Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grounded in Reality

Have you ever been eating something and felt like that foods was, for a moment, something other than the fat/grease/salt that it really is? Maybe it became a friend to you when you were sad. A lover when you were needy and lonely. Food can do that sometimes. I know I have had my share of completely transcendent experiences with brownie batter. The minute that mixture hits my tongue, my eyes roll back in my head and I feel like I've died and gone to heaven. I am transported through time and space and all that matters is the sugar high I am getting... how every cell in my body is feeling fulfilled and satisfied and I am no longer a fat 39-year-old woman with upper arms the size of some peoples' waists. I am just a consciousness floating through space with the amazing sensations of brownie batter flooding my very being. It's almost spiritual.

I've heard people say that some rich dessert was "better than sex." And frankly SOME desserts I have had have been better than SOME sex I have had. But food does have to ability to become something in our heads.... something we need or want. We make it that way, and it isn't reality.

In fact, I am convinced that whenever we are in a binge, we are in an altered state of reality. Everything else disappears. It's a beautiful thing.

But I also think that it isn't healthy to make food into a role it wasn't meant to take. Food is nutrition, it's fuel... but it also CAN and SHOULD be a source of pleasure, and even comfort. What it should NOT be is a drug, a lover or a god. It should not become our Imaginary Friend.

Here's an exercise in reality I'd like you to try. Think of a food you really, really enjoy... crave... want. If you have a warped vision of food like I do, you probably have your own "brownie batter" that, when eaten to excess, puts you into some state of bliss. Close your eyes and think of how it feels to be indulging in that. For me, it really is a beautiful thing. A religious experience or whatever. It's almost like I am floating around and my entire consciousness is centered in my mouth. Now, the next time you are eating something like that... or even some trigger food you saw in the grocery store or the Big Mac you just HAD to have and went through the drive through for... I want you to TAKE that food and put yourself in front of a well-lighted mirror, and eat it there. Be sure you are sitting close enough to the mirror to see the way your face looks, how your jaw moves, what you look like as you take bites and chew. Just sit there or stand in the bathroom in front of the mirror, or use your car visor if you're doing the car-binge thing, and watch yourself eat. I know this can be unsettling. It'll make you uncomfortable and you won't want to do it. But do it anyway. Watch yourself. Look closely at your face and eyes, your lips and jaw. Take note. Is what you FEEL when you are eating the same as what you see? What you see is the reality of what a binge IS. It is not what's in your head. As a matter of fact, seeing it can really make you feel gross. It can make you want to stop eating. Why? Because you can't hang onto your fantasy when reality is staring you in the face.

Does that food taste and feel amazing, fantastic in your mouth? Well, take a look. While you're sitting in front of the mirror watching yourself eat, every so often just open your mouth and take a look at what's in there. Not so pretty, eh?

Seriously, I think this is an exercise everyone should do at least once. If you can stand to sit and eat in front of a mirror, REALLY watching yourself closely, it can help you dispel the craziness on your head. It's that craziness that lets the binges happen, because when you are bingeing, you're not grounded in reality. You're not fat, you're not eating a frightening amount of greasy foods at a disgustingly rapid pace. You're just lost in the moment. But lemme tell you, watching a fat person chow down on junk is NOT pretty. And it's even less pretty when it's *you* that you're watching. But watching yourself eat and seeing what the food really looks like can dispel the fantasy and bring you back to reality... the reality of how food affects your body, and what your goals really are.

I do hope you'll try this. It's very enlightening.

I have a few short notes I want to leave you with... just a couple of things I want to say that don't need their own blog post.

1. Liz left a comment earlier asking what scale I use to weigh myself I use a Health-O-Meter Professional Scale similar to this one. It's got a 330 pound limit, and it has a dial (it's not digital) so it doesn't use batteries and is very accurate. I've had it for over 10 years and it still gives me very reliable, accurate weights every day. I also have a Mary Lou's Weigh Platform which I was given to review awhile back. You can read my review here if you like.

2. Cathleen left a comment asking about voting for my blog in the Bloggers' Choice Awards, and said it showed that some people voted more than once, and wanted to know how to do this. Actually, you can only vote for my blog once (in the category Best Health Blog), but you can vote for other blogs for other categories too. So when it says that someone voted 2 times or 15 times by their name, it means they voted that many times total... for other blogs, too... not just for mine. And currently this blog is in third place for Best Health Blog! So if you haven't voted yet, now's you chance:

My site was nominated for Best Health Blog!

Thanks for your votes!

(And, BTW, no, there is not a prize if I win. The point of winning, for me, would be to get this blog out there for more people to read. Why? Because I do not want anyone to suffer from obesity if they want to lose weight, and I want people to find encouragement that IT IS POSSIBLE to build the life you want, and that they are not alone in dealing with these issues, including binge eating disorders.)

3. I am doing okay. I've been having smoothies for breakfast every morning: nonfat yogurt, fresh mango, 1/3 banana, carrot juice, 1 scoop protein powder, handful of fresh spinach, and ice cubes all whirled in the blender. It's really good! I love smoothies for breakfast in the summer. And since I know someone will ask, I use the Biggest Loser vanilla whey protein powder :) However, my dinners have not had enough veggies, and I have fallen off the exercise wagon, hard. Just when I got into the habit of walking with my 3-year-old in a stroller each day (she isn't thrilled, but hey, it works), then I got my routine shaken up again when the new little girl moved in with us. She'll be here for all of May, and I don't have a double stroller. She has a scooter but when I walk with her and my daughter it is a slow meander, and my heart rate never gets up. I ought to start biking when they go to bed. There's just so much to do!

4. I thought I'd share this. The first night our new "sister" came to live with us, we had spaghetti. She was sitting across from me and as I finished my food, she piped up and said, "You're done already?? Wow, you eat FAST!" I glanced around, and indeed, no one else was more than halfway done with their food. Oops! She smiled and said, "You really liked it, huh?"

Heh... made me laugh. But also made me think. Time to put the eating speed back in check! Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see something that needs to change.

Over and out for now... be well!


IRJessica said...

Out of the mouthes of babes...

Nice post Lyn.

McLauren84 said...

Oh, Lyn..I totally identify with this. In the past, it would happen when I was chowing down on Taco Bell followed by Dairy Queen. I'd be in heaven--binge eating in secrecy, my absolute favorite. Then I'd catch an image of myself in the side mirror of my car. I'd see my double chin jutting out as a struggled to take a huge bite of burrito or giant spoonful of blizzard. It's absolutely disgusting. Talk about a reality check!

Fat[free]Me said...

I know that almost drugged feeling when happily eating a favourite food and will try the mirror trick if (when) I get that crazy binge urge next time and see if it works.

Your blog is great - I love your reasons why you want to get it out there to help others.

Good luck with the awards!

A said...

I know what you mean.Chocolate feels like a drug to me, I usually close my eyes while eating it, and I do feel kind of altered.I think this is what fast carbs do to us (some of us). I mean, I like eggs a lot but nothing "happens" when I eat them.

I'll consider your mirror suggestion, but it sounds a bit scary. Fun fact: A Norewegian poet wrote a poem about eating mango (or some kind of fruit) and looking at herself in the mirror at the same time, she called it a "double pleasure". She probably didn't have food issues. :)

Great post by teh way!

Glam,Glitz&Gut said...

So I read this post, got a brownie and ate it. I didn't like what I saw. Thanks for the trick!

GroverGreen said...

I've heard it suggested that we watch ourselves eat off-plan foods in front of a full-length mirror, naked. Yikes!

venusenvy23 said...

I heard a great article on NPR today about what fast and processed foods do to us, how they turn a switch on in some people's brains that is exactly like taking an illegal drug. This guy says that for those people(me), the only time the brain is stimulated in this way is when we're eating fat on top of sugar on top of salt. It was very intresting and he wrote a book about it. HE is the former Food and Drug Administration Commisioner. It goes hand in hand with Michael Pollan's books on the state of food industry today. Here is a link to the article:

Mama Bear June said...

Your smoothie sounds awesome! Good luck with the award. :-)
Path to Health

Hanlie said...

I've always been a fast eater (more for me, right?), so it was a surprise when I met my husband and he eats even faster than I do. Now I'm really trying to slow both of us down...

Too funny you should mention this mirror thing. I did a post about spending time in the mirror yesterday and when you said to eat in front of the mirror, it just went "ping" in my mind! I'll be sure to try that!

Twix said...

It is unsettling! And a great reminder of the truth. I've done this several times. :D

herewegoagain said...

This post is absolutely brilliant. It really hit the nail on the head. Thanks for that!

PatriciaW said...

Great post. I only disagree on one point. Food should be pleasurable, sure, but not comfort. Maybe medicinal at times, but not the I-feel-badly-so-I'm-eating-to-feel-better type comfort.

We've probably done enough of that in our lives. We have to find other ways to get the "feel better" that we need-- a walk, a book, time with friends, meditation, etc. Ways that don't translate to poundage.

Anonymous said...

I will try this mirror thing, but I can tell you now that just the thought of it ruining my appetite.

One thing I do to slow down my eating is to eat only with the small salad forks - it's hard to get too much food on one of those and if you do manage to pile the food up, it falls off the fork before it reaches your mouth!

John said...

The start of this entry really hit home. These past few months I've recognized more than ever before just how much I treat food and drink as a friend. When I go out to eat alone, I'm really not alone -- I sit with my food. When I bring beer home, I'm inviting six cool friends to hang out with me. For as long as it lasts, yes, it is bliss. But afterward I'm still alone, and still in angst over my weight and how I feel I look.

Juice said...

Can you elaborate on the new member of your household? I must have missed a post...

Lyn said...


Someone had an emergency so I took her preschool-aged daughter to live with me for 3+ weeks. I have her 24/7 except I do take her to preschool each day. It's fun for my little girl but also a challenge with jealousy issues, etc. It's very much like when I used to have foster children, since her mother is not a family friend or anything, but I felt it was the right thing to do.