Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

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Food Journal: No Cheating!

I’m just a few days shy of using my food journal app, My Plate, for three weeks.  I’ve lost 9 pounds just logging in my food and keeping within an 1800-2000 calorie range.  No food is restricted and I eat what I want as long as I stay within my calorie range.  I’ve been learning more about portion sizes, trading off and eating healthier in general.  It’s been a good tool to learn the best way to order when eating out.   We tend to eat out a lot but I don’t want to restrict myself from doing something we both really enjoy (not cooking!).  

Things I’ve learned: Portion sizes are a big contributor to keeping me heavy.  It’s easy to overestimate.  I have days that I am not very hungry and others where I feel I can’t get enough to eat.  On my hungry days, I turn more to protein to get me satisfied.  Cooking at home is the easiest way to keep calories under control even though we love to eat out.  We are working at balancing our eating out by cooking a bit more.  This is the best way to eat healthy.  I have been focusing on packing my lunch for work more often as well.  Putting more fruit in my lunch bag to keep snacking to a minimum as well as I purchased snack size bags of microwave popcorn for the days at work that I am extra hungry or stress eating.  And sometimes at home or at work, I will eat more when I am bored.  

I noticed when I get close to my calorie count for the day, I want to flub entries to give me more room to chow down on more food.  I caught myself doing that and realized if I cheat on this, I am actually cheating myself.  I need to be brutally real on this food journal or I’m not doing myself any favors.  I’m sabotaging myself in learning to eat better and healthier.  This is a lifestyle change and if I don’t go all in, then I am going to fail to correct the behaviors and habits that make me feel so crappy inside and out.  I’m not doing myself any favor by flubbing my food journal.  If I want to eat a bit more, I can move a bit more with exercise to give myself a bit of a buffer. 

My clothes are getting much looser, I have more energy and I feel better about myself in general (I sound like a commercial).  It won’t be long until I am going to have to go shopping for a few new pairs of pants to wear to work because the ones I have are getting too big and threatening to fall down.  No one at work wants to see me standing there in my undies and since they don’t have a place for a belt, I’m going to be buying new clothes.  Don’t worry, I’ll survive having to get new things! Ha… I hate shopping for new clothes but I love having them.  

My husband bought us a rowing machine, the kind with a water tank on it for resistance like in the show House of Cards.  He decided to go with this because of the fact it works 80%+ of your core muscle groups and it’s a great cardio/calorie burning exercise.  I can torch up to 1000 calories an hour on that machine or so depending on how vigorous and long the work out I do.  Either way, it gives us an excellent snowy or rainy day option.  Right now it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home so walking really isn’t an option for me and as much as I love cycling, putting on all that gear to ride 5 miles and get frozen isn’t my thing.  We are just waiting for our older two daughters to move into their new house right before Christmas to set it up in the finished basement.   Though I can attest as much as I exercise during the warmer months, it really comes down to what you eat.  I can ride miles and miles and never lose a pound until I change my eating habits.  Exercise though is key for me to feel good and be strong so I don’t want to give that up either.  Especially at 46.  

I have a Christmas party to attend tonight so I’m eating judiciously to allow myself a little more calorie budget for the fancy food and adult beverages that will be on hand.  A little planning ahead helps.  I may go over my calorie limit but this is a special occassion and I’ve been spot on or under the last almost three weeks.  A little splurge now and again isn’t going to kill me.  But I definitely do not want to set back all my hard work either. I am looking forward to trying on my dress tonight.  I haven’t worn it in a year and I’ve lost weight since this time last year.  That is always a good feeling when your clothes are a bit looser.  🙂

Remember to treat yourself with kindness this holiday and every day.  You’re worth it!  More updates soon!  

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.