Sunday, February 29, 2004

Somebody Noticed!

Yesterday J.B. asked me if I'd lost weight. I was kind of surprised that anyone would notice anything at this point. As for the day, while I did have some foods that weren't the healthiest in the world (2 maple goodies from the tree tapping ceremony and a ham and cheese roll for supper) I didn't overeat or eat compulsively during the day. I sidestepped a lot of temptations yesterday and I'm not considering it a "backslide" at all.

This evening I made Mabel macaroni and cheese, and it was very hard for me to abstain from the very high-fat, low quality but very tempting comfort food. But instead I ate my leftover vegetable dishes and was able to go without it. I did tell myself that if I was still hungry after the veggies that I'd allow myself some (a measured serving size), because I don't want to make any foods forbidden. I'd rather try to make healthy alternatives first, and like I've said before, watch my portion sizes. I know, it sounds like a diet, but I really feel that for the first month of so I truly need to go through a "detox" phase. Although I certainly haven't totally eliminated anything, so it's not a true detoxification.

But truth be told, I would like to lose weight. I know that smacks in the face of all I've done with size acceptance and what I've learned about the diet industry and the media's influence. Maybe I'm succumbing to to the overwhelming pressure, maybe I'm fooling myself into thinking #1 it'll ever happen, #2 it'll change anything in my life, especially in the romance department. But maybe, just maybe, I've come to the point in my life that I don't need food anymore, I don't need to medicate, comfort and numb myself anymore. More importantly, maybe I'm ready to give up the insulation and the invisibility of the fat. That's a major, somewhat terrifying concept for me to wrap my head around, Most people never change -- the ones who do, do it with a strength and determination and courage that's admirable. Do I have that within me? This doesn't mean becoming skinny -- it means getting to a place where I'm truly comfortable with my body. I don't know where that will be, but we'll find out when I get there.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Being Realistic

Still soldiering on. The more research I do, the more I think OA might not be for me. Let me clarify -- while I think the 12 steps would be very beneficial, from what I understand, most groups stress an "abstinence" diet that requires you to measure every meal and eliminate all sugar and flour -- forever. I can tell you right now I could never handle something that regimented and restrictive, and I know I'd never be able to stick to it. I feel I'm doing a pretty good job right now limiting and cutting down on sugar and refined starches, but I know the minute I started thinking it has to be "all or nothing," my perfectionism will take over and I'll be done for.

So, I ordered a book online today that was recommended by a reviewer with a similar viewpoint. The doctor who wrote this book appears to have a more realistic plan but still addresses all the emotional issues I need to work through. I guess you could say I'm chickening out of full abstinence, but I think I'm being realistic.While I'm trying to take one day at a time, I also have to think about what can actually work for me in the very long term. As well as my own food choices, I have to cook for my daughter, too, and I would prefer that she have a well-balanced diet with me than going through life with "her food" and "my food."

This morning when I was waking up this thought went through my head that I wanted to binge, although the phrase that came to me was "fill myself up." It was an interesting insight --clearly I need to find other ways to "fill" myself other than food. I know I'm in a withdrawal phase right now, and thank goodness for the green tea pills -- that's another thing OA frowns upon, I've discovered. But I think they're a godsend right now, helping me to adjust as I reduce portions, starches and sugars. I have very little cravings, and I'm not driven to eat and eat and eat.

I exercised four days this week, my knee is getting stronger, and I hope everything I'm doing works together to reinvent myself to the person I want to be. Not just physically -- more importantly, mentally.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Stepping Out

Well, disappointment. OA is not meeting in M anymore. The closest place that I'm aware of is J-town, on Monday nights during my daughter's dance class, and Saturday mornings, when I'll be working most weekends at the B&B. So I made some calls and left my info with the regional group, and I think they're going to send me information. I find it shocking that there isn't a meeting in our county seat -- there are certainly enough overeaters around!

So, for the time being I'm reading stuff on the Internet and I'm looking into books and OA literature. If I can at least keep myself motivated that way until I can find a meeting that works or a support person to talk or email with about the steps and OA issues.

Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday and we had a typical Lutheran pot luck dinner at the church. I was a little nervous about going and being tempted to overeat, but I thought I did very well -- I got little samples of different dishes and didn't overload my plate, and I limited myself to one small piece of dessert. I didn't feel deprived and I left feeling satisfied, not stuffed. In fact, earlier that day I went to lunch with S.A. at the Chinese buffet, which I was concerned about, too. Again, I thought about what I picked, went heavier on veggies and lighter on rice and breaded items, and didn't even have an urge to get the desserts. I went up twice, but I didn't pile up my plate. Again, when I left I didn't feel like I had overeaten and didn't feel like I gorged.

Now some people might say, "but you ate high-starch, high-carb or sugary food," or "you should be avoiding buffets and pot lucks." But then I would have missed out on the fellowship and friendship that were the reason for the get-togethers. In my opinion, if I hadn't gone, I would have felt that I was depriving myself, which would have made me feel sorry for myself and would have very likely led to a binge, which almost always happens when I'm alone. I truly believe I ate sensibly and mindfully, and that's the main idea of this whole thing.

In fact, today was the first time since I've started that I had a binge craving -- I was driving in the car and started thinking about making a pumpkin pie that's in the freezer. I was fully aware of it and thought it through, and instead I went home and started to make my healthy dinner, which included my maple mashed sweet potatoes, and they took care of the pumpkin craving quite well!

Later, Mabel and I treated ourselves by watching our brand new Yoga for kids tape and trying out the various poses. We had a lot of fun, and actually did physical exercise rather than eating, which is very good indeed.

I'm not going to kid myself. I know there will be days ahead where the temptations will be greater and my resolve will be less. But I know how to make healthy choices, not just with food but with activities, too, and the more I do them, the more habitual they will become, and hopefully that foundation will get me through those rough days.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Five Pounds Gone

Well, I guess I better record it -- since last week I've lost five pounds. That has always been the most discouraging part, climbing on that damn scale and hoping for more (of a loss). And it's the old reminder that I've never done well with diets.

I have to keep telling myself this isn't a diet -- I'm making healthy choices and abstaining from compulsive eating. And I can't let myself think that this initial gung-ho feeling is going to last, and that's when I really need to delve into the emotional aspect.

Fortunately, I've "rediscovered" that there's an OA meeting every Wednesday morning in M -- at least it says so in the paper. Hopefully it hasn't been disbanded, because I'll start this week if it's still going strong. I sort of remember the meetings starting, but at the time it wouldn't have worked with the newspaper. Yet another reason I'm glad I'm out of there!

I'm still nervous about it, though. Even though it's anonymous, going to the meetings means I'm admitting this to the world, and making this something I can no longer deny.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Maybe This is Different

A very uneventful weekend. Which I suppose is good, because there were no temptations or stress to lead me astray.

But the funny thing is, I'm not really having my usual cravings for sweets-- not sure if it's the cold (still hard to taste anything) or these pills. In fact, my appetite seems to continue to decrease; normally after a couple days of "watching what I eat," I build up for a "I gotta make up for lost time" binge. But it's just not there. Either they're damn good pills, or my brain and my body are changing.

While I'm eager to talk to Dr. K. about these things, I'm also embarrassed/ashamed by it, admitting that there's something wrong. That despite my earlier protestations, I do believe I have a food addiction. Part of me worries that I'm kidding myself -- that I'm just putting a new spin on the old word DIET. That in a few weeks or months I'll fall off the wagon like I always have and be right back where I started. But maybe this is different. Maybe some kind of switch has been turned on in my brain, and there's no going back. At least it feels that way. I can only try to move forward and see.

Friday, February 20, 2004

So Far So Good

Well, it's three days later, and so far so good. I've had no binges, and other than our lunch with my mom and aunts, I've been able to go without seconds. I'll admit, supper time is the worst for me when it comes to that -- primarily because it's the biggest meal I cook and there are seconds to be had. But it helped that those seconds were specifically saved for lunch the next day, so I knew I could have it "later."

Even at the restaurant I thought I did pretty good -- my seconds were more salad and broccoli salad, not dessert -- of which I got fairly small portions.

I will admit I had two things in my favor this week -- I've had a cold and when my nose is stuffed up and I can't taste, I'm much less likely to eat a lot, because I feel like I'm wasting food if I can't taste it!

The other thing is the herbal pill I'm taking. It's mainly green tea extract with a few other herbs that suppress appetite and reduce water retention. I was a little nervous at first about taking a pill, but I researched all the ingredients online and didn't find any interactions with the regular medicine I take. It's relatively cheap, and in addition to actually suppressing my appetite, it seems to be boosting my energy, too.

In a way I feel like I'm cheating taking pills. But drug addicts and alcoholics have medicines available to aid them resist their cravings, so why shouldn't I? The herbs in the pills have extra benefits, including antioxidants and aiding in metabolism and lowering cholesterol. And it's nothing compared to the drastic measures of surgery.

I guess my question is, how long do I stay on these pills, and in addition, will the good effects I'm having now wear off over time? I'm a little afraid that if I go off the pills my cravings will come back with a vengeance, and I'll be back to my voracious appetite.

My plan is to stay on them for the time being, at least until I have a good "head start" at this endeavor. Sort of like a junkie going through detox. I need to get the chemicals (in my case, mainly sugar) out of my system before I can get on with my recovery.

I'm still definitely looking at this in a very 12 step/ one day at a time mentality, and it helps when I start to think about things like "I can't do this for the rest of my life" or "it'll take so long for me to get down to a weight I'll be content with." I tell myself instead, "Can I do this today?" And I try to remind myself that this isn't about achieving a weight that will get the doctors off my back and find me a mate. It's about putting an end to the emotional hold that food has over me; getting my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers in normal range; taking some of the burden off my feet, ankles, knees and hips; and trying to prevent things like heart attacks and diabetes.

Yes, part of me feels like I'm giving in to the overwhelming pressure to "get thin or die trying." I'm bombarded by it daily, everywhere I turn. I guess you could say I'm doing this on my own terms -- no stupid fad diets, no money-making organizations subjecting me to weekly weigh-ins. While I'm going to try to stick to "healthy" food, I'm not going to restrict or forbid any certain foods, because I know that will never work for me.

Of course, it'll be interesting once I'm put in certain situations -- holiday dinners, picnics, buffets and the like. But those are limited events, and the trick will be to make sure they are the limit, and that they don't cause me to relapse. And that's happened before.

As for exercise, I'm now two weeks back into my gym routine, and I can already feel some improvement with my knee, as well as beginning to rework muscles again. LG and I swam one day, too, and hopefully that becomes a regular routine.

Like I said, so far, so good. I'm going to continue to research the OA angle, continue exercise, and continue to make deliberate, thought-out decisions about eating.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

So Now What?

So, what am I going to do about it? Unlike alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, you can't completely eliminate food from your life. In fact, it's essential!

So you have to think, it's not necessarily food-- it's how and why I'm eating it. Am I eating because I'm hungry or because I'm lonely? Do I go back for seconds and thirds because my hunger has not been satiated, or because I haven't been comforted or numbed enough by it?

So (I'm using that a lot!) in this instance, going "cold turkey" does not mean never eating another morsel of food - it means I need to abstain from binge eating, from emotional or numbing eating.

It seems a little bit like I'm starting a food obsession -- thinking about what, how much and why I'm eating. The problem has been, however, that I haven't been thinking about it -- I've been mindlessly shoving my face full of unhealthy food, at large quantities, as a recreation and a comforter.

For example, every time I ate today, I made myself ask, "Why am I eating this?" And today, I recognized physical signs of hunger, and in the evening I recognized a craving for something sweet. I went to the store, and when I looked at the food I said to myself, "Why do I want to buy this? Is it healthy? Is it something I know I will binge with if it's in my house?"

I honestly don't know if this self-realization will last. Perhaps I truly need to act like the addict I feel I am and literally take it one day at a time. I went to the Overeaters Anonymous web site today and looked for local meeting but could only find J-town. I thought there was one in my county -- I'll have to check. I don't know how comfortable I'd feel going to meetings, but at the same time, I do think having a sponsor would be a good thing. At least I have my new therapist, Dr. K., and she may even know of local meetings since she deals with eating disorders.

Could this really be a new beginning for me? Or just another doomed attempt at losing weight? It feels different this time -- it's more about regaining control of my life -- as if I have ever been! It's about recognizing self-destructive behavior and wanting to change it. But am I strong enough to do it? Am I willing to make a commitment to abstaining from binging? That doesn't mean I'll never eat another ice cream cone or piece of birthday cake -- it means I won't buy a whole birthday cake for myself out of self-pity and plow through it in two days.

Here are the goals I've set up for myself:
1. Exercise 3 to 5 times a week. That means the gym, swimming, walking, biking -- whatever activities keep me moving, increasing my strength and benefiting my physical and emotional health.
2. No eating in front of the TV. That's going to be a very hard one for me. It's the #1 place for me to mindlessly eat. Prime overeating location.
3. Being conscious of portions. That doesn't mean I won't always eat just one portion, but I want to at least make myself recognize that I can just order the 6 inch sub instead of the 12 inch and still be satisfied.
4. Giving myself time to feel satisfied. This ties in with #3. I often just immediately fill my plate again just because the food's there. If I give myself even just 10 or 15 minutes to register my level of hunger or fullness, I could escape that stuffed feeling from finishing everything off before my stomach catches up with my head.
5. Ask myself why I'm eating. The most important, I think. There are going to be times when I'm eating to celebrate, to comfort and to console. But I want to recognize that instead of absentmindedly scarfing down everything in front of me for no good reason.

Perhaps I should transfer these to a poster so I can review them daily!

Monday, February 16, 2004

In the Beginning

I don't know what I should call this -- a wake-up call, hitting bottom, reaching and epiphany -- but I've hit a wall and realize I need to make changes in my life, in the way I do things and the way I think.

This past year has already seen a lot of change -- last March [2003] the stress and events finally came to a head at the newspaper, and I decided it was time to go. Although I miss writing the column, I have no other regrets -- except, of course, not being as close to A*. Although that was definitely a friendship under fire -- we bonded due to the circumstances we were forced into together. While I could hold a lot of anger and resentment towards Y* and Z*, it's not worth my energy. Besides, I'm so glad to be away from it! And I wouldn't have left if their toxic, unacceptable behavior didn't force the issue. [* I removed the names for obvious reasons.]

As fate would have it, I've forged out a new career -- with my mom, I've opened the bed and breakfast, which incorporates so many of my talents and interests -- decorating, cooking, website building, entertaining and tourism.

There are so many benefits to this job -- a flexible schedule, free time for Mabel, monumentally less stress and aggravation. However, without the pressing deadlines and demanding schedule, it's been harder for me to keep disciplined, and this winter I've fallen into the age-old problem of depression -- and overeating.

Now, in the past 18 months I started going to the gym regularly, first in M* and then in B*. For a year I kept it up religiously, and for the past six months it's been sporadic, but still regular. And I did manage to lose 30-40 pounds because of it. But this winter, mainly due to a knee injury and these old patterns, some of the weight has crept back on.

While this has been discouraging, a more important revelation has become more and more apparent. Over the past year I've had this reoccurring but very new thought: "I wish I didn't have to eat anymore," or "I wish I didn't have to think about food." And lately, more and more, I've come to realize that my addiction to food to medicate and comfort me is as real and damaging and out of control as any addiction to drugs or alcohol could be for others.

This is a pretty major revelation for me -- something I've never been quite able to admit. But now, whether it's due to age, increased self-awareness or an end of denial, I've come to accept the fact that there is a problem there, mainly a self-inflicted one, and the only way it's going to change is if I begin changing the way I cope with my feelings and changing behaviors that lead me to overeating and binging.

In some of my weakest moments I've considered -- but only for a few seconds -- gastric bypass surgery. But having myself butchered and putting myself at risk for deadly complications isn't going to fix the real problems; it's my brain that needs to be bypassed, not my stomach!

This has very little to do with fitting in a size 12 or meeting an imposed standard of attractiveness. I am tired of being controlled by food and feeling helpless against it.

Part of me is terrified by all of this; I'm an intelligent person -- now that I've come to this realization, how can I not try to do something about it?