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.  

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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.