Weighty Matters

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Happy New Year!

I’ve discussed before that I don’t make resolutions for the new year.  I’m keeping on with that tradition.  I want the rest of my life to be the best, healthiest, most purposeful experience that I can achieve.  I’m resolute in that commitment.

The internet is abuzz with great quotes and inspirational messages, illustrated with great pictures.  I like the one I’ve seen several times that’s attributed to Brad Paisley.  It says that “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.”

I also saw a quote that my assistant put on a great photo of three of our dolphins.  It says, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” (Hal Borland)

The idea of “a going on” resonated with me, particularly as I embrace my life experiences and pray for wisdom.  Something that’s both great timing and great coincidence later occurred for me with that quote. I was going through drawer in the guest bedroom a couple of hours ago and found my old book of daily OA readings called, appropriately For Today.

I used to pick up this book every morning before I got out of bed and read the day’s page.  As soon as I saw the book in the drawer, it felt like I’d reconnected with an old friend.  I decided that I would begin this practice again.  I peeked to get a preview of what I’d read tomorrow and what do you think I saw as the quote at the top of the page?  Yep, the Hal Borland quote.  Very cool.

So for the rest of today, tomorrow, and every day, I will be going on, hopefully with wisdom, experience, serenity, and all good things that will serve me well and help me serve in return.

I want my life book for 2015 to be a great one.

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Self-Care Training

I wish I naturally, automatically practiced good self-care.  Oh, sure, I do it sometimes and probably more often than I did before, but I don’t automatically treat myself well often enough.  Very often, I have to remind myself.  It’s strange because gentle support and encouragement are second nature to me when I’m offering them to a friend or family member.

Thinking it over, I do better with bigger gestures to myself, sort of like self-care rewards, but the day to day little positive reinforcements come harder.  For some many years I abused myself with my overeating and then compounded the horrible self-treatment with the negative, rotten things I thought about myself and that I said to myself.

I need to retrain myself in this area.  I keep going back to the Anne Lamott post on the anti-diet.  In it she talks about paying attention to what makes us feel good, one meal at a time.  I’ve really been focusing on that the last couple of days.  I strive to stay present in the moment as I prepare my food and then while I eat the meals.  I remind myself over and over again that it is important for me to do what is good for me and to do what makes me happy.

Paying attention, I find, is key.  There are so many distractions in our lives.  External distractions are challenging enough, but the negative tapes that sometimes still play in my head are even worse.  It’s the negative thoughts that take me away from my mindfulness so that I can inhale a few cookies before I realize what I’m doing.  So, I’ve ramped up the self-attention when I’m around the food.  Attention leads to mindfulness and so on.

In addition, I also tell myself, often, that I’m treating myself well and I’m worth it.  I’m choosing to eat healthy and not go off of my plan into compulsive eating because I’m taking care of myself.  And I’m worth it.  I looked at the beautiful, fresh, crisp salad that I put together for dinner (fresh, chopped kale, shredded broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, diced sweet onion, a little feta, some walnuts) and acknowledged that making it was a way to treat myself well.  So was the way that I ate it with some roast chicken — slowly, savoring the tastes, appreciating everything about the experience.

A corporate coach tells us that it takes 21 days to adopt a new behavior.  I hope that I can continue building on this self-training for the next three weeks, do it consistently, and continue to really develop a daily naturalness in self-care.

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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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Home From the Holidays

I arrived back home in the Florida Keys about an hour ago at 8 p.m. after a full day of travel from Pennsylvania which was prefaced by a crappy night’s sleep.  Although that trip was smooth with no delays, I am exhausted.  For the life of me, I do not know how I handled traveling when I was 386 pounds.  The sheer effort of slogging between parking garages, terminals and concourses is enough to make anyone want to collapse for a nap on their luggage or, better yet, crib a ride on one of those rented luggage carts.

Complaining aside, I loved spending time with my family and friends.  I always try to drive around and see as many people as possible, yet even with my best effort and planning, I never managed to see everyone.

My weird ailment on Friday eased up on Saturday in that I no longer needed to throw up every few hours.  I continue to have some lingering discomfort in other, shall we say “tuneful”, ways but I’m sure that too will pass.  (Hah, what a horrible, unintended pun. *snicker*)  I don’t have much appetite, which is not a bad thing as, prior to my illness, I was eating too much of too many things that I don’t normally consume — or at least don’t normally consume in meals so close together.  This eating pattern very likely contributed to the gastric issues.

This leads me to looking ahead.  As you all know, because I keep talking about it, I’m recommitting to my recovery plan.  For the longest time, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of finally, finally, finally, losing the remaining pounds that I want to shed.  The third year anniversary of my weight loss surgery is approaching.  While I cannot lose the weight by that date, I truly am determined.

However, in recent days, my approach to achieving the ultimate goal has shifted.  That is because the ultimate goal itself has changed.  I owe it all to Anne Lamott.  If you have not seen this post, about what she refers to as the Anti-Diet, I urge you to read it.  It provided an “aha” moment, the likes of which I have not experienced in quite some time.  If you aren’t on Facebook, don’t worry.  She must have her profile set to public.  You can read it without signing in to FB.

So many things she says in her post hugged my heart.  This anti-diet idea is about treating ourselves with love, gentle acceptance, more love, and self-care. It’s about doing for ourselves what we would do for others; preparing and serving ourselves food in meals that we would offer an honored, loved guest.  It’s also about not letting our clothes and how we fit in them define our self-esteem.

If you were coming to my house for dinner, I would not feed you unhealthy crap.  I would take the time to select fine quality, fresh ingredients and cook you a delicious, balanced, nutritious meal that you would, hopefully, love.

Sitting across from you at the table, I would eat the same tasty, healthy meal, savoring each bite instead of mindlessly shoveling it into my mouth.

Food is not love.  Eating nutritious, balanced meals in a healthy manner is, however, a way to practice good self-care, to treat myself with love, respect, honor and kindness.   By keeping this in mind with my food choices, I will support my recovery in a number of ways.  With the commitment to my physical exercise for health and good eating, I know that, ultimately, weight will come off.  However, the bar for health will be in the way that I treat myself, not the numbers on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

Before I left the mainland on the drive home this afternoon, I stopped at a well-known produce stand.  I bought fresh fruits and veggies that delighted me with their quality and bright colors.  Kale, romaine, green beans, spaghetti squash, pineapple, Florida strawberries and a mamey sapote.  In deference to my slightly shaky system, I augmented this freshness with some soups from the supermarket.  The intention is to eat lighter than usual over the next several days to see how my body reacts.

Most of all, now that I’m once more home from the holidays, I’m going to commit to not dieting, but to nourishing myself – body, heart and soul.

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Starting Off with a Bang and a Whimper

My family and I enjoyed a lovely holiday together.  Nephew number two arrived on the afternoon of Christmas Eve so we could all enjoy a gathering with friends at their home.  Nephew number one had to work that night so my brother and I got up early yesterday and drove to Brooklyn to get him.  It was great that all five of us managed to be together for Christmas.

A handful of posts ago, I wrote about things I can do better for my recovery and also about recommitting to my efforts after the holidays.  I feel determined and inspired, ready to start off with a bang and let the energy carry me on to victory!  I planned to enjoy the various, delectable foods available to me while up here on vacation — and I did — but I knew the whole time that I would be stricter with myself when the celebrations were complete.

Well, it’s December 26th and I started off with a bang all right, as well as with a whimper.  I woke up about 3 a.m. today with a severe bout of nausea that prompted several trips to the bathroom to expel whatever bile was in my stomach.  (No solid foods left at that point.)  Just to make it even more fun, I also experienced diarrhea.  (Sorry for the blunt talk.)  I s.

I finally stopped throwing up about 6:30 a.m. but still experienced the other issue.  I was so wiped out that I spent the entire morning in bed, which was upsetting because it stole the last morning of time I had to be with my nephews.  Both had to leave for their respective homes in neighboring states to work their jobs this afternoon.

Sadly, I don’t know the source of the illness.  It could be viral, but I’m recovering a little fast for that, unless it’s truly a 24 hour bug.  It could have been food poisoning, I guess, even though I’m the only one that suffered from it.  The only thing I consumed that nobody else did was a bagel and a cup of tea in Brooklyn.  I wonder if it all comes down to a great variety of richer food, eaten more frequently and in ultimately more quantity than normal.  Perhaps my system decided to illustrate matters by rebelling.  I can’t decide.

I started sipping water about 12:30 and kept it down.  About an hour later I braved a shower, which felt wonderful.  After I got dressed, I nibbled dry toast and sipped a weak cup of tea.  So far, so good!

Now I’m looking at the lesson in the experience.   Eat small amounts, slowly.  Don’t overtax my system with rich or quantities of unfamiliar foods.  Sip, sip, sip.  It’s not unlike the first several months after my weight loss surgery.  These are terrific reminders.  I’m going to keep them up as I move forward.

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing that doesn’t work over and over but expecting different results.  I think it would be insane of me to not retrace my plan and efforts to what worked so phenomenally well for me from the get-go.  While I would not wish an extended period of gastrointestinal ailments on myself or anybody else, spending a little time in whimpering mode today may prove helpful in the long run!

Hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday week, whether you celebrate Christmas or other holidays!

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Holiday Cheer

 

 

photo

No matter what holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate any of them, I wish you happiness, serenity, and the fulfillment of your heart’s desires.

May you love and be loved, receive and offer kindness, and celebrate not only the wonderfulness of others but the wonderfulness of you.

Thanks for visiting this blog.  Whether you comment or not, you bring your energy here to share and I appreciate you.

Love,

Mary

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The Ones Who Really Understand

I am very fortunate that the great majority of my family and friends understand me and my eating disorder struggles.  They are incredibly supportive of my efforts and recovery.  Not everyone is this fortunate.

I also count myself extremely lucky that I have some good friends who have also had weight loss surgery.  There are aspects to this journey that they also know and experience so the depth of their understanding is, understandably, greater.  They can and do offer insights that I can’t expect others to have and share.

During this annual round of holiday visits, I get to see a couple of my weight loss surgery sisters-in-arms.  I spent some time and a couple of meals with one yesterday.  We talked a bit about how it feels to struggle some after an extended period of success.  We also achieve a strong level of no-bullshit in which we can acknowledge to each other where we can and need to do better in our efforts.  We talked about recommitting to long term goals.  Near the end of the evening she said we should check in with each other every day.  We live in separate states but we have the internet and our cell phones.  January 1, let the daily text messages of support, encouragement and, when necessary, strong reminders, begin!

In a little while I’m meeting another friend.  Of all of my friends, she is the one who has long term time in OA and the one with whom I can best talk about the craziness of this eating disease.  We aren’t really crazy in the clinical sense.  (Non-politically correct terminology aside.)  There are simply some aspects, behaviors, and attitudes that make me feel a little nutty sometimes because, you know, “normal” people would do/think/act this way with food.

The timing couldn’t be better for me to get together with these ladies.  As I set up to knuckle down after the holidays, I can reconnect with what I need to know and do to be successful.  Hopefully, speaking to me will help them with things they need too.

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Judging My Food

One feeling I cannot seem to shake is that when I’m around other people, they constantly look at what I’m eating and judge.  Maybe they’re assessing how much, or how little, I’m eating.  Perhaps they’re looking to see what actual food choices I’ve made.  I imagine them frowning inside if I eat a cookie, or if my plate has too many carbs.  Oh no, she’s eating something fried, I picture them thinking in their heads.

Let me state unequivocally that I have no evidence that anyone actually does any of the judging that I imagine.  They probably aren’t, or maybe some are and some aren’t.  I don’t know because if they are, they aren’t expressing their judgments to me.  Nobody says, “Wow, are you supposed to be eating that?” or “I can’t believe you’re eating that.”

However, the feelings that they are remain real to me and create a self-induced stress on me all of the time when I eat with friends or family.  This state makes me want to launch right back into sneak eating.  Sneak eating is a behavior that creates a whole messy pile of other negative emotions and unhealthy eating habits.  When I sneak eat from stress I tend to eat more in quantity – even if I spread it out over sneak sessions – and usually choose foods that would be okay as a single tasty treat but become unhealthy choices when consumed in that quantity.  That’s not self-judging.  It’s fact.  It’s okay for me to have a single cookie as a treat.  It isn’t good for me to eat half a dozen.

The whole “being judged” thing comes up for me a lot right now because I’m on my annual holiday trip and constantly spending time with different groups of friends and family.  I’m fighting the urge to obtain a secret stash of food so that I can sneak eat it.  That’s part of the insidiousness of this aspect of my eating disorder.  I stress over being judged to the point where I have to prepare my stress release eating of junk.  Totally doesn’t make sense.  It is also much more problematic because in escaping the behavior that stresses me out, I do something that makes me feel really bad emotionally and, ultimately, physically.

I seek a healthier alternative and am working to reshape the situation with more positive behavior.  I remind myself that what I eat, what I put on my plate, etc., is my business and nobody else’s.  If someone is going to judge my choices that’s on them.  I do not need to feel bad about my choices, nor should I project that they are viewing me with negative eyes and thoughts.

Above all, sneak eating is not a positive stress release.  I have other things I can do instead.  I could do a few moves of Tai Chi, meditate instead of eating, pick up a book instead of another food item.  Banish the negative thoughts.  Take a walk.  In short, there are numerous other options.

Writing about it in this post has relieved some of the stress.  It’s like adjusting a valve and letting some built up steam and pressure escape.  I don’t have to give in to old patterns.  I can, and need, to deal with it in healthier ways.

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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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