Day 279

6PM:

Some universal signs to interpret, from today, a day that has left me realizing I’m worn down and not doing myself any favours by living on the edge:

“Peace is in each of us” (Mennonite Church)

Even though I felt like I needed the Naturopath to be a sounding board, that I needed her to tell me I am drinking too much (either to cope or to fill up the calorie tank at that point in the day), that I am not respecting my hunger out of fear of getting fat (and the never-ending thoughts of belly fat, unknown as to its delusional or truthful nature), that I am not fueling my me-ness enough throughout the day with food and rest, thereby letting my blood sugar drop, my adrenal health plummet and my ability to fight off / ignore / not hear the blackness crater.

Even though I felt like I needed her to say it, I knew these things.  I am scared of trusting myself, of trusting my opinion, even though time and time again, we draw the same conclusions: the only us experts, are us.  Peace is in each of us, or at least, in my case, the ability to find that peace is in me.  I trust my head to think, my heart to love, my soul to feel; now, I need to trust my body to heal.

“I value myself” (Naturopath)

I want to shift the way that I think from I find no value in myself compared to others, worthless in their shadows and that I accept myself as such.  I want to shift it to that I find purpose in others, I find value in helping them (like the happiness I got from doing yard work at my mother-in-law’s house today, not thinking about the selfishness that spawned me doing it, but simply having my heart focus on the love and the IAN).  However, finding purpose in others does not negate valuing myself, it does not have to.  In fact, valuing myself means I can be selflessly selfish, by taking time to heal myself, heal myself so I can engage in that purpose of others; as opposed to being selfishly selfless, making it about ignoring my own needs and ultimately sacrificing my ability to live that purpose.

“Be patient” (Mennonite Church)

We will make mistakes, we will falter, we must before we fly.  We will be patient, step by step on the path of recovery.  We will keep putting one foot in front of the other to reclaim healthy, making mistakes along the way but still going, one day at a time, one breath at a time, breath by breath.

Advertisements

Day 243

10AM:

Three days into this and there is definitely doubt – especially because of the length at which we have been existing in this stage of recovery, the one that needed the portion control, the calorie counting, the external voice to keep me in line.  Doubt brought on by my wife putting herself in another careless, thoughtless situation last night with drinking and work and neglecting her home-life, her whole life, her life of intention.  Not doubt of her, but doubt brought on by the stress of staying up all night waiting anxiously for her to come home safe.  Doubt brought on by a soul less powerful today to fight off the blackness.  Doubt that has questioned and will now question every fucking food decision, constantly: Too much? Not enough? Waited too long? Should have waited longer?  Doubt that analyzes every time a piece of food enters my mouth.

That doubt says maybe I need a plan to follow for eating – maybe that’s just me, needing some sort of organization.  Maybe I can’t be eating “willy-nilly?”

But wouldn’t this still be restricting, be suppressing emotions, which we think is what killed the other emotions (sex, love, sadness, rock and roll)?  Wouldn’t this be perpetuating the dulling of my soul, as opposed to reclaiming its beauty?

That doubt says why not keep the portion counting and set breakfast, lunch, pre-dinner and post-dinner = fuel the brain enough throughout the day to fight the blackness that screams loudly when I am hungry (e.g. suicidal thoughts, self-harm, self-doubt, self-inflicted pain, guilt, and all the other dwarfs who missed out on Disney).

However, to the point made yesterday, those lines are old lines, too bold for the me version of me, too solid for these colours of my soul.  Quell the short-term anxiety for long-term harm?  That doesn’t sound like what brave, strong and smart bears do.

And what would you do about activity levels?  Regimented eating is one thing, but to truly “do this right,” you’d have to regiment movement, stress levels, activity duration and strenuousness, sleep times… (get the point).  Dealing with the movement anxieties of “not sitting down because it isn’t compensated for naturally” (as it would if I just ate, like the new stage of recovery suggests) prevents calmness of mind and soul, feeds the perfectionistic qualities, brings out the flawed nature of my obsessive imperfections.

That doubt says today – given how hard things are setting up to be with home stresses, crappy sleep, potential for restriction as a result of both (just because hunger has had a hard time speaking through these before, not an intentional restriction), Summer School midterms to turn around in less than 18 hours (assuming sleep isn’t a priority…) – maybe today I count, I take it out of the context of yesterday and the context of tomorrow and I pick up the calorie/portion counting for one day.  I can’t get out of control for one day…

If I can get through today, if we can get through today, on Day 3, not taking a sabbatical…  I have always been too stupid to fall down, to know when to give up, forever tilting at windmills because I’d rather find the giant among them.  But this is more than that, getting through today will give us strength.  It will embolden us and more importantly for me, it will embolden her.  Show her that when times are tough, she does love, and MOST importantly, she does care.  Stay the course.

That doubt says I have felt bloated over the last three days, and I don’t think it’s the blackness talking.

That is anxiety fucktard!  It probably always existed and you just ignored it because while the cause was unknown, the intake was known (used to tell the blackness that I couldn’t get fat, because the intake was regular, regimented, controlled).

I’m scared.  I need to record these because even though they aren’t real, they are real to me, right now.  I know that these are just fears and that these fears and anxieties are temporary (but I’m an overachiever — and I really want it to stop) and that I need to focus on the positives (like the fact that I haven’t had a desire to binge at any point during the day, except yesterday between lunch and early-dinner when I waited too long – but the voice stopped when I ate reasonably, turning off the demon that screams in times of restriction) and have faith.

I know these things because of my grandfather who emailed me within minutes of me asking for advice.  I know these things because of my beautiful wife, who (yesterday, before the carelessness) in a step on her recovery of the her version of her, reminded me that maybe (just maybe) these anxieties are because I’m not at my appropriate weight and that will fluctuate when I accept my hunger, my feelings, my emotions = evidence of care.  Even after last night, that is what I want to believe in – the unicorns, the penguins and her.  That is her reclaiming healthy, being my support system, holding my hand as we walk this path of recovery together.

And suddenly, I’m not as scared anymore, even though the path ahead seems dark.

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 240

7PM:

A week after the Fourth of July and a week and a half after Canada Day, I’m declaring my Independence…

 

Cue the dramatic, but this is a huge step.  A step on the path of recovery.

And no, it won’t be perfect.  The blackness will still scream in my head, telling me that I will get fat, telling me that I am not doing enough, telling me that I am wrong.  The blackness will force me to use the tools I have at my disposal, to find new tools, to use my support system.  However, consider that neither of these examples were perfect at the time either:

  • Canadians still had Western Canada to bring into the fold after 1867’s Confederation.  It took over a century, but they got there.  Now, all the provinces and territories celebrate.
  • In 1776, the Americans still had the ghost of the British looming over their shoulders and a Civil War that was a hundred years away.  But there was progress.

Signing of Confederation, signing of the Declaration of Independence – these things, these showed progress, these were steps on their paths, these were hope.

And just like them, I can have progress, I can have hope.

And just like them, I deserve both – for me, for us, for all the people it will allow me to focus on in the future and for all the Intentional Acts of Niceness I will be able to do because I won’t be concerned about food or hunger or the things I’ve avoided as a result of the portion-system (because the food or activity or activity level couldn’t be measured or quantifiably compensated, because of the anxieties around not getting it all out of the blender, because of not being able to stop moving and doing extra).  We all deserve for these things to be gone.  Reclaiming healthy through recovery deserved.

The portion controlled system will always be there if needed, in times of stress or in times of relapse.  But for right now, it has done its job.  For right now, I have done my time, my 25 to life

Now, it’s my day.  Not a day of endings, of forgetting the history leading up to this moment or of ignoring the continued progress that needs to come, that will come.  But today, today is my Independence Day.  And tomorrow, we wake up and take the next step.

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 216

5:30PM:

I beat myself up sometimes about my eating disorder history.  This is prompted by me just having a snack – hot chocolate – because I wanted to.  Something simple, but impossible 12 months ago (ok, probably impossible 12 weeks ago, possibly 12 days ago).

After something simple like this, a little accomplishment that seemed insurmountable once upon a time, my mind goes towards the missed opportunities, the friendships that got beaten up, the experiences that went unshared, the gratitude that went unshown, the untasted food with a lover…

And then I say FUCK YOU.  I tell those anxieties and thoughts of regret doesn’t even get the five seconds of Matthew-Fox-in-Lost fear allowance.

Cautious for the future, for relapse and being aware of signs of falling off the road of recovery – sure, those are allowed.  And part of this continued anxiety is because of my eating style: eating by the numbers as opposed to intuitively (to increase my comfort in eating varieties and higher-calorie foods – because they fit into the system – and ensuring sufficient quantity), even though it causes stress and anxiety.  It drives me crazy, yes; but the alternative is that I drive everyone else around me crazy with concern (well, maybe not at my current school…) because I lose 15 or 25 pounds in a school year.

[AN ASIDE: will there be a time when this is not needed?  I know that I should not ask that question, but it is the continual lack of 100% confidence in what this is, if it is normal or the ME version of ME… BACK TO CONFIDENCE!].

But they will not take any more time away from me, not if I can allow it, not if it I have the courage and strength and wisdom required at this point.  No more time away from being grateful and appreciative, from loving, from looking up.

Day 183

8PM:

There were especially hard moments today: crying while driving to work, face hurting throughout the day, getting blindsided by a depressed young man (without fair warning from the guidance counsellor who sent him my way).

There were also some great moments: being able to draw on my mental health experiences to hopefully help that young man amidst my dumbfoundedness; finding support in two colleagues,  one of whom wanted my day to end on a positive note so much that she told me about a student that wrote about me in her English class as an inspiration and with admiration; coming home to find my wife, even through her fatigue and pain, surprised me and confirmed by belief in her strength and love.

How is it then that I still have trouble not being bogged down by the bad and not pulled up by the good? Is it because the bad outbalances or is it something inside me causing the imbalance?