Category Archives: Emotional Eating

Having Dinner With Failure

This weekend, I had some friends over for dinner – that’s not the failure part.. Over Jamaican black beans on brown rice with tropical fruit chutney, roasted green beans and carrot flan cake (not on the diet), we had a wonderful time! The atmosphere was laid back and friendly. Since not all of the guests were acquainted, it was an easy environment to get to know each other. Dinner is a wonderful way to sit back, relax and let people tell you about themselves.

A friend of mine was once struggling with a rather profound failure in his life. The failure was the culmination of a series of bad decisions; but, my friend could not pinpoint the first one. He mentioned this struggle to his Rabbi who advised him to “have dinner with his failures” in order to discover that pivotal moment. I like that idea.

I have often joked that I would make a horrible spy. I don’t ask enough questions. I don’t probe people. Probing makes people defensive and they hide things. I believe that by letting people tell their own stories in their own time, I get a much more accurate picture of them than I would if I probed. I believe the same thing is true within my own mind. Over the years I’ve seen a number of therapists to puzzle through whatever issues were bothering me at the time. Therapy is putting my own self on the spot. It’s probing myself and, just like most people do when someone probes at them, my own mind can become defensive and lock me out. Once, my mind really pushed back to my probing when a therapy session resulted in a full-blown anxiety attack. By having dinner with my failures rather than probing at them, I don’t trigger that kind of defensive response. I slow down. I listen. And, often, I find that first bad decision.

I hadn’t gone from a non-smoking smoker back to a 2-pack a day smoker overnight. It had happened gradually – so gradually, that I had a hard time discovering where I went wrong. By having dinner with that smoking cessation failure, I pinpointed the initial lie I had told myself – my Gateway Lie of “I can have just one.” That lie started me down the road to being a smoker again. In a similar way, my dietary failure didn’t happen at that meal where I had Baconator, large fries, chocolate Frosty and a Diet Coke. I didn’t go from months of healthful choices directly to this greasy faced, carnivorous orgy. My diet gradually deteriorated. Like I had done with smoking cessation, I had to pinpoint My Gateway Lie. That lie was that I could eat processed foods and sugary treats as long as they were vegetarian and marketed as “healthy.”

During The Great Reduction, I shunned nearly all prepared and processed foods. I was still eating meat; but, I was watching my caloric intake closely. I dropped weight. Quickly. Eventually, I stopped eating meat simply because I could eat more volume in the form of plant foods. Then I learned about many of the health benefits of eating a whole-foods, planted-based diet. Eating all of that fresh food took a huge amount of time. It took planning. It took preparation. It took effort. Snagging an Amy’s vegetarian entree out of the freezer section and throwing it into the microwave for three minutes was WAY faster. Plus, it was vegan; so, it wasn’t that bad. And I could tell myself that I was just going to do that for this meal. I’d be back to eating healthfully next meal. On a PMSy day, I wanted ice cream. Frozen cashew milk is vegan and has fewer calories than ice cream. So I rationalized that choice, as well. Both of those prepared foods are better choices than some alternatives; however, they are not better choices than fresh, whole foods. And for me, they were the Gateway Lie – if it says “healthy” or “vegan” on the package, it is nearly as good as the fresh foods I had been preparing for myself.

Yeah, well, Sour Patch Kids and Oreos are vegan, too. I Oreoed myself right back into my fat pants….and beyond.

Prepared foods, regardless of whether they are marketed as “healthy,” have added sugar, fat, and/or sodium to improve either their flavor or their shelf life or both. For instance, a cup of Amy’s Hearty Rustic Italian Vegetable Soup has 680mg of salt – that’s nearly 1/3 of the Mayo Clinic identified upper limit RDA of 2300mg. I made a cauldron of vegetable soup last week, adding no salt, using lots of herbs instead; so, mine contained only the sodium naturally occurring in the vegetables. Amy’s is a lot faster and, while it isn’t just awful for you, mine is better.

Mine leads to success, which makes a much better dinner partner than failure.

 

 

 

 

 

The Whys Have It

Yesterday, I said that part of the reason I stopped caring about my health was that I lost sight of my Why. That’s not a terribly complicated statement or concept; but, lemme tell you, it was a tough one to figure out!

I have tried several times over the last two years to get my head back in the game and to get this weight back off. Each time I start out with guns blazing, taking no prisoners, and showing no mercy. Then I run into my boyfriends Ben and Jerry and all bets are off. (I know people whose weaknesses are wine or chocolate or pasta; but, mine really is ice cream. I’m six. I know. However, no one understands disappointment, boredom, depression, happiness, PMS or Wednesday quite like Ben and Jerry. For me, they are Lex Luthor and they make kryptonite by the pint.) I’m so easily distracted and my efforts so easily derailed. Why?

because-the-why-mattersBecause I lost my Why. Without a reason, a strong enough motivation, I wasn’t choosing the kinds of foods and activities I needed to choose.

My first Why revolved around my son. I went for my annual Big Girl check-up, not feeling like anything was amiss other than that I was tired. At the time, I was working some 90 hours a week trying to get an internet start-up off the ground. Who wouldn’t be tired, right? You know how when you go to the doctor, they weigh you then take your blood pressure (tasks I have always believe were performed in the reverse of optimal order – of course my BP is going to be higher after I see my weight!)? Well, my BP was significantly higher than normal for me and the nurse practitioner would not let me leave until it came down. Hello. You have my attention.

At that moment, I realized that I had started down the road of permanent damage. I knew that I was approaching the time when I would either get healthy or get on a bunch of prescription drugs. With all of the heart-attacks dotting the landscape of my family history, I really began to take seriously the fact that I was headed for heart disease, which 25% of the time initially announces its presence with a fatal heart attack. In addition to the trees of heart attacks in my family landscape, there are quite a few shrubs of diabetes and some boulders of high blood pressure. My high BP that day put me in that landscape for the first time that I was aware of. I realized that if I was going to take charge of my health, I had to do it then since menopause was looming somewhere in the next decade for me. I knew it was time to act and I did. I got serious. I got it done. I got healthy.

Then I got cocky.

My Why was to be alive to see my son become a man, then perhaps a father. My Why involved meeting my potential grandchildren, baking cookies with them, riding bikes, reading stories and playing in the mud. When my son moved across the country, it became more difficult for me to keep my eyes on my Whys. I lost my focus, then I lost my way. (Understand that I’m not blaming my failure on my son for moving away. That would be absurd. I’m just giving a timeline for how and when I got lost.) Having good health for my own sake wasn’t a big enough Why. Sure my clothes were all too small, but I wasn’t sick or anything.

Until I was.

And that gave me my new Why that we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Eye Beam

I say it regularly because I believe it so strongly: maturing is just the process of figuring out what a schmuck you’ve been up to this point. Yeah. So I’ve been doing some, um, maturing lately.

On August 19, 2013, I published a piece called What If You Were Dying?  Take a second to give it a read. I had some good things to say. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

There are several things you need to know about that piece. First, the woman I’m sitting with in the photograph was my precious Aunt Jo. She died of lung cancer after having smoked for some 60-something years. She killed herself with tobacco. Second, all of the statistics I quoted in there are true (as far as any data used to prove a point can be true). Third, it was my opinion at the time that if you are deliberately doing something that is harming your health (whether it’s tobacco or Twinkies), you’re an idiot. And fourth, I’m an idiot.

plankeyeOver the last two years, I have regained at least 60 of the 94 pounds I lost. I say “at least” because, frankly, I’m too embarrassed and disgusted to get on the scales this morning and tell you exactly how many. At my thinnest, I was healthy and generally pain-free. Now, I feel lethargic and have been struggling with a foot and ankle injury for the past six months. I feel like garbage and guess whose fault that is.

Mine.

The weight gain started after a medical procedure – a side-effect of which was weight gain. (Note, I did not ask my doctor about the side effects of the protocol. If I had known about the weight gain, I would not have continued with the procedure. Henceforth, I will ask about side effects and I strongly suggest that you do, too. How else will you make an informed decision about whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh its physical costs?) The fattening started there, but it certainly didn’t stop when the side-effects were no longer in play. By then, I’d fallen off the wagon hard and was making poor food choices, regardless of all the right marketing words on the labels – healthy, low-fat, sugar-free, organic. I was almost exclusively eating processed foods marketed as health foods. Then, I just reverted to eating processed foods of nearly every kind as long as they were vegetarian. Then I even threw that out the window and just started stuffing my face with anything I wanted until, ta-da! I reverted to a seriously overweight woman at risk for many obesity related diseases: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and even arthritis.

I was in a great place physically and I let it go. No, I didn’t let it go. It’s more like I used my spoon still sticky with Phish Food to toss that good health and feelings of well-being and strength out the door. What an idiot! What a schmuck. Why would I do such a stupid thing? I think it’s because I lost track of my Why. Without my Why, I just didn’t care enough to get back to good health.

I reverted to one of the people I’d so smugly started to judge for making poor food choices. Now it’s time to mature, stop being such a schmuck, and get corn dog out of my mouth and the beam out of my eye.

 

 

What Does The M Stand For?

Guys, this post is mostly for the ladies; so, you can stop reading now, if you like – unless, that is, you’re one of those super curious men who wants to gain some kind of understanding into why your lady turns into a hormonal monster for three days a month. If you’re one of those guys, be welcome; but, be warned – this ain’t for the faint of heart, sugar.

MI was silent all last week; but, no worries, I’m still here and I’m still fighting the good fight. The week was particularly challenging since I was struggling with PMS while trying to maintain some kind of healthy eating habits. For me, PMS is what the medievals used to call a shape-shifter. No Mild, Meek, or Mirthful for my M. No, sir! My M goes for Melancholic, Mighty hungry, Mean Monster! Not usually all at the same time, mind you. Shape-shifter that it is, it changes from month to month and from hour to hour within the month. Some months I want salty, some months it’s sweets. Some months I’m exhausted – okay, that one is pretty much every month. Some months I’m crampy, some months I’m not. Some months I’m cranky – okay, that one is pretty much every month, too. It’s kind of like Space Mountain in Hell – dark, twisting and turning, leaving you feeling dizzy and nauseated (only also craving puffy Cheetos and chocolate ice cream). It’s a real treat even when I’m on a see food diet. Now since I’m back on a better eating plan, I’d love to tell you that it’s better, but that would be a lie and we both know it.

If you look at my food diary sheets for the last week, you’ll note some seriously unbalanced meals. You’ll see some bingeing and some just plain bad food choices; however, you’ll also see that I keep coming back with better meals and better choices. When I’ve craved something sweet, I’ve turned to grape Crystal Light – the acceptable adult version of grape Kool-Aid, my favorite. To satisfy the salty craving, I go with unbuttered popcorn instead of chips. I’ve eaten lots dried figs which are kind of like mainlining sugar. And that’s worked for the most part; however, I’ve not found a good substitute for ice cream (or frozen cashew milk or almond milk desserts that I eat – I’ll just call them all ice cream for simplicity’s sake). While frozen, blended bananas and mangoes are good and I can eat them most of the month, they’re not ice cream and the Monster is not fooled.

These last few days have been more about damage control than anything else. Sometimes, that’s what a reducing or a healthful eating style has to deal with – damage control. I follow a vegan diet; however, there are times when I’m someplace and I just eat the cheese rather than make a big deal out of it. Chocolate is rarely vegan and there are times when that is as necessary as air (true story, ladies?); so, I eat a little. So, I give a little here and there and make up for it later. To do anything else would be more stressful than I really need on top of my daily, constant stresses.

My hormones are returning to a safe level – thank goodness – although as recently as last night, I was jonesing big time for some Oreos. My sweetie didn’t have any, but he came up with an emergency Little Debbie Fancy Cake, and, because he’s a smart man, he tossed it to me and retreated to a safe distance.

 

 

Observations From the Waiting Room

I did no cardio yesterday. Yesterday was just an endurance test in existing.

I left work at midnight Thursday morning and left town at 0200 to drive to Memphis to meet my father and sister at the hospital where my father was to undergo excision of a malignant melanoma. We did the day surgery admissions song and dance from about 0715 to around 1000 when they finally took him back to surgery. My sister Chele and I were both starving so we hit the cafeteria before moving to the waiting room where a caught a few Zzzzzs. The surgery went fine and he was sprung at around 1730. Stopping for dinner and gasoline put me home at somewhere around 2240 – one tired human. Sleep, however, eluded me until after 0100.  I was awake again at 0330. Oh, for pity’s sake!

Fit cardio in there? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Didn’t happen and, frankly, it’s probably not going to happen today, either.

hospital waiting roomI tell you all of that to set the stage for these observations:

  1. (This one might tick some of you off) Obese doctors and nurses carry about the same amount of authority with me as a nun does as a sex education teacher.
  2. Hospital vending machines should offer healthier choices.
  3. Hospital CAFETERIAS should offer healthier choices!
  4. Waiting room chairs are not designed to sleep in.
  5. As a society we need to regain respect for each other in shared areas, i.e. no loud conversations (either in person or on phones), nail clipping or, um, organ adjustments in public spaces.
  6. For the little amount of quality content available, we have too many ways to see it with televisions every. where.
  7. It’s okay to not have background music or television noise all the time.
  8. Fatigue makes you REALLY hungry for any calorie dense thing in the world.
  9. Apples do really perk you up when you’re tired.
  10. If you drink a cup of caffeinated coffee after 11 months of abstinence from caffeinated beverages, it will keep you awake to finish your drive home. And then some.
  11. And, finally, this math equation:

(1)sister + (1)live trap + (1)feral kitty colony = (1)adorable kitten for me to socialize, foster and rehome.

Dad’s surgery went well. We’ll get the node biopsies back in about 10 days. Positive thoughts and prayers on his behalf are appreciated. As I’ve told you many times, I adore that man. We all do.

And, hey! Anybody want a kitten?

 

 

Vodka on My Breath

I haven’t written in awhile. There have been several reasons; but, the chief reason was that I have been unwell and, in my illness, I felt like a fraud. The Positive Thinking Blog Goddess was having trouble thinking of reasons why brushing her teeth on her off days was necessary. Hardly positive thinking in anyone’s book, I’d say. To me, writing about making good food choices, good health choices or positive choices of any kind would have been tantamount to standing up as a sponsor at an AA meeting with vodka on my breath.

How could I talk about it with any conviction if I knew that I was failing at it in my everyday life? How could I talk about making healthful dietary choices when the primary components of my own diet were popcorn and Hershey’s with almonds?

Since November, when I got the Depo-Provera shot, I have been trapped in a binge-eating nightmare. All of the old, unhealthy language has reemerged to strengthen those old, unhealthy habits. I have felt completely out of control and powerless to do anything about it. My body has been screaming for sugar and salt – mostly sugar. My first thought upon opening my eyes has been, “What can I eat?” Literally, that has been my very first thought. I dream about food. I make good choices at the grocery store, then eat candy out of the vending machines at work or I make a stop at the drugstore for a box of Russell Stover caramels. And the internal litany that accompanies every sugary bite that I take is, “Look at you! You can’t control yourself. Sure, you were thin for awhile, but you’re fat again now, aren’t you? Go ahead. Eat another one.”

Despair-300x199That is the kind of language that kept me trapped in an obese body for decades. No. It’s not the kind of language that kept me trapped. It is the language that kept me trapped.

I have felt myself spiraling down and have been unable to stop it. So, now, even my stretchy pants are tight and my blue jeans aren’t even in the realm of possibility. While certainly nowhere near my heaviest, I am fatter than I have been in three years and I am angry and humiliated about it.

I’ve talked to several people about the depo shot and have heard the same thing over and over – women who took it experienced significant weight gain. I was so focused on the result I wanted from the Essure procedure that I didn’t fully consider the consequences of the preparation stage. I should have done more research. I expected that my doctor would not follow a protocol that would not be the best for me as an individual – this is a doctor I see, at best, once a year. I still think that she’s a good doctor and I will continue to see her; however, I will never again blindly follow a procedural protocol without educating myself. Please understand that I’m not blaming her. I am responsible for my health choices and if I choose to blindly and completely hand over full control of my body to another human being, I am accountable for the results – even if it’s significant weight gain.

I’m taking steps to regain control of my life and my cravings; but, I’m a long way from being in control. So, what you’re likely to see here over the next weeks and months is what my friend Rebecca wanted me to write about in the first place – my very real and sometimes ugly struggle to get my body, mind and spirit back to a healthy place. It’s not always going to be pretty and some days, I’ll write with vodka (or chocolate) on my breath.

Appropriate Accomodations

With all of the see-sawing I’ve seen in my weight over the past few months, my clothes have gone from loose to snug to don’t-even-try-fitting-that-in-here back to just tight now back to you-must-be-delusional. It’s frustrating and irritating.

Just before I took that ridiculous shot which started the two month PMS cravings, I had gotten rid of my Fat Jeans. I’m seriously regretting that decision now and have considered several times going to get some larger pants. I still have some stretchy pants that I can wear, but my jeans are out of the question. And I really like wearing my jeans – particularly since my favorite footwear (my cowboy boots) look ridiculous with yoga pants. Alas, I’m in yoga pants right now. So, really, it’s because of my cowboy boots that I’ve considered buying another pair of Fat Jeans.

Uh huh.

You may notice that I’ve said “considered,” not “bought.” You see, I know that lie. “I’ll just buy these so that I can wear them for a little while until I get back into my regular jeans.”

Lie.

You know as well as I do what would happen. I’d get all kinds of comfy in those Fat Jeans and wear those suckers out. Who knows? I might even eat my way out of them into the next size up. I’ve done it before and I’m not stupid enough to say that I wouldn’t do it again. For me, there is a slippery slope there. Just like Marie Osmond said in a NutriSystem ad a few years ago – your jeans get tight and you get a little muffin top going on. You wear a sweater to cover the muffin top. Eventually, you buy bigger pants to get rid of it; but, you just grow another one that you cover again with larger, loose-fitting shirts. The cycle spirals up and up until you look in the mirror one day and wonder who that fat woman is staring back at you.

Well, if I don’t buy larger clothes, I hope to short-circuit that process. I cannot get comfy in larger jeans if I don’t buy them. I will wear what I have and be sick of it until I can fit back into my jeans again. I was closing in on it before last week’s ginormous binge. Looking back through my posts, I’m amazed that less than ten days ago I felt like things were getting better only to crash again. Last week lasted about 46 days, I’m pretty sure.

Only it didn’t. It lasted the normal seven and I am still alive and have the will to get back on track. I have a closet full of appropriate clothes that have fit me before and they’ll fit me again. No need to move into larger posterior accommodations. The accommodations I have are just fine and I’ll be comfortably back in them in less than a month.