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?