Weighty Matters

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The Non-Diet Mentality

Life is still super stressful.  I’m feeling a little piled-on at the moment, experiencing more than the usual amount of stress both at work and in my personal life.  I’ve been getting headaches over it and on any given night could wake up around 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and not be able to fall back asleep for a few hours.  It sucks.  Plain and simple.   You know the people and internet memes that tout how it’s up to us to choose our attitude?  Trust me.  I am all about being positive and upbeat.  So, a good attitude would definitely be my choice – if I could find one.  I’m going to keep looking.  Honest.  I can feel the stress affecting me not only emotionally and mentally, but also physically.

So, really, I am doing my best to counteract the negativity.  When my head starts to pound and I can practically feel my blood pressure rising, I focus on deep, calming, breathing.  I take walks and do Tai Chi.  When stress thoughts begin to repeat in my head like hyped-up hamsters on an endless wheel (what I believe psychiatrists refer to as inefficient worrying), and disturb my sleep, I pick up a book to read for a little while rather than toss, turn and keep thinking the thoughts.

I practice being grateful.  I also keep repeating the Serenity Prayer.  I have a full cache of techniques and tools and am doing my best to employ them effectively.  When all else fails, I simply remember that the stress won’t last forever and this is not the worst time of my life – not anywhere close.  In the grand scheme of things, these fall somewhere in the “small stuff” category — or at least the “medium stuff” — and I can handle them.

One of the positives that I acknowledge and celebrate is that I’m not eating over the stress.  Actually, I’m doing far better following the Always Hungry food plan of low refined and white carbs/low sugar but full fat and protein than I ever thought possible.  I don’t have physical cravings and am not dancing on a micro-thin ledge where a slight push could have me jumping into compulsion or binge eating on crap foods.

It really is a sensible, workable food plan in my life.  I never thought I’d say that about a low-carb plan.

I should point out that my weight loss has not been fast, significant nor steady.  When I first started phase one of Always Hungry?, I lost 11 pounds in two weeks.  Then I put on three of the pounds when I went to phase two.  I went back to phase one with occasional whole grains and didn’t lose anything for weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I lost the three pounds I’d regained, then stalled again.  This week I dropped another two.  (At least as of today.)

The lack of consistent weight loss has been frustrating.  I crave instant gratification and rapid loss.  There’s a lesson in this for me and I am cautiously optimistic that I am finally learning to give up the diet mindset and embrace a non-diet mentality.  Doing that was an important part of when I first experienced recovery many, many years ago in OA.  It is important that I remember, and positively reinforce, myself for the daily effort of eating according to my plan; that I find joy in making good, healthy food choices.

Most of the time, I really am jazzed that I seek out fresh, good food instead of chowing down on processed stuff.  I take time to acknowledge when I make good choices.  Earlier today I had a Chamber of Commerce luncheon to go to.  The restaurant featured a salad bar and a series of buffet items.  There were plenty of things I could have loaded on my plate.  Instead I fixed a nice salad with fresh ingredients that weren’t carb or sugar-laden.  I bypassed the rice at the buffet and picked some sauteed vegetables and a little bit of the shredded meat.  The ciabatta rolls looked great but I walked right by them to my table.  Skipped the dessert offering too.  Everything I consumed was right in line with my food plan.  That was the NSV, the non-scale victory.  Even faced with the opportunity of non-plan foods, I chose to eat according to plan.  At no time did I feel deprived or like I was eating diet food.  I wasn’t dieting at lunch, per se.  I was just eating lunch period.

This is the mentality that I will continue to foster.   I know that I’m also on the mark with my portion sizes and striking the balance between healthy carbs, protein and fat.  As long as I continue to follow this approach, eventually I’ll lose more weight.  The journey might be slow, but I can hopefully condition myself to accept that too.

There have been a lot of stories in the news about this study done with contestants from a season of The Biggest Loser.  All or most of them have regained most of the weight that they lost while on that program.  There were also very discouraging claims that our body fights to get back to the number we weighed before we dieted.  Dr. Ludwig, who created the Always Hungry? plan offers hope that it doesn’t have to be that way.  That this plan does indeed help us conquer cravings, retrain our fat cells and lose weight permanently.  For today, I’m taking it on faith that he’s right.

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Managing Stress without Compulsing

You know you’re tired when you’re in the middle of a phone conversation one evening with a friend and your brain clicks off and you fall asleep in mid-chat.  That’s exactly what happened to me last week one night.  It’s been a brutal couple of weeks and when I get home I can barely manage coherent thought, or so it seems.

When I last blogged I told you all about my boat sinking.  The resolution for that came through today.  The insurance company opted to declare it a total loss.  Honestly, that’s the best outcome for me because they will write me a check for the full insured value.  I can start with brand new engines again and not have to worry about problems with engines that had been submerged in salt water.  It also means that I don’t have to deal with the long hassle of someone rewiring my boat and doing whatever else would have needed doing to make it operational and safe.  Instead I can focus on what will be the more exciting task of finding a replacement boat.

Still, getting to this point created ongoing stress.  I went through all of the residual “I can’t believe this happened” and “What did happen?  Why did it sink?” stuff, along with, “Please let the settlement process be easy.”  I’m happy to say that the insurance company was great to work with, that’s for sure.  I don’t know how Progressive is with car policies, but they were efficient and non-confrontational with the boat and this is not an inexpensive claim that they’re paying out on.

Also in the last two weeks, we still had a whole bunch of stressful things going on at work.  We are momentarily through with the most immediately aggravating things and can take a bit of a breather.

Through it all, I’m happy to say that I am dealing without diving back into food and compulsive eating for the most part.  I’m not binge eating.  I’m following my food plan.  I’m working out regularly.  In all ways, I’m taking good care of myself.  I’ve gone for massages and acupuncture treatments.  These not only help me release the physical elements of the tension but they also ease my mind.  At night, when my body and brain tell me it’s time to sleep, I go to bed.  Thankfully, they don’t always tell me as abruptly as they did the night I conked out on my friend’s phone call.

It’s important for me to remember that eating compulsively makes every situation worse.  No amount of excess food can help.  Giving in to the urges and compulsions increases the tension and anxiety.   Working out, seeing to my brain’s comfort and my body’s needs alleviate the negative stuff.   Overall, I’m managing better by staying on track and remaining in recovery.

That alone knocks off several levels of the stress.

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Identifying Trouble Times

I’m so sorry to have gone AWOL.  I dislike whining, but the last week has just been insanely busy with plenty of stress.  On the nights that I didn’t bring work home, I came home so tired that I couldn’t form coherent enough thoughts to write.

Hopefully, I can keep my thoughts gathered well enough, and long enough tonight.

I’m doing sort of so-so with my eating right now.  I am definitely a stress eater.  Stress is not an excuse, or at least not a justifiable excuse.  It just always challenges me to find ways other than eating to cope with the emotion.

What’s really interesting is that I do much better when I’m under the gun.  During the day when I am super busy — head down, powering through the projects that need to be done — I don’t obsess about the food.  I don’t have time!  Therefore, I have little issues with sticking to the planned-for food items for my mid-morning snack, lunch and mid-afternoon snack.  I can even mostly do well through dinner.

It’s after dinner that presents the biggest challenge.  I’ve had perfect days until around 7 p.m. and then morph into constantly fighting the compulsion to eat this, that or the other thing that isn’t on the plan… and then maybe eat the other thing, that, or this afterwards.  I end up feeling miserable emotionally and mentally — and sometime even physically, depending on what I ate.

I wonder why this pattern repeats.  Why is evening such a trouble time?  It’s almost as if when I’m busy and stressed, I don’t have time to act out on the stress by eating.  Then night rolls around, some of the busy-ness eases off but I’m left with the residual tension.  So I have all of that emotion, not enough to distract me from it, and I end up eating over it.

Having identified the time and the issue, I now need to devise a strategy.  Even if I’m brain weary and physically tired at night, I can find a positive action to engage me instead of reaching for food.

PACE = Positive Action Changes Everything

It will take some extra effort, particularly if I’m worn out.  Maybe I need to think of it in terms of balance and equality.  After all, if I have enough energy to boost myself off of the couch and walk to the kitchen for food, I should be able to muster enough to do something more healthy and constructive.


Mood and Food Connections

It’s been a crazy week.  Correction, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks — all work/industry related.  Lots of work, often unexpectedly, which took higher priority over the many projects already on my list of things that needed to be accomplished.  This all creates no small amount of related stress.  I’ve never been one who could just leave it all behind at the office when I leave.  Out of sight is definitely not out of mind.  I keep thinking about the circumstances, working on solutions or tactics, figuring on what needs to be done, what could be done better, what I can bring to the table in a positive way, how can I best serve.  All that kind of stuff goes on in my brain whether I’m at work actively devoting time to the situation or not.

Even some people who are not compulsive overeaters with eating disorders will stress-eat.  (Or stress drink, stress shop, stress whatever.)  Whether the behavior distracts from that which is creating the stress, or whether the food or other behavior is a form of self-medication, it is still not the healthiest coping mechanism in the world.  In my case, it can trigger repeated compulsive eating, even when I am no longer strongly in the throes of the stress incident/situation itself.  The long-term residual effects can be much more damaging than the temporary handful of chips or extra piece of chocolate.  Then the fact that I was compulsive creates further negative reactions because I get all kinds of pissed off at myself for not handling the situation without using food.

The mood-food connection is strong.  Sometimes I am stronger; sometimes I’m not.  In order to combat the increased stress and craziness of the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to be good to myself whenever I can.  No, I’m not always eating right, but I’m trying to keep up with the two decent dog walks a day. (By the way, I finally ordered myself another Fitbit to replace the one I ruined by including it in the wash-dry cycle.  The replacement arrives by Tuesday so I’ll get back to logging my steps.  I find it’s very motivating to go for the minimum of 10K steps a day!)  I practice my Tai Chi which is not only good physical exercise, but good for easing stress.  I keep up with my daily readings and do my best to practice self-kindness and acceptance to replace beating myself up for imperfect actions.

This weekend, I’ve scheduled a facial which is so much more than taking care of my skin.  It’s very relaxing and good for my spirit.  I have a lot of chores around the house that need to be done, but I’m also going to take some time to go and paint pottery.  A little time in creative endeavors will also nourish my serenity and calmness.  I can focus on that and not on stressful things.  Keeping my fingers crossed for calm winds on Sunday so I can also take a boat ride.  It’s been too long since I splashed my boat and time on the water is one of the most relaxing things that I can do.

Food-wise, I have yummy fresh vegetables in the house from our organics delivery earlier this week.  I attempted to make a version of fried tomatoes last night.  The results weren’t great, but they weren’t totally inedible.  I also roasted some romanesco which is a very pretty cousin of broccoli and cauliflower.  I have fresh Brussels sprouts to cook in a favorite recipe too.  Eating nourishing, delicious food that aligns with my food plan reinforces good self-care.  The act of cooking said delicious food is relaxing.  I can connect mood and food in positive, not damaging ways.  Healthier all around.


Update to the February 3rd Post about Facing a Fear:  I successfully faced my fear and climbed up the temporary tower.  My heart pounded the whole way and was still pounding when I stood up there the first time.  I was even more nervous about climbing down.  However, I did the return trip successfully as well.  So, I’m good to go and can participate in the activity.  I know that I’m not going to fall or break anything on the structure.  So, booyah to me!


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Judging My Food

One feeling I cannot seem to shake is that when I’m around other people, they constantly look at what I’m eating and judge.  Maybe they’re assessing how much, or how little, I’m eating.  Perhaps they’re looking to see what actual food choices I’ve made.  I imagine them frowning inside if I eat a cookie, or if my plate has too many carbs.  Oh no, she’s eating something fried, I picture them thinking in their heads.

Let me state unequivocally that I have no evidence that anyone actually does any of the judging that I imagine.  They probably aren’t, or maybe some are and some aren’t.  I don’t know because if they are, they aren’t expressing their judgments to me.  Nobody says, “Wow, are you supposed to be eating that?” or “I can’t believe you’re eating that.”

However, the feelings that they are remain real to me and create a self-induced stress on me all of the time when I eat with friends or family.  This state makes me want to launch right back into sneak eating.  Sneak eating is a behavior that creates a whole messy pile of other negative emotions and unhealthy eating habits.  When I sneak eat from stress I tend to eat more in quantity – even if I spread it out over sneak sessions – and usually choose foods that would be okay as a single tasty treat but become unhealthy choices when consumed in that quantity.  That’s not self-judging.  It’s fact.  It’s okay for me to have a single cookie as a treat.  It isn’t good for me to eat half a dozen.

The whole “being judged” thing comes up for me a lot right now because I’m on my annual holiday trip and constantly spending time with different groups of friends and family.  I’m fighting the urge to obtain a secret stash of food so that I can sneak eat it.  That’s part of the insidiousness of this aspect of my eating disorder.  I stress over being judged to the point where I have to prepare my stress release eating of junk.  Totally doesn’t make sense.  It is also much more problematic because in escaping the behavior that stresses me out, I do something that makes me feel really bad emotionally and, ultimately, physically.

I seek a healthier alternative and am working to reshape the situation with more positive behavior.  I remind myself that what I eat, what I put on my plate, etc., is my business and nobody else’s.  If someone is going to judge my choices that’s on them.  I do not need to feel bad about my choices, nor should I project that they are viewing me with negative eyes and thoughts.

Above all, sneak eating is not a positive stress release.  I have other things I can do instead.  I could do a few moves of Tai Chi, meditate instead of eating, pick up a book instead of another food item.  Banish the negative thoughts.  Take a walk.  In short, there are numerous other options.

Writing about it in this post has relieved some of the stress.  It’s like adjusting a valve and letting some built up steam and pressure escape.  I don’t have to give in to old patterns.  I can, and need, to deal with it in healthier ways.


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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Universe is Totally Messing with My Zen

The monkeys are not only chattering this morning, they are relentlessly gabbing up a freaking loud storm. I’ve discovered that it is not a meditative practice to internally yell, “Shut the f**k up already!” at them. Freaking monkeys don’t listen anyway.

Yesterday I attempted to clean my pool filter. This involves undoing the top of the filter canister and lifting a three foot tall, heavy filter straight up and out. I’ve done it before and had no doubt that I could again, except that my hand slipped and when I dropped the filter to avoid getting a broken hand, some internal rod then got wedged between the canister wall and the filter. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t unwedge the damned thing so now the filter is stuck half in/half out.

This morning, I thought I’d shut off the system before the pump began to run. Wrong. It clicked on at the usual time and as I ran through the house to shut it off, water began to gush up out of the filter canister and flood the driveway. I shut off the system again before too many gallons spewed forth and returned to getting ready for work. Ten minutes later, that persistent fricking timer thing turned the system back on. This time I had to run while holding two dogs on leashes, my lunch bag, backpack, a plate of lemon squares and my travel mug of tea. I managed to shut off the system, again with only the waste of a gallon or two of water, and return everything else, including the dogs, to the house. It was like a mechanical vampire or zombie that refused to stay dead.

Not knowing when the pool man planned to stop by the house to fix the filter issue, I needed to make sure the damned system stayed off. When it doubt, experiment. I unscrewed the “On” lever on the timer that starts the system. This enabled me to push the manual lever all of the way to “Off”. I then waited half an hour to make sure it was not only off but staying off. I finally felt at least semi-confident about leaving for work so I regathered the dogs, lunch bag, backpack and lemon bars, took a deep breath and headed off.

Yes, I called the guy working on my house a short time ago just to make sure that the system had not magically risen from its Off state to flood the neighborhood. All appears to be well.

At work I threw myself into some tasks to regain my equilibrium. Nat and Pyxi are with me in the office again today due to the home remodeling project and an afternoon vet appointment for Pyxi’s regular thyroid check. A short time ago, I discovered a strange pink growth on one of Nat’s legs. Argh. More Zen interruption! Called the vet office and the doctor has time to examine him too this afternoon. Breathe, Mary, breathe. Stay in the moment. I was doing better when I grabbed the broom and dustpan to sweep up some dog hair. When I replaced the broom in its customary spot, I walked into a shelf with my eye. Ohmmm became Oh Effing Eff. That hurts!

Fortunately, I didn’t cut my eye. There’s no blood. I can see with that eye. Hopefully, it’s no more than a temporary bruised state. Speaking of other states, I’m not sure what’s talking more loudly to me at the moment – those damn monkeys, or the lemon bars that I brought into the office specifically so I wouldn’t eat them. (I stress-baked yesterday and knew that I had to get the results out of the house or I would gradually consume them all.)

Okay. Deep breath again. Now that I have spewed my stress over the virtual page of the blog, I’m going to work on centering myself once more. It’s a new moment. A right-now-is-all-that-matters moment. Dogs are okay. Pool is not flooding. I am not blinded. I’m good.

Serenity reigns.

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Stress and Stomach Issues

You know how some people get stomach pains or other gut issues when they’re stressed out? I was never one of those people. I’m fairly sure that’s because I filled my stomach with food when I was stressed. Eating to suppress feelings is common behavior.

I bring this up tonight because I’ve had a funky stomach for most of the day. Around noon time I really started feeling bad and thought I either had an impending attack of food poisoning or that I was coming down with some sort of stomach bug. I ended up leaving work and coming home. When I got here I pretty much stretched out on the recliner for awhile without any energy — not unlike a starfish on a rock at low tide. After dozing in the chair for awhile, I roused myself enough to move to the bedroom for another hour.

After a couple of hours, I realized that whatever was bothering my stomach wasn’t progressing. I just continued to feel crappy without actually getting sick. Instead, it felt like I could feel my pulse in my stomach which was achy and annoying. It took awhile for me to figure it out.

I had a very stressful morning over a particular situation. I can’t go into the details but it was no small thing. Nothing that at the moment I could shrug, be philosophical about, and just let go. The more I thought about the whole unfolding of the situation and my reaction, the more I realized that it affected me emotionally to the point that the emotions manifested themselves into physical symptoms.

No lie. Part of me is completely confident that a milkshake will absolve the discomfort. Part of me knows that the milkshake will not absolve a damned thing. It will only be a counterirritant in that it will actually make me sick which would most likely distract me from the stressful situation.

Tonight I think I’m still more stressed out than not and that’s why my stomach is still knotted up and achy. It’s a good reminder of the importance of developing better methods of dealing with stressful situations so that the anxiety doesn’t create physical discomfort. By better, it goes without saying I don’t mean using excess food. Numbing or stuffing down the feelings are not effective methods and do more harm than good. For me, I think I’m going to draw a hot bath and soak some of it away.

What’s your favorite method for coping with stress?