Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celebrating a total of 20 pounds gone, and a 6 book giveaway!

First, the books. I've read each of the books I'm giving away and they have helped me understand what approaches will and will not work for me personally in the long run. I'm ready to let these titles go and I hope they can be useful to someone else.

Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop by Cynthia M. Bulik
Potatoes not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons
The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous
Food for Thought: Daily Meditations for Overeaters by Elizabeth L.
For Today (another OA daily readings book)

If you are interested in any of these titles, simply send me an email at with your name and mailing address by March 7. I'll mail up to two books per person, anywhere in the world. Whoever requests a particular book first will receive it. All books are like new: no marking or highlighting, covers in great condition, etc.

Since I am such a bookworm, I'm celebrating my loss of 20 pounds with a new office bookshelf I've been wanting for a long time. :D

I'm certainly losing weight slooooowly:

Get your own graph at skinnyr

I started graphing my weight on August 15, 2011 at 275 pounds. I joined a gym and experimented with Paleo and low carb eating, and lost ten pounds by mid-September. Then I stalled out. I determined I wasn't going to do Paleo all the way and my gym activity slowed down too. I felt pretty lost and dejected. My triumph throughout Halloween-Thankgiving-Christmas-New Year's was simply maintaining instead of gaining it all back and then some. After reading "Brain Over Binge" in mid-January of this year, I got going again in earnest and now a month and a half later, I'm down another ten pounds. I hope to keep going now with no more four-month "breaks"--slow and steady is fine by me.

More than reaching any particular number on the scale, I want to change my brain and banish all binge eating. And I'm happy to say that things are heading in that direction! New lows on the scale give me excitement, but binge-free days give me peace and functionality.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

FEW in review: Feb 20-26

This week certainly had its ups and downs.

Happy Stuff
I went to BodyPump for the first time in months. It was very hard and intimidating when I initially tried it, but now that I am almost 20 pounds lighter, I can get through the class easier. I like strength training, so I'm glad to have this as an option.

I tried on some clothes in a fitting room and could see that I was smaller. I've had moments over the past weeks where I feel smaller or lighter, but I haven't been able to see much of a change in the mirror. Also, my pants don't seem to be fitting me any differently, so I'm not sure where I'm shedding weight! But in that fitting room, I could tell I looked smaller overall.

I ate a few servings of vegetables every day without any tremendous effort or planning, so perhaps that's becoming more second nature.

I saw a new low on the scale, which is always nice.

Things I need to work on
I had a LOT of treats each day. I felt like I was spiraling out of control, so I reached out to some people I consider mentors/role models (Kathryn Hansen of Brain Over Binge and Screaming Fat Girl) for advice. They were very helpful and I've decided to work on mastering the art of enjoying something sweet every day in reasonable portions for the time being. I may re-evaluate my diet this summer and see where improvements can be made without triggering a backlash.

I definitely have trouble being attentive/mindful with food in the presence of others. I had company for three days and things got a bit sloppier each day. I'm not terribly worried because I spend much of my time alone and therefore eat alone most of the time, but I'll have to be more vigilant in social situations going forward. This seems to be a lesson I have to learn over and over again.

I'm so much better about having sugary junk food in the house, but I found this week that an array of junk at home is too stimulating at this point. I was doing better when it was just one or two treats to choose from in the pantry. I'd have one thing each day and tell myself that tomorrow would be something else, no big deal. I want to go back to this simplicity. Sampling all sorts of sweets throughout the day makes me feel crazy, even if the portions are small. On Sunday I felt nuts and the portion size for each treat got progressively bigger as the day went on. Sunday involved stimulating junk food variety PLUS socializing and I did not like the results. Something to think about.

Oh, and I definitely prefer neater records. But at least I didn't give up on records altogether, as I might have done in the past. I'm always a work in progress, hence my blogging moniker: Human in Progress.

Monday, February 20th:
traveling today, so less precise records
KIND bar; few bites of a cheese sandwich
3 Oreos and 2 Andes mints
2 breadsticks, pasta, and a couple bites of amaretto tiramisu
upon returning home, had pork chop with slaw (cabbage, arugula, carrot, apple, onion, garlic, celery); 2 pieces of toast; some chips
did not track water today

Tuesday, February 21st:
12:30 p.m. - KIND bar
3 p.m. - 3/4 of a small fry; 3/4 of small order of breaded chicken; 1 Reese's cup; 3 mint Oreos
7:30 p.m. - BodyPump class (I discovered tonight that this class effectively works the rage out of you if you are PMS'ing. It seems that I've been PMS'ing for 10 days now. Is that even possible?)
9:30 p.m. - 3 turkey and pinto bean tacos, contained tomatoes and onions
all eating attentive today; did not track water
gym scale says: 256

Wednesday, February 22nd:
8:15 a.m. - KIND bar
11:15 a.m. - 3 mint Oreos and a Reese's cup
12:00 p.m. - pasta with bison & mushroom sauce
6 p.m. - salad made with Boston lettuce, chicken breast, celery, carrots, olive oil/balsamic; some celery with peanut butter and raisins
10:15 p.m. - more pb/celery/raisins; 2 turkey & pinto bean tacos with sour cream; small amount of milk
all eating attentive. pleasantly sore from yesterday's workout.
did not track water today, and haven't been drinking enough lately

Thursday, February 23rd:
running around today
pasta with bison and mushroom sauce x 2
Oreos and a Reese's cup; celery/pb/raisin snacks
small chicken cutlet, bit of mashed potatoes, bit of corn
about 60 ounces of water; eating mostly attentive

Friday, February 24th:
8'ish: scrambled eggs
1'ish: bison/mushroom pasta
2'ish: part of a piece of chocolate-strawberry cake
5'ish: one Reese's cup
8'ish: salad (chicken, lamb's lettuce, celery, carrot, pomegranate seeds, balsamic dressing) and some chocolate truffles
40? ounces water; eating mostly attentive. Think it'd do me good to tighten up my attention and record keeping a bit.

Saturday, February 25th:
egg salad, lettuce, and pepper wrap; greek yogurt cup with walnuts
Indian buffet for lunch
bison-mushroom pasta
truffles and Oreos
no idea re: water

Sunday, February 26th:
broccoli frittata; roasted cauliflower
shrimp with tomatoes and feta over brown rice
lots of junk food: chips; piece of tres leches cake shared with 2 other people; piece of flan shared with two other people; some truffles; some Oreos; 2/3 of a Shamrock shake (threw the rest away, woo hoo!)
Definitely instances of inattentive eating over the weekend while I had company over.
no idea about water.
30+ minute walk outdoors

Get your own graph at skinnyr

Friday, February 24, 2012

Turns out I AM the kind of person that...

...can have Reese's cups in the house.

I often used to eat a King size Reese's (4 cups) on the drive back from the grocery store when I was carrying out a binge. I'd select my main binge foods--ice cream, donuts, snack cakes--and grab Reese's at the checkout as an afterthought. 4 cups in 5 minutes or less on the drive home was just a way of kicking off the binge. And obviously, I "couldn't" keep peanut butter cups in the house without eating them all or feeling tortured until I ate them all. They've given me trouble the last 6 or 7 Halloweens, to say the least.

Now: I bought a King size 4 days ago and I've eaten one cup each day, very mindfully. I enjoyed them and while eating the last one today, I felt somewhat bored with it. So I will enjoy a different treat tomorrow.

...can throw away fast food.

The other day I was ravenous and went to McDonald's. I ordered a small fry and their new Chicken McBites (regular size, not large size). I got halfway through both, realized my hunger was quieted enough for the time being, and threw the remainder away. I used to eat a medium or large fry like it was nothing, hungry or not. And throwing away any part of a burger or chicken McNuggets or whatever? Previously unthinkable.

...will walk away from subpar cake.

There's a new deli-bakery that I've meaning to check out near the Trader Joe's I frequent. Went today, ordered a piece of cake. On the first bite, the cake tasted chemically. Took a few more bites, still bad. So I left it despite having paid $4.25 for it. Who needs it when there's so many good things to be had?

But throughout my past, I have eaten more stale and gross-tasting goods than you can imagine--even freezer burnt ice cream.

I know my consumption of Reese's and McDonalds and cake is nothing to brag about; most people with weight to lose steer clear altogether. But after years of thinking "I'm not the kind of person that can _________" (control herself around x, y, z, basically) I am pleased with these changes. And these changes are only my initial baby steps.

I was sick of fearing specific foods as though they had special power over me, and sick of fearing myself at the same time. Now I'm wary of certain foods, thoughts, and situations, but no longer terrified.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bass Ackwards

Today illustrates many of the mistakes I typically make. First, the facts from my FEW log:

8:15 a.m. - KIND bar
11:15 a.m. - 3 mint Oreos and a Reese's cup
12:00 p.m. - pasta with bison & mushroom sauce
6 p.m. - salad made with Boston lettuce, chicken breast, celery, carrots, olive oil/balsamic; some celery with peanut butter and raisins
10:15 p.m. - more pb/celery/raisins; 2 turkey & pinto bean tacos with sour cream; small amount of milk

The deal is, I don't want to be eating so late at night but my hunger got the better of me. And to explain why, I have to start with this morning. Instead of eating a real breakfast, I ate a couple of non-filling snacky things over the course of the morning. My pasta lunch at noon was good, but it was also the first actual meal of the day (making it more like breakfast in a sense).

I took it easy this afternoon. After attending to some appointments and things, I kicked back and watched several episodes of Downton Abbey. (Hooray!) The thing to note here is that when I really like a show, I can become engrossed enough to forget about food for a couple hours, even to the point of ignoring hunger. So I was good and hungry by the time 6:00 came around, and I enjoyed my salad dinner (in a sense, lunch, as it was the second real meal of the day) immensely.

The hours between dinner and bedtime have always been a problem for me in terms of cravings and hunger. I would have liked to stop eating for the day after that 6 p.m. meal, the salad I had for "dinner", but I was truly hungry around 10:00 p.m. And why shouldn't I be? I only had two real meals today, at noon and at 6, and it had been 4 hours since my last meal. My body was wanting that typical third meal of the day--an actual dinner--and that's what I was giving it when I obeyed my hunger at 10 p.m.

I think I do need a somewhat late dinner; I don't think I can consistently eat my last meal of the day at 5 or 6 p.m. and then fast until 11 or midnight. However, 10:00 is too late. If I eat my final meal at 7 or 8 p.m., it's a little easier to make it to bedtime but I usually have to tolerate some hunger pangs and feelings of irritation before bed. That's just how it is.

And that brings me back to TV. The best, most useful time for me to watch TV is after dinner when I need to distract myself from the inevitable post-dinner hunger and other urges to eat. That means that watching TV in the afternoon, just after a filling lunch as I did today, is a waste of TV's helpful application as hunger-distractor. I've found TV works better than anything else late at night; trying to clean or read or do anything demanding concentration and self-control doesn't work so well when it's late and I'm hungry and crabby. TV is a passive, entertaining thing and if I couple it with drinking water or hot tea, it's possible to get through the post-dinner hours without eating.

My screwy sleep schedule doesn't help with any of this at all--my body wants to fall asleep at 3 a.m. and wake up at noon and it will do so unless I take special measures to re-align myself. I wonder if making myself eat at more normal hours would help that whole mess.


1. real breakfast (and lunch, for that matter)
2. don't eat dinner too early and expect to fast the rest of the day
3. afternoon tv is a waste; save it for the evening
4. none of this is as important as continuing to not binge!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

FEW in review: Feb 13-19

This week was more mental work than anything else. I started noting down the times I ate and it quickly struck me as silly to be eating 5 or 6 times a day just because I never fill myself up all the way. I'd like to eat 3 satisfying meals and perhaps a snack, drink water between meals, and fast after dinner when possible. This will take some time to adjust to, and fasting in the evening is not possible as long as I'm eating "breakfast" at 12:30 p.m. (like I did on Saturday).

In terms of sweets, Valentine's Day was an eye-opener and helped me decide to work on eating a small treat every day for the foreseeable future. I ate vegetables every day this week and paid attention to my water intake for the most part. I didn't exercise at all and realized by the end of the week that I missed it. I do feel better when I get some workouts in, making exercise's effect on my weight almost besides the point.

No weigh-in this week, since I didn't go to the gym.

Monday, February 13th:
8:45 a.m. - small omelet with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and cheddar; clementine
2 p.m. - KIND bar
5:15 p.m. - chicken salad on a croissant
9:45 p.m. - s'mores cupcake
11 p.m. - 2 slices of arugula pizza, a tiny cup of tomato soup, and 2 strawberries
All eating was seated, attentive today (meaning: no multitasking)
40+ ounces of water

Tuesday, February 14th:
11 a.m. - small omelet with broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheddar; one turtle candy (cluster of cashews, caramel, and chocolate)
2:30 p.m. - one turtle candy; KIND bar
4 p.m. - 5 donut holes (not very attentive)
5:30 p.m. - salmon; some potato chips, one turtle candy (distracted)
7:30 p.m. - vanilla cupcake and 2 chocolate-covered graham crackers (distracted)
8:30 p.m. - chicken lo mein and a few vegetables (peppers, broccoli)
50+ ounces of water

Wednesday, February 15th:
9:45 a.m. - KIND bar (in car, inattentive)
11:50 a.m - chicken salad on bed of raw cabbage and arugula
3:45 p.m. - small bowl of mixed dark leafy greens (chard, kale, etc.) cooked with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, one slice bacon
4:45 p.m. - salmon and 3 strawberries
10 p.m. - lamb with peanut sauce; half of a paratha
11 p.m. - chocolate chips and some walnuts
80 ounces of water

Thursday, February 16th:
10:15 a.m. - potatoes with one slice bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese
4 p.m. - 5 Oreos with milk
7 p.m. - small bowl of mixed dark leafy greens (chard, kale, etc.) cooked with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, one slice bacon; 2 strawberries
9 p.m. - potatoes with BROCCOLI, cheddar, sour cream
did not track water today and didn't drink enough; all eating attentive

Friday, February 17th:
9:30 a.m. - chicken salad on a bed of arugula
2:30 p.m. - 5 Oreos with milk
6:30 p.m. - personal pan pizza (which is tiny) and a Mountain Dew
30+ ounces of water; all eating attentive

Saturday, February 18th:
12:30 p.m. - 5 Oreos with milk
4:30 p.m. - salad of arugula, chicken breast, pomegranate seeds, carrots, celery, balsamic vinegar/mustard/olive oil dressing; mint tea
6:45 p.m. - celery stick with peanut butter and raisins
9:45 p.m. - KIND bar and half an apple
12:45 a.m. - pork chop and warm slaw composed of garlic, onions, apple, cabbage, carrots, celery, arugula, all sauteed together in olive oil
60+ ounces of water; all eating attentive

Sunday, February 19th:
Today I was traveling and didn't note down times and other details carefully.
pork chop with warm slaw; milk
KIND bar; a couple peanuts
7? Oreos (illustrates the trouble with multitasking. I was in the car.)
cheeseburger and fries; a few bites of my husband's turkey sandwich
Didn't track water.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A binge by any other name

The good news is that my Valentine's Day lingerie went over well.

The bad news is that I pretty much binged on Valentine's Day. It may not have been a classic binge, but it was very, very close to one. I'm not sure what to call it, besides "disturbing."

A few things came together to make this happen:

1. I had a casual attitude since it was a holiday. Thought it'd be ok to indulge a little more than usual.
2. I was experiencing PMS and having cravings.
3. I ate a piece of candy in the morning, which is never a good idea for me. The earlier in the day I have something like candy, the more I want to graze on it the remainder of the day. Plus, eating sweets first thing in the morning reminds me of my old binging days, when I would eat whatever was left over from the previous night's binge as my breakfast. So there's a pattern ingrained in me of start the day with cookies/candy/ice cream/donuts-->the day is ruined, so fuck it-->spend the rest of the day binging.
4. I think I was miffed that my husband didn't buy me any chocolates or the like this year, so I resentfully attempted to treat myself. (Again, with the general moodiness that can come with PMS, I'm not entirely sure how resentful I truly was.)
5. The contents of my recent post on eating sweets, in which I talk about experimenting with periods of complete abstinence, made me panic on some level. Even though I hadn't decided when or how long I would undertake such an experiment, telling myself something like that was coming triggered my old issues and weird thinking.
6. I didn't disassociate from my urges to eat one thing after another as the day progressed. It's as if I forgot to view those urges as nonsense; I forgot what I learned in "Brain Over Binge." That lack of mindfulness, of awareness, is the scariest thing of all to me.

So, which one of my binge patterns was displayed on Valentine's Day? Number 3. From a previous post:

"The third kind of binge involves day-long overeating and non-stop grazing on sugary, junky foods. I grab different treats as I go about my day. It's very mindless and scattered, but there's deceit involved, too. [For example,] I eat 2 cupcakes privately and then later eat 3 cookies in front of another person...'s more helpful to note the way I went about eating multiple things. Did I lie to or mislead anyone? Do I feel guilty, paranoid, or ashamed--or did I thoroughly enjoy it?"

It was my mindset that surprised and troubled me even more than the specific things I ate. My memory of how paranoid and hostile I used to feel in binge mode had faded a bit, but there it was again.

Here's what happened.

In the morning and early afternoon, I ate a few pieces of chocolate candy from the bag of chocolate-caramel-cashew clusters I had bought my husband as a Valentine's Day gift. A bag that had been in the house for about 2 weeks without me thinking about it. All was fine.

Later in the afternoon, I went to Trader Joe's for regular grocery shopping. There are these donut holes covered in powdered sugar in the bakery section that I've been noticing (and passing up) for months. I grabbed them and vowed to try them mindfully in the car instead of stuffing them in my face on the drive home. Hey, a little Valentine's Day treat! No secrets! My husband can also enjoy them, and I bet we can even keep the leftovers in the house with no problem and have the rest another day. Cool.

I get in the car and note the serving size is four donut holes, so that's how many I'm going to eat. After the first one or two, a voice pipes up and cries: EAT THEM ALL! EVERY LAST ONE! I ignore it. The donut holes are ok, but nothing great. I haven't eaten sweets in the car for a month and a half now, but I used to do it all the time in the Old Binge Days. And just like in those days, I find myself looking about and feeling agitated by the potential "witnesses" around me--people parking near me, passing my vehicle with their shopping cart, etc. I try to make it less obvious that I'm eating, and as a result, can't focus on the experience of eating. My embarrassment is overpowering my intention to be mindful. I eat a total of five, and even though five donut holes isn't a binge, something weird is happening in my head.

I drive home and unload my groceries. As I place the donut holes on the counter along with everything else, I tell my husband that I bought them because he didn't get me anything special in terms of food/chocolate, that they weren't that good, and that I was disappointed I had eaten some. He says we can throw them away and go out for something more enjoyable. I agree, and into the trash they go.

There's a Starbucks inside a local Barnes & Noble and that's where I want to go. I like their cupcakes, and it's been months since I've gotten anything there. My husband expresses disapproval because he doesn't like Starbucks--yet he doesn't want anything to eat or drink himself, so there's no reason for him to choose our destination. I snap at him that this kind of arguing with me and policing me on what and where I eat contributes to my issues and makes me want to eat secretly behind his back, just so I don't have to listen to him nag. He capitulates, we go to Starbucks, and I feel irritated and defensive.

And once in front of the bakery case, I fully felt like my old dysfunctional self again. I COULD NOT decide between the vanilla and the chocolate cupcake. I felt desperate to have both. I thought about getting the vanilla one and then eating all the chocolate chips stored in the pantry at home later. I end up ordering the vanilla and also buying 2 little chocolate-covered graham crackers to have with it--something I don't care about and would NEVER buy, even back in the day.

And then, suddenly, I feel hostile towards everyone around me. I feel like people are looking at me and judging me as I walk about in search of an empty table. In my head I'm saying "fuck you, fuck you, and fuuuuck you" complete strangers. Just like in the car earlier, I can't focus on the treat in front of me because I'm too busy scanning my surroundings and feeling ashamed. I'm worried that my husband will come back from browsing books and see that I've bought two things and that he'll be disappointed in me. I don't even taste the second half of my cupcake. (Meaning: I ate it but barely noticed what I was putting in my mouth.)

We go out for dinner afterwards--nothing fancy, just Chinese--and I eat my entire entree even though I'm not hungry at all and there's no need to do so. And that was Valentine's Day.

It wasn't like my old binges, in the sense that it involved less sneaking around behind my husband's back. Those stupid graham crackers were the only thing that I wanted to hide. Everything else was out in the open. Also, the amount of food I ate at any one time wasn't that much. In the past, I could have easily eaten all the donut holes, then stopped somewhere on the way home to discard the box (the evidence)...and STILL insisted on going out for a treat. Sad but true. When we returned home after dinner in the evening, I didn't attack the chocolate chips or the candy I bought my husband or anything like that.

But the paranoia, embarrassment, guilt, stress, and hostility towards others was like a binge. That's what I really need to look out for, because it indicates something has gone haywire and tells me that I need to get quiet and figure out what it is. Those emotions indicate that my lower brain--the animal brain that has been threatened by my lack of binging--has momentarily gained control and is trying to run wild while it can. And it's afraid someone is going to take away its prize.

Takeaway lessons:

1. Pay attention to emotions. Hostility is a major red flag.
2. Be aware of old environmental triggers, like the car. Eating privately at home is better; I can relax enough to focus on the food, and then I feel satisfied with less.
3. Don't involve my husband in the decision-making process when it comes to sweets. It's an old sore spot. I've got to answer to myself and do this for me.
4. I'm not working on periods of total abstention anytime soon. Clearly, the thought of that makes me panic. I think a little something every day/most days is the skill to master right now.
5. Slip ups happen. This isn't proof that I will always be a hopeless binge eater. It's evidence I have more to learn, and that is all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FEW in review: Feb 6-12

I let some nutrition and exercise objectives slide this week as I spent time revisiting mindful eating concepts and figuring out how to proceed with eating sweets. I worked on my meditation practice and now am doing metta (lovingkindness) meditation in addition to breath awareness sessions. I also tried a new cardio workout, Wii Zumba, because I realized that I was going to get bored with my treadmill and the machines at the gym rather quickly. Overall, it was a fine week.

Monday, February 6th:
2 frozen chocolate chip cookies in raw dough form
chicken salad on bed of spinach; very small piece of cheese
cream of broccoli soup with a piece of French bread
orange-cranberry smoothie
some potato chips and 2 more raw dough cookies

Tuesday, February 7th:
apple cinnamon & pecan KIND bar
some baby carrots and a strawberry-blueberry-protein smoothie
sweet & regular mashed potato blend; pork tenderloin; baby broccoli
longer strength training circuit at gym
gym scale says: 258

Wednesday, February 8th:
scrambled eggs; almond & coconut KIND bar
Quarter Pounder with cheese, small fries, small Shamrock shake--fairly mindful, too.
some chips and more mashed potatoes late at night. Really, this potato craze of mine is strange.

Thursday, February 9th:
scrambled eggs; some strawberries
pizza; half a piece of chocolate-hazelnut cake that I ate so slooooowly and attentively that it impressed even me

Friday, February 10th:
sandwich made with turkey, avocado, bacon, tomato, cheese, one slice of bread
strawberries; almond & coconut KIND bar
pork tenderloin and mashed potato blend (sweet + regular taters)
a lassi and most of a medium sized piece of lemon cake
Bonus activity: tried my new Wii Zumba game tonight. I am so not a dancer and flailing around to a few songs made me sweat. Something to work on, for sure.

Saturday, February 11th:
2 small burritos
steak fajita, some chips
Chobani mango yogurt with blueberries, a few almonds
30 minutes of Wii Zumba--completed a 20 minute beginner class, then did several individual song routines

Sunday, February 12th:
grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup
skinny caffe mocha; old fashioned donut (Starbucks)
a few almonds and cherries
chicken fajita with guacamole

Get your own graph at skinnyr

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The answer isn't out there

For years, I’ve tried to figure out the right way to have sweets—the foods I have historically overeaten and binged on. I wanted to know how could I eat them--or NOT eat them--without feeling tortured. I’ve written about this before. Sometimes I tried to come up with my own system, and sometimes I’ve looked to others for help.

I tried the no-S diet for some time, which says you should only have sugary treats on “S” days—Saturdays, Sundays, and Special Days, defined as major holidays and personal events like birthdays and anniversaries. (There were other components to the diet, which you can read about *here*.) The creator of this plan is a sensible guy and in no way condoned binging on S days, but I personally couldn’t stop binging and ultimately abandoned the plan.

Still thinking there was an answer somewhere “out there”, I went on to try Overeaters Anonymous for several months. My sponsor and the vast majority of people I met there advocated total abstention from desserts. My dislike of OA probably calls for its own series of posts at some point, but for now, it’s enough to note that a philosophy of total and lifelong abstention (even if viewed through the lens of “it’s not forever, it’s just one day at a time, tee hee!”) didn’t sit well with me.

(A classic OA’er response would be that I couldn’t handle total abstention because I’m incapable of honesty, or because I haven’t truly turned my problem over to a Higher Power, or because I’m too deep into my addiction, or whatever other thing they’ve heard parroted a million times in OA books and meetings. And my response to THAT would be: Sure, alright. Have fun attending meetings several nights a week for the rest of your life, and remaining obsessed with food and eating--albeit in a different way than you were before joining OA. Enjoy feeling that catastrophe is one missed meeting or Reese’s cup away. Enjoy not thinking for yourself. Enjoy the concept of powerlessness. Hey, is that sugar free Kool-Aid over there?)

Ugh. See?! On the topic of OA, I just can’t help myself.

So, more time passed. I started to read Mark’s Daily Apple and explore the paleo/primal philosophy and online community. I took some steps in that direction, but before long the whole thing struck me as too extreme and, perhaps ironically, too reminiscent of my days as a vegetarian. (Again, another post for another day.) Anyway, Paleo proponents tell you to kick sugar and wheat flour (and sometimes dairy, depending on the expert) to the curb, and Paleo dessert recipes sounded more like punishments than treats to me. So that wasn’t going to work much better than outright abstention.

When I wasn’t trying out someone else’s suggested plan or solution, I was asking myself questions like:

1. Should I stick only to gourmet and homemade treats? Maybe the cheap junky stuff I grew up with is the real problem because of the convenience factor and emotional ties I have to things like Little Debbie snack cakes.

2. Should I try having a tiny treat each day? Many people advocate that.

3. Or would it be better to have a normal or even large amount, but only have it once a week? Lots of people talk about weekly “cheat days” and it seems to work for them.

4. Should I modify no-S and keep sweets just for holidays and personal special days, which don’t occur weekly, and not have sweets on regular Saturdays and Sundays since that’s too much and I failed at regular no-S in the past?

5. Should I give myself permission to have one treat from each “category” of dessert, spread out over the course of the month? As in, choose one dairy-based thing, one baked good, one kind of candy, and one sweet drink to enjoy, once apiece, and that’s it for the month?

6. Should I not make any specific resolutions about the amount or type of dessert, and just let myself have anything I want during PMS week, since that’s when I crave crap the most? Maybe if I behaved the rest of the month, it would even out.

On and on this went--the musings of an obsessed person, desperate for answers. Desperate for something between binging and total, lifelong abstention.

These questions subsided for a short while after reading “Brain Over Binge.” Suddenly, it didn’t matter what the treat was, or how often I was having it, or for what occasions, as long as I wasn’t binging on it. I could have a little, or an average amount, or even a bit more than average, as long as it wasn’t a binge. What a relief!

Now, however, I’m a month into not binging, and the question of the “right” way to have sweets has resurfaced. The cessation of binging is the basic foundation I needed, no doubt about it. But I do have a significant amount of weight to lose as well as a problem with emotional eating, and how much/how often I eat sugary treats is going to affect my progress on those fronts. The author of “Brain Over Binge” doesn’t give specific dietary recommendations, so I can’t look to her for the answer on sweets. (The lack of such recommendations is only appropriate, given the focus of her book, the arguments she’s making about binge eating recovery, and her credentials. I respect her as much for what's in the book as I do for what she left out of it.)

Hmm, so if that author doesn’t have the answer…where to look next?

Then it dawned on me. The long-term answer regarding sweets is not “out there” somewhere. There is no magic pattern of specific days, specific intervals, specific treats, and/or specific amounts that will make everything easy for me. The answer lies in me and the development of my own self-control.

I know, I know. Facepalm in 3…2…1.

What I really want is to be able to trust myself in ANY scenario. It’s what I’ve wanted all along: the ability to make a rational decision that takes my normal human desire for pleasure, my desire for weight loss, and my other health concerns into account, backed up by the ability to stick to that decision. Whatever the situation, I don’t want to be swayed by my lower brain in the heat of the moment.

I want to be able to eat a little bit every day, or a little bit rather frequently, if I decide that’s appropriate. I want to be able to eat a normal-sized amount but then not have anything for awhile afterward, if that’s the rational choice I’ve made beforehand. I want to be able to completely abstain from dessert for as long as I deem necessary, if I deem it necessary. I want to know that whether it’s the cheapest shit out there or the most gourmet, I won’t lose control. That I can trust myself.

The ability to do all these things is important because I expect different approaches to be useful at different times. For example:

During the holidays, when there are social gatherings and rich foods at every turn, it would be good to have confidence in my ability to savor a small amount of something every day (or most days). I’d like to know I can enjoy 3-5 bites of something and stop there. The same thing applies to travel and vacations. People often gain weight when they go someplace new because they are eager to enjoy as many local specialties as possible. I want to try new things when I travel too, but eating a full serving (or multiple servings) of dessert every day for a week or two could very well result in weight gain. Daily sampling is a good compromise between total abstention and gorging. Believe me, I have gorged on gelato in Italy, stroopwafels in the Netherlands, chocolate in Switzerland, and pastries in Austria because I couldn’t bear the thought of missing out, and also couldn’t be satisfied with just a little. I understood my options to be EVERYTHING or NOTHING, because I wasn’t capable of anything in between at the time.

Different scenario now. Say my bloodwork comes back and I find out I’m prediabetic or diabetic. Or I get pregnant and develop gestational diabetes. Or I have a special event coming up and want to drop a few pounds to look as good as possible. Whatever the reason--if the route most aligned with my current concerns and goals is to completely abstain from desserts for awhile, I want to have confidence in my ability to do that…and in my ability to NOT go crazy when the period of abstention ends.

Or, say that I simply want to have an entire ice cream cone or a big piece of cake once in a while (not a few bites, but the whole thing, perhaps on my birthday?), yet I don’t want to gain weight or harm my health by initiating a downward spiral of overeating. I’d like to know I’m able to eat the whole serving and move on, skipping treats for some time afterwards in order to balance everything out.

As time goes on, my husband and I tend to go the homemade or gourmet route for our desserts. But when I’m with the rest of my immediate family, which happens a few times a year, I’m confronted by the Pop-tarts and Nutty Bars of my youth. And I want to trust myself around everything. Even within the category of homemade/gourmet, I currently have more confidence around baked goods and candy than I do around ice cream and other dairy treats. I ultimately want confidence around it all.

The only way to develop these abilities and this confidence is to practice. Practice periods of abstention, practice having a little bit many days in a row, practice having an average or even large-ish amount at more spaced out intervals. Practice with crème brulee, practice with Lucky Charms. So that’s what I’m going to start doing. I will write more about it as I'm doing it.

I wonder what other answers are staring me right in the face each time I look into the mirror?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Herding Cats

So it seems I can look after a couple of things simultaneously, like exercise plus eating vegetables, or mindful eating plus drinking enough water, or meditation plus exercise. But when I try to bring all these good things together, it's like herding cats. And I'm both the herder and the insane group of cats.

I'm not terribly disheartened, because it still feels like a miracle to me to not be binging several times each week. I feel it will all come together at some point if I keep working at it.

Lately, my focus on eating vegetables and gently reducing carbs has been displaced by a focus on mindful eating. I'm eating lots of unhealthy food in sane portions, and doing it mindfully. I was mindful at McDonald's yesterday, as strange as that sounds. Part of me feels guilty about not eating enough nutritious foods, and another part of me is downright gleeful that I'm able to eat desserts and pizza and all the rest now without gorging myself and feeling obsessed with getting my next fix. I have chocolate chips in the house; I have Valentine's candy purchased for my husband and hidden away for now. Neither item is torturing me with its mere presence, the way it would have in the recent past. I'm amazed.

Hopefully, the novelty of this will pass and I will be able to strike a better balance between practical, nutritious foods and pleasurable, indulgent foods soon. I do know that after finishing a small Shamrock shake last night, I was slightly disappointed in myself because my intention was to drink half and throw the rest away. Instead, I finished the whole thing, and then questioned the wisdom of putting that much sugar into my body at once. I also questioned whether my animal brain had defeated me in this instance, because I failed to carry out my sensible plan to only drink half.

The same thing happened with a smoothie at Panera's a couple of days before. I meant to drink half. I paid close attention to my drink and noticed the flavor changing as well as the sensation in my mouth and throat becoming less pleasant after a certain point: diminishing returns had kicked in. But it was still pleasurable enough for me to keep going, even as my higher self said "stop! NOW! right now! Get up and throw this thing into the trash!"

I've concluded that the ability to not finish something delicious you've started is a more advanced skill than the skill of not starting in the first place, or the skill of throwing away half of something before you ever take the first taste. And yes, I think these are all skills that can be developed. After the incidents with the smoothie and the shake, I've concluded that I should discard half of such hyperpalatable drinks before I take a single taste, because that's my current level of skill. If I want to enjoy something but not take in too much sugar, this is a good way for me to accomplish that.

Down the road, I expect myself to be able to stop halfway through something and walk away from it more consistently. Right now, I can do that with pastries and candy more easily than I can with dairy-based things like mousse, yogurt smoothies, and ice cream. Who knows why, but that's been my experience. Just tonight I shared a small, high quality piece of cake with my husband at a bakery-cafe. He brought home this ridiculously tiny square from his half to eat later. I would have found that maddening in the past, but I can handle it now. If we had been sharing ice cream instead of cake, however, I would have eaten the last bit then and there, no doubt.

I tell myself: all in good time. The reality is I have almost 30 years of bad habits and non-awareness programmed into me, and the rest of my life to learn a new way.

p.s. That's not my cat. My only pet is a blue betta fish named Alpha, who gobbles food admirably in his own right.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Different types of Emotional Eating

I'm starting to see more shades of gray, and it's good.

There is a difference between emotional eating, emotional overeating, mindful emotional eating, non-emotional overeating, and binge eating. I haven't binged since reading "Brain Over Binge", but I have done all of these other things.

Last night is the first time I ever experimented with mindful emotional eating. It's a concept I read about in Pavel Somov's book, "Eating the Moment", over a year ago. (There is an excellent little article by Somov about this concept *here*. I'm a big fan of his work!) I had the worst evening I've had in a long time due to a relationship meltdown; several long-standing problems surfaced and I was confronted with them all at once. After hours of crying had produced a pounding headache, I sat on the couch and thought "a couple of chocolate chip cookie dough balls from the freezer would make me feel better. That is simple fact. They would soothe the tension in my head and body like medicine. They wouldn't solve my problems, but they would bring me some immediate physical and emotional relief."

I didn't act on this thought right away. But it kept resurfacing as I went about other activities. And then I decided I was going to slowly, calmly, and mindfully carry out a clear episode of emotional eating. I knew I wasn't going to overeat or binge. I knew I was going to eat exactly two cookies, make them last, and give them all of my attention. And that's exactly what I did. I brought them to the couch, wrapped myself up in a blanket, and savored them for somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

When I was done, I felt better. And I had learned something: when a crisis hits, it IS possible to self-soothe with food and yet NOT OVEREAT OR BINGE. I didn't feel guilty or sick when I was done, and I didn't regret my choice the next day. Not one bit. It's not that I want eating--even mindful eating--to be my default response to emotional stress. But this was a very important lesson for me; I needed to see that everything is not so black and white. Even if I turn to food in the worst of times, I don't have to do it according to my old ways of doing it.

Over time, I will work on eliminating all emotional and "regular" overeating (the latter happens when you are fine emotionally, but the food you're eating tastes so damn good that it's hard to stop at a sensible portion, and everyone I know experiences this from time to time). And perhaps after that, I will be stricter about all emotional eating--even the kind that is mindful and only leads to 2 cookies. I simply don't know at this point.

What I do know right now is that I'm committed to NOT BINGING, and I'm alright with the gray areas in this long process of learning to eat, think, and cope differently. Perfectionism and impatience brought me all the way up the scale, so I don't believe they can bring me back down. I have to try a different way.

See also:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

FEW in review: Jan 30-Feb 5

This week was a mix, as most weeks are. I fulfilled many of my objectives, but not all. I ate vegetables most days, met my cardio target for the week (and then some), tracked my water on some days, and was mostly mindful as I ate. I saw a new low on the scale, and what a relief to finally see something below the 260s!

At the same time, I was sick and had an unexpected trip to the doctor on Thursday, and Sunday was an emotionally devastating day for me. I missed a strength session and a yoga session, skipped veggies and water tracking some days, and had a lot of indulgent food.

That's life. I accept there may never be a perfect week with a perfect performance, but the point is to keep going and hit as many targets as possible. For me, rigid all-or-nothing is a recipe for giving up. This is how each day played out:

Monday, January 30th:
peanut butter & strawberry KIND bar; tiny piece of cheese
9 bean and vegetable soup (contains carrots, sweet potatoes, okra, kale, onions, tomatoes); clementine; chicken
2 pieces of not-worth-it pizza; zucchini

Tuesday, January 31st:
peanut butter & strawberry KIND bar
strawberry-blueberry-protein smoothie; part of a small piece of roast chicken
strawberry-banana-protein smoothie
sandwich made with 1 slice bread, roast turkey, muenster cheese, lamb's lettuce; baby carrots; 60+ ounces of water
15 minutes cardio on Cybex; 20 minutes cardio on stationary bike; short strength training circuit
gym scale says: 259

Wednesday, February 1st:
almond & coconut KIND bar; salmon served over lamb's lettuce
Chobani blueberry yogurt with walnuts
turkey-cheese-spinach on one slice of bread; baby carrots; clementine
Chinese takeout (crab rangoon, egg roll, brown rice, chicken in sauce); milk
a handful of chocolate chips with walnuts and one spoon of natural peanut butter--this was obscenely delicious, so I need to be careful
60+ ounces of water

Thursday, February 2nd:
scrambled eggs; blueberry KIND bar
chicken salad served over baby spinach
chocolate mousse; some chocolate chips with walnuts (2 days in a row, so I'm concerned about this. It's not PMS week, either.)
3 bison tacos with tomatoes, onions, spinach, avocado, cheese, sour cream
doctor's office scale confirmed that gym scale is fairly accurate: said 260 today

Friday, February 3rd:
chicken salad on bed of baby spinach
lamb on pita with greens, tomatoes etc; thick cut fries (3/4 of my normal amount)
half a Chobani blood orange yogurt; half a sesame chocolate KIND bar
I'm sick and missed my yoga and strength training tonight. Looks like I will fall short of my weekly exercise targets. These things happen. I'll at least try to get some cardio in over the weekend.

Saturday, February 4th:
peanut butter & strawberry KIND bar
half a Chobani blood orange yogurt; half a sesame chocolate KIND bar
hot dog and 2/3 to 1/2 of a large order of fries. (I don't know what's with me and fries lately!); 4 chocolate chip cookies with milk
NO vegetables or fruits today--this is the sort of pattern I slip into rather easily.
brisk 30 minute walk outdoors. nice.
Bonus activity: played Dance Dance Revolution for about 30 minutes (rough estimate)

Sunday, February 5th:
today was an emotional shit storm, but I didn't even think about binging. yay.
half a turkey sandwich; banana-chocolate whey protein smoothie
chicken noodle soup, half a slice of cheese, tiny bit of fish
apple cinnamon KIND bar; 1/2 a small mocha
Bonus activity: walked outdoors along a lovely reservoir.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lingerie, Body Image, Chinese takeout, Mindfulness, and Yoda

My lingerie arrived! And I really like it! Amazing how feminine you can feel by slipping out of a South Park t-shirt and into something sheer. Who would have guessed it? (Oh man, my poor husband. He has literally asked me to stop wearing a particular Cartman shirt around the house...) I think he's going to like the way I look in this thing, because I like it, and I'm certainly a harsher critic than he is.

I will be ordering from Hips and Curves again. I love the fact they use models of various sizes and many appear to have natural breasts (*gasp*, I know!). Their plus-size models look so glow-y and luscious that if I browse the site for awhile, then switch to another clothing or lingerie site with mainstream (very tall, very thin) models, those mainstream models suddenly appear less attractive to me than they would otherwise normally appear. It's so strange how rapidly a switch in perspective can happen. Images are powerful.

Not that I'm spewing that bullshit "real women have curves" line here. I despise those kinds of assertions, because the fact is that "real women" come in every kind of physical package. I think both these women are beautiful. But everyone's got preferences, and I personally find the thicker model smokin' hot...and I also personally find that looking at her makes me see the thinner model in a different light. What do you see?

Moving on...

I had Chinese takeout last night and did not enjoy it like I used to. The sauces are just too oily and sugary, and the so-called diet dishes on offer are gross to me. So except for the very occasional order of lo mein, I think I am over Chinese food. Yay! Recurrent cravings for orange chicken were a problem last year, so this is a good development.

Tonight, my husband requested the same chocolate mousse I made a few days ago. It turned out better this time, and I had problems with being mindful and moderate with it AGAIN. But at least I didn't make myself sick this time. It's still too early to be doing this stuff, and I'm going to have to say no to people's requests more often. Either that, or work on baking sanely and mindfully soon so I can get the hang of making stuff without harming myself.

My mindful mealtime habits need to be worked on, too. I have been focusing on them less the past week or so, and that's dangerous because they are not yet second nature to me. A long way to go, this Jedi has.

Wouldn't Yoda make an awesome weight loss coach? I'd take him over Jillian Michaels any day. Discuss amongst yourselves.