Weighty Matters

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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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I’m Okay, Even When I Think I’m Not

I have some friends who, if they voice a negative thought, express an idea that could be, shall we say, a harbinger of doom, quickly say, “Cancel!”  I believe it has to do with intention.  If we think negative thoughts, speculate about bad things that could happen, expect darkness instead of light, we could signal those things as intentions and then our energy or actions lead to manifesting them in our lives.

I’m not a doom and gloom person by nature.  While not exactly Pollyanna, I do try to be more positive and anticipate the brighter side of life.  So, it’s puzzling that I can still sometimes fall into thinking negative thoughts about myself and my accomplishments.  Thoughts are powerful things.  I always have to work on not letting my diseased thinking affect my outlook and the way that I feel about the good that I’ve done and continue to do for myself.

So, I’m employing the “Cancel” technique on myself.  When I catch myself thinking something unproductive, something that represents me putting myself down, I cancel the thought.  It’s not always easy to do this.  For one, it’s another exercise in being self-aware and mindful.

Here’s an example:  “You haven’t made another doctor’s appointment.  You’re giving up.  You can’t lose any more weight.”

Of those three statements, only one is true.  I haven’t rescheduled my appointment with the surgeon.  However, it’s absolutely not true that I can’t lose more weight and I’m giving up.  So, cancel, cancel.

Truth:  I’m healthy and in good shape.  I will not regain my weight.  I will lose more, regardless of the pace.  If I don’t want to go to the doctor right now, that’s okay.  I may or may not go back to him in the future.  Again, it’s okay.  He got me on the road and I can manage myself from here on out.

There’s no need for me to contradict myself, to devalue my truth and reality.  Why let that grow roots in my own psyche when I can nurture more positive attitudes and action, right?

So, even when I think I’m not, I really am okay.

 

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Living Life

For the last few days I’ve just been living my life and not stressing on what I have or haven’t done, what’s still to be accomplished, etc. My goal has been to eat reasonably, not focus on weight gain, not gain anything more. maintain physical activity and just be happy with myself. I’m not moping or engaging in behavior or thoughts that make me feel bad about myself. I’m being centered within myself. I got out for longer walks with the dogs. I’ve done more Tai Chi at home. I feel more balanced and on a more even keel.

I’m also looking forward to a short trip to spend time with family and friends. The vacation will do me good. I need some chill time.

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy when I should be my own strongest ally. The things I say to myself, what I feel, how I react can damage my serenity and mess up my equilibrium. You know that saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”? It strikes me that this kindness approach needs to start with the person each of us sees first when we look in the mirror. Judge not, including not myself. Be as supportive to myself as I am to my friends. Overall this helps my recovery instead of harming it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus. Stay balanced. Cancel negative thoughts. Be kind and supportive to myself.

I feel much better when I take this approach.

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Chattering Monkeys

Chattering Monkeys is a term we use at Tai Chi for the distracting thoughts that assail our minds. As I learned in a book that I recently read, it’s akin to the term monkey mind that Buddhists use. Call the condition what you want, it indicates not being mindful.

I continue in my quest to become more mindful. My priority is to be mindful and aware about my eating habits, specifically my compulsive eating. When I am not vigilant and aware, I eat things that I don’t want, am not hungry for, and that are not on my food plan.

One of the reasons I love practicing Tai Chi is that it is like meditation in motion. I can be totally present in the practice, focusing on the moves, the flow, the actions of my body as I do the moves. There is very little room for stressful or distracting thoughts when I am focused. When I get distracted, I either don’t do the moves correctly or to their fullest extent for the most benefit, or I lose my place and forget what comes after whatever move I just did. So, quieting those chattering monkeys helps, but it takes practice like everyone else.

Knowing how my meditation in motion benefits me, I’ve lately been interested in learning more about sitting meditation. The closest I’ve come to trying it in the past was to do some deep breathing exercises and, honestly, my mind wanders quickly even when I’m trying to rein it in. In thinking about meditation, it feels like it will help improve mindfulness. Improved mindfulness could lead to more control over the impulse to eat food in compulsive ways.

I recently finished a book by ABC news anchor Dan Harris in which he talks about his journey into self-awareness, learning more about mindfulness, and becoming a meditator. The book is called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — a True Story.

I’m glad I bought the e-book on my Kindle, although I would love to see how they fit that entire title on the spine of the book.

I admired Harris’s candor in writing about his life and career including a couple of panic attacks that he suffered while live on the air on Good Morning America, the coke addiction he developed, and his brutally honest assessment of his own personality, work drive, insecurities, etc. When I say brutally honest, I mean it. He all but says that he tended to be an asshole sometimes. I was surprised to find out the things I did about his life off camera. I’ve watched him do tv news for years and never suspected that he had problems with insecurity, anxiety, stress and other issues.

The long and short of the book is that he looked for answers to his problems, exploring various paths and approaches, including the writings of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Joseph Goldstein, and others. He ultimately learned that meditation helped him realize all of the things he included in his lengthy book title.

What he experienced in the process resonated with me. Things like responding to situations, not reacting. Taming that voice in my head that triggers poor decisions. And again, the whole idea of mindfulness. This book is my first foray into reading about meditation. I’m going to read more and if any of you are meditators and have suggestions, please share some in comments. In the meantime, I’m working on five minutes a day of simply focusing on my breathing, being in the present, noticing what I’m feeling or hearing and, most importantly, bringing myself back to focus when the chattering monkeys in my head attempt to distract me. Once I can consistently do five minutes, I’ll see if I can extend the time.

In other news, I’ve been away from the blog for awhile, mostly because my living space is in disarray, including my laptop not being set up in its regular position. For several months, I’d planned to get some remodeling work done on my living room/dining room area. I thought it would happen in August, but the guy was available now, so we rushed in and started last week. The dining room walls and ceiling have already been ripped down and rebuilt with new sheet rock, including new insulation where needed. Fast progress. I picked out the trim, crown molding and baseboards I want. I’ve pored over paint options. (OMG, have you ever gone to Houzz.com? It’s like design brain crack! I spent hours looking at room designs until my eyes blurred.)

John just has to prime, paint and do the trim, molding and baseboards and the dining room will be done. Then we’ll rearrange so he can do the other half of the space, which is the living room. It’s a little disruptive but manageable.

I also had an incredibly busy work week. Seems I say that a lot these months. It isn’t super stressful, but there are nights when I just don’t have the brain alertness to blog. On the last blog post I did, I actually fell asleep at the keyboard while writing and typing. When I’m that tired, it’s a challenge to be coherent. Rather than produce drivel, I opted for a few days’ break.

Hopefully my brain will not be as challenged this week. I have some things underway that I think are positive developments and processing them with the blog always helps.

How are all of you?

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Instead of Eating

Compulsively eating or binge eating were my go-to behaviors when stressed/upset/angry/sad/fearful/pick-an-emotion for so long. Developing another strategy and coming up with different coping behaviors is an on-going effort. There are always better choices, but making those choices when I’m in the midst of the emotional reaction or situation is always a big time challenge.

The fact is that I really don’t “need” those old behaviors in order to cope. Binge eating or chowing down on chocolate or some other sweet doesn’t really make it easier to cope. A candy bar never solved a problem.

I need to remind myself of that every time I’m tempted to relapse into disease behavior because of an upsetting situation. The candy bar, handful of cookies, half pint of ice cream or whatever won’t solve the problem. Thinking that they’ll help me cope is a convenient, comfortable lie. Not only will they not make me feel better, eating them in that compulsive manner usually makes me feel worse.

Today I had tons more stress over some things at work than is normal. I can’t tell you how many times I remembered that there were still plenty of cookies, brownies and pastries in the kitchen and heard my brain say, “You need one. Go get it.”

I don’t need one, or six. That’s the truth. What I needed, and worked for, was to not compound the upset by binging out on sweets. I drank water and hot tea. I got up and took a walk. I focused on the tasks at hand. I vented a little. In short, I did whatever else I could instead of acting out by eating. At the end of the day, I was still stressed by the situations and workload, but I definitely felt better about it all than I would have if I’d eaten junk.

The long and short of it all is that there are countless other things to do instead of eat. Remembering this before I eat, is the key. It goes back to being mindful and making the most appropriate choices to foster my recovery.

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