Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Went Down to the Crossroads

I feel like I don't have a lot to blog about today, although I think some of that is because I just left a stressful day at work and I'm still coming down from that, so my thoughts are kind of scattered.

I must confess a stressful day at work for me now pales in comparison to stressful days of old. Even though I know this, I'm not going to pooh-pooh my feelings away, because usually that leads me to the Poo Poo Platter!

I have a small handful of people in our congregation who always call when I'm busy and prattle on with really long winded conversations. Some actually have a point to make but have a really difficult time being concise; some are just out and out rambling and nearly incoherent. Some call at the last minute to get something in the Sunday bulletin or need something done that they really should have planned out and requested a month ago. Some dump such personal information on me that I'm embarrassed for them.

My husband commented that it sounded like people were treating me like their therapist, and I told them that in my Church Secretary Newsletter (yes, they have a newsletter for everything these days -- I even get one called "The Newsletter Newsletter!") that this is a common phenomenon among church secretaries. We are seen as an extension of the pastor/reverend/vicar and people open up to us with their problems and concerns.

I can't tell you how many times I've had people burst into tears in my office. It's usually someone who has had someone close pass away recently and has come to see me about paying for the church dinner, collecting information on memorial donations, etc. I'll make some comment to the effect that if they need anything, to call me, and suddenly they're crying.

I always feel bad about this at first, but then I realize that they're not reacting to something rude and tactless that I've said. I went through this went my grandmother died. I was very close to her, and because all three of her sons were incapable for one reason or another (there's a memoir!), I was the one who held her hand and looked into her eyes when she died, and I carried out a major portion of the funeral arrangements. You're trying so hard to hold it together, and suddenly a certain person or a certain phrase will make that control disintegrate and you're sobbing. In this case, I think my offering of help and being there for them was all it took to get the emotions unbridled. It's amazing how powerful a genuine act of kindness can be.

It can be draining, though. And I think that's why when I finally got home for lunch I was feeling this urge to overeat. I had one sandwich and some of the Asian coleslaw I made last night (I make it with Paul Newman's Asian Sesame Dressing -- yum!), and as I brought my plate back to the kitchen I kept thinking about making another sandwich. I had this odd sensation in my abdomen -- not really hunger, not really full-blown anxiety -- looking back at it now, it was this little apprehensive crossroads of "do I say yes to another sandwich and overeat" or "do I say no and deprive myself of food." Neither choice sounds very appealing, does it?

I had the bun out of the bag when I said to myself, "You could probably eat more, but you know from your IE reading that this is the best place to stop, because in ten minutes your body's gonna' catch up with you and you're going to feel fine. Go upstairs and blog, and when you're done, if you're still hungry, make that second sandwich. Or, if you're hungry for something else, eat that."

So here I am, blogging away and drinking my water, and I feel comfortably full and not interested in anything else to eat. If I had eaten that second sandwich I would now feel stuffed, and if I wasn't careful, the guilt from that could have led me to a binge.

So why did I want the second sandwich? Because I was feeling depleted from work and wanted to "refill" myself? More than likely. I'm glad that I was able to circumvent the crossroads I had put myself in and bypassed right out of those negative thoughts. I mean, think about it - the options I had given myself were overeating or depriving myself -- all or nothing thinking. Only my work with IE saved me by giving me a "middle of the road" option that satisfied both the overeating and the deprived little devils on my shoulders: they were both made happy by the promise that there would be more to eat later. Funny how two opposing thoughts were solved with the same solution.

Well, for starting out with nothing to say, I sure said a lot of it! Just goes to show how beneficial the journaling/blogging process is in my journey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Goal of Imperfection

Last evening I was emailing a friend and admitted that I felt my IE work was "shaky" yesterday. I didn't binge, which in the end is my primary daily goal, but I didn't feel like I was fully honoring my body's hunger and fullness signals. I also was battling against some diet mentality when I chose to eat foods that weren't "healthy" -- potato chips, brownies, fudge. While the portions were small and I didn't compulsively eat them, it was hard for me on a day after a lot of overeating not to fall into restrictive and "healthy" eating.

Again, I sensed the old all-or-nothing, black or white thoughts knocking on the door. I worried that I'm not doing IE right, and because I wasn't restricting myself to lettuce and water the day after consuming a lot of calories, I felt the old fears of screwing up and gaining weight in the back of my mind. And this morning I thought about getting on the scale, just to see how badly the damage really is, but I managed to stay away from it.

Then I read Linda Moran's blog for May 30, and I realized this is what I need to do. This paragraph in particular spoke directly to me:

"How about aiming for APPROXIMATING normalcy? Can that be sufficient for you? Especially because so many dysfunctional eaters tend to be perfectionists and b/w thinkers, I would suggest that the goal of approximating is a worthy one, if for no other reason than the fact that a goal of imperfection may be a new idea for you."

New? How about revolutionary?

So now, looking back at yesterday, it's wrong to call my day shaky. I was successful at approximating normalcy because I fought off the diet mentality and didn't eat compulsively or emotionally. Nor did I restrict or deprive myself. I ate what I wanted and didn't stuff myself. And I didn't cave in to my worries and fears and stayed away from the scale. What's shaky about that?

I know this will be a continuing issue for me, and it will be an ongoing challenge to aim for imperfection. But the more I take the pressure off myself to be perfect, the better I'll feel about myself, and the less I'll look to food for comfort and consolation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Weekend of Progress

Well, the weekend could have gotten better, but it could have gone a whole lot worse, too.

Sunday went fairly well: I stuck to my game plan of packing up desserts to eat later, and I left the reunion feeling good -- not overstuffed with food. I overate some later that night, but I knew by enacting my plan I kept the overall intake of food for the day a lot less than other years.

Monday wasn't so good. As I feared, I fell into the overeating habit that is so common at our get-togethers. I compare it to being at a bar with a bunch of friends who are all drinking beer and having a great time. Without really thinking about it you fall into their pace of drinking (eating), and before you know it you're drunk (stuffed). But I'm not beating myself up about this; I overate a lot, but I didn't wake up that morning with any urges to binge, and I didn't feel any underlying feelings behind it -- stress, anger, anxiety, etc. It was more recreational than emotional.

This morning I tried really hard to look closer at it to see if there were ANY other causes to this overeating. All I could come up with was being tired from a long, hectic weekend, and that tiredness affected my strength to keep up my IE principles. I worked hard at being mindful Friday, Saturday and Sunday despite so many difficult situations, and by Monday I guess I was worn out and wasn't able to maintain it.

I did do something I was proud of. I broached the subject of including more non-food activities into our get-togethers, and it was received in a positive way. My father in law even dug out his volleyball/badminton set, and a few of us, including my daughter and I, played badminton for a while. I plan to keep encouraging this, and hopefully by the end of the summer we'll spend less time at the food trough and more time doing fun things. And even if I can't get everybody away from their plates, if I can at least pry myself away and give my daughter more memories than her mom stuffing herself at every picnic, then I'll have accomplished my goals.

While I'm trying not to feel guilty about yesterday's eating, I did wake up bloated and with an upset stomach. I haven't eaten breakfast yet, but not because I think I need to fast or diet to compensate for yesterday. I wasn't hungry at all, so I decided to honor that and wait until my body tells me it needs to eat again. There's no point in eating breakfast if I'm not hungry, right? I brought some food along to work in case that happens, so I won't be forced to chew on something that isn't appealing.

So, in retrospect, while I wasn't able to follow the IE principles on Monday, I'm pleased that the majority of the weekend did go well, which means there is progress. On Sunday I wore my smallest pair of shorts (a "regular" -- not plus -- size 16!) and they fit, so while I still haven't been weighing, I could tell by the fit of my clothes that I'm staying pretty stable with my weight, whatever that is right now! I'm not sure those shorts would fit this morning, but I know that this bloat will dissipate in the next few days as I return to eating normally and exercising regularly.

I hope everyone else's holiday weekend went well. I have to admit I'm glad it's over, however!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Surviving the Red Monster

The first time I ever took Mabel to Red Lobster, she was about three or four years old. We were taking a friend of mine out to dinner for her birthday, and as we drove into the parking lot Mabel asked, "Why are we going to a red monster?"

The name has forever stuck with me, and I have passed the usage of "Red Monster" on to my husband and several friends. This is where we went last night for my FIL's birthday dinner, and I must say it is now one of Mabel's favorite restaurants, as she has a particular addiction to crab legs.

It was an interesting discussion as we looked over the menu. Several people debated about ordering just an appetizer for their meal, and I was one of them. But on the way to Red Monster I knew what I was craving, so I went with it -- the shrimp and lobster linguine Alfredo. I saw that they had a half-portion available, so I went with that. My SIL also ordered the Alfredo with her meal.

After we all ordered a discussion went around the table about Alfredo sauce. My BIL normally doesn't like it, except when my husband makes it. Then my dear husband and his mother got into a big discussion about how bad it is for you, blah de blah. I just smiled to myself, feeling the diet mentality arrows coming at me, but they bounced right off as I told myself I was honoring my hunger and doing the right thing by not demonizing certain foods.

These "health-conscious" people ordered the cheesy seafood fondue bread bowl appetizer, and they passed it around for everyone to try. I took two small pieces and refused any more as the "pushers" at the table tried to force one of us to finish it off. Then our salads and rolls came, and I ate all of my salad and one roll.

By the time our entrees arrived I felt pretty satisfied. So when they put my plate down I didn't even touch it and went to work cracking and opening Mabel's crab legs for her. SIL commented half way through that I hadn't touched my meal yet, and I admitted that I wasn't that hungry and if need be I'd get it packed up to take home. When the crab leg cracking was done I finally addressed the pasta. I wound up eating less than a quarter of it and knew I had had enough. So I put my fork down and pushed the plate away from me, and when the waitress came I asked for a container to take it home.

Since it was FIL's birthday, he ordered dessert, and he passed it around for everyone to try. I took one bite, and it was to die for, but I quickly passed it on and took my time savoring the flavors as they lingered in my mouth. And I wasn't filled with envy or regret that I hadn't ordered my own. I do remember thinking, though, that the next time I return I may just order a salad and save room for the dessert!

When I got home later than evening I did wind up eating two pieces of fudge instead of one, but it was by no means a binge, and it didn't feel like one, either. I ended the night really pleased with myself that I ate what I wanted (both selection and quantity) and didn't feel remorseful or worried about it.

I will admit I'm a little bloated this morning (Red Monster's food is so salty!), but I know it could have been so much worse if I had ignored my body's fullness signals and gone overboard.

Now that I've survived the Red Monster, now I'm off to my family reunion. I'm going to employ a technique I used at a previous family dinner that worked well for me. I'll go around the food table once, getting my meal items, and eat until I'm satisfied. Then, when it's time to make the rounds for dessert, I may keep one item out to eat right then and pack the rest away for later. The last time I did this I ate my Thanksgiving meal with my family, then that evening I had my desserts for my evening meal. So instead of eating it all that afternoon and then eating even more that evening and feeling miserable that night, I spread the afternoon food out for the whole day and I felt so good, not only physically, but mentally, too.

That way I still get exactly what I want -- removing deprivation -- but eating it when I'm actually hungry -- following the IE principles.

Now if I can just master this two days in a row when my picnic comes around on Monday. It's always harder when you're the one stuck with a house full of picnic leftovers. But I have to say, knowing that I don't have to "get back on track" with restricting calories on Tuesday, the pressure to "eat it all now!" really isn't there. So if I have a bunch of brownies or chips or whatever it may be left over, I don't have to gobble them all up Monday night since they won't be Forbidden Food on Tuesday.

I just looked at the clock and it's definitely time for me to get ready for my day. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ham-Packed Weekend

Surprise, surprise, I have another jam-packed holiday weekend (I had a typo there earlier that read "ham-packed," which would have worked, too).

Today Hubby and I are going to the grand opening of a new furniture store to buy a new reclining chair for my FIL, whose birthday is tomorrow. It's going to be a birthday/Father's Day/thanks for helping us remodel our house gift. We are also going out to dinner with him, MIL, B&SIL tonight.

This afternoon my nephew has a baseball game, which Hubby wants to go to. However, our niece is in town for the weekend and wants to play with Mabel at our house, so I'm going to beg off the game and stay home with them. Of course, there won't be any R&R for me -- I have to clean the garage out because we are now hosting the Monday Memorial Day picnic, since there's a chance of rain and my B&SIL, who were going to host it, have no place for people to go because their house is under renovation. You may ask why I'm cleaning the garage and not Hubby: it's because I'm cleaning out the last of my stuff out that I took out of storage a few weeks ago.

Then of course there's Sunday. I've got a family reunion at noon, then at 4 p.m. my daughter is singing at a Memorial Day service at a local cemetery. My Dad lives near this cemetery, so I'm going to try to catch him at home and say hi. He just got home from an extended vacation and I haven't seen him for months.

And then there's Monday. We have an annual parade that Mabel and I usually march or ride bikes in, and then there's our picnic.

Can you say OVERLOAD? I don't know how this keeps happening to us, but we never seem to have a moment to spare. Of course I'm a little worried about keeping mindful and conscious about my body and eating this weekend, because I will be inundated with lots of food and eating opportunities: dinner, reunion, picnic. I'm going to do my best to honor my hunger, not eat until I'm stuffed, and not get overcome by urges to binge. Wish me luck!

Have a good holiday weekend, everybody!

Friday, May 25, 2007

From Scales to Compliments

The last time I weighed myself was last Wednesday. At the time I told myself I'd wait until this Wednesday (the 23rd) to weigh again. Wednesday came and I really didn't want to do it, and I told myself to wait until Friday.

Well, Friday arrived this morning and I still didn't want to do it. But unlike last week, I wasn't having anxiety attacks about gaining a ton of weight. I didn't want to weigh myself because I don't want to run the risk of diminishing my progress. I've been doing so well with Intuitive Eating, and I don't want to attribute that to a number; I want to gauge my success on a lessening of diet mentality thoughts, honoring my hunger and my emotions, and a decrease in binges. Either way the scale goes, that reading will sabotage what I'm trying to accomplish: if I've gained I might get depressed and down on myself, and if I've lost weight, it will tempt me to start treating this like another diet and I will once again fall into my perfectionist thinking.

And I have to admit this: I'm starting to like it when I don't have a number that defines my day. Being ecstatic on a 205 day and full of self-loathing on a 220 day is ridiculous when you really think about it, isn't it? That number doesn't change my personality, my identity, and why should I let it affect my mood and my opinion of myself? It's such a destructive, demoralizing thing to do, yet I was doing it to myself all the time. Enough, I say!

It's not like I don't know in general terms that I'm staying relatively stable weight-wise. I wake up in the morning and I'm not bloated like a soaked sponge from binge eating the night before. My clothes still fit. People are still commenting that I'm looking good. I may have gone up or even gone down a few pounds, but not enough to make a noticeable difference. So why worry about it?

Mentioning comments, a few days ago a lady I know (actually one of my husband's cousins -- life in a small town) told me how good I looked and asked me if I was still losing weight.

"Not really," I replied.
"Are you still dieting?" she asked.
"No, not anymore," I said, not sure how to answer. "I still exercise regularly, and..."
"... and watch what you eat?" she finished for me.
"Sort of," I said, shrugging my shoulders.
"Well, you definitely look great," she said as we parted ways.

I don't know how much I should say about Intuitive/Conscious Eating. I don't know if people will write it off as another diet, or if people will scoff at the notion of eating whatever I want whenever I feel hungry. The lady I was talking to has always been a big woman, and I have no idea about her history (if she's dieted a lot, if she's accepted herself as she is, etc.). I don't feel like I should take an evangelistic approach with this and try to convert people to IE. While I'd love to "save" people from the diet mentality, it's not my place to shove it down people's throats. But if anyone's interested in it, I'd love to share my insights. It's just hard to know how people will react.

On another related note, I had a funny experience with getting dressed this morning. I got a pair of my 18-20 shorts out from storage and put them on. Well, I looked like one of those people in the "after" picture in the diet ads, holding the waist band and examining the chasm between it and my body. This surprised me, because these shorts used to run on the tight side, especially when I first bought them (of course, I was 23oish at the time). They fit loose but comfortable everywhere else, but that waist was way too baggy, so I then tried to find a belt in my closet. After scrounging around I found one and put it on, only to discover the belt was way too big, too! I would have had to bore a hole in the belt a good 4 or 5 inches from the last notch to make it work.

So I gave up and put on a pair of shorts I bought a few weeks ago. These were a little snug when I bought them, and I originally didn't put them on because I was sure with all this food legalizing going on and the Saturday binge they would be too tight. But they fit the same, which was a pleasant surprise. The best news of all is, instead of propelling me into diet mode, this confirmed for me that what I'm doing is working.

I'm coming back after a couple hours because the office got very busy. In that time two more people stopped by the office and commented on how good I look. I had to tell you about the one "compliment," from an older lady in our congregation:
"You sure are looking good now!"
"Thanks," I replied.
"You must've lost a lot of weight."
"Yeah, over the last couple years."
"Because you sure weren't looking good at all a while ago!"

Hmmm, how do you answer that? The pastor was in the room at the time, and we both just kind of stared at her in shocked silence. But it didn't phase her. People like that don't realize they've stuck their foot in their mouths, even when the shoelaces are dangling down their throats. Oh well. At least I look good to her now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My apologies

I hate to do this to those real, sane people who comment anonymously here, but after receiving a rash of ranting, crazy, incredibly long posts, I've been forced to block anonymous commenters.
Why does one bad apple have to spoil the whole bunch? Yet another food metaphor...

Workin' for A Livin'

Today was the first real day at work since Easter that I was really able to catch up on things: filing, replacing and tossing catalogues, entering data, sending out memorial receipts. My desk looks so much cleaner and things are more organized, and I feel so much better.

Part of this is because I realize my vacation is coming up June 11 and I've got to get this office in tip-top shape for my fill-in so she doesn't walk into utter chaos. In fact, she's coming in tomorrow for her first day of training, and I didn't want her coming in and thinking, "Look at this mess! This is going to be a disaster!"

I have one of those jobs -- and every job I've had for the past 10 years has been like this -- that involve a plethora of duties. When I start making a list of all of them it takes a couple pages. I've got something to do with pretty much every single thing that goes on in this church, and I know at first it was pretty overwhelming. I had a notebook full of directions that broke down daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual things I must remember to do. While my predecessor gave me some of the notes, I remember writing tons more, trying to notate specific directions and where things were located on the computer or in the office.

In the first couple months I was constantly going to these notes, terrified I was going to forget something important. I would leave notes for myself and have to consciously go through each responsibility in my head at the end of the day to make sure I remembered everything.

Over time my job has become second nature. I have fallen into the weekly routine at work like my dental hygiene habits at home -- I do it without really thinking about it. With some job duties, I've found different ways to complete them that work better for me or have streamlined it to make myself more efficient. Once in a while something will slip my mind, but it's rare.

I realize that I'm going through a similar thing now with Intuitive Eating. Right now I'm in hyper-vigilance mode -- I have to make a special effort to tune in to why I'm hungry (emotional, physical?), concentrate hard on the eating experience to truly savor it, and pay intense attention and listen to my body to figure out when I'm satisfied or comfortably full. I am constantly deprogramming myself against the diet mentality; most of my internal thoughts right now are either convincing myself I can eat what I want, that I don't need to weigh myself and that I'm able to handle my daily stresses without food.

I'm clutching and referring to my IE books like I used to rely on my work duty notes. But I realize that eventually, with practice and time, this will become second nature just like my workday is. I won't have to pay so much attention to hunger and fullness because it will become natural to me. I won't spend so much time thinking and rethinking about food, eating and weight because I will have finally absorbed the IE mentality and can get on with other things in my life.

This thought makes me so happy, because it means that while this IE work is hard, the dedication I'm giving to it now is going to pay off in spades in the near future. I can't wait for my pay day -- a life of recovery.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cutting the Connection

Another busy day. Just got back from my appointment with Dr. K., and I talked a lot about IE and how it's going for me. I told her about this past weekend's binge and uncovering its causes, and I also explained how I was beginning to get a handle on my emotions through analyzing the beliefs behind them.

For example, last night everyone in my house was cranky. Mabel was in full Drama Queen Mode, and Hubby was in a foul mood. The latter really affected me at first, and I started to get all upset and anxious and wanted to escape. But then I thought about the Food and Feelings book and went over my mental notes to see if I could deflate it. And then I got it: this situation was triggering memories and emotions of how I used to feel as a child when dealing with my father. I knew that if he wasn't home by 6 o'clock, it was best to quickly eat supper and run for shelter in my bedroom. Dad's work day was 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and was always topped off with a stop at the bar. If it was a "good" day he'd be home by 4 or 5 and be happily buzzed and in a good mood. But if it went past 6, he would get way past buzzed, and then his mood was a crap shoot: sometimes he'd come home completely anesthetized and out of it, but in an instant he could get nasty. Never physically violent, but definitely angry and full of verbal venom.

You could say living on eggshells was a normal way of life for my mom, sister and me. In the worst periods, Mom would prepare for this time of day by hitting the liquor cabinet and "bracing" herself for whatever was coming. Like I said, if the 6 o'clock news came on and there was no Dad, my sister and I would eat our supper in front of the TV and hightail it to our rooms to do homework, listen to music, etc.

Unfortunately, both my sister and I wound up recreating this scenario in our relationships as adults. Life with my Ex was definitely strewn with egg shells. While he wasn't as heavy a drinker as my dad, his diabetes would greatly affect his moods, and his OCD tendencies led him to blowing up at me over the tiniest imperfections in my housecleaning. So he would drink too much on a Saturday night, then Sunday morning when he was hungover and his blood sugar would go all out of whack, he would blow up at me. One weekend I got the announcement that he couldn't live with me anymore because the couch cushions weren't properly fluffed. I got a sticky note telling me to "Clean up after yourself, you pig" when I left some grains of sugar on the kitchen counter. After he felt better he would calm down, but it left me strung out and in constant fear of the next explosion. Unlike my mother, instead of hitting the whiskey bottle waiting for my man to come home, I'd escape in the food.

As for my sister, her ex-husband not only would drink too much, but from my observations he shared my father's bipolar disorder. His wild highs and lows and paranoid thoughts were way too familiar. When I went to visit my sister for a week, I could see our childhood repeating itself once again. As for my sister's drug of choice, every afternoon before her husband came home she would sneak off and smoke to calm her nerves.

I realized the anxiety I was feeling last night was triggered by my memories of my evenings as a child, in addition to my life with my ex. Even though my husband was completely sober and not verbally abusive, his bad mood immediately took me back to those days of living on egg shells and wanting to eat and hide. I informed myself that this situation has nothing to do with those bad times, and it was senseless to connect what's happening today to the past and get myself worked up over someone else's emotions. (I believe that's called transference!)

Suddenly the anxiety and fear was gone. I did kind of keep my distance until he calmed down, but later on we talked and everything was fine. And I had no need to inhale a box of cookies or run down the street and get a big sundae to cope with it. I did have one cookie last night, but hey, it was a couple hours after dinner, I was craving it, and I was completely satisfied with it and felt great. I think that's called normal eating!

It feels so good when I have a moment like this when I can put what I'm learning into practice and see immediate results. Each time this happens the urge to binge gets a little smaller and the desire for food to comfort and console me decreases. I know there are no instant cures with IE, but as long as I continue to collect these positive moments, I will continue to recover.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Finding Wisdom in Dog Walking

Last night our friends (and neighbors) invited Mabel and me to take our puppies on a walk with them and their dog Ollie (who they got the same day we got our dogs). I got the leashes on them and off we went, but what a disaster! While both Pearl and Bruno tugged and pulled against the leashes, Bruno was fighting it so hard he wound up making himself throw up! (I had fed them right before our friends called, which was definitely a mistake, but who knew they would call?)

"Wow," I said at the end of our walk, "It's obvious we haven't been walking these dogs on the leash enough!" I felt bad, because I had every intention of getting these dogs leash trained ASAP, and it fell by the wayside with Hubby off at baseball games almost every night and Mabel busy doing her thing. Since I figured I couldn't do it by myself, it didn't get done.

But this afternoon when I got home from work I looked down at the doggies and said, "All right, let's go for another walk!" I got them both on their leashes and we took off, and it went so much better. They only gagged themselves on the leashes once when we got close to some horses in a field, but no one puked, and they actually walked together pretty well for young untrained dogs.

I figured out a couple things:
1. The dogs do better when there are less distractions-- my friends went the "social" route where every couple of houses there was someone outside to talk to (or in the dogs' case, try to jump on). I took them down the country road behind our house and didn't stop every 30 seconds for neighborly chatter.
2. The dogs did better when they were closer together -- last night I took Bruno, and Mabel charged ahead with Pearl. I'm convinced Bruno fought against the leash so hard last night because he was trying to catch up with her.
3. I was wrong to think I couldn't do it myself. Today with just me holding the leashes, they weren't being pulled in different directions and several times fell into a nice steady rhythm with me.
4. They definitely need to do this regularly to get used to it. There was definite improvement from last night, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

All of these things can be related to my work with Intuitive Eating. I need to cut down on distractions, especially when I'm eating, but also pushing out the diet mentality that always wants to invade my brain. It really helps to be in contact with other people who are going through the same thing I am, which right now is a variety of IE web sites and forums (check out my new side bar for IE resources I'm exploring). I am strong enough to do this myself, and just like the puppies, it's going to take practice and patience to gain progress.

I have to tell you I found a lot of comfort and validation last night reading some posts on Karen Koenig's blog. The one about after a binge made me realize I was on the right track; her post about the struggle made the internal conflicts I have seem normal and part of the process of change; and when she writes about feeling bad before feeling good, it taught me that I need to learn to accept the challenges and the bad days and not struggle against them, because that is a crucial part of recovery.

Gee, learning not to struggle against what is new and unfamiliar? There's a lesson both the puppies and I need to learn. If we keep focusing on fighting the leash, we may miss out on all the great things going on around us -- like rabbits hiding behind fences, or in my case, a life without dieting and bingeing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Letting Go: Stinkin' Thinkin'

Taking a break from house cleaning. I've got my friend SS coming to stay this weekend, and I want the place to look at least halfway decent and livable.

Of course, our chaotic life isn't helping matters. My friend is coming Friday night; on Thursday morning a crew is invading my house to fix our leaky basement. They claim they will be done and everything will be cleaned up by the end of the day Friday. I sure hope so. Talk about cutting it close.

After a quick lunch I had to empty said basement of our canned goods and other pantry items and lug them upstairs. One of the reasons we're fixing the basement is so we can build a big pantry down there, because my kitchen just can't contain all the items my husband must buy in bulk at the mega-mart. So where to put everything, you ask? My downstairs shower stall is now packed full of cans and other miscellaneous foodstuffs. Thank goodness we've got another shower upstairs.

I threw one of my martyr fits this morning as I surveyed the clutter and garbage strewn around my house, 80 percent of which was dumped by my loving family. I told Hubby last week I'm going to have "She picked up other people's socks" carved on my tombstone. He laughed, so I know he heard me, but it still didn't stop him from leaving various socks lying hither and yon throughout the house.

Anyway, I grumbled and cursed under my breath this morning, not sure how in the span of two days our house can get so disheveled when we spend half the weekend running all over the countryside and aren't even here! I think when we do get home everyone just dumps everything on the floor and goes to do their thing -- mainly, watch TV. Leaving me to put everything away, clear up dishes, you name it.

The one good thing my martyr routine and my subsequent "suck it up and clean the place already" plan this afternoon did was distract me from the worries I've been having the last 24 hours. I guess it's fallout from the Saturday binge which has let the diet mentality creep back into my head, but I don't like it. Like the TV news shows, I have this scroll bar running underneath my regular thoughts that keeps repeating "You're gaining weight. With all this eating you're going to gain it all back." I felt out of control and sad, and with that came the anxiety.

It didn't help that Hubby announced to me he's now lost 12 pounds on Meridia. This got the diet mentality really revved up. "He's losing weight and I'm going to gain, and before you know it he's going to weigh less than me," the scroll bar said in an update. I don't know why the thought of that horrifies me so, maybe it's a gender stereotype that men should be bigger than women.

Plus I went blogging yesterday afternoon and found myself reading about people reaching or getting darn near their "goal" weight, and it just made me feel awful. "Why can't that be me?" the little brat in my head whined. "Why do they get to be 150, 180, etc., and I don't? It's not fair!"

So then the doubts started creeping in about IE, that maybe I was just kidding myself that this would ever work. "I'll just wind up gaining 20 or 30 pounds (or more!) and have to go back on another diet to lose it, only this time it'll be even harder!" I bemoaned. I couldn't believe that I would ever be able to get sane around food; I was sure all of my bad habits would come back and I'd be right back where I started.

To add fuel to the fire, this weekend in the middle of all this running around I took all my fat clothes to the Salvation Army and gave them away. Everything in sizes 22, 24, 26, 28, and even those dreaded 30/32s, is now gone. And my thought last night? "Oh no, what have I done? Now I'm going to gain a ton of weight and won't have any fat clothes to wear!"

As Stuart Smalley would say, "That's just stinkin' thinkin'!" I let every negative thought and belief invade my head and send me into one of those catastrophic tirades (again, to quote Stuart, "I'm gonna die homeless and penniless and twenty pounds overweight!").

I guess the good news is, as bad as these thoughts were, and as bad as they made me feel, I didn't for one second seriously consider stopping IE and going back on a diet today. The rational part of me knew that I needed to hash out these doubts and fears to get rid of them. Just like I am finally letting go of those fat clothes, I'm learning to let go of the diet mentality. And like letting go of any important thing in our lives, there's usually a grieving process involved.

In amongst the stress and the cold and the time of the month, there was one thought that also helped to trigger the Saturday binge and subsequent anxieties on Sunday: I remember thinking on Friday that I am saying goodbye not only to the dieting, but to the bingeing, too. And that thought scared me. Because there is a part of me that still enjoys escaping into food. It's a coping mechanism I created as a child that got me through a lot of difficult times in my life, and letting go of that is frightening. It was my main means of self-comfort and nurturing for many, many years, and giving that up makes me feel scared, and surprise, surprise -- deprived.

So it isn't shocking that the little rebellious child in me said, "Oh no you don't! You're not taking this away from me! I'll show you!" Hence my binge.

Today, with the sun shining and a clearer head on my shoulders, I know that it is extremely early in my journey, and these second thoughts and the inner turmoil I'm going through as I enter new and uncharted territory is probably very normal. I'm going through some major changes, and that's not easy. I'm going to have emotional days, even painful days as I adjust and adapt. But I'm also going to have wonderful days, moments of victory and elation as I grow and learn.

And it helps to write all this down. If I hadn't been writing throughout this weekend and today I may have never made the connection between the binge and my thoughts of saying goodbye to my emotional dependence on food. I would have just written it off as being stressed, sick and being hormonal and not realized what else was going on. When I write down my thoughts and feelings I can look at them with a more objective eye and spot what's irrational and uncover the wide range of emotions I'm experiencing, not just the anxiety.

So I apologize if this post wearies you with its load of stinkin' thinkin' and feeling sorry for myself. But I needed to let go of it, and this was the best place I could think of to deposit it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dissecting a Binge

Recovering from yesterday. I'm sad to say I binged. Not a small, fizzle-out snacking on sweets, not the Mother's Day overeating. A full-blown binge.

I would have loved to have come here and reported how I vanquished it, broke it down and defeated it with all kind of relaxation techniques and cognitive therapy skills. And I did try. But it just didn't happen. It was like a switch got flipped on and once that current went through, there was no turning it off.

I'm doing my best to see the positives here, the morning after. Taking May 1 as the starting date of my IE journey, I'm pleased that it's taken three weeks to have another binge. Since I was bingeing pretty much two days a week every week for several (way too many!) months, I know this is real progress.

Every IE book I've read has told me that the binges won't magically disappear. It takes time to recover from (in my case) the many years of using food to comfort myself, as well as the last few years of diet mentality that had been taking over my life. And the point was made that even if you master the IE techniques, you will never become a "perfect" eater, because no one is. Almost everyone overeats once in a while; a lot of people occasionally eat for emotional reasons. But they don't do it all the time, and they don't berate themselves and consider themselves bad, morally bereft people because of it. And it doesn't make them spiral into binge eating.

I've also read that it can take a long time for your body to recover from the deprivation caused by long-term dieting. In the "Intuitive Eating" book they explain that when the body is faced with long term calorie restriction it creates a "primal hunger," which creates a drive in the body to eat everything in sight, because it has recognized starvation conditions and is instinctively trying to prevent death. This doesn't go away immediately; in the famous World War II study it took their test subjects months to recover normal eating habits, and that was only after a few months of restricting. I've been doing it for the majority of three years.

Of course, I'm not totally writing this off as an involuntary drive that was completely out of my control. Over the course of the day I tried my best to chip through the "eat, eat, eat" chant in my brain to get at the feelings coursing underneath. I know it was a stressful week at work and I was sick with a cold and dealing with my time of the month of top of it. And Saturday was the final straw: I was nervous for my daughter who was having her big dance recital, and I was stressing trying to get her ready and at the auditorium in time. And my husband was stressing me out with a situation that really had no bearing on our relationship, but on dealing with other people. It was making me anxious because I knew what my husband was doing would upset these other people, some of whom I deal with regularly, and I just knew I would somehow wind up getting stuck in the middle of it. And Lord knows I can't stand upsetting people and having them angry at me.

So I was stressed, anxious, depleted, and tired. I was afraid of dealing with other people's anger and rejection. Those old feelings of deprivation were running wild, and even though I realize now that I felt deprived from rest and relaxation and nurturing, I focused only on being deprived of food. It didn't matter that I kept telling myself "You're not being deprived anymore! You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Just stop when you're full." But that little wild child inside of me didn't want to hear the word "stop" in any shape or form. So I binged.

Today I'm a little remorseful about it, a little worried about weight gain and my clothes not fitting. But I realize that even though I don't like the binge, it has its usefulness. Now that I'm aware of what I need to look for, I was able to use this binge to get to the bottom of what I'm really feeling underneath the top layers of deprivation and rebellion. I'm starting to learn what the real problems are and what I really need to focus on in my life. And even though I didn't win the battle this time, I'm gathering more information, more insight, and hopefully next time I'll be more prepared and have more strategies in place to take care of myself in other ways than eating.

And the good news is, I didn't get on the scale this morning to asses the damage. The numbers at this point are irrelevant to the mental and emotional progress I'm making, and I don't want to add insult to injury by focusing on a number instead of what I've learned.

On a good note, my daughter kicked a** yesterday at her recital! She is such a talented gymnast, and I was so proud of her I nearly burst. I brought her a bouquet of flowers after her routine and I could tell she was really pleased. Today we're continuing her celebration by taking her to the matinee to see Shrek 3. But right now I need to go shower for church. Hope everyone has a good Sunday!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tag, I'm It

OK, Lori finally cornered me and tagged me with this blog thing going around.

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Here goes:

8. When I went to Florida as a child I was in an elevator with Jan and Dean. My first brush with greatness.
7. When I eat multicolored food (m&ms, for example) I have to have an equal amount of all colors. I then eat one of each color until they're all gone. Did I mention there's a lot of OCD in my family?
6. My biggest guilty pleasure is The Monkees, both the show and the music. Mike Nesmith is by far my favorite Monkee.
5. I almost always sneeze in threes. I've been told that's a sign of luck. I call it seasonal allergies.
4. The most surreal two minutes of my life occurred when I lived in Boston. I walked out of my apartment and literally bumped into Peter Wolf; as I walked away I proceeded to pass a little person, then two transvestites. By the time I reached the end of the blog I wondered if someone had slipped something in my drink.
3. I had a serious dream of becoming a musician. I attended Berklee College of Music for one year and realized my real talents were in my writing, so I transferred.
2. As a child I had two imaginary friends, Patrick and Patricia.
1. Since we were little kids my best friend and I have always had a bizarre psychic connection. If either one of us thought of the other, the phone would suddenly ring and it would be one of us. One time I was traveling through her town and tried to arrange a get-together, but our schedules weren't working. I stopped at a department store there before leaving, and in the parking lot I saw a car drive by with her in it! We managed to hang out for 10 minutes as she bought a birthday card for the party she was going to. The oddest thing of all: I invited her to my 15th class reunion (she went to school with me from grades 3-7). At the reunion she hooked up with one of the guys in our class, and three months later she arranged for me to meet his brother. We both married the brothers, and now we're sisters-in-law!

And now, I’m tagging Beula, Debra, Helen, Lynette, Jen S., Michele, Tree Lover, Ty
If any of you have already done this, my apologies.

Just A Muffin

Still fighting whatever it is I have-- I'm still not sure if it's a cold or allergies. But my throat's better today, which is good.

A few minutes ago I did what up until, oh, today, was the unthinkable: I walked away from a half eaten double chocolate muffin, one of my current favorite foods to "indulge" (i.e. binge) on when I'm "bad." I'm still kind of amazed and dazed by it. But I really paid attention to my body, and halfway through I knew I had eaten enough to satisfy me.

It was almost like someone else was steering the controls as I watched myself put the muffin down on the table and walk away. I am a charter member of the Clean Your Plate Club, so to leave something behind is working against a behavior I've had since childhood.

I purposely didn't throw the rest of the muffin away, pour dish soap on it, etc., because that would have smacked of diet mentality to me. Besides the fact that I can't stand the thought of "wasting" food, tossing it or soaping it makes me think I've done something wrong by eating it and I'm now either hiding or destroying the evidence. Knowing that I can go back and finish the muffin when I'm hungry again was half the reason why I could walk away.

I feel kind of silly posting about eating half a muffin, but this simple act is revolutionary to me. Before IE, this muffin probably would have been the start of a binge that would last the rest of the day, even the rest of the weekend. The following Monday morning I would promise myself I'd never buy those muffins again, declaring them evil and off limits. But of course, a few weeks or months down the line, after a lot more dieting and deprivation, I would be driven to buy them once again. Now, it's just a muffin.

Yesterday in my comments, Tree Lover asked, "Are you sure you have only been at this IE thing for a few weeks? Every time I read your blog I am amazed by your insights."

I may have only been following IE for a few weeks, but the truth is I've been reading about it for at least 15 years. Each time I'd read another book I would nod my head, intellectually getting what the author was trying to say. But each time I was nowhere near ready to put it into practice. Before I lost my weight I was still too dependent on the eating and shut down to my emotions and body signals, and when I was dieting I kept telling myself "When I lose xx more pounds, then maybe I could try this as maintenance." (If I've posted this before, I apologize for repeating myself)

I suppose I could compare it to the way my weight loss happened; I had tried to lose weight several times before, but in 2004 all the elements came together and clicked, and I shed the weight. Of course, as you know, by 2007 I'd dieted myself into a diet/binge cycle. I hate to say that it was this series of events that made everything click for me with IE, because I certainly wouldn't recommend everyone mess up their heads with dieting in order to "get" IE. But I suppose in my case I did need to "hit bottom," so to speak, to reach that desperation level when I knew I had to find another way to deal with eating and food.

But the most crucial thing I've learned in the last couple weeks is this: the actual food we eat is truly secondary. This is all about our bodies and minds. So many of us learn to shut down our emotions and ignore what our bodies are trying to tell us. I definitely have, and I'm learning a lot of the why and how of that through Karen Koenig's "The Food & Feelings Workbook." Every time I pick it up I think, "Yep, that happened to me," or "Oh yeah, I do that all the time." And best of all, I'm learning how to work through these issues and replace all the screwy beliefs in my head to more rational and nurturing ones.

Do I still have my fears and doubts? Yeah, sometimes. I'm still holding on to some concerns about gaining weight, although they are decreasing. I'm realizing more and more that my sanity is more important to me than my clothing size, and this is the only way I know of that I can find that sanity when it comes to food and eating. While I'm still proud of the weight I've lost, I'm getting more and more comfortable with the idea of being content where I am. All the books I've read say that if you follow IE you will most likely lose pounds and get to your "natural" weight, whatever that may be. However, I'm not going to hang all my hopes on that possibility. If I would happen to lose weight, so be it. But it's going to be much more of an accomplishment to me when I can reach the day when I can't remember the last time I binged. Now that would be truly wonderful.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hard Work

I never got back to post again last night. It turned out we had tickets to a Cash Night held by a local fraternal organization. You buy tickets with a number that corresponds to a numbered ball. They pick each number in random and you've got a chance to win cash or a door prize. There were also other games of chance: 50/50 (where the winner gets half the money collected from ticket sales) and chances on a grandfather clock.

My sweet, absent-minded husband never told me he bought these tickets, and he must have forgotten about them completely, because his mother called me at work yesterday to remind us about it. At first I really didn't want to go, but a bunch of our friends were going, and my daughter had an invitation to spend the evening at a friend's house, so I surrendered and went to the dinner.

The meal that went with this event was prepared by the same group that made the Mother-Daughter banquet meal I went to a few weeks ago. They're all about the comfort food -- mashed potatoes, corn, dressing, gravy. The meat this time was Swiss steak -- basically floured meat covered in gravy. Real healthy meal, if your idea of healthy is consuming a meal almost entirely comprised of carbohydrates. There was the meat, of course, and we did have applesauce, but otherwise? An utter Starch-tacular.

Of course that doesn't change the fact that it was completely delicious, and I definitely dived right in. I observed during the meal that I pretty much ate the same amount as those who I consider "normal" eaters. However, that meant we all overate. While I knew when I hit the satisfaction level on my new hunger/fullness scale, the taste of the food kept me going past that. When I reached the full mark, I did recognize it and knew to stop before I got to the uncomfortably stuffed stage.

That didn't stop me from feeling a little guilty about it, at least for a few minutes. That's definitely something I'm trying to learn as I explore intuitive eating: how to remove guilt when I overeat and accomplishment if I deprive myself. Because that sense of achievement from "going without" always winds up twisting into resentment, which then leads me way past overeating into binge territory. And then I really feel guilty. So I reminded myself that it was just one meal, and I had been able to use it as another chance to read my body's signals.

The good news about the event is that Hubby won the 50/50 drawing, and I won a $10 gift certificate! Plus I got to talk and laugh with my friends, so overall it was a good night.

This morning I woke up with what I'm thinking is not allergies but a cold. I'm really stuffed up and my body's dragging. I'm drinking lots of tea and trying to take it easy, although work isn't helping much with that.

I got home for lunch today and didn't have any real plan for lunch. I looked around the kitchen and wound up having a serving of Guiltless Gourmet tortilla chips and salsa, but after that portion I didn't want any more. But I knew I hadn't reached my level of satisfaction, so I then had two apple flautas, and then I felt good. My head quite isn't there, and I know it's that "I'm sick, so comfort me with food" syndrome. But since my stomach's content, I'm not going that route. After I'm done posting I'm going to lay down and take a short nap until I have to get Mabel and take her for her allergy shot.

While I'm glad that I'm not dieting, I'm realizing that this Intuitive Eating has its own hard work behind it. It's hard to break the diet mentality. I'm still checking out food labels on new foods, but it's mainly to see what the portion sizes are. Most of the IE literature talks about recognizing portion sizes and learning that smaller amounts of your favorite foods can often be just as satisfying, if not more so, when you learn to fully enjoy and savor them without guilt or fear of gaining weight. Before I started IE I found it interesting to see what fuzzy math these food companies do to make their labels look good. Yeah, there's only 100 calories per serving of Brand X, but they don't tell you that the single package you hold in your hand is 2.5 servings! Tricky buggers.

There's also the scale factor. After yesterday's weigh-in, I'm going to try to go for a whole week again. I almost made it last time, so I think it ought to get easier as time goes on.

But the hardest work is the effort it takes to stay in tune with my body. After spending most of my life ignoring it, whether I was overfeeding it or starving it, it's difficult to reconnect to the hunger and fullness signals it was trying in vain to send me. There are days I just don't want the extra work. I realize that this is sad, because for truly intuitive eaters, it comes as naturally as knowing when you're tired or when you have to use the restroom.

I realize now that I'm the one who has made this so difficult. To continue the simile above, when I'm sleepy I don't feel guilty about it, I know my body needs rest and I do my best to get it. When my bladder's full, I don't second-guess it and tell myself I'll be a better person if I hold it an extra hour. I'm the one who has added all the negative connotations to a natural process. I'm the one who has judged my worth as a human being on an involuntary physical need.

So now I need to get rid of all of that mental clutter I've collected around hunger and eating. And there's where the hardest work truly is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Can Your Head Really Explode?

What a morning. I don't know if it was the TOTM headache I woke up with, the rain, or the fact that I'm getting backed up at work and everyone and their uncle has been calling my office, but I really thought for a few minutes that my head might actually explode.

Fortunately, the ibuprofen I took is kicking in and I'm starting to feel a little better. I'm chipping away at the piles of work around me, but I'm still wading through it and trying to figure out how I'm going to get it all done.

In a sick twist of fate, my deadline week for the monthly church newsletter, entitled "The Visitor," has been coinciding the last several months with my monthly visitor. I swear this adds to my aggravation levels each month as I wait around for my regular procrastinators to get their information to me, or else the other people whose psychic powers propel them to call me with all kinds of crazy, last-minute requests when my workload is already at its maximum. Today for about an hour, maybe 90 minutes, the phone seemed to ring every two minutes. Included in this chaos was two calls each from my husband and his mother. No emergencies or urgent reasons, just odd things that really could have waited until I got home. Can you say OVERLOAD?

I should be working right now, but I had to take a few minutes to collect myself and decompress. I'm kind of disappointed a little because I ate my morning snack earlier during the phone call madness and didn't get to enjoy it much. I was legitimately hungry then, so I wasn't eating it for emotional reasons, but there were too many distractions going on and it took away from the enjoyment of it. I should have put it away and saved it for later, but the physical signs of hunger were there and I didn't want to get in the "too hungry" category, which would have made things even worse.

Well, this morning I finally broke down and got back on the scale. I wanted to wait until Friday, making it a week, but I'm pretty pleased I made it five whole days. While the lingering diet mentality thoughts had made me hope for a lower number, it was exactly what I expected it to be, just by judging how I felt. This is actually a good sign because not only does it mean I'm pretty in tune with my body, but that I'm basically in a maintenance mode right now. That's a huge relief to me, because in the days that I didn't weigh I kept having these concerns that eating what I wanted was going to shoot my weight up astronomically.

While I know it's a good thing to back off on weighing myself, I did discover that as time went on I was actually afraid to get back on the scale, because of these fears of gaining weight. While I don't want to be obsessively weighing myself three times a day, I don't want to be in avoidance mode because I'm filled with worry and dread, either. Hopefully in time I will reach the point that what I weigh just doesn't matter to me anymore. It seems very difficult, however.

Well, I better get back to work here. I have more to say, but I guess it will have to wait. At least my head feels better. Maybe this afternoon I'll try to get back online in between loads of laundry and other housework. An AFG's work is never done...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In The Moment

Yesterday was such a long day. Between having Mabel sick at home and PMS/beginning of my time of the month, it was a stressful and tiring. Then there were some other little irritants that built up until I was pretty strung out. It was interesting now in hindsight to feel the emotions churning in me and how they gel into this heavy vest of anxiety across my chest.

It was an opportunity to start using some of the techniques I've been learning in my IE reading. One relaxation technique that really works for me is a breathing and counting exercise. You get in a comfortable position (seated, lying down, whatever works best for you), then you close your eyes and slowly inhale and exhale through your nose. The first inhale and exhale, you count to four each time, then for each set you increase to five, six, seven and eight. Then you go back down to four. This borders on meditation, I suppose, because you're focusing on your breathing and the numbers instead of the thoughts that are causing your emotions.

Once I did this, the anxiety eased and I was able to break it apart into the separate emotions that were at the cause of it. I could then look at each of these and find the thoughts behind them. Like yesterday's post, I could then pick apart what was irrational about these thoughts and replace them with more rational statements.

What's great about this is that I'm not avoiding the emotions or distracting myself, which is what I've always done in the past, whether it was with food, cleaning, TV, you name it. That worked to calm me down at first, but the issues never got resolved and would linger around to bite me in the hind end later down the road -- namely, compensating later with compulsive overeating.

This new way is great because I don't have to be afraid of feeling these "scary" emotions; I now have the tools to really explore them, and I'm pleased to find out that these techniques really deflate the impact and make me feel so empowered instead of feeling out of control and helpless.

So, the good news is, last night when I got hungry for an evening snack, I wasn't propelled by my feelings (or the avoidance of them) to eat a whole box of cookies. I ate three, savored them thoroughly instead of inhaling them in a compulsive need to fill myself up, and I was completely satisfied.

The other big thing I did yesterday was pay close attention to my mood at meal times and how it affected my eating. Before lunch I was particularly stressed trying to juggle taking care of my daughter and my responsibilities at work. This rushed feeling carried over into my noontime meal, and I realized I wasn't enjoying my salad because of this keyed up feeling. I put my fork down and made a conscious effort to slow down my mind, and this helped to get back into the moment.

At supper time I was still coming down off the anxiety that had taken over me, and I noticed I wasn't thoroughly enjoying my meal then, either. Again, I stopped and did my best to clear my mind before I continued eating, and again, this helped.

I realize today that what I was doing was trying to become a Conscious Eater. Tree Lover talks about this a lot on her blog, and I didn't truly "get it" until yesterday when I made these observations. When we use food for emotional purposes, or let other distractions cloud our eating experiences, it takes away from the satisfaction and enjoyment of the food. When that happens for me, I usually wind up eating more, thinking this will help. But now I understand that what I need to do is stop and make sure I'm in the moment. I don't want to be fretting over the past or worrying about the future, I want to be in the now, living in the present and staying in touch with my body. This will lead me to eating intuitively.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Too Much

If you don't mind, I'm going to write out my IE work in my blog today. Here's the internal dialogue I had with myself this morning:

"I really screwed up this weekend. I blew it because I ate too much and didn't stop when I was satisfied. This IE thing is never going to work if I don't get my butt in gear. I haven't weighed myself and I just know I'm going to gain tons of weight. Because I ate so much this weekend I should really watch what I eat today and should really eat light."

Let's break this down, dissecting each irrational thought/belief and replace it with a more rational, reasonable one.

I really screwed up this weekend.
Being an intuitive eater is not about being perfect, so I can't have "screwed up."

I blew it because I ate too much and didn't stop when I was satisfied.
Each eating experience is a chance to learn about my body's responses and the mental processes going on around it.

This IE thing is never going to work if I don't get my butt in gear.
"Getting my butt in gear" is diet mentality rearing it's head. This IE thing will work if I have faith and patience in myself and my ability to access what my body needs. This is not going to happen overnight.

I haven't weighed myself and I just know I'm going to gain tons of weight.
More diet mentality. I am doing the right thing avoiding the scale. It does not define success or failure. I have to give IE a chance, and over time my body should naturally settle at a weight that's right for my body.

Because I ate so much this weekend I should really watch what I eat today and should really eat light.
Major diet mentality! I may have overeaten over the weekend, but if I keep on course with intuitive eating, my body will naturally compensate for this. Fiddling with this process by restricting and depriving myself will only backfire and lead to more rebound binge eating.

Now I just have to keep telling myself these things!

Yesterday was a great day with my Mom. We drove to Pittsburgh and hit a lot of cool places. Mom and I picked up vegetarian sandwiches at the Whole Foods deli and ate them in my car, people watching and chatting. Mom got the Mediterranean wrap with artichokes, green olives and feta cheese, while I got the grilled eggplant sandwich with spinach, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. I realized I could have been at the big resort buffet with my husband and his parents, where I would have been way too tempted to eat until I was stuffed and uncomfortable. While I did eat a lot throughout the day-- grazing on the cookies I bought at Whole Foods, trying samples at Sam's Club -- it wasn't a sit-down, secretive binge and was broken up by lots of walking around. At the end of the day I knew I had eaten more than I usually would have on a "normal" day, but I definitely ate less than I would have on one of my old binge days.

Later we went to Barnes & Noble and I checked out the IE books and found some new ones I never heard of, as well as some I've spotted online. I had one book tucked under my arm to buy and was skimming through another one when I stopped and realized I didn't need these books. I have a whole mini-library of disordered eating/IE books now; how much more can I possibly learn?

How many people out there have wound up eliminating one compulsion only to substitute it for another? The recovering alcoholic who starts gambling; the former smoker who becomes a sex addict; the abstinent compulsive overeater who becomes addicted to shopping. I have been wrapped up in the diet mentality, and now I'm becoming too absorbed in the IE literature.

I have definitely become very sensitive to this "too much" mentality, whether it's collecting too much clutter, watching too much TV, or eating too much food. It's so hard (at least for me and a lot of people I know) to find that right balance of moderation in our lives. I weigh myself too much; I'm too hard on myself; I depend too much on the validation and acceptance of others. How do you turn down the intensity of the "wants" in our lives?

I realize part of this recovery is not fixating on it too much! I need to get in touch not only with my body and it's range of hunger and fullness, but with my mind as well. If I didn't spend the majority of my free time thinking and reading about eating and food (whether it's binge eating, dieting or now intuitive eating), what would I really love to do?

The summer my grandfather died, my Grandma Kate taught me how to needlepoint, and a friend of hers taught me to cross stitch. Up until I adopted my daughter I produced a lot of lovely pieces, but since I became a mother that hobby has completely stopped. I have projects that I bought that are sitting in a Rubbermaid box waiting for me.

When I was a teenager I started writing a novel, which in time turned into a three-book trilogy. In college my senior project was writing a prequel to this epic that laid the groundwork for the story. Over the years I have rewritten and added portions to these books as I matured as both a writer and a person. But again, when I adopted Mabel, my fiction writing all but dried up except for a few short bursts here and there.

What if I took the energy that I've funneled into counting calories, calculating pounds lost and obsessing over food into one of these interests? Perhaps if I could get my mind back into something more creative and productive I could quit fretting over what I'm going to eat at my next meal and how I'm going to avoid the next binge.

Of course, again we come back to compulsions and "too much." I have to find a healthy balance here and not neglect the other priorities in my life. I can't cross stitch all afternoon and not get any housework done. I can't write all evening and neglect my family.

As for the IE work, while I don't want to fixate on it all day, I do have work I need to do in this area, and by spreading myself too thin I could run the risk of avoiding difficult issues that I need to resolve to achieve a healthy relationship with food and an acceptance of myself and my body.

Sounds pretty overwhelming, doesn't it? A little too much, perhaps? I think baby steps are in order, and in time it will all add up to a healthier, happier me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day.

Last night I had this moment of melancholy when I talked to Hubby about how Mabel is now taking showers all on her own.

"She's getting so grown up," I sad sadly.

"Isn't that a good thing?" he replied in confusion.

Is it a mother thing to see the sadness in losing those baby years? I know I mourned the loss of rocking my little one to sleep every night in our rocking chair. I'd sing softly to her and she would nestle in and drift off to the sound of my voice. Sometimes that moment would be the most peaceful and calm of my day, and I treasured it.

Once those cuddly, chubby baby days are gone, they don't come back. The smell of baby powder and baby wipes (gosh those things worked great for stain removal!), the round little cheeks, the corn kernel toes. Marveling over each new word and step.

Of course, there are things I don't miss. Lugging around a baby on my hip plus enough accessories to choke a horse -- the diaper bag, the toys, the change of clothes, bottles, baby-friendly snacks, blankets, stroller. My car was always loaded down like a gypsy caravan.

And while I loved rocking little Mabel to sleep, I remember the countless nights of frustration when I'd try to lay her down in her crib after this rocking and she'd scream and cry. And how many countless nights did I have to get up and change the sheets because she'd pee through her diapers and soak every available piece of material in the crib? Oh, the joys.

I watched Mabel yesterday in gymnastics, doing her back handsprings and front limbers and all those acrobatic feats I could never dream of doing. Her body is changing from those rounded, soft baby days. She's getting a gymnast's body -- lean and toned, defined muscles in her arms, legs and abdomen. With her hair pulled back it ages her even more, and I see the young woman she's turning into. It's enough to make me smile and cry at the same time.

So Happy Mother's Day to all of you Moms out there. I hope today brings you more good memories to cherish.


Yesterday afternoon I had another binge-like episode. I say binge-like because again, it was limited in both food intake and duration. I'm wondering if part of it is habit -- for so many months now my weekends have been foodapaloozas, and it's a routine I've unfortunately gotten accustomed to. Now I'm trying to break that habit and we all know how hard that can be.

Also, I realized that this weekend is the dreaded PMS weekend. This might be a contributing factor to that "need to feed" that's been hitting me. I've also been a little emotional, but not nearly as much as last month. I definitely think last month's breakdown was me hitting bottom with the diet-binge cycle, so it's a good thing that I'm now on this IE path.

I have noticed one big thing about these past two days in comparison to binge weekends of the recent past. Before, for two or three days I would eat and eat and eat some more. I never seemed to get full -- in fact, my body didn't seem to register at all on my radar. I might be a little uncomfortable the morning after -- bloated, a little indigestion -- but once I got the feedbag back on it disappeared again.

These past two days, the extra food I have eaten lays in my stomach like a brick. It doesn't feel right. And both nights I have definitely eaten much less because of that feeling.

So I'm taking these episodes as a blessing in disguise, because it's alerting me to the fact that I am getting more in touch with my body. My stomach is communicating with me again like it probably did 30 years ago, before the dieting and bingeing took over my life. That's progress in the midst of imperfection, which is what this whole process is supposed to be about.

Before I go, I have to reply to Beula's comment from my last post. She asked if I thought I would have been able to go the IE route before losing my weight. I don't think so. But please, don't take that as my recommendation that everyone should go on a diet before they try IE. Looking back at my weight loss, in the beginning I really did try to do it in an intuitive way, along with cognitive-behavioral therapy. And at first that was really working for me. But here's what happened: the allure of that big of a weight loss was so seductive that bit by bit the diet mentality slowly took over my life. I wanted to lose more -- I wanted to be perfect. I got greedy.
And in the end, I think it's made it doubly hard for me. Because now I'm stuck dealing with my split personality of dieter/binger, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if you will. I have two sets of issues -- the deprived restricter and the compulsive overeater -- to now work through. I don't wish it on anybody.

Okay, I must finish getting ready for my Pittsburgh trip. Everyone have a great day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fair to Middling

Last night Mabel wanted Chinese for dinner (again), so we went to Johnstown (yes, home of the famous flood). The Chinese buffet nearest to us is kind of limited, plus I wanted to take Mabel clothes shopping since almost all of last year's summer clothes are too small, so we made the 35-minute trek there.

On the way Mabel brought her teeny bopper CDs along and we listened to several songs. One of them by Vanessa Hudgens really struck me, and I keep thinking about the lyrics and how it relates to my new enterprise. I know, you can put any interpretation to song lyrics, but I'm in an interpretive frame of mind right now.

I won't say last night was perfect, but of course perfect isn't what I'm aiming for anymore. Chinese is what it is -- loaded with sodium and oily, depending on which dish you get. I ate until I was full -- not stuffed to the gills until I was ill, but I didn't stop at merely "satisfied," either. I guess you call that "fair to middling." Which is all right. I didn't eat anything else the rest of the evening, although the old voices of binges gone by did beckon. But my body just didn't want it.

And today has been going pretty well, too. It's definitely better than some Saturdays when I've already crammed two days' worth of food into my gullet by this time of the day. Hubby is finally home after a week full of baseball games, so he's outside planting the garden right now (or at least trying to before the rain starts), and we've already decided we're cooking supper tonight. He hasn't had a home cooked meal in a week, and I'm glad we can make some healthy yummy things (BBQ chicken breasts, baked sweet potato fries and salad) together for a change. Then we're all heading for the drive-in movie theater to see a double feature of "Ghost Rider" and "Spider Man 3."

It's looking doubtful that I'll post tomorrow, because I'm taking my mom shopping for Mother's Day in Pittsburgh. She's jonesing for a trip to Barnes & Noble and Panera Bread, plus we'll hit some other fun places, too. Should be fun!

On a last note, I didn't weigh myself this morning. While part of me is curious about what the scale would have said after my Chinese last night, I have to admit that it was nice to not have a number assigned to my day for once. I might just get used to this...

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Glimmer of Hope

I have to tell you about this afternoon.

I ate my lunch and was overcome by this need to eat candy/junk food, and I was on a mission of sorts until I did. But the damage was minimal -- half a candy bar, half a pecan turtle we saved from last week's trip to Kennywood, and four 0reos -- and surprisingly, my urge to binge just fizzled right out, and I have no desire to continue it.

Why? Good question. Maybe because during it I did the following things: 1. Gave myself permission to eat what I wanted; 2. Savored each bite; 3. Thought long and hard about why this was happening; and 4. Knew there was no deadline (i.e., I didn't think "I better eat as much as I can today, because it's back to the diet tomorrow")

Still working out #3. It's funny how my brain sort of went blank and it all turned into primal urges to eat. I wanted the sensations, flavors and textures of food in my mouth. I didn't want to think about any rules, including any IE principles of checking in with my fullness. Was it because it was a Friday, the end of a long week, and that mindless eating was my "reward" for surviving it? Nothing seriously bad happened to trigger any big emotions. There were no fights or run-ins with friends or family, no major crises at work. The house is clean and the puppies are behaving themselves.

And maybe because I went through this laundry list and realized there was no good reason for me to binge, I realized I didn't need to. So it stopped.

I'm telling you, it was an amazing moment. It was like really getting into a good album at top volume, and all of a sudden the power goes out and the record player just slows to a stop. I kind of looked around, confused, wondering what happened. I even went into the kitchen, looking to see if anything else might appeal to me (old habits!) and I said out loud, "No, I've had enough."

It was a powerful statement. I didn't say it because I knew I was exceeding my calories for the day. I didn't say it because I was worried about the scale reading tomorrow. I said it because my body was telling me I had enough food in my system and I didn't need anymore.

Is this what "normal" eaters feel? It's so sad I have to ask that, but for almost 30 years I just haven't had a clue.

I really think this is working. I have tears in my eyes right now because I feel a real glimmer of hope that I'm beginning to heal. To recover. It's an amazing thing.

Falling In Love

This morning I read bigassbelle's post, and she had this link to find out what Tarot card you are.
I've always been fascinated by Tarot cards; I did a speech on the history of them in college. I own a couple different decks, each one with its own unique style and artistic interpretation of the symbols on the cards. Years ago I used to actually "do" the Tarot. I had a friend I read the cards for, and we were always amazed at how well it applied to what was going on in her life. Of course, that could be contributed to our gullible natures and interpreting what we wanted out of the cards. But still, it was fun.

Anyway, I completed the little test, and the results were:
You are The Lovers
Motive, power, and action, arising from Inspiration and Impulse.
The Lovers represents intuition and inspiration. Very often a choice needs to be made.
Originally, this card was called just LOVE. And that's actually more apt than "Lovers." Love follows in this sequence of growth and maturity. And, coming after the Emperor, who is about control, it is a radical change in perspective. LOVE is a force that makes you choose and decide for reasons you often can't understand; it makes you surrender control to a higher power. And that is what this card is all about. Finding something or someone who is so much a part of yourself, so perfectly attuned to you and you to them, that you cannot, dare not resist. This card indicates that the you have or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing that you will fall in love with. You will know instinctively that you must have this, even if it means diverging from your chosen path. No matter the difficulties, without it you will never be complete.

Did you notice the word intuition up there? I sure did. In fact, there were several phrases -- "growth and maturity," "radical change in perspective" and the big one: "You will know instinctively that you must have this, even if it means diverging from your chosen path." -- that really hit home.

Does that mean I'm in love with Intuitive Eating? I know I am inspired by it and have surrendered control (given up dieting) because of it. I know it's helping me to find my true self and reveal my true needs. It's definitely changing my perspective and goals as far as weight loss is concerned. And while I know there will be challenges ahead as my old habits rear their head, I know that I will never be complete unless I do this.

It's funny how quickly my attitudes are changing. Last night Hubby was talking about how much protein, carbs and fat the experts say you should eat, and instantly my brain threw up a red flag -- caution, diet mentality! I'm absolutely sick and tired of every expert telling me how much of this, that and the other thing I should eat. I'm not going to sit at the dinner table with a calculator figuring out what percentage of my daily calories came from protein! It's been so wonderful the last two weeks not wasting precious energy adding and re-adding my calorie totals in my head throughout the day.

Exercise has also been affected by this new perspective. When I wake up in the morning I check in on my body: am I tired, am I achy, what kind of exercise do I feel like doing? This morning I decided I wanted to sleep in a little and do Pilates this afternoon when I'm more flexible. So that's what I'll do. There's no more rules that I have to exercise at 5 a.m. every Monday through Friday, or that I have to have so many days of cardio and so many hours of toning every week. I want exercise to be something I want to do because I like the way it makes me feel, not something I have to do if I want to lose weight.

I know this sounds like I've had this miraculous turnaround and I'm magically "cured." Believe me, I'm not. I still have moments of worry at meal times; I'm mentally waving away the pesty thoughts of how many calories I'm eating and the fear of gaining weight. At least once a day the thought of binge eating crosses my mind -- "I can have anything I want, so let's eat it all right now!" But then I remind myself there's no rush, that I can have whatever I want to eat today, tomorrow or the next day. There's no more need for Last Supper eating. I also still have my anxieties about weekend eating. But those fears can only be alleviated by forging ahead and doing the best I can. And if I do overeat? Use the experience to learn and apply it to next time.

And of course I've got my scale issues. This morning after I weighed in I silently announced that this was it, after today I'm not getting on for a week. It sounds very similar to the Chronic Dieter who on Sunday night tells herself that once again she's starting another diet on Monday morning, only to blow it again Monday night. So I'm not going to scold myself for breaking the rules if it doesn't go a whole week. Even if I can skip one whole day, that will be progress.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Scale Back

I've been exploring the 'net and finding new resources and blogs about Intuitive Eating. A reoccurring theme I'm finding from a lot of people is having trouble letting go of the diet mentality.

I know I'm one of them. The scale, for one thing. I'm still weighing in a lot, and although the news has been good -- great, even -- I'm starting to fully realize how much of a compulsive habit it's become. It's become an anxiety-reducing measure I've adopted, because when I don't do it I start getting nervous, and I start thinking, "I don't know where I am!"

Very telling. The scale has become my Global Positioning System, and the numbers on it are different locations in my life. Life was very different when I lived at 310, and it's a location I really don't want to move back into. The scenery was pretty bleak gloomy. While life in the 210s has been very satisfying, you know the old saying: "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." I can't help but drive by that exclusive neighborhood called the One Hundreds, admiring the landscape and dreaming of moving in permanently. Even though I'm living right on the border of that Promised Land, I'm still looking in from the outside.

That's the mentality I have to get rid of. Almost, but not quite good enough. It doesn't do me any good to think that way, when there's really absolutely nothing wrong with where I am. I'm like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who needs to be taught "there's no place like home." That magical land of Onederful may be all alluring in brilliant Technicolor from where I stand, but if my house lands smack in the middle of it one day, will it feel hollow and empty? There are no happy endings there; you still have to deal with the wicked witches, con man wizards and those freaky flying monkeys. (Those things scared the bejesus out of me when I was little!)

Yesterday I felt myself teetering on the edge of the IE/dieting fence. One good thing has been a lessening of my fear of certain foods and a renewed interest in cooking. It's helped that Hubby has been at baseball games every night this week, forcing me back into the kitchen.

Last night I dragged out one of my favorite recipes that I revamped -- it's called Texas Caviar and is basically a cold bean salsa/salad that includes balsamic vinegar and cilantro. I haven't made it in ages because beans became one of my no-no foods. Even though I knew beans were full of protein and fiber and other good nutrients, I stayed away because of the calories. So it was with great pleasure that I opened up those cans of black beans and put it together. My mom came over for supper to help me eat it (she is a huge balsamic fan and a semi-vegetarian), and I told her we could either serve it over a salad, put it in a tortilla wrap or eat it with some of my Trader Joe's veggie flax seed tortilla chips. Mom opted for the chips, so we got out the bag and I took out the recommended serving to eat with my beans.

I ate that, then sat there and realized I wanted more. Here came the anxiety. Chips are pretty much a universal trigger food; what if I can't stop? But I shook those thoughts off and took out three more chips (they're big), ate those, then stopped and checked in again. And I felt good, satisfied, so I stopped.

Later I started thinking about those snack cakes I bought on Tuesday. They kept floating through my mind, and each time I checked in with my body. Since I wasn't hungry, I kept shooing the thought away, saying to myself, "Let's revisit this in half an hour." Finally, at 7:45, I got one out -- leaving the box in the pantry -- then sat down and slowly ate one of the snack cakes. I had to tell myself to enjoy it and push out the guilt of eating "bad" foods or the fear of bingeing. I did savor it, and when I was done I wasn't driven to go attack the rest of the box. I didn't feel terrible, I didn't want to overeat, and I wasn't worrying about the scale the next morning. I was okay.

So here I am where I started -- the scale. I know in the back of my mind this object has become a crutch to me, and there are times that its reading will definitely alter my mood, which means I am giving it too much power. While I realize I eventually need to start scaling back on weighing myself, giving myself grief about it is falling right back into that all-or-nothing, perfectionist mentality. So I'll get there when I'm good and ready. Because I am discovering the easier I am on myself, the better I feel, and I wind up taking better care of myself than when I'm "shoulding" all over the place.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Facing the Forbidden

Yesterday I dealt with a variety of "forbidden" foods. My reactions were interesting (at least to me).

My daughter and I went to the grocery store because we needed some basics (milk, lunch meat, etc.). I decided to let myself browse at foods I'd normally consider verbotten and buy them if I really wanted them. Mabel needed more breakfast food, so we headed down that aisle and after grabbing her cereal she also grabbed a box of toaster pastries. The flavor she picked was one I'd never eat, so I picked up the blueberry ones and gave them a long, hard look. I decided to put them back, not because of fat or calories, but because my reaction to them were just, "eh."

Down the dairy aisle I glanced sideways and noticed the snack cake assortment. I spotted the little cherry pies I used to adore when I was a kid. One year for my brithday instead of cake, I had my mom get me a whole bunch of these pies and other snack cake stuff for my party. As far as I remember the kids thought it was a neat idea.

I held the cherry pie (actually a turnover if you want to be technical) and thought about how much I coveted these things when I was first getting fat and certain foods were becoming taboo. This was one of the main items I would buy when I'd sneak off to the grocery store or gas station to buy contraband. But I also recall that within the last few years I had picked one up for old time's sake, and it just wasn't as good as I remembered.

Then, without even thinking about it, I flipped the bag over and looked at the calories. 480! I didn't even get any farther down the label I was so dizzy. But instead of flinging it back on the shelf in horror and running away, and I stopped and asked myself, if calories weren't an issue, did I really want that pie? Again, my reaction was no.

I did finally pick up something -- another box of snack cakes that are individually wrapped and not so high in calories. Of course, they're smaller, too. But this snack is one of my favorite binge foods -- I can easily polish off the whole box if I'm so driven -- and seemed like a good test of this IE business. When I got up this morning they were still sitting in the grocery bag where I dropped it last night, and I put them in the pantry without even the slightest temptation to tear the box open with my teeth.

After supper Mabel begged me for ice cream. The soft serve place is down the block, so I walked and she rode her bike there. The whole way there I was wrapped in a swirl of anxiety and analyzing. I had just finished supper and was satisfied but not stuffed, so I felt bad about going for dessert when I wasn't truly hungry. I was also worrying about what to order; if I was "good" I'd order a baby cone. If I ordered my favorite, the Katie Sundae (with peanut butter sauce and chunks of peanut butter cups on top), would it send me on a binge? Would I feel stuffed after I ate it and feel miserable and hate myself?

I got in line, looked at all my options, then ordered the small sundae. We sat down at a picnic table nearby and ate, since Mabel couldn't eat her cone on the bike, and I focused on savoring the sundae. As I watched other customers order and get their treats, I told myself that lots of people -- people I would consider "normal" eaters -- get ice cream after dinner, and they don't spiral out of control by emptying their fridges when they go home. They don't call themselves names and feel horrible about it. They eat it, enjoy it, and get on with their evening.

Which is what I did. The small sundae didn't stuff me but was enough to satisfy me thoroughly. We walked home, did our evening routine, talked to a friend on the phone, and visited with the neighbors and their dog before bedtime.

And guess what? The scale didn't scald my eyes this morning; in fact, I was a pound lower. While I do eventually want to greatly reduce my weigh-ins, this was an example where it helped to relieve my anxiety and fears that not restricting and denying myself the foods I want will make me gain tons of weight. So maybe this positive reinforcement will enable me to relax a little and start skipping days, then weeks.

I'm not kidding myself that this process will always go this successfully. I fully anticipate finding myself falling into binge or dieting behavior and having to work my way through it, because those are the moments that will really teach me the most. Because let's face it; mastering intuitive eating is a lot of work, and like anything else that takes a lot of effort, I won't always be at the top of my game. There will be down days, times when I'm sick of thinking about it and checking in on my body and feelings. Those are when the successful days will hopefully pull me through and give me the encouragement to keep trying.