Fearing the Food

Posted: December 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

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By the end of the second month of living diet and restriction free, I thought I had it in the bag.  I loved NOT thinking about food for the first time in my life.  I marveled at the memories of being preoccupied with food above all else…but not feeling drawn to that any more.  I started to get a glimpse of what it felt like to be truly functional with food.  To eat for enjoyment and satisfaction.  I got through Thanksgiving without a blip and wasn’t worried about the rest of the holiday season at all.

Until…(dun, dun, DUN) Christmas Cookies.

I started baking holiday cookies with my mother as far back as I can remember.  It became a warm and delicious memory that I carried with me into adulthood and also share now with my own kids.  There are always those butter cut-out cookes with the heavy white icing and sprinkles, the gingerbread men, the molasses crinkles and of course the chocolate chip.  I especially enjoyed baking them this year because I knew I had permission to enjoy them also.  However, I didn’t realize I would have to contend with a food-specific phobia at the same time.

As a child, the cookies we were allowed to consume were strictly rationed out.  Tupperware containers full of them were stacked high near the holidays and my brother and I were only allowed one or two per day…that is if we didn’t have any other type of dessert during that time.  I think that’s where it began…that slow realization cookies were somehow “bad” and even though we were allowed them during this time of year, they had to be restricted.  The funny thing is, I now allow my children to eat as many as they want…and they freely choose only one or two – sometimes none!  To them, these cookies are a bit of a fun novelty and something that tastes good when you really want one, but nothing more.  Imagine that!

As I got older and moved out on my own, I would bake my own Christmas cookies, but binge on them and gain huge amounts of weight every holiday season.  It’s no wonder…I wasn’t allowed to eat as many as I wanted for the first 20 years.  I ALWAYS wanted more, and when I had the chance, I ate them all!

As my diet addiction grew, I would diet almost all the way through the holidays…for years.  I knew if I didn’t keep a stranglehold on my eating, that it would be all over.  I might take one free day…Christmas day, and I would always eat myself sick.  Finally, just last year, I grew to trust myself so little, that I was completely sugar and grain free from Thanksgiving through New Years.  Not a bite of a cookie, not a single Chocolate bell or bite of mashed potatoes.

Even though I now know I can eat cookies, this year I started noticing that the more cookies I baked and had around the house, the more I became focused on them. I ate less and less of them…BUT, (being the curious, observant IE-er that I am now) I saw that I started to eat other foods in a binging manner.  I also started to feel more bloated and heavy.  As I started to feel more physically uncomfortable, I began to judge my body more and subsequently started focusing on food outside of my normal hunger.  I started wanting to eat all the time….and those cookies began to have that obsessive quality in my mind again.

What was I doing wrong?  I was letting myself eat the cookies…finally.

I finally realized that even though I was eating the cookies, I was still judging them.  My tiny amount of intuitive eating experience couldn’t stand up to years upon years of believing that cookies were the devil…and instantly fattening.  I know better now, but it may take until next Christmas for that belief to truly sink in.  I’m ok with that.

Happy holidays all, and…………………….

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And she shall eat the world!

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Most of my life I have thought that if I had no diet, eating rules or restrictions, I would eat the world.  I meant it.  I thought I would never stop until I was literally hospitalized, or at least cleaned out Walmart’s piddly grocery shelves.  This is how big I had made the foods I had labeled as forbidden.  This is how extremely I had denied and starved myself.  I was like I imagined a shipwrecked person feels after being rescued from years of isolation on a desert island would feel.  I would want it all and I would want it now…and I would never be satiated.

Can you imagine how dangerous letting go would seem under this extreme perspective?  …let alone what levels of denial created such a monster?  A thought like that creates an immense amount of fear.  Fear of losing control and worst of all, of becoming obese from that lack of control.  We also fear judgement for being so undisciplined…even if the fat itself is not visible.  It’s the fear itself that controls us.

Someone gave me a book once with the title “Love is letting go of fear”.  I never read the book, but the title always stuck with me.  That simple sentence can apply to so many things in life.  On the subject of loving ourselves, this is especially true.  Letting go of our fears is the way to loving ourselves.  In this case, the fear of food, the fear of losing control, the fear of weight gain, the fear of not being good enough…or just plain not being ENOUGH.

When I decided to love myself enough to let go of my control over food and eat freely, I didn’t eat the world.  I ate  a lot, yes, in reponse to all the restriction over the years.  I relished being able to open a bag of snacks and know that I didn’t have to count out how many crackers or chips I could eat.  So I let myself eat, and As I began to let go of my fear of eating ALL the food nonstop, I began loving myself more.  As I began to love myself more, I began to fear even less.  It is a beautiful cycle with its own perpetual motion, but it can’t begin from a stopped position…it has to begin with the momentum of loving yourself.

Oh the humanity

Posted: November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

vulnerable

Vulnerability. This seems to be the theme of my week. Not because I’ve had warm fuzzy success with being vulnerable…but because I have been burned, bitten and rejected because of it. What does vulnerability have to do with food? It doesn’t, except when you use food to avoid being vulnerable or to fill the hole left when that vulnerable place is scooped out and dumped in the middle of desolation.

I don’t know why I keep doing it…putting myself out there with people. I suppose it comes from a desire to be completely genuine, but also from only wanting people in my life who can be genuine with me. On some level it’s worth the risk – that risk of being rejected for that true self I expose. On another level, we have to contend with the pain and subsequent self-doubt that comes out of being rejected when intentionally exposing your tender innards.

While I’m not exactly sure why I choose this path, I do know that, in the past, food has been a great comfort in dealing with rejection and feelings of insecurity arising from allowing myself to be vulnerable. It has also doubled as a way to punish myself for being unworthy of respect and love…as a result of letting my true self being seen. “I deserve to be as repulsive on the outside as I am on the inside, apparently.” Was a common thought in the past.

In the wake of being stomped into the ground not once, but twice this week, I was absolutely shocked that I didn’t feel the compulsion to immediately dive into the leftover Halloween candy. For the first time, that simultaneous punishment/comfort of eating isn’t my go-to. I realize in respecting both my hunger/fullness factor and my pleasure with food, I am respecting myself. I’m not judging that I love the experience of eating….that I find it a very pleasureable action. I spent the last 30 years feeling like garbage for being drawn to the pleasures of food (but only because I was overweight. The thin are allowed to eat compulsively in our society). Not feeling bad about that has taken the self-destruction out of the action. Much like an addict self-destructs with the substance of choice….it compounds upon itself. Get some self-respect, and the self-destruction doesn’t hold as much appeal.

Am I finally feeling like somewhere, deep down, I am WORTH it?  Who knew!

Knock, Knock. Who’s there?

Posted: November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Realization: my body is actually a genius! All these years I had almost no awareness that my physical body had any intelligence when it came to food and eating…in spite of the thousands of things it did every second to support its life. I ask myself now: “How did I not see this?” I hadn’t used my hunger powers for good, like…ever, it seemed. Yes, I knew to eat when I was hungry, BUT the only way I wouldn’t eat if I had the desire (except when restricting) was if I was already stuffed to the gills. So yeah, I would listen to my body, but only if it was telling me it couldn’t handle any more!

Years of dieting taught my body how to handle hunger without feeding it also. So much so that I could feel the panic rising in my body almost before I felt the hunger because odds were…it wasn’t getting any food. Heck my mind became a demented evil dictator over my body…no wonder it revolted any time there was the tiniest crack in my brain’s resolve.

Last week I faced a possibility of failing my attempt at Intuitive Eating for a third time in 2 years. It seemed I just couldn’t eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. I‘ve absorbed so much information on this process and heard so many stories of complete freedom from food and diet obsession. What was I getting wrong? I turned over the principals in my mind and lighted on the only thing I hadn’t truly tried in my attempts….letting hunger be my guide. I realized that I had pushed the theoretical boundaries of that zone between hunger and fullness. I played it safe. I figured if I never got overfull, I never had to stop eating. I realized I had a hard time delineating between meals because I preferred a steady stream of small amounts of food to actual full, nourishing meals.

I hated the thought of giving up some of the snacking habits I had developed over the years to give me comfort or to make my diets more liveable. Still, this was my last option. It was start listening for my body’s hunger cues, be incredibly perceptive and receptive to it, or go back to the diet nightmare.

I started that day. I waited until I knew I was hungry and was surprised to find that my urge to eat came several times before my body actually announced it was hungry. Interesting. I had to sit through those compulsive signals…told myself that the food would taste much better and my body could handle it much more efficiently if I waited for true hunger. The real challenge came after dinner when I would usually slowly graze on candy while I was relaxing for the night. I knew I was feeding my body highly hormonal stimulating foods on an already satisfied stomach and as much as that behavior was freedom to me, it was not the best thing for my body. I let my body take over for once. I ate dinner…not too much, just barely satisfied and then I had a small dessert. I wasn’t about to give up dessert. I listened harder and heard that I had enough…in spite of my mind wanting to continue to graze.

Sitting the next few hours, feeling that urge to continue eating that was clearly not my body saying I was hungry, was one of the most enlightening times of my life. How simple. My hunger is satisfied…I stop eating until I feel hunger again. Who knew!

I got up the next morning feeling lighter and more energetic. I listened to my body urging me to continue to listen. Since I have, I feel better and better every day, and I’ve even been shrinking. I’m still eating all of the same foods, just consuming them when my body is best prepared to use them for all it’s many, many functions. I now know what they mean by listening to your hunger and RESPECTING your fullness. We all know what a hunger signal is. For me it was that fullness factor, the feeling of having enough physically, that allowed me to realize that I have enough emotionally also. Sitting through that compulsive urge to keep eating was, in fact, something I had to MAKE myself do. So I also realized that Intuitive eating is not always about “going with the flow” and “eating whatever you want”. It simply isn’t appropriate to do that if your body isn’t communicating that it actually needs the food.

Sure we all over-eat or snack once in awhile, and it’s important to stop the guilt for doing that and realize it was something your mind needed at the moment. So be kind to your mind AND your body. If you are trying your best at IE but gaining weight and perpetuating the guilt cycle that just propels you into more compulsive eating, stop and really listen to your body. It’s pretty smart. Let it lead the way.

A Diet History

Posted: November 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I found this chart the other day in “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  As I soaked it in and looked at the dates across the bottom, I realized they perfectly reflected the first 20 years of my life…and mapped the rise in pressure to diet and lose weight.  See that spike about 2/3 in?  That’s where I was sent to Weight Watchers, taught to weigh and measure every speck of food….and where my hoarding and binging started in earnest.

My mother was always weight loss-minded.  She saw herself as the “ugly duckling” of her family…the only one out of her glamorous mother and gorgeous older sister that had a weight problem. Her family’s lack of emotional closeness caused her to feel unloveable…and she associated that to her body fat.  As a result of her low self-esteem and desire to be more valued, she had dieted often through college and throughout her early married life and pregnancies.

My mother was NEVER obese.  As a matter of fact, she was probably at the worst times, 20 lbs overweight.  At the peak of that graph up there at the top of the page, I was 30 lbs overweight…at age 12.  Two things resulted in my mind from this scenario in 1983 and growing up with my mother’s view of herself.  1)  I knew I was very fat. No one said the word fat, but I knew I was far beyond my mother’s “overweight-ness”   2) I began to learn from my mother’s example that I should think of myself as less worthy of love and respect than even she was.   These thoughts were cemented into my brain when my mother came to me with compassion and pity in her eyes…and asked me if I would come join Weight watchers with her.  She showed me an article in a ladies magazine with a story about an unhappy young woman who was overweight.  Her mother took her to Weight Watchers meetings and she lost the weight, became attractive and actually got asked to the prom by a boy!  I jumped on it…I knew I could never be beautiful or get a date in the wretched state that I was in.

I’ll never forget that year.  I learned how to use a food scale and a measuring spoon.  I charted everything I ate.  My mom sent meticulously made salads with fat free dressing and low cal sandwiches with me to junior high.  I remember sitting in the lunchroom with my skinny classmates watching them eat PB & J’s followed by Twinkies washed down with chocolate milk.  I was in hell…but the goal was before me…I was going to finally fit in, be popular, be an attractive person.

I lost 12 lbs within a month or so and I was very proud…as I’m sure my mother was.  Inside, however, I was feeling more and more deprived every day.  I still remember that feeling of slowly losing my grip…and with that came an overwhelming sense of depression.  I began to add more than the measured amounts of the diet foods when my mom wasn’t looking.  Soon after, I was eating my weight watchers lunch at school, then buying one or two little Debbie snacks in the lunchroom and scarfing that down.  After I gained back the weight (in spite of still being “on the diet”), I was so depressed that I would come home from school and down an entire sleeve of saltines smothered in peanut butter and honey.  My binging had begun.

The rest of my 8th grade year was spent in a haze of severe depression, stress and migraine headaches.  I was so withdrawn that my parents even sat me down and asked me if I was doing drugs.  I WISHED I was doing drugs.  I wished for an escape from my unworthiness and repulsive body. I remember even contemplating suicide…but my religion forbade it.  I began to hate my parents instead.

As my rage grew I turned it more inwards towards myself.  It hurt too much to hate others for my unhappiness.  Much easier to loathe myself.  I gradually came out of the darkness, found friends, became more functional….but from then on, the absolute knowledge that I was worthless because of my body was cemented on my brain.

When I look at this chart, I see a personal pain.  I can look back now and know it was the perfect storm of society’s focus on weight, the diet industry capitalizing on it, and of course my mother’s own fat-loathing.  I am not remotely surprised that most women of my generation feel that dieting is a normal and expected way of life.  I know I am not alone as I’ve tried to claw my way out of the abyss of self-hatred.  My heart breaks not only for that child within me who was broken, but also for my mother who spent her life feeling inferior and only thought she was trying to help me…help me not to be in a position to feel as bad as she did.

The cycle stops here.

Squirming in the NOW

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

squeezing

To me, it was really easy to love myself enough to stop restricting BEFORE I put on the weight. It was also very easy to feel that fabulous food freedom before I realized there was a price being paid. I hear that the way out is to believe that fat is not a price…a punishment for eating “wrong”. It sure doesn’t feel that way right now though.

This is the third time I have attempted to exit the diet lifestyle and stop trying to control my body and my food. Each of these times, I felt elated to embark of a life of food freedom. I didn’t restrict, I ate slowly, savored. I was in touch with tastes and textures. I thought I had come home…finally.

Gradually, I would see some weight gain and use all the tools at my disposal to accept it. I acknowledged that our worth is not in how we look, that fat does not make us “less-than”. I delved into all the reasons why I felt that having body fat made me feel like a lower class human. I loved myself and worked daily on ridding myself of the panic that the gradual fat gain was causing. I felt like I was doing really well…until the day that I wasn’t. This is the point that I failed the previous two times.

I was hoping I could avoid that day this time around. I have come to a place in my life that I had never been before…a place where I felt like I was FINALLY ready to let go of it ALL. Even the need to not be fat.   Guess what? I was wrong.

Yesterday I hit the ceiling. You know that ceiling…the top weight you are willing to accept in any particular phase in your life. There wasn’t supposed to be a ceiling. At least there wasn’t before my head smashed into it.

The problem is, there isn’t much support out there for people at this stage. My favorite guru, Robin Woodall, says that when you finally let go you will accept the gain…that it won’t matter because you don’t attach your worth to that body any more. I was perfectly fine with that as I went up 2lbs., 5 lbs, 7lbs….to 10 lbs.  Suddenly, I am not so OK with that.   Why does it seem like everyone on her vlogs either doesn’t gain weight in this process or even loses? What does she tell those who are squirming inside their newly gained fat. Let me tell you, I’ve been trying to “sit with that feeling” and it’s not getting any easier. I’ve come far enough to not feel “less than”, but I’m damn uncomfortable!

Another favorite food coach of mine is Caroline Haagen of the blog “The Fuck It Diet”. Her observations of letting go of food control have been inspirational to me. However, she gained around 10 lbs (from her low “dieting” weight), and then stopped. She is able to eat tons of calories, whatever she wants and not fluctuate much, if at all. As a matter of fact, ALL of those wonderful souls trying to help us with the issue of body control through diet seem to be rock-stable and completely unrestricted with their food choices. I’m feeling a bit adrift without any step-by-step guidance in how to deal with getting fat in this process.

What if my ceiling is 20 lbs, 30 lbs?? How do I accept that? Yes, I can buy the theory that I will gain weight as I am working through my years of food and fat issues, then stabilize, then lose (even slowly) as I am eating only what my body and mind are asking for in their healthier state. BUT how do I deal with the uncomfortable “now”?

So I asked myself this morning, after finding my work clothes more snug than ever, “What if this “now” weight is being caused by an issue I still haven’t addressed?” This could be the case. My first instinct is to bag it all and run for the nearest fad diet, but “what if”? So I began to examine my habits over the last several weeks. You know, those habits that I wasn’t supposed to be paying any attention to? Yeah those…I dissected those puppies. I figured that was better than getting out a vial of hCG.

I slowly realized that my paranoia of weight gain was present from the start of this attempt and that I was manipulating my eating accordingly. Very much like I would in past decades…eating the maximum allowed to not gain weight. I was allowing myself to eat many of the previously labelled “bad” foods, but still associating them with “weight gain paranoia”. This set off quite a devastating chain of events. To offset those foods I was afraid would cause me to gain (even before I saw it or felt it), I was choosing much more lower calorie foods at other times…telling myself those were what I really was craving. This in itself is not horrible, but the fallout from that action is the issue. I was eating more of the “bad” foods I was permitting than I was hungry for or even truly wanted because somewhere in the back of my brain I knew I was controlling and restricting.

Basically I was on the “stop dieting diet”. Suddenly I’m realizing how complicated this simple step of “jumping off the cliff” can be. Now I’m sure my situation is worse than many because I have literally been dieting since I was 12 (that’s 33 years people!), but this is not an easy process…and in many ways, dieting may be the easier choice.

The moral of this story, my friends, is that any type of healing is work. It’s all really about the pay-off in the end.  Working through food issues will hopefully result in food freedom.…a pretty great pay-off.  Conversely, working through diet after diet will never bring you that magical body and sense of well-being we are promised in the end.  It will only bring more diets.

So for right now, I’m choosing the weight and the education it is bringing me. I’m choosing the work that will have the best pay-off.

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As many do when transitioning from the dieting lifestyle to letting go of food fears, I have indeed gained about 6 lbs in the last month and a half.   Granted, I had just lost that on a low calorie diet…so it was to be expected. Still, right now I am at the top end of the 20 lb. weight range I have been bouncing around in over the past 6 years. These are panic-inducing numbers for me. In the past I would have been on another diet about 5 lbs ago…because the old me wanted to lose weight ALWAYS, no matter the number.

A few days ago, I went to my first family gathering since I gave up the diet life. In the hours leading up to the gathering (no big event, just a birthday party with my parents and bother), I found myself having the impulse to apologize to everyone for being heavier. WHAT?! I mean is this a normal thought? Like I am worried about offending their eyes with my fatness!

Now I know I would have never identified this thought if I had not been on the journey of self-discovery regarding my body and food (I have probably had this thought before every social event since I was 12 years old), but I also would have expected to be beyond these ridiculous conclusions by now. I mean I am 45 years old. I’ve had 2 children and have gained and lost 80 lbs…often. Why do I attach so much shame to extra weight? Most would not even notice a difference from the last time they saw me or even that extreme a change from my thinnest weight until now. Yet I need to APOLOGIZE for my state of being? How am I harming them…or do I just feel the need to feel sorry publicly that I am obviously not at my “best”?

But I AM at my best. As a person, in my personal growth, I am at the best place of my life. I am learning things about myself and life on a daily basis. I am making enormous changes in my thinking and actions.

Recognizing this thought was an important step in my process of releasing the diet mentality and gaining the solid ground of “good enough”. I realize I am peeling back layer upon layer of self-criticism and deception brought on by the fat shame I was first taught, then embraced as a lifestyle. But just as I embraced it and allowed it to become part of me and grow, I can reject it also.

I realize the point of the lesson is to make sure to not let the old thoughts (the “habits”) waylay my progress now. Sometimes these thoughts feel like old friends, companions of sorts. It’s time to identify them and usher them out of my life forever.

Have you had one of those moments of “Why the hell did I just have THAT thought about my body”?

The point of The Diet Rebellion

Posted: October 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a dream.  After 33 years of dieting, I have a sweet, sweet dream of waking up one day and never having to plan my food, count my calories or worry about the demon scale again.

A couple years ago I heard the whisperings of a thing called “Intuitive Eating”. I started reading blogs about people who had said “screw you” to diets and left it all behind.  These people were much more whole and happy than I had ever hoped to be with food.  I was hooked.

Since then I have tried turning my back on dieting a couple times, only to fail and go back to whatever diet seemed the most promising at the time.  Just since the last time I tried, I have done the hCG diet, the Keto diet, The Raw til 4 80-10-10 diet, and the Trim Healthy Mama diet.  Oh no, wait, these aren’t “diets”….they are “lifestyles”.  *barf*  My tolerance limit is longer than most from years of practice, but I couldn’t stomach more than 2 month on any of them.  And guess what…I am not skinny!

So here I am back again, reaching for the dream and determined to bring it to my reality.  I have decided to get bloggy with it this time around so maybe, if I do screw it up, or want to quit, you good people can set me straight – or at least maybe I’ll feel accountable to someone other than myself.

I’m starting this a bit over a month in, so you have missed those first heady posts of full food freedom and have joined me just in time for things to get tough.  I would be honored if you would join my Diet Rebellion.