Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trying to Fix Disordered Eating Without Triggering and Without Getting Too Fat

Well this is awkward.

I've stayed pretty low sugar all week and am eating pretty regular meals and smaller portions, but wow I got a bit of a surprise on the scale because all this time I have been going up and down the same pound or two around 249-250. I am still not emotionally attached to the number on the scale but do take it as data/fact to help guide my choices (because I know that at 245+ pounds my joints hurt, so I think being lighter is healthier for me). I got 254 though and that was totally not what I would expect from reducing my sugar intake. Maybe I subbed the wrong foods for the sugary ones (stayed too carby) and that's why the gain. Anyway, I am fine with how I look and am NOT going to "diet" but I do need to get ten pounds or so off my knees in order to be functional. I am left asking myself, What to do? How to continue with my disordered eating recovery and calmness about food, while making enough changes to see a healthier weight for my joints? There is a point of restriction that triggers obsessive food thoughts and I won't go there. It feels like a awkward point right now teetering between "stay calm, no restricting, no disordered food thoughts" and "need to get some weight off for my joints, maybe I should restrict something?" Not sure what to do.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Without the Sugar

This is my first week "restricting" sugar (for the reasons I shared in my last post, this is non-triggering and complements my disordered eating recovery plan). There is no rule and no diet plan; this is a welcomed change that makes me feel good about my eating. The goal here is pain reduction and better health. I am now avoiding sugar in a way that contributes to joint health. For me, that means I am not getting obsessive and avoiding every food that has any form of sugar in any amount; it means I am avoiding the amounts of sugar that I feel are harmful to me and cause me pain. Generally if it's processed and it tastes sweet, that's too much for me.

Small amounts of sugar and large amounts of most fruits have always been fine for me. I can eat a bowl of cantaloupe or a banana or a couple of peaches and feel just fine.... no pain. I do feel a little shaky and weird if I eat much dried fruit or a large helping of pineapple or mango, so I will restrict those things but not other fruit. I have also always been able to eat a square or two of dark chocolate without any joint pain or blood sugar weirdness, so that is still something I'll enjoy. I've been fine with a teaspoon of honey or real maple syrup here and there. It's the mega-doses of refined sugar and the small doses of corn syrup that bother me the most. So I am staying away from sweets such as cookies, cakes, and candy now in general. But it's *not* a hard and fast rule that can never be broken. Choosing to have those foods, if I do so, will not send me into some kind of guilt-ridden state of shame. This is not a diet, or a rule, or even a goal.

For example, if I am offered cake, I am turning that down. I have a calmness about this because I know that if I really want it and consciously decide that the pain and health risks are "worth it" for any specific food item, I can still eat it and *not* feel guilty. Thus I may decide that a piece of some special treat, like a birthday cake my family made for me, is "worth it" and enjoy a piece. That is just fine! And if there is a sweet food I am really curious to try, I will have a bite. If it's not amazing, one bite is enough to satisfy and not want the rest. I have been doing this already at times. I have been able to eat a bite or one serving of sweets and not be triggered into a spiral of crazy food obsessions and wanting to eat more and more until I am in a food coma. That part of the disorder appears to be healed, or in remission.

This is the first step out of the "eat anything anytime" stage I have been in while calming the anxiety around disordered eating, quieting the compulsion. I think it was very important for me to get to a truly calm, accepting, okay-with-everything state before moving into *any* kind of restriction, even for reasons of pain or health, because the goal is to recover from disordered eating. Now that I am there, this change is feeling very non-triggering for me! I am happy to stay in this stage for as long as need be. Over time any food that is negatively affecting my health will also go into this health-restricted category with the same idea... that I will avoid what harms me and leave the door open to *choosing* any foods I want to lift the restriction on.

I know this probably sounds pretty wishy-washy to anyone who has never dealt with an eating disorder, but it's working for me. There's a fine line *emotionally* between making a set rule that "I will never have that" and making a choice that "I don't want that food in my life harming me, so I'll avoid it with few exceptions." The door HAS to stay open for choices, for me, in order to not get triggered into stressing about food, weight, and diet... which leads right back into disordered food thoughts. This is a gentle, flexible restriction... not a hard one.

My other choice for this week is to make sure I get out and walk every day. with the weather getting colder I have started to slack off in the walking department. I have to do something with the dogs every day but when it is cold, I sometimes just exercise them in my yard (with lots of ball and Frisbee throwing!) That's great exercise for them, but not for me. I feel better when I go for a walk so I will make sure I don't get lazy about it over the winter.

Since people do ask me to share menus, I'll share here. I don't post my food every day like I used to, because food is not the focus. But occasional menus give you an idea how I am eating right now.

Breakfast: coffee with 1 tsp blackstrap molasses and half & half, hard boiled egg
mid-day: coffee with sugar free caramel creamer
Lunch: homemade turkey soup with lots of veggies (no rice or pasta) and a slice of beer bread (made from scratch)
afternoon snack will probably be a Clementine and a string cheese
Dinner is going to be turkey tertrazzini from this recipe with more turkey and vegetables added and no bread crumbs. Maybe some baked acorn squash with this, with butter, salt and pepper.
If I have something at bedtime it will be a mug of hot milk with cinnamon and blackstrap molasses.

Hope you all are doing great, had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday spirit!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Reasons Matter

Over the last couple of months I have written a lot about what I am doing to recover from disordered eating... and it is definitely working! The calm and peace about food is something I have been missing for about two decades, and getting it back is a welcome relief. NOT having the "call of food" in my head all the time gives me much more freedom of thought. It also gives me more freedom of action! No more driving to the cupcake shop and sitting in the parking lot wrestling with whether or not to go in. No more wasting time fighting myself about some cake recipe I saw until I give in, run to the store, get all the ingredients, come home, bake the cake, and guiltily eat it. No more hours wasted trying to white knuckle through a craving for potato chips until finally eating them and then hours feeling guilty and trying to figure out how to compensate for the calories I'd eaten. Instead, food only occupies my brain for the time I am cooking and eating it. It's a great feeling!

I have been on this non-restricting kick for awhile now. It's something I needed to do to get rid of food obsession. I have found that, for me, "food addiction" is not handled the same was as, say, drug addiction or alcohol addiction. There's always been a difference, of course, because an alcoholic usually needs to avoid all alcohol to stay recovered but a food addict can't avoid all food. A lot of people feel like if they steer clear of their "trigger foods" that is the way they deal with their food addiction. For example, sugar seems pretty addictive in some ways. So does fast food. And fried, salty things. But what if you have a million "trigger" foods? Seriously, when I was binge eating, and even when I was eating compulsively, I could be "triggered" by pretty much anything that was not a plain vegetable. Or maybe plain, baked fish or chicken (no salt). I have definitely been triggered by the usual foods like junk, sweets, and fried foods... but I've also been triggered, and even binged, on things as simple as cheese, meats, creamy soups, roasted salted vegetables, any kind of bread or pasta, potatoes, sauces, salads with dressing, eggs, and pretty much anything that is flavor loaded or carby. If I restricted everything that has the potential to trigger me, I'd be eating a bland diet forever! I have found that even restricting the worst offenders just ends with me having anxiety about being "perfect" enough on my plan and feeling an overwhelming drive to eat the things I "can't", Yet I have said I don't want to restrict. What to do?

Over the past couple of weeks I've figured out something new... and that is: the reason for restricting matters. When I've said I would NEVER restrict ANYTHING again, I was focused on not awakening the disordered eating thoughts. But I was mistaken about something. It is not the restricting that triggers. It is restricting for the REASON of weight loss, dieting, being "good" and fitting into a certain "plan" someone else created. Here is how this slowly dawned on me:

I cannot eat shellfish like shrimp, crab, or lobster because I am allergic to it. I am allergic in the true sense and will go into anaphylactic shock if I take even one bite. Therefore, I restrict it, because I do not want to die. Do I feel deprived? No. Do I feel "triggered" when everyone else is eating crab and I can't? No! Not at all! I don't even want it! And I do know what I'm missing; I did not become allergic until I was a teenager. One of my favorite foods as a child was deep fried shrimp. I also ate plenty of lobster tails and crab legs, crab cakes, and the like as a kid. Loved the stuff! But restricting those foods now is very, very easy. I look at, or think of, shrimp, and I associate it with hospitals, Epipen injections, very unpleasant sensations, and threat of dying. So the association of a food with a very negative consequence can make restricting that food EASY.

To a smaller degree, I have started to feel the same way about sugar. Somehow I was not *able* to feel this way about sugar when I was restricting for weight loss. It was always the object of my desire, the food I loved most, the thing I couldn't have... therefore the object of my disordered longing (probably like fried shrimp would be if I was restricting it just to lose weight). But now that I have been letting myself TRULY eat whatever sweets I wanted, my mind is clear and my emotions are free and I can SEE that sugar is harmful to me. I always knew it, but couldn't see it... couldn't accept it somehow, emotionally. But because the reason for my restriction has changed (from weight loss to pain reduction) it is not at all triggering and does not awaken disordered eating. I am "restricting" sugar in a voluntary, calm way... a natural way. I did not wake up and declare, "starting next Monday I am NOT going to eat ANY more sugar!!" I just started turning it down more and more, and wanting it less and less, because it hurts me. Because it is unhealthy for me.The cravings are GONE and although I have still not made any kind of "rule" about never having sugar, I just don't eat it much anymore. I am restricting sugar naturally, for the reason of avoiding pain.

I think as time goes on, ALL foods that are harmful to me in some way will go the way of the shellfish and the sweets. They will just stop appealing to me, not because I want to lose weight, but because I choose to be healthy.  Reasons DO matter, especially in healing from disordered eating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

There Will Be Carbs

The first year I started blogging (2007), I shared my usual Thanksgiving menu and all the recipes with adjustments to make them a bit healthier and weight-loss friendly. Most years since then, including tomorrow, we have done this same menu (traditional for our family) except in 2010, when I was on Medifast and opted not to make any stuffing or sweet potatoes as they were off plan. I basically measured out my turkey, made mashed cauliflower for myself instead of having any potatoes, and had a small portion of green bean casserole. In 2011 I was still trying to low carb and did the turkey, mashed cauliflower, green bean casserole, and salad. In 2012 I was trying again to do a really strict Medifast, so had measured turkey and a half plate of green beans and mushrooms steamed in chicken broth (nothing else). But from 2013 on, I went back to the traditional menu and just went with moderation. I'm doing that tomorrow and from now on. I am not going to go through any angst or stress anymore about what to eat on Thanksgiving, whether I am the one cooking or someone else is. I am just going to put what I want on my plate and eat it like a normal person. If there is one thing I've learned over the past 9 years of "dieting" through the holidays, it's that IT DOESN'T MATTER. It is *one day* and it is not at all worth worrying about. If you have a dietary restriction go with it, but if you can just relax and not make the food such a big deal, it won't be. What good is skipping your favorite foods if it just causes you anxiety, regret, and cravings? You have to go with what works for your emotions. That is more important that calories or fat or weight loss. There is really nothing good about stressing through a holiday.

Part of my recovery is letting go of the restrictions and the need for control over all the food. Of course I want to be healthy and choose to eat things that are good for my body *most* of the time. But those choices are based on what makes my body feel best and not on weight loss, calories, or any other factor. There will be pie. Will I have a piece? I doubt it... it doesn't appeal to me because eating a piece of pie makes my joints feel like crap. But the pie is there and if I want a piece I will eat it. If I want 2 pieces I will have them! There will be no angst or guilt. Emotional calmness about food is becoming my normal and I am very happy about that! The most likely scenario for me is that I won't want pie. But if I do, the next most likely scenario is that I will eat a bite or two and be satisfied with that, and have *no desire* to have more and cause myself joint pain. That is very different than not eating the pie because you don't want to ruin your diet, but then thinking about that pie and feeling deprived because you didn't get any. "Willpowering" through the holidays did not get me anywhere in the long term. It just irritated my eating disorder. Time to try something different.

I am so thankful for my recovery and peace of mind about food. I never thought it would happen. I thought I would always want the cookies and stress about wishing I could have what everyone else is having and obsess about some dessert I want to make. No more! I can have any of those things! The side effect of NO restriction is NO emotional reaction to food and NO obsessive food thoughts. It is worth every minute I have spent getting to this moment! I hope your Thanksgiving is joyful, blessed and full of true peace.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Doctor Said No

Yeah, I thought I had it figured out, my plan going well, everything just fine. That was before I saw my doctor today. I wrote in my last post that I wanted to give intermittent fasting a try in the form of a shorter eating window. I was going to push breakfast back and turn it into more of an early lunch around 11 (just coffee before then, which is what I do sometimes anyway). Doctor said NO.

Saw the endocrinologist today who said *absolutely not* to do this. She said it would be training my cells/organs to store sugar and be more efficient with calories. She said it would slow my metabolism and make things worse. Told me I have got to eat a decent breakfast. So there goes that idea. She did say she wants my breakfast to be *protein only* which is a new thing to me; she'd never suggested that before. Told me to eat eggs. Said I should have my first meal by 9. So I guess the "window" is out because we can't really eat dinner much earlier than 5:30 or 6.

Soooo.... I'll do what she says: protein-only breakfast at 9 (if I want other foods that are not protein, I will have them at lunch). I will still have whatever for lunch and dinner (while always at least giving myself lower carb choices) and the simple snacks I listed earlier... which are mainly protein rich foods (cheese, nuts, boiled egg, jerky, protein shake). I'm still going to skip the bedtime snack. I think getting back on the bike might make me feel better. I haven't really had any desire to bike for awhile but I actually *want* to because I know it will give me some energy and I always feel a bit happier when I get off the bike.

That's it for now. Never give up!