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Portion Awareness

One of the biggest challenges for me is assessing how much food to put on my plate.  We never really had the “clean plate club” or the “eat everything because children are starving in Europe” mentality at home when we were growing up.  However, we were eaters; if there was food in front of us, we ate it.

Combine that with the binge eating and compulsive eating disorder and I have a lifetime of not being able to clearly estimate portions.  I’m not good at knowing up front what amount is the right one for me when I’m serving myself and putting together a meal.

Pre-surgery, I could eat and eat and eat massive quantities – enough for two plus people.  It took a lot for me to reach the uncomfortable point.

My restricted stomach prevents me from binge eating, obviously.  I can no longer consume large volumes of food.  However, I’m still not always the best judge of what is enough or, more importantly, when my real hunger is satisfied.  Sometimes I’m one bite more than full and then completely uncomfortable.

I am actively working on improving my portion awareness.  There’s a disconnect between what my eyes and mind agree is an adequate amount and what is the reality for my stomach and nutrition.

It would seem that the obvious solution would be to weigh and measure everything.  I’ve discussed before how much I hate doing those things.  I want to learn to eyeball the portions first, then develop better mindfulness while I’m eating.  Ideally, I will develop my portion awareness to the point where I take just enough.  However, if I put more on my plate at the outset, but then reach satiety and have had enough, I want to stop eating – even if food remains on my plate.  There is no law, written or unwritten, that says every single bite must be consumed.

Some of the challenge remains mental.  I see smaller portions and think they will never be enough.  This is a holdover from the days when I was wildly out of control with my eating and, certainly, from before weight loss surgery.  Make no mistake; my portions these days are already definitely smaller than I used to eat, but I think I still start out with more than I need.

I believe the plan that I’m on helps with this balancing act.  The whole fat versions of dressings, sauces, etc., create a good mouth feel and increase satiety.  I’ve had the physical experience of this, but still fight the mental images and the familiar “It won’t be enough; it’s never enough” refrain that still runs through my brain far too often.

Those are the times when I need to remind myself to just do it; to try a little harder; to go with less and see how I feel.  Again, this effort presents more evidence that this is a process, not an event.  It’s a journey.

What a trip.

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Mental Satisfaction

I’m back from a few days of fun in New Orleans at the RT Bookreviews Convention. I had a great time hanging out with dear friends whom I don’t get to see often or spend nearly enough time with in a year. I also love New Orleans. It’s a fascinating, beautiful city with a variety of cultures, historical significance, wonderful art, fantastic music, and spectacular food.

I am not going to claim that I strictly adhered to my food plan. The best that I’ll say is that I did better than expected while also indulging in some treats that I love. I think I helped my overall effort by walking around a lot. In fact, on Thursday I logged close to 19,000 steps. I’ll find out how well I did when I get on the scale tomorrow but, more important to me, I will be back on good track tomorrow.

As several of you have reminded me over the months, recovery is not about always being strictly perfect or always depriving myself of foods that I enjoy. It’s about living a healthy, balanced life. I’m still learning how to do that balance thing. I might be learning how for the rest of my life. Sometimes are easier than others and I always need to remind myself that the key is progress not perfection.

Like I said, the food in New Orleans is mostly spectacular. I can’t tell you how many times I was enjoying something and actually caught myself wishing I could keep eating more and more. I don’t mean that I truly wished I could binge on it, but I also resented at times that I filled up sooner than I wanted to and was tempted to push my stomach past its capacity. Doing that is not good nor smart, and it leads to undesirable after effects like nausea, uncomfortable pressure, and, possibly, regurgitation of the meal. Food that was delicious going in does not taste good when it reverses direction.

A couple of times I went further than I should have and was uncomfortable. This at least led to me pondering what the heck was going on in my head. Sometimes I experience a real disconnect between physical satiety and mental/emotional satisfaction. Honestly, my stomach is ready to stop long before my head wants to call it quits. There is ongoing necessity for hard work on my part in this area.

When I do it right, I do it well. For example, even though I was thoroughly enjoying the red beans and rice with andouille sausage, I stopped before I overate. I reminded myself that, as good as it was, I needed to quit eating and remember that it wouldn’t be the last time in my life that I could enjoy this dish. Later on, I remembered that I’d enjoyed the robust meal at mid-day and contented myself with a lighter, small salad in the evening. That’s how “normal” people eat. 🙂 I wish I’d been as successful with the beignets a few days before. I didn’t eat all three of the large, puffy, fried pillows coated with powdered sugar, but I should have stopped at one and not eaten a large percentage of the second. In retrospect, regardless of how delicious I think a treat is, it isn’t worth the yucky physical feelings afterwards.

So, as I continue to retrain myself and reshape/improve my relationship with food and eating, I need to focus on the mental satisfaction aspect.

I stopped at the supermarket on my way home from the airport today to get in the food that I need. I bought Greek yogurt which has become a staple that I use in many different ways. I have fresh fruits and veggies for smoothies, snacks and side dishes. When I got home, I took out the chicken stock I made the other week and will make up some fresh chicken soup tomorrow night.

Part of my process involves revving myself up to eat healthy. While I might occasionally experience old diseased resentments, I am far more frequently joyful and excited about making healthy choices and continuing to shore up my recovery. Doing so, and taking an active role in positive progress, is good reinforcement. I’m not defeated by the challenges and rough spots. They are in their own ways necessary to my recovery. If I don’t experience and notice them, then I have no hope of working through them and teaching myself a better way for long term success.

Here are few photos from the trip. They were all shot with my phone under less-than-ideal photographic settings, so please forgive the fuzziness.

"Step Up" - At Mardi Gras World

“Step Up” – At Mardi Gras World

Me and the King at Mardi Gras World

Me and the King at Mardi Gras World

Friends on a Float at Mardi Gras World

Friends on a Float at Mardi Gras World

At the Vampire Ball - RT Convention

At the Vampire Ball – RT Convention

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