Choosing 

You find yourself turning from left to right. 

Labels and numbers scroll past on your closed eyelids. 

“Stop. Just stop” you say out loud. 

Packages and bags. Boxes and tubs. 

Your hand reaches for a “diet” food. You know this won’t nourish you, not really

What do you want? Isn’t that the question? 

Cashews. Delicious. Your mouth waters. You know you want something savory, at least there’s that.

Carrots. Those glowing orange vegetables that you have eaten almost every day for the past nine years. No. No way. Not today.

Your eyes fall on the pouch of sweet little peanut butter bites. You’ve never had them before. Why not try them today?

You reach up, above your head. You pick the pouch up and remove it from the top of the refrigerator. You grab a container and shake a random amount out.

You almost look at the calorie count, but instead, focus on the protein. Anything to dismiss the calories. You don’t even like math, so stop counting.

(This is a big deal.)

Earlier this week you took a bag of pita chips and hummus, and sat down and ate until you were satisfied. 

The whole container of hummus was right in front of you. You could have had the whole thing, or only one bite.

 No one was watching. You had control. You ran with that control and crossed the finish line. You won.

(That was a big deal.)

You buy food for yourself, almost without hesitation.

You eat new foods almost without hesitation.

You are taking care of yourself, with no hesitation.

(This is a big deal.)

Every day is a battle. Sometimes big, sometimes small. You win some, you lose some. What matters is your choices. Choosing to fight. Choosing to be mindful. Choosing to love. Choosing to be present.

{What astonishes me, in looking back, is all of the ways I have changed in less than a year. I’ve grown several sizes. My clothes fit, and it’s scary sometimes, but also good. I’ve become less anal about pretty much…everything. I’ve loved more, and cared more. I’ve moved to a new job that is so wonderful, and made a friend again, finally. I’ve taken days off, and gone on vacation and day trips. I’ve discovered that I don’t always only want the vegetables. I’ve eaten pancakes with butter and syrup. (I then took a sip of Diet Coke and realized how fake it can taste.) I’ve added cream to my coffee. I’ve written more than I ever have in my life. I’ve laughed, and cried. I’ve been horribly depressed, delightfully happy, and everywhere in between. I’ve lived.}

 

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The end of the craving

Guys! I have big news. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m feeling so relieved, and let me tell you why: I think I cracked the code. The intuitive eating code! I’ve not perfected anything, and I hope I never do. I want to always be learning and listening. I want to be growing. I am growing.

For quite a while there I was restricting in a less obvious way. I was hungry for foods I wouldn’t allow to pass my lips. I was never satisfied. My sugar cravings were off the charts, and all I wanted to consume was chocolate, snack cakes, caramel corn, ice cream, candy bars…all of the sweet things. My lunch was just a short road leading to dessert. More sugar? Yes please! I was kind of obsessed. Theories, anyone? I have a few. But more importantly…

I’m not constantly thinking about food anymore!

It’s common to be obsessive about food in many different ways, when a person is restricting. My “symptoms” were almost textbook. I used to pull out all of my mom’s cookbooks that contained pictures and gaze at the delicious foods in the layouts. When I wasn’t looking at food, I was thinking about it- dreaming about it. It was the thing I wouldn’t allow myself, and the thing I most wanted. Since beginning my commitment to recovery in September, I have been waiting for my obsessive thoughts about food. I was always planning my next meals and snacks. It was so frustrating! I didn’t want to think about food all the time, but I did because I was still hungry, in a way.

I was afraid of getting hungry between snacks and meals, so I drew them out as far as I could. It was like a constant grazing, except I knew exactly what I would consume and when. What better way to shake things up? A road trip. I’ll admit, I was really scared to try what I did with my eating. And on the way home, I had thoughts of going back to my old habits and patterns. What has happened so far has been spontaneous and lovely…it’s been so good.

This past week I got back from a wonderful trip with my husband. We were gone for about five days. I like to be prepared, so I brought snacks with me in the car. But let me tell you, I barely touched them. Why? Because I made a promise to myself before we left. I told myself to eat at mealtime, and since it was going to be mostly eating out, order what sounded good and go from there. (The reason why I didn’t touch very many of the snacks was because I was eating meals. “Real” meals. The knowledge that I might be ingesting more calories, or fuel, was there; but I tried to push those thoughts far from my mind.) This was a huge leap for me. To give you some better perspective, a few months ago, my husband invited me to lunch with him at Subway. My reaction was to tell him I couldn’t. Subway is a dinner food, and I would not eat it at lunchtime. But I did it. I beat down my thoughts and forged ahead, and I won! If that was hard for me, imagine what breakfast, lunch and dinner would do to my confused little brain!

While I was away from home, I had pancakes, blueberry muffins, a doughnut, burgers and fries, sub sandwiches, KFC (a huge fear food for me!), a McFlurry! I ate a lot of fast food, and I am not ashamed. I am actually incredibly happy. I suspect this experience was one of the things that quickly led me to where I am now. I ate when I was hungry, and stayed satisfied a lot longer than I realized I could. I wasn’t craving sugar at all. I realized that I don’t have to eat the second I sense hunger. Hunger just means I need to mindfully seek out food in the near future. I’m not a baby, I can wait, as long as I’m not using the waiting to hurt myself. As long as I eat something that will sustain and nourish me.

Now that I am home, and getting back into my routine, things are starting to make sense. Especially after having an appointment with my dietitian. When I told her how I was feeling, she immediately said she thought I might be experiencing intuitive eating. What? Finally?! This thing I have been reaching for, straining for, giving up on…here? Now?

What does this look like for me? For once, I am not overthinking food. One day a muffin sounded delicious, so I ate it. Some days recently, veggies at lunch just don’t sound good. That’s OK! The other night I was out for dinner with family at a new restaurant. I ordered off of the adult menu (if you aren’t aware, the children’s menu is often a friend of mine…) and tried a fish taco, black beans, and fries. Then later at home as a test, I took a bag of caramel filled Hersheys Kisses with me to my easy chair, and ate until I was satisfied. This is a really big deal, because usually I count out a serving or two, and eat them all. Eating them all often results in me feeling a little sick, but it was my allotment, and it’s yummy, and it’s candy!

I’m going to keep testing myself. I am going to use my words and say “yes” when I want a food, and “no” when I don’t. My sugar cravings haven’t come back, but sweets do taste good. I just don’t feel like I have to have it.

I feel like I have been learning about, and waiting for intuitive eating to show up for so long. I can’t wait to see what happens within the next few weeks. I’m going to try to go with the flow, and listen to my body. I feel so much calmer and less anxious. I feel wonderful.

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Run for your life

For me, exercise is a topic fraught with anxiety, shame, and exhilaration. I have always been an active person, though when I was younger, exercise was something I never thought about, it just happened. Whether it was playing kickball every day with my friends and siblings, riding my bike, sledding in the winter, or playing hide and seek using a whole block of the neighborhood; t wasn’t intentional, mindful, harming, or meaningful. Moving my body was natural, and fun. It was normal.

Then everyone got too old for playing. My older brother moved out, and he was often the driving force behind the games of hide and seek and kickball. I no longer had outdoor activities that regularly kept me moving. This is just occurring to me now, I didn’t really miss the exercise. I missed the companionship. I started getting older, and “more serious”. In reality, I was depressed. I hated growing up, and missed being able to play imaginative games all day long.

All of a sudden I was in crises. I hated myself and who I was becoming. I began to run away from what was happening to me. I ran and ran, until the numbers on the treadmill were high enough, until I was exhausted, until I felt OK.

But it was never enough. I always wanted more. But I hated it. I hated the grip exercise now had on my life. I hated how I had to get my running, walking, or biking in, knowing that if I didn’t I would be a nervous wreck. The anxiety mounted to the point where I would pull out my hair because I was nervous about so many things, one of them being whether or not I would get my exercise session in that afternoon.

I knew what I was doing was not healthy. I knew it was “wrong”. I wasn’t moving my body because it felt good, or served a healthy purpose. I began seeing a doctor after my diagnosis, and he thought some gentle exercise would be good for me and my state of mind, maybe help with my depression and anxiety. The agreement was, I could walk at a slow pace for a portion of time each day, as long as I ate what the doctor and my mom suggested. At this point, I hated exercise, but I was so addicted mentally, and emotionally that I let the doctor believe I thought it would be beneficial to my mental health also. The truth was, I was being set up for a mind-game of a very detrimental kind.

The deal became, if I ate and gained weight, I could exercise more. This was what a professional medical practitioner was saying to me.
Ed loved this, he said the more energy I used, the better. But how messed up was this situation? The eating disorder was thriving. My relationship with exercise was growing more and more convoluted. I began to exercise in secret. I would slip out with our dog, late at night or at any opportunity during the day. At one point my brother saw me riding bike on the edge of town and told parents. I was warned. I was scared my body would give out. I would exercise rain or shine. I’m sure there were several people in this town that thought I was crazy. They weren’t wrong.

It was an awkward situation. No one really knew how to approach me about it. I could tell my sister’s were mad when I walked our dog so much that mom said they shouldn’t take her on another one as she was probably worn out. I think our dog got to the point where she hated hearing me whisper “walk?!” to her in a quiet, fervent voice. She was as tired as I was. And just like me, she couldn’t find her voice to speak up, and say how she really felt.

This saga went on and on. Years went by, of me using and abusing my body. September of 2015 came, and I proudly showed up to my first appointment at the doctors, telling her excitedly that I was no longer exercising. It took a lot of work and effort for me mentally, to give up this obsession and addiction. I would go through periods of time where I was exercising obsessively, prior to September. It was an all or nothing thing for me. I either did it, or I didn’t. Even a short bike ride could be triggering. Ed would tell me that I exercised yesterday, so to feel OK about today, I needed to exercise again.

It was so freeing for me to “give up” exercise. I now encourage my friends in recovery to try it, because they don’t know what they are missing out on. Yes, it hurts at first. No, it is not easy. I suggest finding something to occupy that time in your day when you would usually work out. If you have to, begin slowly and gently introducing the idea to yourself, perhaps starting a yoga practice, or walking at a slow pace.

Above all, be gentle with your body. Last night I decided to go for a walk, and I told myself I would be gentle. If I felt like running, I would allow it, but nothing too straining. It felt so good to know I didn’t “have”
to exert myself if I didn’t want to. I was doing this exercise in what was the right mindset for me. There was no guilt involved. No shame or anxiety. I am free.

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Moments of clarity

I hate to admit this. I am so stubborn. I am afraid. I’m afraid of nothing and everything.

I wanted to write about exercise addiction. I can’t find the words or memories or get them to come back. I can’t bring back the feelings. “Oh but that’s a good thing” you might be thinking. No, it’s not. I’m stuck. My brain feels like a broken record…or to be more contemporary, it’s like a song on repeat.

I’ve been ducking and dodging my thoughts. I’m hiding from them as best I can, but it’s not working. I see ed in unexpected places. He teases and tantalizes me.

I’m so angry, because these things should come naturally. Eating food and feeding myself should not be something that induces fear.

I have moments of clarity, when the real me shows up and reminds me that it’s just food. It’s just control, it’s just fear, it’s just the unknown. It’s just me.

It’s hard to let go. This is all I have known for so long. I find such pleasure in hurting myself. I tell myself I don’t deserve anything. Ed chimes in and agrees.

But I know this isn’t true. Who the hell is this interloper who has taken over my life? I am not myself. I’m like a hacked computer. I once was something that did work quickly, logically, and concisely. Now a virus has taken over, a download gone awry. Ed was lurking since my birth, feeding off of fear.

Now my fears are exacerbated. They are tenfold, and yet condensed into one. Food. Food, food, food. I say I’m afraid, but I’m not. There is still some part of me, fading in and out, that knows how to function. But I’m not running at 100%. I’m not afraid of gaining weight, yet if you tell me I need to gain and I balk at the thought. Why? How is this hardwired into me? I never cared about my weight.

But I don’t love my body. I never have. There’s always been something, but I whispered about it to myself in the darkest corners of my mind. These thoughts and feelings weren’t real, because no one ever told me how to feel this way. I stumbled upon it myself.

I have lost something that used to be as natural as walking or breathing. I’m paralyzed. Disabled. Handicapped. I used to ask why. Why me? I like to think it’s my burden to carry. But that’s not true. So many other people people have been burdened with this too.

I’m fighting for myself, but for others too. That’s hard. It’s so hard because I want to do well so no one will worry. And I honestly do want to do well for myself (moment of clarity right there). I know it took me years to get here, so I have years to “get better”, right? But no, I have to do this as fast as possible because I must win and trick ed and not think so much because that only trips me up…

I’m not quitting. But I’m slowing down. Maybe it’s time. Maybe I need to really come to terms with things and think things through as much as possible. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just today. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe ed will stop nipping at my heels and leave me alone for a while. Maybe? Maybe not.

I’m fighting against myself you know. I’ve given my problems ugly little names to make them seem all clean and tidy. There we go, all good now. All of my problems are one thing now! I’m not as messed up as I thought I was! Think again, you. Ed is all of this disgusting and selfish stuff all rolled into one. He’s anxiety, fear, anger, restriction, harm, negative thoughts, depression, paranoia, mental illness. He’s so much. I hate him, because he’s what is messing up all of the stuff I want to go right.

He comes in the form of so many things, and yet I call it an eating disorder. He has so many facets, just like a jewel but not anywhere near as pretty. He’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. But he lives through me. It’s hard not to hate myself as much as I hate ed, because in some ways I am my worst enemy.

These words…they’re my feelings. I have so many feelings right now. I just want to shut it all off. I don’t have a fancy sentence or thought to leave you with. So I’ll just leave this here…

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