Category Archives: binge eating

The Choices We Make

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I have a co-worker, a young millennial who has a loud vibrant personality. She is brash, unapologetic, and funny. I wouldn’t have her any other way. She recently moved offices and I miss the energy she brought to an otherwise mundane job.

Every day as she breezed out of the office, she would mockingly say over her shoulder, “Make good choices!” And we would all laugh.

Recently, I was part of a pilot group with my therapist. If I had  not written this before, I am seeing someone to help me with my binge eating. She is writing a book about how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

The group I was a part of has been reviewing her book and launching a kind of support group where we read chapters of her book and discuss the ideas in that chapter. We were her beta readers/guinea pigs. This past weekend, we all met in person to discuss what we thought of the book and make suggestions for the support system she wants to create. I am so glad to have been a part of that group.

The book is very interesting. The book is less about what we eat and more about why we eat what we eat. She really encouraged us to explore the reasons behind our eating habits.

Of course she thinks the best diet for weight loss is low carb, high protein focusing on eating fresh meats and fish, high protein vegetarian options, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Very similar to any good bariatric diet, right?

So, why can’t we stick to it? Why do we constantly sabotage our diet plans? Why do we make choices we know will not help us on our path to a healthy weight and relationship to food?

Those are the questions through both my sessions with her and the book she’s working to address.

For me, a lot of my bad choices have to do with my inability to deal with stress and toxic people. I get very stressed out when I think about the toxic people in my life, and there have been several who have entered and left my world. Some stay longer than others. It has taken me a long time to realize their behavior is about them and not me and to create a distance between me and them, even if that barrier is just a mental one.

I also suffer from a low self-image and self-confidence. Many people who know me would certainly be surprised to know this. I hide it well most of the time. It is hard for me to find good things about myself.

After I had lost about 130 pounds, a guy I am friends with complimented me on a shirt I was wearing. He said something like, “That green color looks very good on you.”

I immediately replied with how much more weight I needed to lose, my hair looked awful, pick any one of the myriad of negative thoughts inside my head.

A female friend standing nearby turned to me and said, “No! Stop, Colleen. He complimented you. Your answer is, ‘Thank you!'”

She knew what I was doing. I was not used to being complimented about my appearance. She knew this. And she put the brakes on my negative thought train. At least the verbalization of my negative thoughts.

So, I have been exploring my insecurities. My inability to deal with stress and toxic people. My negative thoughts. And why I look for solace in food.

It is hard to constantly stop myself before I make a bad food decision and analyze the why. In the past, I’ve made a decision about what I wanted to eat and then just ate it. Even if I did not eat it to excess, I still often made very bad food choices.

So, this is what I do when I want to eat the cheesy poofs or whatever food I am craving at the moment. I stop and ask myself some questions.

  • Do I need this to feel full and meet my nutritional goals? (Is this choice a need or a want?)
  • Why do I want to eat the cheesy poofs?
  • What is going on? Am I stressed out? I am feeling bad?
  • What happened today, last night, yesterday to make me feel this way?
  • Will eating this particular food help me achieve my weight loss/health goals?
  • What impact will this choice have on my calories, protein, carb intake for the day?
  • What can I eat that I like that will keep me on track?
  • What other choice can I make?

 

Sometimes I even stop and pull out my phone and enter the cheesy poofs into myfitnesspal.com just to see what that choice will do to my daily goals.

I am successful in making better choices probably 95% of the time. Do I slip? Sure. One example, I had an extra slice of toast one day. Normally, that is enough to send me into a tailspin and think the whole day is lost. But the next day, I entered everything into myfitnesspal.com, and I was only a couple of points high on my carbs. I met my protein goals and calorie goals.

So, great choice? No. Diet-killer? Not even close. I was still on track.

Another thing I do is I try not to think of my entire weight loss goal every time I eat. I do keep that goal in mind every day, yes. But for each meal or snack, I think only of that meal or snack. I might think of how it fits into my daily goals, but in the moment, I do not think too much beyond that.

I chose that approach because sometimes thinking of the entire goal is too overwhelming and seems unattainable. Today, this moment, this meal, that is a doable goal.

I get weighed every two weeks, and in that moment, I only think of my bi-monthly goals. I do sit down with the doctor afterwards and talk about long-term goals, but only a month out. Most importantly, I’m not weighing myself every day and stressing out about the numbers on the scale.

Biking and exercising also helps. I have been biking quite a bit, although the impending snow storm in our area has really put a damper on that recently. But biking takes my mind off the stress of the day, releases endorphins, and generally makes me feel better. Not to mention, it is great exercise for a weight loss plan.

The result is, of the 58 pounds of regain, I’m down 18 pounds. And my overall goal is now lower as well. So, now instead of needing to lose 94 pounds, I only need to lose 76 pounds.

So, good news all around. I am working on improving my mental health and making better choices. I’m also losing weight, exercising, and feeling better!

Will I always make good choices? No, definitely not. No one is perfect, and I know I am not. But I know that if I stay focused, I can make much better choices moving forward.

I’ll just keep my co-workers voice in my head every time I reach for those cheesy poofs reminding me to stop and “Make Good Choices!”

 

 

My Biggest Triggers – The Truth About Bullies

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Random picture of my cat for no particular reason.

I am going to begin today’s post with ad admission. Over the last two years, I regained 58 pounds. This is not something I’m very proud of or happy about. My binge eating returned and I went through a very busy and stressful two years. Bottom line, I was not paying attention to my health and weight the way I should.

The good news is, I have taken corrective action. I am seeing a doctor to help me get my weight loss back on track, and I am seeing a therapist to help me develop the necessary skills to deal with the crazy, eating disordered part of my brain. As a result, as of two weeks ago, I am down 10 pounds.  I see the doctor again this week where I will be weighed. I think I lost some more. I noticed my leggings felt looser this week. Not just one pair, but all of them. I am not weighing myself at home, though. I have a tendency to weigh myself every day, and every teeny movement of the scale makes me crazy. I am either delighted that I’m down a pound or two, or depressed because there was no discernible movement or a slight one pound regain. It helps me more to look at the bigger picture and get weighed less often.

This brings me to today’s topic. Triggers.

For me, my triggers are the events, emotions, etc. that cause me to lose control and find solace in food. In my case, that food is usually salty, crunch, and starchy. Sometimes, but not often, sugary foods will do. Cheetos are my standby. If I’m eating Cheetos, chances are there is something in my life that is causing me undo stress and causing me to feel out of control.

My two biggest triggers are yelling, and when people are saying negative, untrue things about me behind my back to the people I love and respect.

How Gossip Affects Me:

When people talk about me behind my back, that really cuts me to the quick. It hurts because someone thinks badly enough about me to gossip. And it hurts because I fear their words will affect how others see me.

In my head, I know that any true friend, and anyone who really knows me wouldn’t allow someone else’s thoughtless or mean words change their opinion of me. And anyone who does allow gossip to color how they see me, is not really a friend.

Maybe that is what truly hurts because in the past, I have had people I thought were my friends turn on me solely due to the untrue, or misrepresented words of another person. I start to think that someone I trusted and thought of as a friend really thought badly of me all along. I question my judgment. I question my own internal sense of self. And I begin to question if there really is something wrong with me. In short, it breaks my heart.

How Yelling Affects Me:

I cannot stand yelling. I never could. It is one thing to have a disagreement with someone, even if that sometimes gets loud. That’s different from what I mean.

Yelling, or screaming is irrational. Usually the screamer is using that tactic as a way to silence the person they are yelling at and to establish dominance. There is no talking to a screamer. There is no way to rationally discuss anything with a screamer. And there is no way to resolve a problem with a screamer. They are right, you are wrong, and they will use their physical and psychic power to shut you down.

I push back hard on screamers.

I recently had a guy I know vaguely scream at me about something. He screamed at me at the top of his lungs in a crowded room.

I did not even what he was screaming about. I just looked at him and calmly said, “I do not have a husband, and my father is dead. No man screams at me. You are no one to me. What gives you the right to think you can talk to me that way?”

I stood up for myself. I did not let him bully me. I walked away. Sounds strong right?

The truth is, I fretted about this incident for a very long time. I was shaking and very angry. I was emotionally distraught. How dare he? Who does he think he is? Why would he think it is OK to do that to me? This event happened nearly a year ago and I still bring it up. That is how much of an impact it made.

Recently, I became aware of a situation where someone has been bullying a person I love using these two tactics. Screaming irrationally, and gossiping about me. Why I was brought into the situation, I’ll never know, but there you have it. This situation has really made me kind of crazy. I did not even hear the yelling, but just knowing that it was going on started the wheels in the crazy, food addicted part of my brain cycling out of control.

It has taken every ounce of self-control inside me to stay focused. I have waffled between anger, sadness, frustration, rage, and feelings of worthlessness, and powerlessness.

It is true that I have no power over what this person says or does. I also have no control over the impact their words have not he people I love. But that does not make their words true, their behavior right, or me powerless.

Realizing that truth has taken me a long time. Too long.

The truth is, screaming and gossiping are forms of control and intimidation used by bullies. And that’s all people who use these tactic are…bullies.

Maybe the reason screamers and gossipers affect me so badly is because I was bullied as a child. That bullying had a lasting impact on how I see myself. It was only well into my adulthood that I accepted the truth…that when someone bullies you, there is something wrong with them. Not you.

Knowing that intellectually is one thing. Really accepting it in your heart and soul is another.

Learning My Triggers

I have had many conversations with a fellow bariatric friend of mine about the subject of learning what my eating triggers are and how to deal with them.

“You’ve done the easy part,” she tells me, as if any part of this weight loss journey has been easy. “Now it’s time to work on why you overeat.”

She tells me all the time that I need to learn what my eating triggers are and learn to deal with them differently than I have in the past. This is especially important now that I can eat a little more. She’s ten years post-op, and she said she is still learning herself. (She looks great, btw.  She’s lost 135 pounds and has kept them off for ten years, so she’s doing something right!)

So, here are some of the things that I know cause me to overeat, eat without thinking, binge-eat, or whatever you call it:

  • Stress – My job, although wonderful, is very stressful sometimes. I find myself snacking more during the day.
  • Well meaning (or otherwise) rude weight loss comments from others – Why do I care what they think, right? But sometimes I do. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and I hate that other people think they have a right to judge or tell me what they think I’m doing wrong. That’s the one thing I’ve always hated about “dieting”. Other people’s comments. Weight loss is at once private and public. I could write about this one all day, but I won’t here. Maybe in another post.
  • Plateaus – Everyone hits them. Mine has lasted almost 5 months. The science of dieting seems simple enough. Eat less, burn off more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Right? Wrong. That’s true and not true. Yes, you do lose weight if you eat less, but your body is not a machine. It is complex. It has to readjust to the new lower weight. You have to keep the diet change up for the weight loss to begin again. You have to increase your activity. You cannot stop. You have to have faith that it will all work out. I think that’s the hardest part for me.
  • Negative thinking – We all do it. It doesn’t help that sometimes those negative thoughts are reinforced by the thoughtless masses who feel free to comment on your diet, body changes, etc. Mass media does not help either. Constantly seeing images of fat stomachs walking down the street while the news media bemoans the obesity epidemic in this country. Reading magazines with unrealistically skinny super models on the cover and adorning every page. It is easy to feel bad about yourself when you are constantly bombarded by these images letting you know how wrong you are.
  • Change – Change is stressful for as it is for anyone. I have changed my life a lot in the past two years. I lost 127 pounds. I changed jobs. Now I am moving into a bigger apartment. All of this change has been for the good, but I am still overwhelmed sometimes.

So, how do I deal with all of this without overeating. The truth is, sometimes I don’t. I have definitely fallen victim to an eating binge even since the surgery. Admittedly, more often than not, I am able to fend off a binge by doing something constructive, eating a healthy meal, taking a walk, writing. But more than once, I have caved. I try not to beat myself up about it, because that just makes matters worse. Everyone makes mistakes. Still, I recognize that I need to learn to deal with this issue.

Learning to constructively deal with my eating triggers may take a lifetime, but I am determined. As difficult as it is, I have to do it. I do not want to ever go back to the life I had before.

There are some good things to be said for all of this.  Despite a few episodes of binge eating the following remains true:

  • I am still committed to losing the last 46 pounds that I want to lose.
  • I am still committed to never gaining the weight back. And on that note…
  • I have not gained any weight. Not one ounce.
  • Despite my prolonged plateau, I came down one size in pants from a 14 to a 12.
  • I can sometimes wear a Large instead of a 1x.
  • That means I can shop in the normal women’s department and not the plus sizes anymore.
  • I have purged my wardrobe of almost all of my plus-sized clothes.
  • I still eat much healthier than I did before the surgery. (5 fruits and veggies per day, 70 grams of protein, keeping starches at a bare minimum!)
  • I can walk without struggle.
  • I can breathe.
  • I really feel as if I can be a full participant in my own life again.
  • I have great people in my life. I really am very lucky. I have great friends and great family, all of whom have been extremely supportive of everything I have done.

So, the struggle continues, but I have no intention of giving up. I stay focused on all the good things I have accomplished. Even though it is hard sometimes, I have faith that I will get to where I want to be in the end.

The Compulsive Eater Sleeping In My Bed

“There’s a compulsive eater sleeping in my bed.”

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I said this to my mother a couple of months ago.  I had been sick.  I caught some kind of flu that also affect my stomach.  I did not eat for two days.  When I could eat again, I tried saltines and chicken broth.  The saltines turned out to be too heavy for my tummy, so I switched to Pringle’s.  The Pringle’s did the trick.  I could 5 or 6 of them to absorb whatever nastiness was going on in my stomach, and they were not too heavy.

I know Pringle’s are chips, therefore junk food, and therefore not good for you, but they worked and got me though the illness.  I had no problem eating them in moderation, 5 or 6 chips at a time, and it was just enough.  I have not gone back to Pringle’s since.

Through my illness, I left the saltines sitting on my bed table, where they remained untouched until I was feeling better.  Big mistake.

Once I was feeling better, I actually started feeling hungry.  I discovered that in the middle of the night I was waking up and stuffing saltines into my mouth without even thinking about it.  It was second nature to roll over and reach for the crackers.  Most of the time, I barely opened my eyes.  I just reached over, grabbed a handful of crackers, and started stuffing them into my mouth one after the other until they were gone.  I don’t even remember if I tasted them as they slid down my throat and into my tummy.

I awoke covered in crumbs, an empty cracker sleeve on the bed table, feeling guilty and ashamed.

I don’t keep food near my bed anymore.  You would think that after the surgery, with such a small pouch, I wouldn’t be able to eat an entire sleeve of saltines, but apparently I can.  It would seem that the conditioning that comes from decades of bad eating behavior trumps new eating restrictions nearly every time.

Now that I can eat more, nearly 1400 calories a day, including protein drinks and snacks, some of my old bad behaviors are trying to make a comeback.

I had a hard time through the holidays.  All of the cookies and snacks were really hard for me to deal with.  I did OK when I was in Pittsburgh visiting my mom.  When I told her that the Christmas cookies were a huge temptation for me, she threw all of the ones she had away so that I would not be tempted.

New Year’s, however, I caved to temptation.  I went to visit friends in Delaware, which was a lot of fun.  I made my pumpkin brownies, which everyone loved.  And I made Chicken Saag, which everyone also loved.  My friends made Channa Masala.  I had plenty to eat that was good for me and fit my eating plan.  What did I do?  I ate the good food and then went back and had the occasional cookie or chip.  I did not have a lot of food, but I had enough of the junky type food that I did eventually get sick.

One of my friends kept telling me to be careful, but I just knew I would be OK.  I did not get sick New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  I got sick on January 2.  On my way to work.  On the Metro.  It was ugly.

I’ve talked in previous posts about dumping syndrome.  Sometimes the symptoms hit me right away, sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes a day. I’ve also described some of the symptoms I’ve suffered, including nausea, headaches, sweating, and instant diarrhea.  I don’t get all symptoms each time I get dumping syndrome, but usually, a combo of some of them.

I will not describe all of the details of what happened that day, let’s just say, it was not pretty.  The DC metro apparently does not have public restrooms either.  All of the stations do have a bathroom, but you have to ask a metro employee if you can use it.  Not all of them will allow you, apparently.

I started feeling sick at the Pentagon Metro station.  I waited 10 minutes for the train.  I only had to go three stops before I would be able to get off the train and find a bathroom.  I only made it two.  I was in the Rosslyn station begging for a bathroom when I got really sick.  I ended up having to leave the station and go across the street to the mall, but by then, it was too late.

The metro employees were not very helpful outside of offering to call an ambulance, which would not have helped at all.  A very nice woman noticed that I was not feeling well and offered me some water.  I wish I would have had the sense to thank her properly for her kindness at the time, but it was all I could do to get to a bathroom.

After I got myself cleaned up and was feeling better, I walked around the corner  to Starbucks and bought a bottle of water.  I logged onto my work computer and sent out an email letting everyone know I would be working from home.  I waited another 15 minutes to make sure I was well enough to head back out into the world.  I then hailed a cab and went home.  I did end up having to go into the office later that day, but I drove.  I did not want to risk another metro episode.

What this taught me is that while the surgery solved a lot of my overeating problems, it did not solve all of them.  The compulsion to eat junk food, for instance.  That compulsion is strong.  The surgery also did not solve some of my triggers, what causes the compulsion to eat to emerge.  I am beginning to notice that I have a tendency to eat when I’m stressed-out, or when I’m upset about something. And the urge to eat at night is beginning to return.

The first year post-surgery, when I lost 127 pounds was the easy part of my weight loss journey.  Now that I can eat a little more, and I’m struggling to manage my triggers and compulsive eating.  The hard work seems to be just beginning.  If I want to lose the additional 46 pounds I have to lose, I really need to assert some control over my eating problems before they ruin all of my hard work and undo all of my weight loss.

I have not had a really great start to the New Year.  I guess it can only get better from here, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work on my part.  The fight against compulsive eating is apparently going to be a lifetime battle for me, but I know it is one that I really want to win.

It took almost three days for my system to fully recover from the metro incident.  My pride, however, suffered a bigger blow than my body did, and my take longer to heal.  If allow my compulsive eating patterns to overtake my life again, my pride may never recover again.

Holiday Foods: Planning vs. Reality

So, a few weeks back, I wrote a post about being prepared for the holidays food-wise.  I thought I was ready to deal with the holiday eating season.  Honestly, for the most part, I have been very disciplined.  I have allowed myself some cheats, but all in all, this has been much harder than I originally thought it would be.

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There are three things that have really put me in jeopardy this Christmas season.  Well, five now that I think about it.  They are as follows:

  • The return of hunger pains – Not with a vengeance, but at meal time and snack time, I do get hungry.  And if I skip any part of my diet plan, I definitely feel it.  So, I have had to learn to manage hunger pains, which I really did not need to worry about for at least 8 months post-op.  Plus, I can eat more now that I could last year.  Those two things combined has made dealing with food this holiday season difficult to say the least.
  • Office party #1 – My work has had two Christmas parties.  The first one was at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in DC.  This was so much fun.  Trays and trays and trays of food everywhere.  And if that wasn’t enough, waiters walked around with more trays passing out more food.  I was very good all day.  Light meals and snacks, sticking to the bariatric food diet plan.  Then the party hit.  I still tried to stay on schedule, protein and veggies only.  I just ate too much, which let’s face it, is probably just a normal sized meal for non-bariatric surgery peeps.  But for me, it is way too much.  I did have a tummy ache and get a little nauseated, but I survived mostly intact, I think.
  • Office party #2 – My department had its own office party.  That was a 2 1/2 hour eating feat I have not really done at all since the surgery.  I had appetizers, fried zucchini shoe strings, cheese, a slice of some kind of meat, and assorted veggies.  Then we sat down to dinner.  Salad.  Not bad. I had a small spoonful.  Then the pasta course started. Two different kinds of pasta.  I had four tiny pieces of pasta.  I really cannot have starchy food, but I wanted a taste.  Now, keep in mind, I was pretty much full after the appetizers.  They served the food slowly, so there was a lot of time between courses, but I am already in forbidden territory and the food just kept coming.  Then they brought out eggplant parm, which I hate, so I did not eat.  Then rosemary chicken and roasted broccoli.  I had about three bites of chicken and 2-4 bites of broccoli and I really just had to stop.  I thought I was going to explode.  Then they brought out dessert.  Tiramisu and chocolate mousse.  I did not even look at the Tiramisu.  I knew if I did it would be all over.  I took my spoon and sliced off the teeniest bite of mousse I could manage and just a spot of whipped cream.  It was just heaven.  I thought I was going to pop.  I had to get up and walk away from the table before I was tempted to try another bite.  My stomach hurt so much, and I was very nauseated.  It stayed in the bathroom for about 10 minutes.  Then when everyone else was done eating dessert, I ordered a cup of coffee hoping the warm liquid would start moving some of the feast through my system.  When I got home, I dutifully logged every bite into My Fitness Pal, chocolate mousse bite and all.  I ate over 500 calories in one meal that took me over 2 hours to eat.  For me, that’s twice what I normally have.
  • Writer’s Group Party – OK, this one was not so bad, but still, a little bad.  This was held at a bar.  I did not actually order any food. I just ate what other people were sharing.  I had three wings, carrots, celery, humus, and some nachos over the course of about an hour and a half.  Not the greatest meal, but not too bad.  Once I was done nibbling, I just drank water for the rest of the night.
  • Office treats and other junk – This has been the hardest for me to deal with.  So many yummy things.  Tons of cookies, truffles, peppermint bark, candy, etc.  I got tired of seeing cookies, so after having one cookie, I was done.  I managed to stay away from the cranberry-orange bread, which was tempting.  But the chocolate truffles just killed me.  Someone sent French truffles filled with caramel.  I love, love, love, love, love caramel filled chocolate.  I decided that I would give in and allow myself one French caramel filled truffle.  I took it back to my desk and took one small bite.  It was heaven.  The caramel just melted in my mouth.  Before I could stop myself or change my mind, I quickly threw the rest of the truffle into the trash.  I knew if I finished it, it would be all over.  I would have to go back and just scarf up the rest of them. My co-worker could not believe I did that.  She was like, “Wow, you have incredible will-power.”  I replied, “No, I do not.  If I didn’t get rid of this now, you might as well check me into French caramel truffle rehab!”  It was tempting to reach into the trash and retrieve the truffle, but my pride just would not let me.

Now I am in Pittsburgh visiting with my mother for the holidays.  She’s kind of a food nazi. All my life, I have hated her fixation on limiting what I eat.  Now all I have to say is, “Thank goodness.”  She does not keep junk in her house.  OK, she keeps popcorn in her house, but I dare not touch her stash.  It has been a relief not to have all those temptations so close at hand.  I need to refocus.  I need to become more disciplined in the New Year if I want to lose the remaining 46 pounds.

I will be glad when the holidays are over, and the pressure is off.  It will be a relief to return to normal eating patterns.  This holiday season has been very tough for me to deal with.  Last year was not as difficult because I could barely eat.  But now that I actually feel hungry and can eat almost 1400 calories per day, (including protein drinks), the temptation to over-indulge has been very stressful.

My next biggest hurdle is New Year’s Eve.  I am spending that time with friends.  I am making chicken saag and my pumpkin brownies for everyone.  And I know that there will be a lot of other foods.  I think I’ll be OK because I will have many good options to choose from.  And my one friend is kind of worried about food herself so I know she will not have a lot of junk on hand.

Wish me luck!

Review of “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction–And My Own” by Mika Brzezinski

obsessed4xI finally finished Mika’s book a couple of weeks ago.  It is only 228 pages, but it was very difficult for me to read.  I struggled to read it because I felt as if someone reached inside my head, pulled out my innermost thoughts, and placed them on a page for the whole world to read.  But, I am glad that I read it.

She confirmed for me what I have known for a long time.  I have even shared this idea on this blog.  That all eating disorders, whether bulimia, anorexia, or obesity, all have something in common.  They are all illnesses that need to be treated as such.  Anorexia and bulimia have been treated as illnesses for a long time, but obesity still suffers the social stigma of being a personal character flaw that needs to be addressed by that individual alone.

What I learned from reading Mika’s book, and from conversations I have had with a family member with bulimia, is that some of the dysfunction she has with food, and the dysfunction I have with food are the same, and they need to be treated as such.

As a child, a teen, college student, and well into her adult years, she obsessed about food much in the same way I did.  I thought about food all of the time growing up.  I dieted, starved myself, took diet pills, binged, purged through crazy exercise stints.  I never thought I was thin enough.  I always thought I was fat, even when I was not.

Reading what Mika and her friend and co-writer, Diane, had to say was like reliving all those thoughts all over again.

We live in a society that values beauty and thinness above all else.  People who suffer from eating disorders that keep them thin are definitely viewed as having a more sympathetic problem than those whose disorder makes and keeps them fat.  Her friend Diane, whom she confronted about her excess weight put it quite succinctly, “At least your obsession with food helps you keep the weight off…mine doesn’t” (p. 116)  Mika continued, “She may be right, but it is still not healthy.  One problem is that being so thin really gets rewarded. When I’m at my thinnest, I have everyone in the world telling me how great I look.” (p. 116)

This rewarding thinness and weight loss really concerns me.  I have to admit that I have some concern about how everyone fusses over my weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention.  When I know I’m going out to be among a group of my friends or family, I take some extra care to look my best.  I choose my clothes to carefully pick out something I know really accents the weight loss.  I fix my hair.  I put on make up.  I prepare myself mentally to have everyone tell me how great I look.  I know it’s a bit narcissistic, but I have lived a lifetime being ashamed of how I look and trying to make myself as invisible as possible.  It’s nice to be fussed over.  But, I am concerned about going from being known only as the fat girl to being known only as the fat girl who lost a lot of weight.  I really long for people to really know me.  I have always felt the real me has nothing to do with how much I weigh, or what I eat, and it would be such a relief to really be seen for who I truly am.

What I found really interesting about this book was the discussion about how food companies have made foods that are deliberately addictive.  The combination of sugar, salt, and fat apparently trigger some of the same pleasure parts of the brain that addictive drugs do.  That explains why it is easy to become addicted to these foods and keeps people eating long after they are full.  I know when I eat processed foods, they have a different effect on me than whole, clean foods do.  I feel more sated, and I definitely have a short-lived feeling of pleasure and satisfaction from eating fried, greasy, salty, sugary foods.  But I also know that once I start to eat these foods, it is hard for me to stop.  There are certain foods I definitely have all or nothing relationship with.  Nutter Butters, for example.  I have known for years that I have one of two choices when eating them.  I can eat none of the Nutter Butters in the box, or all of the Nutter Butters in the box.  There is no in between.

I’m sure the food companies aren’t making foods like this because they are inherently evil, but they make foods like this to increase the likelihood consumers will keep buying their foods so that they keep making money.  That is, after all, why they are in business.

I think that there are several really good points in this book:

  • We need to re-think our ideas about weight either thinness or obesity.
  • We need to re-think our approach to rewarding thinness over non-thinness.
  • We need to re-think our approach to dealing with all eating disorders.
  • We need to re-think our approach to food and wellness.
  • We need to ask/force food companies to be more responsible in the foods they produce and how they are marketed.
  • We need to take aggressive steps to address the obesity problem in our country.

They think an open and honest dialogue is the best way to begin to address some of these problems.

“More than a year after our infamous conversation on Long Island Sounds, Diane and I are more convinced than ever that sharing our stories and providing support to one another are huge steps toward changing the way we think about weight and food.  … ‘We need to be able to have that dialogue, but first thing we need to do is lay down the burden of blame and shame,’ said obesity expert Dr. David Katz. ‘Until we do that, we as a nation are stuck at this impasse on obesity.'” (p. 139)

I agree.  This is primarily why I started this blog.  I wanted to have an honest discussion about what it is like to be fat and facing horrible health problems.  I wanted to discuss how I chose to address those health problems.  I also wanted to discuss how I got fat and what was keeping me fat.

Writing about my problems, and putting my thoughts out into the world definitely helped me deal with some of my issues.  I’m not saying I am completely cured.  Yes, I made the decision to take charge of my life and change its trajectory, but it was not that simple.  I have had a lot of struggles along the way, and I still do.  It wasn’t just one choice.  I still have to make the choice every day to stay on track.

The surgery helps keep me on track, but it does not keep me from making bad choices.  I can choose to waste my daily caloric intake on junk food or healthy food.  I can choose to exercise or not.  I can choose to overeat and stretch out my new smaller stomach, or I can choose to stick to the plan.

But back to the book.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in food and health issues.  In fact, I recommend it to anyone even if they are not interested in food and health issues.  I don’t think Mika and Diane mean this book to be the solution to everyone’s food problems, but to be the start of an ongoing dialogue that will hopefully change the face of our nation.

So, let’s not waste any time in starting this conversation.  In the words of the infamous SNL icon created by Mike Meyers…”talk amongst yourselves!”

Way Too Easy…Effortless Even

I started the weekend off great.  I hit the gym early on Saturday.  Well, early as in noonish.  I walked the 1.7 miles to the gym and worked out for an hour and a half.  I then I walked to my friend’s art studio, which is ten minutes from the gym.  Another friend of ours showed up there, and the three of us walked the 1.4 miles back to my neighborhood.  We sat outside of Caribou Coffee for hours drinking fruffy coffee drinks and talked.  It was great.  Then I walked back up the monster hill to my place.

Yesterday started off great too.  I woke up and had a light breakfast and met my brother and niece in DC to do the Saturday am museum tour.  We walked around for about 2.5 hours.  I had my water and a protein snack, 1/3 cup of pistachios, while they ate at McDonald’s.

I went home and packed up some food to take to my sister’s house for a picnic.  She called me in a panic at one point asking me to give her instructions for making a particular chicken dish that I’ve made for her in the past.  She loves it and wanted to make it for the picnic.  I told her to hold off and I would make it when I arrived.

Cooking is easy for me, effortless in fact.  It almost seems to come naturally to me.  I walked into my sister’s kitchen and just took over.  I cleaned and dried the chicken breasts and began chopping them up while I gave my sister orders.  Before I knew it, the chicken was in the oven and I was reaching into my bag to begin prepping my next project.  I sliced and marinated zucchini while chatting it up with one of my sister’s friends without even thinking about it.  I handed the plate to my sister and ordered her to take it down to whichever male family member was manning the grill with specific cooking instructions.

I continued talking to a couple of people and reached into my bag and pulled out a couple of avocados and some spicy salsa.  As I cut the avocados in half, her friend said, “Now what are you making??”

“Guacamole,” I replied as I continued to cook without stopping.  I mixed the salsa and avocado together with a touch of olive oil and ordered someone take it down to the chip table.  Then I reached in my bag again and pulled out a can of Trader Joe’s Chili, grabbed a pot and began heating it up.  “For chili dogs,” I announced before another question could be asked.

That’s where my good behavior ended.

You know what else I can do effortlessly without even thinking about it?  Eat.

I chowed down as if I hadn’t eaten in months.  I ate a handful of corn chips with my yummy guacamole.  I ate random vegetables, potato salad, coleslaw, a little bit of the chicken dish, random other foods I cannot even remember.  Then I topped it off with a bunless hotdog with chili, relish, ketchup, and mustard.  Oh and let’s not for get the handfuls of M&Ms I tried hiding in my pockets thinking no one could see me eat them if I put them there.

WTF?

Obviously, I cannot be trusted at a food party.  I seriously thought I was going to throw up.  Granted, I didn’t eat it all at once, but I did go back to the food table over and over throughout the day.

After I got home last night, I took a walk through my neighborhood trying to walk some of the binge off.  I stopped at Caribou and drank some decaf tea hoping to push some of that food through my system with a warm drink.

Obviously, going to the gym is on the agenda today, as well as feeling horribly guilty about what I did to myself yesterday.  Yeah, I know there is no reason to really feel guilty.  Everyone falls off of the wagon sometimes.  What I should concentrate on is how I recover from this episode and move on.  I don’t know why I’m continually surprised every time I fall, but I am.  I am also very disappointed in myself.

I clearly need to watch my behavior more closely.  I had a somewhat prophetic conversation with my friend Sush on Saturday.  We were talking about yoga.  I kind of don’t like the yoga classes at the gym because of all of the movement.  The last time I took yoga classes, we concentrated on sitting in the positions and gently stretching, connecting mind and body.  The classes at the gym are more like yoga-exercise than a meditative stretching practice.

Sush agrees with my dislike for those kinds of yoga classes.  She grew up in India and they took yoga classes in school first thing in the morning.  What a fantastic way to start the day.

We talked a bit about “triangle pose” and she was talking about the importance of looking at your hands.  She said that yoga poses concentrate on looking at your hands because you mind should always know what your hands are doing.

I never thought of that before.  That made me think back to the endless number of times in my life where I just ate and ate without thinking.  The number of times I bought a giant bag of chips and ate through the whole thing and barely had any memory of how I ate that much.  If my mind had really been aware of what my hands, (and mouth quite frankly), were doing, would I have mindlessly eaten the whole bag?  Would I have slowed down?

I don’t know.  Maybe not.  All I know is that my mind was not paying attention to my hands yesterday.  Not while I was cooking, and especially not while I was eating.

I did manage to track all of the food.  I went home and made myself remember everything that I ate and logged it in “My Fitness Pal.”  Even with all of the eating I did, I still managed to stay below my allotted calories for the day. Not that I feel any better about what I did, but I guess that’s something.

Moving forward I am going to have to make sure that I stop and think before I eat.  Pay attention to what my hands are doing and be more mindful of what not just what I eat, but how I eat.  Maybe, eventually, I will be able to understand why.