Saturday, January 30, 2010
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
Well, I have Kat, of Kat’s Adventures in Dietland, to thank for the inspiration in my blog today: http://katdoesdiets.blogspot.com/ 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
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
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
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
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: http://diana135.blogspot.com/ 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!