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A Welcome Serenity

I don’t know whether it’s difficult for me to describe what it’s like when my eating disorder is raging out of control, or if it’s just nearly impossible for someone else to understand if they’ve never been in the grips of a compulsion.  When things are bad, my mind is almost always focused on food and eating.  If I’m around food, then all I want to do is eat it.  I may make trip after trip after trip to the kitchen or, if there isn’t enough food in the house, get in the car and drive to hunt down something more to eat.  It’s like I have a beast in my head whose hunger can’t be satisfied.

That could very well be because I’m not usually experiencing actual physical hunger.

So all that emotional and mental trauma goes on and creates a variety of negative, uncomfortable conditions.  When I eat compulsively, I eat too much — to the point of true physical discomfort.  This point is reached one hell of a lot sooner than before I had weight loss surgery.  However, I have reached it when losing the struggle against the compulsion.  I was never bulimic with a cycle of binge eating and then purging.  Soon after the surgery, I learned what it physically felt like.  Even though I wasn’t overeating, while my body readjusted to eating different foods and I began to learn what size portions I could handle, I threw up a lot.  Physically, it is no fun at all.

However, even more than the discomfort, the mental and emotional effects of the eating disorder are devastating.  They’re exhausting and depressing.  They compromise my confidence and distort the way that I feel about myself and my life.

Add all this up and one would naturally wonder why anyone would live like that.  Why would someone willingly continue engaging in the behaviors that create such a painful, upsetting reality?  The short answer is that sometimes we just can’t stop.  The disease is cunning, baffling and powerful.  Sometimes it is stronger than I am.

And sometimes, like right now, I’m stronger.  I get to experience days when I’m not harassed by the disorder, when I live my life without having to constantly beat back the compulsive beast.  When I’m not turning to food for comfort or as a coping mechanism.

Right now, all three aspects of recovery are aligned and working as a team.  The Always Hungry? food plan with its percentages of protein, fat and carbs is delivering its promise of greater satiety and alleviated cravings.  I’m using the tools of my 12 Step program, committing to abstinence, planning and preparing my meals, and everything else.  I’m trying to reduce the focus on weight loss and keep it on working the program to strengthen my foundation and stabilize my recovery.

As a result, I feel so much healthier in my mind, my spirit and my body.  For today, I’m living life in the grace of a welcome serenity.

 

 

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Avoiding Cheat Guilt

It will come as no surprise to regular or long term blog readers that I have a large and varied supply of different issues about food, eating, dieting, weight loss and having an eating disorder.  I’ve come a long way over the years but that doesn’t mean, for me, that the issues every go away.  I simply learn, or hope to learn, effective coping mechanisms so that the issues don’t screw me up and harpoon my positive effort.

Today what’s coming up for me is combating the feelings that I’m being “bad” on a diet, that I’m cheating, every time I eat some sort of whole fat or otherwise fat food item on this Always Hungry? plan.  Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, full fat cheese, eggs, nuts and nut butters (without added sugar) are absolutely allowed and are an important part of this food plan.  Take this morning, for example.  I prepared the book’s recipe again for non-grain pancakes.  (Did I talk about these last week?  I forget.  Bear with me anyway.)  They are made with garbanza bean flour, whole milk Greek yogurt, whole milk, an egg, and safflower oil.  (If any of you need to avoid gluten and you haven’t tried garbanza bean flour, it’s a revelation.  I want to find other recipes that use it, just because I think it’s tasty.)

These pancakes are delicious just as they are.  However, in lieu of syrup on Phase I, I topped mine with homemade whipped cream and a fruit sauce.  All kinds of awesome yumminess happening on that breakfast plate, my friends.  Great flavor, texture, mouth feel and, after, satiety.

However, even with that positive experience, I could not stop the thoughts that the meal was too decadent, that I was cheating.  I was eating full fat dairy.  My mental process kept trying to tell me this was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I stopped mid-way, put down the fork, and had a talk with myself.  It comes down to being willing to trust this AH plan with its process and the science behind it and be confident that I am not being “bad” or doing damage to myself.  Ultimately, I need to believe that the plan is helping me reach the goals of retraining my fat cells and losing weight.

Clearly the plan is working.  I will confess that I still have difficulty staying away from the scale and am weighing myself almost every day.  However, seeing steady results is at least turning out to be a tool to combat the feelings that I’m screwing up and cheating every time I eat some whole fat food.  (By the way, I’m down 11 pounds today.)

So, how can I stop the negative thoughts and worries from creeping in?  Here’s what I’m going to try.  Remember when I talked about the book’s recommendation that participants designate an amulet to help them refocus on their goals and Big Why?  I use the “Strong is the New Skinny” bracelet my friend gave me.   When I’ve been tempted to eat something not on the plan, it honestly has helped me to look at and tap the bracelet.  I figure if the tool has worked in that way, I could use it for this, too.  My thought is that it will create an atmosphere of even greater mindfulness.  When a negative thought about what I’m eating creeps in, I’m going to tap my bracelet and remind myself that I’m on track with the program and food plan.

 

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Believing in Efforts/Avoiding Diet Mentality

Day three of week two without processed grains and refined sugar and I’m still on track.  I’m not preparing every meal suggested in the book’s daily plan but still sticking to the percentages of protein/fat/carbs in every meal.  Physically I feel good.  Emotionally, the mood variations have settled down.  Mentally and emotionally, I’m happy.  It is a great boost to commit to a plan and honor that commitment every day.  Success breeds success.  I do this a day at a time, but each day that I stick to it becomes a building block in the foundation that supports more long term recovery.

I was never ever willing to abstain for a long time from breads, pastas, white potatoes, white flour products and sugar.   Even though there were many times that I followed extremely restrictive diets that removed all of those foods – or in one case ALL food period – I always hated doing so.  (Yes, I once went six months surviving on a godawful tasting liquid protein with weekly trips to NYC for medical monitoring.)  I felt freakish about my inability to sustain long term weight loss, and resentful that I could not eat like a “normal” person.  When I first discovered that I have an eating disorder and found the OA program, I thoroughly resented my past history of fad, harsh diets.  So, I rebelled from doing anything that reminded me of any old plans.

I don’t know why it feels different to me this time around and why I’m willing.  It could be as simple as the fact that while I gave up the “white” products, I’m still allowed colorful, tasty fruits and veggies of all kinds plus the higher fat content products.  Oh, and that wonderful treat of dark chocolate means a lot.  However, I think there is a more involved evolution at play.  Although I have not yet lost all of the weight that I would like to, the last four years have taught and shown me something about myself.  I am maintaining a significant weight loss and have for four years.  This is something that I have never been able to do for myself in the past.  I always yo-yoed up and down the scale.  I could diet like a fiend on specific plans and lose a great deal of weight, but I always always always put it back on, usually with extra pounds on top.  That’s how I gradually grew to close to 400 pounds.

Knowing, acknowledging how much I have changed, learned, and accomplished with regards to my weight and health creates a belief in myself that I’ve always lacked.  Sure, in the past I always hoped that each time would be the magic effort that worked.  However, at heart I don’t think I really believed that my efforts would result in long term success.  My relationship with myself and with food has changed so much and for the better.  I no longer have any interest in atrocious fast foods and willingly cook with more fresh produce in healthier ways.

I love the positive changes in my body and my physical fitness.  It feels great to move, to see the muscle definition, experience my strength.

Most importantly, I believe that I will continue to be successful.  That I will continue to improve my physical health.  I’m committed to maintaining the new, healthier me.

These changes make it not such a big deal to give up more specific foods.  I’m not saying that I’ll never eat pasta or bread again, but I know for sure that I don’t need them in my every day diet.  Giving them up doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing.  I’m not experiencing the resentful, “I can’t have it” feelings.  It feels like a positive, okay choice for today.

 

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Emotional Impact of Carb/Sugar Abstaining

Two days into the two weeks of no grains, no refined sugar phase.  I am relieved that I am not feeling hunger and am not “white-knuckling” to hang on between meals.  So far I haven’t experienced big physical cravings either.  Thank goodness I’ve avoided that horrible, “I need a piece of bread right now or it could get ugly!” feeling.

I believe the reason that I’m not having these negative reactions is because I’m still getting some healthier carbs and sweetness from beans, legumes, veggies and fruit.  Plus, there is something wonderful to the “mouth feel” of quality fats added to a meal.

Physically, things are going well.  However, my disease has three components – physical, mental/emotional, spiritual.  Last night, I started to go through some emotional reactions that were stronger than I would expect on a “normal” day.  In retrospect, the influencing activity was sort of silly, or maybe I just describe it as such now because I’m viewing it through a clearer lens.  Here’s what happened.

I had a very hectic day at work, then ran home to eat dinner and get to Tai Chi class.  Unfortunately, in my rush, I forgot to change footwear to the shoes that I usually wear when doing Tai Chi.  Believe it or not, shoes matter.  We do a lot of pivots and other steps and, depending on the floor surface, the amount of tread on the bottom of your footwear can really affect how well you can do the moves, keep balance, etc.

When I’m home or at the beach, I actually prefer to do Tai Chi in bare feet, but that was not an option on the floor where we hold class.  I also wasn’t wearing socks, or I would have just taken the shoes off.

Anyway… the tread of the shoes I was wearing did not glide smoothly so my pivots and turns were hampered.  The shoes weren’t as stable in design as the ones I normally wear which also affected my balance, particularly on my bad knee.  A class that I usually love with its calming, flowing movements turned into one challenging chore after another.

Maybe it was the lack of cooperation between shoes and floor or the fact that I started to stress about my less-fluid-than-normal execution of the moves, but my body began to stiffen up — particularly that bad, weaker knee.  This increased my frustration.

About two thirds into the class, I was an internal mess.  Cranky, bitchy, upset, pissed off at my physical limitations — all negative.  At the very end, on the last sequence of moves that we were practicing, my knee locked, the plates of bone that kiss each other rubbed just the wrong way and hurt a lot.  I couldn’t finish the moves and had to walk off the floor.

At that point I was so internally upset that all I wanted to do was get the hell out of class and go home to an ice pack and ibuprofen.  I had a hard time not blowing past people who were trying to talk to me — people whom I like and am friends with.  I know that the few sentences I uttered were abrupt.

I got out of the building, into my car, drove out of the parking lot and started to cry.  It was awful.  I didn’t keep crying the short drive home but was just in a miserable and sad mood at that point.  When I got to the house, I knew that I had to put in work prepping meals to eat today, and I was entitled to my evening dessert.  Honestly, I was a little afraid to be around food at that point for fear that I’d fall off the wagon and eat compulsively to try to make myself feel better.  Yes, I know that’s completely inappropriate thinking because compulsive eating really doesn’t ever make me feel better.  It’s one of the lies that my disease tells me.

Thankfully, I was still wearing the bracelet that I’ve designated as my helpful talisman for this endeavor.  (As suggested in the Always Hungry book.)  Before I opened the fridge door, I looked at the bracelet and tapped it.  I purposely tried to connect with my reasons for wanting to stay on program and remain abstinent.  That simply action – the tap and reconnect – helped me step back from the edge of overwhelming emotion.  I was able to take a few deep breaths, calm my thoughts and try to look at what was going on.  About then is when I realized that the swingy emotions could be a result of the cold turkey abstaining from processed carbs and refined sugar. Having the realization calmed me down a little more  I sat quietly for a few moments with an ice pack on my knee and worked on settling myself even further.  Before long I was no longer emotionally ricocheting and the desire to bury my feelings with food had eased.

I went into the kitchen and prepared my planned dessert and then sat down at the table and ate it slowly while savoring the taste, texture and mouth feel.  After that, I felt like I could tackle the food prep tasks and have everything ready for a good day today.  Before settling into watch some television later on, I wrote emails to the Tai Chi friends and apologized for rushing off, citing the knee pain and need to treat it.

By the time I went to bed, I was back on an even keel and got a good night’s sleep.

This was a valuable experience for me.   From the beginning of letting the emotional reactions rule to acknowledging the impulse to eat to working through the process without eating, all the way to bringing myself back down, I re-learned a valuable lesson.  No matter what, I can be stronger than the compulsion.  I don’t have to eat, no matter how strongly compelling the urge.

I also learned again that processed carbs and sugar can be addictive so getting away from them can wreak a little havoc.  However, that havoc is temporary.  It doesn’t, and won’t, control my life.

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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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