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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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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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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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Food and Crises

When I look back at events in my life, I can’t think of a single major crisis in which I did not use food and overeating to try to cope.  My father’s sudden death kicked off an eating spree in which put on the 100 pounds that I’d recently lost and then some.  Mom’s relapses and later her illness and death – same thing.  I always turned to food and binge eating.  Stress, grief, anxiety, anger, sadness — pick an emotion that might threaten to overwhelm me and keep me from functioning and I would eat-eat-eat-eat in order to cram them down into tight little boxes so that I could stay on track with handling the crisis.

That I am managing to stay on track right now during Pyxi’s illness is miraculous.  It also takes effort, focus, and a willingness to fight for my abstinence and recovery.  I’m not 100% perfect, but hot damn, I’m doing a really good job taking care of myself while I take care of my little girl dog.

Right now, ironically, among the big challenges in her illness is her weight loss.  We’ve stopped the nausea and vomiting, but she is turning up her cute little nose at most foods.  She needs carbs but all she’ll eat consistently is protein — cooked chicken, specifically.  Forget the special formula of dog food for kidney disease patients.  She took one sniff and turned away as if I’d offered her some foul preparation.  She ate rice for a little while and then tired of it and acted like pasta was a new fave food.  Now she’s over that too.  She never quite went for smashed potatoes either.

Unlike her, if someone coaxed me to eat rice, pasta and potatoes for my own good, I’d chow down like a champ!  Food has a strong, insidious, tempting call. I went to the grocery store, desperate to find a range of possible things I could try to tempt her to eat a little more.  I thought of baby foods, mac and cheese, even whole wheat bread.  As we all know, the check out lines are bordered by racks of two things – magazines and candy.  While the clerk scanned my purchases, I caved and grabbed a small packet of mini-candies.  I got out to the car, grabbed the packet out of the bag and ripped it open to cram a few little pieces into my mouth.  Then my head caught up to my compulsive impulse and said, “Wait.  Think about what you’re doing.”  “Shut up,” I said to that voice.  I worked out hard this morning.  Some chocolate won’t hurt.”  However, while I said that in my head, I also read the label.  One package of little pieces of candy would add up to 310 calories!  Yikes!

On top of that, the very act of eating compulsively, of grabbing and ingesting food that I didn’t plan to eat, acting out of stress or an other emotion, does more damage to me emotionally and mentally than the sugar and carbs do to my nutritional goals for the day.

Eating the rest of this candy is not going to help me and it won’t do a darned thing positive for Pyxi.  She and I both need for me to be calm, as relaxed as possible, clear-headed and functioning.  We don’t need me to trigger a binge-eating relapse.

I grabbed the candy package and crushed it in my hand, squeezing all the remaining individual bite-sized pieces into one messed-up ball.  Then I started the car and drove home.  After I parked and got out of my car, I took the candy package and threw it into the outside trash.  That was a positive act for myself and for my recovery.  Stopping myself from consuming all of the candy and then knowing not to tempt myself by bringing the rest of it into the house, showed me that I am stronger for today than my disease.  This elevated me a great deal.

Inside, I tried out a few different foods, offering them to Pyxi.  She wasn’t interested in the little sweet potato/rice puffs or the mac and cheese.  She did eat half a slice of whole wheat bread. Desperate to get her to eat something more, I decided that if all she would consume was more poultry, at least it was better than her stopping at half a slice of bread.  I spooned out some of my ground turkey leftovers from last night.  That was much more to her liking.  She ate several pieces before going back to her bed for another nap.  I decided that I’ll try her with some more and a little more bread later on.

I then proceeded to eat my own, planned-for lunch, which I enjoyed.  Not only did it taste good, but since I planned it out and ate on track, I didn’t have the negative emotions and thoughts that accompany my meals when I’m not on plan.  One more time, I was dealing with the crisis using my program rather than using food.

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Pretend Coping

It’s Sunday night.  I’ve made it through a stressful, emotional weekend without blowing my abstinence.  Instead of running to food to cope with the upset of Pyxi’s ailment, I ran to program.  I kept using the tools of committing my food in the morning and logging it in the diary.  I went to my newly discovered online support group and read their posting while posting my own note.

This morning was the worst.  Pyxi has not been drinking a lot of water.  She is still interested in food  but is not always able to keep it down.  Even a couple of hours past a meal, she may throw up.  Even though our veterinarian and his wife are friends of mine, I am reluctant to bother him on a weekend when I know he is not on call.  So, I called the emergency number and the on-call vet got back in touch with me pretty quickly.

I conveyed Pyxi’s symptoms and condition to her since she wasn’t in the office with access to the medical records.  I wanted to know if I could start giving Pyxi an over-the-counter acid fighter to help with the vomiting.  I wanted to know if the vet thought that it was time to give her some fluids since she wasn’t drinking much.  Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying this other veterinarian is a good doctor.  While she hasn’t seen my kids often, the couple of times that she has she’s been good and thorough with them.  I trust her knowledge.  Besides, I know that my regular vet would not have invited her to join his established practice if she wasn’t up to his standards.

Okay, that said, I question whether it was necessary for her to give me a quick and sudden lesson in the nature of kidney disease in dogs, including how it is incurable and we focus on managing symptoms until we reach the point where we have to consider our dog’s quality of life and weigh other decisions.

At some point in her talking, I stopped hearing her actual words because my brain started saying, “Pyxi’s dying.”  I ceased being able to process things rationally at that point.  All I could really say was that this was dramatically more somber than M had been on Wednesday and, while I knew her condition is serious, I didn’t think we were at the “assessing quality of life” stage yet.  I felt like my hope that we might be able to at least stabilize Pyxi had just disintegrated.

I guess I was able to participate enough in the conversation to hear the vet say to start her on the anti-acid meds twice a day.  She also suggested that I could try to syringe some water into her and, if she didn’t get in some fluids today to call and I could bring her in for some subcutaneous fluids.  I told her I’d call her, thanked her, and disconnected the call.

Then I lost my mind.  I went into a complete emotional meltdown with my chest heaving, tears pouring out of my eyes and my arms wrapped around my mid-section.  It was awful.

Through it all I kept repeating, “Don’t eat.  Just don’t eat.  Don’t eat.  It won’t help.  Just don’t eat.”  I don’t often fall apart, but when I do, I’m thorough about it, let me tell you.  It was a good 15-20 minutes before I pulled myself together enough to think.  I decided that my friend would absolutely not mind me reaching out to him in this case.  I was such a basket case that I didn’t even remember that I actually have his cell phone number, so I texted his wife, apologized profusely for bothering them on a Sunday and asking if he had a minute to call.  I even said that I was probably overreacting but I was losing my mind over it and needed verification on what I should do.

My vet is the calmest, nicest and most gentle of people.  He called me within five minutes.  The first thing he said was that I should never feel bad about calling him any time and that he actually preferred that I call him directly because he has Pyxi’s history in his head and knows her so well.  The second thing he did was reassure me that, while Pyxi’s condition is serious, he does still have some hope that we can stabilize her so that she doesn’t worsen and that we might even be fortunate and see some improvement.  He feels we need to look at more than her numbers and assess her behavior.  Even though she sometimes throws up, it is still encouraging that she is eager to eat and there are things that we can do to treat the vomiting symptoms.

This immediately calmed me down enough to tell him what I’ve been seeing in the last 48 hours.  He wasn’t surprised that I’ve kept a log of when she eats, drinks, pees, vomits; what her behavior and demeanor are like, etc.  He reiterated to keep her on the anti-acid medication.  He told me at this point not to force her with syringing fluid into her mouth but to keep monitoring her intake and output.  We agreed to touch base later in the day.  If we thought it necessary he would meet me at the clinic at any time and give her Sub-Q fluids.

Before we disconnected, I wanted to let him know that I understood the seriousness of the situation and that I accepted that it might not turn around for her and she could deteriorate to where we’d have to face that quality of life discussion.  He told me he knew that and that I knew he would always tell me straight.  This helped settle me in my mind even more and I truly felt that we aren’t at that point.

As the day went on, Pyxi didn’t get any worse.  She did throw up several hours after her first dose of anti-acid med, but at least she had time to digest some of her breakfast.  She continued to be pretty quiet, sleeping most of the day.  She’ll get up and go outside or follow me into the bedroom, but then settles down again.  I was on the point of calling him and suggesting the sub-q fluids when she went into the kitchen and drank more water.  Dinner was several hours ago and it’s now three hours since she drank and, so far, everything is staying down.  He called me for an update and we decided that if her water intake doesn’t increase by mid-day tomorrow, I’ll bring her in for fluids.

I am so fortunate to work where I do.  They are completely fine with me bringing both dogs to work when I need to do so.  Nat and Pyxi behave very well in my office so I can get work done and they don’t disrupt any body else in the building.  I’m going to take only Pyxi tomorrow.  Normally, the two of them go everywhere together but I just have a feeling that she’ll be less ramped up on the trip and in the office if it’s only her tomorrow.  Natty won’t like it at first but I also know that he’ll go back to sleep within minutes after we leave.

The day is winding down now.  I’m going to bed soon and plan to still go to my 7 a.m. rowing class in the morning.  I am so happy to have gotten through this day without mindlessly abandoning my food plan and attempting to use food to cope with the upsetting situation.  I stayed on track.   I even went out and did 35 minutes of water aerobics.  Then I prepared a delicious dinner (Grilled lamb steak with roasted rainbow carrots and fingerling potatoes) and enjoyed eating it — without overeating more than I’d planned.

Given my decades-long history of using food to cope, this is sort of miraculous.  That brings me to the point I wanted to make when I named this post.  Using food or any substance, heck, using behaviors in ways that could be destructive, are not really coping.  We call them coping mechanisms, but when we use them, we aren’t truly coping.  In my case, when I’m upset and plunge into compulsive overeating, I’m actually running away and not dealing.

As emotionally upsetting as it was to sit here sobbing and think about possibly losing my sweet little furgirl, I needed to go through the process, experience the emotions and get to a place where I was functioning and thinking straight.  I need clarity to properly manage Pyxi’s care and get her whatever she needs.  Drugging myself with food is not going to help.

It will only make me feel worse and then create even more stress and upset when I get mad at myself for overeating.

For today, coping means feeling the emotions, no matter how uncomfortable or painful or scary, and doing what is necessary regardless.  It means not looking for false mechanisms to make it easier but choosing effective, not destructive methods.

It means that, no matter what, don’t eat.  Just don’t eat.

 

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Acceptance

In comments on the previous post, Forest Jane and I talked about how we can’t bring certain foods into the house because they’ll call to us all of the time and we’ll eat them.

I said that I can’t fool myself any longer and think that I won’t binge, in my own post weight loss surgery type of binge, on certain foods if I have them available in my house.  This has stayed with me in my  mind since.  The process of mulling this over caused some things to bubble up for me, even though the concept of keeping my house free of binge-trigger foods is nothing new.  It seriously could be the umpteenth time, or even the umpteenth squared time, that I’ve thought about this in the last 30 or so years.

You’d think I’d have gotten the point by now.  I have a little disgust twinge going on, but I’m also trying to remember that it doesn’t matter how often we think about something, or hear a suggestion, or even know intellectually that we should do something a certain way… if we aren’t ready, we aren’t ready, and we won’t make the connection.  Even if we make the connection, we can dig in our heels and resist.

Acceptance is the key, but I need willingness to reach that point.

I keep thinking that some day, somehow, I’m going to be able to eat “normally”, be a “normal” person when it comes to food.  That’s nothing new.  I know that for me, the only thing normal about my eating is that I will always be a food addict/compulsive overeater.  There is no cure.  I can only learn helpful things, tools, and means for keeping in recovery, even while accepting that I will never fully recover.

Today, this acceptance revealed an additional realization.  I’ve had it in my mind that when I get to goal weight, I’ll be fixed.  I won’t always have to do this, always be mindful, commit every day to working the program, and remain vigilant.  That is the worst kind of denial.  I can’t believe that I’ve continued to pretend otherwise for so long.

I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.  There’s no time limit on the disease.

Mentally, I’ve known this for decades.  Today it feels like the rest of me is catching on, or at least catching up.

I have a lot of feelings about it.  I’m  a little glum in my acceptance, but at the same time pragmatic — it is what it is.  There’s resentment but I’m also ready to embrace it and keep moving forward.  While I haven’t worked through it to find the joy, I am catching a glimmer of grace in make these forward steps.

I’m grateful because, at the end of the day, I know that I can continue to recover.

 

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Eating Away Self-Esteem

Aside from the obvious health and life expectancy risks the negative effect that I hate the most is the damage that compulsive overeating and obesity do to my self-esteem and confidence.  I may seem and act strong and secure, but the mental and emotional struggle to get there are very real.

It’s like the act of overeating, or of eating compulsively, just erodes away my core emotional strength.  I start to doubt myself and my abilities.  I begin to worry about how I’m perceived.  I project that my weight enters the room/meeting/situation before me and sets me up to be judged and evaluated on how I look.  If I’m not on the alert for this internal process, I start to shrink within myself and begin “playing smaller”.

Playing small is a reference from Marianne Williamson’s great reminder piece.  In it she proclaims that “Your playing small does not serve the world.”  I’m here to tell you that playing small doesn’t serve me either.

I seriously don’t like that my eating disorder leads to me undermining myself.  It’s difficult enough to fight the external impulse of food without dealing with the internal challenges.  Every piece of my confidence that erodes needs to be replaced.  I have to devote mental and emotional energy to shoring up my core and my foundation.   It’s damned exhausting.

It’s such an odd thing that food and eating have so much power beyond being or providing fuel for the body.  Food needs to stay in its place in life as that fuel.  No more, no less and no different.

The coming week is filled with industry-related meetings.  These will require the best of my energy on all three levels – physical, mental and emotional.  I’m already prepping, not only the paperwork, notes, and other materials, but also myself.

My confidence has taken a hit in the last few weeks.  I need to build it back up again.  My confidence took a hit but it isn’t out for the count.   I’m picking it up and setting it straight so that I will function without fear in the way that I need to and how I know that I can.

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Face Everything And Recover

I’ve made it more than 36 hours without weighing myself.  Funny how that seems so hard when I’ve made the conscious choice not to get on a scale, as compared to being away for a week and not even thinking about getting weighed.  This is turning into a great lesson.  It came to me expressed so clearly when I was riding my bike after work.  I need to keep repeating this to myself and reinforcing it in my mindset so that it truly sinks in.

It’s not about what I weigh; it’s about how I’m eating.  Recovery comes from not compulsively overeating.

I’ve had two days of compliance with my food program.  Keeping my focus on eating according to my plan and not grabbing things impulsively is so powerful. Just two days of abstinence lightens my spirit, mood and how I think.  I treat myself better emotionally when I’m clean and clear of diseased eating behavior.  I’m looking forward to doing it all over again tomorrow — one day at a time.

Moving on with a different topic focus, I have a fear that I need to face.  Something’s come up at work where more of us from a variety of departments are needed to help with some observations  Some of these observations are done from the vantage point of a temporary tower and one has to climb a ladder to get up into the tower.

The structure is sturdy.  Really sturdy.  It was built with every attention to detail, strength, stability and safety.

I am afraid to climb the ladder and go into the tower.  It’s not that I don’t have the arm and leg strength for the climb.  I’m not so fearful of heights that being in the tower itself scares me.  Heck there’s another taller, bigger tower that I go up to on a regular basis.  Oh really, I’ve zip lined!  I want to go up in a hot air balloon.  So this fear really isn’t about the height of the structure.

It’s the darned ladder and my mind throwing back to when I was so heavy that I could have broken one of those ladder rungs.  Logically, I know this is not going to happen now.  Heavier people than I go up and down that ladder without incident.  This fear thing is best summed up as False Evidence Appearing Real.  The old reality is lurking in my mind like a child’s “monster in the closet”.

I need to confront my diseased mindset; open the door to the closet, let in the light and expose that the monster isn’t real.  In short, I need to go up that ladder into the tower and demonstrate to myself that I am not too fat.  I won’t break the rungs.  The structure will not crack and crumble under my weight.

It’s a little surprising that I’m experiencing this fear.  I think it’s a continuation of me having lost a little confidence in myself because I’ve been sort of stalled and focused on the wrong aspects of my recovery.  I’ve let the doubts and fears crowd out the “can do” rekindled spirit of adventure that I’ve been enjoying — the one that led me to do that zip line adventure and the dozens of other activities I’ve explored in the last few years.

It’s time to look the issue in the eye, then face everything and recover.

I won’t have the opportunity to tackle this tomorrow.  I’m aiming for Thursday.  Wish me luck.  I’ll report back for sure!

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Scale Separation Anxiety

Holy cow.  I weighed myself one final time this morning because, for all of my brave talk yesterday, I wanted, needed to know my number before I embarked on giving up the scale and not focusing on the number.  Oh sure, if I’d been really strong I wouldn’t have gotten on the scale this morning, but I caved.  I’m glad that I did because I received the reassurance that I did not gain weight on my cruise.  So, Booyah for me on that point.

After I saw the number, I got off of the scale and nudged it under the dresser.  There it will remain.  I am determined that I am not going to weigh every day, or even once a week.  I think I should go for 30 days of abstinent living and not weigh myself for a month.

Can I tell you that the thought of going that long tenses me up?  I haven’t even gone a regular 24 hours without weighing myself and I’m already feeling some separation anxiety.

This is ridiculous.  Clearly I am even more obsessed with my weight number than I realized — and I thought I’d realized that I am pretty damn obsessed.  Friends, let me tell you.  Feeling this stress and tension drives home the point that I really need to take this action and break my scale number addiction.  In appropriate doses, the scale number can be a healthy measure of progress.  What I’m doing, this fixation, is not healthy.  So, changing the behavior is, I think, a step in the right direction.  I am even more determined to focus my attention and effort on eating in an abstinent manner — making it my daily goal to be abstinent for the day, each day, one day at a time.

Abstaining from compulsive overeating is the essence of my recovery.  Losing excess weight is the happy extra benefit.  (Hah — can I be my own friend with bennies?  Bad joke.  Sorry.)

Okay.  Here we go.  I’m going to make a commitment.  I honestly don’t know if I can hold out for a whole month, so I’m going to shoot for a shorter commitment but still one that’s a significant amount of time to count.  I will not weigh myself again until Monday, February 16th.  Two weeks.  I can do this.  Instead of obsessing over my weight number, I will concentrate on my abstinence and recovery.  Every day.  One day at a time.

By the way, I had a great abstinent day today.  I don’t want to let my scale issues cloud the acknowledgment that today was a good food day.

Tomorrow, I wake up and do it again.

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Thinking Back

One of our fellow blog readers is having weight loss surgery tomorrow.  She posted about it in comments here on my Things I Can Do Better post a few posts back, so I’m not speaking out of turn or blowing her anonymity.  ForestJane, I wish I’d gotten your email address!  If you happen to read this tonight before your surgery, please know that I’m thinking of you and sending you giant-sized good vibes and positive energy.  Please, when you can, check in and let us know that all went well, okay?

Three years ago at this time, I was a little shy of four weeks pre-surgery.  I had two weeks to go before starting the two week, full liquid diet before the surgery.  Many, in fact I think most, bariatric surgeons require this regimen of their patients.  Going full liquid helps to shrink the size of our livers which are somewhat inflated by our lousy eating habits.  If I understood it correctly, a smaller liver is easier to maneuver out of the way when the doctor’s in there working on reducing the size of the stomach.

Starting that regimen is a big step.  For me it was a strong show of my commitment to move forward and it also signaled my unofficial countdown to the day that would ultimately change not only my stomach, but also my life forever.  Those two weeks were interesting, scary, exhilarating, and challenging all at the same time.  Scary because I was so afraid that I’d screw up, let my eating disorder get the best of me, and go binge on chocolate cupcakes or something else, thus f*&%ing up my master plan.  Exhilarating because as each day passed with my successful adherence to the guidelines, weight dropped off.  I think I lost nearly 20 pounds in two weeks which made me feel great.  I was on my way!  Challenging because, hey, when you usually eat whatever, whenever, and how much, suddenly restricting to protein shakes and cream soups isn’t easy.  I have to admit that the fear was a great gut check.  I so badly wanted to do the surgery that if I even thought for a milisecond about sneaking a teeny piece of  chocolate, the fear said, “No!  You’ll ruin everything!!!”

Interesting were the reactions that I received from a couple of friends and co-workers.   From the time that I’d begun to share my decision to have wls with them, they were supportive.  Team Mary all of the way, they declared, and they helped me accommodate everything it took with all of the required tests, examinations, follow up doctor appointments and other practical matters.  They willingly talked to me about the journey whenever and however I needed.

What I didn’t know was that some of them were stifling fear for me.  Although they very much wanted me to lose weight and get healthy, they were also frightened that I would not survive the surgery.

I have to say that, although I know that every surgery carries risk, it never once occurred to me while I planned this that I could die on the operating table or die from complications after.  I should say it never once occurred to me until the day that I happily proclaimed to a co-worker that I’d already lost 15 pounds on the liquids and she reacted by crying and asking me why I couldn’t just continue to do this until I lost all of the weight.   She was so afraid for me, she exclaimed.

The intensity of her fear stunned me in that instant.  I had no idea.  If memory serves, I sat their slack-jawed for a moment and then answered her with the truth from my heart.  “If I could lose the weight I need to lose without having the surgery, I would have done it before now,” I answered.  “I’ve tried and always failed.  This is my last chance.”

Flash forward, of course, to the happy ending.  I survived the surgery and ever since.  When I came back to work I found out in a roundabout way that the fear expressed to me that day had been shared and discussed by others.  I have to say they did a great job of concealing it from me.  I’m glad because it only would have resulted in me feeling really horrible that I was the source of such anxiety.

Thinking back to where I was three years ago right now, I’m so happy that I focused on my hope and determination and did not let fear – my own or others’ – rule the day.

Today, as a reminder to myself, to Jane, to all of you who are going after what you need and want, and to all of you who might need a little boost in that direction, I’d like to share a little inspirational photo and message:

Sky limit

(Photo borrowed from Dolphin Research Center’s Facebook page.  Click here to check it out.

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