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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Stress Overload

So, just when I thought the stress was easing up and that I’d turned a corner, I got hit with a big thing.  Not big as in someone died big, but big.

We had a beautiful weekend here in the Florida Keys.  I went to Tai Chi class on Saturday, ran some errands and then stopped in to see a friend at work to firm up plans for a boat outing on Sunday.  While there I mentioned that I was driving up to see the Jungle Book movie and invited her to come along.  That excursion was fun.  We enjoyed the movie and then picked up dinner for ourselves and some other friends who are knew parents.  All around a great day.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and gorgeous with perfect wind and weather conditions to go out on the boat.  My friend came over and we headed out for a favorite snorkel spot.  Along the way we saw wild dolphins three times!  We changed the snorkeling plans when not another boat was moored out there and I felt uncomfortable about us being there alone.  Instead we went to a popular sandbar and anchored up.  We snacked, chatted and relaxed in the sun.  It was nearly perfect.

Great ride home with me loving the speed and smoothness of my practically new boat engines.   We got home when the tide was too low for me to float my boat onto the boat lift, so we tied up at my sea wall.  I flushed the engines and hosed down the boat.  My friend and I chatted for a while more and then she left.  The plan was that I’d go back out in a couple of hours when the tide had risen enough for me to move the boat to the lift.

I puttered around the house, did some laundry, had dinner and actually wrote the blog post that I last posted.  Then i went outside to lift the boat and discovered that it was sinking.

Yes, sinking, as in it was listing to port and water was already filling up.  I immediately called friends on the phone in a near panic.  Seriously, coming out to find a sinking boat is not anything I’d ever previously experienced.  Bless my friends!  They rushed over and brought other people with them to help.  People I didn’t even know jumped in my boat and tried to bail water out.  It was amazing.  Unfortunately, it was also too late.  The tide continued to rise; water continued to fill and before we could believe it, my boat was on the bottom with its hull filled and the engines submerged.  (The water isn’t deep enough outside my house to cover the entire boat, but the parts that were covered with water were bad enough.)

More people came over so we could assess.  I was so stressed I could barely think straight.   It was awful but, again, having a boat sink was a new experience.

Thanks to knowledgeable people, I learned that once engines are submerged in salt water, you want them to remain submerged until you have experienced boat engine mechanics standing by to do something referred to as “pickling”.  So, everyone agreed that the boat was not going anywhere until the following day. At that point, one of the guys who happens to run the local boat towing service and salvage operation would come and raise her from the bottom… after, of course, the insurance company authorized him to do so.

About the most useful thing I did that night, other than thank everyone profusely, tip them some money in gratitude for trying to save my boat, and not pop a clot and pass out from stress, was to call my insurance company and open up a claim.  I went inside after everybody went home and sobbed myself into a massive headache.  Then I called my family and my close friend to warn them before I or anyone else posted the pictures on Facebook.  After a couple more hours of stress and hand wringing, I went to bed where I slept great for about three hours.  I woke up to use the bathroom and that was that.  Thoughts, what-ifs, what nexts and a myriad of other unproductive things ran through my brain like crazed hamsters and my ability to fall back asleep abandoned me.

I spent the next three hours veering between trying to lull myself with going through Tai Chi moves in my head and worrying about what would happen the next day.  In between I had intermittent lapses of confidence where I questioned whether I was competent to have and operate a boat and then more “Oh my God, what happened? Why did it sink?  What if it had happened when we were out to sea???” anxiety.  Around 6 a.m. I dozed again and got in a solid hour before my alarm went off.

After letting work know that I might be late, I sat down and tried to alleviate my stress by working out a detailed step-by-step plan of action.   I find it very calming if I have a plan.  It makes me feel powerful and, okay, more in control.  By the time 8 a.m. rolled around, I knew which boat yard I was calling and was ready to dial the claims rep for the insurance so that I could give him/her the name and number of the salvage guy.  By 8:30 I’d left a message for the claims rep and had spoken to the boat yard owner, with whom I’d previously served on a nonprofit board.  She assured me that she would have a qualified, skilled mechanic ready to pickle my engines as soon as we got the boat to them.

Isn’t the idea of pickling an engine counter-intuitive?  When you pickle a vegetable you put it in brine.  Here we were taking engines out of the briny ocean and then cleaning them of any and all salt water.  Having done all that I could, I went to the office, thinking that falling behind in my work would only heap on more tension and anxiety.  On my way to work, the claims rep called and was terrific.  After speaking to her, I contacted the salvage company and put the rescue of my boat into action.

A few hours later we commenced the operation.  By we I mean the salvage captain and his staff.  Whew, was that a big old undertaking with air bags, pumps, lines, more pumps.  I don’t know how they did it, but they did.  Within a couple of hours, despite a few minor hitches and setbacks, my boat was off the bottom being towed to the marina.

All that was Monday.  It’s now Wednesday night and feels like I’ve lived a week in a couple of days.  I’m exhausted but not as stressed any more.  My boat is in good hands.  The insurance adjuster should be down tomorrow.  The insurance company assured me multiple times that I am completely covered. Good thing on that because raising the boat alone cost between $2500 and $3000.  We still don’t know yet why it sank.  I also don’t know whether the insurance company will simply decide to total it.  However, I’m sleeping better, functioning well, getting things done and not giving in to the inefficient worrying.  I even went and rowed this morning and will do another class tomorrow.

I’m not being terrific with my food, which is a downer, but I’m not being a total disaster either.   I continue to do the best that I can do in the face of extraordinary circumstances.  I’ve decided that, rather than heap additional pressure on myself, I will be as good as possible and treat myself with love and understanding.   It’s the best that I can do right at this moment.

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Robbing Myself of Joy

So yesterday I was in a really pissy place with a boatload of discouragement and frustration. Never, ever, underestimate the benefit of asking for help and encouragement. I asked and I received both here and via private email. Thank you, friends. I am, indeed, encouraged by your words and feel supported.

There is still much for me to think about and process as I move forward. Stirring all of your words and stories together, the first thing that I come back to is the realization I’ve had that in focusing so much on what I’ve been unable to accomplish, i.e. getting under 200 pounds and then hitting goal weight, I am diminishing the pleasure and happiness of all that I have already achieved. I’m robbing myself of joy. That, my friends, simply will not do. I’ve lost something like 85% of the weight that I need to lose which, consequently is nearly half of my total body weight. (If I’m doing the math right, which I’m pretty sure I am. Then again, it is math which has never been my strong suit.) However, arithmetic aside, I’ve lost a FREAKING LOT OF WEIGHT. I need to celebrate that every single day. I eat healthier. I have gone from sedentary to active. I don’t suffer with extreme knee pain and overall body aches. I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar any more.

I am healthy and active. My life used to be filled with obesity-induced obstacles. Now those obstacles are gone. This is a time to be happy, energetic, free of excessive worry and food obsession, free-spirited.

It is not a time to be anxious, stressed out, frustrated, discouraged and sad over the last 30 stubborn pounds.

One of my friends pointed out that the worrying and stress induce cortisol production. According to the opening of an article in Psychology Today, The stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease… The list goes on and on.

Screw dat.

Today, I woke up grateful for so many things and all of the positive changes I have experienced. Today I am going to catch myself any time I start to obsess over lack of weight loss again and divert myself with the positive spin. I’m not denying that there is more I want to do, but I need to recapture the happiness of all that I can and all that I am.

Each new day presents the endless opportunity to enjoy my best, most authentic life. That’s the goal. I will continue to follow my healthy eating plan and exercise efforts. The weight will come off when it comes off. In the meantime, I’m taking back my joy.

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Compulsion Grip

I wish I could come here today and say that I’ve missed blogging for a few days because I’ve been super busy, but that would be a lie. I’ve been avoiding blogging for several reasons, none of which are good. I’m weary in my spirit, in turmoil with my emotions, and locked in the grip of compulsive eating. Unfortunately, when I eat compulsively, I don’t choose celery or lettuce. Instead, I’ve been diving into chocolate, but if chocolate isn’t available, I find other stuff to eat. And eat. And eat some more of. Although the compulsion occurs with small servings, it’s all relative and even small bites can add up to damage when they occur over time.

A couple of days before I left for my recent trip, I went through a bad, emotional time, centered around one of my community involvements. My service with this particular organization had been weighing heavily on me for sometime. I increasingly felt more stress and anxiety and I’d lost my passion and energy for it. No fault of the organization. It’s great and fills an important need. This was all on me. However, I firmly believe that when this happens, it’s time to step away not only for my own good but, ultimately, for that of the organization. Things kind of came to a head the night before my trip and I woke up knowing that I needed to make the break, so I did. While surprised, most of my colleagues wrote understanding, supportive emails. Unfortunately, one friend was/is very upset and angry with me. She expressed hurt over my lack of trust that I didn’t come to her first and discuss it with her. Emotions ran high with both of us and, in short, it got very messy. Unfortunately, I believe our friendship is a casualty in my decision to do something that was meant to be a health choice for me.

That’s the background. I’m working my way through the emotions, but here’s the thing about a compulsive eating disease. Once I engage in the behavior and fall into relapse, it’s really difficult to put on the brakes. I’ve talked about that before and don’t want to engage in whining, but it’s my statement of fact today. I imagine it’s not all that different than an alcoholic who falls off of the wagon. Once in the grip of compulsion, the compulsion rules.

Even if mentally I tell myself to not start or, if started, to stop . . . even if I have the best intention, when my disease takes hold, the physical act of eating overrides everything else. I have to say that it really, truly sucks.

So right now, in addition to feeling all of the residual emotional upset from the situation I was in, I have piled on the dismay, disgust, depression and dis-ease of being in the compulsion. Oh, and there’s also the physical discomfort of eating undesirable food in less-than-healthy amounts. One small chocolate as a treat isn’t bad. Eating a series of them, even stretched out over hours, results in queasiness.

I would like nothing more than to curl up in my bed, under the covers, and cry for an hour or two.

Instead, I’m here in front of the computer screen, sharing my status regardless of how pitiful it makes me appear. I’m fighting the “stinking thinking” that tells me I’ve blown it. I’ve blown everything. I’m never going to be able to stop eating and will gain all of my weight back, cripple myself and die early.

Yes, my “stinking thinking” can be incredibly dramatic. So, I blog and remind myself that relapse does not have to be forever. I’ve gone through some messed-up days, veered far from my appropriate food plan, and not attended to my regular exercise routine, BUT and, yes, that deserves to be a big BUT, a few messed-up days do not mean my entire effort is blown. I am not doomed.

I may not be able to change how my friend feels about my choices. I can, however, break out of the grip of compulsion and stop the relapse behavior. I can build acceptance and find serenity. I can treat myself with compassion, practice good self-care, undo whatever weight gain damage I’ve done, and move on.

I just caught myself thinking, “Oh Jesus, Mary. You’re writing about this again?? These people don’t want to read about this same problem, same old struggle another time.” Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. The point is that this is my journey and the blog is a tool to help me along the way. The eating disorder, the damned compulsive disease, is always part of me. There are always going to be times when I struggle to stay on track, and there will be times when I fall off. Not blogging about it, not forcing myself to confront and think about my issues and actions, doesn’t help. In fact, not blogging helps me creep into the denial stage. It does me no good to ignore what I’m doing. In fact, ignoring is the worst thing that I can do.

So I’m not. I’m not going to cower under the covers and cry either.

Onward and upward.

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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?

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Finally Friday

For an allegedly shorter work week, it felt like Friday would never arrive. Lots of challenges, stress on projects, additional commitments after work and general emotional upheaval. All of these things were made more difficult by a constant desire to eat over them. To be honest, I won some of those food fights and lost others. However, I must have compensated enough for the occasional foray into chocolate by keeping my actual meals light and healthy. I obviously didn’t do as badly as my diseased brain tried to make me think I did because I lost a little weight nearly every day and ended up with a good number at week’s end.

I also did my best to hold onto the idea that exercise is a great anti-depressant. It’s not that I was depressed, I was more emotionally exhausted but both conditions need a boost so exercise really helped. I got in two Zumba classes, did my Tai Chi, got the dogs and myself out for good walks and looked for other ways to incorporate movement into my days.

Here’s a really strong reminder. No matter what life, work and other commitments demand from us, we absolutely have to stay true to the things we need. Before I went out for a day on the water Monday, I made sure to go to Zumba class in the morning, which I normally can’t do because of work. I had to go to a meeting after work on Tuesday, but expressed the need to finish up so that I could get to Zumba by 6 p.m. Wednesday, there was a fundraising committee meeting scheduled. I gave it a good 45 minutes and then excused myself so that I could rush home, feed and let out the dogs, change and get to Tai Chi class.

Did all of this extra rushing around add to my stress? I’m sure it did to some extent, but the negative was adequately countered by the positive of the exercise. Even earlier this evening, when it would have been incredibly easy to sprawl in my recliner like a stranded starfish, I took Nat and Pyxi out for a walk. I have a responsibility to their health and well-being too. I neglected their exercise for too long when I was my fattest. So these days, even when I’m tired and ready to neglect myself, their need helps to motivate me to get moving.

I didn’t blog for a couple of days because after work, commitments, walks and everything else, I was often so tired at night, that I couldn’t string my thoughts together. I tried to treat myself well and go to bed early. I’m sure it was helpful for me to be in bed before 10 p.m. Yes, that’s early for me.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t achieve what I needed. Apparently, me going to bed early threw off Nat and Pyxi’s schedule. (They sleep in my bedroom on their beds or the floor.) Either that or the neighborhood doesn’t settle completely down by that hour either. Whatever the case, the first night after I’d slept solidly for about 90 minutes, something disturbed Nat, which he signaled by letting out a mournful howl. I then had to let them both out into the backyard so they could investigate. Once awake, I started to think about some of the stressful situations I was sorting through and that kept me up for a couple of hours. Grrr.

I’ve never been a parent, but I’ve heard friends say that they can be fast sleep and the slightest sound from their children will wake them up. I feel that way sometimes with my dogs. Last night I again went to sleep before 10. At 12:05, Pyxi uttered the smallest whimper by my bedside. Up I rose to let them out. This time I was able to fall right back to sleep but three hours later, Nat cried. Yes, I could have let him cry but that wasn’t going to get me back snoozing any sooner so we repeated the process. I swear the two of them tag-teamed me and decided it was Pyxi’s turn again at 5. I don’t care that I kept falling back to sleep, these many interruptions do not make for a restful, restorative night.

I hereby declare that tonight will be different. For one thing, I’ll go to bed at my more accustomed time of 11:00 p.m. That will help me achieve 7 1/2 hours. It also sets the pups back on the right schedule. At least that’s the plan.

Tomorrow we have a Tai Chi open house and then lunch with friends. I have no other definite plans or responsibilities for the rest of Saturday. There are always things that I need to do around the house, but I’m not on a deadline so there’s no pressure. Sunday, I’m going to swim with dolphins at work as an uplifting treat to myself. After that, it all depends on the weather. I might go out on the boat, or I might just relax somewhere with a good book and take it easy. It’s been a rough week. The weekend needs to be my way to smooth myself out mentally and emotionally.

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