same. I suppose I should count that as progress (as long as it’s not negative progress, it’s progress, huh?) but the fact is I want to lose weight, have for a couple of years, but make zero progress.
I am convinced that it’s emotional that keeps the weight on, my diet is very good, I eat very healthy and get regular exercise, I just can’t seem to budge. So, for now, I feel like I’ve got to give up trying. Because all that trying-and-failing is doing, is making me feel bad about myself, and that certainly is no way to reach my goal.
So, my new year’s resolution was not lose x number of pounds, as it always is, but rather, “be healthy”, “get exercise”, “have fun”, and most importantly, “feel comfortable in my own skin”. That, for now, is a big enough goal!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Guardian Angels and Other Good Stuff

I am trying to maintain some sense of equilibrium. My emotions have been all over the map for a few weeks now. As some of you might remember, I’d been trying intuitive eating, rather than counting every single thing I ate, for a while now. I was kind of forced to come to this decision, because the compulsive counting and restricting wasn’t working either: it made me feel angry, resentful and ultimately, very rebellious. So I knew I needed to try something else.
When I went away for the weekend, twice, and couldn’t keep up my usual routine, I not only didn’t mess up, I actually did better on the scale than if I’d stayed home. This gave me the idea that I should try this full time. What I wasn’t considering though, is that it wasn’t just intuitive eating, and resisting temptations, that I did well with; there was another element at work here that I was failing to consider: I did well because I was away from the stresses of my daily life.
For most of us, our usual routine, both family life, and work, is stressful. It’s being in the trenches, the day-to-day stuff, not relaxing on a beach somewhere, that is so challenging in life. It’s why monks, who are trying to attain serenity and enlightenment, go off and live in a monastery! They remove themselves from the mundane, the anxiety inherent in coping with human relationships, or being taxed beyond one’s limits. The real challenge toward these goals is to do it immersed in one’s daily responsibilities. And for me, at least, compulsive eating is about trying to repress anxiety, or other negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, through the use of food.
So, even though I was able to do great with my food, away from these stresses, it didn’t mean that I could continue that so successfully while immersed in my day-to-day life. As a result, I have continued to struggle with the temptation to push down my feelings with food. I was already on shaky ground, eating over my points limit pretty consistently, just generally frustrated, when Easter came along. I was already ripe for a relapse just because I wasn’t in a good place, but when that sugar came into the house, I lost all resolve and dove in.
The sad thing is, at that point, I’d been completely sugar-free for three months. I indulged in sugar for three days, but because it sets me up with cravings, I continued to make poor choices for the rest of the week: white flour, processed foods, all sorts of things that are never a part of my food plan, suddenly became fair-game.
Now, I really should tie a string around my finger, or have some other touch-stone that can serve as a reminder for myself, because I have learned this again and again, but I keep forgetting: It is never worth it to eat sugar. Here’s why:
1. I always gain weight as a result
2. I always feel like crap as a result
3. It takes days, weeks, and sometimes even months to get off of it again, because the cravings are so powerful
4. Losing weight is so hard, and to gain it thoughtlessly like this is simply self-defeating
When will I learn? I need a little angel standing at my shoulder, saying, “Jackie, don’t do it. The reward is very brief, and the consequences far outweigh the benefits.”
For some reason, when I am in a good place, I can be that angel for myself. But sometimes, old knee-jerk responses kick in, and I am left trying to fix something that feels broken; searching for a way to comfort that sad, lonely, hurting little girl inside, who probably just needs a hug, and someone to say, “It’s OK Jackie, you’re going to be all right”.
In my family I learned that the way to fix ‘broken’ was always outside of yourself: it was in the refrigerator, or the medicine cabinet, or a bottle. No one ever told me that the answer is inside of me. Or that I had the power to feel better simply by tuning in and saying, “What do you need today? Right now, what would make you feel better?”
And I also know that there are a dozen answers to that question:
1. Go for a walk
2. Call a friend
3. Get out in nature
4. Take your camera and take some pictures
5. Get out your sketch book
6. Take a paddle in the kayak
7. Give yourself positive messages
8. Cut yourself some slack
9. Listen to uplifting music
10. Dance
11. Sing
12. Laugh

I am human: I falter, I fall, I struggle, but Thank God, I usually have enough healthy Jackie who wants me to get up again, get back on my feet. I just have to remember that I have guardian angels that are with me every minute of every day, and all I need to do is ask for them to surround me, to draw near and give me strength. Because, I am OK, I am beautiful, and it will be all right.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I haven’t written in what seems like forever, I guess I’ve been processing what I am going through, and haven’t been clear enough about my feelings to share them. I have missed my community (all of you) though, and I decided I wanted to share some of what’s been going on, even if I can’t be exactly eloquent at this point.
As some of you may remember, a few months ago I made a commitment to myself to be accountable for what I was putting in my mouth. I had been on a diet, but getting nowhere. I felt that I was being “good”, but week after week, the scale refused to reward my efforts. This was particularly frustrating, because my diet had me living in a state of self-denial, working so hard to be perfect, yet not being rewarded. It was at that point that I felt I needed to get really honest with myself, and start counting, measuring, documenting every single thing that I ate, in the hopes that it would shed some light on what it was, exactly, that wasn’t working.
Documenting was a useful tool for a while; it opened my eyes to some things that I had been in denial about: portion sizes, etc., and it also complemented my natural control-freak tendencies. But, though I wound up reducing my calorie intake by about 800 calories a day (!) my weight loss was still fairly slow and incremental.
Now I don’t have that much weight to lose (about 20 pounds) and I know that the closer you are to your ideal weight, the more difficult it is to make the body let go, but it was very frustrating to have stepped up my plan so vigorously and still have no success (or not the level of success I’d hoped for).
But what was also frustrating was I was beginning to feel like a prisoner in my own body. My record keeping began to feel obsessive; it seemed I was always thinking about what I could, or couldn’t, have to eat. And that started to be crazy making. I started to feel angry and resentful – especially at the scale- and I wanted to be free of the whole frustrating process.
It was about this time that I went away for five days. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to sustain the record keeping, calorie and point counting, it just didn’t jive with the social situation I was in. I made up my mind that I was just going to trust my instincts, and trust that I would be okay. I enjoyed my visit, and when I got home, I was delighted to find that not only hadn’t I sabotaged myself, but indeed, I had lost more weight than I’d lost with all my usual controlling.
I went back to my usual approach and subsequently went back to losing a half a pound a week. But then two weeks later, I went away again, this time for three days, and when I got home, I again found that I had lost more than my at-home average. And for neither visit had I been particularly active, in fact, I’d been less active, so it truly seemed for some not-understood reason, eating in a freer manner worked better for me. After the second such experience, I felt ready to trust myself, to be intuitive in my approach to food: to go “natural”.
I felt the documenting, and learning so much about the nutritional/fat/caloric content of my food had been very helpful, because I really did learn a lot that I could carry away with me, forever changing my level of awareness, and therefore making it more difficult to be in denial about my compulsive eating. But I definitely felt that I had carried the strict approach to an excessive degree. My attitude toward my food became so rigid that I didn’t feel any flexibility, and that felt oppressive. I knew that I had to give it a break or lose my mind.
But unfortunately, “going natural” at home didn’t work for me quite as well as it did when I’d been away. I haven’t had the dreaded experience: gaining weight, though I haven’t lost weight, either. It has felt good to allow myself to eat some things that normally, I wouldn’t allow myself: a teaspoon of honey in my tea, a glass of juice; but also it feels good to not micro-manage.
Of course, the bad thing is the return of all my fears: that I can’t rust myself, that I will “go crazy” and blow up like a balloon, but so far, so good.
I want to learn how to trust myself. I proved to myself that I can do it; I went away and ate healthy, balanced and reasonably. However, I was away on a relaxing get away, away from all the pressures and stresses of my daily life. It is at home that I am most vulnerable to my compulsive tendency toward excess; because it is there that I am most challenged.
I guess all I can do is take it one day at a time, not only in my approach toward my food, but also in my approach to trusting myself. I guess no amount of writing stuff down, weighing, measuring, counting or planning can fix that feeling inside of me that is afraid of my relationship to food. Somehow, somewhere, along the way that delicate, highly personal balance between food and me was set a-kilter, and all I can do is to keep trying to find that balance, that center, deep inside of me, that interestingly enough, I suspect, may have nothing to do with food.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clear Skies

I was so inspired today by Chris’ post on her blog The Deliberate Life (great title by the way) that I needed to respond to it in length. In it she talked about the buried feelings that keep us stuck in our self -destructive behaviors, namely, overeating. She also talked about how we can get really close to our dreams, only to find ourselves self-sabotaging, and not even understanding why.
Like many compulsive overeaters, I was sexually abused as a child; I was also raised by alcoholic parents who reversed the nurturing roles, so that from an early age, I was taught that taking care of others was more important than taking care of me. That kind of thinking, is hardwired into the brain, and very hard to overcome.
My knee-jerk response to emotional pain, my whole life, has been to stuff the feelings with food. It was modeled for me by the adults around me, and in fact, even encouraged, to a certain degree; then, at which point, it became the focus of ‘what was wrong with Jackie’, and everyone then began a campaign to ‘fix’ me. The result of which, was only to layer on more damage, because the over-riding message was, that I wasn’t OK the way I was, and I interpreted that, as: I wasn’t lovable the way I was. Therefore, in my mind: Thinness = Love, Fat=Rejection.
Now this would be complicated enough, in and of, itself, but when you add the fact that “love” as I knew it, was often a betrayal of trust, and simply an excuse to hurt me, then understandably, love became a double-sided sword: something that I very much longed-for, but also feared.
So it makes sense that although on one hand I would dream of being pretty and svelte like the young girls in the magazines, but when I did come close to that, I attracted all the wrong sort of people (because way-back-when my Geiger counter for such things had been thrown way out of whack.)
It didn’t help matters that when I was heavy, I was all but invisible to the boys, but when I got thinner, they were very enthusiastically seeking my attention. This made me feel hurt and confused; I couldn’t help thinking, “Wait, I’m the same person I was 6 months ago, why, now, am I worthy of your attention, when before I was completely ignored?” It made me suspicious of their motives; and seeing as my ability to trust had already been deeply damaged, this was only reinforced.
It was only after years of therapy, and years of recovery in a number of 12-Step programs, that I began to understand the intricate and complex workings of the human mind, and that mysterious phenomenon of unconscious motivation. This is a very complex affair: I can be going along, feeling everything is just fine (after all, I am well-practiced at this; I have been fine-tuning the ability to stuff my feelings, and convince myself that everything is just fine, my whole life) when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a thought or feeling is triggered, and I’m off, lost in a downward spiral of something-else-again.
At best, it can cause a bad day, or grumpy, sad, angry, etc., unexplainable, feelings; but at its worst, it can be on-going, resulting in a months-long depression that comes with other behaviors, such as over-eating and weight gain, that only worsen the situation, and the vicious cycle of self-hatred re: the state of my body.
In her post today, Chris talks about the miracle of getting an insight into the cause of the behavior, and that is the biggest kind of miracle that can occur. When we are able to short-circuit the behavior, cut it off at the pass; understand the motivation behind the behavior, before we act, then half of the battle is won.
Little by little, as we move down this road of recovery, we acquire a box of tools that help us deal with these old triggers: building a strong support system, learning how to self-nurture; learning how to love ourselves; learning how to forgive; and as we do, we become better equipped to handle, what can sometimes feel, like a tsunami of emotion.
Remember Marc from Biggest Loser a season or two back? He started out all tough, and the more he lost, the more he cried. Fat is armor. In a way, it does feel like it keeps us safe.
But I've also felt the profound beauty and depth of letting the feelings come; they feel like they will overwhelm us, and swallow us up, but they don't; some how miraculously, we come through the other side, freer and happier than ever before.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we live happily ever after; the layers of the onion continually need to be peeled. We face one challenge, come through it, and then a little way down the road, there is another one behind it. One old feeling comes up, maybe it feels like it will swallow us up for sure, but instead of running to the pantry to make it go away, we share it with a trusted friend, we journal, we scream, we cry, or all of the above.
But when we dry our eyes, we suddenly realize that we have come through it, without doing the old standard behavior, of reaching for something to make it go away. We rode it out, and when the thunderstorms clear, the sky is a deep, clear blue, full of promise for a new day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Destined to Fail?

OK. I need somebody to talk me down from the ledge. I am fit to be tied. As some of you know, I just started WW, and was feeling so happy because everything was going so great. I was a perfect little girl all week, stayed within my limits, did double exercise, and had no cravings, no slips. I’ve been feeling really great, my clothes feel a little looser, and I’ve just generally been feeling good. Last time on the scale I went down 2 lbs and I was thrilled. I was hoping for (and was pretty certain I would get) the same this week. Imagine my horror when I stepped on the scale to see I had GAINED a pound! How did this happen? Are the Gods against me? Am I just born to fail? What went wrong here?
As you might imagine, I was very upset. I wanted to cry. I wanted to pound my fists. I know that there are biochemical processes in regard to weight loss that are very complex, and far above my power of comprehending; I realize that there are things that I simply do not understand, and that, probably one could conceivably do it all right, and still backslide, all the same, pardon my French, but WTF?????
This is just too unfair. Everyone out there knows how hard it is to be good. I know you do; I read it in your blogs, and comments everyday. So when we have a stellar week, only to get this kind of a slap in the face, it really, really hurts.
However, I know I must hold on to my sanity, and not completely give myself over to indulging in self –pity, because, that’s a dark road, and I don’t want to go there. As a matter of fact, I have already indulged in rebellion eating today, pretty mild, for the most part, but I was already up to within two points of my daily limit at 2:00 in the afternoon! As I write this, I still have 7 hours left to go until the end of the day, and only 2 legal points left to “spend”. Good luck with that, Jackie!
This is dangerous, all-too-familiar territory: I work hard, fail, get angry, and then have a temper tantrum with food. Come on now, there must be a better way!!!!!
All right, so far, the day is salvageable, I still have time to get out there and have another good, vigorous walk; and I have to keep things in perspective: I was feeling great, it feels wonderful to not eat compulsively; I definitely lost fat, or bloat, or something, because unless I am stark-raving mad, my clothes are fitting better; I was feeling great, so I cannot let this get me down. There must be a reasonable explanation, and it’s not because I am destined to fail, or I’m a hopeless case, or whatever other insult I can hurl at myself.
I know the theory about muscle weighing more than fat, and I did double the amount of exercise I was getting. But Jillian on Biggest Loser said that was a crock (I had always heard that was true, but now I’m just so confused, I don’t know what to think!)
Words of encouragement please!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lean On Me

Hello Friends, I find myself increasingly grateful for the feedback and support from all of you. It means so much to know that there are people out there who really understand. I can share things that I would be too embarrassed to say to most ‘civilians’, and more importantly, know that in response you will not only truly empathize, because you’ve ‘been there, done that’, but also know that you can at least imagine why I would feel the way I do. That takes the burden of feeling alone, off my shoulders.
My week has been going great. I have taken to WW and the points system like duck to water. It’s a great fit for me because I have more than a touch of OCD, so all the tracking and adding up numbers keeps that part of my personality quite satisfied. As I said in my last post, I think part of my success is that I am trying lots of new recipes and really enjoying trying new foods. I find myself getting excited about what’s on the menu, looking forward to the meal with enthusiasm and curiosity: how will this new recipe taste?
The reason this is true is that it prevents me from getting bored and therefore feeling deprived; and that helps me continue to feel satisfied and well taken care of. Today my husband stopped and picked up a coffee and a bakery cookie, but I had brought along a bottle of water and an apple, and I felt completely satisfied with my snack; his didn’t tempt me at all. That’s pretty amazing!
When I eat all of the food that I am allotted for the day, I feel satisfied, even more than satisfied. I’ve consistently gone over my points by one or two every day, but because there’s a system built in that lets me apply those extra points to a weekly allotment, it’s not a problem.
Now, because I am only weighing in once a week, I am not sure how all this work will translate into lost pounds; my clothes are fitting slightly more loosely, but I won’t know for sure until Thursday. But I really hope that I don’t ruin all these great feelings by making it all about the pounds. It’s not about the pounds. It’s about how I feel. Six weeks free of compulsive eating, six weeks free of sugar, and my life has been completely turned around; I am no longer given to depression or mood swings, and to my amazement, I realized today that it’s been weeks since I stood staring in the refrigerator or pantry to find something to eat when I wasn’t hungry.
So thank you, my friends, you are my safety net, I can look to all of you for your collective wisdom, count on you to move me to tears, to laughter, and to inspiration, and to know that I’m not in this alone!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Learning to Let Go

I’ve been away for five days, and though the time spent away was very enjoyable, uplifting, and a positive recharge for my batteries, it was great to get home: to my own bed, my own routine, and my own life. One of the things I really missed was blogging, and keeping tabs on the blogging community, which has come to mean a lot to me.
I feel I went through a lot this week with my food plan; a lot of emotions came up as a result. I love to go away from home for a while, because it never fails to give me a fresh perspective; knots that have kept me stuck, start to unravel, I begin to see solutions that weren’t visible before, and my hope level gets a big boost.
This trip was no different: it helped clear my head and helped me to let go of some of my fears, and be more positive about my approach to my weight loss, but more importantly, my relationship to my body.
Being away from home is a big challenge when you have a specific food plan; many restaurants do not offer the kind of whole foods that I am looking for in my daily food regiment, and that, normally, would cause me a lot of anxiety. But this time, I tried to be more relaxed. I tried to simply make the best possible choice without worrying that it wasn’t the perfect choice. Also, I didn’t get to exercise, except for a half hour of yoga a day, and that worried me, but I was able to tell myself that all I could do was my best, and then let it go.
Amazingly, I lost two pounds this week, which is better than I’ve done so far! But I think the more important thing is that I exercised self-trust, I said, “I can do this!” and I did. Normally, I have so much fear, especially around food, that when I am trying to control my addiction, I white-knuckle it to such an extreme that I leave no room for flexibility; I am so afraid that if I veer off course even one degree, I will lose control and let myself down.
It was so important for me to temporarily let go of the counting, and measuring, and calculating, and just trust that my instincts were good, and they could keep me safe; and even more important, to see that not only could I do that, but do it, and succeed.
While away, my sister introduced me to Weight Watchers. I had tried Weight Watchers in the past, and it didn’t work for me, but it was prior to the introduction of the points system, which I think, has revolutionized the program. I feel it allows for a kind of flexibility that wasn’t there before, and I am more and more aware that I need flexibility in order to succeed. When I paint myself into a corner with restrictions, with no way for variance, I am setting myself up for a fall. The problem has always been, that I am terrified of flexibility, I have to white-knuckle it, it’s the only way I have known. Maybe I can begin to let the fears go a little bit, and trust that it’s OK; that I am not perfect, and my progress won’t be perfect, but that’s OK, too. And of course, the bottom line here, I guess what I’m really talking about, is that, I have to learn to love me just as I am. I think when I truly get there, then I will not be so scared of making a mistake, or being less than perfect, because I’ll know, in my gut, that I’m OK no matter what weight I am. And the added benefit, of course, is that when I really love myself, my weight would stabilize, because I wouldn’t dream of hurting myself with food, or any other way.
One thing that’s really been working for me has been that I’ve taken out some new recipes and I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of new foods. (Boredom is big trouble for me when I am trying to stay on track, and I had a fairly limited repetoire of diet-friendly dishes that I could prepare , so I was beginning to get a little stir-crazy; I decided I needed to branch-out!) I’ve used quite a few recipes from the The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet book; it has a great section of recipes borrowed from Cheryl Forberg’s Stop the Clock Cooking, and they have all been terrific!
Here’s one I tried today which was delicious, very quick to prepare (35 minutes) and only 2 points for a 1-cup serving:
Broccoli Dill Soup with Lemon and Tahini
1 tbl. Olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
1 tsp. mustard seed
4 cups fat-free,low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbl chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried dill)
2 cups bite-size broccoli pieces
¼ c pitted, chopped ripe olives (I used Kalamiti – delicious!)
1 tbl. Tahini
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until onions are just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.
2. Add mustard seed and sautee for one minute, stirring frequently. Carefully add broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Add dill and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in olives, tahini and lemon peel, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
4. Yield: 1 ½ Quarts; 6 (1 cup) servings