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Positive Powerlessness

There are a lot of aspects of being a food addict or having any addictive disorder that are inherently contradictory.  One of the big ones is that many addicts are control freaks or at least have some strong control issues.  Yet, we can’t control ourselves around our addictive substances.  Put us up against the drug of choice or the destructive behavior and we lose.  We truly are powerless.

That is such, such, a hard thing to accept and accepting it is the first step to recovery.  Admitting we are powerless over food/alcohol/drugs/fill in the blank and that our lives have become unmanageable. Turning over our will, giving up control, whew, those are tough steps.  In fact, they aren’t only steps that we have to take, they are big ole leaps of faith.

I struggle with turning over my disease all of the time.  I keep taking it back and then having to give it up again.

There’s the other contradiction.  Admitting my own powerlessness, giving over that struggle — these are not signs of weakness.  They are actions that require strength and determination.  But trying telling my conscious mind that when I’m busy engaging in the fruitless struggle.

Honestly, I feel my weakest when I’m struggling.  It’s when I tend to get the most down on myself too.  It’s hard to make room to feel the strength in powerlessness, to have faith that recovery requires giving up control.

Then sometimes I just laugh at myself for wasting my time trying to hold on so tightly to my control when it should be obvious that it’s an illusion any way.  Like I said, I have no control, so why do I sometimes fight so hard to hold onto something that doesn’t work?

I apologize if this all sounds like irrational program babble.  Bear with me while I process through the stuff running through my head.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to think of it in the context of understanding and accepting that my way of doing things doesn’t work.  I can’t wave a magic wand and make food less addictive to me.  I can’t pretend that I can control myself and my eating disorder on my own.  Control freaks aren’t good about sharing our control.  We like to do things on our own or like thinking that we can do it.  I honestly try to be cognizant of the fact that when something doesn’t work for me, I should stop doing it.  I mean, really, if it hurts to beat your head against a wall, wouldn’t you stop?

So, for today, I’m accepting my powerlessness again and turning over my will and life.  I want my recovery more than I want to retain a control that nets me nothing.

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What I Can Do Better

We were involved in a Leadership and Management training program with our corporate coach on Friday.  The coach is an amazing, inspiring, fireball with fantastic suggestions.  I always leave one of these programs with information, techniques and tools that I can use not only at work, but also in my personal life.

Personal growth is important.  I think it’s not only good, but absolutely vital, to assess our own behavior and our very lives to see where we are, what we want, and how we can get to those goals.  The session on Friday opened with us taking a look at our own lives and seeing if we’re in balance or if we’re devoting too little time and attention to key areas.  She asked us to identify an area or two that we think we’d like to develop or grow in and then name some concrete things that we can to to achieve this.

I of course knew right away that I want to gear up and focus more on my recovery.  That was easy.  But in doing the exercise, I realized that the social part of my life is underperforming.  (Hah.  How corporate does that sound?)  Anyway, I’ve sort of gotten into a bit of a rut.  I’m a social person who isn’t living a very social lifestyle.  Most nights I come home from work, walk the dogs, eat, watch television, and go to bed.  I go to Tai Chi class one night a week and that’s sort of social, but it’s not the same thing as getting together with friends and doing something – even if it’s as simple as dinner out or dinner and a movie.  So, I’ve decided to reach out more often and connect with friends.  I’ll suggest outings and opportunities for us to get together.

I also think I need to pick a new “society-based” involvement and be active.  That will also get me out a little more and may broaden my circle of friends with whom to do things.

In terms to gearing up more on my recovery, I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut here too.  Although I’m doing well, I think I can do more — or at least do even better.  I’m sort of resistant to joining a gym, but I was recently inspired to talk with a friend who’s also had weight loss surgery.  She’s started working with a personal trainer and is gaining great benefits.  They aren’t just physical either.  I could see and feel her increased energy and lift to her spirit that making this effort achieves for her.

Today I went to a wellness fair put on by the local health food store.  There’s a new workout place in town that’s sort of a gym but not a traditional one.  The principal trainers hold X number of sessions each morning and each afternoon with training programs that work the various parts of the body and also include cardio.  Each session is 30 minutes, plus the warm-up and cool down, so it’s more like 45 minutes.  When I return from my vacation, I’m going to go in for an introductory session.  The trainer explained that she also has modified ways of doing certain exercises if a client has physical issues.  I talked about my knee and the fact that, while I can do squats, I can’t comfortably do a lunge.  No problem, she assured me.

Since having weight loss surgery, I’ve done an excellent job at regaining physical fitness.  Largely, I’ve done it on my own with my walking, bike riding, and in home exercise DVDs.  Zumba and water aerobics classes were great — when I could do them.  Tai Chi continues to be a wonderful part of my physical conditioning and stress release, and also brings me other benefits.  I just think that I’m at the point where I can do more and do it better — and it feels right to have some trained help guiding me in the effort – rather than one on the DVD.

On the emotional/mental aspect of my recovery, I am really feeling the lack of being able to speak and interact with others who also struggle with eating disorders and/or those who continue to work on issues and recovery after weight loss surgery.  I’ve whined a little about it here that we have no OA meetings in the Keys that I can attend.  The monthly bariatric patient support group with the hospital where I had the surgery would be great if it wasn’t almost 2 1/2 hours away and at night.

Last week I had a thought.  If there isn’t a support group or meeting currently nearby, why can’t I investigate beginning one?  I have some contacts with two of the three hospitals in the Keys.  One of those is affiliated with the hospital where I had surgery.  They no doubt have several other patients in our island chain.  Maybe they could host a support group once a month.  I won’t drive two and a half hours, but I’d go 45 minutes.  There’s another hospital much closer to my house.  Perhaps they’d like to host a general support group for eating disorders.  It never hurts to ask and suggest, right?

So, I’ve come up with some concrete things that I can do to enhance the areas of my life that need more attention and create some additional balance and recovery in my life.  I’m not doing bad, but I know I can do better.

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Happiness is a Gift

There are moments when I stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing and feel happiness wash through me.  Every time that happens I am profoundly grateful.  Happiness is a gift.  It’s precious and I don’t ever want to react with anything less than full appreciation for its presence.  I feel so blessed that  happiness is abundant in my life.

It wasn’t always this way.  There were times when I was downright miserable and could barely connect with the smallest shred of happy.  I have always felt things deeply.  My emotions run strong.  When I mourned my parents after their deaths, the pain and sadness consumed me.  I’d put on a happy face, or at least a less grief-stricken demeanor as much as I could, but the pretense exhausted me.

Even in the many non-grief years (That’s a horrible categorization but I can’t come up with a better one right at this moment.) I know now that I carried sadness with me.  It was part and parcel of my eating disorder and my obesity.  I truly don’t believe that it’s possible to be fat and jolly — at least it wasn’t for me, although I often played the role.

Now, I won’t pretend that my weight was the only reason for me not fully experiencing happiness.  There were other factors, but I always strove to achieve happiness.  I wanted it and I became willing to go to any lengths for it.

There have been things that I’ve had to come to terms with in order to realize this gift.  I’ve learned that I can be happy even though I’m not in a love relationship.  I’ll never have kids of my own and I’ve become okay with that too.  I truly believe that this developed because of a willingness to embrace acceptance as a path to serenity and joy.  By accepting what is, what I have, what is possible and not focusing on what isn’t, what I don’t have, what isn’t possible, I’m at peace with my life.  In that peace, happiness grows.

I love how sometimes I just sit in this state and smile.  It’s so much healthier than stewing in my own discontent.  I feel lighter in spirit, rather than sucked down into a quicksand of sorrow.

I also realize that I’m fortunate.  I don’t battle the disease of depression.  Some people I know are struggling.  I wish with all my heart that they will prevail.  I hope they continue to get help and that  their treatments are successful.

Their battles remind me again of the gift I’m given.  I need to nurture and protect my happiness.  That means continue to work on myself.  If I go back to old eating and laziness habits and regain weight, more than my physical recovery will be affected.  My happiness will be at risk.

I am not going to let anything take away my precious gift.

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Internet Diagnosis

You really can find answers for anything on the internet.  The answers aren’t always right.  In fact, I’ve come to believe that misinformation, rumors and frauds zoom around the web at a rate only slightly slower than the speed of light.

It’s hard to sift out the legitimate information from the crap.  That’s why I tend to not run to medical sites on the ‘net to diagnose ailments.   Now, once I have a diagnosis, I find it useful to use some respected websites to provide additional information, but I’ve learned not to go on a site and list my symptoms.  The last time I did that, I came up with multiple possibilities, with one sounding more dire than the next.

Those caveats aside, my leg continued to bother me today with a pain that’s unfamiliar.  I’m used to my usual knee pain.  (SO looking forward to the new year when I will continue those injections.)  This pain isn’t the same feeling, it doesn’t come from the same location, and it’s at its worst when I’ve been sitting or lying down for a while.  Seriously, I get out of bed or stand up from my desk chair and I am downright hobbled for the first several steps.

It reminds me of when I suffered plantar fasciitis.  If I got out of bed in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning, my foot hurt and was tight beyond belief.  I learned to stretch and flex my foot before I got up and then was taught some other stretches to use during the day.

Once this behavior comparison came up in my head, I decided to do a broad Google search for  “pain behind the knee”.  I located a couple different suggestions for what could be causing the condition.  Not being a doctor, I couldn’t determine which, if any, actually applied to me.  However, one site gave me some great suggestions.  I watched the video on where and how to press my thumbs into the muscles behind the knee going toward the upper calf.  The guy talked about how the two muscles back there often get tight, particularly after sitting for a while but that a little massage work can often loosen them up.

Since he wasn’t advocating that I get a nice, sharp kitchen knife and attempt to follow along with some DIY surgery, I figured I was safe giving my muscles a little rubdown.  Specifically a push-pull-release action.

Much to my surprise and delight, the approach worked!  About a minute of working my thumbs into and around the muscles behind my knee significantly loosened them and allowed me to work without such a stiff, painful limp.

About an hour after I first tried this, I had again been sitting at my desk.  This time, before I stood up and attempted to walk, I did some muscle massage.  Again, it loosened up things and walking was much more comfortable.  I’m sold to the point that when I get up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, I’m going to put my thumbs to work on releasing those muscles before I even attempt to get out of bed.

I might still not have a diagnosis – Internet or otherwise – but for now I appear to have a useful treatment plan.

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Feeling a Little Whiny

My leg hurts.  Throbbing and aching, it’s stiffer than usual.  I hobbled back to my medicine cabinet for some OTC pain relief and also rubbed it with arnica gel.  I’m going to get an ice pack and move it around to the different places on my leg where I need relief.

This is annoying and, like I said, it hurts.  I don’t enjoy sitting around in pain.  Who would?  I’m also at a loss to explain why it’s bothering me so much tonight.  I had an active day, but not much more than I have most days.  I went for a six to eight mile bike ride this morning followed by a short walk with the dogs.

As I said in yesterday’s post. I’m putting my house back together.  Part of that task involved me renting a rug cleaner today to deep clean a couple of area rugs that were filthy.  Honestly, I should have cleaned them eons before now.

I’ve never rented a rug cleaning machine and done the process.  It wasn’t all that difficult, just time consuming.  Even though you go kind of slow, it also takes more energy than expected.  Still, it wasn’t like I had to run laps while cleaning the carpets.

After I cleaned the rugs, I hung up more pictures, dusted, and put a bunch of books back on my bookshelves.  I then loaded the rug cleaning machine back into the car and returned it to the home improvement store.  From there I drove up to my storage unit to haul out my Christmas tree and holiday decorations.  One quick stop at the supermarket and then I came home.

I unpacked the groceries, left the holiday decorations in the car,  came inside and all but collapsed 0n my sofa.  I was absolutely exhausted.  Unfortunately, I knew I couldn’t just stay reclining with my feet up, but I rested for the first quarter of the football game and then pushed to get some more stuff done.  It took a while but I finally was satisfied with the amount of work I accomplished for the day and felt like I could stop.

Before I settled in for the rest of the football game, I peeled, chopped and sauteed some veggies and put together a soup that needed to simmer for an hour.  Then I stretched out again and elevated my throbbing leg.

The soup — a parsnip/apple/peanut butter concoction — was delicious.  My team lost their football game.   The checks are written for my bills.  My carpets look so much better.  The load of laundry I did is finished except for folding and putting away the clothes.  The house is neat and clean.  And…. my leg still freakin’ hurts!  So, I’m going to finish this blog post, take another does of pain relief,  get out the ice pack and sit around with my leg up.

If need be, I will also continue to whine.  The dogs don’t mind or, if they do, they’re not sharing that opinion.

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Shedding Things That No Longer Have Value

After several months of off and on remodeling, 99.9% of the work is finished.  This weekend I’m focused on deep cleaning, rehanging artwork and photographs, once more displaying items that I love and, since it’s the season, decorating for the holidays.

Although I got a start on it all today, I didn’t make quite as much progress as I’d planned.  I got sidetracked when pulling everything out of the room of doom storage room.  First it all needed a good dusting, and cleaning.  During the process, I found myself carefully considering each piece.  Was it something I wanted to display again? Did I like it as much as I once did?  Was it just something that I’d accumulated at some point and its importance had diminished over the years, or did it still hold value in my life?

As I progressed, I realized that I was making thoughtful decisions about what to keep and what to discard.  My choices weren’t based solely on beauty or monetary assessment.  The things I keep have value to me.  They please my eyes, cause me to smile, bring to mind a good memory, or show me the smiling faces of people I love.  Some are pieces familiar to me since childhood.  Some are mementos of more recent experiences.  They all have a place in my home and in my life.

The whole process is sort of a metaphor.  There are old habits, ways of thinking, ways of behaving, and even attitudes that hold no value for me.  They must have once had purpose, but ultimately they contributed to an unhealthy eating disorder and super obesity.  I’ve worked hard on shedding them in the last almost three years.   Like the excessive pounds that I carried on my body, I’ve needed to work them away.

Like today’s activities were all about putting my house in order, my efforts on my eating disorder, my weight loss, my physical fitness, are about putting myself in order.  I’m determined to keep only the behaviors, habits, thoughts and attitudes that are valuable to me.

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Enjoying Good Food

Every two weeks I get an order of fresh organic produce delivered at work.  Several of us are part of an organic buying club, which is kind of cool.  The club offers a greater, fresher variety than is currently carried by our local supermarket.

In the last almost-three years, I’ve deliberately tried a number of foods that I didn’t previously eat, or at least didn’t prepare for myself.  I’ve also taught myself to cook different foods and experimented with recipes, flavor combinations and the like.  In produce alone I’ve grown to love making brussels sprouts and beets.  I’ve tried slow-roasting or grilling veggies.  I’ve even experimented with making tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes and will continue trying different recipes in that arena.

The goal of all these and other efforts was to increase my appreciation and enjoyment of eating healthier foods and foods prepared in healthier ways.  Today, for example, I really enjoyed a salad at lunch that I’d put together of crisp romaine lettuce, roasted beets, toasted walnuts and a few small chunks of goat cheese, lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The flavors and textures were so enjoyable from the sweetness of the beets to the tangy cheese to the crunchy nuts.  It all simply tasted so good!

This week’s organics share included parsnips.  By coincidence, I ran across a recipe on the internet for parsnip, apple and peanut butter soup.  I believe I’m going to try making that this weekend.

What I have discovered over the months of cultivating more appreciation for better quality foods, is that I have progressively lost my taste for other, junkier foods.  Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that I will always like the occasional serving of salty, fatty, crunchy potato chips or a piece of fried chicken – but those cravings don’t come to me with any great frequency.

I have completely lost my desire for fast food burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  In years past, when driving by one of the big chain burger restaurants, if I caught a whiff of the aromas, I’d feel instant desire to pull into the drive-through lane.  During the worst years of my binge eating, I could easily order enough food for two people.  In fact, I’d order two sodas so that the counter people would actually think I was ordering for two people.  Now, the aromas make me a little queasy and definitely don’t lure me in to get any of the food.

Unfortunately, although I’ve tried, I’m yet to succeed at training my taste buds to like any seafood.  That might never happen.  However, my food choices are so much more healthy than they used to be, and that’s a tremendous plus!

 

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Good Food Days

Everyone recovered from the holiday food coma?  If you put on a few pounds over the weekend, don’t panic!  It’s the body’s normal reaction to probably eating differently than you normally do.   If your body’s like mine, I can suck on four pounds of bloat without blinking.  Thankfully, I can get rid of it quickly too.

On the phone tonight with a friend  I shared that I had a good food day.  Then I realized I probably needed to explain what I meant.  Good food day could be interpreted different ways.  It could be a day when one eats lots of good food.  That was certainly true, but more importantly, it’s the way that I went through the day.  I was not besieged by compulsion.  I didn’t constantly think about food, nor did I suffer constant cravings.  I didn’t wish I could dive face first into an open bag of junk snack food.

All I did was mix up a nutritional, tasty smoothie for breakfast.  I planned, prepared, and packed two snacks and my lunch.  When I got home after work and a stop at the supermarket, I cooked the meal that I’d also planned and ate it in a relaxed, easy way.  (Grilled skirt steak with a salad of grilled romaine, roasted beets, a sprinkle of toasted walnuts, and some goat cheese crumbles.)  A short time ago, I had my evening snack and a cup of tea.

I’m satisfied.  I’m not craving more or wondering if it would hurt if I had a spoonful or two of (fill in the blank).

Translated, I am not white-knuckling and battling my eating disorder.  Any day when I am not regularly beset with food thoughts to the point where my compulsive desire to eat is fueled is one that goes in the Good Food Day category.  So, booyah for me!

Since I had a pretty good weekend food-wise, I feel strong and serene.  I decided not to do the full three day detox.  Instead, I went two days and then ate a small, healthy lunch and dinner yesterday.  I also got out for a few good walks and a long bike ride over the weekend.  Overall, I felt like I took really good care of myself.

Good food days, good program days, are important.  I can only do this recovery one day at a time and every day matters.

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Post-Thanksgiving but Not Post-Thankful

I hope that you all had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday.  I enjoyed being with friends who are part of my work family.  We shared each other’s company, good will, and delicious food.  While I ate a little too much, I didn’t stuff.  I also enjoyed a few, satisfied internal chuckles when I compared my plate yesterday with what I used to heap on a plate and devour in the years before weight loss surgery.  It’s all perspective and stomach size that determines what’s too much these days.

Today, I’m engaged in what has become a mini-tradition — the post-Thanksgiving three-day detox.  I follow a plan that I discovered a couple of years ago on Dr. Oz which involves drinking four vegetable-fruit-nut-seed based drinks a day for three days along with some green tea.  The first time I did this detox, I felt really great during and after the three days.  I think the plan gives my body some relief, flushes out some icky stuff and, somehow, resets my metabolism.  Whatever the case, a few days of healthy drinks sure can’t hurt.

We’re closing in on the end of November.  Every day I’ve continued to acknowledge something(s) or someone or several someones for which I am grateful.  Even though it’s after that day of Thanksgiving, I am by no means past the time when I feel thankful.

I’ve known for years that embracing gratitude helps me, but I’ve never truly delved into figuring out why this is so.  I see various self-help leaders promote gratitude, read quotes all over the internet and, still, don’t know why gratitude is so often suggested.

So today I started Googling to see what I could learn.  Overall, the consensus is that gratitude is, indeed, a powerful force.

This blog post here has what I thought were great ideas, and also some useful suggestions.  The fact that it is not from a well-known self-help “guru”, but from someone who is a corporate coach for potential entrepreneurs did not detract from the message.  I particularly like what it says about expanding our focus, turning on our  natural well-being, and allowing ourselves to unconditionally accept and celebrate ourselves.

Then there’s this article by Robert Emmons, who is touted as a leading scientific expert on gratitude.  I’m interested in what he says and plan to look into his books.  This link goes to a site for the Greater Good Science Center, affiliated with the University of Berkeley.   I love that there is something called the Greater Good Science Center and need to poke around on the site some more.  Among other things in the article, Dr. Emmons says, “Gratitude also goes against our need to feel in control of our environment. Sometimes with gratitude you just have to accept life as it is and be grateful for what you have.”

That really resonates with me and connects to an important aspect of my 12 Step program.  In the Serenity Prayer, we ask for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Serenity starts with acceptance.  It looks like gratitude fosters acceptance, so it stands to reason that it might be a stepping stone to serenity.

There are several more sites and articles, but it sounds like they all have variations on the things I read at these two sites.  I enjoyed taking the information in, absorbing it and pondering what it means to me, how it feels, and what I can take away from it and use in my own life’s journey.

Along the way, I started thinking of the optimist-pessimist description of whether one sees a glass as half-full or half-empty.  For the most part, I think of myself as an optimist, but sometimes life throws challenges and painful situations at even the most optimistic of us.  Those times are the ones when I know I most need to dig down and connect with my gratitude.  At those moments it doesn’t matter whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.  I need to be thankful that I have a glass at all.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For the month of November, I’ve made a point of recognizing and claiming something, or someone, or multiple things or persons, for which I am grateful.  Embracing gratitude each day grounds me in the wonderfulness of today and expands my heart.  Even if I’m experiencing other, more negative things – like stress or upset or whatever – I can still look inside and connect with thankfulness.  This practice enhances my life.

I am a fortunate woman.  I have much for which to give thanks, not just today, but every day.  I never want to forget this or take it for granted.  Claiming and publicly acknowledging my gratitude might only happen in November, but every day when I wake up I acknowledge it to myself and to my Higher Power.  Again, it helps.

I’m celebrating Thanksgiving today with my work family at the home of friends.  I’m putting together an antipasto platter and making some mini jalapeno souffles for appetizers.  It’s expected to be quite the gathering.  We’ll enjoy good food and good company.  Hopefully later in the day, I’ll also enjoy a good football game.  (Watching, not playing.  Go, Eagles!)

For now, I want to acknowledge my gratitude for all of you reading this blog.  I am thankful for your presence and energy, for the comments you make, and also for the silent support.  You enhance this journey and I am thankful.

Wishing you all a spectacular day!

 

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