Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “April, 2016”

I don’t make the rules. And I don’t pay in money.

I think one of the hardest parts of dealing with addiction, especially food addiction, is the surrender. It’s giving up your will. Before I gave up sugar, grains, and starches, I tried to deal with my food issues myself. And because of that I read all sorts of information about food and nutrition. I knew about calories. I knew about superfoods. I was up on all of the latest scientific research. 

But I only used the information that fell in line with what I wanted to eat. I loved nut butters, so I ate them whenever I could. By the jar. I hated vegetables, so I didn’t eat them. Or I ate the ones that were all starch. In fact, the fruits and vegetables I ate then were exactly the ones I don’t eat now. I especially ate sweet potatoes and bananas. Not just one, but one after the other. I was still bingeing, just not on cake. I don’t eat either of them anymore. The people who helped me get my eating under control said that those were foods we don’t eat. I could either accept that, or I could move on. I chose to accept.

There are two aspects of the way I put boundaries around my food that make it so effective for me.

1) I don’t make the rules.

2) I don’t pay in money. I pay in being part of the group. I pay in honesty.

What I do is not science. As the years go by, science gathers more and more evidence that what I do is healthy. And also that food addiction, especially sugar addiction, is real. But people have been doing what I do for decades. Before the research and the studies. There were people doing what I do way back when rice cakes and plain baked potatoes were considered the perfect diet foods. When “fat makes you fat” was the mantra of every dieting woman in the United States. I do what I do, and the people who do it with me do it, because it works. Anecdotally? Sure. But anecdotally, I have personally lost over 150 pounds. I have kept it off for 10 years. (For the most part. There was some metabolism trouble for the 3 years after I quit smoking, but even that seems to have passed now. And even when I was gaining weight, I was not binge eating, or eating sugar or carbs.)  

Part of the reason it works is because the rules are laid out. You are either within the boundaries, or you’re not. And the rules are not about weight. They are about what when and how we eat.

When I put boundaries around my food 10 years ago, I was told I could not have nut butters or avocado. I did not like that at all. I tried to bargain. After all, avocado is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Nuts as well! And I was told that in order to keep the boundaries, I was going to eat 3 meals a day, nothing in between except zero calorie drinks. But I knew that six meals a day was optimal. In fact, a mid day snack of almonds or avocado was highly recommended by sports nutritionists. I did the research! I knew what I was talking about.

But I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew about nutrients. I knew about recommended blood sugar levels and eating habits. But I knew precisely jack squat about how to control my own eating. I knew nothing about how to keep myself sane and healthy. 

But people who had been unable to stop eating before, and who now lived a life free of food obsession, did it by following the rules like giving up avocado and eating 3 meals a day. No, they did not save a little milk from breakfast to slip into their coffee through the day. (Yep, I asked about that as well.) They had surrendered. 

It didn’t take long for me to give up the fight either. The peace and freedom from food obsession was enough pretty quickly. Black coffee became the norm for me. Avocado? Don’t miss it at all. 

The second part, the part where what I do is free (financially speaking), is another aspect of why it works so well for me. See, if I pay for a diet, the exchange is made. I pay, I get the diet. I now “own” the diet as it pertains to me. If I don’t want to do it today, well, you can’t stop me. And I don’t have anyone to answer to. You got your money. The rest is none of your business.

But with what I do, I don’t pay in money (though I do choose to donate to my groups). I pay in honesty. I pay in showing up. I pay in doing service. I pay in keeping the boundaries around my food. 

So, someone is giving freely of their time and attention to give me a chance at a peaceful life. Not someone. But many someones. Hundreds. Making phone calls, sharing their stories, helping people make difficult decisions about food. (If you don’t know what I mean by a difficult food decision, bless you. You are probably not a compulsive eating sugar addict.)

When my life is the currency, I don’t own anything. My life is connected to all of those other lives. And if I don’t want to keep my food boundaries today…well, I have free will. I can make a decision on my own. I can have my reasons and my justifications. But I have also created a community that holds me accountable. I have to be responsible for the time and attention that has been given to me free of charge over the past 10 years. And I am either in the boundaries, or I am outside of the boundaries.

This is not about shame for people who struggle or people who leave. Addiction is a bitch. And what I do is not right for everybody. This is about surrender. This is about when you are so hopeless and desperate that you give up your will when it comes to eating because you know you are sick with food. 

I know its natural to want what we want. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to know that when it comes to food, what I want is toxic. And while I am part of the group that saved my life, what I want is also irrelevant.


The joy of not being a jerk

Yesterday was, as the 12-steppers say, life on life’s terms. I went to the grocery store, got about $100 worth of groceries, checked out, and tried to pay with my debit card. It didn’t go through. I tried it again. Nope. Then the checkout clerk said the bank was declining my purchase.So I asked the clerk to take care of the people behind me while I called the bank.

It turns out someone used my card information to make some purchases. The first went through. The second, for over $300 went through. And the bank shut the card down when they attempted to make purchases for $500 and $700.

The gentleman at the bank unfroze my card long enough for me to buy my groceries, and asked me to call back when I was done to have the card cancelled. 

So I did. I bought my groceries. I packed them into the trunk. I got back in the car and immediately called the bank and cancelled my card, and confirmed that the fraudulent charges were not mine. 

The lady I got that time cancelled my card, took my Kentucky address so the new one could be mailed to me here, as well as the paperwork to dispute the fraudulent charges.

Do you know what I kept thinking the whole time? I kept thinking how much I like myself, and it’s all because of having my eating under control.

What I am saying is I was gracious and grateful and kind to every person along the way. I was friendly with the clerk at the store when he told me the bank declined my card. I was friendly with the man from the bank who told me about the fraud and reactivated my card so I could pay for my food. I was friendly with the lady at the bank who helped me cancel the card and who issued me a new one. I was able to make jokes with them all. 

I was more than just nice. I was grateful. I was grateful that the bank was looking out for me and shut my card down when purchases looked suspicious. I was grateful they could unfreeze my card so I could buy my groceries. 

This is the stuff that happens to everyone. This is the stuff that is not personal. This is life. But when I was a compulsive eater, when life happened to me, I was a complete jerk. 

I was already angry at life all the time anyway. I had a lot of anger and rage. And I used any opportunity to unleash my rage. Even, or maybe especially, at people who had nothing to do with it, and were trying to help.

My first reaction to this kind of thing is fear. Fear of what did wrong. Fear of losing. Fear of having things taken away. Fear of scarcity. 

In order to keep my eating under control, I had to learn to do certain things differently. I had to learn to cultivate gratitude. I had to learn to behave in a way so that I would not be ashamed of myself. I had to do the next right thing, one step at a time. This all comes from having my eating under control. 

When people see or hear that I have lost 150ish lbs, they think that is the accomplishment. They assume that is the ultimate reward. And while I do enjoy this body, and how it looks and how it moves and how easy it is to get around in, the parts of my life that are the most profoundly impacted by having my food addictions and eating disorders taken care of are the parts of my personality that have improved over the last 10 years. 

For me, the real gifts are all of the ways I like and love myself. For me, the real gifts are being calm and peaceful in the face of fear. The real gift is that I can look back on yesterday and not have to justify why I was a jerk. Because I wasn’t a jerk. I was a nice lady, grateful for other nice gentlemen and ladies, who helped me get a lot of unpleasant stuff taken care of. 

I go moderate so I don’t have to go home

We all have at least one person on social media who is a fitness enthusiast. And there is a culture around fitness (at least in the U.S.) that is about leveling up, so to speak. It’s about getting better, faster, stronger. It’s about pushing yourself harder and harder. Every time. It’s about never being satisfied.I believe there is a place for this. I do not have a judgment about people who do this. I think it is beautiful. I love when people have a thing. And I have known, and have respect for, many people in the fitness industry. (A fat girl trying to be a skinny girl makes a lot of those kinds of friends.) 

But I think there is a conversation that we should be having that we are not. And it’s this:

Not everyone needs to be a beast in the fitness arena. I want to be in shape. I want to have a healthy body. But I am not interested in leveling up. Because constantly leveling up as the only way to exercise is not sustainable in my life. And that doesn’t make me any less admirable than the people who are constantly pushing themselves.

For me, and I think for a lot of people, this all or nothing attitude is overwhelming. And destructive. The idea that, if you are not continuously improving, you are some how going backwards, is prevalent in our fitness culture. Which is another aspect of our beauty culture. And it keeps you buying fitness gear, personal trainer sessions and gym memberships. 

Again, I am not knocking those things. I am suggesting that maybe having a commitment to work out consistently for your own health and peace of mind, without the need to “go big or go home,” or answer questions about “if you even lift” might be worth more to you in six months or a year, or 10 years, when you are still doing it. I am suggesting that maybe if you went moderate, or even small, you wouldn’t need to go home. Because I am going to tell you a secret I learned about commitment: 

Sometimes, in order to keep a commitment long term, you have to half-ass it. 

I’m telling you, sometimes I phone it in.

I am thinking about this today, because I half-assed my run today. The truth is, it’s cold here, especially in the mornings. And the wind is brutal. Yesterday morning, there were 25 mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph. And at certain points on my path, I have to run directly into it. And it ticks me off! I actually swore out loud at the wind yesterday.

So you can imagine that this morning, when it was 37 degrees, felt like 28, with 14 mph winds, I did not want to go.

I jog a 2 mile path that runs around my house, so that at one point close to the end of my run, but NOT the end, there is a little sidewalk that shoots off basically to my door. And today, I sure did want to go right there and skip the last quarter mile or so. But I didn’t. 

What I did do was slow down. Not to a walk. I was still jogging. My commitment to myself says that I only walk if I am injured or fear I will injure myself If I continue to run. What I did was take it easy. 

Today, I added over a minute to the time I ran just Tuesday. But I don’t care. I am not angry, frustrated or ready to quit, like I would be if my run were always about leveling up. Like I would be if it weren’t OK to take it easy.

The truth is, that I am improving. Naturally. Without trying. Without pushing. Without beating myself up. I’m sure not as much as the ones who are pushing. But I’m not them. I’m me. And I am making sure I can go on to jog another day.

Now, keep your fingers crossed for me that spring comes to Kentucky soon, and Running Against The Wind can go back to just being a Bob Seger song. (Darn it! Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.)

The willingness to be willing is the beginning of change 

I used to weigh myself once a month, on the first. Only on the first. Because it was a good way to keep an eye on my weight, without the obsession of getting on the scale every day. Or multiple times a day. People with eating and body image disorders can become obsessed with the scale. I was one of them before I put boundaries around my eating. I would get on the scale constantly, looking for the secret recipe for weight loss. Was I down a pound in the last 2 hours? What had I done? Could I replicate it? 

It was insanity. I was treating it like science and wishing for it to work like magic. Needless to say, it was neither.

When I quit smoking, I gained at least 30 pounds. Almost certainly more, but I stopped weighing myself. It was devastating to me. I lived in fear of stepping on the scale. It haunted me constantly. Not just around the first, but for the whole month. I started to obsess about how I could stop the weight gain, and lose what I had gained, within days of weighing myself. It was never over.

I started to feel the same crazy I had when I was eating compulsively. I wanted something to work. Anything! I wanted some sort of magic.

So my friend who helps me make decisions about my food and my weight told me to stop weighing myself. She didn’t want me to make myself miserable. My job was to keep my food boundaries, and not focus on my weight. 

Now, it’s almost 4 years since I quit smoking. And I have lost what seems to be most of the weight I gained. I don’t know, because I haven’t gotten on a scale in 2 1/2 years. 

It makes sense for me to get back on the scale. But I’m scared. The truth is, that experience scarred me. 

I was angry at life. I was angry that I did the “right” thing by quitting smoking, and I was punished with the worst possible thing that could happen to a former fat girl. I gained weight with no relation to what I was eating or how much I was moving. It made me feel crazy and desperate. It triggered all of my body image disorders. It was hell.

But now, I think I should start weighing myself again monthly. And that means having a conversation with my friend about it. And I don’t want to. I’m worried. And it makes me feel a little nauseous. 

The truth is, what if it’s not enough? What if the number just makes me feel fat and gross? What if I hate myself all over again?

But I guess I am telling you this so I can keep moving forward. When I put it out there, I can be responsible for it. I need to out myself so I take some action. And so I don’t keep all if this fear bouncing around in my head. 

I don’t know when I will have this conversation with my friend. I don’t know when I will be ready. The point, I guess, is I’m getting ready. And it’s that, the willingness to be willing, that is the beginning of change. 

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