Weighty Matters

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Eating Slowly

For most of my life, I’ve eaten quickly. While I stop short of shoveling in the food, I know that I still eat too fast. It’s a good suggestion to slowwww down. Chew thoroughly. Pause before delivering another forkful or spoonful of food to the mouth. It’s also part of mindful eating. When I eat more slowly, I pay more attention to what I’m eating, how it tastes, and how I feel as I eat.

I’m horrible at it. I do all the wrong things sometimes like eat while watching television. I’m better when I share a meal out but that’s because I’m more conscious of what I’m doing. Plus, I’m chatting with whomever is at the table with me.

It is difficult for me to figure out why eating slowly remains a challenging skill. Sometimes I think it goes back to the compulsion. We sneak eaters are like pickpockets — make the grab and quickly conceal the prize so we don’t get caught.

Anyway, it’s a very hard habit to break. It’s one more area, however, where the weight loss surgery is such an effective tool. Prior to surgery, when I ate too fast, I could easily eat more than I wanted or needed because the food was already ingested before my stomach transmitted the signal that it was full. Now if I eat too fast, my stomach immediately feels uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable. My goal is to not put myself through that, nor do I want to risk eating too much. It is possible to stretch out the small pouch of stomach that remains. I plan to avoid that happening.

If I pay more mindful attention to my pace, I usually enjoy the meal more. It takes time to savor the flavors, the textures, even the aroma of good food. You miss a lot when you don’t let a lot of time lapse between plate and mouth. Eating slowly helps me to feel my satisfaction develop and reduces my eating disorder reflex to still want more. Not eating more when my mind tells me I really want to just creates unnecessary stress. I have to argue with myself to stay on track.

The contrary thing is that I know the techniques that help me eat slow. Knowing them and using them on a regular basis often prove to be two different things. So, once more I return to the basics. Look at my food and my eating one bite at a time for one meal at a time. Through that I can progress to eating slowly one day at a time. So, tomorrow is another day. I have a goal. Be mindful and slow in my eating for breakfast and build from that point on.

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Nourishing Recovery

Feeding my recovery is as important as feeding my body. It’s sometimes more difficult. Protein, veggies, fruit, fluids, the occasional carbs, good fats — that kind of nourishment I understand and everything is readily accessible. Figuring out the nourishment for my emotional and mental recovery is challenging because what I need changes and it isn’t something I can find at the supermarket.

I’m still focusing on the “success breeds success” idea. By acknowledging each positive step, every good day on my food plan, making my daily exercise goals, I positively reinforce myself for my own effort. It’s like a self-delivered pat on the back and “atta girl” instead of a head slap. This nourishes the mental aspect of my recovery. When I do it successfully, it helps me do it successfully again the next time.

I guess it’s the emotional aspects that are the most challenging to feed and reinforce. Maybe it’s more that they can be the most uncomfortable to examine and then develop new ways of feeling and reacting which leads to improved, healthier choices. Choosing an attitude of gratitude first thing in the morning helps. Feeling grateful sets me up in a good way and opens up my spirit. Owning my awesomeness might have sounded cutesy to some, but it’s serious stuff to me. As confident as I am in many areas of my life, I can backslide into esteem issues.

Recognizing the challenges and setting up a proactive mindset usually impacts my emotions. Thinking of things for which I’m grateful, leads to voicing those things and that creates the positive emotion. If I acknowledge an awesome thing about myself — whether it’s an ability, an attitude, an — and really own it, that makes it real and keeps my esteem and the way I feel about myself at a good, steady level.

Even choosing this as a topic matters. It reinforces the importance of tending my recovery, nourishing it with everything that it needs to grow and thrive. My recovery isn’t just important. It’s important. Without it, my life and health can disintegrate. I want to always remember this and keep putting the emphasis on it that it deserves and needs. That I need.

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Success Breeds Success

The better that I do with my recovery, the better that I do. Profound today, aren’t I? 😉 This goes along with a couple of other old saws such as it’s easier to stay on the wagon than to climb back up, better to stay on top of the pain than try to catch up to it, and, what the heck, I’ll throw in that it’s harder to hit a moving target.

Okay, perhaps I have some silliness mixing in with the profundity. Here’s what’s going on. I’ve have several really good days, back to back, with both my eating and my exercise. My body is responding by not sticking to its plateau so I’ve had great weight loss over the last four days. This success helps my mindset when I’m tempted to indulge in carbs or overeat chocolate. Temptation is always all around me. What differs is my response and resistance. When faced with the opportunity to eat inappropriately, if I stop and say to myself, “Self, you’re on a roll. Don’t stop the momentum. Stay on track”, I can usually keep from indulging. That helps me build another successful day which can lead to more positive emotions and additional weight loss. And so it goes.

The better I do today, the more likely I am to see results which motivates me to do well tomorrow which leads to… you get the idea.

Recovery really is achieved one day at a time or, sometimes, one meal at a time. I want to stay on the wagon rolling forward so that I can lose the remaining weight and transition to maintenance. At this point in the progress, pounds come off in fits and starts instead of one long, lovely, constant progression. Better to keep fueling the momentum and let success continue to breed success.

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Fighting Back – Day Two

Thanks to the no-junk-carbs, healthy foods, lots of fluids approach yesterday, I’ve flushed two pounds of the evil water weight out of my body. Two more to go and I’ll be back on track.

In the midst of this I had the “Oh Yeah”, mental head smack, “D’oh!” moment. I really am supposed to eat like this all of the time while I’m still on the reducing phase of my weight loss journey. It’s not like I’ve been awful, playing fast and loose with my food plan, but clearly I have not been as “rigorously honest” with the effort as I thought. In retrospect, I will cop to what I know realize was some form of denial.

I wasn’t bingeing. I wasn’t completely immersed in compulsive eating. I was probably eating more like I will as a “normal” person. Eating well-balanced, healthy meals, indulging with a few treats here and there, but not going crazy to the point where I kept gaining pound after pound after pound.

The thing is that I’m not yet in the phase where this is the way that I should be eating. I still have weight to lose, so I was stalling my own effort. There is a LOT of great news in this realization. Just the fact that I actually can eat like a so-called “normal” person is encouraging. I’ve never been able to do that for a sustained period of time. ***I hate the term “normal person” or “normal eating” but, unfortunately, I can’t think of better, more appropriate terms right now to convey what I mean.*** I’ve now been on this journey for more than two years and, overall, I’m doing great! This gives me enormous encouragement that when it’s time for me to transition to maintenance and the future lifestyle of eating, I’m going to continue to be successful.

This eliminates an enormous fear. Deep in my heart, I’ve been almost afraid to believe that I will not gain back all of my weight. I’ve been terrified that I will revert to the old pattern, the way that I did every single other time I dieted. I am now cautiously learning to have faith and believe that I truly am converting to a person who will sustain life time recovery. These are not just “for now” changes. I’m in it to win it for the rest of my life.

For now, however, I need to maintain the rigorous honesty of my “losing” food plan. I’m fighting back against the lure of carbs and too much sugar. It’s day two of this week’s fight, and I’m committed to success. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and commit again. Recovery is achieved by successfully living a series of “One Day at a Time” efforts.

I feel lighter today, not just in body, but also in spirit. I was growing weary of the losing effort. Today I am newly inspired.

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Addictions, Relapse and the Never Ending Struggle

Many of us were shocked by the news of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death. I didn’t know he was a heroin addict. I’m always sad when I hear that someone, anyone, dies because of their addiction. Aaron Sorkin made a great point. Hoffman didn’t die because of an overdose. He died because of the drug – period. A friend of mine who is a cop and rather hard line, posted to Facebook that this was not a tragedy. I politely disagreed. I think whenever someone has an addiction, it’s tragic. When that addiction results in their death, even more so.

Toda on This Week (ABC Sunday News Program), they had a segment about the growing use of heroin. I was surprised to hear that it is actually less expensive to buy heroin on the street than it is to illegally obtain prescription drugs like oxycodone. Oxycodone addiction is no joke either and one of the speakers spoke of it as almost a gateway drug to heroin. Some people start on oxycodone when it is prescribed as a painkiller for an injury, surgery, etc. When they get hooked but can then no longer get their doctors to prescribe them more because the condition has resolved, some seek out street heroin.

There was another commentator on the show who looked like the least likely heroin addict ever. Clean cut, perfect suit and tie, Harvard grad, eminently successful. He’s been in recovery from his addiction for years and baldly stated that he knows he could at some point relapse and be back into his addiction. They interviewed someone else who said the same thing. The doctor-expert pointed out that every addict or alcoholic he’s ever spoken to never describes themselves as recovered. They say “recovering”.

I don’t think of one substance as being more powerful or more addictive than another. I don’t care if the addiction is to cigarettes, alcohol, pot, painkillers, heroin, cocaine, or food. They’re all equal. When one is addicted, it becomes a never-ending struggle, with them for the rest of their lives.

That’s how I feel about food. I know that to someone who doesn’t get that food or the behavior of compulsive eating is as much of an addiction as any drug this can sound silly, but it’s deadly serious to me. I jumped off the wagon last night at a friend’s birthday party. One of the fabulous local bakers supplied cupcakes and cake for the party. The frosting was to die for. I would have been okay if I’d had one cupcake because I’d been terrific with my food plan, adequately exercised, and planned for it. I got sucked in by the delicious, buttercream frosting. I ate frosting off of another slice of cake and an additional cupcake. Hands down, that is 100% addictive eating behavior.

Less than half an hour later I felt sick to my stomach from the sugar rush and I was emotionally distraught at my relapse behavior. Granted, an overdose of cake frosting was not going to kill me on the spot, like an o.d. of heroin, but what if I was a diabetic? It could have sent me into a danger state. Constantly repeating the behavior absolutely could eventually kill me if it leads to a prolonged period of relapse and eating, spiraling into weight gain and so on.

I woke up this morning determined to get straight. I ate half a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast and got on my bicycle. I pedaled for more than two hours and achieved my personal distance best of 21.34 miles! A few hours later and I feel like my body is still burning calories.

I have a lot to do around the house today and am concentrating on eating light and healthy while I work. It’s truly important when I slip to get back on track as soon as possible. The longer one stays in relapse, the harder it is to get straight again.

Recovering means staying on track one day, one meal at a time. I know I’m repeating myself and have talked about this in previous blogs, but it’s the reminder that I need to give myself today, right now.

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Validation & Encouragement

I’ve talked about the whole calorie reduction suggestion not only here but also to good friends. To a person, everyone has agreed with me that cutting my calorie intake by 25%, which would put me in the 600 to 750 calorie range a day, isn’t a good move. That’s putting it mildly. Some of the reactions were quite a bit stronger.

I know in my gut that I’m right to reject the suggestion and, at the same time, want to share that having that instinct validated by you and my friends really helped my emotional state. As upset as I was, these could have been really bad food and eating days. Instead, talking it out, getting positive feedback, validation and encouragement, helped me balance myself.

I’ve been pretty even keeled, eating balanced, planned meals. Exercise-wise, I got in my full exertion and effort both yesterday and today. All in all, I feel really good.

I’m going to take how I feel today and build on it tomorrow, then the day after and the day after. When one has such tremendous, long term, deep issues with food and eating, enjoying days when these things aren’t issues are moments to mark, to treasure, to use as stepping stones for further progress.

One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

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