Weighty Matters

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Sleep Eating

When I was in the worst relapses of my eating disorder or any time that I was feeling stress — or when I wasn’t feeling stress because I ate to smother feeling the actual emotions — I frequently ate in the middle of the night.  It was a form of what I call sleep eating – like sleep walking, although I wasn’t completely asleep.

It is difficult to avoid eating out of compulsion when completely awake and alert.  Much harder to get control and stop the impulse when one is operating on auto pilot.  I would be vaguely aware of walking to the kitchen and opening a cabinet or getting something out of the fridge, but the next morning when my alert and awake self saw the evidence of my behavior (cookie wrappers in bed or on the kitchen counter, a dirty glass in the sink or any empty bottle or plate in the fridge) I really had to think on it to remember.

It’s scary to think of eating when not fully aware.  How easily I could have choked, I often think.

For years after going into therapy and regularly attending OA meetings, I successfully curtailed the sleep eating.  Every great once in a while, I catch myself doing it sometimes.  My dogs often get restless in the middle of the night so I get up and let them out into the yard and then return to bed.  Occasionally, I find that I detour to the kitchen.  What I eat depends on what’s around.  Sometimes it’s a few pistachios.  (I’m somewhat surprised that I can shell pistachios and eat the nuts when barely awake.)  However, I’ve eaten other things too.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized this was becoming more than an occasional thing.  I was stopping in the kitchen before going back to bed almost every night.  Once I got more aware that the pattern was repeating, I began to strategize how not to have it continue.  This isn’t easy.  Staying in recovery and on the plan requires vigilance.   Vigilance is tough to maintain when more than half asleep.

I confess that I couldn’t come up with much of a strategy.  The best I can do is plant the thought in my head when I go to bed that if I get up, I will return to bed without a side-trip to the kitchen.  I’ve tried that a couple of times and it’s worked.  So, perhaps the thought stays with me if I think it shortly before I fall asleep.

More disturbingly is that I don’t know why the incidents began to increase in frequency.  I’m not unhappy or overly stressed.  Things are good.  So, for now, I’m chalking it up to “just because”.  Honestly, I sometimes eat compulsively for no reason other than the fact that I have the disease and sometimes it happens before I can put on the brakes.

While it would be great to identify a root cause, it’s more important for me to not engage — regardless of the reason.


The Fear Remains

Will I ever lose my fear that small deviations screw up my food and fitness efforts?  Am I that wired into the mindset that perfection is the necessary goal and anything less equals failure?

I spent yesterday, a Sunday, doing things around the house.   Sunday, the daily exercise routines with the program call for the Yoga Fix.  Instead of Yoga, I did Tai Chi.  I also walked the dogs and cleaned the pool.  Between that and other things, I was still physically active.

I did not eat junk, but I didn’t eat on the same time schedule that I use weekdays when I’m at work.   As part of my dinner, I ate some potato.  It’s on my plan, but because, overall, the day felt a little wonky program-wise, I started emotionally obsessing over whether I’d “blown it”.

Once I start down that path, I really need to work to put on the brakes because my motivation and determination start to crumble under the pressure of negative thoughts.  Negative thoughts as in:

“You blew it again.”


“Whybother? You already blew it.”

“Might as well go pig out on something.”

“Get a cupcake it won’t do any more damage since you already blew it.”

“You’re destined to fail.”

My diseased thinking is absolutely rotten to me.  If I heard someone talking to a friend like this, I’d give them a blistering talking to — a verbal bitch slap into next week.  Thankfully, I did not give in to its suggestions that I go pig out on cupcakes or something else that would have made the situation even worse.

Even so, I woke up all annoyed with myself, walked to the scale like a condemned prisoner doing the green mile, and saw that I’d lost another half a pound.

My disease-oriented brain was, once more, dead wrong.   I wasn’t perfect and rigid on my plan, but I didn’t damage myself.  This is not a case of a narrowly missed close call.  I was still healthy in my eating and didn’t overeat.  THAT’s the lesson I need to learn, the distinction I need to make.  Progress not perfection.   Healthy eating does not have to be rigid.  It just needs to be . . . healthy.

The perfection poison is destructive in the long run.  It effectively manipulates my emotions and my mindset.  Ultimately, it can undermine my effort instead of bolstering it and shoring up my foundations.  Today I’m focused on diffusing its power.

I’m going back to Booyah in my attitude.   Even though I’m still doing things around the house, I’ll stick to my eating schedule.  This will help me to avoid the negative thinking.  I have yummy, fresh food to enjoy and I will savor it.  I have some projects to do around the house and I’m looking forward to completing them.  I already took the dogs out for a walk and will do today’s cardio routine a little later this afternoon before I get ready to go to a friend’s house for a barbeque/birthday celebration.

I may not be perfect, but I won’t give into fear either.  I got this!