Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Appointment with the ED Counselor

So I got a call last week from the eating disorder counselor's office stating that I had an appointment with Cloe the following day. I was surprised; I'd thought my next appointment was a couple of weeks out, but apparently she'd put me on the cancellation list and they got me in sooner. The only negative about that was I hadn't started the 'homework' yet of writing down everything I eat and when. I should have, but I figured I'd do that for the week prior to my next appointment. I still will.

My second appointment was more intimate than the first. Of course, some of the things I shared with her are too personal to share here, because I talked about some of my deepest feelings about why I have struggled with such sadness this fall. Actually I've shared some of that here already, so you can probably imagine part of the conversation we had. But when the talk came around to food and weight, she said some things to me that I needed to hear. They are things I have said to myself many times and even posted about on this blog, but hearing it from a specialist confirmed to me what I was already thinking, and the path I need to take.

When I described the way I eat now, Cloe immediately told me that I am self-medicating with food. When I am anxious or sad or uncomfortable, my first reaction is to grab a snack. A scoop of ice cream makes everyone feel better, doesn't it? My Mom taught me that. There's no stress that can't be reduced by crunching through a bowl of Kettle chips; there's no pain that won't be at least partially soothed by a mug of creamy potato cheese soup. Eighty percent of what I eat is medication and Band-Aids; nourishment has become secondary. I hadn't truly seen this slide into deep emotional eating that happened to me over the past (nearly) two months... a descent from the healthy high I felt when eating for health on AIP, down into the cesspool of eating starchy, sweet, and processed foods only because they make me feel better for awhile... even while knowing they are ruining my health. Self-medicating for sure.

If only I could turn back to self-medicating with food for the *right* reasons. I guess AIP is another form of self-medicating, but it's a fully conscious, deliberate choice to eat food as medicine to heal my physical ailments. That's so different from this kind of eating to soothe that gives momentary relief from stress but is not actually healing anything.

I did not ask Cloe why she is fat. I read all of the comments on my last post, and while I am curious, I still don't feel it is my place to ask her that. Mostly I wonder... if she knows all the things we need to do to be mentally and physically healthy regarding food, is something holding her back from doing it? Maybe she IS doing it. Maybe she's already lost 100 pounds. Maybe she has a health issue that causes her to be unable to lose weight. Or maybe she is telling me what to do because that is what she learned from a book. Why does it matter? I guess because I think of an eating disorder counselor as a guru. If there is an answer to obesity... to eating disorders... to stopping the madness that is eating enough to harm ones' self... she would have it. She would live it. Wouldn't she? Maybe then there is no answer, if she, too, struggles with her eating and "cannot" lose weight. Notice, I said "if." I still don't know if she struggles or if she even wants to lose weight, or if she already has. But those are the things that jumble around in my head regarding having an obese ED counselor.

She is very nice, kind, and understanding. I find her easy to talk to. She reminds me that exercise would release endorphins and help me feel better. She tells me I do not need to sit in the short-sightedness of food abuse; the space between my eyes, my mouth and an ice cream cone is not the universe and is not of highest importance. I can raise my eyes and look *beyond* the food, see my world, see what is truly important right around me. And that's good advice, because anyone who's ever had a food obsession knows that when you're sitting in the car with a Big Mac, the whole world outside the car ceases to exist. Everything else disappears when you are eating that. All the world is contained in a 3 foot space... until you're done, and the wrappers are on the floor, and you suddenly snap back to reality and see that you are sitting in a car in a parking lot with special sauce dripping down your coat. And then the shame sets in and you drive home, sadder than you were before. It doesn't have to be like that. By disengaging with your food and looking up and beyond, the world expands and so do our choices. When I am craving, instead of absorbing down into the small space and moment of that craving, I can break my attention away and look at the bigger world... my kids, my friends, my life... and choose to do something better. Better than just eating another cookie.

I'll keep seeing Cloe. I think that even if she doesn't have all the answers, she has enough, and she can help.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An "Eating Disorder" Counselor Gives Me Advice

I mentioned years ago on my blog that I wanted to see an eating disorder specialist for help with my binge eating, but there wasn't one near enough that it wouldn't mean 3 hours round trip for a visit. Finding someone who would take my insurance was another issue. After I stopped binge eating on my own, I no longer felt the need to see a specialist. But this year's been tough, recovering from 2 years of chronic pain and the loss of loved ones in my life, so I did think seeing a regular counselor would be worthwhile and helpful... and it is. But when I've talked about the way I still like to turn to food for comfort, and how I'd like to stop *all* of the obsessive food thoughts, she's not been able to address that. In fact she told me it was pretty normal to overeat when you're stressed. She laughed and told me she sometimes buys a box of chocolate covered ice cream bars and takes them home, and before the night is over the box is empty. Well, yeah, I can relate to that, but my counselor is healthy and thin and doesn't really *get* the eating issues I struggle with. She's adept at lots of other kinds of counseling, but even she thought this was out of her realm. So she found me an eating disorder counselor.

Apparently this ED therapist just moved here a month or so ago and happens to also take my insurance. I had no idea she existed, but my regular counselor set me up with her and I was really excited to go! I don't know if I technically have an eating disorder now or not, but was willing to see what a professional thinks. So on Friday I drove to her office and waited, kind of excitedly, in the waiting room.

When Cloe (not her real name) opened her session room door, my first impression was what a lovely person she seemed to be: smiling, well dressed, young, hair and makeup very nicely done, and she was warm and friendly. My second thought was, "oh no... she's fat too." My third thought was to feel terribly guilty and judgmental for thinking that. But... if you are obese, and you want to see a specialist to help you fix whatever might be keeping you obese, and that specialist is ALSO obese... I dunno, I felt a little bit of disappointment. Like, will she be able to understand me and help me change my life? Or is she struggling with the same issues and has not been able to change her *own* life? I mean, logically I know that there are plenty of reasons someone can be obese, and they don't all have to do with eating disorders, so I just told myself to stop wondering about her (possible) issues and focus on my own.

Cloe was very kind and easy to talk to. She has a lot of background working with anorexics and bulimics (which I have never been) and training in disordered eating. She asked me a lot of questions about my eating patterns and habits, feelings, my dieting history, and my past. After about an hour of deep probing, she told me some things I didn't really want to hear.

She said I need to "normalize" food. Told me that I should go ahead and have my coffee and donut if I want it... just don't have TEN donuts. She told me at the end of the day I might think "Hey I didn't have any sweets yesterday, so I will go ahead and have a cookie tonight after dinner." That would be the goal. She said I should not feel bad if I have a slice or two of pizza for dinner; it is just food and what I should pay attention to is that I have a normal serving... not a whole pizza. She told me when my brain tells me I am craving potato chips, to just go to the store and buy a small, single serving bag and have my chips.

That part, I did not want to hear at all. I have been told that same thing before, by other people, even here in the comments of my blog. I am *highly resistant* to this advice and think it is all wrong *for me*... because one cookie leads to many, one slice of pizza is never enough. Because my doctor told me to get off gluten ("so have gluten free cookies then, they make those now right?" she says) and because I know from experience that sugar does bad things for my mental and physical health. But this is a specialist. It makes me stop and look at everything again and see if she is right.

I still think it is bad advice, for me.

She also said I should go to the gym and take classes or swim or do something, anything, for my depression. That, I fully agree with. She asked how being busy versus being not-busy affects my eating, and I told her that on busy days when I am focused on other things, I am far less likely to eat junk or eat too much. It's when I have a lull between activities, or a day of "rest," that I start obsessing about food. She said to sub the gym for food at those times. She said when I have that urge to get in the car and go buy a cake, get in the car and drive to the gym instead. I think that was pretty good, simple advice.

Finally, she looked at my history and patterns and told me she felt I did have Binge Eating Disorder, triggered by extreme stress, but that I no longer fit the criteria for that diagnosis. She said if I write down what I eat (foods and times) and turn it in to her, it will help her "make sure there is not some other ED involved here." She said "I am not sure this is actually an eating disorder, so the food log will help me determine that." She also said that weighing every day is a bad idea.

I go back in a few weeks for another visit, but I admit I didn't get as much out of this as I'd hoped. Not sure what I was imagining would happen: some magical insight into my psyche, some special key to ending the food thoughts and cravings, something. But I will take at least the latter portion of her advice while I think about the first portion. Maybe there is something to be said for normalizing food, even if I need to do so in a gluten-free, dairy-free context (if that is possible).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Facing the Scale

I've been avoiding it for a long time, but yesterday I decided to just get up this morning and weigh. I guess I just didn't want to know, was afraid if there was a gain I'd feel worse (I have been feeling bad enough without adding one more thing) and honestly have had very little motivation to *do* anything about my weight anyway... so what's the point of weighing? Well as I said yesterday, the point is my health, and I need to get refocused on *that* (and weight is, at least in obesity, connected to what's going on with my health).

So here we go. Scale this morning said 232 pounds. That's up 6 pounds since Sept 1. Last time I weighed was on September 5 at 229 pounds. Obviously being off AIP means not only eating more volume but also eating more of the foods that create inflammation, hunger, cravings, and health issues. Completely stopping the exercise was not the best idea either.

Anyway I'm also back to writing down what I eat in my notebook (not measuring, not counting calories or carbs, just writing the foods but not amounts) because that is what worked for me before. Also easing back into activity with some walks and hopefully some swimming this week.

That's all for now; will update more when there is more to say.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Today has been a day of much thinking and pondering and feeling about what is going on with me and my weight and my health. It was the first slow, calm, relaxing, unbusy day I have had in awhile... rainy and chilly, with no appointments or volunteering or work that had to be done, so I have had time to be quiet and see what is going on with me. Inside.

I am afraid I am failing. I am worried that I will never get my mojo back and focus and even *care* enough to work on the whole diet/exercise thing this fall and winter. I deeply want to hibernate, ignore it all, and just pretend everything is fine and I can deal with it later. But it's not fine, I'm not good with where I'm at, and it's not even primarily a weight issue anymore (although yeah, I have been highly resistant to get on the scale and see what's up with that). When I got my thyroid diagnosis and my recommendation for uterine surgery, all of the "I am too fat" stuff evaporated into thin air and suddenly it was all about my health. I am 45, and I have to get my health back NOW. I have too many symptoms that aren't good... and when I started medication and AIP those symptoms started to improve dramatically. Yes the weight also started to finally drop off. And that is an exciting, good thing... and it's easy to turn that into the "main point" especially when you have a weight loss blog. I know weight and health are linked but I am far more concerned about my health now than I am my weight. The weight, it doesn't bother me as much anymore, in and of itself. I am a lot more comfortable and capable of doing what I want to do at this weight than I was at 280... and the joint pain I used to suffer with is minimal as long as I stay off the sugar and take my joint supplements. So, hey, the clothes fit. I am not self conscious (at the moment, anyway) about my weight. But I see the redness back in my face. I see the skin breakouts and the puffy ankles. I wake up numerous times in the night for no apparent reason. I'm tired, the heartburn is back at night, my blood pressure is up, and my mood is down. All of it, I believe, would be helped by diet and exercise. And I think it's kind of urgent, especially with the thyroid stuff now. Autoimmune disease is nothing to mess with.

I've been so resistant to doing something *solid* to address all of this again, ever since the sinus infection. My heart's just not in it. Why? Depression? Maybe. Wanting to eat a lot of potatoes and rice and cheesy things because they taste good and are warm and filling in the cooler weather? Yeah, that too. But if I keep waiting for some lightning bolt to strike where I have all the energy and desire and focus to treat myself right, I may be waiting a long, long time.

I know the best thing to do is quit dinking around, get on the scale, start writing down what I eat, and get to the gym and swim again. Take some walks. Drink some water. Concrete steps. Not just trying to improve a little this week. Not just cutting back on coffee (as I sip my decaf Americano) but actually requiring more of myself because I need to be healthy. Putting everything off indefinitely is not going to make anything better. So I'll get on the scale in the morning, start writing down what I am eating again, and pray I can stick with it and see the same improvements I saw when I was on AIP before. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 13, 2014

About The Week

This week has been a tough one for me. Over the past couple of months I have been on and off AIP more times than I can count... which doesn't do anything for the elimination diet part of the equation. I'd need to be solid with the elimination part for a month (again) before I could start reintroducing things again properly (all I've reintroduced successfully so far is cocoa, nutmeg, and cumin.) I do see health benefits from AIP though, even when I am not perfect at it. It's a very natural, healthy, whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet, so I do get some benefits from eating this way for 3 days or a week, or even from eating 1 or 2 meals a day from the AIP template. I just can't get the elimination part going until I do another long stretch without things that are supposed to be removed for 30+ days.

Since I got better from my sinus infection it's been like that: several days perfect, then a few days not. In all honestly I find it hard to stick to a restrictive plan when I am feeling down and struggling with other things. I'm not bingeing, no. I'm not going back to that. But this week has been the worst... letting coffee back in on a regular basis, having some au gratin potatoes with dinner, justifying eating butternut squash flat bread with roasted tomatoes and caramelized sweet onions because it was gluten free. My line in the sand has been gluten, but then when someone offers me a gluten free brownie, I take it. And I don't exactly feel bad about it, either. This week I've eaten soups with beans, pork sirloin roast with roasted sweet potatoes, rotisserie chicken and steamed peas, lots and lots of warm decaf tea with coconut milk and honey, and a piece of gluten free cheesecake with a walnut crust. All of this food was delicious, but at the end of the day some of this stuff is steering me away from my goal (AIP for health). I am being weak and giving in a lot, mainly because I just don't feel motivated and certainly don't feel strong anymore. I also have not been exercising much at all. If I had to guess I'd say I'm maintaining or maybe up 5 pounds but my clothes all fit the same as they did two months ago. I am ambivalent about the scale... or maybe I just don't need one more thing to push me into feeling worse.

The reason I'm writing today, when I don't especially feel like it, is because I want to commit to myself, and put it out there for you as well, that I will do better this week. Not great, maybe, but better. Even just a little bit better. Because week by week I see myself doing a little worse. And I may not be making any progress with health or weight at the moment but I want to turn the downward descent around before winter comes and makes it even harder. So my goal for this week is to do better. Get *some* exercise. Reduce my sugar intake. Lay off the coffee. Try to eat a little more veggies. Just turn it around, so it's a little better next week rather than a little worse. I also committed to myself that I'll get on the scale November 1 even though I don't want to. Enough with the head in the sand thinking... I need to know for sure where I am with my weight.

Thanks for listening and for sticking around for this part of the journey.

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