Friday, January 21, 2011

The Food/Death Connection

Looks like I was tired because I have the flu or something. I've had chills and fever since last night, and a sore throat and maybe a sinus infection coming on. Ick. And my little girl stayed home from school today to go to the doctor instead because she was crying that her ears hurt.

Keep my flu brain in mind when you read this post. It may seem rambly, but it is the flat, straight truth.

The past few days I have been doing what I call "picking." Picking at this, picking at that... giving in to little urges like wanting a cookie or a sandwich or whatever. And you know what struck me every time I picked? Every time, I have the thought, "I may NEVER get to eat this again."

Yes, the theme of my "dieting" life. The past 25 times I have eaten Pizza Hut pan pizza I have thought it may be my last. Every single one of the last 30 cookies I have eaten I have wondered if I would ever "get" to have one again. Each time I gave in at the checkout stand and picked a candy bar to eat, I chose based on which candy bar I wanted to be my 'last.'

It is crazy. I have not ruled out any foods forever. Yet I have this sense that I DO need to make some foods off limits... probably those containing a lot of sugar... and that belief (which I do think is correct) pops up in my head whenever I start picking at food.

"Oh, I want to be on plan from now on so I need to have a cupcake with whipped frosting because I may NEVER be able to have one again."

And it's true, in my own head, because in reality I have NEVER been able to stop at one cupcake. One sugary junky indulgence almost always turns into a mini binge (at least). I KNOW what foods I can have that won't trigger me... like dark chocolate, fruits, yogurt, even pudding and pumpkin pie. But cake? Cookies? Candy? Problems.

And it is not so much that I think "I can NEVER have another cookie," but it's the insanity of "I can NEVER have another

double stuff Oreo
Nutter Butter
Girl Scout Thin Mint
homemade gingersnap
peanut butter thumbprint cookie
brownie with nuts
brownie with frosting
cupcake from THAT SPECIFIC Deli
Organic sugar cookie

etc, etc, on and on FOREVER because it is not the loss of COOKIES that bothers me as much as it is the loss of every specific KIND of cookie in the world! Even if I "allowed" myself 20 kinds of cookies, my brain would be obsessing about the one kind of cookie not on the allowed list.

Oh, I have tried to tell myself they are ALL allowed, but I know myself well enough now to know that I am kidding myself with that. There are THOUSANDS of specific kinds of cookies, ice creams, candies, pies, cobblers, and desserts that I want to have. And WOULD have... would be on some kind of pilgrimage to make my life about being sure I have tried EVERY SINGLE KIND of sweet on the planet before I die, and even then, I'd be upset that I could only have each thing once. It is insane, and I don't know what *place* in me this obsession comes from. But I have a desperate sense of not wanting anything to be *the last time*... of never wanting an experience to be over.

You could ask me right now, "What is the ONE dessert you want to have tomorrow, and then never have again?" I would be unable to choose. Because I could not enjoy it knowing it was the last time. It's so fleeting... the feelings and sensations of eating a food. It's there one minute and gone the next... where you had this beautiful trifle on a plate to gaze at, smell, taste and enjoy, within moments all you have is a memory. And that bothers me. A lot.

It's not even about food, really. It is, I think, about the deep seated anxiety of knowing time passes and every experience is fleeting and gone in an instant. In fact I think this even goes way back to my young childhood, which as I have explained was governed by a very strict religious upbringing complete with tales and drawings of people being "destroyed" by God for their evil ways. I thought I had evil ways as a child. As young as 8 or 9 I remember being terrified I'd be killed by God. And because this religion had no "afterlife" and stated that death is final (UNLESS you were one of the few who were faithful and, in my mind, perfect enough for a later resurrection)... a sleep without dreaming from which you never awake.

I was terrified to go to sleep as a child, too. I still have sleep issues, because at such a young age I associated sleep with death, and death with nonexistence... which is very frightening to a child. I am not so frightened now, but that kind of thing, it's the core of one's being. It stays with you. I was always painfully aware, even in elementary school, that time was passing and each moment might be the last. I remember sitting in the old green 1973 station wagon while my father drove us around. I'd see the stop sign up ahead and I'd think, "that stop sign is in the future, and we haven't passed it yet, but in a minute we will and this minute I am living in will be GONE"... and before I could complete the thought, we were past the stop sign, the present melted into the past, and the future just a blur that would soon be over. And as a kid, that bothered me.

Hey, I think I just solved the mystery.

Yes, I've often thought about convicted murderers being asked what they want their last meal to be, and how I would feel if I were on death row. I thought about how I couldn't... wouldn't choose a meal because it would be the last time and I couldn't stand it to be a last time.

Last year when I went back to the town where I grew up, I was excited to take my kids to the little ice cream shop that my father always took me to on special occasions. They made their own ice cream and toppings, and I have very fond memories of going there with my now-deceased parents when I was a child. Great memories. So I took my children there. And when we walked up to the door there was a sign that said, "Closed." We asked next door and in fact the place had just closed... for good. I almost had a breakdown. It COULD NOT BE that I would never get to have that special Pecan Turtle Sundae that I used to share with my father, ever again. It didn't matter that I could replicate it at home if I wanted to. I would never, ever again have THAT sundae. And it felt like a death or something.

So I go through that every *last time* I pick at a potato chip, a sandwich, a cheese ball. Is this the last? It cannot be.

But it HAS to be. There HAS to be a letting go, an ending to that obsession with food and time and death. It's all interlinked, interwoven. And this, I think, is the breakthrough I have needed all along.

It's not the end, not the simple solution. But finally I get it. I get where the food issues come from. And knowing that, I can face it and work through it.


Carmen said...

It is amazing how much weight you have lost! I really loved seeing all your photos and witnessing the losses. I`m hoping to get back on the bandwagon myself and lose the weight yet again. I have to do something before it affects my health really negatively. I`m hoping I can figure out how to keep it off this time! Good luck with the rest of your journey!

Brandi {1 of 2} said...

I know exactly what you mean. Every time I've tried to quit smoking, I have the last one for the night before going to bed and I think "this is the LAST cigarette I'm EVER gonna have!" and I get panicky. I toss and turn and eventually get up to have another one. It's tough to face that LAST here. I wish you much (added) success!

Diandra said...

I guess for many people it's all the "last cookies/pieces of cake/brownies" that kepp them jumping off the band waggon again and again. All this thinking and obsessing about food we are "not allowed" to have... it's ridiculous! It makes these tiny morself of food larger than life, and life-threatening in the end.

My approach, it seems, is completely different from yours, but I have never been that far into "food fantasia land", it seems... I know there is plenty of sweet stuff out there, and I can have whatever I want whenever I want. So, it's not a big deal not to eat that cookie or brownie or ice cream... i can have them whenever I want, and even if that special candy goes out of production (as happened with my very favorite chocolate candy, which I only had once in my life and then the enterprise decided they would not make another batch again EVER), there will be plenty of other, new kinds of candy to try if I really want them. And honestly, most of the time I don't want them, and I walk away, because I *could* have them. After all, it's just food...

Anne H said...

Yep - I get that alot... and I tell myself that, sometimes too. But I'm getting better at not. I can have carbs or ice cream or whatever! I just choose not to! So that puts me back in control again. said...

Mine is similar to you... I've always been 'this is the last day of eating this crap - tomorrow morning I start a diet', and of course I don't start tomorrow for numerous reasons. Until now, that is! Cheers, Rick

Jane said...

Completely understand what you're talking about. That's how I gained most of my weight--having something "just one last time." I have come to understand that for me, that "one last time" will turn into more weight gain, because it will go on for days, months, or years. You have done so well--I wish you continued success!

Desert Singer said...

I love that you say it isn't a simple solution, but now you think you know where the food issue(s) come from, you can address it and move through it.

Congratulations, this is huge :-)

I'm just saying, "not now..." you can have that later.

Laura I. (G.G.) said...

Great post. Great epiphany at the end.

Lynna said...

From where I sit behind the post, it seems like you are zeroing in on huge spiritual matters that have formed thoughts/behaviors.

You said that you were raised to believe that only "the really, really, really good and right believing/living" (my paraphrase) people got a ticket into heaven.

I wonder what you believe as an adult about afterlife? (Deep question for a blog comment, ehh? smile)

Anonymous said...

Someone I'm close to is in AA, and one of the hardest things to overcome in quitting drinking, for an alcoholic, is "NEVER". That's why they all do it One Day At A Time. In the beginning, it is one minute at a time, then it's "I won't have a drink this hour," then it's "I won't have a drink today. I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." This concept has been helpful to me in my weight loss. "I'm not having a cupcake today, and if I still want one tomorrow, I'll deal with that then." There are lots of aspects of AA that are helpful in weight loss-- group support, individual mentoring, taking a fearless personal inventory, and taking on the addiction one day at a time. I'm not implying that being overweight is the same as being an alcoholic, only that the tools for dealing with one may be helpful to the other.
Love your blog, am so happy to see you progress, and wish you nothing but the best!

aec5940 said...

So much you have said recently has resonated with me. A few days ago, you posted about not liking strength training, but loving how it makes you feel. I feel that way too, but have never been able to put it into words. And now this. I completely agree - I CANNOT tell myself that nothing is off limits, because in reality, certain foods MUST be off limits if I want to avoid a binge. That is the reality. And it is tough. The anonymous poster who wrote about AA just before me has some great insight and I think her/his comment will help me. But thanks again for putting into words my thoughts.

Debbie said...

Lyn -

Truly a wonderful and deep post. You put into written words so beautifully what just rambles around in my head in a foggy, disconnected state.

I thought about this the other day... To expand on Lynna's previous comment, if there is an afterlife (and I choose to believe that there is because there are people I so dearly love that I MUST see again), is there food in the afterlife? If not, then I get all wrapped around some of the issues that you brought up about never having the desired food again, even beyond this life.

And then there's a binge...

I have no beautiful and thought-provoking reasoning to solve that issue.

It bothers me that I am so weak.

Anonymous said...

So glad you had a break-through writing the post! Isn't that awesome?

The way I've handled this kind of thing (and us overweight or previously overweight all have or had this issue to some degree), is that within my allotted 1200 calories as I'm losing weight (on a mostly South Beach diet, but what diet doesn't matter), I allow 100-150 of those calories a day to be sweets. Usually it's a total of 3 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Nuggets (one in the afternoon, 2 after dinner), but it could be anything sweet. That way, a day doesn't go by that I don't have some food decadence. I don't feel like I'm depriving myself so much. I am exerting much-needed control by keeping it to just that amount. It seems like a total win-win for me. :)

Kathleen said...

OK, you will have other new memories, other new food memories that don't involve food that isn't ultimately good for you.

One thing that helps me is this. I tell myself, "I have had plenty of 'x.' I'm not a deprived person. I'm choosing 'not-x' right now."

I'm also on a plan where I do tell myself, "I will never have 'x' again." I didn't do it at first; I reserved the right to say I would have those things again. Now, I cannot imagine ever wanting them all that much. We're going into the fourth season of Girl Scout cookie sales, and I'm just as happy to have control over them. Yes, they are wonderful cookies, but being a Size 8 is tons more wonderful.

Lisa said...

Enjoying the "Last" whatever I was going to have since i was going to diet probably helped me gain 20 - 30 lbs over my life lol. Now I tell myself I can have whatever I want... Tomorrow! It will always be there. Donuts and ice cream will be in production long after I have left the earth.

Kathy said...

We all play mind games with ourselves. It's not just about being on a certain diet or exercising. This process is about healing out mindset also. I believe it really is an emotional journey and we have to recognize what has been holding us back. If we can't get to that breakthrough point then it will be alot harder. Congrats on your breakthrough and I hope you get over your flu soon!

Lisa said...

Lyn - I COMPLETLEY understand. I do the SAME thing. Especially now since I am getting ready to have my surgery...

Ellie said...

It's great that you were able to figure that out. I always try to give myself ONE cheat day where I am allowed to eat a few sweets or desserts so that I never put myself in a "this is my last chance" mindset. Whenever I do that I only lead myself to a binge.

You have to do what helps you out, whether it be a cheat day or just cutting it out all together.

I hope you will be able to stick with the limitations you give yourself!

The Motivational Girl said...

Perhaps your thinking of it in the wrong way. You can have those things and still be healthy and thin, its all about choosing wisely and not overdoing it.

I've noticed now that I've been maintaining my weightloss almost 2 years that I don't want those things anymore because they hurt me.

You'll find things overtime that replace those things and it will work out much better for your weight management and health.

Mavra said...

I know exactly what you mean. I think it's about not depriving yourself and having a little of what you like so it's never a last time, but so it's still ok to say no just THIS time. Good luck hun :)

Mavra xx

Steelers6 said...

I loved this line; "Oh, I have tried to tell myself they are ALL allowed, but I know myself well enough now to know that I am kidding myself with that."

It would be very confusing to some readers, but those of us in the WL world totally get what that meant!

Hope you and your princess are back to your active selves soon.


Mia said...

Just found your blog, and I'm loving it. My weaknesses are pizza, lasagna, breads, and Oreo cookies. Everytime I walk past Oreo cookies I have to remind myself how bad they are, with hopes I will be disgusted with them to the point of not buying them. Resisting food is probably the hardest thing a human can do.

Cortney said...

Oh my God, Lynn, this line "I'd see the stop sign up ahead and I'd think, "that stop sign is in the future, and we haven't passed it yet, but in a minute we will and this minute I am living in will be GONE"... and before I could complete the thought, we were past the stop sign, the present melted into the past, and the future just a blur that would soon be over. And as a kid, that bothered me." plus a lot of the other things you are talking about sound like they could be from my own mind...

I remember, as a child in the 3rd grade driving through traffic on the highway at night, looking at all those thousands of lights and thinking "every single person, in every single one of those cars, is going to die someday. And they don't know when. But it will happen, eventually".

And I had the *exact* same problems with sleeping- as I would start to drift off, I would jerk awake, fighting that feeling of "slipping away", because, like you, I equated sleep with death.

It's something I still struggle with, honestly. The future sometimes really, really scares me, and I am often painfully aware of the fleeting nature of existence. I do hope that working through this is giving you some answers, but in the meantime know that you are not alone.

Lyn said...


I really wish I could figure that out.

Thank you all so much for the comments on this post. They mean a lot to me... this was a deep and meaningful post for me to write, and I am so glad to have so many to share it with.

Anonymous said...

Sweetie, you don't have to think about forever. Just today. Try thinking to yourself when you see whatever-it-is, "Wow, that looks good, and one day I may enjoy some of that. For today, though, I'm not going to have it." No issues about tomorrow, or the last time ever. Just today. And mean it. It's all about TODAY. Sometimes it's this minute, or this second. It works. Try it.

Roxie-Girl said...

I think you hit this dead on (no pun intended)!!
I'm positive that this is exactly what I think when I grab or buy that favorite bag of potato chips, eat my favorite meal at a restaurant, or stop at Baskin Robbins on the way home for a Banana Royale (just did this last week).
I must think that this is the last time I may be eating this. I would surely die if I didn't get to "taste" it one...more...time.

Thanks for clearing my head today.