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.


Meryl said...

This is a very interesting concept and a strong analogy ie. the food allergy.
I'm going to really think a lot about this and see if it will resonate with me as well.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! I think my light bulb just came on! I get it now and understand why this works. Thank you Lynn!

Roxanne said...

Great realization, Lynn! Keep going! I know that someday you will be able to be healthy without feeling deprived or anything. I am also actually adapting a similar way of thinking. I don't believe that there's any diet out there that will work for me. So instead of beating myself in following their ridiculous rules for life, I try to confront and ask myself. "Can I imagine myself doing this diet. Restricting carbs, sweets, the foods I like and training on the treadmill like crazy for life?" I then realized that NO. I. COULDN'T. DO. IT. So, what does work for me?

That's when I started to compromise with myself. I had an intimate conversation with myself. I let my emotions, my HONEST thoughts pour until I arrive my OWN lifestyle strategy. I started with asking myself:

"What are the foods I cannot give up?" For me it's ice cream, chocolates, rice (a huge rice eater here since it's the main staple in Asia), etc. etc. Do I need to give them up? Can I imagine myself giving those foods up for life? NO! So there's no reason for me to give them up AT. ALL. Then I listed them and include them in the foods I can and will eat.

"What are the foods I CAN give up/moderate eating?" For me, those foods are like pizzas, pastas, other sweets like cake (not so appealing to me), etc. So, as much as possible, I will lessen my consumption of them. But if I do feel like eating it, then I will eat it.

"What are the foods you're willing to try eating?" Veggies, so I am now in the process of reconciling my attitude in eating veggies.

"Do you like running as a form of exercise?" Hell no! "So, what can you do instead? What form of activity you enjoy that can be considered as exercise?" Brisk walking and swimming. so it served as my exercise.

And many more! As I wrote my list, I asked myself "Can I do this for a lifetime?" The answer is YES! It's not stressing and torture for me. I do think I can manage. So the desire of changing my lifestyle or the foods I ate comes to me NATURALLY. It felt light. Not like you're carrying a burden, responsibility, or obligation on your back. Which makes the whole process enjoyable and interesting!

I do believe everyone is unique, so one diet will never work for everyone as we have our individual needs. So what we need to do, instead, is to create a diet that will only work for YOU! Because you yourself knows what you really want!

Alison said...

This was also a lightbulb moment for me. Thanks!!! I have always found your insight motivating and wonderful. It has been an honor to be on this journey with you. Thanks to you I'm 440 miles into my virtual mission at the Y. And thanks to you my extended family looks forward to "Lyn's Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese" every Thanksgiving!

Lyn said...

What great comments! You guys made me smile this morning, thanks so much for being on the journey with me :)

Amy said...

This is so true. I could never feel the effects sugar had on my body until I stopped eating it. Now, when I have a little (like pie at Thanksgiving) I hate the phlem in my throat from it, the bloated feeling and the headache. I think to myself, how could I not have felt this before? Maybe feeling aweful is just some sort of normal for us when we're hooked on sugar. Or the sugar-brain fog makes us so unaware and disconnected with how we feel physically to notice. You sound happy and calm, that makes me feel happy too! I'm so glad you didn't stop blogging!