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Not Letting Disease Win

Yesterday at work I experienced a scene with a person (not a co-worker or friend) who went from 0 to 25 on the anger scale in the space of three heartbeats. I tried to diffuse it, did my best to work with this person, but the bottom line was that I could not give him the one thing that he wanted and nothing else mattered to him. He was completely unable to see reason.

I’m a fairly tough cookie when needed. I’ve had people yell at me and attempt to bully and intimidate me and it doesn’t work. I have my coping strategies firmly in place. (This wasn’t the case 20 some years ago, but I’ve learned since then.) For whatever reason, maybe it was the lightning fast reaction of his, this situation really got to me.

It affected me all day. I could feel it in my clenched gut and the constant ache behind my eyes. Driving home with a friend, we talked about it and I mentioned that I’d love nothing more than to dive into a half of a pound of chocolate walnut fudge. My friend wisely reminded me that doing so would mean letting the guy and the situation win.

I’m trying to hold onto the concept of not letting my disease win. (I didn’t dive into a vat of fudge last night, but did indulge in some cookies, unfortunately.) I think it will do me good for the time being to think of my disease as an opponent battling me for my health and envision myself as a warrior. I like that kind of self-empowerment.

So, for today, I am waging war against my disease, against the compulsion to eat inappropriately. I will not let my disease win.

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Good New Days

The good news about tough times is that they don’t have to continue forever. Each day is an opportunity to do better than the day before, to make healthier choices, to reframe our mindset, and rebalance our emotions. It’s another chance to reconnect spiritually with whomever or whatever we decide is our Higher Power.

Today wasn’t perfect for me, but it was so much better than the last week. I’m relieved and, trust me, when i went to bed last night I anticipated a complete suckfest. As tired as I was, I could not shut off the mind chatter. Situations, worries, and drama kept repeating in my head. I believe that’s what psychiatrists call “inefficient worrying”. Whatever the name, I experienced it to the point where it took two hours and a change of scenery for me to go to sleep.

Change of scenery sounds weird, but sometimes when I can’t fall asleep in my bed I get up and go out in the living room to my recliner. For some reason, when I do that I can then drop off. My sleep in the chair usually only lasts for an hour to an hour and a half, but when I sort of wake up and return to my bed, I immediately fall asleep again and go through until morning.

Despite only getting about five hours of sleep, my mind was clear when my alarm went off. I spent some time connecting with my spirit. I said the Serenity Prayer. I mused on the things that I need to disconnect from and let go, then made the conscious choice to turn them over. With a calm mindset and a serene spirit, I actually experienced some good energy — like I’d relieved myself of things dragging at me. So I went out, jumped on my bike, and rode eight miles before breakfast. I rode to the beach and had the pleasure of seeing bright brush strokes of lavender, rose, and gold sweep across the sky. It was glorious.

The positive state of being remained throughout the work day and when I got home. Situations that last week threw me completely off of my game, today rolled off me without causing me difficulty. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that my food and eating through the day were also on point. I feel off some tonight and that’s my bad. I didn’t make my house “clean”, meaning I still had some junk food around

That’s one of the worse aspects of being a compulsive eater. I don’t have to be in a poor state in order to eat off plan. Sometimes I eat compulsively just because the food’s present. Anyway, it’s gone now. With my new found balance and positive, healthy attitude, I can withstand bringing any of it back into the house. that will help pad the likelihood of stacking up some successful days.

My takeaway reminder lesson from all this is to remember that no matter how far off I slip, it is always possible to climb back up, shore up my defenses, and reconnect with what I need to do in order to not only survive but thrive. I will never lose hope.

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Stopping the Slide

A lot of what Chrissy said in her comment to my Funk-ytown post really resonated. Recovery requires attention to all three aspects – physical, emotionally and spiritually. Spirituality does not necessarily mean formal religion. It means different things to different people whether their Higher Power is God, Allah, Buddah, the Universe, or a higher consciousness of their own self. For me, mostly, it’s God. Sometimes it’s an intangible state of being I think of as my healthy-non-diseased mental state.

Whatever the case, I need to reconnect with my Higher Power in order to stop this slide. Allow me just to say that today I physically feel like utter crap and that’s a direct result of too many days in a row of eating off of my plan. Emotionally and mentally I’m still down, although I had a nice time last night — which I’ll share about later in this post.

I’m trying to take care of myself. Thanks to the forethought of arranging for a dogsitter to stay in my house last night while I went to Key West for the function, I was able to sleep in a little this morning. Staying in bed until almost 9 a.m. felt really good. I woke up to a beautiful morning, so beautiful in fact that it would have been a perfect day to take out the boat with friends. However, I didn’t rush to come back home. I realized that while I would have loved to be out on the water, I really didn’t want to be around a lot of people today. I feel like I have been surrounded by others without a break for too many days in a row. Don’t get me wrong, I like being social and enjoy the company of others at work and in my various other pursuits. It’s just that when I’m already feeling the effects of energy drain, I hit a wall.

So, today I decided that I would rather soak up some solitude hanging around the house with Nat and Pyxi. I also would treat myself to new spring flowers for my porch planters and rejuvenate my herb planter. This was another way of taking care of myself. With that decision made before I left the hotel this morning, I was in a calmer, more relaxed state of mind on the drive up home.

Perhaps that’s what opened me up to understanding why my funk and slide are prolonged. Lately, I’m experiencing a resuscitation of some co-dependency issues. Co-dependency kicks off my eating disorder because food and overeating were always my coping mechanisms. Destructive and not always effective, still, it’s how I coped.

I haven’t run up against a situation where I would experience co-dependency in the two-plus years that I’ve lived in recovery on my weight loss and health-reclamation journey. I’m not surprised that I didn’t recognize this right away, but now that I have the signs are very clear to me. Now that I know, it’s time, as Chrissy said, to jump horses on the carousel and look for help from my spiritual self and my Higher Power.

This is not something that I can resolve with an extra bike ride, although the endorphins help. I need to make the conscious decision to turn the problem, the situation, and my reaction to it, over to my Higher Power. Turning it over is another means of letting go of it. It requires admitting that the situation is not something over which I have any control, nor am I required to fix it.

My responsibility in this is to take care of myself. I need to stay aware of how the situation affects me and, when I feel its influence, not take that influence into myself but turn it over and let it go. It’s another kind of mindfulness, to realize how other people/places/things/situations can impact my health — if I permit them to. This aspect of my recovery requires help from my Higher Power, but I have to make the conscious choice to ask. Doing so will help me stop this slide and get back on the road to recovery.

Okay, now back to last night. A few weeks ago, I talked about finding a couple of new dresses for upcoming events and then also ordering some heels. Last night was one of the events. I had fun socializing with a large group of people whose company I enjoy. We talked, laughed, and danced a lot. It’s not easy to take a flattering picture of myself with my phone in a mirror, but hopefully you can get an idea. I think I looked great in one of my new dresses. (Please ignore the slightly strange facial expression. I was focused on trying to get the photo.)

newdress

This was the debut of one of the new pairs of shoes, too. First time that I’ve worn more than a kitten heel in forever. They were pretty and comfortable (for most of the night anyway). I slipped them off a few times, as did some of my friends with their heels, but I was never in pain. As I discussed in that earlier post, I haven’t owned a lot of really pretty shoes in my life. If I keep having this kind of success, I might become a late blooming shoe addict. What do you think?

Shoes

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Taking You to Funk-ytown

That title contains a little bit of a local joke. A little bit across the water from my house is a house on a point of land. The people that own it fixed up the outdoor area with a little dance floor and sound system. Quite often music drifts out over the harbor – classic rock, old country, their tastes are varied. They also like to occasionally pump up the jam with disco and other dance music to which they also often sing. If you can call the caterwauling singing. Seriously, it’s the worst karaoke ever to the point where it’s laughable if you have a sense of humor or reason to call the deputies and invoke the late night noise ordinance if your ears can’t take it. The woman is particularly fond of shrieking along to, “Won’t you take me to Funkytown?” That was never the most melodious tune and it’s nine-fighting-cats-in-heat bad when she takes the microphone.

My Funk-ytown is different as in, I’m in a funk and have been for days. I thought I would be finished with just a one day buzz crash, but emotionally, physically, and food-wise, I’ve had a rough week. Put all three of those aspects on a downturn at the same time and they feed each other, which only makes me feel worse. Then it wipes me out so that I not only feel bad, I’m exhausted. Last night I was so tired that I fell asleep in my chair sometime after 9 p.m., woke up as Scandal was starting and was so muzzy-brained that I just turned off the television and crawled into bed. I woke up a couple of times in the night but fell right back asleep. Even with enough hours of sleep time logged, when my alarm went off at 6 a.m., I absolutely did not want to get up and go for a walk or bike ride. So I didn’t. I watched the DVR recording of Scandal instead. To digress a moment, if you’re a fan of the show like I am, allow me to virtually shriek, “OMG!! Cyrus is soulless!”

Anyway, there’s tiredness where I don’t feel like I can get enough sleep. Sluggishness from not exercising. Add in stress over a situation at work. Mix in some extra achyness — probably from being tired and holding onto stress. It all has the effect of stirring up my hunger. Big time. Around lunch, I was absolutely ravenous.

That alone is very strange. I usually only feel hungry when it’s appropriate for me to feel so, as in enough hours have passed since I ate something that the right amount of hunger signals me that it’s time for me to eat. Ever since my surgery, I don’t really feel severe hunger and certainly never the, “I could eat a small pony” degree.

This tells me that the, “Oh my goodness, I am STARVING” experience wasn’t physical hunger — at least not all of it. I think it was a bit of actual hunger dramatically magnified by my emotions. I then fed the anxiousness with lots of negative emotions and thoughts. Things like, “You’re eating off plan and you deliberately didn’t exercise. OMG, you’re relapsing. Your motivation is gone. You’re going to gain back all of your weight!!!!”

I don’t 100% know for sure what’s going on with me that I’m having all this emotional reaction and eating. What I’m trying to do to combat is to be aware of what I’m feeling and experiencing and sort out the truth from the disease thinking and acting. I remind myself that there are bound to be highs and lows on this journey. I don’t need to be perfect all of the time. I just need to strive for doing as best I can. I need to observe what’s going on around me, understand how it affects me and how often I let it affect my choices and behavior. Above all, I need to tell myself that this is a setback, not a road block. It’s a challenging time but it isn’t going to wreck me and screw up all of the fabulous progress I’ve made and success I’ve achieved.

I might visit Funkytown, but I’m not going to take up residence.

There’s probably more I can write on this topic and, certainly, more to explore. Unfortunately, no lie, I nodded off while typing a few sentences back. The sleepiness is upon me again so it’s time for me to listen to my brain and body and go to bed.

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Food Associations

I treated myself to some new technology at home in the form of an AppleTV gizmo. I also signed up for a subscription to MLB.TV. Together, these things allow me to watch Phillies games on my television. I’m a big fan of baseball and the Phillies are my team. All of the years that I lived up home in SoJersey, we watched baseball games on television all season long. Before the time that they broadcast the games on the tube, we used to listen to them on the radio. I’ve missed that practice in the years that I’ve lived in Florida when the only times I could see the Phillies were when they played the FL Marlins or the occasional game on ESPN or Fox.

Tonight’s game is on while I type this. I was thinking about the years when we also had season tickets to Veterans Stadium for 16 games each season. I always wanted a ball park hot dog at those games. That was a strong association of a particular food with a particular activity. Each of us probably has countless associations that we make like popcorn at the movie theater, cake on a birthday, or turkey at Thanksgiving. Many of us can also add family traditions, like my family’s practice of making Pizza frita (fried dough) on Christmas morning. I have friends who never go out fishing without picking up fried chicken from a particular convenience store.

There used to be a great little family-owned Cuban restaurant in town. For years I ordered the same meal whenever I went to this restaurant — pork chunks with yellow rice, black beans and fried plantains. It got to be funny because I’d go with my mom and say that I really should try something else sometime, but the favorite tradition always won out.

I’ve noticed that I also have food and eating behaviors associated with certain places, activities and other things. Cookies in the kitchen at work are a guaranteed trigger for me. It’s like I have to eat one (or two).

I don’t think that the food associations are necessarily bad, except when they are. :-) By that I mean that if I’m aware of the association and make the food or eating choice mindfully with full awareness — and incorporate it into my overall eating plan, it can be a positive activity. If I don’t use the associations as a trigger to overeat, or eat compulsively, then it’s not automatically unhealthy. The key is being mindful and aware.

Eating by rote just because of the ingrained, often long term, association can be a dangerous, slippery slope. One needs to be aware of the association or habit in order to effect positive change, or counteract the trigger. For example, I used to automatically throw a candy bar onto the belt at the supermarket checkout. There’s a reason they put those rows of candy bars in that location! It didn’t matter if I wanted the chocolate before I got to the store or not. Most of the time, I hadn’t even thought about it on my way to the supermarket. When I hit the checkout line, I had associated the experience with also buying and later consuming, the chocolate bar.

I’m mindful about it now. I still want it most times, but I can resist the trigger of the association and choose a different behavior — ignoring the chocolate, completing checkout, and leaving the store.

This reminds me of something the coaches warned us about when I went through a smoking cessation program more than 27 years ago. We learned that smokers frequently lit up cigarettes because of the place or situation and not because they had an urge to smoke right at that particular moment. I rapidly noticed that I automatically lit a cigarette whenever I got into my car or sat down at my desk. (Back in the early 80s, most offices still permitted smoking.) When I went out to a rock club with friends, invariably I’d have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another. Once I was made aware of the practice, I became adept at identifying the “association moments”. Eventually I learned to counter them, much like I’ve learned with the checkout candy bar rack.

Not sure if I’ll have the same success in other situations. Movie popcorn is a powerful lure. I can only try and do my best, or at the very least, take a look at my plan for the day and adjust so that I can enjoy the treat. Either action — resisting or working it into the plan – requires awareness and conscious thought. Those things can trump the automatic reaction because of long term association. I can work with that.

Do you have any food associations? Care to share?

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The Buzz Crash

Remember that “riding the buzz” feeling that I had? I appear to have crashed a bit. I can’t seem to roll my butt out of bed at 6 a.m. for my full dose of early morning exercise. Last night I fell asleep in my chair while watching television. I woke up, briefly thought about writing a blog, and almost immediately realized that the best course of action was to go right to bed and fall asleep again. Today felt like more of the same.

Maybe I’m trying to play catch up. Honestly, I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m tired through and through. I’m also moody as all get out. Is it possible to experience hormonal fluctuations even two years post-menopause?

Okay, so I won’t blame hormones for my swinging mood. Instead, I’ll chalk it up to the buzz crash. While I’m experiencing this, I have also noticed that food cravings frequently connect to state of mind/emotional balance. When I’m down and tired, I want to eat stuff that really won’t do me any good — like junk carbs and sugar. I would be extremely happy right now with some homemade cinnamon toast. Toasted white bread, spread with butter, and then sprinkled with a mixture of white sugar and ground cinnamon. No nutritional value whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact, but it’s delicious.

Good thing I don’t have any bread in the house. Saved from my own cravings!

My blah is not helped by the fact that it rained when I got home from work and was still raining after Tai Chi class so I didn’t get out for an evening walk. Even though I haven’t overeaten, my body feels like I have because I haven’t exercised to the extent that I would have otherwise.

Oh wah wah wah. You know what I just realized? When I’m tired, moody and crashing off of a buzz, I turn into a whiney beast. Just ignore me, okay? I’m going to relax in a hot tub and resolve to be much improved in body, mind and spirit tomorrow.

Thanks for listening.

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Riding the Buzz

Sorry to have not been around for a few days. I left Wednesday for a business-related trip. Although I had every intention of blogging, my brain was overwhelmed with everything I absorbed and processed at the meetings. By the time I got back to my room each night, I couldn’t do anything more thoughtful than collapse into bed.

I was determined to ride the buzz from the good doctor’s appointment the week before and keep moving full steam ahead. I won’t say that I got derailed, but I wasn’t as perfect as I could have been while away. I ate a few more carbs each day than I should have. As we know from previous experience, carbohydrates act like sponges in my body and suck in pounds of water weight. So I realize that for the first few days this week, my scale number will be higher but I’ll be able to knock them off and flush them away.

On the positive side, I made use of the conference hotel’s excellent fitness center. I got up early enough to do a brisk two miles on the treadmill each morning. The hotel was also huge which meant that I had ample opportunity to add to my total step count just going back and forth between meeting rooms, my room, etc. I believe I definitely counteracted the hours of sitting in the meeting rooms by being as active as possible when I had the time and opportunity.

Now that I’m back home, and have had a lovely day relaxing with Nat and Pyxi, I’m set with my plan. This is how I’m riding the buzz. In years past, after “falling off the wagon”, I would have sulked, emotionally scuffed my feet, and with much internal gnashing of teeth and wailing, decried, “It’s no use! I’ll never make my goal.” That would just lead to more and more days, weeks, months of diseased eating and massive weight gain.

One thing that I have learned, and that I now believe through and through, is that I will always pick myself up and get back to business again. A couple of days out of my routine with more carbs in my diet are not enough to throw me completely off track. I am much stronger. My recovery mindset is much more integrated than ever before.

Living in recovery doesn’t mean always being perfect. It means accepting that I’m not perfect and, even more, I don’t always have to be. I need to remember the little steps and the big picture. Before, I had periods of recovery in an overall diseased eating lifestyle. Life has flipped. I’m now a healthy, living in recovery person. Those intermittent blips are not blockades. They’re only speed bumps that temporarily slow me down but don’t, and won’t stop me.

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Rule #1 – Don’t Be Lazy

I woke up a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. today, when it was still dark outside. My right knee, which is the trouble one, was extra stiff and sort of sore. I walked close to 14,000 steps yesterday and, as previously discovered, that’s pushing it for that knee. I didn’t want to take my morning walk and was thisclose to going back to bed for half an hour. Then I thought to myself, “Rule #1 on this fitness thing is ‘Don’t be lazy’.” Rule #2, in case you’re wondering is, “Remember Rule #1″.

I dressed in my workout clothes, laced on the sneaks, and took the dogs outside. I realized that the wind wasn’t blowing as much as it predicted on my phone app. So, happily for myself and my knee, I got on my bicycle instead and pedaled off for eight miles. Not being lazy, getting in a good ride, brightened me up and energized me. The activity also loosened up my knee so that I could take the dogs for their walk, without pain, when I got back.

While we walked on this lovely cool morning as streaks of pink and purple began to lighten the sky, I thought of what I’d have missed if I’d gone back to bed. It wasn’t even just about today, but about the overarching journey.

Don’t be lazy. If I make a choice for a good reason, that’s okay. Being lazy isn’t a good enough reason for me. In my twisted brain, it’s okay for me to have an overall lazy day, as long as I don’t totally trash my efforts. By the same token, if I’d been seriously hurt, it absolutely have been okay for me to take the day off and rest it. I guess I’ll say, too, that if riding my bike had not been an option, then it would not have been lazy for me to not take a long walk when my knee was stiff and sore. However, the bike ride was an option which would not hurt my knee, so going back to bed would have been the lazy choice.

Does that sound crazy or does it make sense?

Anyway, I’m going to hold on to “Don’t be lazy” as a “rule”, a mantra if you will. Now that I am so much more physically fit, my body isn’t the barricade to activity. So, my thought process can present the biggest challenge. If I listen. I don’t have to pay attention to it, now do I?

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Taking Off My Fat Suit

From time to time a news reporter or a talk show host dons a fat suit and makeup to experience life as an obese person. I think Dr. Oz recently did it but I can’t remember which news reporter(s) I’ve seen. I remember in most of the stories I’ve seen they shared that they felt awkward, stared at, scorned by others and, in general, made to feel “less” than other people. They also discovered to a smaller extent than reality, the physical discomfort of being obese.

Right now, I’m in a physical state where I’m still overweight but have achieved significant weight loss and really improved my overall body and shape. I don’t suffer with “fat eyes” to the extent that I used to. I can look in the mirror and see my real body and be happy with my appearance. The only self-love allowance I need to make is over my sagging skin and the drooping flabby belly that I still have. Some of that will go away as I lose the remaining weight and the rest will go with surgery. I’m not happy with the wrinkly skin, but I accept it as a temporary state.

This alone is a huge, healthy step forward. “Fat Eyes” is a horrid, destructive, self-esteem crushing syndrome. I don’t know if it’s akin to what people with anorexia experience, but anytime we don’t see our physical selves the way that we really are, I think we mess with our minds and how we feel about ourselves. I’m grateful that I’ve recovered in this area, too.

At least I have when I’m looking in the mirror and when I’m in situations or places or with people I’m familiar with and comfortable around. When I go into the unfamiliar, I sometimes still struggle with the mental picture of myself as an obese person. Then I start to anticipate how others see me, react to my presence, all that kind of junky stuff. It doesn’t take over, but I’ve learned that I need to be aware that I do this and proactively guard my thought process and feelings against the junk. I’m going to think of it as taking off my fat suit.

Like the reporters who only had to be fat during the time they wore the prosthetic suit that packed on the pounds, I don’t have to think or act like an obese person any more. I have the power to choose to what extent I let the old thinking and reactions affect me. And that, my friends, truly is a powerful, liberating thought.

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Homestretch

Knowing that I “only” need to lose another 25-30 pounds has energized me. It’s like I’d gotten weary of the journey or bored with the food plan but now I’ve perked up and am excited about hitting the homestretch. The happy feeling has stayed with me all day.

For some reason, I had trouble sleeping completely through the night but kept waking up every couple of hours. I’m not sure why since I wasn’t stressing anything in particular. Whatever the case, I finally gave up around 6:30 a.m. The wind wasn’t too bad this morning, so after feeding the dogs I went out for a seven mile ride. Came home, ate breakfast, walked the dogs and then hopping on the bike again to pedal to my Tai Chi class — slightly less than two miles each way. This was an introductory class session where we invite newcomers that might be interested in taking the class. At the tea break we share a little about the society that developed and runs this particular form and some of us shared about our personal experiences with the health benefits.

I shared my story, explaining that other than simple walking, Tai Chi was the first form of exercise that I started after weight loss surgery. Some of my classmates didn’t know the story. There were audible gasps when I said that I used to weight 386 pounds and have lost 182.

The whole class as we worked on the first four moves of the set, and then at the end of class when we did the entire 108 move set, I really enjoyed the grace and ease of my body in motion. I felt balanced, strong and flexible. After that 90 minutes of class, I hopped on the bike for my ride home, still soaring on that strong, ease of movement feeling.

All day long I’ve thought about the weight still to lose. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and start estimating how long it will take me. Sure, I’d rather lose it sooner than later, but I also don’t want to drive myself crazier than I am when it comes to obsessing about the scale number. That obsession leads to me doing dumb stuff like I did the other night.

I just need to focus on eating right and exercising. There’s a difference between staying focused and obsessing. Focusing on the healthy behavior keeps me in recovery. If I do that consistently, I don’t need to obsess. The weight will come off as it’s meant to do.

It’s also important for me to balance my emotions. Right now I’m on a high because it only recently hit me that I’m in the homestretch. I can’t maintain at this level of excitement. That also leads to obsession.

So, everything in moderation, including my emotions and my eating. I’ll get there. The end goal is no longer a far, far off impossible mark. For the first time in my life, it’s within my reach.

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