Friday, July 20, 2012

Don't Mind Me

Just doing a bit of blogkeeping today. I'm hoping to get the font style and size the same throughout the posts and fix my Amazon links for books. Hopefully this won't spam anyone who is getting updates when I post, but if so, I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sex, Sex, Sex, That's All You Ever Think About!

It's link sharing time again! I think I will need to look for this book at the library... The first link is a review, the link below the book is to Amazon. Ooh, and I just noticed, the foreward is by Margaret Cho, who I have recently become very fond of.

Pull quote from Ragen Chastain's (sort-of) review: "How much more awesome will the sex be when we can get over our single standard of culturally stereotypical beauty and celebrate the simple fact that bodies of all shapes and sizes are amazing, beautiful and sexy."

Joyful Eating

So now I'm not dieting anymore, but that doesn't really mean I'm off the hook. In fact, I probably pay way more attention to eating now than I ever did, but in an entirely different way – a way that sustains me instead of degrading me. Here's how that works...

I started off with a food journal. I know, lots of “diets” recommend a food journal, but what the diet really wants is evidence for the food police: every bite, every calorie, every fat gram, and so on. But now I've been set free. I'm no longer a “diet criminal” and I can eat anything and everything that I want. I don't have to keep track of all those numbers, calories in, calories out. What I do have to keep track of is feelings. And the only number that matters now is the Hunger Scale

Yes, I still write down every bite that I eat. However, this is just for reference. Not once has my nutritionist ever called me out about any item, or told me that I was doing something bad. That's not what this journal is about. It isn't about judging me, it's about discovering me.

So, I write down the time and I think about where I am on the Hunger Scale. Am I a lot hungry, or just a little? How do I feel, physically? Grumbly in the tummy? Light-headed? Am I desperate to eat or just ready? I pick a number on the Scale based on those feelings and write it down.

And then, I think about how I feel emotionally. Am I angry, sad, lonely, bored, happy? Do I feel good about eating now or would I rather wait a little while? Have I waited too long to eat? (Mind you, this is NOT “I should have eaten sooner” - don't judge it, stuff happens.)

Then, as I eat, I try to do it slowly and mindfully. There are all kinds of suggestions around this. Sit down at a table. Set the mood with pleasant music, lighting, pretty tableware, and so on. Put your fork down in between bites. Don't distract yourself with TV or work or the computer or reading. If someone is with you, have a pleasant conversation (avoid arguments or tense subjects at meals). All of these things are hit and miss, depending on where I am and what's available at mealtimes. But what I can control is what happens when I take a bite. The idea is to savor each bite. Look at it, smell it, taste it on all the parts of my tongue and think about it – what is the flavor, what do I like about it, do I enjoy it? Is it hot, spicy, creamy, crunchy, chewy? Sometimes, especially the first bite, I like to close my eyes and just focus on the taste.

That is, I TRY to eat mindfully. I don't always remember, but when I do, I have found that the meal is more satisfying. It doesn't always keep me from eating too much, but sometimes it does. I try to take little breaks, at least once during the meal, to re-evaluate where I am now on the Hunger Scale. As I get near completion, I try to stop and think about whether or not I could be done, right here and now. Sometimes it's yes, but just as often it's no. That's okay – it's not about how much I eat, just that I think about what I'm doing and make a decision.

Now that I've been at this for a while, there are some additional things I get to consider, like balancing what I want vs. what's available and trying to create meals that hit at least several of my needs for satiety (more about that later). Because I'm also diabetic, I also have to consider when I eat and sugar content. (However, that is about health and well-being, not about judgment or “sugar is BAD, m'kay?”) Just now I'm getting to the point where I'm ready to consider the composition of my meals – am I getting enough protein, grains, and freggies? (Again, it's not about NOT having the cheeseburger, it's about whether I'll feel better later having it with a side of fries or a fruit cup instead. Sometimes I choose the fries, sometimes I choose the fruit cup. And sometimes I choose the turkey sandwich instead of the burger, but that's based on what I WANT, not on what I OUGHT to want.)

And finally, at the end of the meal I go back to my food journal and I think about where I am on the Hunger Scale. Could I still eat a little more? Am I satisfied, just full enough? Am I uncomfortably full, and if so, is it a little or a lot? Or am I stuffed, like a binge? Again, how do I feel physically? Am I nauseous? Indigestion? Fine? Still empty? Did eating this meal make me feel better, happier, sadder? Do I feel okay about what I ate or am I upset at any part of it? If I'm beating myself up about something, it's important to write it down and think about it. Am I angry or disappointed that I ate the ice cream? Am I feeling “good” because I had extra veggies? (Note, that's STILL judgment – food is not “good” or “bad” and I am not “good” or “bad” because I choose to eat it!) And again,I pick a number on the Scale based on those feelings and write it down.

I have now filled an entire looseleaf notebook and two full spiral journals of food for the past year-ish. I will still be doing food journals for some time to come, too. It's still hard sometimes to evaluate what I'm feeling. Sometimes I don't feel anything about my meal, and I don't know how to talk about that. But the journal is still surprisingly helpful. And here I'm going to go again – it's helpful to have someone else to go through that journal with me (in my case, my nutritionist). At our last appointment, she was able to notice something about my notes that I had not seen. I was beginning to be more and more critical of myself as well as what and how much I ate. It was subtle, and I couldn't see it, but someone else could. We talked it out, and now I'm guiding myself back on track. (So, as always, get a support team!)

Does this sound like a lot of work? Well, maybe at first, but it becomes natural soon enough, and the benefit is too great to give up. This is, after all, a process. I didn't develop my ED in one day or one month. And, it's harder to UNDO than it was to begin. I know I'm in this for the long haul, and I know that it's tough work, but I also know that I am totally worth it.

Aren't you?

Monday, July 16, 2012

So Much More than Good Enough

I found an article this morning from SciAm Mind I'd like to share. I guess this is why those positive affirmations actually work!

Self Compassion Fosters Mental Health

(It's cats all the way down!)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Remember that post about Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace? I finally got around to coloring one!

The caption reads: "With her sidekick Gusty the unicorn dog, the Zaftig Zephyr spends her nights protecting the rain-spattered streets of Metrololopolis." (Coloring book and art by Nicole Lorenz.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You Binge, You Learn

When I binge, I feel like crap. Not just physically, of course – there’s an emotional aftermath as well. Shame, guilt, revulsion, regret, anger, fear. In some cases that can even lead to additional bingeing; that is, you have an emotion like shame or anger that you don’t want to deal with, so you binge in the first place, then you are left with additional shame and anger afterward that you don’t want to deal with… and so on.

These emotions were always difficult to deal with, but never more so than when I was actually dieting. Here I am trying to do my best, to learn the rules of “good” foods and “bad” foods, but… food makes me feel guilty. And ashamed. And angry. After all of these years, even “good” food makes me a nervous wreck. What if I eat a salad and then it isn’t enough for me? Guilt. What if I order the plain chicken with veggies at the restaurant and those people at the next table smirk at me because they look at how fat I am and they know that dieting is just a waste of time for me? Shame. What if I eat the carrots and the celery and the apples for a snack and then a giant glass of water because that’s what I’m supposed to snack on and it’s supposed to make me feel full only it doesn’t and now I’m miserable and hungry and confused and that effing diet guru is a moron? Anger.

So, dieting makes me bingey, NOT dieting makes me bingey, and hey, bingeing makes me bingey. WTF?

What it boils down to is that there is no escape. Bingeing is here, it’s what I do. I can’t work around it, I can’t diet around it, I can’t talk myself out of it. All I can do is face it, maybe even face it down.

Bingeing is a conditioned response. I taught myself how to do it, as a way to make myself feel better, even if only for a little while, when emotions were too hard to handle. Maybe the first time it happened by accident, but soon I could do it on purpose, and after a while it became automatic, almost like taking some kind of drug. It was a helpful tool for a long time. When I was a child, with no way out and no way to release my fear, anger, or depression, it was an easy escape, a way to bear what could not be borne. It wasn’t a good coping mechanism, but it was the best one I had.

Bingeing was there for me. It’s what I did.

And that’s it, really. It isn’t evil, it isn’t bad, it isn’t good. It just is. It’s a tool. A crutch. Only… eventually you’re supposed to put aside the crutches and walk on your own. But I never did.

Until now.

I have learned that a binge is a sign of an unresolved issue. It’s a big flag waving in my face to say, “Hey, pay attention to this!” It’s some need that isn’t being met, some emotion that’s being stuffed away, some problem that I haven’t faced. My nutritionist tells me that binges are a gift. I found that hard to believe at first, but she’s right. Every time I have binged lately, it has taught me something new. I have learned to handle some emotions by dealing with them, for instance, by addressing a person who makes me angry and resolving the problem rather than stewing over it until I binge. But a month or so ago, I had a binge night and I found a different anger trigger that I had never worked on: unfocused anger, that is, anger with no specific target. I wasn’t mad AT anyone or ABOUT a particular thing. I had just had a crummy day, I was hot and grumpy, and I was just plain mad. I do not have a planned outlet for that; I wasn’t thinking about it, so I let it bubble inside until it took me over, and then I binged.

So, if you binge, you have a couple of ways of looking at it. You could beat yourself up, indulge in the shame and guilt and self-hate. That’s the easy path. The harder path, but eventually more rewarding one, is to evaluate the binge for what it is: a crutch, a signal….a gift. Learn from it, pick it to pieces and find out what happened. This is where having a support team is so very valuable, because often you cannot evaluate your own needs clearly. You get in your own way, maybe because you are resistant to change, maybe you are afraid, or maybe part of you doesn’t feel that you deserve to be helped or get better.

We all deserve to be healthy. You think you deserve this pain, but you don’t.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Get Out of My Head

There are two things in my head at the moment, and I’m not sure which one I want to talk about first. Well, they are at least marginally related, so maybe I’ll segue somehow… Here goes.

Here’s what “normal” people don’t get about having an ED – keeping in mind that not every fat person has an eating disorder and not everyone with an eating disorder is fat – it isn’t just the eating that’s disordered, because my thoughts about eating are also disordered. For all of these years I have been CONSUMED with thoughts about eating (pun kind of intended). And I’m not talking about cravings, or at least not just about cravings. I have had a constant dialog going on in my head about eating – Am I hungry? When did I eat last? Do I deserve to be hungry yet? What time is it? What have I eaten today? Did it have too many carbs, is that why I’m hungry already? When can I eat again? I should eat more protein. Haven’t we already been to the Chinese place this week – will they be suspicious if we go again today? Is that weird? I shouldn’t have that, it has sugar in it. What should we have for dinner tonight? What should I order? Is anything thawed out at home? What’s wrong with my tummy – am I hungry or sick? I ate fruit for a snack, so that was good. I shouldn’t order the cheeseburger, what will the waitress think?

That was my normal, every day, all the time. These weren’t just occasional thoughts, like someone might have while say, actually contemplating what to do AT dinnertime. It was constant, day and night, if I wasn’t actively thinking about something else, like work or school or taking a cat to the vet. I would even wake up in the middle of the night, itemizing every bite of yesterday and wondering what I’d do about tomorrow.

I sort of realized that it wasn’t normal a couple of years ago – that probably most people didn’t walk around constantly analyzing and criticizing their hunger. See, out of all the times I’ve ever taken cold medicine, twice (and only twice, ever) it has managed to suppress my appetite. Driving home one day (with cold medicine brain) I happened to notice the time and I was hit with the realization that I ALWAYS know what time it is, because I ALWAYS know how long it has been since I ate and how long it will be until I can eat again. So I realized that I hadn’t been thinking about eating. The voice track was gone, or at least sluggish and quiet. For the first time I realized that I HAD a voice track. And that NOT having a voice track was better. I felt free. I felt… normal.

So that’s what “normal” people don’t get. You just can’t explain obsession to someone who doesn’t have that voice track. I don’t think about eating all the time because I’m fat, I think about eating all the time because my brain is effing broken. It’s stuck in a loop. I don’t think about food because I have insatiable cravings, and I don’t always crave junk food, and I don’t binge every single time I eat. But I do always, always, always have to think about eating. Because my brain won’t shut up.

And that sucks.

Of course, you might have noticed that I said, “That was my normal…” I’ve been in recovery for a year and just recently, that voice track has gone. Mostly. I’m thinking about it now, because it came for a visit today. I’ve been depressed for a few days here lately, and that’s a time when old habits try to creep back in and take over. It’s easier to do what you are used to doing, harder to hold on to new things when the grip is less certain.

But… I HATE that voice track and I don’t want it back.

This recovery thing, it’s hard. I know that some people try to do it on their own, and I sincerely wish them luck. I tried that path, and it didn’t work for me. So once again, I want to encourage others, if this stuff sounds familiar to you, to get help. Get a support team. I know that not everyone can afford therapy and insurance doesn’t usually cover much or any of it. But at a minimum… please see what might be out there. Join a support group, read the books, join a website, and LISTEN to the people who have been here before you.

You can’t wake up every morning and just decide that you aren’t going to binge anymore. That’s just like starting a diet. You can’t depend on willpower alone. It isn’t about your will, or mind over food matter. It’s you fighting every neuron, every hormone, every instinct, every thought, every emotion, every voice track, every jackass, every “helpful well meaning” stranger, every bite, every scent, every craving, every setback, every panic attack, every disaster, every slight, every phone that never rang, every phone that did ring…. Well, you get it.

You can’t fight every minute of every day without something, someone to back you up, to help you find and USE new coping mechanisms. It’s exhausting, and eventually you get fucked. Because you are fine and good, and you don’t deserve this pain, and you are capable and strong, but you are not SUPERHUMAN. You need to talk to someone else, someone who can physically talk back to you and help you figure out what’s real and what’s not, what matters and what doesn’t, what can change and what you have to accept.

Because believe me, when all you can hear in your own head is some broken voice track, it will never tell you anything new.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

This Is Not a Picture of a Cat


I don't actually know where this originated from, but I stole it from my niece's Facebook page because I thought it was timely and important for me.

I've had a difficult couple of weeks, hence the light posting lately. Beyond even handling my father's death, I have encountered some exceptionally rude people who have made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed. One comment and some staring and I'm back to feeling like a freak.

So now, I could (and I did, for a while) focus on being angry, and hurt. I could focus on the fact that it's unfair, and that those guys are mean jerks. And they are, that much is true.


They are also sad and pathetic. And I could, if I reach for it, just about feel sorry for them. Pity them. They aren't happy either. They are so unhappy that they feel the need to reach out and make someone else just as miserable. And, unlike me, they could never be anything but sad, pathetic, unhappy jerks. These men, and so many other people like them, making asses of themselves in public places or trolling the internet looking for someone to belittle and insult...are nothing.

They have a very limited view of beauty, very narrow, short-lived, brief, transitory, impermanent. Their love and happiness share the same short span. Because no matter how hard anyone tries to contain it, beauty expands and grows. It grows up, it grows old, it grows out, sometimes. So when only THIS type of beauty makes someone happy, makes them love it, then in an instant it grows beyond their narrow view and is no longer viable. And so they have to move on, to the next beautiful thing and the next, because they are wearing blinders. Because nothing ever satisfies. There is no way for them to ever find love and happiness because they cannot see it.

They believe they are superior. I believe they are pathetic.