Monday, December 10, 2012

More on legalizing junk food

Right after I wrote my last post about legalizing junk food, I discovered I had even more junk in the house than I had listed; I had forgotten about several items.  There were other cookies and a jar of chocolate-almond spread that had slipped my mind, and most of a cranberry-orange cake in the freezer that I didn't realize we had until my husband threw it in the yard for the birds yesterday.  It was several weeks old and neither one of us were interested in finishing it.

To have these things in the house and completely and utterly forget about them is new and amusing to me.  I typically know EXACTLY what I have, EXACTLY how much is left, and EXACTLY how badly I want to devour it all the moment I have a bit of privacy to do so.  I even forgot about a pint of Limited Edition Ben & Jerry's this week, and that speaks louder than me forgetting about cranberry-orange cake, believe me.  I opened my freezer and there it was in the door and I was all "Hey!  Forgot this was in here!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The surprising process of legalizing junk food

Interesting things are happening with my eating in the third trimester.  I'm almost 36 weeks now, and still weigh 260 pounds.

I'm not exactly sure when or why this started, but just over a month ago I decided to take yet another crack at changing the way I behave around sugary junk food.  It might have something to do with picking up one of my old Geneen Roth books one night; she's very "pro-legalization" and recommends things like carrying chocolate that you love in your purse at all times.  

I decided to give it a whirl.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is cramping my style

Food-wise and blogging-wise. But we are actually pretty lucky. No damage to the house, and part of our town has power so we can shop for necessities and get a hot meal at several local restaurants. No real complaints, just some inconveniences that we have to work around.

I did stress eat too much the past couple of days. The kids didn't get to trick-or-treat on our blacked out street, so the Skittles and Swedish fish I bought for them have been ending up in my mouth instead. I purposefully bought candy that I am not overly passionate about this year, and under normal circumstances I believe I would have eaten a couple of packs of each (like 2 individual lil fun-size bags) and given the rest away. I've eaten way too much but still did less damage than I would have done with a bag of Reese's cups or worse yet, those combo bags of mini Snickers and Butterfingers and stuff. Anyway, my eating is starting to calm down as I get adjusted to our current situation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

No exercise equals a cloudy mind

I missed three days of walking and can definitely tell that it has impacted my mood and mind.  I feel sort of down and my thinking is muddled.

For me, this is a reminder that I need to exercise primarily for the antidepressant effects of physical activity rather than for fitness benefits.  Greater fitness is nice, but seeing mental changes day-to-day based on whether I exercise is more motivating because the feedback is so immediate.  Bodies, on the other hand, do not (visibly) change immediately.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My weight, two months before my due date

I weigh about 259 pounds right now.  My home scale has been reading between 258 and 260 for over a week.  The doctor's office scale is always within a couple of pounds of my home scale.

Back in April, just days after I conceived, I weighed 255.  So over the past (almost) seven months, my weight went from 255 down to the 240s and then back up again to where it is now, a net gain of about 5 pounds so far.  This all happened gradually and naturally, without me doing much to manipulate my weight besides making an effort to curtail binge eating behaviors.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What I'm working on right now, at 31 weeks pregnant

Because it's unwise to set big weight loss goals during pregnancy and breastfeeding, these are my aims right now:

1.  Avoid gaining excessive weight in pregnancy, and avoid gaining (any) weight during breastfeeding.
2.  Become less eating disordered and more of a normal healthy eater.

My eating is screwy in many different ways, and I've tried comprehensive overhauls in the past that always fell apart in short order.  This time, I'm accumulating normal eating "skills" slowly by working on just a few areas at a time. I think pregnancy taking away any weight loss goal for the near future is what is allowing this shift towards a slow-and-steady philosophy.  What's happening right now:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Half physical, half mental

The distinction we make between the physical and the mental is problematic on several levels, but I'm going to go ahead and talk as though it's a straightforward matter.

When I'm eating regular, nutritious, satisfying meals made from real food (i.e. when I'm cooking for myself regularly), my desire to binge goes way way down.  My cravings for desserts are manageable instead of monstrous.

This won't surprise many people, but it surprises me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Keeping perspective

When I start thinking "how can I cook and exercise today when the house needs cleaning SO badly, the car needs servicing, I need to mail that stuff off?" I know that I've lost perspective.

The house exists to serve me, not the other way around.

The car exists to serve me, not the other way around.

The errands are completed to serve my life; I don't live to complete errands.  I don't live to serve the dry cleaner, the post office, the bank, the store.

It's empowering to put things in their place!  The biggest challenge is keeping them there...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The old me wasn't so great, either

I've been having those days where I cook and eat very well, and get nothing else done.  At least it feels like "nothing".  But that's not entirely accurate; I do get some stuff done.  Not as much as I'd like, but still.

I've been thinking about this more, and have concluded that I always feel like I'm not getting enough done because I compare myself not only to others, but to my OLD SELF.  Namely, the person I was in college.  I always took a full course load, made good grades, did extracurriculars, worked at least one part-time job, volunteered, etc. etc.  I'm not making this comparison in a very direct and conscious way, but I know it's there because I frequently find myself wondering why I'm not more driven, competitive, and goal-oriented, "the way I used to be."  Maybe worrying about it more than wondering about it, to be honest.

True, I'd like to have some of that spark back.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Food pics

This app makes pictures huge! I have to go on my laptop to edit them down. Still though, this is probably the only way I will share photos on a regular basis. Transferring files from my good digital camera to my laptop and creating a separate blog folder is too much hassle when all I want to do is capture particular meals and dishes--seeing homecooked food reminds me how good I feel when I cook for myself instead of grabbing fast food, for example. And a crappy iPhone photo is good enough for that kind of casual visual record. I'm not going to photograph everything I eat, but when the mood strikes and my phone is handy, I will.  Here are some old photos that have been in my phone forever.

(I'm obviously not tech savvy; I can't figure out how to rotate this picture so it's displayed properly, and no idea why my iPhone captured it this way in the first place.)

Testing, testing...

Seeing if I like this iPhone Blogger app for posting pictures, and using the most ridiculous photo I can.  (I keep sending my sister texts with this idiotic looking scarecrow in it--I don't know why it cracks me up so much!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Different sets of parents

For many of us, the people that bring us into the world are not the same people that enable us to live our best lives.  Too often, in fact, the people that birthed and raised us through childhood become an obstacle to our health and personal fulfillment in one form or another.

When we realize this, we feel guilty and conflicted.  And alone.

We could instead rejoice at the fact that life has supplied us with several different parents, all the parents we need, if we would only see it.  More good news: we don't have to fully reject our original parents in order to receive the parenting of others, either.

There are parents out there for every stage of our lives, every area of personal challenge.  There is someone to guide us and love us through it all by way of regular face-to-face interaction, or through words, or through example.  We may never even meet some of them in person.  A dead author can be a parent if they speak directly to your problem and directly to your heart.  You can feel their benevolence through their message and know they would have loved you and the thing you are trying to accomplish.  That can be enough to sustain a person.

The corollary to this is that any of us can be parents, regardless of our biological activities.  You can be a parent without even knowing it.  You can help someone walk part of the road between the cradle and the grave, supporting them when they need it most, raising them up when they fall--and when you do this, you are raising them, period.


I'm excited to be a mother, yet I know I cannot personally supply everything that another human will need throughout their entire life.  I want my daughter to know that she can have all kinds of parents, guilt-free, as she walks through life; that if anything, I never want her to feel alone and unsupported.

Friday, October 19, 2012


It hit me a day or two ago that I have virtually no self-compassion.

I'm never saying to myself, "Rach, you're doing ok.  You're trying to deal with depression, an eating disorder, and some other personal problems and you've come part of the way already.  You're trying to prepare for a new, challenging role--that of mother--as best as you can.  You are attempting to build a career, maintain a house, nurture a marriage, nurture other relationships, keep up with errands, and have a spiritual life. And that's not even the full list. You're doing all of this simultaneously and I know how much you care and how much you expect of yourself.  Just keep going!"

That's not the internal dialogue I have, but I'd like to move more in that direction, because constant (and I mean CONSTANT!!!) self-criticism isn't helping.  

I'm not sure how to build more self-compassion: talk to myself Stuart Smalley-style in the mirror every morning?  Read "Self-Compassion" by Kristen Neff or "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion" by Christopher Germer to get some ideas?  I've been eyeing both books for a bit now.  Hmm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Always dropping the ball

It seems that in a given day, I'm always dropping the ball in one important area or another.

If I eat right, exercise, and meditate, it seems to take up most of my attention.  I'll drop the ball on errands, housework, and/or career-building activities.

If I run a bunch of errands and clean and so forth, it saps my energy and I find my eating to be sloppy and my likelihood of exercise to be low.

Lots of days it's some mix: I exercise but my eating is chaotic.  I run errands and eat ok but am sedentary most of the day and let the house go.  I work on career-related writing but ignore everything else and binge to cope with the anxiety I feel.

I don't expect my performance in all areas of life to be perfect every day, but I've lived this disjointed, unsatisfactory way for years now.  I've tried all sorts of things to break out of these patterns, and still don't have an answer.  Ultimately, I feel like I'm treading water and getting nowhere: I prevent emergencies and put out fires when they do arise, but I don't feel in control of myself and my life.  I don't feel capable of reaching important, ambitious goals anymore.  I'm so scattered and dissatisfied with myself.

Lately, and by that I mean the last couple of weeks, the only thing I've been consistent about almost every day is taking a walk.  This prevents the kind of guilt I felt throughout most of my second trimester about not exercising (at all, pretty much).  Maybe I can build from here.

When it comes to this scattered rut I've been in for years, I know that there's something to my thinking that's tripping me up, over and over again, and I'm trying to get to the bottom of it.  Something to do with lack of clarity about priorities, perfectionism, discomfort avoidance (i.e. going after "low hanging fruit" a lot of the time), and not being able to focus on one task at a time but instead ruminating about what's not getting done WHILE I'm getting something else done.  Four years of weekly therapy sessions did not help me with this--did not even directly help me identify all this--and all I can do today is admit where I'm at and vow to keep untangling this mess.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unhappy and Overwhelmed

I'm already off the makeup kick and more focused on nesting, so I'll pick up my discussion of makeup, clothes, and everything else at a different time.

I've been in a really negative headspace for the past few days.  I'm frustrated with myself.  No matter what I do in a given day, I feel like it's not enough.  That internal critical voice has been so loud lately that yesterday it felt like a separate person and I talked back to it: "yeah?  What do YOU do besides sit around and criticize?"  Definitely a slight case of the crazies.

I have so many problems besides food and weight.  So many.  I don't think or talk about my depression all that much, but it's still there and very much impacting my life.  It's under better control than it used to be, and I've found exercise and meditation to be more effective (at this time) than meds and talk therapy, so I have a plan of action.  But in SO many areas of my life, I desire a total overhaul in my habitual thoughts and behaviors.  When I think about the baby arriving and changing my life in ways I can't fathom, I get anxious.  How am I going to hold everything together?  How am I going to make much-needed changes when I have no time to myself?  Personal progress is abysmally slow NOW, when I have all the time I could ask for, so what does that tell me about my future?

This blog hasn't been incredibly focused so far, but it has been about eating disorder recovery, weight loss, etc. more than anything else.  That's going to change. I want to feel free to talk about anything that I'm struggling with, regardless of whether other people can relate or they find my problems ridiculous.  I may as well be honest and say I blog for myself first and foremost--I do it because it helps me process my thoughts and feel better--and if my writing helps anyone else on some level, that's great, but not something I feel is my responsibility or primary goal.  In other words, I'm not here to provide an "expert voice" of any kind.  It's just me, figuring out what I want and how to get it.  And if I put it all out there, all the worries and dreams and hopes and efforts and failures and experiments and projects, it's going to be messy.

I'm ok with that.  I'm unhappy right now, and feeling overwhelmed, but at least I can accept the mess.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Having a girl, and doing girly things!

I'm 24 weeks along, and we found out about a month ago that we are having a little girl!  I thought--or perhaps hoped--we were having a boy; my relationship with my mother is problematic and on some level I thought a boy would be "easier."  I'm happy to say that excitement over a girl quickly grew and my husband and I are both happy and eager to meet her.  We've chosen a name and I look forward to starting on her nursery in mid-October.

We are travelling out of state in early October to attend the baby shower my family is throwing for us, so I'm trying to choose an outfit for the occasion.  Plus-size maternity shopping is not an easy task, I can assure you!  I just bought two pairs of maternity jeans from Destination Maternity and I have a couple of maternity tops from Target in XXL, their largest size, that I typically wear with cardigans.  I also have a couple of casual cotton empire waist dresses.  That's pretty much it.  Hope that can see me through to December!  I'm mostly at home, so that helps.

Perhaps because my clothing options are so limited, or perhaps because I know I need something to boost my confidence while I get larger (I'm now just over 250 pounds again and I think the number will only climb from here...hopefully slowly), my attention has turned to makeup and hair.  It's been a long time since I've bought anything or put any effort forth in that area.  For so long, I've felt ugly and undeserving of it.  I have a bunch of baggage and history pertaining to hair/makeup/body image/beauty/identity that I will maybe unpack in future blog posts.  For now, let me simply state that I want to get over my hangups and "work what I've got", and I want to teach my daughter to do the same.  I know firsthand how damaging it is to have a mother that models self-hatred and body/appearance-related insecurity to her daughters.

So, I've allowed myself to make a bunch of purchases recently.  First, I bought something I've always wanted: a vanity table and stool.  I've lusted for over 4 years after a particular mirrored vanity set from Pier 1 that costs over $500.  I kept holding out for it, imagining how great it would look in my bedroom.  Well, in the end, I decided that I'd rather use some of that money on quality cosmetics, which I've never owned.  I've always used cheap drugstore makeup.  So I went ahead and ordered a basic set from Target (the Avington vanity in black plus a matching stool, for about $250) and I'm quite pleased with it.  I set it up in front of my bedroom window and can finally apply makeup in natural light once again.  I had been leaning uncomfortably over my bathroom sink or standing in my dingy closet in front of the full length mirror until now.

I've never had a nicer setup or felt so relaxed putting on my makeup.

Because the mirror is too far away from my face when I'm seated normally, and because I needed something that would allow me to apply makeup at night, I also bought a lighted stand mirror from Conair for $60 to place on top of the table.  One side has 10X magnification and the other side is normal, and it plugs in so I don't have to mess with batteries.

I purchased a cheap, flat, plastic handheld mirror for viewing the back of my head, a new hairdryer (old one stopped working), and a set of large hot rollers for creating volume in my flat-at-the-roots hair.  The rollers were probably a mistake because I can't roll all of my hair with the set, so I will probably return it and buy a bigger set.  In addition, I purchased some new makeup, but none of the premium brand stuff yet.  I'm still researching all of that.  I suspect I need higher quality foundation, powder, concealer, eye shadow, eye pencil, and primers, but can get away with drugstore lipcolor, mascara, and nail polish.  There are SO many products out there and so many reviews to sort through that I find it a bit overwhelming, but I will gradually figure out what works for me and how to apply it.

I'll review my current makeup stash in the next post and I welcome makeup advice and recommendations from anyone out there that knows what they are talking about!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flexible menu planning

Last Sunday, I wrote out a menu plan for this week.  This kind of thing never helped me before when I tried it, because I'd throw the whole plan away once I deviated from it, or I'd make it ridiculously detailed and rigid and full of labor-intensive dishes that required me to follow a recipe.

This time, I approached it differently in several ways.

1.  I told myself I could deviate from the written menu as needed; that the plan was merely a suggestion of meals I could make with the things I had on hand.  And I didn't care about switching Monday's dinner with Wednesday's lunch, or flipping the order of breakfasts around, or any of that.  I was totally flexible.

2.  I was realistic about the fact my husband and I would end up eating out a couple of times during the week, and that at least one day could be taken care with leftovers, so I didn't plan a dinner for every night of the week.  I planned 4 dinners and it worked out well. 

3.  I kept the food simple.  I accepted that I have limited patience, energy, and enthusiasm for sophisticated cooking.  I can try my hand at something new, or follow a recipe, or make something that requires me to wash several tools, pots, and pans for one dish...about once a week.  Beyond that, I feel hassled.

4.  I didn't worry about perfect balance or healthfulness.  I wanted to encourage myself to eat some good vegetables, fruits, and proteins, to eat at home a bit more, to throw together something more wholesome than buttered toast and milk for breakfast.  And I accomplished that!

I had some junky things this week, like flavored yogurts, french fries, buttered French bread, and a cheeseburger from Dairy Queen. But thanks mostly to my flexible menu planning, I also ate:

purple cabbage
red peppers
green beans
broccoli with loads of fresh garlic
an apple
orange juice
lean Canadian bacon
turkey breast

All in all, not a bad week.  I like this system!

I recorded what I ate each day and I also jotted down what challenged me each day.  I'm starting to accept that every day, I will be challenged by cravings for crappy food.  It's predictable, it's not going anywhere, and I no longer see the point in getting so upset over it.  Sometimes I am going to give in to the cravings; more often, I am not.  None of the cravings lasted as long as I feared they would, and they usually occur in the afternoon or evening--I'm not being tortured from sunrise to sunset with these food thoughts.  The most irritating thing is when I crave the same item for many days in a row.  This is what I craved this week (I did not give in to any of these cravings, by the way):

Monday: craved McDonald's fries and hot fudge sundae
Tuesday: craved McDonald's milkshake or vanilla cone
Wednesday: craved chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard from Dairy Queen
Thursday: craved sugary kid's cereal. wanted to chow down on a whole box.
Friday: tempted to order cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, where we ate dinner
Saturday: felt like eating a pastry from the Starbucks inside my favorite Barnes & Noble
Sunday: considered making a fruit cobbler and smothering it in vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

These thoughts are ANNOYING, but they don't have to be my undoing.  There's something about accepting that my brain is going to come up with these ridiculous ideas every day that helps me stay a bit detached and calm.  It's kind of like "oh, what is it going to be today?"  Then it pops up as I'm going about my day, and I think "Yep, there it is.  Predictable."

I wrote out a new menu plan for this upcoming week and look forward to seeing how it plays out.  I turn 30 this week and know there will be some special treats thrown in there, and I'm fine with that.  I also have my long-awaited 20 week ultrasound on Tuesday and will hopefully learn the gender of the baby!  Weight continues to bounce around between 245 and 250--never lower or higher than that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time management=weight management?

I want to find a lifelong solution to my eating and weight problems.  I want this to be the last time I have to lose a significant amount of weight.  Yet I know that it’s always going to take time and effort to maintain whatever lower weight I stabilize at.

If this is going to be a part of my life forever, I think I should get clear on HOW MUCH time and effort it takes to maintain a healthier lifestyle and reasonable weight.  I can then plan other parts of my life with this reality in mind.  If I don’t keep enough time free for maintaining my health (taking care of such things as meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and kitchen cleanup, exercising, and much-needed spiritual and mental health practices), there’s a high probability I will gradually pack my life with more and more activities and responsibilities and end up dropping the ball on my health and weight maintenance.  It would be very easy to do this, especially with kids and a career in the picture.  In short order, I could regain everything and more, and this will only take a greater toll on my body as it ages.

I don’t want that to happen!  I know I will not be at my best for family or work life if I’m obese, depressed, and always fatigued.  And for me, those three things are deeply intermingled.  I’d rather scale back on the scope of what I do inside and outside the home, and do those (limited) things while feeling well and taking care of myself, than sacrifice my health to take on more and more.  I don’t want to have to fight this obesity battle throughout my entire life.  I don’t want to have to lose 125 pounds in my thirties, again in my forties, again in my fifties, again in my sixties…

I am speaking from experience here.  I lost a noticeable amount of weight my sophomore year of high school and during my fourth year of college.  (Never 125 pounds, though.  I didn’t need to lose that much back then.)  In both instances, the weight loss was facilitated by having a quieter-than-normal schedule for a decent stretch of time.  And in both cases, my schedule and commitments got ramped up again and I gained back everything I had lost and then some.  Perhaps a busier schedule didn’t make the regain inevitable, but since I didn’t have a clear idea of how much time I needed to set aside to take good care of myself, I failed to block out that amount of time.  And really, it’s not just a time issue, but an energy issue as well: I filled my schedule up with other activities, and doing so left me not only with less time, but less ENERGY to devote to working out and procuring/ preparing decent meals.  Not to mention my stress levels went up with a busier schedule, and stress depletes my willpower reserves and makes me want to eat.  What a mess!

So, to increase my odds of lasting success, I am going to start paying more attention to the time commitment aspect of this lifestyle change.  I am going to start tracking the amount of time I spend on things like kitchen work and exercise.  I’m certain there is a minimum time commitment required for achieving certain results, and I’ve got to figure out what this is for me.  After awhile, I hope to discover the most efficient yet sustainable/effective way of doing things.

Any thoughts or advice out there on time-and-weight management?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

18 weeks pregnant and thinking thinking thinking

There's nothing much to share right now.  I spend much of my time these days thinking about the future, including how I want to tackle weight loss, weight maintenance, household cooking duties, and so on once the baby arrives.  One thing I'm trying to come to terms with is that I will have to invest much more time into meal planning, exercising, etc. than I do now if I want to achieve the results I desire.  And by results, I don't just mean a certain pants size -- I mean providing my child with a certain example, providing my family with a certain level of care.  I'm about to have unprecedented demands on my time due to the new baby, and simultaneously realizing I need to invest more time on this other front in order to progress further with it.  It's all a bit nerve-wracking, but I have to get real.

I lost the few pounds I had gained recently, and am back to 245.  It was nothing I did on purpose; those few pounds suddenly vanished over a 2 day period, though I had not changed my eating in any way.

It was just about a year ago that I joined a gym, started experimenting with a blog (first on Tumblr, then here), and decided to try to lose weight yet again. My weight at that time was 275.  In the 12 months that I've lost 30 pounds, there were weeks and months in which I gave up trying to reform my ways.  My binge eating only calmed down in January-February 2012.  My exercising has been terribly inconsistent throughout the twelve months.  And I've been pregnant for about 4 of the 12 months!  What a strange year!  Yet here I sit, in a better physical and mental place than I was a year ago.  My takeaway from this is that the whole "progress, not perfection" mentality really does get you somewhere if you give it some time.

It might take me another year to lose another 30 pounds.  After all, the next twelve months will involve the final 20 weeks of pregnancy, it will (hopefully) involve breastfeeding, it will involve a major life adjustment.  I can't accurately predict how each of those things will affect my body and mind, but I do think that shedding 30 more pounds amid all that would be a triumph.  So here's to another good 12 months!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

16 weeks pregnant and pondering spirituality

I've had lots of stress lately--plumbing problems, financial stuff, relationship stuff.  I have managed to keep abstaining from sweets during this bout of stress, but it's not easy.  The stress triggers urges to give in and have something so I can feel pleasure, escape, relax (and make the urges themselves go away--the biggest and most immediate drive behind this whole cycle).  Pleasure and comfort are in very short supply these days without my favorite junk foods.

Every option seems difficult.  I outlined it in my last post.  Eating sweets moderately is difficult and requires a lot of energy and willpower.  Abstaining from them is difficult.  Binging and overeating are difficult ways to live too, for different reasons.  All of these options are difficult, but some of them lead to worse outcomes than the others, so I have to make my choice with that in mind.

Sometimes I wish there was brain surgery available that could remove or "wipe clean" the neural pathways that make sugar, binging, and food such a big freaking deal to me.  Because rewiring my brain through hundreds of daily decisions and actions is so damn hard.  Often I feel like I'm not making any progress and then I start to doubt whether lasting change is even possible.  I believe I can change my behavior, sure, but will the incessant whining in my head for MORE MORE MORE ever cease?  I wonder if I will be white-knuckling it to the grave, alternating between sheer willpower and mindfulness practices to get through my days without overeating or eating lots of sugary junk.  Both willpower and mindfulness take a ton of energy and effort, at least for me, so I question the sustainability of that.

IF the mindfulness stuff becomes more like second nature, though, MAYBE things will get a bit easier.  I found a Thursday night insight meditation group in my area and attended the meeting last week.  I really liked it.  I've been meditating on my own (inconsistently) and reading extensively on the topic of Buddhism for months now, sorting through different schools, ideas, and practices so I can piece together something that works for me.  I think I've rejected more aspects of Buddhism  than I've embraced; I'm not one for orthodoxy or pre-scientific nonsense and feel no need to  become more aligned with irrelevant Tibetan/Japanese/Sri Lankan/(fill in the blank) cultural trappings.  I'm a secular westerner that's influenced by Buddhism rather than a Buddhist influenced by secular western thought, that much is certain.  But the parts of Buddhism that make sense to me are becoming really important to my life.

No one would be more surprised than me if my lifelong food and weight woes brought me to a satisfying spiritual life around the age of 30.  It was my search for binge eating disorder help that led me to Vipassana (insight) meditation, and Vipassana led me to consider Buddhism as a whole.  I've never HAD a spiritual life before now.

Maybe that's part of the problem.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Update on my (near-) abstinence

I've been doing ok and maintaining near-abstinence when it comes to desserts.  A few days ago, I had a weird eating day and later realized I was blowing off steam. The kind of steam that builds as a result of restriction. Everything I ate that day was sweet and rich: a bagel with flavored cream cheese from Panera's, a chocolate whey protein-banana smoothie, and a small amount of rice pudding.  I ate very little for the day, but I didn't consider it an abstinent day by any means.

Yesterday, for the 4th of July, I didn't buy any sweet drinks like soda or lemonade, any chips, any desserts.  I told our guests they were free to bring anything they liked, and let them know we would be grilling meat and veggies and serving watermelon on the side.  They didn't bring anything to supplement our meal, but then we all went out for frozen custard and I did order a kid's size vanilla custard in a cup.  I liked it, but wanted more once it was over...and then felt that old anger and exasperation at always wanting MORE.

For now, I feel fine with how I'm doing.  Abstinence isn't torture day-in and day-out, the way it was when I was trying Overeater's Anonymous.  If every now and then I blow off steam or have a treat on a holiday or special day, it's fine.  It's what I would call near-abstinence, and I'm pleased with it because it means I'm not having sweets every single day anymore.

I have experienced a lot of bored and dull feelings lately, and I think it's because I've taken away a big source of fun and pleasure from my daily routine by omitting sweets.  Even though I was no longer regularly binging on sweets, they obviously remained an important part of my day and a major source of entertainment.  But that's the point--I don't want sweets to be my daily entertainment anymore.  I don't want them to be a "necessary" part of my day in any amount or in any fashion.  It'll take awhile for something else to fill the vacuum that's been created; I'm going to let that unfold naturally.

So that's where I am: near-abstinent, mostly at peace, more bored than usual.  Also up a couple of pounds since cutting sweets, but I attribute that to the fact that I'm 15 weeks pregnant and weight gain was going to start happening at some point!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

14 weeks pregnant and sweating the sugar question again

So 14 weeks, feeling fine, no weight gained (if anything, a few more pounds lost), barely starting to show.  Or not showing?  It's hard to tell.  I do carry plenty of fat in my abdominal region; my lower stomach looks the same, but sometimes/in some outfits it seems there's a bit of a swell higher up.  I think I can get through the summer without maternity clothing, but will need some items come fall/winter.

While my body is trucking along just fine, my mind is up to its old antics.  Namely, I'm playing with the idea of complete abstinence from desserts for the rest of my pregnancy.  I've had some bad eating days lately and one day last week in which I just flat-out binged on ice cream sandwiches, and after that I felt so fed up and frightened that I wondered if simply walking away from that whole category of food is the smartest thing to do.  Not forever, but for now.

See, I've been over this before.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had attempts at abstinence backfire enough times that I finally settled on moderation and re-learning as the best way forward.  I still think learning to eat "problem foods" moderately is the best long-term solution.  I was making progress throughout 2012 with this approach, and before I got pregnant, I viewed my frequent slip-ups with sugar as merely part of the learning process.

I don't feel so easygoing about it anymore.  I feel like I can't afford slip-ups the way I used to, and as I'm still fairly new to the moderate eating game, they happen way too often.  Some of the things I think about:

1.  I weigh 245 pounds about 14 weeks into pregnancy. I'm at high risk for gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.  Can I "afford" binges or episodes of overeating?  Even if I don't binge, can I "afford" to eat nutritionally poor, sugar-laden foods on a regular basis?  Keep in mind, I do not eat a low-carb diet to start with.  My body is processing considerable sugar throughout the day due to my consumption of grains, fruits, dairy, etc. 

(As an aside, I am certainly not low on calories and I don't believe my urges to binge/overeat are the result of my body desperately trying to get more energy to support a growing baby, or anything like that!)

2.  Eating sweets moderately requires a LOT of mental effort from me.  Even on my best days, it requires energy and willpower to stop at a certain point and to ignore the cravings for more than inevitably follow. (Hormonal swings haven't made this any easier, I can assure you.)  I don't have as much energy and time to fight these battles as I used to, and think it'd be easier on me, in many respects, to simply cut sweets out of my life for now.

3.  In a few weeks, the baby will be swallowing amniotic fluid throughout the day that is flavored by the foods I am eating.  Research suggests that certain dietary preferences start to form in utero, largely through this mechanism.  (Breastmilk is similarly flavored and believed to influence later food preferences and eating behavior, too.)  If family history is any indication, my baby probably has food/addiction/weight challenges awaiting him or her already.  Do I want to do anything that might make matters worse?

Even if abstinence is the best route, I don't know if I can maintain it.  I've never been able to before, but then again, I've never had to factor a baby into the picture, either.  I'd like to try and see.  If I sense that it's about to backfire in a big way,  I will have to go back to the daily grind of battling for moderation.   Even if moderation (with all my inevitable slip-ups) isn't ideal, I CANNOT go through the abstain-binge-abstain-binge cycle while pregnant.  One round of the abstinence experiment is all I will do; if it fails, I will not be attempting it again during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

There isn't much research or literature out there on binge eating disorder and pregnancy.  All my books briefly cover anorexia and bulimia in pregnancy, not even mentioning binge eating disorder.  Yet I know I cannot be alone in this, and I wonder how other women handle it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Inattention is key to binge eating

You hear all the time that eating mindfully helps you eat less.  It's true.  If you attend to the experience of your food and your eating process as fully as possible, you can be satisfied with less.  Start doing it and you'll see the contrast from all those times you wolfed something down while multitasking or otherwise distracted and then thought "That was it?  That wasn't enough."  And then reached for more food then and there, or perhaps an hour later. 

If you want to eat less, pay more attention.  If you want to eat more, pay less attention.  In my experience (and I'd be interested to hear other views on this), I don't think one can binge mindfully.  A binge indicates an unusually large amount of food eaten in an unusually brief period of time, and there's an mental state involved that isn't calm or focused.  If your mind is calm and you are eating slowly and attentively, I doubt you are binge eating.  It's possible you are still overeating,  but I think binging is unlikely.

Ice cream was a classic binge staple for me; I'm still prone to overeating it.  Can you believe that it wasn't until I slowed down and tried to eat ice cream mindfully that I realized my mouth became numb after a scoop or two and that I couldn't really taste the ice cream after that point?  And that it's not pleasurable to eat ice cream you can't taste?  All those years of binging on ice cream a few times a week depended on my inattentiveness; it's how way I was able to remain convinced that I "loved" eating two pints of ice cream in 20-30 minutes. 

If you tend to binge while watching TV or movies, browsing, fiddling with the radio in your car, playing games on your phone, letting your mind wander far and wide, whatever...try doing it without your favorite distraction added.  You might find that the act of eating itself becomes boring pretty quickly, and that the food doesn't taste as great as you remembered.

I'm convinced that junk food manufacturers depend on people not paying much attention to what they are eating.  Eating m&ms in the movie theater is fun.  Sitting down at a table and eating one m&m at a time, attentively, is freaking dull.  I think fast food tastes good, but it loses much of its magic when you pay close attention to it--say, if you sit down and eat it quietly instead of while driving or talking with another person.  And there are so many junk foods I thought were delicious until I slowed down and discovered they were too salty, too stale, too cloying, or too bland for me.  Some of them need to be paired with OTHER junk foods in order to be really enjoyable (for me, chips and popcorn taste much better with a soda alongside).  This doesn't mean I'll never eat such foods again, but having experienced them in a new light, I'm unlikely to reach for them and even less likely to overeat them.  Without some distracting activity paired with those foods, they just aren't that fun.

I don't think that mindful eating is a straightforward, easy solution to binge eating.  Not at all.  But I think it really can help lessen the grip of problematic foods.  It can allow you to see that there IS hope: if your perception of a food can change via mindfulness (despite believing for years and years that your connection to that food was ironclad), then your behavior around that food can change as well.  And no matter how entrenched your binge eating disorder is, there is a part of your brain that remains capable of providing insights and applying solutions to overcome it.  We've got to put more stock in those parts of our brains!  Mindful eating is one way of doing exactly that.

Friday, June 15, 2012

12 week ultrasound, weight loss, and swimming

Everything looked fine at my ultrasound this week.  It was beyond exciting to see a little humanoid shape moving around in there!  At last!  The baby was bouncing on his/her back repeatedly and waving little arms and legs about continuously.  I could have watched for hours, as it made everything seem very real and the baby was so fun and fascinating to observe, but the scan was over after a few minutes.  And I only got to hear the heartbeat for a few seconds.  I'm still marveling at how this mango-sized creature can be in motion without me feeling anything at all!  I should get bloodwork results back next week that, combined with the results of the nuchal translucency scan, will tell me more about risks and further testing needs.

I'm down a few pounds, though it fluctuates by a five pound margin.  I often see something in the 246-251 range on the home scale.  Tuesday the doctor's scale said 250; yesterday the gym scale said 249.  I'd have to dig through my records, but I don't think I've seen anything in the 240's on the gym scale before now.  I think my face looks a little less chubby than it used to.  It is liberating to exercise and weigh myself and moderate my food choices without all the self-imposed pressure to lose lose LOSE. 

I went swimming yesterday for the first time in over 4 years and it felt really nice.  I rediscovered how much I enjoy the brain-body challenge of thinking about all these different components of the strokes while carrying them out.  I love getting a lane to myself and tuning out the rest of the world.  Unlike the case of group exercise classes or using gym machines or even taking walks outside, I don't have to look at anyone.  There's no one to compare myself to.  There's no interaction or competition or self-consciousness, which is great for me.

I might try some aqua cardio classes to mix things up in the pool, or I may sign up for a few private lessons so I can learn to do the breaststroke and backstroke more precisely and efficiently, even if I'm only going to do them slowly.  (I read those are the two best strokes to do during pregnancy.)  I went slowly yesterday, but still got my heart pumping and I felt deliciously tired a couple hours after my swim.  I felt like I had really done something good for myself.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What you do most of the time...matters most

We had company yesterday, and I ate way too much.  I always do.  I find it stressful to host people, the stress triggers urges to overeat or to binge, and feeling overwhelmed/tired/not in touch with myself, I give in to the urges without even trying in earnest to fight them off.

It's really common for me to sit down and polish off a bunch of leftovers once guests leave my home.  Last night it was chocolate pudding.  I don't like that I do this, and I will work on changing it.  The good news, however, is that we don't host people very often.  So this particular problem doesn't present itself very often.

More and more, I'm seeing scenarios I used to worry about don't matter that much, because they don't occur that often.  I used to sit down and try to come up with grand plans and sets of rules, or maybe just one magical secret principle, that could cover ALL problematic scenarios for me.  Hosting people.  The holidays.  Traveling to my hometown and eating a bunch of meals with family, who eat very differently than I do.  Ravenous PMS days.  When I couldn't come up with solutions for everything, and when I kept tripping up at predictable times, I would get so discouraged and let my day-to-day efforts slide.  I was all-or-nothing.

That's starting to change.  Perfectionism and my all-or-nothingness is fading, finally.  I understand that what I do on a typical day--something like 300 days out of the year--is what matters most and deserves my closest attention.  And when a not-so-great eating day comes along, like yesterday, it doesn't have to lead to an out-of-control week.  Yesterday I had company and ate stupidly.  I probably won't have company for another month.  Hopefully I can do better next time, but there's likely 25 or 30 normal, non-company days between now and then to attend to.  So on some level, I'm thinking: who cares?  Let's move on.

I don't even think about balancing out the previous day's excesses.  What's done is done.  Letting go of yesterday helps me make better choices today because I'm not burdened with feelings of regret, shame, anxiety, and so on.  It's very freeing. 

This attitudinal change may be happening because I'm not trying to lose weight right now, just maintain my current weight. (Next week, I will wrap up my first trimester without having gained anything, as per my ob/gyn's instructions to gain 0-5 pounds during this period of time.)  So now when I eat too much, I don't think "I blew it.  There's no way I will have lost anything by the end of this week" because my focus isn't on losing.  It's on staying steady as much as possible, scale-wise and eating-wise.  And with less dramatic thinking in the picture, there are less dramatic behavioral swings too.

I want my new relaxed attitude to stick, though, despite the weight gain that is sure to come later and the desire for weight loss that will kick in post-pregnancy!  After fixating on individual trees for so long, it's nice to see the forest. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wrapping up week 10 of pregnancy, and asking "Am I obligated to be pretty?"

On the pregnancy front, I'm less queasy--hooray!--but I don't sleep well anymore at all.  I used to be one of those people that could sleep 8-10 hours straight.  Totally solid sleep.  Now I toss and turn, my back hurts, I get up to pee all the time.  I ordered a body pillow from Amazon that I hope will help with back and abdominal support.  I also ordered a prenatal yoga DVD and a prenatal strength training DVD, and I'm looking for a pair of swim shorts to wear over my old one piece so I can start swimming again.  I get horrific razor burn around my bikini line and rather than let my embarrassment keep me away from the pool, I'm ready to slap on some shorts and get on with it.  Summer is here!

And speaking of my skin, my appearance...I realized the other day that I feel obligated as a woman to a.) either be pretty and pleasant to look at, or b.) cover my flaws as much as possible "out of consideration for others", even if it means being physically uncomfortable or missing out on enjoyable things.  As if the retinas of innocent bystanders will actually catch fire if they are subjected to my ugliness.

I know this is a really old topic, and some of the older feminists out there might be rolling their eyes.  But it's one of those things that feels fresh and confusing nonetheless, for each person and each generation that grapples with it.

I thought I wanted to be attractive (or hide my numerous flaws) for all sorts of reasons: to avoid ridicule and expressions of disgust from others in order to protect myself from humiliation.  On the flip side, to make me likeable to others and for the other social advantages that come from attractiveness.  For innate biological reasons of wanting to attract and keep a mate.  Etc etc.

But more and more, I'm realizing I feel it's somehow my DUTY to be pleasant to look at, as though being pretty is the decent, considerate thing to do.  The other day I was catching some sun on my reclining deck chair in a swimsuit.  My middle-aged, overweight, male neighbor came outside and started doing something in his yard, just off to my right. I immediately felt tense and self-conscious and started wondering if I looked disgusting to him.  I didn't feel he was staring at me or anything, but I pondered whether I was unpleasant for this man to look at anyway.

It's silly.  Not only am I not obligated to serve as eye candy for random men (or women), but I don't find this particular neighbor of mine attractive--I don't view him as a potential sexual partner--I don't think much about him, period.  So why did I react this way?  Why do I ALWAYS feel almost apologetic about my appearance?  It might be a smart move to make oneself as attractive as possible; it may be advantageous on many levels.  But is anyone obligated to be hot?  Is anyone obligated to attempt to be hot?  I don't think so.

I know that these feelings of obligation come from socialization, including aggressive marketing aimed at girls and women.  But understanding the origins of it all doesn't really help me reprogram my thinking, it seems.  My mom and older sister hated their bodily flaws and would express disgust when some other person lacked the "decency" to cover up bad skin, legs with severe cellulite, back fat, whatever.  Over the years, I have found myself thinking similar things: "why doesn't this person simply cover that up?  Wear a looser fitting top?  Aren't they embarrassed?"

Well, no.  Maybe they aren't embarrassed.  Maybe they have higher priorities than masking their physical flaws.  Maybe they don't even consider themselves flawed!  And moreover, they don't owe anyone anything, and they aren't hurting anyone.

Even today, while shopping for swim shorts, I was reading reviews online and saw comments like "these shorts provide good coverage.  No woman my age should be walking around in a regular suit. No one needs to see that."  Or "I don't want to subject others to my fat thighs so I got these."  One person actually said something like "I don't want to see anything old and saggy at the beach, including myself.  These shorts do the trick."

So I guess if you can't fit the mainstream definition of attractiveness, you should at least have the decency to hide what makes you ugly?  I don't know what else to say or do about this.  After all, I'm ordering swim shorts to hide my razor burn (oh, and upper thigh cellulite and any stray hairs I might miss when shaving, because I am rather hairy and...)

Have any readers out there successfully gotten over feelings of obligation/duty/decency in regards to their appearance? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Heading into week 9 of pregnancy, and thinking about multi-generational food abuse

Everything is fine, as far as I know.  I had a checkup last Friday that went well.  Unless there is a problem, I won't have another checkup or ultrasound for another 4 weeks.  Seems like a long time to wait!  I'm so anxious and impatient.

Queasiness keeps me from having too much interest in food, but I am so very grateful I am not vomiting.  I focus on my water intake.  My weight is stable at 250.  I take walks, have slowly started up the strength training again, and I do a bit of yoga each day to ease my lower back pain.  A quick session of child's pose, cat/cow, and downward facing dog actually alleviates pain for a couple of hours.  My meditation practice is non-existent and I want to change that.

Even though I'm not terribly interested in food these days, guess what tastes the best and sits very well with me?  Ice cream.  Honey nut Cheerios.  Lassi.  Toast with jam.  Yep, sugar, dairy, and refined carbs.  I eat salads and fruit and lean meat and hummus and other stuff too, but it doesn't go down as easily.  Binging hasn't been a big problem, but I overeat the hyperpalatable stuff regularly and want to stop.  I haven't forgotten about Brain over Binge or ditched it in favor of some other philosophy...I'm simply tired and out of sorts.  I've started thinking about binge eating recovery more the past couple of days, though.

 I sat down and made a list of things I want to teach my child about food and eating.  What kind of behavior do I want to model?  What kind of household do I want them to grow up in?  Surely not the unstructured kind that I experienced, where the parents hide their special junk food from the kids, the kids are left to grab peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or bowls of cereal by themselves throughout the day...except for dinner, where we would all sit down to Hamburger Helper and canned vegetables and fruit.  I don't want them to binge like me; I don't want them to insist on pairing meals with TV, like my husband does.  So many things need to change.  I'm the fifth generation of obese, food abusing women in my family.  I have verbal accounts and photographic evidence going back to my great-great grandma, who happened to be very large before there were drive-thrus and 1,700 flavors of Ben & Jerry's at the local grocery store and buffets in each town, and I would not be surprised if the problem goes several generations back further than that. 

As much as I don't want to be sloppy and lazy when it comes to the family's nutrition, I also don't want to be shrill, dogmatic, unkind, dramatic--putting kids on diets, making them scared of food or of ever gaining weight, teaching them to look down on others that don't eat like we do.  I know there is a middle ground, but I don't have firsthand experience with it.  My mom managed to cover both extremes: she was not interested in cooking for us at all, but she took my older brother to Weight Watchers with her when he was a boy so HE would learn to eat more intelligently.  He was like 8 or 9, surrounded by crappy processed food at home that he mostly had to prepare himself, with an obese mom and a sugar-loving, chain-smoking dad...and the problem was thought to be HIS lack of self-control?!?!  He found the experience of attending a diet club populated by middle aged women mortifying.  I can't imagine the public weekly weigh-ins and the comments these adults probably made about the one child (probably also the one male; it was the 80's) in attendance!   Today, he is an obese adult with real hostility towards any discussion of eating healthfully or losing weight. 

Bottom line--I'm simultaneously scared about screwing things up for yet another generation, and excited and hopeful that parenting might be that final push I require to nail various behavioral problems and become the person I've always wanted to be. Do any of you know people that re-invented themselves via parenthood, especially in terms of food/eating/weight/addiction?  I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 7 update

I had a little scare this week--some light spotting Thursday night that resulted in an early, unscheduled ultrasound on Friday morning.  The doctor said everything looked ok and confirmed the presence of a heartbeat.  Such relief.  I have a regular checkup and scheduled ultrasound this coming Friday and was assured that at this stage, the embryo grows so quickly that even one week will make a difference in terms of what we can see on the screen.   This experience only confirmed it's best not to share too much until the first trimester is complete!

Really fatigued and only the last few days, rather queasy.  I don't feel like eating much and when I do have an appetite, I can hardly stand the idea of vegetables.  I'm too tired to prep them and the thought of eating them...well, makes me not want to eat at all.  I'd been feeling a lot of guilt about this.  I wanted to be "perfect" from day 1 in my pregnancy, of course, and drink tons of water and eat tons of vegetables and fruits and have this balanced exercise regimen...and my all-or-nothing thinking is creating misery yet again.  I'm ready to chuck it to the curb and be realistic: eating a serving of fresh vegetables most days--perhaps in a salad, or a veggie frittata, or whatever--is better than nothing.  It's fine.  Fruit is easier to get down right now and do I really have to hate myself for not eating vegetables at every meal?

I've been taking walks and when this fatigue lets up a bit, I will slowly expand into other activities.  I really wasn't anticipating this level of fatigue!  Also, for some illogical reason, I didn't expect sore breasts or cramping to be an issue for me because they never have been before with my menstrual cycle.  And now I'm uncomfortable due to both, every day.  Not to sound too whiny; I'm actually happy!  But looking forward to things getting a bit easier in the second trimester, like everyone promises they will.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fat, pregnant, barefoot, quiet

My weight is holding pretty steady and I don't feel any increase in appetite so far.  Besides some fatigue and lower back pain and changes to my sleep patterns (I now get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, which is quite foreign to me), nothing much has changed at all.

There's lots I'd like to say about the timing of this pregnancy and how grateful I feel for discovering Brain Over Binge before getting pregnant and how relieved I am that I lost 20 pounds before getting pregnant and how I hope I don't gain more than that throughout this process, and so on...but all that ease I expressed in my last post has disappeared.  Anonymous or not, now I don't really want to talk about my pregnancy until I reach a certain number of weeks, and have an ultrasound that confirms a heartbeat, and all the rest!  So I'm sort of stuck when it comes to my blog. 

Watch me say something else entirely next week! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Yes.  And I'm as surprised as you are!  I'm also very happy, and my husband is downright thrilled!

It's really way too early to be announcing this--I'm only a few weeks along and haven't told my family or anything.  But since this blog is anonymous, I don't feel terribly vulnerable talking about it.  I wanted to explain why I went missing for a bit and also why I might be blogging less often, or differently, or whatever, going forward. 

Immediate thoughts related to the topic of this blog: my eating will have to change for the better, and of course I'm concerned about my history of binging.  I'm concerned about being obese and the possibility of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.  But more than that, I'm simply happy and determined to make smart choices and to enjoy my pregnancy (this is my first ever) as much as possible.

I don't think I will report my daily food anymore, because I feel paranoid about the possibility of being scrutinized and attacked.  People have such strong opinions about nutrition as it is, and they have even more regarding what to do/what not to do during pregnancy.  I'm not sure if I will continue to report my weight, either. Nevertheless, I will continue to blog honestly; I may not include as many exact details as before, but I will continue to talk honestly about what is going on with me at any given point.

More later, though I don't know when!  My mind is pretty much spinning with questions and to-do items and other stuff right now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FEW in review: March 26-April 1

Saw new lows on the gym scale twice this week, but eating and overall direction pretty sketchy right now.  I'm seeking clarity and trying to be aware of what I'm doing each day, and that's about all.

I'm going to be without regular internet access for a little while and am going to use this time to take a blogging break.  So I will pick up again in mid-April.  Happy Easter, everyone!

Monday, March 26:
KIND bar, turkey jerky
spinach gnocchi; piece of bread
chai tea latte; mocha (inattentive)
ham & cheese sandwich; Greek vanilla yogurt with raspberries and blackberries
estimated 40 minutes of walking

Tuesday, March 27:
small handful of turkey jerky; chips
small bowl of veg spaghetti with 3 meatballs
2 chicken burritos with sour cream
cherry Larabar and milk
30-40 minute walk and BodyPump class
gym scale says: 254

Wednesday, March 28:
KIND bar
breadsticks; personal pan pizza; glass of Mt. Dew
half a bean burrito

Thursday, March 29:
KIND bar; apple with peanut butter
pork, potatoes, corn, onions
honey roasted peanuts
graham crackers, hot cocoa with whipped cream

Friday, March 30:
8 Nutty bars
3 ice cream bars
4 shortcakes with whipped cream and berries
I binged all day and can't even remember what regular food I ate for meals.
I felt physically ill from this food.

Saturday, March 31 :
remaining 4 Nutty bars; KIND bar
chicken Caesar salad
turkey and pinto bean taco meat on bun, and equivalent amount without bun
(contained peppers, tomatoes, onions)
longer strength training circuit at gym
gym scale says: 253

Sunday, April 1:
turkey and pinto bean tacos with sour cream
cashews, graham crackers, peanut butter
chicken, roasted cauliflower, raisins

Friday, March 30, 2012

The acceptance part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

I've mentioned before that I'm applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ideas and practices to my binge eating and overeating problems. I think the Wikipedia article on ACT is fairly informative and it will help any readers out there make sense of what follows.

I recently finished Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: the New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith. Reading this book has made me realize several things, and I believe the advice in the book can help me carry out the high-level instructions contained in Brain Over Binge.

In Brain Over Binge, Hansen describes how she started viewing her urges to binge as "neurological junk" emanating from her lower brain, and how that new perspective allowed her to stop acting on those urges. She explains that she stopped fighting the disturbing thoughts that encouraged her to binge and purge (she was bulimic): she stopped arguing with them and stopped engaging them altogether, instead treating them as not even worthy of her attention. She was no longer frightened of whatever her lower or "animal" brain threw her way because she understood her real self, her Highest Human Brain, to be way more powerful than the animal brain. She could listen to the lower brain chatter as if it were a tape recording and remain calm, and she understood herself to be safe from her urges because her Highest Self was in charge of motor control: no urge could MAKE her use her arms, hands, mouth, and throat to gather food, put that food into her mouth, chew it, and swallow it.

These were (and still are) really exciting concepts for me. For several weeks after reading Brain Over Binge, I enjoyed a very new, very profound sense of security. I am more powerful than my urges! Those seemingly scary urges can't MAKE me do anything! I had never thought or felt that way before.

But as time went on, things got a little messier. I had trouble distancing myself from my urges. I had eating episodes that made me feel unsafe: even if my Highest Human Brain was more powerful, even if "loss of control" was only perceived loss of control and thus an illusion, my lower animal brain was one hell of a contender. Hansen's point, however--and it's a perspective I encountered again in Buddhist meditation training as well as in ACT--is that the tug of war is supposed to stop. It's not supposed to be lower brain versus higher brain in a gruesome fight to the death. A lighter touch is called for here.

On one level, I understood it then and I understand it now. On another level, don't I want my Highest Human Brain to triumph? Don't I want the old addiction wiring to fade away, to leave me in peace? Sure I do.

And that's a big part of the problem. After reading the ACT book, I had to face up to the fact that I never truly ACCEPTED my binge thoughts/urges/cravings. I wanted to disassociate from them and ignore them as fast as possible, because I thought that would de-fang them: Lower brain junk, not worth my attention, moving on... In other words, I would quickly acknowledge "I'm having the thought I want to binge on x or y" but only as an attempt to control or manipulate my internal experience by creating distance between myself and the thought. I used meditation practices with the same intent. In truth, I remained frightened of my thoughts and urges, irritated by their repeated intrusions into my consciousness, and very anxious to eliminate them once and for all.

Honestly, I'm still scared of my cravings and urges. I haven't learned to accept them "fully and without defense". I'm not yet "willing to welcome them unconditionally", in the parlance of the ACT book. (Again, because I still find them threatening and ugly.) I don't really want to listen to what they have to say. Thus far, I've tried to silence my lower brain and its contents in two ways: give it what it's asking for immediately (i.e. binge) so it won't go on howling, or disassociate from it as quickly as I can.

ACT suggests I stop trying to silence it, period. And to be sure, ACT does talk about creating distance between ourselves and our thoughts--the book I just finished calls this process "defusion", because you stop fusing with your thoughts and start looking AT them rather than FROM them. But before you can defuse from the thoughts in your head, you must accept what's there. You must give up the problematic habit of experiential avoidance--of attempting to avoid unpleasant thoughts, sensations, urges, feelings, etc.

So I'm working on acceptance right now. I'm trying to maintain a stance of curiosity: What are my binge thoughts? What are the urges? How can I experience them as fully as possible? How can I get acquainted on all levels? I admit I don't know exactly how to do this, but the ACT book has exercises I can try as a starting point. I'm hoping I can get to a place where I accept that the thoughts and urges might be with me forever, or at least might pop up regularly for the rest of my life. This kind of acceptance is supposed to happen without a hidden agenda; you aren't supposed to "accept" troublesome thoughts or urges on the basis that doing so will make them fade away, for example.

It's REALLY hard to not have a hidden agenda such as this.

I guess, right now, I have to accept how confusing and complicated this all seems to be. I have to accept that a problem 30 years in the making will not vanish overnight.

postscript: To be clear, Hansen's book is not the reason for my struggle and I don't mean to misrepresent anything the author has said. I may have missed some of the nuances of her arguments or I may be having trouble following through with her advice for any number of reasons (differences in temperament, differences between binge eating disorder and bulimia, etc.). I see ACT and Brain Over Binge to be highly complementary: they talk about many of the same ideas and techniques, but ACT provides specific exercises/practices to try while Brain Over Binge illustrates how the underlying principles can help someone overcome an eating disorder. It is an informative memoir rather than a step-by-step manual.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

FEW in review: Mar 19-25

Monday, March 19:
7:45 am - turkey jerky, coconut-almond KIND bar
12 - deli turkey slices with gouda cheese slice
note: I fell to pieces after this. Horrible day emotionally: feelings of depression, serious fighting with husband, PMS, and total lack of mindfulness or even the capacity to care about my eating and habit change goals.
many graham crackers with chocolate frosting--maybe 4 total crackers?
several pieces of toast with butter, jam, etc. I think 4 pieces.
It's not that I was trying to comfort myself with these foods so much as there wasn't much in the house, I was totally unwilling to cook, and this was the easiest thing to grab. So I did. I just didn't care.
turkey-guac-spinach-cheese sandwich that tasted like nothing, since I had been crying. (Food always tastes bland or terrible to me when I've been crying.)
Water? No idea. No exercise.

Tuesday, March 20:
KIND bar; 2 pieces of toast--one with butter, one with a slice of gouda
2 graham crackers with chocolate frosting
13 Cadbury mini-eggs (mindful) with a glass of milk. OVEREATING.
burrito made with chicken breast, green and red peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and avocado. Good! I'd never made this before but it easy and filling.
went to BodyPump class
gym scale says: 254
Eating attentive today. Not enough water.

Wednesday, March 21:
half a turkey & bacon panini, half a small piece of quiche, coffee
chicken-pepper-onion-carrot burrito; 12 Cadbury mini eggs (mindful)
pasta with peppers, kale, and meatballs
KIND bar and a few more mini eggs. OVEREATING.
Eating mostly attentive, but had dinner in front of TV because I was with someone else who wanted to do so. I need to learn how to say no in these situations without feeling embarrassed. I still feel like a fat person that doesn't want to be difficult or weird about food and eating because doing so will draw more attention to my problems. One way of minimizing attention is to go with the flow and just do whatever everyone else is doing, whether it's actually working for me or not.

Thursday, March 22:
egg McMuffin, hash brown, orange juice
potato chips and Cadbury mini eggs (mindful)
burger, fries, and Sprite
Ate some fries while driving, which was inattentive eating. Experiencing more and stronger cravings than usual tonight, and there's mental chatter about not drinking enough water, not exercising enough, and everything else I'm not "enough" at in the dieting realm. Honestly, I think hormones are contributing to my moods and urges today.

Friday, March 23:
Cadbury mini eggs & chocolate malted candy eggs: BINGE.
KIND bar
roasted cauliflower
Can't remember the rest of my meals!

Saturday, March 24:
Cadbury mini eggs & chocolate malted eggs
horrible piece of cake with strawberry sauce and whipped cream: BINGING.
spaghetti with kale, peppers, cheese, meatballs; eating in front of TV.

Sunday, March 25:
ham, cheese, and baby spinach sandwich
angel food cake, strawberries, and whipped cream: BINGING.
half a mocha
leftover veggie spaghetti and meatballs

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I've been binging the last three days

And it's awful. It's not fun or pleasurable. It's highly distressing.

In terms of amounts, my binges are way smaller. The first two days, it was Easter candy and today it was angel food cake and whipped cream. But smaller amounts are little consolation. And frankly, I'm GLAD my standards are changing. I want them to. I'm glad I now find eating 6 servings of malted milk balls in a day to be alarming and depressing instead of no big deal. (The package contained a total of 7 servings, and it was hard for me to not finish the box just for the sake of finishing it.)

One of the frustrating things about blogging is that I say something one day, and truly mean it--such as when I declared the other day that "I no longer feel compelled to finish things just for the sake of finishing things"--and then days like today, I have to turn around and announce that I was wrong. Something will occur that shows me I haven't moved entirely past this issue or that behavioral tendency, and then I feel embarrassed about my earlier statements. I try to be conservative in my proclamations to avoid this very thing, but it still happens.

How did I fall into binging again? Well first, I felt urges to binge for three straight days. On the evening of the third day, I developed a killer headache. That was my breaking point. I was beyond frustrated that the urges did not abate for three days despite my efforts to ignore them, neutralize them, distract myself, calm myself through meditation...none of my regular techniques worked. I was already raw from that, and add a bad headache and a really monstrous period and I just didn't care anymore. I wanted relief from the urges to binge NOW and there was one surefire way to accomplish that: binge.

So, I now know what my current breaking point is. It used to be I couldn't withstand the urges for mere hours. Now I can tolerate up to three days of irritating urges before giving in, but I can't tolerate four days or five days. And I guess can't tolerate the urges coupled with severe physical pain. When I say "can't", I mean that my firsthand experience indicates I cannot YET do it; that my skills and strength aren't sufficient for that level of challenge.

The next time I face a real challenging stretch of days, I may do much better. Maybe I'll be better at disassociating from the urges, better at calming myself, or better at interrupting my behavioral patterns by then.

One might wonder why I felt urges to binge for three straight days in the first place. I think many of the things that have historically triggered my urges to binge simply happened simultaneously: hormones and a very atypical period, problems in two of my closest relationships, health worries, exhaustion from special errands I was doing for someone this week, rumination over career concerns, and more. It was an uncharacteristically bad week. Yet these triggers didn't make a binge inevitable. All these triggers would have amounted to nothing had I dealt with the urges they sparked in a more skillful way.

All this has reminded me of what Hansen says in Brain Over Binge--

1. Life is messy and it's impossible to control or avoid triggers, especially when you have lots of potential triggers. So the answer lies in dealing effectively with the urges you experience, not in directly managing/tackling triggers.

2. I binged to get rid of my urges to binge. The urge to binge IS the disorder itself.

3. By binging, I reinforced my brain's problematic wiring. Each day of binging was more extreme than the day before, and I felt increasingly out of touch with my Highest Human Brain/Highest Self as the binging went on.

I must become calm and non-reactive in the face of my urges. I'm trying to figure out how to do that consistently. It's led me to try meditation, work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy exercises, and more. I marvel at how Hansen was able to just...stop. So quickly. She understood how her brain was tripping her up, decided to look at the urges she experienced through a different lens, and made rapid progress from there. If I play the comparison game too much, I start to get scared that I'm "doing it wrong" or that "this approach won't REALLY work for me." But rationally I know that just because something is difficult doesn't mean my approach is faulty. (Quite the opposite, usually!)

I admit I miss the honeymoon period I enjoyed when I first finished reading the book: things seemed very clear and easy to me for a few weeks. I still consider Brain Over Binge a fantastic resource and a trusty map forward! But more and more, I feel like the real work is just beginning for me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Julia Kozerski

I just saw these amazing photos-- self-portraits taken by a young woman who has lost 160 pounds. Her honesty and bravery amaze me, and she was featured on today.

Check out her work!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not-so-merry go round

I went to the grocery store nearest my house for the first time in awhile. I used to get most of my binge foods from there, but this store was never my choice for actual comprehensive grocery shopping because their stuff is overpriced.

The store was always good for picking up an item or two in a pinch, though. Yesterday I needed to pick up milk and tortillas quickly, so I went there. I also knew I wanted Cadbury mini eggs; I love them and enjoy a bag around this time every year. I entered and walked to the left, through the produce section, then looped around the perimeter of the store to get to the tortillas and the dairy aisle at the rear of the store.

Later, when I reflected on having walked to the left, I was surprised and pleased. I used to enter and head right immediately and unthinkingly. The ice cream aisle is the rightmost aisle in the store, so I would go there and check out if Ben and Jerry were dealing anything new before proceeding to the other sections of the store. I would do this whether I was on an official binge run or had come to pick up garlic and oranges.

After my grand entrance, the trip still had its little challenges. I did look at many of my old favorites and feelings of longing did crop up. I wanted to buy several things and not necessarily polish everything off in an hour of frenzied eating, but at least sample a bunch of different sweets. This is that new gray area I keep talking about--where binge eating tendencies blend into overeating tendencies and I'm unsure what to call certain things. Was that an urge to binge? Was it a craving to overeat?

Does it matter? Probably not. Neither one should be acted upon.

I considered many purchases: various types of Easter candy, Little Debbie Nutty bars, ice cream and popsicles. But nothing was compelling enough, besides those Cadbury mini eggs I had already planned to buy. And the thought kept occurring, as I looked at one thing after another, that I could always come back and get it later if I really wanted it. The limited edition ice cream will be there tomorrow. I could find all the same Easter candy next week. And they'll still be selling Nutty bars when I'm dead. Those aren't going anywhere. As I passed on each thing, I thought "Eh. Maybe later."

That's a new thought for me. I mean, I always "understood" the food wasn't going anywhere, but I'd tell myself that--and tell myself I could get it later--in the harsh tone of an exasperated adult talking to a bratty child. In this internal conversation, the adult was mean and impatient, and the child didn't really believe the adult. 9.9 times out of 10, I would end up buying the food.

Last night and earlier today I was patting myself on the back for my unattached attitude in the store. More mental and behavioral progress! Hooray! But then tonight--oh, you guessed it!--I felt the urge to go buy a box of Nutty bars and eat half the box before my husband gets home from work. A clear urge to binge. I believe I know what triggered this urge and I'm not acting upon it--in fact, I noted my unpleasant urge and then promptly sat down to write this post to pass the time until my husband arrives--but I felt dismayed at having experienced such an urge at all. And I felt scared, like this (fleeting!) craving was proof that a potential binge still lurks around every corner.

Yet reacting emotionally and labeling an urge as "bad" or "threatening", or labeling oneself as a failure for having various urges, is exactly the kind of thing that one must gently train themselves to stop doing.

Round and round and round it goes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

FEW in review: March 12-18

This week I walked outside four times (after months of practically no outdoor activity), went clothes shopping, and received the results of my annual physical as well as an ultrasound I had done because of ongoing weird sensations along the right side of my abdomen and pelvis. As before, they couldn't find anything wrong and so I still have no explanation. It's very much a relief and frustrating at the same time.

I was told, however, that I need to increase my HDL cholesterol and decrease my triglycerides. I know what I have to do to accomplish that. And despite taking 2,000 IUs of Vitamin D a day, my levels are half of what they should be. I can't wait to get some sun this summer; in the meantime, I have to up my supplementation.

I didn't go to the gym all week, but my home scale continues to say 255. It bounces around a bit, but basically I've been neither gaining nor losing the last few weeks. I was impatient to see further losses initially, but have since decided that there are times when maintaining is victory enough--and also, that focusing on the further normalization of my eating is the best way to nudge my weight downwards. Ruminating over the actual numbers accomplishes little to nothing.

Monday, March 12:
noon - open faced sandwich of roast beef, gouda, spinach and mustard;
chocolate banana whey protein smoothie
5 - one chocolate cupcake with lots of raspberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. This was so good. And it's the only way I enjoy whole, uncooked raspberries as of now (pairing it with some light whipped cream).
7 - honey roasted peanuts, salmon, tartar sauce, and a steamed artichoke. Big disappointment! It was my first time making artichokes and these were so small that they had no flesh on the leaves, and no heart! They were also slightly bitter, so I probably steamed them too long. I will try again when I find bigger, meatier artichokes in the store. I really want to like them.
Took a lovely, invigorating walk outside on a path I've been meaning to try for literally years now. It was the highlight of my day!
Eating attentive today.

Tuesday, March 13:
2 slices of roast beef and a slice of smoked gouda; a few strawberries
2 chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and some whipped cream in the middle of one (like a homemade Hostess cupcake)-felt sorta sick afterwards. Too much.
lamb with tzatziki sauce; broccoli and spinach sauteed in olive oil with sundried tomatoes, garlic, and feta. Eating attentive today.
Walked the same outdoor path as yesterday, and loved it.

Wednesday, March 14:
scrambled eggs
chocolate cupcake with frosting and walnuts
leftover broccoli and one small piece of lamb
bread, fish, and french fries. ick.
Eating attentive.

Thursday, March 15:
almond croissant
chips; Hershey cookies n' cream bar; 2 little boxes of nerds
cheez-its and a glass of soda
grilled cheese and tomato soup
Eating attentive.

Friday, March 16:
ham and cheese on wheat; applesauce cup
peach smoothie; blueberry bagel with blueberry cream cheese
popcorn; turkey jerky
Eating attentive, except for some popcorn during a movie.

Saturday, March 17:
applesauce cup; milk
bagel and cream cheese; chicken gorgonzola--contained tomatoes and mushrooms
popcorn; soda
KIND bar; sloppy joe
walked outside, estimated 15-20 minutes
Eating inattentive today. Ate dinner with a movie going, and snacked while writing. DO NOT want to go back to this.

Sunday, March 18:
turkey jerky and some potato chips
chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus
graham crackers with chocolate frosting; milk
Eating attentive today.
took a walk outside, estimated 20-30 minutes

Friday, March 16, 2012

Clothing, priorities, ACT, and identifying the animal brain

I did some shopping yesterday for bras and walking shoes. I also bought a couple of tops. It’s always a painful experience. I’ve got tons of mental baggage in the clothing/appearance department and I’ve also got several undeniable cosmetic challenges—horrible skin and hair (hirsutism) problems being the tip of the iceberg. It makes me feel monstrous.

I have other challenges that are more run of the mill—finding stuff that is simultaneously age appropriate, modest, and aesthetically pleasing to me can be difficult. I require plus size pants that are petite length; I require wide shoes and will not torture myself with really high heels or with body shapers like Spanx; I don’t show cleavage and in fact cover as much skin as possible, yet I don’t want to dress like my grandmother, either. Most clothing, undergarments, and shoes do not work for me on one level or another, but hell, I know I’m not the only woman that feels this way.

Even though I don’t enjoy shopping, I’m trying to move beyond the sports bras, sloppy hoodies, and baggy jeans that I’ve been wearing the last few years. I’m trying to build a small workable wardrobe and wear jewelry again, something I used to love doing. When my fingers got too big for my wedding and engagement rings, I stopped wearing ALL jewelry. On some level, I think I didn’t feel like I deserved to wear jewelry anymore. I was so ashamed of myself. My rings still don’t fit and I’m still unhappy about that, but I think it’s time for me to move forward as best as I can.

I was planning to do a multi-part series on clothing, cosmetics, and beauty: all the challenges I face, my thoughts on the plus-size fashion industry, my thoughts on materialism, vanity, social class, and identity, where I’m actually shopping now, and so forth. Last night I wrote an outline for these posts.

Then I realized what a big distraction it all was. I can only devote so much of my time and energy to this issue and I’d be better off spending my time a.) actually shopping and finding what I need, even though that’s less fun than writing, and b.) working at normalizing my eating so I can lose weight, because the smaller I become, the easier it is to dress myself. As I go down the scale I have more options, things fit better, my feet are less swollen, “real” bras (meaning bras that are not sports bras) are less painful to find and wear, the inner thigh areas of my pants are less likely to disintegrate, I don’t have to pile on as many layers in an attempt to mask fat rolls, and I could go on.

It comes down to priorities, again and again. There’s a million things we could all potentially do, but which of them are the most important? Is taking pictures of my outfits for this blog the best use of my time? I don’t think so. What’s the endgame there, anyway? Do I want people to stroke my ego and tell me what great taste I have? Do I need people to pat me on the head? With much of what people do on their weight loss blogs, I’m not sure what the point is, what the underlying motivation is and whether it’s truly healthy…but I can definitely get sucked into doing what other people are doing in a mindless way if I’m not careful.

There is so much power in clarity, in knowing what's important to YOU. My thirtieth birthday is this summer and I’m getting clearer about what I’d like to accomplish by that milestone. My two objectives—my two true priorities—are earning money as a writer by age 30 and being further along in my eating disorder recovery and general mental health progress by age 30. That’s it.

The writing I hope to earn money from has nothing to do with this blog, so I won’t go into that now.

As far as general mental health goes, I will be continuing with meditation whilst bringing psychodynamic psychotherapy treatment to a close around my birthday. I’ve been with my current therapist for almost four years now and while it has been helpful, I do not think I can accomplish much more with her or through the psychodynamic model.

If I resume therapy in the future, which is entirely possible because depression tends to recur, I want to seek out someone that specializes in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m ordering some books on ACT that will allow me to get started on my own now; when practiced without the guidance of a therapist, ACT is called Acceptance and Commitment Training. I’m really excited to learn more. ACT and Buddhism share many concepts and techniques, but because ACT is entirely secular, I think it might be easier for me to work with long-term.

ACT is also very much in line with the Brain Over Binge approach—so much so, I’m going to e-mail the author about it. She doesn’t mention it in her book, but I think she’d find it highly relevant.

General mental health and eating disorder recovery go hand in hand, but what should the next stage in my eating disorder recovery be? Well, I feel like a broken record: I want to feel confident that the binging is behind me. I want to know that I don’t fall for the antics of my animal brain anymore.

My classic binges are gone and what remains are behavioral episodes that could be considered overeating, but perhaps could also be considered a new, milder form of binging. No matter what you call it, the animal brain is getting its way in these episodes and I don’t want to reinforce such patterns. So I’m drawing an (admittedly arbitrary) line to gain some clarity, some certainty that the lower brain isn’t running the show: on an average day with no special social events, any urge to eat more than one sweet in a sane portion size will be viewed as neurological junk emanating from my lower brain. As both Kathryn Hansen has said on her blog and a helpful commenter has said on mine just the other day, it’s good to decide the portion size in advance, before you start eating. That way, if you eat more than you set out to, you know your animal brain has won that round. It’s important to face that reality when it happens.

Yesterday, I had a rich almond croissant for breakfast. In the afternoon, I had a candy bar. And at night, I had two little boxes of Nerds candy. With the new "line" in place, any urge to eat sweets after that croissant would have been viewed as silly mental chatter to be ignored. It was a regular Thursday, after all.

However, when I travel to visit my family for Easter in a couple weeks, I might have more than one dessert on a given day. Normal eaters do this sometimes during travel and during the holidays. I know many different people will be having us over for lunch and dinner and will be offering us baked goods and holiday candy. I just have to decide how much is reasonable before I start eating, and stick to that. It’s the mindless and compulsive shoveling of food that is the problem.

Note that I’m not making hard and fast rules, exactly. This is slightly different. I’m trying to establish definitions more than anything else: what behaviors do I define as normal and healthy and acceptable and coming from my higher brain, and what behaviors do I define as stemming from my lower brain’s tricks and antics? If I cave to the urges emanating from my animal brain, I need to figure out why it happened and how I can prevent it from happening again. This is not on-the-wagon-off-the-wagon stuff. I’m sick of crafting programs and systems with rules that are practically made to be broken. They make ME feel broken when I inevitably screw up, and it's too discouraging. I like to think that I'm not broken, but I am undergoing a re-wiring or re-programming of sorts so that I can function better.