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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

OK, I’ve got to run this by you; can you relate? I was thinking about how I have this thing with food that’s really a stumbling block: I get downright panicky when I think there might not be enough food. Whenever I am going out, and I know I won’t be able to provide the proper kind of food that I need, I get in a panic. I often over-pack out of over-compensation; or if I know I’m going out and I won’t be near food for a while, I overeat before I go out, to guard against the dreaded fear: HUNGER! What is it that’s so terrifying to me? Why do I fear hunger so? It’s not going to kill me, I am not starving, why do I get so scared?
Lately, I’ve realized that I need to get more exercise, so I’ve been trying to commit to that. Usually, I would come home from work, tired, hungry, grumpy; but before heading out for my two-mile walk, I would stop to get a snack. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with telling myself, that it’s really more productive to eat after the exercise, and that my hunger is not going to hurt me; I won’t collapse; I can wait one more hour before I eat. And it’s been feeling really good to discipline that inner child that wants–what-she-wants-when-she-wants-it, and say, “No, you can wait. It’s OK, you’re going to be OK,” and know that it’s true. And I am finding I can wait, and it is OK.
Now excuse my armchair psychology here, but I really believe this off-kilter relationship with food started as an infant: they tell me I had severe colic, and that I cried, literally, for the first year of my life. (I know this is true, because so many people told me the same thing.) Now, as an adult I discovered that I have a sensitivity to dairy. My theory is that I had that sensitivity, or maybe intolerance for dairy then, and that drinking the bottle caused the colic, which set up this whole crazy love-hate relationship to food. I was hungry, so I would take the bottle, but then my tummy would hurt, so I would refuse it and scream for a while, and then no doubt, get panicky, because I wasn’t getting what I needed. Sort of like not getting enough air, we get pretty panicky when that happens! I imagine it was extremely stressful.
And here it is a lifetime later, and I still haven’t gotten it through my head, that it’s OK, I’m OK; I can provide what I need for myself. I can trust myself, I won’t let myself down, and I won’t fail. Why do I make food so much more important than it needs to be? Why can’t it be what it is: obviously very important, but not so important I have to be in a panic over it. What do you think?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Well here I am again, wallowing in self-pity. I got on the scale yesterday and saw no progress. As some of you remember I had been sick with a stomach flu, and instantly lost five pounds; of course within three days it was back. All I could tolerate for a whole week after the flu were soft foods like hot cereal, and even though that’s carbs, carbs, and more carbs, I wasn’t trying to restrict calories; I was just struggling to nurture my body in whatever way I could manage. Anyway, the result was that I made almost no progress, weight-wise, over the last two weeks.
I know it’s crazy to beat up on myself, I was sick, and I had to do what I had to do, but when you work so hard and get no reward, it is very discouraging! So what did I do last night? I ate a big chocolate chip cookie, one from the health food store, so it had healthier sweetener, and it was whole grain, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but it definitely felt self-defeating. Now the fact is, I know I need to write in occasional cheats into my food plan, because I otherwise get so resentful, especially if I am not getting the results I am looking for on the scale. I am not perfect, no matter how hard I try to be, so I need to plan for that, and accept it! I can still make forward progress, despite an occasional detour.
And I also realize that I need to get more exercise, that’s always what the experts say, that our bodies have a natural set point for weight, and they go back to it, again and again; and that the only way to change that set point is by increasing the amount of exercise you get on a daily basis. I currently walk two miles a day and do 15-30 minutes of yoga. Compared to nothing, that’s a lot, but I guess, compared to what my body needs, it’s not enough, and of course, that’s very frustrating because I feel like I’m already giving everything I can manage!
I have to keep things in perspective: yes, my weight loss is snail-slow, but it is going in a forward direction consistently, and I have to remember why I started this journey: I was miserable when I was full-throttle in my compulsive behavior toward food. Not only was I into sugar, which was making me crazy (depressed, miserable, sick, angry) but also I felt completely helpless in my feeble attempts to control my addiction. Giving up sugar, and counting calories, so that I force myself to stay within a sane, sensible range, has improved my mental health enormously. That’s the prize I have to keep my eyes on. Yes, yes, I would like to be thinner, I’d be lying if I denied that, but I have to remember that a balanced, centered Jackie is more important than a skinny Jackie!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Nasty Flu

I came down with a nasty stomach flu yesterday; I was pretty sick. I am much better today, though still weak, and my stomach hasn’t been able to tolerate much more than mush all day. But the thing that was really of concern to me, though this may seem strange, is that when I got on the scale today, I had lost nearly 5 ½ lbs, whereas last week I lost only 8/10 of a pound; clearly the big weight loss had to do with the terrible purging my body went through yesterday. Now that, you might say, is just a reward for the terrible day I went through, and wouldn’t anyone be thrilled with those results? The problem is, all I can think about is that the weight loss, so sudden, so dramatic, will only be fleeting, and I am already worrying about my body reclaiming those pounds as soon as I get back on my feet. A normal body will rebound after such a set-back, that’s a healthy response, yet here I am worrying that my body will do just that.
I am so worried about it, that this evening, when I finally started to feel my appetite return, I ignored it, and wanted to stick to my starvation diet, for fear my body would betray me, by regaining those pounds. How silly of me! How sad, and how silly, that I could be so unkind to myself. Instead of comforting myself, and nursing myself back to complete health, without regard for calories, or fear of what the consumption of those calories will do; just as I would do for anyone I cared for.
What is to be done with this kind of craziness? I guess, the best thing I can do, is to remember that when I allow my compulsion to be thin, to reign higher than my desire to be healthy, red flags should go a-blazing! I need to summon that calm, sane voice deep within me, the one that I know is there, but sometimes simply gets lost in my age-old desire to be perfect. For I guess, compulsive eating and anorexic tendencies are really opposite sides of the same coin, either way, they are an expression of an unhealthy relationship to food, and even more alarming, one’s own body.
So I have allowed myself to indulge in these unhealthy thoughts for long enough. Scale be damned. Body, do what you will do, whatever you need to do to heal. I will love you any way, and if when I get on the scale again, all my net loss is another 8/10 of a pound, I will accept it gratefully, for it will have been honestly fought for, and won. But for now, excuse me, please, I’m going to go fix myself a snack.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Who's Driving the Bus?"

Well, I have Kat, of Kat’s Adventures in Dietland, to thank for the inspiration in my blog today: In her post yesterday, she was talking about how she hungers for lots of followers on her blog, and her other posts, because that equates to getting an A+, and she realized that high grades are very important to her because they make her feel validated (or “good enough” in my words); and further, that the same thinking carries over to her “grades” on the scale. She needs that A+ ( a big number on the scale) for her dieting efforts: that stamp of approval, saying she has done well. These were two very important insights for her. And it was very inspired thinking, I think, because it really helped me to have an epiphany, as well!
I, too, have spent my whole life looking for approval from others, I too, have hungered for connection with other human beings; I longed to have people in my life who could tell me that I was OK, and that I was enough, and that I’d done well; people who would encourage me. Unfortunately, much of the time I not only did not get that, but got opposite messages instead: I wasn’t acceptable as I was; and the messages I carried away were deeply damaging: I was somehow deeply flawed, my inability to be the weight that I was “supposed” to be, my inability to have “will power”, my failure to look like the girls in the magazines, all summed up who I was as a human being, and it wasn’t a good grade, that’s for sure. And what bigger way to fail is there than as a human being?
The biggest consequence of not measuring up was that, in my mind, I was therefore not lovable. Every pound that I gained was like another arrow at my self-esteem; every bathing suit that I could not wear; every pair of jeans that I couldn’t get into; every meaningful look of pity, was a wound that dug deep and left scars.
So, even though today I am a grown-up, in charge of my own life, no longer dependent on the approval of others for my very survival, I have internalized those messages so that they reverberate through my daily life; still like, a child, I hunger to be loved, to be approved of, to be good enough, to be acceptable. I am embarrassed to say how old I am and still being motivated by these desires.
Sometimes living for approval comes in handy, that obsessive-compulsive approach to dieting can bring a lot of determination and tenacity. But, unfortunately, it’s like building a house of cards; sooner or later, they tumble. If my house isn’t built on solid ground, it will collapse. If my motivation is about pleasing you, then all the self-will in the world will not see me to my goal.
Today, I try to remember that the across-the-board kind of approval I long for is a ghost of the past, irrelevant in my adult world. And to be honest, this insecure, afraid-of-her-own-shadow Jackie is only a very small part of who I really am. Sometimes she’s driving the bus, but still, she is really only a speck on the radar, compared to the healthy part of me. That part of me that knows her own worth; knows that I am worth it; knows that I am strong, and beautiful and just perfect, just the way I am.
I have to remember that even though that old wounded me wants to be in charge of making the appraisals of how well I’ve done, she’s not really qualified. Would I hand important life-affecting decisions over to a child? Of course not; so, gently I need to wrest the power out of her hands, and into mine, the grown-up. That grown-up who knows how to be patient, to be kind, to set realistic and feasible goals, and knows, that ultimately, I am the only person that I need to please. Also, that some people will like me, and others will not, but that’s OK; and that sometimes I will have great success, and other times, I will have opportunities for growth… and it’s all good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Clear Day

My reason for blogging is that I want to reach out to others who understand what it is to live with compulsive behavior. I say "behavior" because it is not only the compulsive eating that causes me pain, but also the compulsive thinking about my body: how I look, how others think of me, and whether others see me as fat or can I “pass” for "normal". Also, my thinking about food, what I will allow myself to eat, or not eat, is also pretty compulsive, because, it can take up a lot of my energy.
The sad fact is, I don't know myself. I don't have a clear image of myself. I think of myself as much "fatter" than I know I actually am, but I can't shake these feelings of low self-esteem. All I know is, I am often very uncomfortable in my own skin, but this is at its worst when I am indulging in my compulsive behaviors.
On the other hand, when I am eating "sober", being good to myself by fulfilling my needs through healthy outlets, and not indulging in toxic foods like sugar, white flour, or highly processed foods, I am like a different person. Depression lifts, lethargy fades, and hope returns.
I am, currrently, 29 days "clean". For now, at least, I have got the cravings for sugar pretty much behind me; once I give it up, the cravings do subside. But I still struggle with wanting to eat more than I physically need. To help me keep in check, I am counting calories; simple, but it helps me stay accountable for my own behavior, and has helped to reduce my impulse to be dishonest.
Preparing fresh, wholesome food for myself on a daily basis is a challenge, because if I come home from work tired, and I often do, it's difficult to get the motivation, and energy, I need to prepare a healthy meal.
But, I am proud that I have hung in there for a month now; so far, I’m down 5 lbs. However, I am trying to remember that it’s not about the “numbers”, it’s so much more about my health, but especially about my mental health. When I am giving in to my desire to medicate, and numb my feelings with food, I am opening the door to emotional chaos. I don’t want that. I may want the immediate gratification that overeating, or eating “illegal” foods, can give, but it’s an empty sort of fulfillment, and one that comes with more pain than pleasure.
It’s true, sometimes I can be slow to learn, and need to be taught again and again. God knows I have lived through this enough that I should have learned it well, and long ago, but I guess, for now at least, I am holding on to this sanity and cherishing it. Maybe that deep appreciation for this precious state of balance will give me the boost of encouragement needed to see me through. I must be on the right track, because at least now I can see the road signs, before they were lost in the haze.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Journey

Well, I weighed-in this morning, two days late because the battery in my scale was dead, and I was only 8/10 of a pound less than 9 days ago! Now some people might want to give in to a defeatist attitude, but I am trying my best to not go there. I read that lowering your calories by 500 a day should show up as a 1 lb loss per week. Now, hard as it may seem to believe, I wasn’t sure I could manage a 500 calorie reduction, so I settled for a range of 250-500 calories a day. That may seem crazy to some of you, but I had to face what I was capable of doing. Giving up sugar, white flour and processed foods has been hard enough, also reducing the number of calories by 500 just seemed more than I could comfortably manage, so I had to be realistic about what I was capable of doing. I knew if I set the bar too high, I would be setting myself up for failure. So, though I wanted to indulge myself in self-pity, I refused to go there, instead, I looked at the fact that the numbers are going down, not up, as they had been; and that since I began, 25 days ago, I have lost a total of 5 pounds, and that is progress, and I need to give myself credit, where credit is due.
Also, I realized something yesterday, although I’ve been stingy with my carbs (often I have only ½ c of oatmeal and 1 slice of whole grain bread as my carbs for the whole day) but yesterday I also had ½ c of brown rice at lunch, and I was amazed at how much better I did in the evening, overall, I took in fewer calories, because I felt satisfied, and wasn’t constantly looking for something else to eat. So that was a good lesson: more means less!
I was also thinking about body image and how it affects my progress. I know when I am feeling bad about myself, giving myself negative messages, I don’t do well with my food, it’s like I need to lick my wounds and medicate with food. But when I am feeling positive, and giving myself affirmations, I feel upbeat, positive and optimistic.
When I am not beating myself up with “You’re not good enough “ messages, I am able to focus on all that’s right with the work that I am doing, and, that this is about the journey, not the destination. There are a lot of rewards all along the way, as well, not just the grand “prize” at the end of the road. So I need to remember that; I need to affirm that eating sober is reward in, and of, itself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unfolding to the Beauty Within

I was just thinking about last night’s episode of Biggest Loser, and wondering why it is we all have to suffer so much to reach that part of ourselves that is capable of self-nurturing – without having to go through hell to do it. I felt upset about both of the incidents that occurred last night, one with Migdalia, and the other with Melissa, both having been spurred, or caused, by Jillian.
First, her attack on Migdalia: although I realize Jillian was not, as Migdalia thought, calling her a “bad mother”, rather, I believe she was trying to say that we are destined to repeat the mistakes of our role models, if we don’t allow ourselves to understand what it is that makes us tick, and then do something about it. I am sure she was referring to Migdalia’s obesity, but also to her inability to express her emotions, and that this inability was greatly the cause of her obesity in the first place. So, on the surface, I agreed with Jillian. But she is like a bull in a china shop. What is it that makes her feel that it’s OK to beat the crap out of someone to get them to face their issues? She is not a therapist ( and would be a highly abusive one if she were) and has no right to play one; and it really infuriates me that, week after week , she does just that.
What she does have correct, I believe, is that no one has those kind of weight problems without a trunk full of issues. And often, I know, she has helped people work through them, Maria and her fear of water, is a case in point. But the fact that is she is down right brutal in the gym, and also, often in her approach toward people interpersonally (her treatment of Melissa, for example, when she didn’t believe that Melissa hadn’t intentionally “thrown” the weigh-in) is really disturbing to me. The only time she’s nice, is when she thinks she’s getting someone to “crack”, so that they will expose a raw nerve, and have a breakthrough in their emotional battle against the weight. She has the right idea, but the worst manner of going about it that I could ever imagine. This is emotional abuse, and for all these people, who have obviously suffered enough, I am disturbed to witness this, week after week.
In fact, I am deeply disturbed about the whole brutal approach to weight loss on the show. Imagine losing five pounds in one week and have that be cause for shame, because everyone around you is dropping ten, fifteen, even twenty pounds, in one week? It’s absolute insanity. Any qualified individual will tell you that weight loss, at that rate, is extremely bad for you; the body experiences it as starvation, how good can that be? And statistics tell us that the faster you lose the weight, the greater your chances of gaining it all back, and then some. It takes a slow, steady, profound change in lifestyle, and attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors – we are talking about radical life changes, from the ground up – to lose that kind of weight - and keep it off - this does not happen overnight. That’s why so many people who have lost significant amounts of weight, but have not changed radically from within, often gain all, or most of their weight back.
The science of weight loss has been revolutionized in the last five years, they are beginning to understand so much more about the chemistry in the body as it gains, or loses weight, and why; also the body’s reactions to certain foods, or food types, or the deprivation of certain foods. For instance, the attitude about fat in our diet has been completely revolutionized; we were always told, “stay away from fat!” But now they’re saying that we absolutely need fat in our diet in order to lose weight; it just has to be healthy fat, like olive oil, avacado, and even (gasp) coconut oil. But the medical science behind the show does not seem to keep up with this information. They are constantly recommending foods that are processed, not whole grain, artificial sweeteners, low fat or non fat (which the most modern research shows is bad, not only for your body, but makes losing weight, ultimately, more difficult.)
It may sound like I hate the show, I don’t, I am a devoted fan; but what I am attracted to is the personal transformation that happens inside of the people, the insights they have as to why they got so sick in the first place; and of course, the realization of personal life-dreams. It’s very uplifting and very inspiring in many, many ways. But it bothers me that the contestants feel that they deserve such brutal treatment. It’s amazing to me that some of them don’t get one look at the typical workout on the ranch and head for the hills. Not because they are weak, or wimps, but because they are too sane to participate in such insanity. Their brutal 4-6 hour daily work-outs would be killing for athletes, for people who have, in many cases, never exercised before, it could, literally, be deadly. Several of those older participants looked like they were ready to drop dead last season! I’ve only been watching the show for three seasons, and I’ve already seen two stress fractures that occurred – stress fractures! Not from falling down the stairs, or a car accident, but from exercise that was so stressful it cracked the participant’s bone! And realistically, how many of these people will be able to sustain these workouts in order to keep the weight off?
Am I the only one who is a little freaked out by this? Can’t we find a middle ground between deprivation and indulgence, which doesn’t involve walking through the fires of hell to get there? Can’t we suspend our national obsession with immediate gratification when it comes to matters of our health? How about working on the problem from the inside out, looking at what made us so sad, or angry, or grief-stricken that we ate our way into that state in the first place?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A New Day

I am sitting on top of the world Ladies and Gentlemen! Today is my fifth day keeping track of my calories and keeping a food log; and it is my 18th day of being free of sugar! Yahoo! Letting go of the sugar had great immediate results as far as my emotions were concerned: that profound depression went away; but I realized that just because I was sugar-free did not mean that I was free of compulsive eating. And I am here to tell you, when I am eating compulsively, I feel awful. My emotions were still all over the map, and the worst part was, I was still in “diet-mode”: still coming from a place of depriving myself, however, despite the deprivation, I still wasn’t showing any results on the scale.
Because there were times during the day when I was still eating for the pure sake of eating, and doing a lot of lying to myself re: serving size and frequency of meals, I was still off-kilter emotionally. Yet I was feeling confused about this because, I thought: “I’m on a diet! I’m sugar-free! Why do I feel so awful?” But what I was forgetting, is that compulsive behavior is compulsive behavior, no matter how you slice it.
Even though my binges were highly controlled binges, they were still binges, creating the same kind of emotional havoc as when I was much more out of control. So, one day, when I was reading Diana’s blog: I was inspired to keep a record of every thing I put in my mouth. I began keeping a food journal, and then it seemed the natural next step to start counting calories, as well.
Almost immediately, I began to feel better. It was like I’d taken the steering wheel away from my inner child, and the adult was now driving. I could trust myself to not eat way more than I needed. Now that I knew I had to write down, and tally, every morsel of food, it discouraged me from overeating, because I knew I would be held accountable. And oddly, that sense of responsibility felt good.
I am also going pretty easy on myself. Though I am trying to reign in the number of calories I am consuming, I am not coming from a “diet” perspective. Dieting, for me, is punishment; I needed to put a more positive spin on it. For instance, that my goal was health, not thin-ness; that my goal was to feel emotionally balanced instead of being on an emotional rollercoaster.
Now, I know I need to proceed with caution here: there are no foolproof methods, and we are all subject to fall, no mater how perfectly we do the steps. It’s human nature, and this addiction is highly complex. But I do know certain truths: for right here and now, it is working; I am feeling better; I feel sane; I feel balanced and I feel grateful. So thank you, all of you who have been so supportive.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Filling the God Hole

I’ve struggled and struggled with my food, trying to figure out the magic combination of actions to help me conquer my compulsion to eat. I’ve come up with many things that help, mentally: yoga, meditation, journaling, being creative, having fun; physically: whole foods, lots of fresh veggies and fruit, sufficient protein, healthy fats, wholesome snacks, adequate exercise. I’ve found several approaches that have been enormously helpful: consistency; positive, like-minded people to share my journey with; and finding a balance between over- zealousness and laziness. Emotionally: being gentle with myself, praising myself a lot, being forgiving, and remembering my true worth has nothing to do with my jean size.
In their way, each of these are pearls of wisdom, and many times I’ve discovered one of these truths, only to think that I had found THE ANSWER and that I would never struggle again, ever; because it seems like that, when something is really working, you feel undefeatable. But then, for some reason, it stops working, and your perfect smugness melts away into humility once more. Now, that’s not a bad thing, humility is a good thing, it helps us to remember that we can’t do this alone. And no matter how much we think we have it all figured out, we don’t, and we need help. Twelve Step programs call it accepting our powerlessness (over our disease) and then recognizing that we need help from a higher power.
So I guess you could say I need to take that first step over and over again. For some reason, I keep forgetting that I don’t know it all. Then I’ve got to get humble again, ask for help and start anew. It’s true, I do know a lot, I’ve made a career out of studying the science of weight loss and the psychology of addiction, but there’s a missing little piece to the puzzle that can’t be found in the textbooks, it can only be found in the human heart.
And maybe that’s the thing that I keep forgetting: Nurture yourself, Jackie; love yourself. Give yourself lots of little gifts (a 30 minute break from housework, to play the guitar; a walk in the woods; a funny movie with a friend; time alone to draw; an hour of silence) I love the expression I heard in the various 12 Step programs I’ve visited, the “rooms”, as they’re called: That when we are ingesting inordinate amounts of various substances , in this case, food, we are trying to fill a void, an emptiness that’s so hollow and steep, there is no filling it, and that’s what the rooms call “The God Hole”; it’s an insatiable desire, because no substance can fill that spiritual longing. By this, I do not mean religion, I mean an intimate relationship with ourselves, for when we dig deep enough, that is God. And yes, nurturing my spirit is spirituality, because it is the truest, deepest, most authentic part of me.
But like I said, I keep forgetting. I get caught up in the busy-ness of my life, I allow the demands and responsibilities I face each day to consume me; I take on, as my problem, things that should be handed back to their rightful owners, and then I lose sleep over it; I forget that I am more than just what I do. I get caught on that conveyor belt of life and forget to stop and smell the roses; hell they’re whirring by so fast, I don’t even see the roses. So, I need stop, check-in with myself, remember that it is the journey, not the destination that matters: how I go about it, how I treat the people who I come across along the way, including myself; and it is never OK to beat myself up because of my frailties, they a part of me and part of what makes me whole.

So, to borrow another expression from the rooms, I guess I’m right where I need to be. If I can find complete acceptance of this moment, and gratitude for everything that’s right and good, I’ll be OK, damn, more than OK, because at least, for the moment, I’ve let go of the struggle, and that feels good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Me, The Beautiful

My desire is to be able to eat like a “normal” person: you know, be able to take one serving of something and be satisfied with that; to be able to indulge in food that other people can eat, without worrying that it will lead to a complete melt-down of will-power and resolve. But, I am finding, that is one of the thorniest parts of this challenge, I simply seem to be made for all or nothing; only problem is, “all” is certainly not working, and, ‘nothing’ isn’t working out too well for me either.
Here’s my vision: me as a health-conscious person, you know, the type that, for the most part, eats very consciously and responsibly, but can have occasional indulgences; have one cookie, and be satisfied with that, and not want to eat the entire sleeve. Or, I’d like to be someone who can indulge in potatoes now and then, or not have to be ever mindful of every calorie, every fat, and every calorie burned. I’d like to be someone who can veer off-track occasionally, and not have it be cause for a major catastrophe.
Why can’t I do that? I guess, because I am addict, and like alcoholics who can’t have “just one”, or a drug addict who can’t have an occasional lapse, I’ve got to be ever vigilant. And that’s a big drag.
But as the Buddhists tell us, most misery comes from not being able to accept what is, we rail against it, complain, whine and carry on, making ourselves utterly miserable, but if we were only able to recognize our own limitations, without continually whining, “it’s not fair!” we’d probably all be a lot happier.
But it is so frustrating to not be able to mold myself into the perfect image of who I think I should be. Those of you, who have been following this blog, know that I’ve tried the strict deprivation route, and it proved utterly unmanageable for me. So then I tried eating like a normal person (with the exception that I am avoiding all processed sugar and white flour and white rice - I figured that was enough of a challenge to master, and that I needed to back off on the weight-loss goals for right now; I felt just maintaining my weight, would be challenge enough) but I am not having much luck with that either. I tried eating some dried fruit (something I would normally restrict) but I wound up eating ten pieces instead of one. It seems every time I open that door to “normal” just a wee bit, the floodgates open, and the compulsion to eat, until it’s gone, takes over.
I guess this is because it’s really not about the weight. It’s about my association with food as something that’s going to make me feel better. One is never enough. I was that way when I was drinking; I was that way when I was using drugs. One was never enough. I always wanted more. Because the hurt was so big that one was never enough to make it go away. Whatever it is that makes me so needy that I need to put food in my mouth in response to every emotion I experience, needs to be addressed.
However, I need to give credit, where credit is due here: I have put down alcohol; I have put down drugs (I am 20 years free of both of them!) Food is the one remaining nut to crack (pardon the pun) and miraculously, I have been pretty successful with that, as well. Though overweight, I fall into the ‘average’ range of weight for my height. But I am not perfect, and that kills me.
I was just watching Darryl Robert’s documentary, America the Beautiful, in which he explores the bill of goods American girls and women have been sold re: the expectations of how they should look, how much they should weigh, how large their boobs should be, how small their waists, how firm their butt. It is a long relentless, un-forgiving list. He showed young, beautiful girls describing themselves as ugly, in response to looking at pictures of models; girls that had no clue of their physical beauty, never mind their inner beauty – that subject is never even addressed with our young people.
So if I am a little crazy when it comes to my self-concept, you must forgive me. I am a product of a society that values what we look like over who we are; that values our worth as physical entities over what we contribute to the world. Like you, I have been cheated out of a right to see myself as beautiful, and to see you as beautiful, as well. Instead, I worship images of half-starved, adolescent girls whose photos have been re-touched to create an image of something that doesn’t even exist, and I follow it as my the beacon. I have been so confused by this barrage of images that I no longer know what I look like. I look in the mirror, and, on some days, all I can do is find fault. I deserve better than this. And so do you. I applaud the ‘real women’ Dove campaign, but it is one miniscule drop in a very large ocean of images.
Work needs to be done to teach young girls not only how beautiful they are, just as they are naturally, but more importantly, teaching them to look inside of themselves to find their unique gifts and strengths. We have become so focused on what is outside of us, that we have forgotten to look inside and listen to that still, quiet voice guiding us, not only to meaningful work, but also to an ability to love others without judgment, and recognition, and acceptance, of our authentic selves.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Loving What Is

I went into a tailspin yesterday when I got on the scale only to discover that I hadn’t lost any further weight since the three pounds I’d lost in the first 24 hours of my 7-day diet! I got very depressed because I felt like all my hard work of the week had been for absolutely nothing. The simple act of letting go of the sugar helped me to lose 3 lbs of water-weight, and then that was it, the scale wouldn’t budge.
How could this be? I started to freak out over it, but I am beginning to understand that self-punitive, highly restrictive diets just do not work for me. Trying to micro-manage my behavior re: food feels like punishment: “I’ve gained weight; I need to be punished”, so I turn to the hardest, most in-human approach I can find. During such an endeavor, I feel angry, deprived, unsatisfied, and then like an un-fairly disciplined child, I begin to rebel.
Though I wasn’t eating any illegal foods, I ate when I wasn’t supposed to; I wasn’t sticking to portion control; etc.etc. My body was finding a way to get what it wanted (probably what it needed) regardless of my stringent efforts to be “good”.
A “good” dieter never cheats, a “good” dieter does everything perfectly; a “good” dieter is a “good” girl (i.e. lovable, socially acceptable and thin.) Well, those may be the messages in my head, but I am here to say that they are propaganda. I am a human being with needs that vary from day to day; I have a need for variety in my diet as much as in my life, and I do not need to beat myself into submission in order to be lovable. I am lovable right here and now.
What I do need in my life is sanity, balance and order. But the order has got to come from inside of me. I need to trust the wisdom of my body. It knows what I need, far better than I do; instead of weighing, measuring, restricting, I need to learn to trust the body’s process. There are certain truths that I know: I need a balance of protein, fats, and carbs; whole, unadulterated foods are best; exercise is not only good for my body, but necessary for my mental and spiritual health, as well; I need to eat when I am hungry, and stop when I have had enough.
I also know that I need to stay clear of toxic, addictive, foods. Sugar, for me, at least, is poison, and when I am free of it, my emotions feel balanced, I feel sane, because I am not experiencing the mercurial mood-swings typical of a body on sugar, and , as as my adrenal glands are not being horrendously over-worked, I find am no longer continually exhausted. All of these benefits mean that 'no processed sugar' ceases to feel like deprivation, but rather, like a gift that I am giving to myself.
Most importantly, I know that I am not over-weight because I don't know how to nurture my body properly, I am over-weight because I don't nurture my spirit.For this reason I need to honor my emotional needs: find healthy ways for me to express my feelings, and share them with safe people; know my limits and honor them; check-in with myself (how am I feeling right now, what do I need?); be gentle with myself, give myself loving, encouraging messages; and most of all, know that I am beautiful for far deeper reasons than the size that I wear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


So, here I am not a week into my new diet plan, and my resolve to be perfect is under serious assault. It’s true, my approach as usual, was slightly fanatic, I want to do everything perfectly, though I have found, more than once, that’s just not possible. Yet still, I try. I set out on a stringent diet: no fats except for flax seed oil, no carbs, ridiculous, right? I know. But I was so freaked out about that weight gain, that I was determined to have results, and fast.
It was all fine and good for about the 1st four days, I strictly followed the plan, I weighed, I measured, I counted; nothing went in my mouth that wasn’t sanctioned by my current diet guru; but by the fourth day, plain and simple: I was hungry, I could have just eaten, and yet I wasn’t feeling satisfied. I struggled through the fourth day, but when this building anxiety started to climax on the fifth day, I had to take a hard look at what I was trying to do.
Although when I’d committed to the plan, I’d convinced myself that it was nutritionally sound, I now began to question its, and my, wisdom. Certainly part of my craving could have been simply about feeling deprived, but I think I was definitely feeling nutritionally deprived, as well. So, the first thing I did was to add a healthy carb, that helped immediately, but I found I needed to modify in more places, as well, and then, lo! And behold, my diet plan wasn’t looking a whole lot like the one I’d started out on.
Now because I am a control freak, letting go of even just the slightest bit of control can send me into a tailspin; I tend to have an all or nothing attitude: like if I let go even just a little bit, I am afraid that all hell is going to break loose. It goes back to that lack of trust in myself; I fear I will let myself down. I fear if I loosen constraints in one area, I will lose my resolve in another.
And while it’s true that making these changes has shaken me up, I am not running out eating gallons of sticky frozen treats. It is scary to trust myself, and scarier still to treat myself like a normal human being. I’ll never forget the first time I read Geneen Roth’s writing on the subject of compulsive overeating; unlike every other philosophy I was adhering to (‘as an addict you must abstain from the substance – forever – there is no success with-half way commitment’ yadda yadda yadda) but Geneen had the courage to say, “no” to that; in fact, she was a proponent on learning to trust yourself with all foods. She believed that telling yourself that you can never eat sugar, for instance, again, is only a guarantee that you will binge on sugar, probably repeatedly.
At the time, her philosophy was far out of my realm of self-trust. To be honest, I thought she must be crazy. But today, many failed attempts at perfection later, I am beginning to see my way toward a future that might just include a little bit more self-trust, and maybe even some more self-love thrown in for the bargain.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finding the Way

I had a great experience yesterday; I was feeling upset about a conversation I’d had with someone; and I started to have my old knee-jerk response to being upset: I immediately began to think about eating, I started looking in the cupboards, though I’d just eaten, and I wasn’t hungry. Worse, my mind started to go toward foods on-hand that weren’t in my diet plan. Suddenly, I wasn’t caring that they weren’t in my plan. All I wanted was to get something to eat, and then sit in front of the TV.
Now TV can be a wonderful, perfectly acceptable form of relaxation for some, I am sure, but I am realizing that it’s a resource I need to use with great care, because flopping down in front of it, exhausted, wanted nothing but to zone-out, almost always goes hand-in-hand with overeating. So this was a red flag, thank goodness, and somehow I managed to gather my strength and instead, I turned off the TV, and headed upstairs to my meditation space.
Luckily, I’d just been reading in Yoga Journal magazine about restorative asanas (poses). To the untrained eye, these asanas may seem very passive, and therefore unproductive, but yoga therapist Bo Forbes (“Beat the Blues”, February issue) explained our nervous systems are designed to respond to subtle changes in the environment, and when these poses are combined with deep yoga breathing, they become a “potent tool to recalibrate the nervous system.” The article was discussing the use of these asanas as a tool to combat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in particular, but seeing as depression is part of that symptom presentation, I knew it would benefit my emotional state as well.
So I lit a candle, put on some quiet music, propped my arms, head and legs with pillows, and settled down into Savasana (Supported Corpse Pose). I did slow, gentle, deep breathing, and within ten minutes I felt completely calm. A few minutes more, and I began to see why I had been upset, but it no longer upset me. My initial response had been to stuff the feelings; I usually avoid letting my anger come to the surface, for some reason, it’s very scary for me, and my instantaneous response is to try to hide it – even from myself. Buying that “peace” must come at a high cost, though, for in order for me to pull it off, it must be fueled with lots of food.
I stayed in the pose for 40 minutes, and when I got up, I felt like a different person: no more anger, fear, cravings or agitation, just calm. Then I topped off my self-nurturing with a mini home spa, a candlelit, and scented-bath. I then went to eat my dinner, and yes, watch some TV, but I was careful to watch a station where I knew there would be no commercials, as well a show that didn’t have that rapid fire editing that is becoming so universal in TV programming, for I know it is agitating to a quiet mind, and I didn’t want to un-do the wonderful good I had done.
I felt so proud of myself that I was able to short-circuit a behavior response that I’ve had all my life. For some reason, that time of day (5:00 to 9:00 pm) is usually my most difficult time. Earlier in the day, I always seem to have stronger resolve: I stay on track easier, I rarely have temptations, but that ‘witching hour’ is really tough and I stood up to it, (or, should I say lay down?) and won!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Acts of Kindness

Well, I had a much better day yesterday. In the first place, I felt much more centered, the anger was gone and I really began to feel a clear-headedness that I haven’t felt in a long time; I also felt very proud of my fifth day of abstinence.
I realized that I have to steer clear of the kind of behaviors that got me into this mess in the first place: ignoring my own feelings, putting other people’s needs before my own (and I realize that’s an addiction too: it’s co-dependency, being driven to fix every situation, or take control of it, and that’s just not possible.) I’ve got to learn to accept my own limits as a human being, and not take on everyone else’s “stuff” in addition to my own.
For instance, I cannot get my 13 year-old son out of bed to get to the bus on time; I make myself sick over it, to the point that I get upset, don’t have time to take care of my own needs (like my yoga and meditation routine) and sometimes even make myself late for work. A Co-Dependent’s Anonymous meeting would tell me, straight out, that I need to back off; let my son miss the bus, repeatedly if need be, and then he’d be forced to feel the consequences; maybe then he would change. But I never let him go through this process, I always have to “save” him, fix him, make it right. But of course, in so doing, I’m not fixing anything; I’m only encouraging his weakness, or enabling him, as they say.
So what does all of this have to do with over-eating? Everything. I am surrounded with these situations on a daily basis; add to that a stressful work schedule, frustration at not being able to spend more time being creative, etc., etc., etc., and there you have it: the perfect set-up for a woman who forgets to take care of herself. The one way she does consistently try to take care of herself is by putting food in her mouth that “comforts” her, unfortunately, the comfort lasts about ten seconds.
So I need to guard myself from those kind of behaviors as much as from grazing when I am not hungry, or telling myself, “just this once.” Which means I have to be conscious, and in touch with my deepest inner voice: the one that always guides me in the right direction: the one that comes from my solar plexus. But in order to benefit from that oh-so-quiet wisdom, I must be still long enough to hear it. And that means, not letting anything get between me and my self nurturing, especially my meditation, and my yoga, because, for me, they’re both life savers!
So today I make a promise to the world: I will do my meditation, my yoga, a walk, eat healthy, look for the humor in all situations, do something kind for someone, and if I do all of these things, I will also be doing something kind for myself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ascending From The Depths

Yesterday I was in a purple rage. I was furious with every member of my family. I started arguments with each one. It was like I lined them up and went down the line..”…And YOU!”… As I drove away to clear my head, I thought, ”What the hell was that” And then it hit me: four days abstinent from sugar. Bingo! I knew that I had not only read about this phenomenon, but had actually experienced it before, but so long ago that I’d forgotten: cold turkey from sugar addiction brings up lots and lots of anger, peaking on the fourth day! Whoa! I scared myself!
But, the thing is the anger was all justified, in fact, it was about all of the things that I’d been stuffing for months. Swallowing mistreatment, disrespect, inadequate concern, all of the things that I took on, and pretended to myself it didn’t matter, but they did matter, and my body, mind and spirit was paying the price for keeping the peace.
But the bigger AHA! Moment was when I realized that all of that swallowed anger was exactly coinciding with my food relapse, and the thirteen pounds that I had gained over those past 6-8(?) months - I’d been in a relapse for so long that I couldn’t really say how long it’s been - but, today, my fifth day of abstinence, I feel clearer and more centered than I’ve been in a really long time.
I’d had abstinence from sugar for nearly eight years, only to lose it when my mother died. That loss sent me into such an emotional whirlpool, so overwhelming, that I lost my abstinence, and though that was seven years ago, I have still struggled to regain it.
I’ve had good long periods of abstinence, during that period, though, in fact, two years ago I lost 35 pounds, the weight that I’d put on, over three or four years, as a result of that relapse. During that time, I had two solid years of being sober with my food, but this year, for some reason, it fell apart.
Despite the slight hysteria and the fact that my anger could have been expressed in a much more healthy manner, I still managed to retain a sense of balance, and even attain serenity during the course of the day. The first thing that helped was to be able to understand what was going on with my emotions; it helped me to realize that I wasn’t just nuts. It also helped me to realize that though the manner in which I expressed it may have been wrong, the feelings were justified.
Also, my response was really healthy: I immediately got my snowshoes and went out for a hike in the gorgeous snowy woods. It put everything in perspective, and I instantly began to relax and to feel the healing power of nature. I then went home, gathered up some things, and headed for the local coffee house, where I set up my laptop and began to write. This was a very healing thing to do, as well, because for me, doing that is an “artist date”, as Julia Cameron talks about in her wonderful book, The Artist’s Way; so it was a very nurturing thing to do for myself, and that helped me to regain my strength, as well.
While there I wrote a piece for my nature blog, and that felt really good, because, I’d let everything else be important than that, and three weeks had gone by since I’d last posted, which had made me feel very sad. So that was another gift I gave to myself.
But then I had to face the gritty issue before me: if I’d gotten into this terrible state, because of all these feelings I’d been stuffing, what was I going to do about it? How was I going to change in order to protect myself from making the same mistake again?
I set about making a list of the things that had to change: first I had to really check in with myself, to see what was bothering me the most, and ask myself some hard questions about what I could do to make my response healthier, both for me and my relationships. I knew that certain boundaries needed to be set in place, and that would mean work, work for me that is scary, because telling the truth is scary – will I still be loved if I’m not quite so agreeable?
But I feel the hardest part of the work has already begun. Today I am free from my addiction. Today I am starting to feel the benefits of clear thinking and an inner balance. I know from here, I can do anything!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Connecting With Me

I woke up this morning .2 lbs heavier than I was yesterday, now this is fanaticism to the enth degree, I know, and I also know that one’s weight normally fluctuates slightly from day to day. But I’ve been working so hard at being “good” and I wanted the daily reward of seeing the numbers going down. I know that it is one of the cardinal rules of dieting: Do not weigh oneself on a daily basis – for this very reason; but the first two days of my “being good” I was rewarded with seeing the numbers go down, and I wanted further reward. No such luck today. Now you would think that a sane person would be able to see that 2/10 of a pound as completely insignificant, but a small part of me began to panic. And that is that part of me that fears any weight gain is just going to continue and continue until I blow up into a balloon and, presumably, explode.
That, I believe, is due to my basic lack of trust in myself. I was taught, not only that I was unacceptable over-weight, but also that I was weak-willed if I couldn’t “stick” to a diet. So the assault on my self-esteem was really an assault on my self-image, as well, for I began to think of myself as a failure, weak-willed, and incapable of changing my own behavior.
The problem is, nobody told me that it wasn’t about will power at all; it wasn’t about liking sweets too much, or about wanting whatever I wanted, when I wanted it, but something much deeper. No one told me that my use of food to comfort myself was, not just greed, or gluttony, but rather, in a way, a healthy gesture, for I was trying to manage a chronic depression. At thirteen, when the pressure really got steep for me to lose weight (the on-set of my adolescence must have set off alarms in my mother’s head that I would never find a husband) I had no idea that the reason I overate was because I was suffering, and I was trying to make myself feel better.
It would be many years later before I would begin to understand the connection between my emotions and my weight, and even then, of course, this knowledge was not a panacea. I still had to struggle against the knee-jerk reflex to put food in my mouth every time I felt sad or angry or upset.
The problem of course, is not the feeling of these emotions – it’s the fact that I don’t want to feel these emotions; I do everything in my power to avoid feeling these feelings, for there was once a time in my life, no doubt, that the feeling of these emotions was more terrifying than I could handle, so naturally, I learned that it was better to pretend that I didn’t feel that way; and so, I had to begin to find ways to numb myself: food was an obvious choice.
In fact, allowing myself to feel the feelings is always freeing, always ultimately, uplifting and best of all, it emancipates me from the desire to put unneeded food in my mouth.
So, as a recovering adult, I have made it my life’s work to find ways to connect with me: to check in with myself on a daily, or even hourly basis; to stop and take a few deep breaths, and ask myself how I am feeling. If I’m agitated, but I don’t really know why, journaling has proved to be an invaluable tool. I am often amazed at how productive writing is for me. I can sit down in front of a blank page, highly upset, but not really sure why, and then I begin to write, and two or three pages later, I’ve worked it out, and feel better for having done that.
Another major way for me to connect with what’s really going on with me is to get out into nature. By being surrounded with the natural world, I am immediately comforted, things fall into perspective, and my daily worries seem less troublesome.
Another thing that’s really a significant factor in how well I can manage to stay in touch with my true feelings is my creative expression. When I take time to do work that I love, I feel fulfilled, and the desire to eat unnecessary food completely disappears.
Of course, using my body in a healthy way is also highly beneficial: my favorite forms of exercise are walking and yoga. I notice a significant difference in how I feel, if I commit regular time to these practices.
These are all important tools, but I think the thing that has been the most significant for me, has been meditation. The amount of time I give to myself in this quiet state is directly related to the level of serenity and self love that I am experiencing at any given time. When I am rushing, and caught up in the busyness of the world, I lose my sense of centeredness, and with that, goes all that I have been working toward; soon I am using food in an unhealthy way, which only deepens the disconnection between my inner spirit, and me and the downward spiral begins.
As I write these tools out, it is reassuring to remind myself that I really do know how to comfort myself without hurting myself, I really do have a lot of wisdom and knowledge that can help me be the healthiest person that I can be. For I deserve that. And the more I practice these self-loving acts, the more I lose all desire to do anything to myself that I know, ultimately, only harms me. It’s all in the balance, and the remembering, the daily steps of practice, to reinforce all of the wisdom that we all hold inside of ourselves, if only we allow ourselves to get quiet enough to hear it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Finding The Path Toward Enlightenment

I am finally starting the blog I’ve been wanting to write for ages, but felt too vulnerable to put myself out there in such an exposed way. But I also realize that, as they say in AA, ‘we are only as sick as the secrets that we keep’, so getting honest will only help me toward my goal of being the healthiest, strongest, most well-balanced me I can be. I think, somehow, by sharing with others about the most shameful issue in my life, by touching others who know exactly where I’m coming from, I will find great healing. I want this to be a place where I can say how I am really feeling, and know that I won’t be judged for it, and know that, indeed, others will identify and share their stories, which will, in turn, help us both grow. I hope that this blog will prove to be a great source of inspiration for myself and many others.
I have been overweight most of my life. The numbers don’t really matter, it’s really the emotional issues underneath the numbers that count, but for clarity, let’s say that those extra pounds amounted to anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds. I have also lived long periods of my life where I was pretty fit, although I never gave myself credit for that. I could never embrace the idea that I looked good, regardless of what the scale said. In fact, like many people who struggle with this issue, I would often look back to a time in which I had been convinced that I was fat, but with the passage of time, and the addition of added pounds, I looked back at that level of “fat” with great longing.
I come from a family where weight problems run rampant, in fact, there were a number of people in my mother’s family of origin who were morbidly obese, as a result, there was a lot of self-loathing in that family, which naturally was passed on to me. I was given the message that I was not acceptable as I was; that being fat meant being not good enough, which led to the natural assumption that not good enough also meant not lovable.
My family was so paranoid about weight issues that they focused on me as a very young child: I was six years old the first time my laxative-bulimic sister put me on a diet; It’s true: I looked well-fed, but I was not “fat”. Though in a short amount of time, this notion foisted upon me soon did great damage to my self-esteem, and worse, it distorted my image of my body, so that today, many years later, I still struggle with looking at myself through any kind of a realistic lens. Often, I feel truly clueless how I look, and worse, when I look, either just fine, or even beautiful, I can’t “own it”, I am forever convinced that I am unacceptable as I am.
Over the holidays, like millions of other people, I gained three pounds. Unfortunately, I had already recently gained 10 pounds, so this additional three, now had become 13 pounds; as a result , I was very uncomfortable and pretty miserable.
I have struggled with my recovery from food addiction for about 16 years, during most of those years I have been abstinent from white sugar, white flour and white rice. Of course, I’ve had many ‘slips’, some times lasting for months – I have been in just such a relapse for months now - but for the most part, since I began to look at my ‘weight problem’ as an addiction, I began to really understand the hold that some of these toxic foods held over me, and it was from that point forward that I began to really understand the emotions that controlled these behaviors, as well.
For me, being overweight was really a way of fulfilling the belief that I was unloved and unlovable. I believe it was also a way of protecting myself from very much wanted, but greatly feared, sexual attention, as I had been sexually molested as a child. But mostly, I think, eating food, especially ‘comfort foods’ like sweets and carbs, was a way to medicate myself, to help me not feel sad, lonely, depressed, and especially, angry.
It was a coping mechanism that I developed early-on, and one that I have found very, very difficult to let go of. I hope that by sharing my honest feelings about my daily struggle with my self image that I can find a way toward peace, for I know that the numbers truly do not matter. What matters is a love of oneself and an acceptance of who we are. I believe with this comes a sense of connection with the earth and all of the other people who are the earth. Once we recognize that we are all the same, that we all desire love and acceptance and kindness, we can begin to put the focus on feelings rather than obsessing about food and how we look. Welcome to my blog!