Day 255

6PM:

Barely enough energy to see straight or piss straight, let alone think or act straight.  No Tao of Pooh – will get there some day (as rivers know).  Sorry, best I’ve got are random thoughts (and bad metaphors)…

Three days = three successful days of reclaiming breakfast, lunch, dinner – never eating too much and never eating too little.  Today wasn’t so great, which we knew it wouldn’t be.  But as my lunch from the gorgeous Gorilla Food demonstrated…

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…just because it looks fucked up, doesn’t mean it is (damn, did that Great Gorilla Salad ever taste good!).

On day three, didn’t over-drink = just had one and that was all – could be attributed to…

That being said, feel like crap – bloated (yesterday’s ill), tired, sleepless, restless, senseless, fatigued beyond belief.  Blackness little louder than is tolerable as a result.  Good news though = didn’t have to cram a bunch of food into me to “fill the numbers” – could skirt on yesterday and my body/nature would figure it out.

Still worry about eating too much/too little at each meal.  Just finished some fruit and chocolate as a snack and worried a shit-ton about the chocolate – maybe this is about realizing that physical signs of hunger (tummy grumbling) are not the only ones of note.  There is also (as today and yesterday have shown, since more than coffee or alcohol, fatigue kills my physical signs of appetite), other signs of hunger: being a dick, distractability and lack of concentration, over-thinking about food or counting or if it’s enough (like the fruit-chocolate demonstrated), light-headedness (shouldn’t get to this) and falling asleep or excessive fatigue.  Still learning…

Got a few more days of running on fumes, then I get to rest for 48 hours (long enough to get sick), before I’m back “on.”  Mom appreciated me being there though.  Mom needed me there though.  So fatigued or not, I am happy to be stuck in an airport waiting to go home to my girl and glad I got to be the swiss army knife again.

Day 250

6PM (+ some late night readings):

So, let’s talk about where we are:

  • One week in to this next stage of recovery, of reclaiming healthy
  • Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Having difficulty eating snacks or eating breakfast or lunch on time (not a “should,” but because I am ignoring hunger signals in favour of eating later)
  • Still worrying a little about portion sizes, but not as much as I thought I would and when I do think about it, it is not as disordered as I think it might be (i.e. having two components at each meal, like a salad and oatmeal or pasta and fruit bowl)
  • Cooking meals is a bit of a struggle, especially when I do ignore my hunger signals in favour of eating later (which was always the case when I let myself get too hungry/too weak), but doing major cooks-for-the-week when I wasn’t hungry and having my wife cook meals the first couple of days and Mom pitching in all helped
  • The voice of the blackness has shifted to:
    1. “You feel that you are getting fatter, you see that your stomach is less defined”
    2. “You shouldn’t eat that much, you shouldn’t eat that soon, you shouldn’t be hungry yet”
  • I have had glasses of wine in the last few nights, none of which was for calorie recovery, and as such, was relaxing and enjoyable (Saturday night, the second glass was for quieting the blackness, if only for a little bit – and guess what, it didn’t work)
  • I tried coffee yesterday and while it did kick my appetite for a little while, the impact later was that I was hungrier, like I had skipped ahead from Mile 2 to Mile 5 on the hunger trail without having to feel the Miles in between (but feeling just as hungry at Mile 5 as I would have otherwise)
  • Using the tools of recovery to keep from going crazy – exercise in moderation, leaning on my support system to talk, reading – but at times of weakness, the blackness still screams through

One of those tools provided some advice about the next steps on the path of recovery, to be used for the coming days and weeks and months of reclaiming healthy: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (or at least, the parts that speak to this – there is more that I will refer to in the coming days, I am sure).

“According to Lao-tse [author of the oldest existing book of Tao-ism], the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance.  The more forcing, the more trouble. … Everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties.  When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable.  Only then did life become sour” (4).

“The essence of the principle of the Uncarved Block is that things [and people] in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed … ‘things in their natural state'” (10-11).

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun” (20).

“When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us … then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.  Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes.  Mistakes are made – or imagined – by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.  Not like Pooh, the most effortless Bear we’ve ever seen.  ‘Just how do you do it Pooh?’  ‘Do what?’ asked Pooh.  ‘Become so Effortless.’  ‘I don’t do much of anything,’ he said.  ‘But all those things of yours get done.’  ‘They just sort of happen,’ he said.  ‘Wait a minute.  That reminds me of something from the Tao Te Ching … “Tao does not do, but nothing is not done.” … It means that Tao doesn’t force or interfere with things, but lets them work in their own way, to produce results naturally.  Then whatever needs to be done is done'” (69-70).

My interpretation: a quiet mind, a mind at peace goes with the flow of the river, of nature; for me, this means eating when I am hungry and not eating when I am not – listening to my nature – because when I interfere with this nature, that’s when interference happens to me.  If I ignore my hunger, it makes me feel distressed, amplifies those ghosts of self-harm and makes me more vulnerable to the blackness (as was the case on Friday, when emotions got a hold of me and I cried, often and a lot).  If I restrict during the day, it leads to desires to binge at night (or at least, as was the case Saturday and yesterday, leads to much-too-derailing confusion about not feeling physically hungry at 8PM; derailing because the what ifs start, stemming from the unpredictability and uncertainty, which is probably a less physical but just as loud and telling a sign of hunger – it is just less certain for my re-learning hunger/reclaiming healthy brain).  A little interference by me against my nature, a little interference in return from the universe.  No interference by me against my nature, my body will figure things out.  It will tell me if I am hungrier today, if I ate less yesterday.  It will tell me if I am less hungry today, if I ate more yesterday.  My nature will tell me if my physiology will require more food, if it is going through things that mean it needs more nourishment or if it doesn’t need as much that day. Trying to interfere with something natural – controlling the river – that’s the too many/bold lines that caused my colour to struggle against these lines over the past month.  Don’t get me wrong, because it is not time to throw everything out (the proverbial baby with the bath water).  The harsher lines (yes, interference) were needed before to counteract the even larger disruptions of the blackness and disordered behaviour, but it is only because these latter disruptions were interfering with my soul – now, they are not needed to the same degree.  This is not an immediate call to Zen or to find my inner Uncarved Block (the proverbial running before I can walk – or even roll over by myself, as the case may be), just a step on the path a few ahead of where we are.  For now, the harsher lines caused my vividness to suffer and the friction of that struggle threw the blackness into the front seat and me into the darkness. So going with the flow of the river, means no distress, no bingeing, no hurtful thoughts, just peace?  Accepting my nature with food, listening to my nature, will lead to realigning my nature with the other things (sex, love, sadness, rock and roll)?

For a Bear of Very Little Brain, you are a wise one Pooh Bear.  There is serenity in knowing that the thing that gave you comfort at age 3 still has the power to do so a quarter of a century later.

Day 242

10AM:

Lessons of relearnings:

No juice to start, I fucking hate juice.  Seems stupid to waste all that pulp – it can’t be very nutritious if you’re throwing it out!  And I like my morning routine of a big glass of water, pot of tea and ensuing “nature’s course.”  I like it.

[goes to show and it is safe to extrapolate that what’s “healthy” – juicing, portion counting, portion control – may not be healthy for me]

If I don’t eat breakfast early enough, I will have to fight off (or suffer through?  shouldn’t be fighting it off) hunger until lunch (or have an ill-timed snack in between)

Feelings of bloat will continue to lead to feelings of gloat (from the blackness, that is – oh fuck, it was fierce today; mustn’t like it getting an eviction notice).  I don’t know if losing weight scares me, or that the anxieties around not knowing if growing or slowing.  That uncertainty is tough to deal with (but also are thoughts of self-harm and suicide, aren’t they – and those have been present too much, too often recently).

Cheerios stem from Habitating Family Friend, so that can’t be bad, since it’s about love…

I use the term relearning, because that’s what it is.  Reclaiming healthy is relearning.  But it is learning.  On we go…

Day 241

9:30AM:

This is not the first step, nor is it the first stage, nor is the first new step. It is a continuation, a continued set of steps in the right direction, in the direction of recovery and of reclaiming healthy.

For example, being overjoyed by my wife coming through, even with as much as she had on her plate yesterday, and bringing me home some love – that is a step in her recovery, in our recovery.

[AN ASIDE, OR NOT SO MUCH OF ONE, I GUESS: I truly believe that we can see the us version of us ahead – the her version of her and the me version of me, holding hands and smiling as always (maybe crying too, but tears exist in the bubble as well; it’s just that they are safe and protected and cared for/about. And yes, I truly believe in unicorns and flying penguins and ninja pandas and the power of love (and bears) to conquer all the darkness in the world (HALLELUJAH!!! AMEN!!! – I also believe and have faith in my religion of love, and it is Sunday after all!)].

On a practical side, recovery is tasting the carrot-apple-ginger grand elixir juice that we’d planned on starting the day with and realizing I really don’t fucking like juice. Recovery is changing that plan and recovery is not having to finish it, chugging down this healthy tonic (or poisonous partner of the blackness, as it would be in this case). Recovery is also re-purposing the juice as soup, adding olive oil and onions and apples and almond milk – or peanut butter… hmmm… – because those things would make it taste good, because certain proportions of it would make it taste good, not because these healthy ingredients are within the portions or boxes or countable (again, becoming poisonous partners of the blackness in this case). Recovery is also tasting the soup along the way – outside of meal times – and adjusting the seasoning along the way and not worrying about getting extra calories from it along the way. Recovery is spilling a bit of the soup while stirring and saying “fuck,” but not because of the lost calories, the pre-counted allotment. Recovery is saying “fuck” because I now have to clean the stovetop again! Recovery is saying “fuck” because the cats whining wakes you up in the morning (well, at least it’s not visions of calories and food portions dancing in my head!). Recovery is not about perfect; recovery is about real. Recovery is about finding the balance that life can provide, the beautiful vividness of the world and of me in it (ok, not so practical with that one, but fuck off, it’s my blog!).

Now that we’re into the metaphors, it’s time for some motivational quotes:

Not being afraid of doing it wrong – it just gets in the way of doing it right. – The Flying Penguin

Day 234

5:30AM:

Time for the lines…

Time to (even if a wee bit early -fuck- to) figure out next steps…

Time to figure out some “how to”s = Resource TIME!!!

From Your Eatopia’s Recovery page:

Here is how you know you are ready to attempt eating to your hunger cues:

    1. Your weight appears stable. (weighing yourself is not necessary to determine that).
    2. If you have dealt with amenorrhea during your restriction, then you have achieved 3 consecutive periods in a row.
    3. You are continuing to eat minimum amounts and it is comfortable to do so.
    4. Other lingering signs of repair seem complete (no longer cold, tired, achey, dealing with water retention, no brittle hair or nails etc.)
    5. You think you may need to start eating to hunger cues and are a bit anxious that you can trust those cues.

Note Item 5—if you are feeling extremely confident about eating to hunger cues then chances are you are a ways away from remission still.

[AN ASIDE: DEFINITELY NOT EXTREMELY CONFIDENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

You move from meal plans or counting calories to eating to hunger cues by attempting a 3-day experiment. Eat to your hunger cues but jot down everything you eat. At the end of those three days you should discover that your hunger has taken you to approximately the recovery guidelines you have been following thus far. If so, then you can likely trust your hunger cues and move into your remission with some confidence.

From “fyoured“:

If you’ve seen the ‘Scarier Version’ of how to recover, and the thought of listening to your hunger makes you panic, then you might find a more ‘structured’ recovery meal plan useful in the meantime.

I will add though that either way, you will still be hungry all the time and gaining weight basically at the same pace (i.e. the pace that’s right for your body), so you may as well do the harder thing and start listening to your body instead of conforming it to a strict schedule.

I mean, I started recovery by having a very rigid meal plan that insisted on weighing everything. This made me physically better, but my attitude to food went absolutely crazy. I became so dependent on weighing everything, and eating things only on my meal plan, and eating at set times.

The idea of ‘normal, intuitive eating’ was even harder to get used to after my somewhat OCD/manic attitude to food in recovery.

I completely regret not following my true hunger in recovery, and making my poor body stick to yet another strict schedule. My body – and my mind – were sick of rules by this point.

And again:

Counting calories is a very hard habit to break, sadly, which is why I strongly suggest you never take it up, if by some miracle you haven’t yet. I don’t care if you don’t suffer from an ED / disordered eating and if you are medically overweight; counting calories is the worst way to lose weight. It makes you miserable, dependent on a stupid system and, this way, you never really learn how to eat.

But back to your question. Some places to start:

  1. Get rid of all measuring tools in your kitchen. Quit measuring foods cold turkey. This will be damn frightening at first, but you will get used to it. Each time you feel the panic rising, take a deep breath, say ‘fuck it’, and let go.
  2. Venture into the land of ‘unknown calories’. Eat out at cafes, restaurants, buy food from organic markets (the only reason I even go to places like WholeFoods sometimes is because they have surprisingly little nutritional info for most of their stuff), anywhere where there are no calorie values available. Don’t overestimate calories in a secret tally in the back of your head, either!
  3. Which brings me into this point. Listen to your body, not your (disordered) head. When you know you’re hungry, think ‘what do I truly want?’ Eat the food until you are truly satisfied, and don’t stop just because you ‘think you should’. Every time you feel your mind clicking the numbers away, tell it to shut up. Satisfied? Finish meal. Want more? Continue meal. Not too sure? Eat something sweet to wrap up. You get the idea.
  4. Start to enjoy food for the taste, just the damn taste of it. This is a simple idea, but one that is surprisingly hard. You know by this point what makes a good meal. Example: a good-sized baguette, with butter and cheese and maybe some greens in it. Meal. Lunch. A good-sized bowl of cereal with decent milk, and a piece of toast. Meal. Breakfast. A main course at a restaurant, and if the portion is smallish, then a starter as well, and if you want to, a gorgeous dessert too! (Don’t listen to your ED thoughts here.) Meal. Dinner. Done. Food, done. Eat, chew, leave. Get on with life. Stopping negative thoughts is an excellent technique here, but one that takes practice.

And, all the while, keep reminding yourself that no, you will not ‘balloon’ and ‘get fat’ because to do this, you’d have to consistently eat much above your natural hunger levels. Don’t weigh yourself, either; you’ll find something wrong, even if (of course) you haven’t changed physical size. Go with your body, and trust it; not your disordered, number-controlled mind. Try it, and see how you go.

From Running with Spoons:

If you guys recall, a while back I mentioned that I don’t keep track of my macros or calories – it was an obsession that consumed my life for far too many years and the freedom I gained from it isn’t something I’m willing to give up. BUT… and this is a big but… lately I’ve been wondering if I shouldn’t start paying a little more attention to my eating habits. I’ve become a little too carefree with my eats, to the point where I can’t help but wonder if I don’t end up accidentally under eating on some days.

But that’s life, right? One day you under eat, the next day you make up for it – hence the occasional insatiable appetite. As long as I’m honoring my hunger, there’s no reason to worry, right? (please say right) I mean, tracking my calories was a good way for me to make sure that I ate enough everyday, but at the same time… the obsession, the control, the fear… ugh – not something I’m willing to risk falling back into again.

And again:

I think I might be making up for the weekend because my appetite has seriously been off the charts. I was more-or-less a bottomless pit yesterday, and today looks like it’s going to be more of the same. But here’s the crazy part: it doesn’t bother me. Hungry? Eat. Hungry again 1.5 hours later? Eat some more. It wasn’t even that long ago that I admitted to getting a little anxious whenever I’d get hit with an insatiable appetite day, but somewhere between then and now the anxiety started to taper off to eventually disappear.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I have a feeling that a lot of it came down to [repeatedly] taking a chance (ie: eating more to honor my increased hunger) and realizing that nothing bad happened as a result. I realize that makes it sound ridiculously easy in theory when it’s not in practice, but that’s what it basically comes down to. At the end of the day, you just have to do it.

If you find yourself stuck in that kind of situation, one piece of advice that I can give to make the whole process a little more effective, if not easier, is to ditch the numbers. Stop feeding the obsession and let them go. Don’t weigh yourself on a daily basis and don’t compulsively count calories – it’s not helping you. Yes, not knowing is terrifying at first, but you can’t expect to move forward if you’re clinging to what’s holding you back.

I’m just trying to live my life and be healthy. And honestly? Numbers aren’t going to help me do that. If anything, they’re just going to get in the way by taking my focus off of what really matters and leading to an obsessive mindset that I’d rather avoid.

And once more, just for kicks:

There are days where I have to toss in an extra snack or two because I can’t get my brain to focus on anything other than food – a typical symptom of hunger for me. Terrifying, right? It definitely used to be.

Back in the day where I was religiously tracking my calories and macros, the mere thought of eating more than I had planned or allowed myself to was enough to send me over the edge. And when it came to actually doing it? Yeah right, there was no way that was going to happen. Hungry or not, I would force myself to wait until the proper hour to eat, obsessively watching the clock and agonizing over how slowly the minutes were passing by. One minute. Three minutes. Five minutes. Gah!

Looking back, it’s hard to figure out why I put myself through that kind of unnecessary misery, why I couldn’t just eat when I was hungry and move on. Actually, I take that back – it’s not hard to figure out why. I was afraid that eating before it was time would cause me to eat more (read: too much) and…. gulp… gain weight. But, as with any other disordered belief, this one proved to have no truth to it as well. I mean, I did gain weight, but that’s because I needed to and was consciously trying to. I was severely underweight and eating an amount that was well above my maintenance level. But I digress.

Early lunches, they happen. Eating more, it happens. The point I’m trying to get across here (to myself as well), is that nothing bad happens as a result. Trust me (brain, I’m lookin’ at you!!). There are days where I feel like my hunger is off the charts and I’m doing nothing but eating, but lo and behold, those days never seem to show up on my butt or thighs. So don’t be afraid to eat when you’re hungry, even if that means having lunch at 10:30 AM.

[AN ASIDE: I actually felt the fear signals perk up in my forebrain reading that last comment – something is not right with my receptors if that’s the reaction I have.  It is definitely time.]

From the always inspirational Angela, of Oh She Glows fame, especially as it speaks to a fear I have of over-eating if I let go of the portion control system and start listening to my appetite cues:

My struggles with binge eating began shortly after I started to restrict my food intake. Before this, I had no prior problems with binge eating. I struggled with disordered eating for many years. I would starve myself, over-exercise, and count calories obsessively. It is no surprise to me now that I also struggled with strong urges to binge. Afterwards, I would feel so ashamed, I would cry, and I would vow to restrict my intake the next day- and weeks after.

It took me a very long time to realize that I would always have problems with binge eating as long as I was still depriving my body of what it needed. In an evolutionary psychology course we learned that it is an adaptive response for our bodies to seek out large amounts of food when in a deprived state. It makes total sense to me now that my body was just trying to get food in any way possible!

You can only deprive your body for so long before it acts out in protest. My weekend binges were in fact a protest against my weekday deprivation.

My body had ENOUGH.

And so this cycle continued for a long time. It is such a hard cycle to break because after a binge the guilt is so high that the only comfort you can think of is feeling empty again and restricting your intake. The cycle repeats itself over and over and the person who struggles with it, sinks deeper and deeper into isolation.

I am here today to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to live your life with cycles of deprivation and compulsive eating. It is possible to beat it and to eat in a steady cycle.

How did I beat binge eating?

I honestly do not think that I could have beat binge eating if I didn’t stop restricting my intake. This took me a long, long time to realize and I hope to be able to save some of you some time too. When I finally stopped restricting my intake, I allowed myself to eat when hungry and I stopped counting calories and weighing myself. The hardest part was that I still suffered from binges even though I was not restricting my food! You know why this was? Because old habits die hard. My body did not want to trust me. I had deprived it for so long that I couldn’t be trusted, so even though I was now eating enough food, I still struggled with binges now and then.

This was extremely frustrating for me and I will admit, I relapsed a few times because of this. However, the body CAN learn new tricks. It took me about a year to finally stop the binges even when eating normally. My body finally learned to trust me again and it didn’t feel the need to ‘store up on food’. I know for a fact if I was still restricting my intake, I would still be struggling with binges. It is an adaptive response, don’t forget.

And to finish it off with love, the most useful tool in the recovery process, an interview from Blogilates:

How do you help someone overcome an ED or BID?

Shannon (Lagasse): I always say that the best support you can give someone is your full, unconditional love and acceptance. These people, usually women, want to be validated. They want love, attention, and affection. They want to feel like they belong, like they’re being noticed and heard, and like they’re worth something. Showing them how much you truly care is the best thing you can do to inspire them in recovery. If I could, I would suggest working from a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach. Eating disorders aren’t solved by a nutritionist and not always even with a therapist. They’re healed through an understanding of what triggered the individual, learning self-love and self-respect, bolstering self-esteem, and addressing every aspect of the individual, from the inside out.

This is about reclaiming healthy.  This is about reclaiming healthy through love.  It’s always about love.

Day 228

9PM:

Counting calories

Counting calories, calculating portions

Counting calories drives me

Counting portions keeps me controlled

Counting calories drives me

Counting portions ensures I don’t fall

Counting calories drives me

Counting portions keeps me on the edge, in a constant state of awareness and stress, spinning the motor faster and faster and faster

Counting calories drives me off the edge, because I can never stop, never lie there without calculating activity or goodness, never slow down, never find peace, never find quiet

Counting portions, counting calories makes me jump off the edge, since there is no peace in this

Counting calories, counting portions drives me insane