My Struggle With Intuitive Eating & Emotional Overeating

Toward the end of 2018, I decided to make some pledges (not resolutions) to myself and my own well-being. They are:

  1. My Health & Fitness – Conquering my overeating & shed the extra “person” I carry from the result of not dealing with my emotions, boredom, etc.
  2. My Peace – I can’t control other people/situations but I can control how I react.
  3. My Self-Care – Putting this first, I deserve it at all times.
  4. My Joys – Once my responsibilities are taken care of, I deserve to spend my time in ways that make me happy and joyous.

So No. 1 is what I’m going to focus on though they all sort of tie in together. First off, #1 is not a diet. I’m not counting calories or forcing myself to work out to burn calories. Sometimes I log my food to pick up on trouble spots, make myself more mindful when I’m eating at points that I’m not hungry and maybe need to address some underlying emotions or issues. When I started Intuitive Eating, I didn’t address the core reason I struggle with overeating to start with. Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic household, food became my drug of choice since when you’re 9-10 years old you usually don’t have access to drugs and alcohol. Though watching my father, I knew I didn’t want to abuse alcohol. Food was my friend, my comfort and still is today except now I want to go a step further and shed my frequent need for comforting with food. This feels like one of the final steps I need to take in my journey to overcoming my past abuses and traumas. Frankly, I don’t want what happened to me in the past to win.

Long story short, I didn’t truly follow Intuitive Eating (IE) as it is intended. I used it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, but I wasn’t eating to true hunger, I was shoveling junk into my big mouth to buffer the pain and anxiety from my past. Then I blamed IE for failing me. Nope, I failed me. I was eating when I wasn’t truly hungry. I wasn’t listening to my body but to my emotions, my fears, my anxiety, my stress, my boredom, etc. IE didn’t fail me, I failed IE. I failed myself but it’s okay. It’s all in a learning and recovery process.

People who have suffered abuse, sexual trauma/rape etc. especially women, tend to be overweight as a coping mechanism.  Wearing a “fat suit” makes you feel safer from unwanted attention. Start to lose weight, get smaller and the moment you start garnering more uncomfortable attention, you’ll unconsciously start overeating to pad up your protective fat suit.  In a way, it feels like your superpower to be invisible to other people.  You can fade into the background considering you’re not being targeted for fat-shaming. 

In my life, I have experienced verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse so I struggle in many different ways but I’m determined to overcome these coping mechanisms. It’s time I break free of my past and live a freer life. I know I will always be haunted by my past but I don’t want it to win. I will falter but I will pick myself up, brush off and keep going. Eventually, the falls will become infrequent and I will also learn to catch myself before hitting the ground sometimes. But I have to be patient and kind with my trips. I just want to overcome and drop this baggage. I want to stop suffering, stop overeating and take care of my body. It feels like this extra “person” of fat/weight that I carry around weighs me down and serves as a constant reminder that I’m still letting my past win.

The principles of IE are simple:  Eat when hungry – eat what you want until just satisfied.  Incorporate gentle nutrition and joyful movement.  Well this is my take on it, the book is more involved but this is the overall view.  When you are struggling with emotional/stress overeating, it throws in an additional challenge.  I’m not going to diet any more.  I’m not going to weigh or measure myself.  It has never once helped in the long run.  I’m not going to berate myself for what I eat but I’m also going to stop ignoring my emotional overeating and fool myself to believe oh, it’s just intuitive eating.  Um, yeah, Laura, nope, nice try.  Stop excusing your overeating as IE.  Just stop it already.

The other night, hubby and I went to Walmart to get some groceries but it had started pouring down rain while we were inside.  Our car was halfway up the parking lot so I grabbed ahold of the cart, bracing some of my weight on the handle and started running toward it.  Because some of my weight was being carried by the cart, I felt this incredible lightness.  I couldn’t tell you how many pounds the cart way holding but it doesn’t really matter.  The experience made me think of how much better I would feel if I was not carrying an extra ‘person’ of weight.  How much lighter and stronger I would feel.  How much more I could do.  Of course this triggered the whole dieting thing in my head, but I pushed it out of my mind.  I can’t live my life dieting.  But I can live my life honoring what my body wants and needs.  I can honor my life by dealing with the hard emotions, loneliness, sadness, grief, anger, frustration, etc. by facing those uncomfortable feelings.  My body is padded with all my overeating.  

Another recent experience is I deleted all my fitness tracking apps off of my phone.  Since my late teens, movement has been mandated exercise to lose weight.  I must walk, ride, run, hike – X amount of time at Y intensity to burn Z calories.  It was never about joy or enjoyment.  Diet mentality sucks.  One day I walked four miles with my daughter on the bike path.  Several times I caught myself thinking – ‘you better walk faster you’re not burning enough calories’, ‘quit stopping, your heart rate will drop’ and ‘push, push, push’.  Each time, I would push those thoughts out of my mind and go back to enjoying what I was doing.  If I wanted to stop and poke under the leaf litter hoping to find an early wildflower, then so be it.  If I wanted to stop and take a few photos of an area, no problem.  If I just wanted to stop, close my eyes and breathe in the fresh air, go for it.  Somewhere along the way, I had completely given up my enjoyment of being outside moving.   Without realizing it, we had walked four miles (my phone auto tracks steps and I checked out of habit).  

The next day, it was warmer and the sun was in and out.  Being in west-central Ohio, the winters can be brutal and I wanted to get back outside.  This time I drove to a park fairly close to my house that has a lot of off pavement trails as walking on pavement makes my knees and hips hurt if I do it too much.  Even though it was muddy, I brought an extra pair of hiking shoes and set off.  This time the exercise Nazi in my head was quieter.  A few times, she popped up but I ignored her commands.  I wasn’t on a set schedule and had several hours to myself.  Before, I would have my exercise tracking app on and be compulsively checking it for my average walking speed, calories burned and time elapsed.  I’d be hiking briskly, not stopping to admire much of anything.  

Three different times, I had scared up a giant blue heron who was fishing in the creek and nearby small lake in the park.  The last time I saw him, he was standing on a slowly shrinking ice patch at one end of the lake.  He cocked his head to one side so he could see me better as I slowly approached.  I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures with my camera.  I crept along the trail excited that he hadn’t flown away this time.  He watched me cautiously and I watched him.  As I gently took soft steps, I was able to get closer photos until I had walked right by him (or her – I have no idea how to tell them apart).  I stood there staring back at him, taking in the quiet of the day, the sun coming in and out from behind the traveling clouds.  Maybe, I thought, if I were to have a spirit animal, maybe it’s a blue heron.  

Eventually, I moved on and he stayed on his ice perch to fish.  As I finished my hike, I reflected on my heron encounter.  A month ago, I would have been so focused on burning calories that I would have barreled down the trail scaring the heron a fourth time.  I wouldn’t have given myself permission to just go gently, slowly and enjoy the encounter with reverence and awe of such a beautiful bird.  My mom used to say ‘like a bull in a china shop’.  Well that’s been me going through my life breaking things and missing the delicate cues of the world around me.  Missing the beauty of the ‘china’.  I don’t want to be the bull anymore.  I don’t want to charge through my life.  

When I got back to my car, I was surprised to find I had walked five miles based on my phone’s step counter.  This time I checked out of sheer curiosity and not a goal.  If I had set my goal to hike five miles, I would have charged through just wanting to get it over with and on to the next thing.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed the hike like I did that day.  I’d been impatient and making up reasons in my head why I couldn’t possibly hike five miles.  But this time, I took my time, I took many photos with my phone (prompting me to order a recharageable portable power source since I almost ran the phone battery down).  I spent time just being present, being mindful.  I didn’t even notice I had hiked so far because distance wasn’t my goal.  Left to my own devices and enjoyment, I obviously will hike further than I would expect.  

Between the grocery cart experience and that day’s joyful hike, I realized I am on the right track.  I want to be lighter, more joyful, less encumbered and simply mindful.  When I ordered the power source, I also ordered a small sling day pack to carry a water bottle, maybe a sketch book, some charcoals and possibly my Nikon camera.  I also ordered a bracelet with a butterfly charm as a reminder to focus on the beautiful, to fly above the world’s expectations and BS, as a promise to myself to enjoy life, to honor what my body needs, to conquer the emotional/stress eating, to live the very best way I can.  I also ordered a pack of my fave Pilot V5 roller ball pens in a bunch of colors just because I wanted them and the bright chartreuse green is my fave.  

I don’t know if I will get smaller or lose weight.  The only way I will know is by how my clothes fit because I just can’t weigh or measure my self any more.   I don’t have an ideal size in mind, I figure this is up to my body to let me know what my size should be.  I believe that if I can for the most part eliminate emotional/stress overeating and that I listen to my body giving it gentle nutrition, that I may end up smaller/lighter.  Or not.  Either way it doesn’t matter.   The goal is to overcome old, poor habits and trust myself and my body.  That’s it.  To learn how to deal with my stress and emotions.  Instead of grabbing something sweet that I am not truly hungry for, I sit down and journal my feelings or go for a long walk to ease anxiety.  It’s all about self-care which I have ignored for years.  

It’s time to be brutally honest with myself each moment of every day and ask myself ‘what do you need right now?’.  There is truly no better time than right now to be my own best friend.  

 

 

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I Give Up! – Cultivating Peace with Food & My Body

As 2017 came to a close, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2018 and beyond. Cultivate more inner peace and not be swayed with every wind that crosses my path. In conjunction with that particular goal, I started thinking about my forever struggle with food and weight. I was considering returning to my food journal app as I had lost 20 pounds using it but then I delved deeper. When I used it my idea was that after six months, I would relearn and retrain myself to eat healthier. It takes three months to form a new habit so wouldn’t six months help ingrain it into my thick skull?

Well it must have not worked because I gained the weight back. On the food journal, I felt hungry a lot, I felt restricted and while I didn’t plan on it, I returned to my eating habits to an extent. I cut out my restaurant and fast food eating quite a bit though and started cooking more so it wasn’t all for naught. So it had partially the effect and result I wanted but my weight went right back to where it was. So as I considered if I wanted to just do the food journal for the rest of my life, I felt in my gut that no, I don’t want to be tied to an app. If I couldn’t learn how to eat better that way, then what was the point?

So I know what foods are good for me and what are not or so they say. I know what portion sizes look like. I exercise fairly regularly, that thank god, is not an issue for me as long as it is something I enjoy. So what is the issue? The issue started when I was 10 or 11 years old living in Lone Elm, Missouri, in a small two bedroom house next to the cemetery. My father was full out an alcoholic who didn’t work and my mother was struggling to keep the family together and the bills paid. My elementary school was literally a two-room Lutheran School and there was a whopping seven people in my class so my options for friends was pretty limited. Plus, I carried the stigma of being ‘Larry’s daughter’ and everyone knew when Larry would drive his car into a tree on one of the back roads. There are not many secrets in a small farming community.

I was having trouble sleeping then, I would sleep with the King James Bible under my pillow after reading Psalms to soothe myself. On particularly hard nights, I would tuck in my few stuffed animals around me as a fully wall of protection. Even though I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, I felt so alone. I would lie in my bed and stare out the window at the stars praying, praying and praying some more that we could be a normal family and my father would be healed from his disease. Then I would pray to God to help me sleep, I was growing more and more exhausted as my insomnia held fast. I was just a kid, I had no idea how to fix this issue. There was no one to talk to, no one to confide in as everyone just excused my dad’s behavior and behest my mom to honor her marriage vows so she would not leave.

But one night, I crept down the wooden stairs and shut the door behind me as quiet as I could. My dad was snoring loudly, probably sleeping off another drunk. I stepped off the last step and turned right into the kitchen flipping on the switch. I stood there for a moment to make sure my parents hadn’t heard me and would come down to shoo me back to bed. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked past the kitchen table into the alcove that was the actual kitchen area. Gently I opened the cupboard doors until I found something to eat. I can’t remember if I was actually hungry or not but I grabbed a box of sweetened cereal so common in the late 1970’s. Since my cooking skills weren’t much yet, cereal appealed to me because I could actually ‘fix’ my own breakfast. I took the box of cereal, a bowl and spoon to the table. Pulling the milk out of the refrigerator, I sat down and remember feeling very independent. Plus no one even knew I was awake moving around. I believe this gave me a sense of control in a life that felt so out of control.

The swell of freedom intoxicated me as I poured my first night bowl of cereal. I sat down and ate slowly, looking out the window at the dark night, seeing my reflection which seemed so grown up at the time. Once I finished the bowl of cereal, I wondered what I should do so I didn’t get in trouble. I would have to wash the dish and spoon then put everything back. Except I wasn’t sleepy. I didn’t want to go back upstairs and to just lie there for hours so I poured a second bowl of cereal even though I wasn’t the least bit hungry but the action of feeding myself in secrecy felt too good. Eventually, with a full belly, I crept back up the steps and fell asleep, feeling comforted for the first time in forever. And so this started my career in emotional eating and my mom wondering why we were going through cereal so fast.

Remembering this helped me pick a goal for this year and beyond. I can diet, use food journals and ride hundreds of miles on my bike but until I conquer my emotional/stress/comfort/bored eating habit, I’ll never shake this. There’s also the guilt of eating certain things, the long held diet mentality instilled in me from a young age after spending the summer with my grandmother who loved to feed me until I was ready to burst, weigh me and then chide me for gaining weight. My entire maternal side of my family was overly concerned about their weight and being thin. I’ve suffered abuse as well, which means when I do lose weight, there are times when I draw attention of men that freaks me out internally. My subconscious wants to keep me in a fat suit to protect me from the world. So I have multiple issues to deal with not just one.

This year (and beyond), I want to attack and conquer my eating when I’m not hungry. My diet mentality about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods needs to go as well. This year, I want to discover the freedom of eating and not having to think so much about the act at all. I don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. I don’t want to weigh myself every day. I want to trust my body to tell me what I need, when I’m hungry, when I’m satiated and what I am hungry for even if it is chocolate cake. No foods will be off limits. I will not sit and force myself to stay hungry until noon or whatever time I’ve deemed appropriate to eat. No more starving myself. No more forcing myself to eat things that I don’t really want because they are ‘healthy’.

I’ll admit, I’ve been down this road before when I got thick into books like Intuitive Eating and such. I just wanted to trust my body but something would always derail me. The last time was the Weight Watchers program at work. I thought it would help me but in the long run, I ended up heavier. Restriction makes me eat more. I rebel against the tight constraints. How many people do you know or maybe even yourself where they had short term success with diets and then gained it all back? (I’m raising both my hands because this is me, me, me!)

So back into the books and resources I can find on emotional eating and finding peace with food. I’ve been reading a book by Linda Bacon entitled Body Respect which is refreshing me on the principles I already know from the last time I delved into the whole intuitive eating, no dieting and making peace with food foray. The one thing that stands out so far in her book is that your body has a normal set point and by dieting, we push this set point higher (starvation effect). To return to your normal set point, you have to quit dieting and eat normally. Do I even know what normally is at this point? Time to relearn.

Today, I listed to multiple episodes of a podcast called Love, Food by a registered dietitian who claims you shouldn’t try to lose weight. People write letters to ‘food’ which entails their struggles with eating, weight gain and so on. The letters are read on the air and the dietitian, Julie Dillion, gives suggestions to help with the issue as well as brings in other experts. Though she grates on my nerves with her super cheeriness sometimes, Julie seems to really want to help people overcome her food issues. It is her passion and all her podcasts are extremely supportive, kind and do not recommend diets or weight loss to anyone. Again, it is simply listening to your body and your hunger cues while addressing your issues head on.

I haven’t thrown out my scale, but I did tuck it away. My food journal app has been deleted. The health tracker that keeps my steps has been tucked away in a less accessible place because it contains my health data on it such as my allergies and so on that can be accessed by first responders. Starting yesterday, I started focusing on my cues. Am I hungry? Do I want to eat this? Does this taste good to me? Am I full? You know what? I found I eat a lot of things just because they are handy or already prepared but not what I wanted. So mid-afternoon, I had my Instant Pot out making steel cut oatmeal because it was what I was craving. I had that for a late lunch because I didn’t eat much due to nothing suiting my taste. Later I had a salad from the Mexican place in town.

Today, at work, I found that I need to stock my desk with more food I find appealing. My tendency to starve myself is very evident in my eating habits at work. I literally try to eat a small bowl of instant oatmeal and make it stretch for as long as I can until I’m starving. Then I may grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar I keep in my desk. My unwritten rule of not eating lunch until after 12:00 to make the day seem shorter can leaving me starving again. Basically, I try to eat as little as possible at work which means I’m probably overeating once home. Why am I doing this? No clue. But I bet I am forcing my body to hold onto fat even more by not satiating my true hunger.

So today, I ate when I was hungry. I even ate lunch before noon and I ate what I wanted which was steel cut oatmeal and an orange. Then mid afternoon, I was hungry again and I delved into the carrots and dip with part of the piece of jalapeño cornbread I brought. I tossed half of the cornbread because I was full. For dinner, I ate a nice bowl of jambalaya with apple slices I coated with peanut butter. Oh and a small bowl of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream on top.

The result of two days of eating intuitively? Have I lost weight and am going down to my natural size? I don’t know. I don’t care anymore. Today I felt giddy with the fact I could eat what I wanted. Not forcing myself to suffer made me happy. There is a very distinct feeling of freedom. Like you just got a monkey off your back. I know I will have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months and I may even get fatter. If I do, I will buy clothes to fit me and I will get nice clothes. I promise not to punish myself and to always be kind as if I were my best friend. If I lose weight, I will buy smaller clothes and I won’t post selfies saying, look I lost weight! Because it doesn’t matter. I no longer give my weight or size the power to run my life. Whether I’m a size 14 or 24, I am the same person with just a differently-sized body. No longer will I feel inadequate or ashamed because I am bigger nor will I feel smug if I end up smaller. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is I enjoy food, eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want as well as trust my body. That I break this 38-year battle with emotional eating. That I stop trying to hide in a ‘fat suit’. I’m already healthy at the size I am which befuddles my doctors but I am an active woman who generally eats well 80% of the time. I will stop starving myself. I will exercise doing the things I love without having to worry about steps (though I am going to count cycling miles for my year’s cycling goal but that’s not diet-related). I refuse to be a slave to my coping methods, to diet mentality, to learned behaviors that make me miserable.

I am simply going to trust my body to tell me exactly what it needs.

Why I Hate the Term Plus-Sized…

A recent article about how Amy Schumer tweeted against Glamour magazine’s “plus-sized” issue grabbed my attention this week. Amy isn’t “plus-sized”, she’s a size 6-8 which is probably larger than normal in Hollywood but her point was that what if young girls look at her photo and feel that she is plus-sized?  Then there is all the photo-shopping which people are talking about.  Or the April Fool’s joke that Aerie played using “normal” men in their ad which people thought was a serious ad campaign and so they (me included) were applauding the company until they found out it was only a joke.  Assholes.  Really, that was an asshole thing to do because it’s not just women who are struggling with their body image, men are under the gun as well thinking they need six-pack abs and look like Thor out of the Avenger movies.  Eh…

My first rant is something that I’ve noticed women are speaking out against. Why have a plus-size designation or label at all?  I hate when people say oh you’re plus-sized or even worse, the term BBW or big beautiful woman.  Why not just BW?  Beautiful woman.  At what point do I become “big”? Yes I’m larger than a size 6 but I’m smaller than a size 24.  I’m in the middle of the spectrum actually.  Maybe I should be ABW or average-sized beautiful woman.  I don’t mind the designation of “curvy” or “voluptuous” because this is more a shape than a size.  But curvy could be a size 6 or 24 again…  And who decides what is “plus-sized?”  If the average clothing size is a size 14 then the average woman is considered “plus-sized” and by whom?  I don’t get who makes any of these determinations.

One of my favorite places to shop is Old Navy for multiple reasons, the clothes are reasonable, they are usually more classically and simply styled (I’m not particularly trendy) and all the sizes are put together. At one time Old Navy did like many of the other stores (though a good majority of specialty clothing stores do not have sizes over 16) and had a plus-sized section hidden away in the back of the store as if you had to be ashamed to go in that area to shop.  But eventually their plus-size section disappeared and my sizes (because it depends on what I’m buying) are mixed in with, gasp, the 0-2’s.  God help this fat girl if she rubs elbows with the elusive tiny woman (yes, I am rolling my eyes as I write this).

My other beef with plus-sized sections of department stores and especially the stores who are considered more upscale is that they assume that “plus-sized” women want to wear nothing but the color black and having elastic waistbands along with gold lame that my even my grandmother wouldn’t wear. In other words, I do not have the fashion sense of an elderly woman (and thank god most ‘elderly’ women are rejecting this stereotype as well).  I do not want a pair of lavender polyester pants with an elastic waist with a matching blazer that looks like it was manufactured in the 1970’s.  Are you kidding me?  I ride the escalator down to the “normal” sizes and sigh as I pass the cute and fashionable clothing I am deemed too big to wear.  Then I feel pressure to lose weight so I can wear pretty clothes and not shop only at Lane Bryant (who also seems to fall into the black is the only color for fat category) where much of the clothing to me is overpriced and not very well-made.

So has the fashion and clothing industry not realized that they have missed a gold mine of manufacturing clothing in more sizes and just putting them all on the same racks? I would buy more clothes if I was offered better selections and not sequestered to a dark, dank, humid and overheated corner of the upscale department store. Certainly I would enjoy not being hidden away from the other shoppers because I am considered “plus-sized” and having the same choices that skinny women do.  It always feels like I am being punished because I’m bigger but I can bet considering my bone structure and muscle mass from all my athletic pursuits that my body fat percentage is less than some of those who are size 10-14.  Oh and BMI, you can stick that measurement too.  It doesn’t work for someone like me who has the thigh muscles the size of a male body builder after years of cycling.  I have turkey drumsticks for legs and I’m proud of them.  I can leg press 300 lbs on a good day.  I’d rather be strong than skinny and weak any day.  And by the way, my blood pressure is 110/74 and outside of a bit high on my bad cholesterol (due to hypothyroidism and genetics), all those blood tests come out smashingly.

Okay, since I’m on a roll, let’s talk Photoshopping. I’m happy to see people speaking out about these images that are clearly retouched until the person doesn’t look like who they are in person.  That magazines and ad campaigns are now featuring “real” people. I can remember being a teenager and looking at magazines like “Seventeen” and feeling like a complete and utter failure because my skin wasn’t porcelain, my thighs weren’t thin and my shoulders were broad.  My hair was never that perfect.  I walked around feeling like I had to be embarrassed for my very existence.  You have enough pressure at that age without adding perfection on every screen, page and billboard.  Why can’t we just be real?  What is wrong with that?  I don’t get it.

I remember being in my early 20’s, with a baby, watching Oprah Winfrey one day as I rocked my daughter to sleep for a nap. Jenny McCarthy was on the talk show and she held up a poster-sized picture of herself that had been dramatically retouched.  I remember sitting there on the couch with my mouth hanging open because I didn’t realize how much they could change a person in a photo.  She took a big black Sharpie marker and started circling everything in the full-body photo that had been re-touched.  I loved that she was so frank and honest about it because I never looked at magazines and advertisements the same again.  I no longer felt so inferior because I wasn’t perfect and according to McCarthy, neither was she.

We are slaves to these companies that want to sell us products and such to achieve perfection whether its cosmetics, diet products, clothing, cars, etc. The diet industry alone is in the billions of dollars per year.  Billions.  Think of what we could do if we took the money we spent on diet this and diet that and put it toward helping the homeless or people who are starving…

As I wrote in my last post about slipping back into the diet mentality, we make ourselves miserable trying to achieve something that we think we should be and not really focusing on what we want, what we really need and what really makes us happy. After over a week of eating exactly what I want, when I am hungry, I’ve lost 3 lbs.  Not that I’m keeping track or even care about weight anymore, I just felt different and was curious.  It’s amazing how much power diets and expectations are driven into us by media outlets and how they can make us unhappy and actually in my case, bigger because diets don’t work for me.  When I quit obsessing over what I eat, I really enjoy my food and I don’t eat as if I’m never going to see a meal again.

So, in conclusion, I’m glad to see the status quo being challenged when it comes to size and labels. I realize that this isn’t a major deal such as world hunger, but I don’t know why we have to be labeled at all.  I would love to go into a mall and walk into any clothing store and find my size and clothes I really want to wear without having to compromise.  I shouldn’t have to feel grateful because a few stores cater to “plus-sized”.  

I just want to be Laura, not plus-sized or BBW Laura.  I don’t want to be defined by my body size or my weight.   I want to be defined by who I am.  I want to wear the red dress!

Old Habits Die Hard…

Though I haven’t written about it for a long time, diets were something I gave up because they simply do not work, especially for me.  I’ve had different eating disorders off and on in my life, usually ‘mild’ cases of them but my biggest struggle was always emotional or compulsive overeating.  I got bored, I ate.   I got upset, I ate.  I got sad, I ate.  I was disappointed, I ate.  I got hurt, I ate.  You get the idea.  When I was in my mid 30’s, I was close to 300 pounds and completely miserable.  I hurt, I was out of breath walking across the room, I hated the way I looked.  My marriage at the time was horrible to put it lightly and I was fighting depression.  But then I finally got treatment for depression and the sun came out once again except I stil weighed almost 300 pounds.  

Dealing with my depression made me aware that I was using food for comfort and other reasons other than when I was just hungry.  I was in the bookstore one day looking through the self-help section when I found Geneen Roth’s book, Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating.  I went on to read all the titles of hers I could find and I follow her FaceBook page to this day reading her occasional posts.  I lost weight, and settled into a place where my body seems to be comfortable (though far from thin, I am fit to the point I baffle my family doctor). After years of ups/downs on the scale I was then diagnosed in 2009 with hypothyroidism.  People believe that once you start taking medication for hypothyroidism, the weight just falls off.  I have yet to meet a person that this has happened to without strict dieting and exercise.  So I just decided, screw it, I’m going to be happy the way I am, go out and ride 100’s of miles on my bike, hike, swim, jog or whatever makes me happy.  I thought I was good. I had a handle on all this.

Except a few years back Weight Watchers came to our employer and I got the bright idea to join it.  I am the one person who gained weight on WW.  Slowly but surely since that time, the dieting mentality has come back into my life.  Over the winter, I did not join a gym, my Wii fitness board broke, I found I hate riding my cycling rollers and I dislike doing anything other than yoga, walking/hiking outdoors when it isn’t frigid so essentially I quit moving.  Though I always gain a bit over the winter after the riding season, this winter it was a bit more than usual.  When I went for my yearly OB appointment, I stared at the red LED numbers on the scale in disbelief.  I had not weighed that much for years.  I can’t even blame it on riding and adding more muscle weight.  I look like the Pillsbury dough girl around the middle.  When I went to my family doctor a few days later, the number was confirmed, sadly.   

So I broke out my food journal app and started to track what I ate.  Another dieting mentality come back to life.  Then I did my 6 month blood test for my thyroid and got the call from my doctor’s office.  I needed to come in.  Seems my levels were up and therefore my dosage was no longer enough.  Battling two things at once.  Well at least that explained why I had not felt like doing much, or in other words why I felt like a big fat slug.  Two days into the higher dosage and I’m feeling my energetic self again, not the self who is wading through waist high concrete all day long.  This will help get me up and moving again as exercise is not an issue for me usually except during the winter though lately I haven’t wanted to do much at all.

When I started thinking about how I had been eating, it dawned on me that I had slipped back into that place of ups and down, deprivation, eating when I’m not hungry and so on.  I was reading Roth’s FaceBook posts and thinking oh that’s not me anymore and well, it is but at least not on the same degree as it once was.  No this time it was just a little bit more sneaky.   I didn’t realize I had lost the core instructions Roth preaches over and over in her books.  Trust yourself, trust your body to tell you what it needs, eat when you are hungry, you will not go stark-raving mad into a binge if you listen to what you body needs and you don’t restrict any foods.  You need to stay with your feelings, feel them, experience them rather than cram them into whatever coping mechanism you may have.  

For different reasons over the past years, I had forgotten a lot of what I learned to be true. I went back to not trusting myself to know what I needed or wanted.  I quit enjoying what I ate or even thinking about what I was truly hungry for or even if I was hungry at all.  So I pulled Roth’s books back out, downloaded every one of her books available that I could find free via my different library options and started my compulsive eating refresher course.  The interesting thing about reading these books about 10 years later, my life has changed so much that I’ve learned new things from them that I didn’t pick up before because I had not experienced certain tragedies and difficulties at that age.  

Day 1, I focused on what I wanted to eat and found that my normal menu fare that I lazily eat every day wasn’t really what I wanted, so I simply didn’t eat that much.  Day 2, I really thought about what I wanted to eat during the day before I packed my food for work.  Amazingly, I didn’t eat all that I packed since I was more satisfied with eating what I really wanted.  Day 3, I believed I wanted that donut for breakfast and since this food was no longer off limits, I ate it and enjoyed it.  Later I felt sick and thought why the hell did I eat that sugar filled stick.  I felt miserable.  So had that much changed that suddenly I was having these great epiphanies?  Nothing really, I just was asking myself: Are you hungry?  What do you want to eat? Are you enjoying what you are eating, does it taste good?  If the answer was “no”, then I stopped eating it and tried to decipher what I did want. 

Last night I went out to eat and found the food lacking so I simply did not eat much and went home and ate something I wanted more.  When I stop focusing on calories and on what I want to eat rather than what I shoud eat, something miraculous happens.  I really don’t turn into this raving eating machine that shovels everything into her gullet that is within her grasp.  I even turned down ice cream last night and I LOVE ice cream.  I wasn’t hungry so it wasn’t the right time to eat it but that doesn’t mean I can never have ice cream.  Life is too short to not enjoy what you eat.  Just within a few days of getting back into this mindset, I am a lot happier and find I am no longer compulsive eating.  

This doesn’t mean that I will magically become a supermodel and have the perfect body, it just means I’m not cramming stuff down that I don’t want or even need.  If I truly want pie for breakfast though, I am going to sit down and enjoy that pie.   The anxiety surrounding food has dissolved and it no longer has the power to make me so miserable and unhappy when it should truly be enjoyed.  As long as I keep asking myself those questions and being mindful of what I am eating or am wanting.

Lesson learned:  When I think I have it all down pat and I know it all, it is probably the moment I need to stop and check myself.  

I Give Up (But in a Good Way)…

Many of my earlier posts swirled around my struggle with body issues and image.  I’ve never been a petite girl.  As my husband says, I have good German genes.  Growing up in the late 70’s and all throughout the 1980’s, it was everything to be thin.  Tiny and thin and here I was, large-boned, large framed and for a while taller than every boy in my class almost.  Thank god those guys hit puberty.  Sometimes in middle school I felt like a giant among my peers.  I wasn’t fat growing up, maybe a little chunky from time to time but when the majority of your friends are in single digit sizes, and you are wearing 12, 14 and sometimes 16’s, well you feel much like the names you’d hear whispered or sometimes if they got brave, said to my face.  It seems our job as adolescents is to prepare our peers for getting our butts kicked by real life and grow a thicker skin.

When I graduated high school, I pretty much starved myself my junior and senior year.  And I got down to a size 10.  Not quite single digits but almost.  I literally ate like what I assumed a model would eat.  Pretty much little to nothing.  I was tired a lot, didn’t have a whole lot of energy but at least I wasn’t “fat”.  Looking at photos of me back then, I think I really would love to go back and slap myself for thinking that.  Hindsight though… I got married young to someone who was very emotionally and verbally abusive.  When I got pregnant at 20, I gained 70 lbs with my 8 lb 1/2 oz baby so I really didn’t lose the baby weight after her birth.  Sixty-two of those pounds were pretty much still mine to carry.  I gained 50 lbs with my second child.  I lost some but not very much.  My third child, I worked out and ate better and only gained 30 lbs.  And then came the divorce.  Nothing like a good life changing event to help you lose weight, even if it’s not on purpose.

In my mid 30’s, married for the second time and miserably married to someone even worse than the first husband, I turned to eating for comfort.  My knees started to hurt going up the stairs to the bathroom.  I was out of breath easier.  I felt like shit all the time, in a nutshell.  Since we didn’t own a scale, I finally bought one and stepped on it then immediately started crying when the digital number popped up.  The display read 282.  I was less than 20 pounds shy of 300 pounds.  Well, there was my problem.  Around this time I was also first diagnosed with depression and started treatment.  Everything finally clicked into place and I started taking better care of myself.  Except I still didn’t feel right and finally when I was 40, I was diagnosed by my OB/GYN with hypothyroidism.

Though people believe if you get treated for hypothyroidism the weight comes peeling off but in reality it doesn’t.  The only thing I found is losing weight is even harder than before though my advancing age has a bit to do with that as well.  And the fact I like to eat.  I’ve maintained the same range of weight/size going a bit up or down since I was 38.  Recently I saw were a plus-sized model was angry with Victoria Secret because of what she sees as an unrealistic body image.  I read the article and then looked at the comments which were mostly cruel due to her very large size.  People screaming how unhealthy weight is but weight doesn’t always determine health.

I know thin people with many more health problems than I have but I also try to eat healthy 80% of the time and I exercise doing things such as cycling for 40 miles at a shot, hike, practice yoga and once in a while kickboxing.  My last checkup and blood work there weren’t any issues other than my LDL was not where he’d like it to be but it’s common for those who are hypothyroid.  Being larger doesn’t automatically mean you are unhealthy.  I can’t speak for the plus-size model, she is much larger than I am but I also am not her doctor.  I can’t speak for the thin VS models either.  I just feel like can’t we all just f’ing quit body shaming one another no matter what size we are?  Maybe mind our own business and live our own life?  Be accepting of everyone, no matter size, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and so on.  Can’t we ever just grow up and put our adult pants on and stop acting so cruelly?

Lately, I’ve noticed my clothes are tighter.  We moved in September and I never really got back into my riding schedule and now it’s December in Ohio.  I haven’t been watching what I have been eating either and I think the big change of the move had me emotionally eating without me really noticing that I was doing this.  So I just open up my Livestrong app that I use for food journaling and start doing a check of myself.  I start working out more.  Since I no longer own a scale, I only can go by my clothes.  I’m starting to go back the other way but every time I try to diet or really focus on losing weight or getting smaller, my subconscious rebels.

Each year in December rather than resolutions, I write down 5 goals I want to achieve in the next year.  The first one I wrote down for 2016,  is to lose weight and be more fit.   Then I wrote one for my writing, one for cycling, etc.  As soon as I wrote #1, it bothered me.  It felt like my old New Year resolutions where I would put “I will lose 50 pounds by December”.  I stopped that practice because it always felt like I was a failure when I didn’t meet that weight.  It dawned on me yesterday, that I’ve written a lot about accepting yourself as you are and not worrying about what others think but yet here I was making the same type of goal that I said I would not do.  It was just worded a little different.  I was letting my size bother me.  And in doing so, I was making myself miserable again.

My subconscious fights this thinking by giving me cravings for sweets and junk food I normally don’t have when I am not in this mode of essentially dieting.  I’ve overcome many years of bingeing by following the author Geneen Roth’s advice.  Trusting your body to know what it needs and wants.  The moment I try to control that process, my body and mind rebel.  It says, hey I thought you loved me not hated me, why are you doing this?  So you aren’t perfect, no one is!  I opened my little hard bound book that I wrote Goal #1 in and I tore out the pages, tore them into pieces and then threw them away.  Now I will rewrite my goals and pay attention to what I am asking myself to do.  Maybe I should change #1 to “Love Myself Just as I am”.  Because really that’s what I need to do.   My husband loves me just as I am and thinks I’m beautiful and sexy, he never says you need to lose weight.  My kids and friends love me just as I am.  Shouldn’t I love myself just this way too?

Old habits are sneaky, the reemerge in different ways.  Listen to your inner cues though and follow what feels right in your heart.