Weighty Matters

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Never an Expert

I’m not an expert about eating disorders or weight loss surgery, nor do I ever want to portray one on this blog.  One of the things that I always liked about OA is that nobody portrays themselves as experts or gives advice.  (At least, nobody is supposed to.)  We share about our own experiences — good, bad, or down the middle.

I’ve joined a couple of closed groups on Facebook.  One is for Compulsive Overeaters.  It is not an OA group, but many of the regular posters are in program.  The other group is for people who are following the Always Hungry? plan.  Nearly every day, I see people come to the groups who are newcomers and hope to find answers.

I can see myself in those people.  When I first went to OA, even though I was familiar with 12 Step programs through my mom, part of me still held onto the hope that somebody would give me the magic answer that would solve all of my problems; the magic that would “cure” me.

No such magic exists because there is no cure for this eating disorder or any addictive disease.  We’re never recovered.   Instead, we are always seeking to be recovering.  If I answer a question or say anything at all about the struggle and what I do or have done, it’s never with the idea of, “This is how you do it”.  No, it’s definitely, “This is how I do it” or “This is what I’ve done” or “This is what I’ve discovered in myself”.

What happens with me might not happen to the next person.  Definitely, there are commonalities among many people, but we aren’t carbon copies of each other.  How my eating disorder manifests in me could be completely different than the person sitting next to me, so my recovery, what and how I need to do it, will be different.

It’s good for me to remember this as I participate more often in these online groups.  I can see where some people appear to relish a role of more prominence and voice their opinions of what someone else needs to do.  That kind of grates on me, particular when someone is talking to or answering me.

I might be an expert on myself, but never on anyone else.  I want to always respect other people and what they experience and live with.  If something that I share about resonates with somebody else, that’s one thing.  I know that over the years, I have learned a great deal from others who share openly and honestly about themselves.  That’s what works for me and, I hope, what works for others.

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Anatomy of a Good Recovery Day

It’s almost 11 p.m. and I’m going to bed soon.  I wanted to report that I’ve had a good day, one in which I stayed abstinent from compulsive eating and stuck to my food plan.  One day down and one day is all I need.  When I wake up tomorrow I’ll plan on making it another good day of recovery.

I know it’s helpful for me to reflect on what I did to have a good, abstinent day.  Sharing about it on this blog also serves as reinforcement.

Last night I talked about being prepared, so today’s effort actually began last night when I prepped the food I planned to eat while at work.  Can’t remember if I’ve explained my overall food plan in a while, but I eat six times a day.  That works out to three “meals” and three snacks.  Very often, there isn’t an appreciable increase in volume at the “meals”, although my tendency is to have dinner be a somewhat larger meal.  I’m trying to change that too, over time.

So, for today — I fixed a protein shake for breakfast with a small banana.  I had a couple of cups of hot black tea with a small splash of half ‘n half.  My mid-morning snack included a couple reasonable tablespoons of spinach-artichoke hummus with two celery stalks and half a dozen baby carrots.  I had a cup of green tea at work at around the same time.  After that I filled up my water glass too.  For lunch I prepared a chocolate protein shake.  That satisfied me until it was time for a mid-afternoon cup of green tea and a small apple for snack time.

For dinner, I steamed a spaghetti squash and cooked up some crushed tomatoes into a nice sauce.  I then put the two together along with a couple of ounces of fresh mozarella.  Another cup of tea in the evening was followed by about 3/4 of a naval orange.

As I said I planned to when discussing my homemade lean-green-clean plan, I avoided chocolate, all candy, bread, crackers, cookies, cakes and potatoes.

For exercise, I took Nat and Pyxi out for a short walk this morning and a longer walk after dinner.  I also did a set of Tai Chi.

All of this – the food, eating and exercise – covers the physical aspect of the program.  For the emotional/mental part, I read the daily message in one of my books and revisited the written explanation of Step One.  Knowing how supportive my friends at work are about all of my efforts, I “came clean” to them by explaining my decision to go lean-green-clean to a stricter degree than usual.  I don’t want them to police my eating, but it’s helpful to my mindset if I’m honest and open about what I’m experiencing.  It helps me with my accountability to myself.

I also acknowledged to my Higher Power that I am simply grateful for all of the blessings and lessons in my life and asked for help in experiencing a day of recovery instead of relapse.  This balanced out the three-legged stool with the spiritual side.

For most of the day, the effort was fairly easy, relatively speaking.  Granted I psyched myself up for it and brought forth strong motivation.  Also granted, this was only the first day — one day.  Still, it’s something on which to build with a whole series of “one day at a time”.  Tonight has been the most difficult part of the day.  About an hour ago, I started feeling hungry.  At least, I think I was really feeling it, but it’s sometimes hard for me to differentiate between real, actual hunger and mental hunger.  Whether it’s one or the other isn’t as important as what I chose to do about what I experienced.  I chose not to eat something that wasn’t pre-planned.  I chose to remain in recovery.

That was the choice today.  That’s the choice I’ll wake up and make in the morning.  I’d like to have another good food day of recovery.

 

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Lean, Green, Clean – and a Little Bit Mean

I haven’t been away from the blog because I’ve been sulking about my relapse.  The day after I last posted I started on a whirlwind including a work-week away in Washington, D.C. for business.  It’s been crazy, that’s for sure.

I haven’t had a lot of time to myself but what little I’ve had, i used to really think about what I’m doing, what I’m not doing, and what I need to do.   I conducted a personal inventory and considered different approaches to get me out of relapse and back on the road of recovery.

Half measures avail me nothing.  I can’t pretend that if I just do the program mostly right I’ll be okay.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.

So, I retook the first step, which in the 12 Steps means that I admit I’m powerless over food and my eating disorder and that my life has become unmanageable.  To someone who isn’t familiar with the steps, powerless and unmanageable might seem dramatic, but I know what I’m feeling and experiencing and they are very real.

I also know how crappy my body feels inside and out.  You know, I never used to know the difference because for decades I always ate huge quantities of poor quality food and that’s what was familiar.  Then, after weight loss surgery I had a couple of years where I ate really high quality food and my system got to know how great that felt.  So, now that I’ve been eating less quality and more junk, I feel it in my sluggish system and lower energy.  Plus there’s the extra pounds I regained.  Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but enough that I feel them in my waistbands and see them in the mirror.

I am geared up and prepared to retake all of the steps and go to every length to regain recovery.  Right now, I don’t think this is something I can ease into, so I’ve decided to start off super strict  – lean, green and clean.

Vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, leaner proteins more often than red meat, less fatty cheese that I like to pretend is a protein, no fried foods.  Saying goodbye to a slice of toast here and there, a bagel, a potato and pasta.

I’m cutting out candy – even the one or two little bites that, in themselves, aren’t enough to mess me up, but that can lead me to the craving for more and more.  I’m cutting out processed dessert items – cookies, cake, pie, ice cream.  If it isn’t something that grew and was picked – as in fruit –  I’m not eating it.

Look, I know that all of the above mentioned foods are okay in moderation, but right now holding myself to moderation is the issue.  Believe it or not, it’s an easier choice to just say no.

I have a lot of tasty tools to help me.  There’s the aforementioned fresh fruits and vegetables.  I have good quality protein powders to mix up in smoothies.

I also have the knowledge.  I’ve learned so much in the last three plus years and all of this will help.

For today, I have the willingness.   Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have the willingness again.  A day or two from now when I’m craving something fried or want a sweet chunk of chocolate, I hope that the willingness and desire for recovery will be strong enough to battle the cravings and the possible bitchiness I’ll no doubt experience.

Yes, that’s a side effect.  Even when I rationally know that I’m doing the best, healthy things for myself, I can still get bitchy about the whole thing.  That’s the mean that I referred to in the post’s title.

My program books will be at my bedside, helping me work on the spiritual and emotional aspects of recovery.

Before I sat down to write this post, I prepared and packaged my food for tomorrow.  The fight for my own recovery is on, my friends.  I’m locked and loaded.

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Rant Alert:

Has anyone else seen the television ads for the “Mixify” initiative? Apparently Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi are reaching out to our country’s youth to help them learn how to balance what they eat and drink with their activity level.  The cynical part of me says that they want people to exercise more so that they can keep drinking soda.  The less-cynical part of me says that achieving that balance is important and if the ad helps young people do this, then who cares who’s delivering the message?

The cynical part of me just looked at the other part and said, “Yeah, right.”

What really gets me about the television ad is the actress doing the voiceover.  To my ear, she sounds a great deal like First Lady Michele Obama.  Since her husband took office as president, Mrs. Obama has campaigned to fight childhood obesity, increase children’s activity, and help everyone develop better, healthier eating habits.

I can’t help but believe that the beverage companies’ ad agency deliberately tried to link the Mixify campaign to Mrs. Obama.  They probably went through dozens of auditions before they found someone with a similar voice.

Honestly, I don’t know why, but the commercial annoys me every time I hear it.

 

 

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Self-Directed Anger

I’m pretty pissed off at myself.  I’m angry about the way that I’m eating, the food choices I’ve been making, and the unhealthy behaviors that I continue to reinforce.

It might be difficult to understand the difference between beating up on myself and being angry with myself, but right now, this type of anger actually feels healthier and more productive.  It’s better than turning it inward into depression and then eating over it because I’m sad and depressed about my disease.  It absolutely is a lot better for me than denial.   It’s also cleaner and more constructive than just telling myself I’m badbadbad, useless, weak-willed and all of that crap that I am also capable of saying.

I’m looking to use this temper and straight-talk myself into positive action.

One positive action is as simple as acknowledging the anger and all of my feelings and then letting myself experience them instead of smothering them with food.

So, anger can be positive when appropriately channeled.  It helps to reinforce the wake-up call that I desperately need and then shore up the motivation and constructive actions to reclaim recovery.

Speaking of reclaiming recovery, I went through half a dozen boxes from my storage unit today, sorting through things that I’d put away for quite some time.  In one of the boxes, I found two of my OA books.  No coincidence that they would reappear in my life right now when I so badly need them for study and healing!

No coincidence at all.

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Are You Balanced?

“Are you balanced?” Our instructors at last week’s Tai Chi workshops asked us that time and time again.  In the moment, it meant if we felt we were balanced in our bodies.  To properly balance requires a lot of different aspects to line up.  The first is the actual alignment, the stacking of my body over my feet.  Then there’s the notion of “equal and opposite force”.  When I stand up to kick, the intention in my hands and arms as I position them aids my balance.

Every time I practice my Tai Chai, I keep the question in mind and ask myself if I’m balanced.  It reminds me to strive for that feeling as I do the moves.  When I am balanced, I move with greater control and flow, as well as an absence of pain in my creakier joints.  I have to say that I feel wonderful in those moments.  They don’t always happen and, when necessary, it’s okay for me to use a prop foot, but I know how balanced feels and that’s the goal.

Balance infuses all of Tai Chi.  There’s a natural balance to be sought between body, mind and spirit.  Expanding out from the martial art, I seek balance in all areas of my life.  In OA, we sometimes talk about the three legged stool.  The “legs” are physical, mental, and emotional.  If those are not in balance, our foundation is uneven and doesn’t provide proper support.  We tilt and rock, spending more time adjusting or compensating for the part of our life that’s out of whack.

When I’m out of balance I am more vulnerable to my compulsive eating disease.  In those times, I most need to be aware of the which “leg” of the stool is shaky and do what I need to in order to secure it and bring myself back into balance.

Today I felt balanced all day.   I was able to sleep in a little this morning.  When I woke up, after I took care of the dogs, I went out on my porch to enjoy a beautiful day.  I did my Tai Chi foundation exercises, followed by a set.  Then I practiced a couple of moves that challenge me balance-wise.  I worked on finding my balance point in those moves so that I can remember how it feels when I do them right.  That muscle memory will help the next time.

I’d made plans to go to breakfast with a friend to celebrate her new job.  I knew that I would have the treat of a mimosa and some breakfast treats.  To compensate, instead of driving, we road our bikes.  After the meal, which was delicious, I opted to extend my bike ride a few more miles.  This balanced out the caloric intake a little, I think.  (Don’t worry, I only had one mimosa and we lingered over the meal so my cycling was not impaired.)

After an enjoyable ride, which benefited me emotionally as well as physically, I came home and addressed a variety of tasks inside and out of the house.  It’s a great feeling when I get things done instead of procrastinating.  I feel sharper mentally when I complete things and cross them off of my list.

In between, of course, there was also time for some dog cuddling and simply breathing in the fresh air while relaxing on the porch and watching boats cruise by.  These things warm and settle me emotionally.

Sunday afternoons, some of us get together at the beach to do more Tai Chi and this provided another opportunity not only for physical activity, but also relaxation and a connection to spirit.

When I got home, I prepared a nutritious and yummy dinner.  I think the act of cooking healthy food nourishes all three aspects of my balance.  I’ve discussed before that the evening hours are often challenging for me to remain with my food plan.  That’s when I most often want to eat or overeat on junk food.   Being in a balanced state freed me of the compulsion tonight.  I stuck with my plan to eat half an apple for a snack.

A few paragraphs ago I talked about paying attention so that I can feel my balance points in different moves.  Tonight, I’m looking back over the day and paying attention to how spending it in balance feels.  Hopefully, this self-awareness will make it easier for me to find this balance point again.

So, how are you doing?  Are you balanced?

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The Ones Who Really Understand

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

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

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

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

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

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Defining Abstinence

I was talking to a friend the other day about working on my abstinence.  She asked me to explain.  Have you ever noticed how sometimes your nose is so close against the window of your own issue that you forget the rest of the world isn’t pressed against the glass too?

I thought it might make a good topic to discuss.  The more I work on my own abstinence, the better off I’ll be.

When I first went to a therapist who explained that I had an eating disorder, I was also lucky to have picked one who was in OA herself.  Not only did I begin to be exposed to different ideas about the way I used food, but I started to learn a new vocabulary and new understanding to go with words I knew in different contexts.

Like abstinence for starters.  I knew that for an alcoholic or drug addict, abstinence meant they abstained from drinking alcohol or using drugs.  It’s different for overeaters.  We can’t abstain from consuming food of some sort.  So, abstinence for me means refraining from the behavior of compulsive eating, not avoiding the substance.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve wondered whether it would be easier for me if I actually could go through life no eating at all.  Would the black and white choice of Don’t eat/eat be less of a challenge than having to control when/how/what I eat all of the time.  In a few decades I’ve never determined an answer.  It’s the never ending pondering.

When the therapist first worked with me on attaining abstinence, I was in the grips of a horrible, long-term bout of binge eating.  I’d consume huge quantities of food every day – mostly in the evenings.  I didn’t have a clue how to stop or how to define what abstinence meant for me.

We started with broad strokes that purposely did not require me to limit my quantity per se.  Here’s how it worked.  The goal was for me to experience not giving into the compulsion to eat something just because it was there, or I wanted it, or because I wanted it and it was there.  My first abstinence plan was to wake up and determine what and how much I would eat that day — organized into six meals.  In order for me to claim abstinence that day, I could not eat anything other than I’d planned or eat at any other time than a pre-set meal.

So, if I woke up in the morning and planned that dinner would be an entire pizza, then I was within my abstinence guidelines.  If, however, I planned to eat three pieces of pizza at dinner and then had a fourth – then I was not abstinent.  If I ate two pieces at dinner but then grabbed another piece later that evening, I wasn’t being abstinent.

Sounds a little nutty, doesn’t it?  It was drastic, but it worked.  I learned a lot by employing that method.  After a while, I was able to structure my abstinence to something closer to reasonable nutritional guidelines, but harnessing the disease eating behavior was the most important thing for me in the beginning.

I know what my abstinence needs to be – for today.  A small “meal” every couple of hours, for six times a day.  Do not deviate and pick up extra food at an unplanned time.  Eat in the balanced proportions of my 21 Day Fix.

I’ve talked about my issues with available Halloween candy.  It’s a trigger food for sure.  So today when I set up my abstinence plan, I committed to not grabbing a piece of candy out of the plastic pumpkin currently hanging out in the office kitchen prior to lunchtime.  I have myself permission to have a piece with my lunch but none before 12 noon.  For me, abstinence does not mean never eating chocolate or another sweet treat.  If I want that piece of chocolate, I can have it – as long, and this is the key part, I’ve planned when and how much of it I’m going to eat.  The fact that I held to that plan was a victory for me.  I feel really good about it.

Every time I choose my abstinence and resist the urge to eat compulsively, it’s a win.  Wins are positive things.  Positive actions are foundations on which to build.

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Own Your Awesome

Years ago in OA, I learned that binge can be an acronym for B.elieving I.’m N.ot G.ood E.nough. That perfectly applied to me. I had lousy self-esteem and, as I’ve discussed here before, never really felt like anything I did or accomplished was good enough. Nothing was as good as it could have or should have been. I wasn’t smart enough or charming enough; my personality and persona weren’t attractive or nice or funny enough. I was obese so, naturally, I wasn’t pretty enough. The answer I never quite figured out was the comparison point, the yardstick against which I unceasingly measured myself and decided I was lacking.

It took me a long, long, freaking-long time to accept that I’m not just good enough, I am more than good enough. In fact, I am capable of being absolutely awesome.

Okay, I just fought a little battle with myself over that last sentence. I wondered whether I should delete it or leave it. Since you read it, you know which choice won — and that’s the whole point of this blog post.

I need to own my awesome. Everybody does, but this blog is about me. For now anyway. I’ll get to the rest of you in a minute. 🙂

Today I was able to finish the project that’s been driving me nuts and causing me stress for the last couple of weeks. This was outside my normal job responsibilities but our president asked me to take it on for our national organization because it needed to be done and done well. She asked me to do the project because she knows I’m awesome and would get it done. For a lot of those decades that I believed I wasn’t good enough, there were many people in my life who thought differently. They believed in me, loved me, thought the absolute best of me but I could never internalize that into self-belief and good self-esteem.

These days, I promise, I’m not turning into some egotistical blowhard but I think that it’s healthy to understand our own awesomeness. In fact, I think it’s absolutely necessary. If we don’t acknowledge, accept, internalize, celebrate and own our awesomeness, we damage ourselves. For whatever reason that I developed the crappy self-esteem in the first place, I spent years not doing anything effective to counter it. At some point I had to take responsibility for allowing the mindset to continue. I’m going to own that too, but it’s old water under an ancient bridge, so I’m not going to beat myself up over it either. I am, however, refusing to let it dam up the flow of my recovery.

I think it will help my continued recovery if I make the time to acknowledge my good qualities. I need to remind myself of all the positive things about me so that I don’t ever fall into that believing I’m not good enough state again. If I own my awesomeness, I don’t need to overeat in order to suppress the bad feelings because, hey, I won’t feel so bad anymore.

Okay, you know that I don’t urge you all to comment, although I am always thrilled when someone does. I know that you’re here reading, even if you lurk. However, I’m going to take part in a little exercise and I would absolutely love it if you all would participate with me. Let’s all own our awesomeness and list some examples.

I’ll go first. I rock my job. I’m a loyal friend. I demonstrate caring even to strangers at the store or on the street. I’m not afraid to try new experiences. I look for ways to positively reinforce and empower other people.

Those are five ways that I’m awesome. What are five ways that you can claim? Come on now, please share them with us so that we can all celebrate together.

Own your awesomeness!

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The Impulse to Eat

It’s 9 p.m. on the first day of my seven day reboot and I’ve had a good day. I stuck to the plan and did not deviate with compulsive eating. Protein smoothies, yummy organic soups, a sugar free cherry ice. Everything was delicious but to quote a saying from OA, nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels. I also enjoyed some green tea and kept hydrated with water throughout the day.

I picked up the pups from the boarding facility after work and spent time playing with them at home. After feeding them, it was still such a lovely evening that I set out for a bike ride. I logged between eight and nine miles. All told, right now I feel pretty good for the day.

Do any of you use the MyFitnessPal app? I hadn’t logged my food for awhile and recently downloaded an update. Love the improvements! I am particularly fond of the scanner that reads the bar code on products and gives me the nutritional data. So much more convenient than having to input the numbers myself or scroll through the database.

Even though I had a successful day, I won’t say that sticking to my abstinence and plan was a slam dunk. I was very aware of how easily the impulse to eat catches my attention. For example, someone left the rest of a bag of granola in the kitchen in the “If it’s here, it’s up for grabs” location. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, saw the bag of granola and reached for it. My response was that automatic. Thankfully, I stopped myself, got the hot water I wanted, and left the room.

I don’t know how many times throughout the day that I get food impulses, but I know it happens a lot. It sort of sucks, to be honest. Part of the struggle is armoring myself against the thoughts. These aren’t the same things as physical urges I used to experience when I was in the process of quitting smoking. I wish they were. One of the most effective pieces of information I gained during the smoking cessation programs was that there is a timeline to the physical urge for nicotine. More importantly, that urge will pass whether or not you smoke. The whole arc lasts about 10 minutes, but if you make it through the peak when the urge is strongest, the desire will ease. (Side note: I’m approaching my 27th anniversary of quitting smoking. Booyah!)

Unfortunately, the food obsession doesn’t behave in the same way, so I work on other methods like redirecting my attention, distracting myself with another activity, substituting something else like a drink of water or tea, or just trying to ignore the urges. The practice of just saying no also comes into play.

Today, I was successful. I hope that success breeds more success. It might happen one impulse at a time to build one day at a time, but I’m ready to give it all my best shot again tomorrow.

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