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!