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Binge Food Reimagined

Thank you to everyone who contacted me about Pyxi.  She is no worse, thank goodness.  She’s eating and taking her meds.  Her energy level isn’t quite where it usually is, but neither is she markedly lethargic.  So, I’m cautiously optimistic that she’s holding steady at the very least.  Perhaps the medication will gradually lead to some improvement.

Emotionally, I was much better today.  Still concerned, but I didn’t cry multiple times.  I was able to focus with greater effectiveness and not dissolve into a mushy mess.  I also succeeded in sticking to my abstinence and not catapulting off the recovery wagon to plunge into vats of inappropriate food.

It might be a little premature, but I feel like I’ve turned some sort of corner over the last week where my eating disorder and recovery are concerned.  I’m not obsessing about food.   I’m committing to my food plan on a daily note on my phone and then logging meals, snacks, water and exercise in My Fitness Pal.

Staying on my food plan is accomplished with little struggle and angst.  .  I’m not beset by cravings.  This all greatly reduces my levels of eating disorder-related stress and anxiety.

While writing this, I just had a realization.  You know how I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist?  As part of the treatment, she places some needles in key points in my outer ears to assist with the food cravings.  For the last couple of weeks, after removing the needles at the end of the session, she sticks tiny metal “seeds” on the points to continue help with the cravings/food thoughts.  Normally, these begin to irritate me by now, the evening of the day after the treatment.  According to the practitioner, the irritation or twinges happen because a particular point or set of points needs the assist.  So, it was no coincidence, I guess, that I had irritation at the seed points when I was also struggling with the compulsive disease.

Tonight, I’m not struggling and the seeds aren’t bothering me.  Also not a coincidence, I suspect.

This week, I’ve been more open and willing to exercise.  Not just the rowing classes, which I love, but also finding other opportunities to be active.  Yesterday, because I had an early acupuncture appointment, I didn’t have to leave my house as early as usual.  So, I pulled on a bathing suit and did a half hour of exercise in the pool.  The other night, I rode my bike to and from Tai Chi.  All of these things add up.

Speaking of rowing, I am very proud of myself today.  I absolutely nailed the day’s routine.  There were three of us in the 4:30 p.m. class.  We were going for consistency and distance in increasing increments.  First we rowed for a minute, then three minutes, five minutes, seven minutes and nine minutes.  All these had :20 rest periods in between the intervals.  We had a two minute rest and then five one minute rows in which we gradually increased our strokes per minute.  All told, in slightly more than 30 minutes, I rowed the equivalent of 3.5 miles!  I also earned zone master designation for the class which means that I kept my heart rate up in the desired 80-89% range for the longest amount of time overall.  I also was the cool down champion, meaning I brought my heart rate back down the soonest.  Not bad, right?  Particularly when I was older than the other two rowers by about 30 years.

From there I drove home and made dinner, which brings me to the real topic of tonight’s post — reimagining binge foods.  There are certain foods that I absolutely cannot trust myself to eat in sane, healthy, portion-appropriate ways.  I will binge on them.  It’s that simple.  When I’m in a bad place with my eating disorder, I’ll bring them into the house, even though I know that I will definitely overeat.  When I’m in a good, healthy, abstinent place, I don’t get those particular foods.  It just isn’t worth triggering a binge.

Pizza is a binge food for me if I order it when I’m alone.  I’m okay if I go out with friends, or have it here when I have company, but I absolutely cannot be alone with pizza.  At all.  Back in the pre-weight loss surgery days, I could easily plow my way through an entire pie, washed down with a liter of soda.  These days, with the restricted stomach size, even if I can’t physically fit more than, say, a slice and a half, if there is leftover pizza in the house, I’ll keep going back to it and pick at the toppings and cheese.  It’s a different kind of binge, but it still counts as one.

This totally bites, because I love  pizza, but I accept the limitations.  I’ll have it if I’m out with friends sometimes, but that’s it.

Last week sometime, the rowing class trainer and all of us were talking eating healthy.  For me, I’m making a concentrated effort to up my protein grams per day, and cut way back on refined sugar and starchy carbs like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.  For example, earlier this week I cooked and mashed up celery root.  Mashed celery root makes a fine substitute for mashed potatoes.  I seasoned it up, added a little plain Greek  yogurt and have enjoyed a reasonable serving at eat dinner.  Anyway, back to the trainer.  He mentioned that he and his wife, who is also a trainer, experimented with a cauliflower and cheese “pizza” crust and it was great.

I’ve seen this cauliflower crust from time to time in Facebook recipe memes and other places, but I’ve never tried to make one.  As it happens, I got a head of organic cauliflower in my organics share this week, so I vowed to try it tonight.  I even went so far as to prepare the cauliflower part last night so I could put it together with the other ingredients and bake it tonight.

Cauliflower, some cheese, seasonings, and eggs make up the mixture.  You spread it out like a crust on a baking sheet and bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Add your favorite toppings and bake for 10 minutes more.  Tonight I spread some homemade tomato/red bell pepper/meat sauce over the top.

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It was absolutely delicious!  No, not the same completely chewy texture as a thick flour/yeast crust, but so tasty that the difference didn’t matter one bit.  My meat sauce topping was pretty darned terrific, too.  I thoroughly savored and enjoyed my reasonable portion of the dish and felt no compulsion to binge or otherwise overeat.

Success!

I then input the ingredients into My Fitness Pal and determined that, even with the cheese, the Cauliflower pizza crust is definitely a healthy alternative to regular pizza.  181 calories, 14 g of protein, only 4 grams of carbohydrates; 12.5 grams of fat.  I can’t get too worked up about the fat grams since I didn’t slather more ooey gooey cheese on top.

Look, I don’t pretend to say that I will never again eat “real” pizza, but having this delicious, healthier, reimagined version of a dreaded binge food makes me very happy!

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Not Eating Over Emotions

Pyxi, one of my precious dogs, is sick.  We battled a nasty bladder infection for several weeks that involved e-coli and required strong antibiotics.  In the course of the infection and the treatment, her kidneys suffered damage.  I noticed her not eating as much – maybe half her daily amount, if that – and she was losing weight.  She had less energy and enthusiasm about taking walks.  Although she’d always take a treat and was excited to see me and cuddle, overall I knew that she was off.  When we went for the followup appointment to verify that the infection was gone, the vet ordered a full blood panel, did another thorough physical exam, rechecked the digital x-rays, etc.  The blood test showed elevated numbers in key things that indicated the kidney damage.  Her kidneys were functioning at about 60%.  The vet prescribed a low protein diet which we followed scrupulously.  She responded by eating more and showing a definite preference for cooked brown rice, pasta, and cooked chicken breast.

I was positive she was getting better so when we checked her weight and blood levels again and found out that her numbers were worse, it really hit me hard.  Overall she continued to eat better and seemed more bright-eyed and energetic, but those damned blood numbers.   The vet put her on a capsule to bind ammonia which reduces the work the kidneys have to do.  I’m monitoring her to see if she gets more lethargic or starts to get sick to her stomach more often or, in general, shows signs of her conditioning rapidly worsening.

I am a wreck.  There is a whole smorgasbord of emotions going on inside me right now. I’m scared, sad, upset, stressed, worried.   Her kidneys might not regain full function, but if that’s the case there are things we can do to sustain her and allow her to continue with a good quality of life.  The most terrifying scenario is if her health continues to worsen.  The mere thought of her declining into full renal failure is more than I can stand to think about right now.

It is difficult for me to focus, but I have to in order to function, so I’m doing it.  When my mind wanders, the emotions well up again and I cry.   I don’t like crying.  I particularly don’t want to do it at home in front of Pyxi.  Our dogs are so keyed into us.  If she senses my upset, she’ll get upset.  She needs my positive energy.

So here comes the dilemma for someone who has an eating disorder for whom emotional eating has always been a coping mechanism.  Not a particularly effective coping mechanism, but it was the one that I had at my disposal.  Stuffing down the emotions with food seemed to enable me to deal.  (Even though that’s not really dealing, I know.)

How do I not eat over my emotions?  It is imperative that I not seek refuge in food and use bingeing of calories or carbs to take the edge off of my upset.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today.  I talked about the situation in my regular acupuncture appointment so that the practitioner could help with my stress channels.  I’m being very careful to continue to write down my food plan and commit to my abstinence from compulsive eating.  If it isn’t on the plan, it doesn’t go into my mouth.  Stress can create stomach acid and for me and many other bariatric patients, stomach acid can sometimes feel like hunger.  For me, keeping hydrated helps.  Maybe flushing water through my stomach not only creates a feeling of fullness but dilutes the ability of stomach acid to form.  I don’t know, but it works, so I’m sticking to it.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m doing my best to rehearse a positive attitude and outlook.  I’m embracing hope that she will improve in the next two weeks or, if not improve, at least hold steady.  She’s a spirited little girl and together with her vet we will fight to help her get well.

Me eating over the emotions is not going to help the situation.  It will only make me feel worse.  The temporary distraction or mock-relief I get from eating crap or eating too much is not a positive action.

Taking good care of myself in this crisis ultimately helps me take better care of Pyxi.

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SANE Eating Plan

A couple of days ago, I came across a short article by a registered dietitian in the Miami newspaper.  In it, she talked about being inundated by diet headlines when standing in the check-out line of the supermarket.  I knew just how she felt.  The magazines have sooo many suggestions… Detox, eat this, that or the other thing for a flat belly.  Lose a gazillion pounds in a week by eating this superfood.  Melt off the fat by doing this.  Don’t eat THAT food.  It will make you swell up like the purple kid in Willie Wonka.

I always consider it ironic that across the aisle from these self-help magazines are all of the magazines for cooking, recipes, great cakes, seasonal menus, etc.

Anyway, after seeing all of the headlines, the dietitian shared an approach that she highly recommends.  She calls it getting SANE… as in adopting a food plan that is sustainable, approachable, nutritionally balanced and enjoyable.

It makes eminent good sense.  Sustainable, as in picking a food plan that you can reasonably follow and maintain.  A plan you can stick with.

The next step is to realize that healthy eating is an approach.  We embrace it without becoming dictators to ourselves.  Giving ourselves permission to splurge or have a treat sometimes will help us sustain the effort.

The dietitian is a fan of eating minimally processed food.  Whole, natural products are desirable for the N – nutrition.

Finally, there’s the idea of enjoying the food we consume.  Good food that tastes great, nutritionally sound meals prepared freshly with flavor — all make it easier to eat well.

S.A.N.E.  doesn’t this sound like good common sense?   I’m keeping it in mind as I plan my daily meals.  Like the dietitian says in the article, eating this way won’t help us lose 15 pounds in a week, but following it consistently will help the weight come off.

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Asking For Help

It’s sometimes the most difficult thing in the world to admit when we need help and then to reach out and ask for it.  Even if we are the type of person who would rush to help a friend, family member, co-worker — even a stranger on the street — we are often reluctant to say that we need support.

I’m horrible at it.  For so long I’ve been self-sufficient/self-reliant that my go-to position is to do for myself.  I think there were also a number of years when I didn’t think I was worthy of help so I wouldn’t ask.

It took more than you know for me to start reaching out to the online forums.  First I had to admit the need to myself.  Then I had to go here and elsewhere and talk about what’s going on and ask for suggestions, advice, support.

Here’s the irony.  Making the ask actually makes the whole process easier.  It’s like it removes a barrier between myself and others.  Admitting that I need some help opens the door to support.  In a 12 Step Program it would connect with Step One – Admitting I am powerless over food and my life has become unmanageable.  That then leads to Step Two  – Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  Define the greater power as you will — it can be different for everybody.

I’m really glad that I went back to ObesityHelp.com.  I also joined a closed group on Facebook for Compulsive Eaters.  I wrote a good friend and asked for support.  I’ve read some great posts in response.  They’ve helped.

Admitting powerlessness and saying we’re in trouble is not a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign of strength.  I actually feel stronger now as a result.  My determination this morning was really strong.  I’m now about to go to bed and I’ve had a really great day of recovery with my food and eating, my exercise (5500 meter row in 40 minutes), and my mind, emotions and spirit.

Every long journey of recovery begins with a single day and proceeds one day at a time.

My lesson for this is to remember to ask for help when I need it.  I have allies.  Their support can help me on my journey.

 

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Sourcing Support

I’m pretty sure that back in the early days of this blog and the beginning of my post-weight loss surgery journey I talked about things I did before the surgery.  Among them was discovering a website community called ObesityHelp.com.  I found the site soon after I decided to seriously consider having surgery, which would have been roughly six months before the actual operation.

The site was an unbelievable resource for me.  It is filled with forums where people of all backgrounds, challenges, journeys and so on share their stories.  There are forums for folks who are having or who have had weight loss surgery – broken out even by the type of surgery.  When I started my research, I’d never heard of the type of surgery I eventually had – a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG).  Once I found out about VSG, I then started looking deeper into that procedure.  I think that’s what led me to ObesityHelp.com.

Oh, thank goodness!  For months, this was a place where I could read about other people and their journeys.  I could ask questions and benefit from the experience of others.  It was amazing.  The people were enthusiastic, generous with their stories, oh so encouraging.  I went there every night and, if I got scared or anxious or confused, I’d even pop on during the day.  Since I live in a place where in-person support groups are not available, online became a lifeline.

When good friends approached me and said they were considering weight loss surgery, I recommended that they also check out the website in addition to the other research they were doing.  I still do.

So, I don’t remember when or why I stopped frequenting the website and participating in the forums.

Yesterday was a particularly bad food day for me.  There is no rhyme nor reason for it, other than my eating disorder taking over my actions.  Even as I snacked and ate crap that wasn’t on my food plan I felt mad, sad, discouraged and depressed about it.  The emotions then fueled me eating more.  But a big bold mark in the Suckitude column.

I don’t know why I thought to do it, but at some point I walked over to the computer and logged in to ObesityHelp.com.  I cruised the forums and posted a note about what I’ve been experiencing and how I’m not sure what at this stage of the game I should be following as a food plan, how many calories, what ratio of protein to carbs, etc.  I asked for suggestions.

Today I went back on and there were several replies, all with good suggestions and, as important, encouraging words.  I visited more forums on the site and found someone who asked if anyone else post-wls still deals with binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating.  So, here was another place to touch base, to share, and to read the sharing of others.  Then I found a group for people fighting back from regaining some of their weight.

All of this information.  All of this support.  It’s still all right there, where it was before.  My needs have changed and the site is still a wonderful resource. Even the strongest, most knowledgeable of us can benefit from the knowledge and experience of others.

I’m feeling very grateful right now that I went back to the site.   I plan to keep going back.  I was feeling pretty isolated and alone in my struggle.  I don’t feel so alone anymore.

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Food Fidgets

I am fidgety about food today and I don’t know why.  I’m not stressing about anything.  I’m excited about developing a more regular workout routine/effort.  I got enough sleep last night.

Yesterday, I had a terrific acupuncture session, including some work to boost the channel associated with my metabolism.  (It was sluggish.)  I feel great, darn it, so why the compulsive thoughts and desire to eat?  I’ve stayed on track and just finished my planned mid-morning snack.  Still I’m thinking about food more often.  Thinking often leads to false-hunger and wanting.

At least I’m aware of the situation.  It’s when I’m not aware and move directly and swiftly into acting on the compulsion that the day’s plan falls apart.

Right now, instead of going in search of food to augment my snack, I’m going to fill up my water glass and consume some nice cool water instead.

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When You Think You Can’t, You Can!

This morning at 7:25 a.m., I was at the half-way mark of the rowing class and was fairly sure that I wouldn’t make it to the end.  Today’s workout called for 34 minutes of 200 meter intervals with a :10 rest between intervals.  I was doing my best to row 200 meters in a minute’s time but was falling short by a couple of seconds – hitting the 1:04-1:06 range instead.  Each of us in the class wore a sensor that constantly monitored our heart rates and showed us on the wall monitor if we were in the preferred zone of around 80-89% of our maximum heart rate.  The sensor also estimates our calorie burn, based on our current weight, gender and age.

I was doing pretty good at maintaining my heart rate in that golden zone, but as the minutes went on, I started to think more and more that I’d never make it through. During each rest, I stretched my legs in the machine and jiggled my left foot, which seems to want to go numb on me in the middle of the workout.  I gulped water and wiped the rivulets of sweat off of my face, then picked up the handles again to resume rowing when the clock counted down to zero.

Call me determined or stubborn or crazy, but I refused to quit on the workout.  Even if I was blowing out air like a whale, and soaked with sweat, I was not going to give up.  About :20 seconds into each interval, when I thought I couldn’t keep going, I mentally cried bulls**t on myself and powered through.  I’d make myself work harder, trying to get my time down to a minute per 200 meters.

When we hit the ten-minutes-to-go mark, the trainer started giving us regular updates.  “Ten minutes left.  Keep it up.”  “Only seven minutes to go.  You can do it.”  “Five minutes.”  “Three minutes.”  “Try to finish an interval before the time runs out and start another.”

I finished an interval about :20 before the workout ended so I launched into another one, determined to give it my all.  For that last strong effort I hit the red zone with my heart rate at greater than 90% capacity.  “Finish strong!” encouraged our trainer.  I did.  200 meters in :59!  My best time for the whole workout.

So much for thinking I couldn’t.  While others in the class might have done more intervals than I did, I’m not in competition with them.  For one thing, I am often in class with women who are significantly younger than I am and/or who have been at this rowing thing for a lot longer.  When all is said and done, I’m only measuring up to myself and how much effort I put into the workout.  That said, while we recovered and let our heartbeats gradually slow from the peak performance, the trainer ran us through the class’s collective stats.

I was the Zone Master for the class, which meant that I maintained the desired heart rate zone for the most consistent amount of time!  It made me smile.

After wiping down my rowing machine, returning the sensor to the trainer, and guzzling the rest of my water, I made my way out to my car.  I looked down at my hand and realized that I’d worked up a blister at the base of my ring finger.  (Note to self, don’t wear a ring to rowing class and find your workout gloves.)  It doesn’t hurt much and I kind of consider it a mark of accomplishment.  It’s also a great reminder to me throughout the day.  If at any time I’m tempted to overeat or veer wildly off my food plan, I only need to look at that little red blister and remember how hard I worked this morning.

I’m going to take today’s experience with me into the next class and every one after that.  When I think I can’t finish, I know now that I can.  Not only that, with determination, I can finish strong.

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