Weighty Matters

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Checking In Before the Holiday

The stormy seas on which I’ve been sailing lately have significantly calmed.  (Pardon the alliteration.)  More to the point, I’ve worked hard to reach a place of serenity, determining what I can change, what I can’t and recognizing the difference.  A lot of what is going on that was causing me so much stress really is out of my control.  I can only manage my actions and reactions, do my best, remember to breathe and kiss the rest to God.

I’m delighted that I’ve reached this point without binge eating through the tumult.  I’m doing a steady, consistently good job of sticking to my food plan.  Doing so not only makes me feel better physically, but also mentally and emotionally.  When I do not get side swiped by my eating disorder, overall I am in a much better place.  It’s still a matter of facing this one meal at a time, but I’m working the tools of my program.  I make sure that I plan ahead and prepare my foods.  I say no to the compulsive thoughts when they hit.  I find some other way to alleviate the stress-triggered impulses.

It helps that I’m losing weight again. A little here, a little there.  I’ll go several days, even close to a week, without any reduction and then see a couple of pounds have dropped off.  I really need to do my measurements again, too, because when I look in the mirror, I see a difference.  Having the numbers back up the visual will be good.

I’m going out of town this weekend for a Tai Chi workshop.  In addition to the regular set that we do, the Taoist Tai Chi Society also teaches some other sets, including one that includes sabre work.  I’ve never done this set and am excited to learn it.  I just think it will be a cool addition to my Tai Chi practice.  A friend from the society is riding up with me and ordered our sabres for us.  (They’re oak, not steel.)  It will surely be an interesting experience.  Plus workshops usually have more than a 100 participants.  Heck, some of them have 700 or 800!  Doing Tai Chi in harmony with so many people creates an entirely different energy feel.  I love it!

At the same time, I have a little apprehension about the food.  Meals are prepared for the workshop participants.  I know that I will be able to make choices that suit my food plan.  However, in the back of my mind is always the concern that I won’t make those choices.  Instead, if a white starch is available, will I take a spoonful out of impulse just because it’s there?  Sadly, with this disease, that is always a possibility.  So, I’m mentally psyching myself up to remain compliant to the plan and abstinent.  I’ve also thought ahead to my particular need to eat something every couple of hours.  Rather than put myself at the mercy of the workshop’s meal schedule, I have portable snacks ready that do not need refrigeration.  So, I can fuel my needs on time. This will keep me from getting over-hungry which often can lead to poor choices once food is actually available.

So, this is where I am before the three day holiday weekend.  I’m looking forward to a good time and keeping myself on an even keel.

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Medical Check-Up

Once I made the decision to have weight loss surgery, almost five years ago, it seems like I spent the next few years always going to a doctor.  First there was the consult with the surgeon.  This was followed by a number of tests and evaluations – Endoscopy, colonoscopy, pulmonology consult, first sleep test, pulmonologist’s eval of test, second sleep test, psychiatric evaluation, cardiologist appointment, echocardiogram, blood labs.  And so on and so on.

In between all of those tests I was still seeing my primary care physician for regular monitoring since I was on medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.  Doctors, doctors, specialists – I was always in one office or the other.

After the surgery, I saw my surgeon twice a month, then once a month for a year, then every three months.  In between I regularly had more blood labs done.  My primary care doctor still monitored me to make sure that I could now stay off of cholesterol and blood sugar medication and then, eventually, gave the okay for me to go off of the blood pressure medications completely.

Two and a half years ago, my primary doctor relocated.  Almost two years ago, I stopped going to my bariatric surgeon.

So, I’ve been pretty much going it alone for the last couple of years.  Except for the stall in my overall weight loss and slight regain which effected me emotionally and mentally, I’ve felt so terrific that going to the doctor has not been at the top of my mind.

This might all be well and good except that there are so many things that are important to keep an eye on for a woman of my age, family history, and previous self-history.  I came to accept, and give myself a mental head smack, that I’ve been ignoring my health.  I have no business being overdue for a complete physical and blood work.  Then there’s the matter of a mammogram and pap smear screenings.

It dawned on me that, since I stopped steadily losing weight before I reached my goal, I could be risking a recurrence of my blood pressure and blood sugar issues.  I monitor myself at home and things seem to be okay, but that doesn’t mean I should keep skipping full tests.  I also know that not having regular diagnostic screenings is just plain dumb and irresponsible.

So, I’m remedying the situation.  I found a new primary care physician to try and have an appointment for fasting blood work tomorrow.  After that, I’ll have a full physical, get a pap smear done and get a scrip for a mammogram.

I’m not big on self-diagnosing, but I’ve been reading up on thyroid issues.  I have requested a thyroid screening test too to see if it’s functioning the way that it should.  If it isn’t, that could shed some light on the stalled weight loss as well as some other symptoms I’m experiencing.

This is all a valuable lesson for me.  Eating healthy, fresh, clean food and working out are important for my health, but they aren’t a free pass.  I can’t neglect myself in any way by not going for regular checkups.  I’m glad that I’m taking the steps that I’ve put into place and that I’m ramping up my dedication to good self-care.

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The Non-Diet Mentality

Life is still super stressful.  I’m feeling a little piled-on at the moment, experiencing more than the usual amount of stress both at work and in my personal life.  I’ve been getting headaches over it and on any given night could wake up around 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and not be able to fall back asleep for a few hours.  It sucks.  Plain and simple.   You know the people and internet memes that tout how it’s up to us to choose our attitude?  Trust me.  I am all about being positive and upbeat.  So, a good attitude would definitely be my choice – if I could find one.  I’m going to keep looking.  Honest.  I can feel the stress affecting me not only emotionally and mentally, but also physically.

So, really, I am doing my best to counteract the negativity.  When my head starts to pound and I can practically feel my blood pressure rising, I focus on deep, calming, breathing.  I take walks and do Tai Chi.  When stress thoughts begin to repeat in my head like hyped-up hamsters on an endless wheel (what I believe psychiatrists refer to as inefficient worrying), and disturb my sleep, I pick up a book to read for a little while rather than toss, turn and keep thinking the thoughts.

I practice being grateful.  I also keep repeating the Serenity Prayer.  I have a full cache of techniques and tools and am doing my best to employ them effectively.  When all else fails, I simply remember that the stress won’t last forever and this is not the worst time of my life – not anywhere close.  In the grand scheme of things, these fall somewhere in the “small stuff” category — or at least the “medium stuff” — and I can handle them.

One of the positives that I acknowledge and celebrate is that I’m not eating over the stress.  Actually, I’m doing far better following the Always Hungry food plan of low refined and white carbs/low sugar but full fat and protein than I ever thought possible.  I don’t have physical cravings and am not dancing on a micro-thin ledge where a slight push could have me jumping into compulsion or binge eating on crap foods.

It really is a sensible, workable food plan in my life.  I never thought I’d say that about a low-carb plan.

I should point out that my weight loss has not been fast, significant nor steady.  When I first started phase one of Always Hungry?, I lost 11 pounds in two weeks.  Then I put on three of the pounds when I went to phase two.  I went back to phase one with occasional whole grains and didn’t lose anything for weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I lost the three pounds I’d regained, then stalled again.  This week I dropped another two.  (At least as of today.)

The lack of consistent weight loss has been frustrating.  I crave instant gratification and rapid loss.  There’s a lesson in this for me and I am cautiously optimistic that I am finally learning to give up the diet mindset and embrace a non-diet mentality.  Doing that was an important part of when I first experienced recovery many, many years ago in OA.  It is important that I remember, and positively reinforce, myself for the daily effort of eating according to my plan; that I find joy in making good, healthy food choices.

Most of the time, I really am jazzed that I seek out fresh, good food instead of chowing down on processed stuff.  I take time to acknowledge when I make good choices.  Earlier today I had a Chamber of Commerce luncheon to go to.  The restaurant featured a salad bar and a series of buffet items.  There were plenty of things I could have loaded on my plate.  Instead I fixed a nice salad with fresh ingredients that weren’t carb or sugar-laden.  I bypassed the rice at the buffet and picked some sauteed vegetables and a little bit of the shredded meat.  The ciabatta rolls looked great but I walked right by them to my table.  Skipped the dessert offering too.  Everything I consumed was right in line with my food plan.  That was the NSV, the non-scale victory.  Even faced with the opportunity of non-plan foods, I chose to eat according to plan.  At no time did I feel deprived or like I was eating diet food.  I wasn’t dieting at lunch, per se.  I was just eating lunch period.

This is the mentality that I will continue to foster.   I know that I’m also on the mark with my portion sizes and striking the balance between healthy carbs, protein and fat.  As long as I continue to follow this approach, eventually I’ll lose more weight.  The journey might be slow, but I can hopefully condition myself to accept that too.

There have been a lot of stories in the news about this study done with contestants from a season of The Biggest Loser.  All or most of them have regained most of the weight that they lost while on that program.  There were also very discouraging claims that our body fights to get back to the number we weighed before we dieted.  Dr. Ludwig, who created the Always Hungry? plan offers hope that it doesn’t have to be that way.  That this plan does indeed help us conquer cravings, retrain our fat cells and lose weight permanently.  For today, I’m taking it on faith that he’s right.

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Managing Stress without Compulsing

You know you’re tired when you’re in the middle of a phone conversation one evening with a friend and your brain clicks off and you fall asleep in mid-chat.  That’s exactly what happened to me last week one night.  It’s been a brutal couple of weeks and when I get home I can barely manage coherent thought, or so it seems.

When I last blogged I told you all about my boat sinking.  The resolution for that came through today.  The insurance company opted to declare it a total loss.  Honestly, that’s the best outcome for me because they will write me a check for the full insured value.  I can start with brand new engines again and not have to worry about problems with engines that had been submerged in salt water.  It also means that I don’t have to deal with the long hassle of someone rewiring my boat and doing whatever else would have needed doing to make it operational and safe.  Instead I can focus on what will be the more exciting task of finding a replacement boat.

Still, getting to this point created ongoing stress.  I went through all of the residual “I can’t believe this happened” and “What did happen?  Why did it sink?” stuff, along with, “Please let the settlement process be easy.”  I’m happy to say that the insurance company was great to work with, that’s for sure.  I don’t know how Progressive is with car policies, but they were efficient and non-confrontational with the boat and this is not an inexpensive claim that they’re paying out on.

Also in the last two weeks, we still had a whole bunch of stressful things going on at work.  We are momentarily through with the most immediately aggravating things and can take a bit of a breather.

Through it all, I’m happy to say that I am dealing without diving back into food and compulsive eating for the most part.  I’m not binge eating.  I’m following my food plan.  I’m working out regularly.  In all ways, I’m taking good care of myself.  I’ve gone for massages and acupuncture treatments.  These not only help me release the physical elements of the tension but they also ease my mind.  At night, when my body and brain tell me it’s time to sleep, I go to bed.  Thankfully, they don’t always tell me as abruptly as they did the night I conked out on my friend’s phone call.

It’s important for me to remember that eating compulsively makes every situation worse.  No amount of excess food can help.  Giving in to the urges and compulsions increases the tension and anxiety.   Working out, seeing to my brain’s comfort and my body’s needs alleviate the negative stuff.   Overall, I’m managing better by staying on track and remaining in recovery.

That alone knocks off several levels of the stress.

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