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Little Steps

Reconnecting my spirit is not an instantaneous thing.  I don’t want to cop to being an instant gratification type of person, but sometimes patience with the process is not my strongest suit.  I want there to be a switch I can flick from “off” to “on”.  Having decided that I need this re-connection, I want it right now.

This in itself is a lesson.  But wait, there’s more.  There isn’t a definitive guide to attaining the spiritual part of a recovery program.  No, do this then this, followed by this, this and this and, bingo, you’ll have connected spiritually.  It’s more of a thought setting forth the intention, verbalized to make it real,  remembering it all when in action mode and then letting it be my guide when facing food options and behavior choices.

I can’t always do this one day at a time.  Oh heck, if I’m being honest, I never do it one day at a time.  Smaller time increments work better so I do it one meal at a time and, frequently, one food choice at a time.

Instead of rushing or forcing the process, I’m taking it slow.  There’s no deadline, as far as I’m concerned.  This is a disease that never leaves us, so building a life of recovery just has to roll out in whatever way it will.

What matters is that when the alarm goes off tomorrow, I remember my goals and the steps, and start the day literally and figuratively putting one foot in front of the other.

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Recovery’s Three Legged Stool

In the OA rooms, we talked about recovery being like a three legged stool.  You need to work on all three legs in order to be in balance – physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual.

When I first got that I had an eating disorder, a compulsive overeating disease, the positive effect on me emotionally was remarkable.  It really helped me clean up my head and my heart.  In ensuing years, even when I fell off of the wagon, I had a much clearer understanding of myself, my relationship with food, the role food and overeating played in my life, their effect on me, etc.  I am convinced that without this understanding, I would not be successfully maintaining my post-bariatric surgery weight loss.

In the early days, however, the ultimate focus was physical recovery.  Losing weight and restoring/regaining physical health were the goals.  Even with the better concept of disease behavior, I yo-yo’d with my weight until I finally committed to weight loss surgery.  If you’ve been with this blog from the beginning, or at least for a while, you know that I’ve lost a lot of weight and that I have worked on a lot of my issues, using this blog to help me process my thoughts and feelings.

Yet, for almost a year, I’ve been more stalled on my weight loss.  I’ve pretty much maintained the level that I reached, but digging in and sustaining the rest of the effort to get to my goal weight has been a constant, annoying, upsetting and frustrating struggle.  I gear up, employ a new strategy, go gung-ho for a while and then get stuck again.   Hence the annoyance and frustration.

A few days ago, I blogged about the constant food chatter that goes on in my head.  My dear, wonderful, long time friend read it and sent me a long email describing her struggle with the same thing.  This friend has also spent a great deal of time in OA.  She’s also had weight loss surgery and lost a phenomenal amount of weight.  She gets the disease thing.

You know that old proverb that when the student is ready, the teacher appears?  In her email, she openly talked about the fact that the food thoughts, the endless chatter and mental struggle ARE the disease to her.  She shared that she needs to remember the powerlessness and the need for the spiritual connection to recovery.

I’ve been re-reading and studying her email for the last couple of days, absorbing the words into my heart.   I see where I’ve been very intellectual about my approaches to food and recovery.  I know how much emphasis I’ve placed on the physical recovery.  I think those two legs of the stool needed my attention and they’re holding strong.  It’s that third leg — the spiritual one — that’s wobbling.  It needs my focus.

The first step of OA is admitting that I am powerless over food and that my life is unmanageable.  My life might not seem to be unmanageable, but right now, when it comes to how much food obsession is controlling my thinking, trust me, it needs to be managed better.  Until I remember step one and the powerlessness, I can’t embrace that a Higher Power can help me.  However,  once I do those two steps, I can make the decision to turn this over to the HP and accept the spiritual aspects of recovery.

It’s not religion, but I do need the spiritual connection with whatever represents a higher power to me.

What really connected for me today is that the physical recovery is not enough for me.  Sure, I could go on for the rest of my life, be happy because I’ve lost so much weight and am maintaining.  I could be satisfied with my greatly improved physical fitness.

But I’m not.  It isn’t enough.  I have more work to do.  I am not enjoying the serenity of full recovery because of the mind chatter, the food obsession, the constant battle to stay on track and not give into the disease of  compulsive eating.  I want that serenity, that recovery, too.   So, while I continue to maintain the physical exercise, et al, I need to reconnect to my spirit and emotional recovery.  That’s my focus now.

Thank you, my dear friend, for sharing your story and struggle and bringing me the reminders that I needed to have, when I most needed them.

In other news, today I walked another 5K – this time for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in town.  I didn’t shoot for a particular time goal.  This was about being with friends and folks I know throughout our community, having fun, and raising both money and awareness.  I raised more than $700, dyed and bedazzled a bra for the day, and had a great time walking.  I never would have done this even before weight loss surgery and am glad that I could today.

Here’s the bra.  After I dyed it, I hand sequinned/beaded the “ribbons” onto the cups.  A little uneven, but as I said to friends, so are my boobs at my age.thebra

 

 

Here’s me this morning.  The idea is to wear the decorated bra on the outside of one’s clothes.  (By the way, I’m not feeling myself up in this picture.  I was trying to show off my pink fingernails at the same time.)

We saw quite a variety of great creations!  It was really terrific to see a great turnout of people from the community, walking alongside the Overseas Highway in a spirited wave of pink!

Me in Bra

 

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Messed Up Mindset

For some reason, this blog is not fully cooperating with me. I’ve been unable to do posts or comments. Hopefully I have it straightened out.

In a comment to my “Funk” post from earlier in the week, Pink Pelican shared her experience which is similar to what I’m going through right now. Pink, thank you. Far from discouraging me, it gives me hope and validates what I’ve been thinking. I need to focus on my head, on my messed-up mindset right now.

To recap, what’s happened is that my stalled physical weight loss progress is drastically effecting my emotions and my mental process about my journey. This is a dangerous state for me. I’m an emotional eater. I have an eating disorder. When my emotions and head go off track, my compulsive eating behavior likely follows.

Right now, even though I am 180ish pounds lighter than I was a few years ago and living a life where I eat healthier foods and am physically active, I’ve lost the positive energy that I rode for so long on this amazing, joyful journey. I’m mired in the diseased mindset. I am nearly as down on myself about my body and lack of progress, the self-sabotage and everything else as I was when I was in the worst state of my eating disorder disease at 386 pounds. This is a dangerous, defeating, unhealthy place to be. I need to stop before I eat myself back into obesity.

Usually, I plan on how I’m going to control my eating. Oddly enough, that’s often easier than fixing the mindset. However, it’s the head that needs my focus right now. This doesn’t mean I’m flagrantly going out and eating whatever I want. Instead, it’s a call to myself for greater balance. In OA, we called recovery a three legged stool — physical, mental and emotional. If too much emphasis is put on one leg to the detriment of others, the seat isn’t balanced. It will tip and drop my ass on the ground.

The first two years of my post-surgery journey were alll physical progress. The speed of weight loss, the physical improvements in my overall body as well as my fitness level produced an incredible joy and euphoria. I worked on issues about my eating disorder here on the blog and have made a lot of progress in the area of understanding why and how I’ve used food as a drug and crutch in the past. That’s all good and I can build on it.

However, there are still aspects to the disease thinking that I haven’t resolved and now my stool is badly tilted. What’s coming up for me the most right now is the old B.I.N.G.E. thinking of Believing I’m Not Good Enough. More to the point, it’s believing that the amazing progress and revolutionary recovery I’ve already achieved isn’t good enough. I still in my heart of hearts find myself lacking. I get down on myself and concentrate too much on how far I still have to go.

No, I’m not satisfied. I don’t want to stop losing weight. However, somehow I also have to be okay with myself wherever I am in my progress. If I never did lose another pound, I would still be incredibly more healthy than I’ve ever been.

So, how do I accomplish this? I’m starting with cancelling stinking thinking. When I get down on myself for no progress or for messing up or even for eating a frigging half slice of bread, I need to be aware of the thought and then banish it or counteract it. It is unacceptable for me to be so self-critical and not accept myself.

At the same time, I need to get back to recognizing and appreciating all of the good that I have done and continue to do for myself. It isn’t enough for me to just go out and ride my bike six miles. I need to celebrate that activity in the moment and really make it rich. I will acknowledge and take joy in all that I am now able to do. Whether it’s riding the bike, walking with greater ease and less pain, the balance, strength and flexibility of Tai Chi, or the easy glide of snorkeling I will take note, immerse in the experience and feel the joy.

Negativity out – joy in. Easy formula. It’s almost like happiness is another muscle. I need to work on my reps and build the strength of my own heart and head to engender the recovery.

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Just For Today

Just for today, I will stay vigilant against my compulsive eating.
Just for today, I will eat only the food items that I planned for and prepared.
Just for today, I will say “No” to myself if I start to think or act like I need something more.

Just for today, I will remind myself that nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels.
Just for today, I will remember the tools I’ve developed to successfully fight against my eating disorder.
Just for today, I will cultivate positive action, positive attitude, joyful spirit.

Just for today, I will remember that what I did in the past does not mean I will repeat the behavior in the future — unless it’s positive healthy behavior, of course. 🙂

Just for today, I will remember to foster good thoughts and not succumb to “stinking thinking”.
Just for today, I will treat myself with kindness, honor, respect and care.

Just for today, I will live in a state of recovery and not relapse.

You might be asking why I state these things, “Just for today”. It goes with the 12 Step Program approach of one day at a time. It helps me to focus and be aware of my choices and actions in the moment.

I can do all of these things and be successful today.

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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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Food Diary

A long time and many posts ago I shared that dislike keeping a food diary. I recognize that it is an important tool in my recovery but that doesn’t mean I joyfully embrace the practice of logging my food. This is a long standing dislike from way back in the days before there were smart phones with apps where we could input our daily food electronically. Hell, it goes back to the days before personal computers.

I’m not sure why I dislike it now, but I’ve figured out why I was always resistant before. Denial. Putting anything down on paper makes it all black and white. I understand now that a lot of my eating was unconscious. Okay, I wasn’t actually, physically unconscious when I ate, as in eyes closed, lights out. However, in the throes of a binge, I could eat and eat and eat and not be logically, completely aware of the foods. I was completely overwhelmed by the behavior. It was hard, difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful to face the truth.

When I started going to a real therapist in 1991 and she told me I had an eating disorder, it was a big deal. Oh, I should point out here that I’d had the eating disorder for years but didn’t know it. You see, I thought there were only two eating disorders — anorexia and bulimia. Since I wasn’t starving or purging, I was completely in the, “I’m just a weak-willed slob who can’t control her eating” state of mind and emotion.

Anyway, in the early days of our work and my infancy in OA, the therapist helped me structure my abstinence. She told me that I needed to commit to a food plan and every morning I needed to write down what foods I would eat and how much. At that point in time, we focused on adjusting the behavior and not so much on the quantity. This meant that if I wrote down in the morning that I was going to have six pieces of pizza for dinner and that’s what I ate, that was okay. I’d committed and adhered to the abstinence I’d defined. However, if I wrote down that I was going to have two pieces of pizza for dinner and then I ate three or four or five, I was not being abstinent.

Sounds a little wacky, but it worked. It helped. The first few months of doing it this way, going to meetings and continuing with therapy got me on track and in recovery.

I did it, including keeping the food diary, because I wanted to recover and was willing to go to any lengths. Even so, I never grew to love logging my food.

I still don’t like it, but I do it, now using MyFitnessPal as an app on my phone. I’ve discovered an important correlation. When I don’t log my food for a few days, I come close to falling off of the wagon. That alone is enough reason to keep logging.

A couple good friends use MyFitnessPal and we all also have FitBits. We’ve “friended” each other on FitBit so we can see each other’s daily progress, cheer each other on in our physical activity, etc. I don’t use the food diary on that program. These friends each recently sent me invitations to friend them on MyFitnessPal, too. I thought about it and then wrote to each of them. I asked them to please not be offended but MFP is where I log my food and I don’t want to share that diary. It has nothing to do with them, it’s all me not being comfortable putting that info out for anyone to see but me.

I’ve had to do a little soul-searching to see why sharing my food diary is out of my comfort zone. At first I worried that it could be a case of fostering sickness in the secretiveness. Tonight I really pondered and meditated on it and had some strong realizations. I spent many years with other people judging my food and what I ate and their disapproval or worry exacerbated my stress and my shame. At a young age I became a skilled stealth eater. My food diary needs to be a place where I can be completely honest about what I’m eating — even if I don’t have a good day and eat off of my food plan.

I can’t do that if what I log on there can be read by other people. I will incessantly worry about what other people think and how they’ll react to the point where I won’t be honest. If I am not honest on my food diary it ceases to be a viable tool in my recovery.

To be clear, these are not judgmental friends. This is all about my old tapes, previous experiences, and personal issues. That said, it is not possible for me at this time to give up the reluctance and make my food diary readable to anyone but myself. My choice to not share is about me protecting the role that keeping a food diary has in my recovery. I don’t have to like doing it, but I need to keep doing it and I can’t afford to let anything interfere with me maintaining this practice with integrity.

My friends were cool and told me they understood. We’ll continue to encourage each other via FitBit and in person. We’re good.

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