Food Peace Journal – Empowerment & Self-Discovery

I can’t believe I’m already 9 weeks into this journey. Have I lost weight? I have no freaking idea! Not knowing what I weigh, not caring about what I weight, is like shrugging off heavy log chains that have been wrapped around my body. The empowerment and freedom that comes with not caring anymore about what I weigh, policing what I eat and giving up diet culture completely, is so amazing. I feel happier in general. I’m not thinner, my clothes fit about the same, but no one goes to a funeral and says, “Oh, I really admired her for her weight”. In the grand scheme of living, weight doesn’t matter. Body size doesn’t matter. F all that.

Occasionally, I have what I call a check-in session with my therapist. The recent appointment was spurred when I thought I wanted to go to this writer’s group meeting and at the last minute changed my mind. The group looks fun, it is very supportive and it’s not a critique group. Instead, I ended up at my fave coffee shop in the opposite direction writing in my journal alone. So I started to wonder, is there something wrong with me? I asked this of my therapist and she peppered me with questions. Then she sat back in her chair and said, “I just don’t think you enjoy group things. That you are a private person who enjoys her own company.” Bam! I sat back and let that sink in. Why didn’t I think of that? Why did I think I was weird because I don’t want to do what everyone else does?

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider. Sometimes pushed there because I didn’t fit in but mostly because I am very private. When I think back, I have never stuck with group activities very long. I would sign up for classes at the Y to only go a few times. When I mention this, she said you don’t like all your time structured. You are very creative and this just isn’t your jam more or less. Well she used better terms than ‘jam’ but you get my point. Then to solidify her deductions, a memory popped up in FaceBook where I had taken the Jung-Briggs personality test. I took it again just out of curiosity that it may have changed. Nope. INFJ-A – The Advocate. Less than 1% of the population has my personality type according to the test. Well no wonder I felt a bit of an outsider. The description is very much me – creative, private, sensitive, perfectionist (not as much now), definitive, passionate about things I love, and so on. The private thing hadn’t clicked with me last year though.

This was the first time I had walked out of my therapist’s office feeling excited and happy. Free and empowered again. She’s always been helpful but this really clicked. I’m okay as I am. I am no longer dieting. I don’t have to keep trying to change myself to fit in, to be what I think society wants me to be. I can keep learning about myself and whatever I find is okay. I don’t have to join groups, I don’t have to lose 50 lbs, I don’t have to let snarky people upset me, or morons ruin my day with their crap. I can live my life the way I want it for the most part. Granted, we all have responsiblities but for the first time in my life, mine are minimal compared to five years ago. I have the opportunity to figure out myself some more, try out new hats, have new adventures and learn to fully relax.

I have been ‘on’ so much in my life, I find it hard to relax. This is the next thing I am going to work on. Case in point, I had time to take a nap after work yesterday as I haven’t been sleeping well for the longest time (hot flashes at night). I laid there but couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Time to fix that. Not sure how but I’ll figure it out. I think I have to give myself permission to not always be doing something, accomplishing something, cleaning something.

It’s empowering to be able to eat what you want as well. I find the longer I practice intuitive eating, the less I am overeating. I leave food on my plate more often. I will only eat half an orange then put the other half in the frig for later. I have never just eaten half an orange at least as an adult. I’d finish it even if I didn’t want it all. Why? Because I was raised you had to eat everything you take or were served. But that is bullshit. I have a half of a fudge bar in a freezer baggie in there too. If it’s still good when I go to eat it, then fine and if not, I’ll throw it away. The world will not end if I throw away a half of a fudge bar. Giving yourself permission to eat what you want, only as much as you truly want is powerful stuff. It’s like getting out of jail free. Food jail that is.

The more I let my body tell me what it wants, the more I find I don’t eat the same anymore. Some nights I barely eat at all. Other nights, I eat as if I came out of the jungle after 40 days. All I do is listen and pay attention to my hunger cues. Your body doesn’t necessarily want 3 meals a day with a few snacks. It may not want 6 small meals. It may want a shit ton of food at breakfast and a little here and there the rest of the day. I know my daily caloric intake fluctuates quite a bit. So following a specific calorie count each day probably isn’t as healthy as they want you to believe. Unless you have a specific medical condition that requires such intake. Each day your body has specific needs and it will tell you if you listen.

Speaking of listening to hunger cues, my body is telling me it’s time to wrap up this post and go find some sustenance. Life is short… eat the cake! Or whatever your body wants.

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Food Peace Journal – Joyful Movement & Panic Mode

I got out my calendar to look up how many weeks it’s been that I’ve been on this new journey, six weeks! It feels like six months! Truly I was surprised when it was only six weeks though I honestly can’t tell you why it seems longer. Maybe because so much has happened in a short time for me. No, I haven’t lost weight during this six weeks. I don’t know what what I weigh. It doesn’t matter what I weigh as my quality of life does not hinge on this number. Am I bigger or smaller? I don’t know. I feel a little bigger but not enough my clothes aren’t fitting. But enough I’m edging into panic mode. My fear of getting fatter is edging more to the forefront as I give up more and more control over my body by not dieting or weighing myself.

Panic mode means I am not trusting my body to do it’s job and I’m letting the diet culture and mentality take back over. Also, when you think about how long term off and on dieting affects your metabolism, when you suddenly start eating when you are hungry again, I think you will get a little more rounder for a bit. First of all, suddenly you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. This is a bit like being a kid locked into a candy store overnight, you’re going to overindulge for awhile until you and your body figure out that you are no longer starving it. I feel my moods have improved somewhat, I feel more level. Maybe because I’m not experiencing blood sugar fluctuations so badly? My jeans feel a bit more tight. Not enough that I will need a larger size but in the back of my mind red flashing lights and warning sirens are going off. ‘Stop! Stop! Stop what you are doing! You’re going to get fatter!’. This is so hard to deal with at times. These thoughts put me in panic mode and suddenly I want to go dig out the scale, reload the food journal app and throw out anything not ‘healthy’ or ‘fattening’.

Then I stop myself and look at my body. All that diet culture paraphernalia did not make me thin, it probably made me heavier than what is natural for me by fighting my body’s own natural instincts and defense mechanisms. I am living proof diets only work temporarily and you just get bigger. The more I dieted, the bigger I got. Deep breath, Laura. I am ok, if I have to go to a size 20, so be it. I must be kind and gentle in this process, love myself and my body and the wonderful machine it is. I’ve fucked with my body’s natural processes for years, six weeks is not enough to undo literally 37 years of dieting and restricting and exercising until I drop. This is where patience (something I lack) is my friend. I have to let my body do what it needs to do to heal and get back into a natural rhythm. Plus I am also still learning about listening to the cues when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I find in the evening, I tend to overeat feeling anxious as if I may never get to eat again. I am not sure what this is about as I have a fully stocked kitchen, a grocery store within ten miles and plenty of money to buy food. There is no shortage. Maybe evenings are just an anxious time for me.

Also, being able to eat whatever you want, you’re going to indulge in all those foods you restricted. So I probably am getting a tad bit bigger as I reprogram my mind to not freak out when these formally ‘forbidden’ foods are in my grasp. Case in point is chocolate. I’ve eating a f*ck ton of chocolate in the last six weeks. I’ve received and bought 3 candy hearts over the last few weeks due to Valentine’s Day. The first candy heart, I literally plowed through, the second one was small – only three pieces – devoured in one sitting. The last one was from my husband and it’s the same as the first except 3x’s the size. By now, I will eat one or two pieces and be like wow, that’s sweet and two pieces are plenty. My husband asked me if there was something wrong with the candy he bought me because I wasn’t shoveling it in like normal. Nope, it was fine, it’s just I’ve eaten so much candy lately, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. When you can have it and have as much as you want of it, suddenly you find that you will not want it so much. Also you’re focusing on your hunger and satiety cues at the same time. You start noticing at one point that you aren’t hungry when you pull out the box of delicious chocolates so you may only eat one or even none, waiting until you are hungry again.

This journey is a bit of a roller coaster. I love jalapeno kettle-style potato chips. So last night at the grocery I bought a bag. I even opened them and ate a few in the car tough they recommend you eat sitting at a table, focusing on your food so you don’t mindlessly shove half a bag of potato chips in your gullet. I spent the evening grazing on them. I’d put them away, get them out, put them away get them out. I even ate them with the nice roast dinner I made. I ate half the bag and still am suffering from their effects this morning. My stomach is burning, my acid reflux is kicked up. So in this case, I am thinking maybe if I get the craving for these chips, I go and buy the small bag even if it means going to a gas station. Or do I just buy the big bag and eat until I realize I can have these whenever I want? This is one of those ‘forbidden foods’ so naturally since it’s the first time I’ve bought them this year, I’m going to overindulge. I think I should just buy the big bag because if I buy the small bag at the gas station, I am in a way restricting myself. Which means I may overeat them a few times and suffer horribly a few times until my brain figures out these chips are no longer ‘forbidden’ and therefore I do not need to eat a half a bag of them in an evening.

Being aware of why and when I overeat is key for me to reverse this behavior. Deep breath, I will be okay. If I get bigger for awhile, then I get bigger. The key remains, eat when I am hungry and just until I’m satisfied, not feeling stuffed and sick. This seems so simple but after not listening to your body for almost 80% of your life, it isn’t going to happen in a few weeks.

Raise your hand if you only exercised to lose weight? ME! ME! Well I like to exercise but my focus has always been calorie burning. Intervals for more calorie burn, longer rides to burn more calories, pedaling until you’re ready to puke to burn off that big lunch. ‘Joyful movement’ is a term I hear frequently on the podcasts and in the books I’ve been immersing myself in this year. Joyful movement is simply doing physical activity you love without any consideration to burning calories or losing weight. It means cancelling the gym membership if you hate going to the gym. Or keeping it if you love going but changing the activities you do and your mindset. You love Zumba class and now you just go to this class because you love the movement and camaraderie of your class mates. Or you put on music and dance around the house. Take your dog for a walk where you actually enjoy the process rather than trying to walk as fast as you can for thirty minutes. You stop worrying about the number of calories burned and you start focusing on the simple joy of moving your body.

Case in point – I am going to list my cycling rollers today for sale. I’ve tried and tried to do stationary riding in the winter on my road bike. I hate it. I get bored in the first few minutes and just want to stop. I’ve tried different methods to no avail. Yes it is a way to add miles to your yearly cycling goal but I can’t stand it. I might as well sell them to someone who will actually use them. I love to dance way back from the school dances and clubs. I’m not very good at it, I’m a typical white girl when it comes to dancing. I’ve never taken a dance lesson in my life but I like more the non-choreographed kind of thing anyway. We have an old Wii and a few Just Dance games. Nothing is more awkward than a fat girl prancing around in her basement, that is until she turns the full length mirror resting on the wall around and forgets about how she may look.

The other night, no one was home and I went down in the basement in a sports bra, shorts and socks and fired up the game. At first I’m a little self-conscious but it’s only the cat and dog watching. Without thinking about calorie burn or time elapsed, I just enjoyed the different dances and trying to do them. Before I know it, I’m covered in sweat and over an hour has passed. Without even thinking about it, I got in an hour of exercise without staring at a clock because I was doing something fun, something I enjoyed. I was wearing my phone to count steps (I do this just for fun) and I amassed about 3000 steps just prancing around in my basement. My bike and rollers just sat there across the way, leaning against the wall. I would have had to force myself to finish 20 minutes of riding on that set up. I would have had 0 fun. The whole dance experience put me in a great mood as well. Joyful movement, those words suddenly made perfect sense.

I love to ride my bike but not inside. Time to sell the rollers. I’ve been holding onto them for several years just convinced this was the year I’d really make use of them. The bottom line is I hate riding in place. So it’s time to honor the idea of joyful movement and bring back fun rather than torture myself to burn calories. No wonder people hate exercise so much. We don’t do it the right way or for the right reasons. I love, love riding my bike on the bike path or my mountain bike on the trails. I will be smiling ear to ear while doing so. But put me on my bike in the basement on training rollers and I’m no longer enjoying the ride. I’m annoyed, frustrated and impatient to get the time over with. If you dread the exercise, it feels like torture.

Pick something you love, make it spontaneous, don’t time yourself or worry about calories burned. There are so many things you can do to move. The majority of us aren’t training for athletic events anyway. I imagine once you start doing things you love for the sheer pleasure of moving, you’ll find yourself much more active in general. I’m going to see if I can buy some used Just Dance games just to have new dances to try because it’s fun!

Until next time, happy eating and joyful moving!

Week 5 Food Peace Journey – Patience & Kindness

So week five has come to a close today and I have not turned into a whale. My clothes fit about the same. My jeans feel looser but I have no idea if I lost weight or not because that number no longer matters. The freedom of not weighing myself frequently has only added to my happiness about my choice to give up dieting. Though I will admit, there are times, where I feel panicky as if not knowing that number will somehow harm me. I’m afraid I will wake up and not be able to get into my jeans, so I tried on my size down jeans that are just a little too tight at the moment to wear comfortably and I can still get into them. I wish I did not feel panicked at the thought of getting larger. So I’m still working on peace in that aspect.

I bought the Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tripoli and Elyse Resch this week and started into the exercises today. I think a point the authors make in the front of the book is how this doesn’t happen overnight and to be kind with yourself during the journey even if you binge eat, eat too much, eat for comfort etc. That it can take a long time to really master intuitive eating and there will be moments or times when you slip. Diet recovery is what this is. One of the exercises was a table where you chronicled your diet history. I can’t remember every diet I’ve ever been on so I summarized but then I remembered a period in my life during ages 24-25, that I gave up dieting. We had a house fire and lost everything and then moved to Kendallville, Indiana, close to where my first husband worked. We rented this home out on some farmland and tended the owner’s trail horses as well as helped with his business, cattle and horses. I had two small daughters and mid way through my 25th year, I became pregnant.

For whatever reason, maybe just the shock of losing everything material, I forgot about dieting. I was staying at home with my daughters, working on the farm, being active without thinking about it. Doing things I loved, like having a garden and being around animals. We didn’t have a lot of money so I cooked most of our meals with a fast food treat now and again. As far as I can remember, I ate when I was hungry, didn’t worry about what I was eating and other than working on the farm and walking the treadmill I bought at Walmart for Christmas, that was it. When spring came, I needed some cooler clothes. We were doing better money wise at this point, so I decided to start shopping a little bit every pay day to refurbish my lost wardrobe. I remember trying on a dress for Easter and finding that my size was too big. See, I had been living pretty much in sweat pants and loose clothing that I had bought after the fire. Since I wasn’t working outside of the home, these had sufficed. Cheap and comfy but I hadn’t realized I had been tightening the sweat pants draw string. I had somehow gone from a size 18/20 to a 14/16 without even trying.

I still can remember that moment in the dressing room when I tried on the size 20 dress only to have it hang off my body. Then when the size 14 fit, I was practically jumping up and down in the fitting room. After I gave birth to my third daughter, I was a size 16 and started into the diet and working out for exercise routine which eventually ballooned me up to a very uncomfortable size 22. My knees hurt walking up the stairs from my heft. I’d diet, fail, binge, diet, fail, binge. I was really unhappy in my 30’s, and by the time I was 35, I was severely depressed and threatening to run out of clothing sizes. Your body is so efficient at saving you from starvation, you just getting fatter and fatter by dieting.

The authors quoted some interesting studies. Six year study of the Biggest Loser contestants shows that their metabolism had slowed down 500 calories a day. A day! The body fought back and made itself more efficient. They also found the contestants had more lean muscle mass at the beginning than at the end after the weight loss. The body was cannibalizing itself for energy. We think back to years before people were obsessed by dieting which really started in earnest in the 1970’s and we see pictures of normally not overweight people. They say portion sizes were less, people didn’t eat out as much and so on. Which is all true. But they also weren’t dieting as a whole or a way of life.

Here is something else in The Intuitive Eating Workbook that I found interesting. A study with overweight Type 2 diabetes people was done over six years with the control group not being placed on diet and exercise that the test group participated in. At the end of the six years, the dieters had a worse prognosis than those in the control group. Researchers were shocked. A UCLA study found that found that fifty-million people who were overweight or obese per BMI standards were actually healthy otherwise. I’ve always felt that BMI is a load of crap. If you want the study references, send me a message and I’ll point you to them.

Dieting could very possibly making us unhealthier in the long run. That is an interesting concept. But when I think back to some of the times when I was suffering most especially with digestive issues was when I had been dieting frequently or strictly. Maybe restricting your food intake and ignoring your body’s needs causes sickness. I mean it does make sense. Your body is asking for what it needs and you smack it down and say NO!. I wish I could attest to whether or not I feel better or more energetic, but two of the five weeks, I have been fighting a nasty flu. I’ll report back on that at a later time.

On a side note, I found a new body-positive podcast called Fearless Rebelle Radio by Summer Innanen. I haven’t finished Episode #111 – Change Your Relationship to Movement – With Louise Green – author of Big Fit Girl but so far I am loving the whole bigger body – fitness message in this episode. It’s like going to group therapy, with the having to sit in an awkward circle with strangers part. I feel very uplifted listening to podcasts like this that aren’t about getting skinny, but doing movement you love without the purpose of losing weight. Actually, the more physically active I become, the less weight loss I saw anyway as I put on muscle. But normally my measurements would decrease but the idea of giving even that aspect up and just enjoying my favorite fitness pursuits like cycling is so freeing and joyful. Challenging myself to new fitness levels because it makes me feel good and not to lose 10 pounds. Check out Fearless Rebelle Radio for yourself. Summer has a lot of different topics.

So in conclusion, all this is a work in progress but it is getting a bit more automatic. Some days I eat often and other days not much at all. Sometimes I will fix or reheat something only to find I don’t want it so I don’t force myself to eat it. It’s nice to not eat something I don’t really want. I do have a long road to go, probably a lifetime but I am happy that I’ve gone in this direction. I hope others will join me as well, shrugging off the chains of calorie counting and forced gym time. Life is truly so short, eat the cake, if you’re hungry and want it!

Week 3: Peace With Food Journal – Stay Strong!

This week has been about being very mindful of diet mentality and behavior. It has also been about not weighing myself eve though the urge to “check” and see if I’ve made any progress is powerful. But I am afraid if I give in to my urge to step on that damned scale, I turn my intuitive eating lifestyle that I am cultivating into a ‘diet’. All these years of judging myself based on what I weigh and my size is going to take some time to overcome. I wish it was overnight but it’s going to take hard work. I can’t undo years of thinking that my weight and body size define who I am as a person. Smaller = better person & happier. Bigger = Miserable failure.

I reflected over my life and think of all the diets I’ve tried, the millions of magazine articles I’ve read, all the health tips and studies which the next year, they are saying oh never mind, it’s actually okay in moderation. Coffee won’t really give you diabetes or whatever. Or eggs won’t kill you. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said everything in moderation. She lived to be almost 101 years old. The only thing I remembered she would do is eat a banana and drink orange juice every day to keep her mind in good shape as she aged. It certainly didn’t hurt her. I mean there are some things you don’t want to have ‘just a little’ of such as crack and heroin. But as far as food, unless you have a severe allergy or medical issue forbidding a food, I can’t think of anything that if you just had a bit of it, that it’s going to kill you.

In other words, food isn’t the enemy. Food is our friend and we’ve been villainizing it for years. And then there are the ‘miracle’ foods that I have yet to have experienced a miracle from eating grapefruit 2x’s a day for weeks. Common sense need to take over here. If diets worked, I wouldn’t be fat. If all the drinks and diet aids etc. companies want you to push worked, we wouldn’t be fat and then we wouldn’t need these products. They want you to feel you must be dependent on them and keep buying them because they want their cut of the billions spent in the diet industry. Think of what would happen if we all took the money we spent on diet products/drinks, diet books, programs, gyms we hate, etc. and put toward world hunger? Billions of dollars to feed the starving in our country and other countries.

Billions. Billions. According to Time Magazine, 66.7 BILLION….. What good could we do in the world, in our neighborhood, with that money? Remember the diet industry doesn’t want you to get thin without having to continue on their meetings or products because they want your money. That’s all it is about, the almighty buck. There isn’t some team of corporate board members sitting at the fancy conference table saying, ‘Gee, Bob, I really want to help people who are overweight, let’s find the fix for it and give it out at low-cost without any maintenance products, etc. to keep funneling money into our pockets. We will cure obesity.” I mean maybe there is, but I highly doubt it. Scientifically, this may be happening but they have yet to find the ‘fix’ for obesity just yet. I’m going to find out if my ‘fix’ is just to trust myself and my body for what it wants.

Also, I am working on my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food labels that are burned into my brain much like the grape jelly the other week. I ate grape jelly and my health did not come to a sweeping halt. Grape jelly isn’t ‘bad’. Yes it has sugar in it and not a lot of nutritional value but it tastes so good. And guess what? I didn’t binge on grape jelly by having it. No giant spoon in the jar taking huge bites of nothing but wiggly dark purple grape jelly. One day at work this week, I had the distinct craving for little cookies that come in the vending machine. So I took a handful of change, wandered down to the break room and studied the offerings. The little vanilla cream sandwich cookies or the tiny choc chip cookies? Chocolate chip won. I took them back to my desk, put down a napkin and opened is so the cookies spilled out the bright blue packaging. Then I slowly enjoyed and savored each cookie. I didn’t shovel them into my mouth like I had to hurry up and eat them before someone saw the fat girl was eating tiny cookies. I debated on whether to go get a second pack. I scanned my body to see what it wanted and one pack was just fine. World didn’t end. I didn’t go up a size. And I was happy.

So essentially this week is just staying strong. Keeping on the path of teaching myself to listen to my body, using intuitive eating. While it’s a simple theory, overcoming years of dieting behavior and judgmental crap makes it more difficult than one would think. The other thing I continue to work on is showing myself kindness and not judging myself. If I eat a little too much at a meal and am overly full, I stop myself from saying things in my mind like “OMG, you just are such a pig” and replacing them with gentle prompts like “I wonder why I ate too much?” I am trying to replace the judgmental with observational kindness. Learning from the moment rather than beating myself up. I wonder if all the beating myself up over the years has contributed to my overeating? I feel bad for eating too much, beat myself up mentally or sometimes even out loud, then I comfort myself with more food. I can see how that could easily be a cycle.

I’ve continued to listen to my podcasts as much as possible as they are much like going to a support group without the awkward circle of chairs and all that sharing. On one of the podcasts, the dietitian suggested to look at pictures of people of larger bodies having fun, and being happy to reprogram ourselves from shying away from these images or in real life. You can follow ‘Be Your Own Beloved” campaign on Instagram as well if you want to do this. I thought this was an interesting point because I never really thought about if I was uncomfortable looking at people with larger bodies including myself. I’m better at looking at myself in the mirror and being less judgmental than ten years ago, but I’m not really completely comfortable with how I look. I rarely post any full body shots of myself on social media perferring headshots as it hides my body. So I think it’s a good project, working on being more comfortable with myself and other people in larger bodies. Cringing at myself in the full length mirror because I have a belly is not accepting myself!

I’ve adopted the mantra ‘stay strong!’ as a reminder to keep following the principles of intuitive eating, to trust my body, to fight my long engrained diet mentality, to let go of judging myself by weight and size. Though, I have to remain vigilant right now just about every waking hour to fight my old habits, I imagine eventually it will become natural for me. Not that I won’t have setbacks or fall back into dieting mentality. One of the podcasts I listened to this week on Love, Food, was where this woman had been doing very well for a few years with intuitive eating and then suddenly had the impulse to go back to dieting because she saw herself in some photos. She didn’t look the way she thought she should look and it was enough to send her back to dieting for awhile. So, I don’t believe that I will just magically be fixed and not have moments where I slip.

So the bottom line for Week 3:

1. Stay Strong – Keep the faith, stay alert and keep pushing on.

2. Stay Kind – Don’t get upset or angry with yourself. It’s hard sometimes but show yourself love and kindness.

3. Enjoy Food – Eat when you are hungry and only what you want (or the closest you can get to at the time)

4. Stop when Satiated – I’m still learning my cues of when I’m full but noticed this week I wasn’t uncomfortably full but once.

5. Stop and Take Note – If you find yourself overeating or eating when not hungry, stop for a moment and scan what it is you really need, feel or want. Be gentle.

6. You Deserve Love – We are all worthy of love for ourselves as well as love and respect from others no matter what our size. If someone is being disrespectful or harmful to you, you can take charge of the situation. You can’t fix or control their behavior but you can make the choice to speak up for yourself, distance yourself or ignore their stupidity.

That’s it for Week 3. More later. Happy eating! 🙂

Week 2 – Peace With Food Journal

It’s a few days less than a week, but I’m adjusting my ‘week’ so I can publish my blog post on Saturdays when people may have more time to actually sit down and read since most of us work weekdays. I’ve deviated from the daily entries now to sum up my impressions for the week.

Mainly, my diet mentality is strong. As I practice being very mindful of when I am actually hungry, what I truly want to eat and my satiety cues, I realized that I categorize foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as well as ‘make me fat’ and ‘won’t make me fat’. At first, I was angry with myself but I gently reminded my impatient goal-driven brain to be kind with myself, I have many, many years of judging foods and not trusting my body. This is simply a habit I will have to work hard on breaking. There are no “bad” foods, just foods that are more nutritious and less nutritious. I heard this on the Love, Food podcast by Julie Duffy Dillon – Love, Food Podcast. I really recommend her show as it is a very supportive non-diet environment that encourages people to use intuitive eating. Julie is a dietitian as well. I listen to the podcast in the car and at work when I can. One episodes she was talking about how there are no ‘bad’ foods but nutritious and less nutritious foods. In other words, there are no foods off limit but you do want to eat exactly what you want at that moment.

On Wednesday, I made my first big shopping trip since I started my peace with food journey. It was in the evening, the stores were packed because of the upcoming snow storm that hit yesterday with freezing rain and what looks like a few inches of snow from my home office window. I had my list but I also walked through the aisles ignoring the commotion around me as shoppers frantically grabbed supplies (the bread aisle was almost empty). Again, I am fighting the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food ideals I’ve seared into my brain. I took my time, walking up and down most aisles and even the junk food aisle I almost always avoid as if Satan himself will pop up between the chips and pretzels. He will then turn me into a big fat waddling whale. You know what? I didn’t run into Satan and I didn’t make any impulse purchases. I didn’t fill my cart with chips and candy. I walked up and down the junk food aisle twice looking at all the colorful and enticing packaging while asking myself, do I want this? Does this sound good? Do I want giant orange cheese poofs? Hmmm… nope.

I go to two different stores, Kroger for mainly produce and dairy as well as wine and things I can’t get at Wal-Mart. I love Kroger Brand ice cream as well. I did buy ice cream but that was on my list anyway. Since Wednesday, I’ve literally had one small bowl of ice cream. I have not binged on it at all. Because I am allowed to have ice cream so it takes away the urge to woof it down in rebellion. Speaking of binges, Dillion states in her newsletter (she has a free newsletter you can sign up for) that we should be kind to ourselves even when we binge. That it’s okay, it’s our way of coping with something and to soothe ourselves. She has a new podcast relating to this subject this week though I haven’t listened to it yet. Essentially, it comes down to showing ourselves the kindness that we show the people we love and even strangers. Allowing myself any food, to eat when I am hungry and not starving myself until the next meal, even if it means I eat ten times that day, eases that whole “I’ll never get enough” fear in the back of my mind.

Unfortunately, I stepped on a scale this week. And the number really means nothing. It’s roughly the same as the last time. I haven’t lost or gained any weight but I felt disappointed in myself for not losing. Then I felt angry for myself for giving into the urge to weigh. Then I took a deep breath, shook it off and reminded myself, just don’t step on that stupid scale. You don’t have to keep measuring your size or weight. You are free from this constant judgement of your body. Just let go of this mentality. I remind myself if I get bigger it is okay, being bigger doesn’t make me a bad person or a loser or a failure. If I get smaller, I remind myself that this doesn’t make me ‘better’, just a different size. I am not my size. My family and close friends aren’t going to stop caring about me if I go up a size and I won’t get more friends or a magically happy life if I go down sizes. Thin doesn’t make you a better person. Thin doesn’t give you the perfect life. It is just a bigger body or a smaller body.

Trusting my body to know what it wants is hard when you are fighting all your old triggers, diet mentality, fear of getting bigger, fear of not being accepted, fear of people making fun of you and so on. Letting myself eat when hungry and circumventing the strict meal ideals that I shouldn’t eat between meals, has also cut down on any overeating. There was one evening that I found myself just a little bit too full. I took a moment to think about what I did to reach to that point and realized, that I hurriedly ate some dessert immediately after dinner. In addition, I served myself more dessert than I actually wanted and then felt I must eat it all. The next time, I waited until I really wanted dessert even though I had already started the dishwasher. Having a bowl and a spoon in the sink overnight would not end the world. A few nights, I didn’t bother at all with dessert or I ate a couple of mints we keep in a bowl on the kitchen pie safe. That was what I wanted.

We hear a lot of ‘rules’ in our life about how to eat or not eat. Don’t eat after 6 p.m. Brush your teeth and call it a night. Sometimes though, I’m hungry at 9 p.m. I’ve stopped ignoring this cue and asked myself what I wanted to eat. The last time it was just I wanted a banana. I ate the banana and it tasted extra sweet for some reason. I try to eat mindfully instead of shoving the food into my mouth. This really helps you pick up on your own internal cues. I have a lot to learn yet, but I am truly much happier getting off the dieting, food rules, and good/bad food lists merry-go-round. This frees up a lot of time to do other things since I’m not fretting or feeling depressed about my weight. Trusting your body = freedom & a happier existence.

The other thing I noticed this week is my internal self-talk when I walk by a mirror. I notice my rounded belly and start to think OMG it’s so big. Again, here is another item that I have to work on. Chiding myself for how I look isn’t showing myself kindness. When I catch myself doing this, I make myself say out loud something I love about my body or looks. Such as “I have pretty eyes” or “my thighs are really strong”. Retraining my thought patterns. Funny, I thought I had eliminated my negative self-talk but it’s still there to a smaller degree but in the background.

So what I’ve learned this week is this journey isn’t simple or easy but it does feel joyful and gives you a sense of freedom. It won’t be overnight and could take several years so I must be patient . I have to pay attention to my tendency to use good/bad food labels. I need to continue listening to my hunger cues and what I want to eat, when I am hungry and stop when I am just satisfied so I don’t feel grossly over full. It just doesn’t feel good when your stomach is the equivalent of a lead balloon. I still need to work on negative self-talk and stay off the scale. Maybe do some meditation on letting go of a bigger body = bad and smaller body = good mentality. I am not my size. I am allowed to leave food on my plate. I also noticed I don’t drink a lot of fluids so I am going to focus on using my fancy glass water bottle I bought this summer and drinking more. I am going to take my vitamin supplements more often. Maybe add in some omega 3 & 6 after reading an article in Psychology Today about how our moods may be affected by our nutrition. Did you know your intestines carry two pounds of gene material? Yes, I’m a nerd, I love reading this stuff.

So this weekend and coming week, just be kind to yourself. Listen to your hunger cues and eat whatever the hell your body tells you it wants. Maybe put the scale away and give yourself a hug. Life won’t end if you’re a size 18 and not a size 8. You are wonderful and beautiful and amazing no matter what. Yes, you are. Don’t argue with me because I’m right! :-). Hugs and love as well as peace with your body and food. xoxoxo

Getting Angry With Chronic Mild Depression (Dysthmia)

For most of my life, I have struggled with depression at least mildly. There have been a few incidences where it has become more serious and dark for which I needed anti-depressants and therapy. Before I write anything else, if you are struggling with serious depression and/or are thinking of harming yourself, run, don’t walk to the phone and call your doctor or therapist. They can really help you even if it feels nothing can. Disclaimer: what I discuss next is not meant to replace treatment or a health professional’s advice or prescribed treatment. This is only my experience and may not work for another soul. Please do not stop your treatment without your doctor’s approval. Or not see a doctor or therapist if you feel your depression is persisting or serious. I can’t stress this enough.

Depression just isn’t just in you head but it is a physiological condition in which your brain chemistry is affected. I have been diagnosed with Dysthmia which is a chronic mild depression which you can find more information about at WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-depression-dysthymia#1. Scientists aren’t sure what causes dysthmia but they believe it could be possibly genetic, major life stressors or a combination of things. My cousin on my paternal side is affected by depression similarly to me. Over the past few years, we have discovered that frequently we can be in similar bouts of depression at the same time leading us to wonder if it is part of our genes. Also, our parents, his mother and my father, were seriously alcoholics and we both suffered dysfunctional as well as traumatic childhoods from this which also might be another reason we struggle with depression so frequently. People who have been victims of abuse and trauma seem to have higher incidences of depression as if the events whack out our brain chemistry. There are a ton of articles out there about this, feel free to do your own research.

The great thing about my cousin and I reconnecting after many years is that we have candid conversations about our current life struggles. Mostly by text as we are several states apart, we offer each other support and a sounding board. This fall, I was out hiking alone as I do frequently and felt the enormous weight of depression spoiling what was a beautiful hike. I had just written a post about depression a few days before and decided I was going to start keeping a depression journal in order to pinpoint what makes it worse and what helps ease my depression: https://laurasrandomthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/11/ For two days, I took a notebook and made notes on how I felt, how bad was my depression, etc. Then, feeling depressed, I decided to get out and walk since the day was warm and the sun was out. Trying “nature’s cure” (I do believe time spent outdoors in nature helps my depression immensely), I drove to one of my favorite hiking spots and started walking.

I texted my cousin as I stood on a picturesque bridge that crosses a small stream. I don’t remember what I said exactly but I told him it’s a beautiful day out, my life is good and I’m fucking depressed AGAIN. I returned to my hiking and for whatever reason I started to wonder if I was making my depression worse by focusing so much on it. Was I giving it more power than I should? Was doing journal entries on depression just keeping it in my life? I found myself angry. I was tired of struggling with this shit. The mind is an organ that we don’t understand but there are many studies on the ‘placebo effect’ where if you believe something is ‘curing’ you, it actually can work. While I don’t believe depression is “just in your head” and it is physiological, could I not change this utilizing the placebo effect theory? I didn’t know but I knew I did not want to go through the rest of my life with this monkey on my back.

Out of nowhere the mantra “Fuck the monkey, I am happy” popped into my head. Anger swelled around the words but also determination. Luckily, it was a weekday and the trails were fairly empty because I am not sure what people might have thought passing a middle-aged woman muttering loudly to herself “Fuck the monkey, I am happy!” At that point I didn’t care. I just kept hiking and repeating this phrase until surprisingly, by the time I reached my car, the heavy weight of my depression wasn’t there. A fluke? I wondered but felt better. When I got home, I tore out the pages from my notebook where I had been writing my depression observations. What if I focused not on the issue, but on something positive? So I started (and still am keeping) a “Challenge” journal. Each day I log two things – 1. What I did that day to get outside my comfort zone. It can be as simple as “pushed myself to walk faster” or “Spoke to a stranger at the store instead of ignoring them”. Whatever I can do each day to stretch myself, goes in this journal. I’m in a rut. I need to get out of it.

The second thing I record is a “Good Deed” or GD for short. Each day I am looking for opportunities to show kindness and love to people outside of my normal routine. Being nice to someone I don’t really like even though normally I just ignore them (seems like I ignore people a lot), helping someone at the store, saying hello and smiling at a stranger. One day, I was checking out at Walmart and there was this enormous woman in one of those electric carts behind me. She smelled bad and probably had a hard time showering. I heard her grunting painfully as she was trying to reach stuff out of her cart and put it on the checkout belt. Normally, I would have just kept my back turned and prayed they hurried up checking me out. This time, I turned and politely asked her if I could assist her. She was surprised and didn’t answer right away but she finally said “Yes, that would be really nice.” So I held my breath and emptied her cart for her. She smiled bit and thanked me. I told her to have a nice holiday as it was before Christmas and she wished me the same. While the action was small, it made me feel good to not be such a snob and do something for someone else even if they did smell bad. Just the act of stretching out of my normal ways, helps me feel more alive.

Two months have passed since the day I was hiking and adopted my “Fuck the monkey” mantra. Every time I feel depression slinking up, I meditate on this mantra no matter what I am doing or where I am. As soon as I can take five minutes to myself, I sit or lie quietly even if there is a lot of activity around me and meditate on those words with my eyes closed. I focus hard on the desire to no longer struggle with dysthmia. So how has it worked? So far, it’s been awesome. Even over Christmas which is very difficult for me since I lost my mom, I felt a few tinges of sadness but I did not sink under the dark, heavy blanket of depression. I’ve actually been truly enjoying life. I’ve been more positive and much less negative. I feel joy. I feel light. I feel peace.

While I hesitate to say that I’m cured from depression because I don’t want to jump the gun, I believe I found a powerful way to deal with it’s chronic presence. Getting angry and making up my mind that I was no longer going to allow depression to make me so unhappy, seems to have helped. Utilizing my mantra and meditation at the first twinge of depression so far seems to short-circuit the days and days of darkness. The mind is a powerful tool and I don’t believe we even understand the smallest portion of it’s function but I will take my results. I was using depression as a way to hide from the world and an excuse not to participate fully in my life. Oh, I’m depressed, I’m going to go brood in bed all day. Poor me. I suffer from chronic depression. Depression was my safety net when I didn’t want to engage in life. Maybe I was making myself depressed to hide. I don’t know but it makes sense.

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t have another major depressive episode or that the dysthmia will return full force but I am so very happy at this moment that for the first time in years, I feel really good. That I’m not anxiously waiting for the next episode. I feel as if the clouds have parted and the sun is shining over me for the first time in many years. The monkey on my back, weighting me down, is on hiatus. Hopefully forever. Life is too short to sit around feeling depressed all the time. It’s too short to hide behind depression. Maybe my brain chemistry is challenged, I think this is true, but if I have any way of influencing it, I’m going to keep using that method. Though I do not want to be on drugs. Those are good for short term if I have major depression, but I don’t want to utilize drugs every day if it can be avoided.

What I do know is I enjoy my life much more in the past few months than I have since, well honestly, I can’t remember. Maybe when I was a kid. Maybe ever. One of my goals for 2018 is to work on gaining inner peace even when there is a ‘storm’ raging around me. To not let people get under my skin so much, to be more positive in general, and as my other posts recently state, find peace with food, my weight, and my body. To live in joy even though life is far from perfect.

Here’s to finding peace and happiness.

Week 1 – Peace with Food Daily Journal Entries

Below I’ve detailed the first seven days on my peace with food journey. A quick summary of the week is thus: I finally put away my scale and tape measure to further cement my commitment to trusting myself and my body. I’ll admit, it’s a little scary letting these go. I’ve reintroduced some “bad” foods back into my diet and the world didn’t end. I discovered that especially at work, I tend to starve myself without realizing it and I have a lot of subconscious ‘food rules’ I’ve picked up over the years. Eating when I’m hungry doesn’t mean forcing myself to wait until a certain time to eat and if possible, I need to stop whatever project I am working on and eat even a little snack if I can’t break away completely. I need to go shopping and stock my desk with more options for snacks. My diet mentality is strong and infiltrates most parts of my life. This is going to take a lot of time and mindfulness to get out of my life but I believe it will make me happier and more at peace. After the first week of trusting myself to eat when hungry, I still fit into my jeans and I have no idea if I gained or lost any weight. And it doesn’t matter either way. My weight doesn’t make me as a person. I am a bit happier person at the end of the week. And I definitely feel a sense of freedom. I am more than a number on a scale. Keep reading for a more detailed account of each day.

Day 1 – January 2, 2018. My first full day back in the office. What I noticed is I forcibly starve myself ignoring my hunger cues. Why? Probably a combination of I don’t want to be that fat woman sitting in her cube constantly eating for people to make fun of, not that I actually think any of my coworkers even care. Second, it is probably learned diet behavior. I’ll wait for lunch time to eat, no earlier than noon or my day will seem longer. Stupid rules I made up in my head. I found myself feeling very joyful and excited that I could eat whatever I wanted when I was hungry. I even ate my lunch before noon. I need to stock my desk more with snacks and foods I like to eat. We have vending machines but nothing really appeals to me there except once in awhile. Did I overeat? Nope. I ate until full. I ate only when hungry. Day 1 – fun, happy, joyful.

Day 2 – January 3, 2018. I work at home on Wednesdays and I was up early to get caught up on emails and entries that I couldn’t get to yesterday. I’m slammed with a major project and focused all my energy yesterday on getting the first part, the most time consuming part, done. I’m dealing today with some emails where people annoy me. I changed a process to prevent the annoyance. I take charge as much as I possibly can. Around 10:30, I start to feel hungry so I scan for what sounds good to me. Wheat toast lightly buttered and spread with a perfect layer of grape jelly. I never eat jelly! It’s all sugar and no fruit right? It’s BAD for you. I feel myself balk as I spread the dark purple deliciousness on my bread. No, diet mentality, you will not win! I sit down with my toast and a side of a Colby-jack cheese snack and savor something I haven’t allowed myself to have in, well, I don’t know that’s how long. Why have I denied myself a bit of grape jelly? I forgot how good it is, mixed in with a bit of melted butter. Mmmm.. My heart soars for grape jelly.

Day 3 – January 4, 2018. Had to take hubby for a medical procedure so my focus that day was more about him. It was a routine one but the whole thing brings back memories of dealing with my mom’s cancer because this procedure is how they found her first cancer. I wasn’t worried about him but the whole thing makes me anxious. I struggled with wanting to eat to comfort myself especially later that day once we were home and everything was confirmed A-OK. We did stop at one of my fave BBQ chains for lunch but I didn’t overeat. I ate my pulled pork (lunch portion – no bun because I have no interest in that bun) but I only ate about 1/3 of my potato salad (didn’t taste good to me) and half my hush puppies (did taste good but was getting full). I can remember when normally I’d stuff it all down until I was sick. Other than fighting feeling a big snackish in the evening which I think was more due to trying to comfort my previous anxiety, I didn’t overeat.

Day 4 – January 5, 2018. Back in the office and super busy. I wasn’t hungry right away so I had a banana to get me going and then ate my steel cut oatmeal about mid-morning when I became hungry. I did have to force myself to stop working when I got hungry because I caught myself thinking I could wait longer. On Fridays, I go out for lunch with my best friend to this little ‘dive’ type place. I ordered my usual (for now – it changes off and on) of a grilled cheese and a half order of fresh cut fries with a can of Coca-Cola. They were a little slight on the fries and I worried I would get hungry later but I didn’t. I ended up packing my fruit back into my tote bag at the end of the day. I kept feeling like I wanted candy, I think because it’s Friday and that seems like a day for celebration but when I asked myself what I really wanted, nothing appealed to me. I got busy into my work again and completely forgot about candy. When I left work, I thought maybe I’d go through town and stop for a treat but I couldn’t find a treat I wanted, so I just got my car washed and headed home. Later I made a pan of from scratch cream cheese brownies because these sounded really good to me. I ate 1.5 brownies over the course of the night. I ate what I wanted. I didn’t go all batshit crazy and consume the whole pan because I baked the forbidden sweet. Knowing I could have the brownie or two or three brownies if I really wanted them and was actually hungry definitely soothed my fear of ‘not enough’ or the guilt from ‘being fat” or ‘needing to diet’ shame. Today I noticed how I use food to reward myself. It’s Friday, I need treats, I made it through the week. Except when I step back and really look at what I wanted, my usual go to treats weren’t even on the list. And I didn’t feel guilty for succumbing to my love of baking. I had all but given it up because I thought it was making me fat. That made me sad to not bake. Now I have given myself the freedom to bake whatever the hell I want. Feels really good and makes me happy.

Day 5 – January 6, 2018. To weigh or not to weigh? I’m struggling with this question. I’ve been considering weighing myself either once a week or once a month on the same day. While I am no longer looking to lose weight and accept whatever my natural size is, I still have a strong desire to measure my ‘progress’. On one hand, I feel like I should get rid of the scale completely and never weigh myself again, ignoring the number even when I have to be weighed at the doctor’s office. That idea makes me anxious and a bit panicky. Does this mean the scale has way too much power over my life? I think so. If I weigh myself even once a month, doesn’t that mean I’m still using that measurement to judge myself and my worth? Yes. Do I NEED to know my weight? Doctors need it when they have to prescribe but they take it in the office. There are weight limits on rides and such but I have no plans on going to the amusement park soon. So no, I don’t have many reasons to need to know my exact weight every day. Maybe once or twice a year if that. My clothes can tell me if I’m getting bigger or smaller. That’s pretty reliable. So if I keep weighing myself, I am utilizing the scale as a judgmental tool. What if I gain weight? I’m going to feel horrible about myself. If I lose weight I’ll feel good but then I have a tendency to eat more in celebration (I know, it doesn’t make much sense). I think it’s time to move the scale out into the garage pantry and forget it is there. I can’t be free of the diet mentality until I stop caring what that number reads on the scale. I can’t trust my body if I’m relying on a number that can change 5-8 pounds in a few days based on how much water weight I’m holding. I vow to give up the scale and not care about my weight. I am more than a number. This is a bit scary but I can do it. I won’t balloon to 500 lbs if I don’t weigh myself. I will trust my body. I will trust myself. I’m not out of control. I don’t need supervised, I am a grown ass woman. I got this!

Day 7 – January 7, 2018. While cleaning the master bathroom, I moved the scale to a less tempting place and I also put away my sewing tape measure I use to track body measurements. I have removed all the ways I can track progress of weight gain or loss except for how I feel and my clothes. Doing so makes me anxious as how am I going to stop myself from blowing up even bigger without my tools of measurement? I reminded myself that I can trust my body, I just need to pay attention to my hunger cues, etc. and I will be fine. Trusting myself is going to take some time but on the other hand, I feel freedom and peace with this decision. I’ve had a diet mentality since I was around 11 years old when my well-meaning grandmother was weighing me and putting me on diets which started my binge eating. Though I was tall, maybe 5’5 then and only weighed around 125 lbs, I was not fat at all so I’m not sure what my grandmother was thinking. Now I’m 47 years old and maybe even as much as 100 pounds overweight though I don’t know what my “ideal”weight is because I carry a lot more muscle now from my athletic pursuits. I do though have to undo 36 years of diet mentality. Thirty-six years of people telling me I am fat, doctors chiding me, reading 1000’s of fitness and health articles as well as many diet books, going on what seems like a gazillion diets, not to mention all the shame and guilt I’ve carried over my weight. What if I could get all that time back? What if I could have treated myself kindly instead of beating myself up for eating X or weighing myself only to cry over the number on the scale? I don’t have the answer to that question but I do know that I have a lot of work ahead of me to break the diet mentality. My daughter was browsing the Valentines candy at the store and she sent me a picture of a 3 lb Hershey milk chocolate bar. I love Hershey’s bars but my first through was OMG I can’t buy that, I’d weigh 300 pounds. I caught myself and thought you can have it if you really want this giant candy bar. For a moment, I felt giddy like a kid who is looking forward to Christmas. When was the last time I felt that way about food? Can’t remember. Though I don’t think I will buy that candy bar, just having the option to have it guilt free if I want it, makes me happy.