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Food Calling

Where did December go?  I sort of saw the days fly by but I was so darned busy I couldn’t latch on for the trip.  In addition to being ultra busy with work, I also managed a week’s vacation up to the Northeast for my annual holiday time with family and friends.  I wish I could say that I also maintained my good eating habits while I was away, but I don’t want to lie, particularly not on my own blog.  Holiday cookies might as well be crack.  That’s how addictive they are for me.

Emotionally, I had a wonderful time away.  I love spending time with so many people whom I deeply love but whom I don’t get to see so often.  Physically, between the cookie binges and not working out for a week, I ended up feeling pretty crappy by the time I was on my way back to Florida this past Sunday.

I think it’s a good thing that stubbornness is part of my DNA and mental makeup.  I refuse to give up on myself.  I immediately began eating more cleanly, sticking to my plan, and even drinking more water.  Yesterday morning, I was on a rower at 7 a.m.   It’s only been two days and I already feel better.  I always try to remember that each day is the opportunity for a new beginning.  I don’t have to repeat bad behavior.  I can always choose differently.

My boss and friend and have shared a couple of discussions about this the last two days.  At some point yesterday I said that it isn’t really about the food for me.  It’s about my behavior with food.  Apparently that stuck with her and she’s been looking at, or raising her awareness of her behavior too.  We talked some more today about what it feels like to have an eating disorder and why, when we know our goals and our desire to follow out plan and eat responsibly, we go off track.  “It’s like there is an alien being in my head sometimes,” I said.  “The alien takes over and I grab at food that I don’t want because the alien being wants it.”

The alien being is my eating disorder, of course.

She then, sort of plaintively, wondered why only the bad foods call to her.  “If I have the food around, it screams my name,” she said.  “Why don’t the good foods ever call me?”

That lead to more discussion about behavior and thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  I’m glad we had that talk because it put it all in the front of my mind and helped me later on.  Every year I end up shipping home a box with the gifts I’ve received.  The box arrived today and in it was a package of white chocolate and dark chocolate mixed with peppermint.  I unpacked the box, looked at the candy and thought, “No problem.  I’ll just have a nibble now and then put the rest in the refrigerator.  I’ll be okay.  I can control this.”

I honestly don’t know if that’s my ego talking or my misguided illusions.  I broke off a piece and ate it so fast that it barely registered.  I did go so far as to stick the rest in the fridge, but I also went back to the fridge to eat another piece of chocolate.

That simply would not do!  I knew that my eating disorder wouldn’t stop thinking about that chocolate until I’d returned again and again and, eventually ate it all.  I had a choice to make and, this time, I made the healthy choice.  I grabbed the box from the fridge and marched it to the outside trash cans.  Bingo — One large chocolate bar rendered unable to tempt me any more.

I texted the tale to my boss.  She texted back, “Well played.”

The chocolate called to me, but it got the wrong number.

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Holiday Sweets

Recently a local doctor wrote a letter to the editor for one of our hometown newspapers.  I used to use this doctor several years ago as my primary care physician.  She also had a sub-specialty of working with obese patients.  For a while she served as the county’s medical health chief, too.  The doctor has always spoken out about weight and health issues.

Her letter was an open and deliberate request to patients and anyone else who visits her office during the holiday season.  Bottom line, she asked that they not express their thanks to her and her staff with gifts of food.  She appreciates their appreciation and hoped that they would understand that sugary sweets, baked goods and the like are not healthy for her and her staff.

While she couched the request as a personal one for her practice, it was pretty clear that she expressed this through a letter to a newspaper so that she could emphasize a strong point to the public at large.  Obesity is a significant issue in our country.  Our society tends to celebrate with food.  We’re compounding our own collective problems.  I admire her for taking the stand and hope that she doesn’t get a backlash for it or accused of holiday food-Scroogery.

I know that when lots of food surrounds me, I have a really difficult time saying no to it.  We get a fair amount of sweet treats sent to our office this season, too.  It sits in the office kitchen calling to me and I struggle not to indulge.

There is, however, one company that always sends our president a smoked turkey.  We plan a lunch around it with different people bringing a few side dishes.  We end up making a far healthier celebratory event with the turkey as the center.

This year, I’m hoping for more savory, healthy snacks than sugar/fat/carb laden ones.  Sadly, I don’t expect anyone to send a holiday basket of fresh veggies, but maybe some fruit, or even cheese.  I could handle proteins and fruit in smaller batches.  Not being constantly beset by food temptations would definitely make my holidays sweeter.

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Changing My Mind is Okay

There are a lot of different things I could title this post.  Traditions Can Change; Abandoning Tradition; Choosing Wellbeing Before Cookies; Holiday Health.  They all came to mind when I opened up the window to start writing.  Here’s what’s going on.

I always travel to the Northeast to spend the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, and also to see as many friends and other family members as possible.  A couple of weeks before I fly up, I ship my family’s gifts so I don’t need to lug them on the plane.  For the last few years, I also rekindled a family tradition of baking delicious Italian fig and date cookies.  My grandmother made them for us every year for all of my life that I can remember.  When she passed away, Mom and I continued the tradition.

Sometimes, I bake them once I get to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but there isn’t going to be time this year.  So, I thought I’d make them today, seal them up really tight, and ship them with the presents.  (I know the cookies will not go stale if packaged correctly.  My grandmother once sent a batch from New Jersey to France when we lived there for a year.  They were perfect on arrival and this was in the days before overnight or even two-night shipping.

I added the ingredients to my weekly shopping list and off to the store I drove.  I even bought a new rolling pin and pastry mat to help with the baking.  That’s how fully engrossed in the holiday fa-la-la I was this morning, anticipating the process and reveling in continuing the tradition.

In my head, I had everything planned.  I could envision myself happily wrapping gifts while the aroma of melty-fig cookies perfumed my house.  Then, a funny unexpected thing happened on the drive home from the supermarket.  An alien thought entered my head that said, “You know what?  I don’t really want to bake those cookies today.”

This really surprised me and it triggered not only an internal debate, but also a scramble of different emotions.  Happiness that I acknowledged that I didn’t want to bake.  Guilt that I didn’t.  A healthy dash of, “Oh, but you should!” spiced the mix, sharpened by the trepidation of knowing that I would overeat samples of the cookies.

I went back and forth on the decision a couple of dozen times.  Bake, don’t bake.  Yes, no.  Do it, don’t.  Thankfully, when I pulled into the driveway, the wise voice overrode the clamor.  It said, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to bake the cookies, and you don’t need to feel bad that you don’t want to.  The family enjoys them but they aren’t holding their collective breath waiting for them.  What’s more, they might like the cookies but they love you.  They’ll be happier that you’re making the choice you need to make for yourself.”

That was the decision maker.  I’m in a good place right now with my food plan, eating, and exercise routine.  I know if I start baking today, I’m going to throw myself off.  Changing my mind about making cookies is not only okay, it’s the right, healthy choice.

I’m so glad that I listened to that first thought when it popped up and that I didn’t let the other thoughts and emotions overrule my instinct.

Holiday and family traditions are wonderful things, but they don’t take priority over healthy choices.  In fact, me making healthy choices is a new tradition in itself.

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Mental Relaxation

Having compulsive eating disorder weighs on more than one’s body.  It weighs on the mind and the spirit. I spend a lot of time thinking about the disease; hoping that I’ll stay on track and worrying that I won’t.  Then there’s the residual mental ass-kicking I deliver to myself when I mess up.  The thoughts and stress are almost as obsessive as the eating challenges.

This is one way that having a defined food plan truly benefits me.  When I pre-plan my choices and prepare, I don’t have to spend all day thinking about what I’m going to eat, stressing about each meal option, etc.

Just like the act of binge eating or any kind of compulsive eating can create other issues for me, when I am deep in diseased thinking, the stress bleeds over into other areas.  I start to worry and fret over other things in my life from work situations to managing routine daily activities at home.  I don’t fall apart and become ineffectual but I don’t sleep as well and I use more energy coping with things that I normally handle with ease.

It is a huge relief when I am not beset by the thoughts and emotions of compulsive overeating.  I am so much more at ease when I’m living in abstinence and recovery.  Right now I’m in that good, evenly balanced mental state.  I’m less stressed and more relaxed.

All in all it is a much better state in which to live.

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Post-Thanksgiving Post

Yesterday was a curious day for me but, ultimately, a successful one for which I am very grateful.  I did not have any plans to share a holiday meal with any friends.  A funny thing happens down here.  I think my different groups of friends assume that one of the other groups or couples have invited me to spend the holiday with them.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year.  One friend did invite me last minute to come for dessert later in the day.  Another friend/co-worker was in the same situation and we sort of half-heartedly said that if we had the energy or desire mid-day to go out to a movie together, we’d get in touch.  Neither of us did.

For about a week ahead of yesterday, I veered between feeling sorry for myself/lonely/resentful and being completely okay with the circumstances.  While I would have liked to be in a group of friends for the human contact and camaraderie, I really, really, really didn’t want the day to be about feasting and overeating.  Then again, I did experience some yearning for turkey, some of my favorite side dishes and the like.  I just worried over whether the emotions would send me into binge mode.

It was a dilemma for sure, but I approached it with a healthy mindset.  From the time I woke up, I was determined that I was going to make this a healthy day for myself.  I started out by taking Natty for a longer walk than usual.  The weather is gorgeous right now — sunny but cooler — and he and I both enjoyed ourselves.  Throughout the day, in between doing other things and watching football, I also did other exercises.  I worked out a little with light weights and also did some situps, pushups and planks.  At another time, I did a full set of Tai Chi.  (By the way, since the rowing gym is closed through the weekend, I did rowing classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.)

Our holiday meals always began with a fresh fruit cup.  (No, none of that canned stuff.  Everything fresh!)  I didn’t go full tilt with the full array of fruits Mom and I used to combine, but I cut up an orange, an apple and half of a banana and had it as a snack at lunch along with a  small salad.

Not knowing whether I’d end up at an afternoon movie, I had shopped to make myself a healthy but delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  I bought turkey thighs, a rutabaga, and yes some boxed stuffing.

Mashed rutabaga aka yellow turnip to some, is my favorite side dish.  It was a staple on our family Thanksgiving table.  Here’s the good news – it is a cruciferous vegetable, nutritious and delicious.  Although I put a little butter in it when mashing, I don’t overdo and I used skim milk.  This was, for me, a better choice than mashed potatoes.  I feel it also helped counter balance a little bit of stuffing.

Once it was determined that I was staying home, I really enjoyed preparing my meal.  I chopped up fresh herbs from my little garden to season the turkey and added chicken stock that I’d made and frozen to keep the meat moist while it roasted.  This also made for a delicious gravy after the fact.  I used more of the chicken stock in the stuffing, too.

When dinner was ready, I very carefully took appropriate portions instead of overloading my plate.  Even with the restricted stomach, if I put too much food on the plate at the outset, I tend to eat too much and then I feel sick and uncomfortable.  This ruins my enjoyment physically and emotionally.  I am really concentrating on continuing to train my eyes and my serving utensils to put the amounts I should eat… not what I would have eaten in years gone by.

I sat down and savored what I’d made for myself.  It was delicious and balanced.  I felt really good about how I’d planned and executed my holiday meal.

Now what about dessert, you might be wondering.  Yes, I’d put some thought into that as well.  I hate feeling deprived of dessert.  Emotionally, it’s unhealthy for me to feel deprived and often leads to me wanting more and then bingeing.  Last week, I researched and found a recipe for Pumpkin Souffle.  Very easy to make with a can of canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, two eggs and half a cup of sugar in the entire thing.  I counted up the calories.  Per serving, my souffle had only 180 calories.  As far as desserts go, this was a winner that I could absolutely fit into my meal plan.

I waited until my main entree settled a bit and then spooned out an appropriate serving and thoroughly enjoyed it.

All told, for me the holiday was a food win.  I feel really terrific about how sanely and carefully I planned, cooked and consumed my meal.  I’m also pretty darned please with the physical activity that I included in my day.  I took care of myself.

The result is that today I am not suffering from a food or binge hangover.  I feel good about myself and my recovery and am looking forward to building on this today.  I took the day off from work and have some fun activities planned.  I started with a healthy protein smoothie for breakfast.  Now Natty and I are going out for a walk.

I hope you all had a great day and are enjoying your Fridays.

 

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Operating on Faith

Sometimes it is really hard to not get frustrated or impatient.  (Remember the old joke, “I want patience NOW!”?)  I need to constantly remind myself that as long as I follow my food plan and continue to exercise, I will lose weight.

Have I mentioned that I am not a very patient person when it comes to my own endeavors and performance?  Yes, I know that I put an awful lot of pressure on myself.  Unfortunately, it’s a lifelong habit.

I’m used to turning over the physical stuff to my program and Higher Power.  It is much more challenging to let go of the mental and emotional things.  Every morning when I first wake up, I express my gratitude and I ask for help in remaining on my food plan and staying abstinent.  When I say abstinent, I know that I’m thinking about the act of abstaining from compulsive eating or binging.  Today I realize that I need to broaden that and ask for help in abstaining from certain thoughts.  Thoughts like, “I should have lost X number of pounds this week” or “If I do this, I should lose X amount of weight by X date”.   Those are only two examples.  There’s no end to what I can think up.

For today, I will keep working on having faith in program, Higher Power and myself.  For today, I will ask and be open to help in not getting caught up in my head so much and in not pressuring myself with expectations over which I have no control.  I am responsible for sticking to my food and fitness plans.  That’s the priority for me every day.

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Changing the Failure Mindset

I’ve been thinking of myself as a failure because I have not reached my goal weight, even almost four years after my weight loss surgery.  This mindset does mean things to me emotionally, mentally, spiritually and, ultimately physically.  It wreaks havoc with my eating disorder.  Anything that results in me feeling or thinking badly of myself can trigger disease-related eating and relapse.

For a couple of weeks, I was thoroughly depressed about the situation, much more so than I’ve been in years.  I was constantly caught up in failure feelings, beating myself up, joy-less in spirit, at least where my physical improvements and recovery were concerned.   I wanted to anesthetize the feelings and mood in carbs and sugar.  That all just made me feel worse.

Then, for some reason last week, I pulled out of it.  I recommitted to my program and got back in touch with feeling good about myself.  Positive feelings beget more positive feelings.  I went several days without a single starchy carb and wasn’t grabbing for handfuls of chocolate, other candies or other sugar-laden foods.  Even through the bad weeks, I’d continued with my kick-butt rowing classes but now I could note positive changes in my body shape, appreciate the increased strength, better range of motion and other benefits.

I felt powerful inside and out and took the time to really acknowledge and experience the upswing.

This led to me really investigating my mindset and laying out the reality check to sift and separate the truth from the distorted thinking.

These statements are false:

  • I’m a weight loss failure.
  • I can’t do this.
  • I’m weak-willed.
  • I’m unhealthy.
  • I suck.

These statements are true:

  • I have not reached goal weight.
  • I have lost and am maintaining a weight loss of around 140 pounds.  (I have never maintained a significant weight loss for this long a time!)
  • Sometimes I fall back into relapse eating.
  • More often, I eat sanely and on my recovery plan.
  • When eating sanely and on plan, I overall make far healthier food choices.
  • I am physically active and stronger.
  • I haven’t lost weight in total number of pounds in the last two months, but I know my overall fat-to-lean muscle mass ratio has improved.  There are fewer pounds of fat, more of muscle.
  • I am determined.

Looking at those lists, I am so happy to see that I know the lies from the truths.  I’m also happy to see that the positive list is twice as long.  It is amazing that positive thinking can lead to such positive change.  My mindset over the last week has completely changed for the better.  I’m not wallowing in despair or steeping my spirit in depression and sadness.  I have returned to celebrating the good, real, strong progress that I’ve made.

 

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Reboots, Restarts and When Not to Upgrade

I haven’t posted in a week for a couple of reasons.  Physically and mentally, I’ve been exhausted when I get home at night.  I also made what turned out to be a mistake for my computer when I upgraded to Windows 10.  Nothing but problems and, again, I was just too tired at night to figure out a resolution.  Tonight I finally Googled for answers and found out that it’s pretty easy to resort to the previous operating system, so I did that.

Oh, if it was only as simple and uncomplicated to uninstall all of the things that we sometimes take on in our lives, only to find out that they don’t work the way that we need or want them to!  I can think of a bunch of choices I’ve made that I’d like to undo with a couple of clicks and then a restart of myself.

Right now, I feel like I’m fruitlessly and fitfully searching for an upgrade to my eating plan and daily food diet that will magically reboot my weight loss, resolve my cravings, help me make better choices and, just because I feel like repeating it, reboot my weight loss.  That’s the insanity of my head.  When I get a little crazy like that, I have to stop and remind myself that easy does it.  I have to avoid overcomplicating matters and stick to basics.  Eat healthy.  Eat in balance.  Keep working out.  Trust that results will come.  There’s no magic to it.  No big secret.  Eat healthy.  Eat in balance.  Keep working out.

I resolve to stop looking for some incredible, easy fix.  It doesn’t exist.  There is no special upgrade.  Each day I just need to restart on the sensible approach that I know works.  Eat healthy.  Eat in balance.  Keep working out.

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One Day Can Make a Difference

My stomach feels much better today, less raw and uncomfortable.  It’s been smoothed by creamy, healthy smoothies, tea, lots of water, and soup.  My head, and by head I mean my mind, and my heart (emotions) feel much better today too.  Writing it all out last night and then making a plan and sticking to it today ending up being very self-affirming.  I was more clear-headed and better able to focus on my tasks.  Food was not a big issue; I wasn’t attacked by unending compulsion to eat in appropriately.

In program, we focus on one day at a time.  Now the day is winding down.  I’m chilling at home with a last cup of green tea and getting ready to settle in with the television shows I like to watch.  Tomorrow when I wake up and before my feet hit the floor, I’ll recommit to another day and know that it can make a positive difference.

Thank you for being here.  I hope you’re having a good day too.

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Once More With Feeling

Once more, I dig deep and resolve to get myself moving in the right direction.  I was doing so well with balancing things for a while and this past week I crashed emotionally and physically.  I’m eating in full out relapse and physically feel like total crap.  My stomach is off.  I’m bloated like I’m retaining fluid for three people.  I refuse to get on the scale so that I don’t totally demoralize myself.

Emotionally, I’m sad, depressed, angry with myself.  Spiritually, I’m downhearted.  Mentally, I go between WTF (What the f&&k) and DGU (Don’t give up).

Here are the bright spots.  Despite everything, I stuck to working out three times last week and gave it my all in rowing classes, Tai Chi and getting Nat out for walks.  When I finish this I’m either going to go for a bike ride or go in the pool.

Emotionally, the bright spot came when talking to one of my closest friends, I talked about how I’m still going through grieving for Pyxi.  My friend could have said, “Suck it up.  It’s been two weeks.”  Instead, she shared that she still experiences moments of grief when she sees a box of things that belonged to her beloved dog who passed a couple of years ago.  So, instead of a negative judgment, I got a much needed validation.

This helped a great deal because I’ve been judging myself all week.

I understand that this is a function of my disease.  If I ever wanted to make it an actual creature in a horror novel, here’s how I would characterize it.  It would be an evil, needy force that craved human emotional pain to to feel alive; that gained substance in form whenever its victim criticized, judged, and body-shamed herself; that took sustenance from the addictive substances that its victim consumed.  So, needing these things for its own survival, the disease would take control of its victim to incite these things and then gobble them up.

Knowing all this, there are times when I just want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and hide or wallow in my own misery.  Times when I want to say, “What’s the use.  I can’t win.”

Thankfully, somehow, somewhere with help from whatever Higher Power refuses to abandon me, I find the need to dig deep and try once more.

Tomorrow, I’m going the full liquid route.  This is not a crash diet.  I simply want to remove as many food options as possible.  Fewer choices mean fewer chances for my disease to take control and lead me to making the wrong choice.  Plus, my stomach physically feels raw inside from the crap I’ve been eating, like I’ve rubbed it raw with junk.  It needs to be treated gently for a while.

I’ve thought off and on about whether to face the music and weigh myself tomorrow.  Right now, I’ve decided against taking that step.  I’ve meditated over whether this is denial on my part, but I’ve decided that it isn’t.  What I want to achieve is the simple act of getting abstinent again.  I don’t want to make this about how much weight I might have gained over the last week or how much weight I might lose on a food plan of full liquids.  It isn’t about moving up and down in my numbers.  It’s how restoring my emotional, physical, mental and spiritual stability.

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