Archive for the 'Eating Disorders' Category

08
May
12

Fat is a Four Letter Word.

Ok, so I shared in a recent post that I got to a place of being about 100lbs overweight. Saying that number aloud, I’m front of God and everyone…well, that was a little scary. I had to go hide under the covers and be an alien for a while before I could talk about it any further.

But talk about it we’re going to.

Because I know damn well that I’m not alone. Some of you have left comments or emailed me telling me your stories. And the parallels between us all are really quite overwhelming.

Does anyone want to be overweight? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s nothing I’ve come across in my sphere of experience. To really desire to be overweight? Desire and acceptance are two different things. But to start with, we need to get very, very clear on one thing.

Wanting to maintain a healthy weight – whatever that is for you – and being judgmental about body size are two polar opposites. Let me say it again: there is no place for judgement on this journey.

Zoinks! Bam! Pow! (Think Batman & Robin sound effects and cartoon speech bubbles here.) That’s a hard one, isn’t it? I have, at times, been my own harshest critic. Anyone who has ever dealt with weight issues can probably relate to that. I judge myself more harshly than anyone else ever could. And in turn, I’ve probably done my share of judging others.

I have, eventually, realized that all those awful things I’ve said, and sometimes still catch myself saying, in my head about other overweight people…those are really just criticisms of myself I’m making in my own head before anyone else can say them out loud.

“Fatass.”

“Just back away from the table, asshole.”

“Are you sure that bike can actually support you, lardass?”

“Whoah, wideload.”

These, and worse (far worse), are all things that I’ve said in my head to myself. These, and worse (far worse), are all things I’ve said in my head, and maybe to a friend, about people I’ve seen out and about.

Sometimes I’ve said these things (and worse) to be “funny.” None of these things are funny. Not in any way, shape, form, or context.

Thank goodness the older I get, and the more conscious I get, the more I catch myself earlier in the process. It’s not that those thoughts don’t come (about myself, and about others – which is really another way of criticizing myself), but my immediate response now is to interrupt them, to cut them off, and replace them with compassion.

“Good for them. They’re out getting some exercise. That’s more than I’m doing.”

“You just never know somebody’s situation unless you’re in their shoes. Stop being so judgy, asshole.”

“Send them some love vibes. Just love them. That’s all.”

Notice anything about all those sentiments? Yup, they’re all focused on someone else. I’ve managed to interrupt the negative assault on others and replace it with positive and supportive thoughts. Which are, by the way, entirely genuine. Now that I recognize my own process, when I interrupt it, I genuinely feel love and support for others. But I still have a little more trouble showing myself compassion. I can break into the cycle of judgement and shut it down (sometimes), but the compassion doesn’t always flow so easily, not towards myself. But I’m working on it. One step at a time, right?

One of the most terrifying experiences of my life was being at an amusement park while overweight. Now, at this time I was probably about 70 lbs overweight. I adore roller coasters. Rides that flip you upside down. Adrenaline shit. Love it, love it, love it. But going on rides when I have been quite overweight has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Not because the ride itself was scary, but because I was terrified that I would be that story in the newspaper the next morning:

“Obese Woman Falls To Her Death.

Fat, Not Roller Coaster To Blame.”

And instead of enjoying any part of any ride, that’s all I could think about. And it took all the joy out of an experience that should be nothing but joy and laughter.

Did I fall out? Am I here telling you this story? So…obviously no. But was there any joy in the experience? Also no. You know what there was a great deal of?

Shame.

That one’s a powerful word. Shame. Total gut hit. A little bit pukey. Teary. Constricting. Terrifying in every way. Doing something like getting on a ride with a bunch of other people, and having to deal with seatbelts that don’t fit properly, or chest bars that won’t cinch down all the way until the attendant comes and leans on it? That’s shame. And I can never decide which is worse: doing it in front of a bunch of strangers you don’t know but being alone, or doing it in front of people you know but having someone you love there to support you. Both are godawful. And ultimately, I just stopped doing either.

I have talked to more health professionals than most about the issue of my weight, given that it comes up as we talk about all my other trillions of ailments (and the bajillions of doctors, etc. I’ve seen for them.) And they always say the same thing: reduced calories in = weight loss. Throw exercise in there and you’re golden.

Guess what?

After almost 30 years of struggling with my weight and body image issues, and dealing with my body on such an intense, intimate level, I have learned one thing about myself. Yes, there’s something to the above equation. But for me, for this body I live in, my weight is determined by something far, far more deep-rooted than that.

Self-acceptance and gratitude.

Seems like a weird thing to control weight, right? Well, for anything long term or significant to shift in my weight, that’s where it’s at.

At various times in my life I have participated in a lot of eating-related regimes aimed at controlling one’s weight. But I call bullshit. Diets don’t work and the control games played out in dieting wreak havok with my self-acceptance, my self-confidence, and my trust issues. Yeah, you heard me.

I have read a lot of Geneen Roth, who espouses trust as being the number one issue in getting your body to it’s ideal, natural weight, and staying there. Trust in your body’s innate wisdom and trust in yourself and your ability to nourish yourself. Not through a set meal plan. Not by following someone else’s instructions. By listening, really learning to listen and trust your body, and give your body what it’s asking for, and learning to trust that what you want will be there when you want it, so you don’t need to eat it when you don’t actually want it. I’m paraphrasing, and I’m simplifying quite a bit. But ultimately, these are the core beliefs that changed my life. Reading Geneen Roth’s books (pretty sure I’ve read all of them), and working for a stretch with a therapist who specialized in eating disorders (I’m a compulsive eater and an emotional eater) and worked on the same premises that Ms. Roth speaks of, these things made a huge impact on my life. Still, for years my weight went up and down.

And then I had an epiphany moment. (I must say, they’re weird when they strike, but I got over it. I epiphanized.)

I was sitting on my bed one evening, and I felt this overwhelming surge of gratitude for my body. This body that I have fought and hated and judged. And I sat there on the edge of my bed, naked (I was getting ready for bed), and rubbed my thighs. I was enveloped ingratitude for these strong thighs that had carried me through so much in my life. So many struggles, so many trials and tribulations. But there they were, strong and large, keeping me safe. And I just sat there with tears streaming down my face. Instead of wishing them away, I was drowning in thankfulness for a body that had protected me when I had been unable to protect myself. Taken care of me when no one else had been there to take care of me. And I felt love and gratitude for this body as I would a friend who had stood by me through thick and thin.

Now, it’s difficult to write, to explain without sounding cheesy. But as I sat there, running my hands up and down these amazing legs that had brought me from there to here, I really was overcome with emotions beyond explanation.

And that turned the tide.

Once I felt gratitude for my body, love and appreciation, totally devoid of hate or fight or shame, I could release whatever bound that body to me. And the weight started to fall away. At the time I swore I wasn’t eating any differently than I usually did, but the pounds were falling away. 45 pounds, actually. I got to a weight I could have been comfortable being for the rest of my life. At most, 20 pounds away from the lowest I’d really want to go and feel healthy.

Life throws you curve balls, though. After about a year at that weight, I injured my back, became quite immobile, and due to a particular medication, I gained 40 pounds in 6 weeks, and over the ensuing 3-4 years, and various medications, it crept up another 35-40 from there. And that, right there, put me smack at 100 pounds over what I would consider a healthy weight for me. It was within 5 pounds of the weight I saw on the scale just before I gave birth to twins, my full twin pregnancy weight, the highest I’ve ever been in my life. Due to another medication, I am now down 30 over the last 4 months, which puts me right back about where I started when I was having a love-fest with my legs. But I am finally, finally, in a place where I can see straight to appreciate my body for what it has given me. How it has protected me. How it has taken care of me as best it could.

And now, my job is to love my body. Every imperfect roll. Every wrinkle, every line. Every muffin top and chafe-worthy thigh. Every gobble-arm and double chin. Because it’s not about judgement. In fact, if my experience has taught me anything, judgement does the polar opposite of what we are striving for. Acceptance, yes. Love and gratitude? Now we’re talking holy trinity.

This is how I started to send love to people I saw, who I guessed were probably hurting and struggling inside, the same as I have/was/do. And the people who were acting brave and not showing it to the world. And the people who were super-duper badass and had already figured out how to love themselves for what they were, knowing that the package doesn’t matter. Because, as far as appearance goes, I don’t care if you’re 88 pounds or 388 pounds or 688 pounds. We’re all fighting the same demons. And for the precious few who’ve won that battle, who’ve learned to put their demons in their place and love their body, I commend your bravery, your honesty, and your heart. I hope you can help gently guide the rest of us home too.

There does come a time when our health becomes a bigger priority than proving our non-judgementalness about body size. Sometimes losing some weight would make a striking difference in our ability to function. I know that since 30 pounds, my blood sugars have come out of the pre-diabetic range, back into the regular-old-joe range, for instance. I haven’t had my cholesterol numbers checked yet, but I am expecting to see some of the same there too. Most people have an easier time with their joints once they lose some weight.

And that all comes down to a choice, I guess. What’s the priority for you? Staying in a nonjudgemental place about your weight and keeping the status quo? Or staying nonjudgemental about your weight and trying to improve your health? Getting a little more active? A doctor will tell you there is only one right answer. I don’t agree with that. I think that you have a choice, as long as you are clear about the consequences and you make a conscious choice, knowing that there will be a price tag to pay, and you’re willing to pay it. But that requires some very intense self-examination and brutal honesty, because it’s easy to bamboozle yourself into thinking that you’ll pay the price tag because the change is too scary to contemplate. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

Either way, we can all strive towards a more accepting, loving, nonjudgemental place when it comes to bodies.

We can probably love each other better. We can probably love ourselves more. It’s so worth doing it. And once again, it starts with gratitude.

{The following is a song I wrote the night of the naked, crying, thigh-rubbing, love-fest with my body. It’s a thank-you letter from me to my body. Maybe you can relate, or use it in your own process. If it helps you in any way, then I’m happy to share it with you. xoxo}

{One caveat: please know that this is a very rough writing demo only. Less than optimally recorded. But seeing as I’m still having MBox / ProTools issues, I couldn’t record a better version of it in time for this post. So you reeeeeally get to hear the nitty gritty! And, for your listening pleasure, you also get to hear many guest appearances by the fan on my laptop. Because that’s cool shit, yo. Click the song title and it’ll take you to the track…fancy, right?)

Fragile Emotions

Thank you for proteecting me when the world fell apart
Thank you for connecting me to the fear in my heart
For sheltering a lonely soul, who had nowhere safe to go

Thank you for keeping promises better left unsaid
Thank you for for the trust I felt, twisted but nonetheless
You kept me safe and when I hated you, took care of me the best way you knew how

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And so I free you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

Thank you for the walls you built that kept it all at bay
Thank you for the padded cell that kept them all away
Fueling the fire, yearning and burning within

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
Yes I adore you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

The harder I tried, the further we’d collide
A slow angry burn at their failure to provide

Thank you for speaking up for me when I couldn’t find the words
Thank you for your loving curves and the beauty I have learned
The journey has been much bigger than ever I imagined

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And I forgive you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

02
May
12

It’s OK To Feel Angry. (I’m just not very good at it.)

It’s OK to feel angry.

I just don’t know how to process it.

So the fact that I’m feeling a little angry about all these fucking hurdles is leaving me…in no man’s land. Intellectually I know that it’s OK, and in fact it can be quite healthy, to feel angry and work through it. But not having the tools to do so just makes me shy away from anger most of the time. Except sometimes I can’t. Then I’m screwed. And so we meet.

Three-ish years ago, when I was working and had saved up some money, I bought myself an MBox so that I could record demos of my writing at home. We have a studio, yes. But honestly, I have no idea how to run that board, and every time I have tried to go in and do something, I would spend 5 hours just trying to get the sounds out of the board before leaving frustrated. Plus, as time has gone on, it has been getting more and more difficult to schedule time in the studio, because although it started out as a family studio, it has become a working studio with a professional life. And that’s cool. I have no issues with any of that. Thus, I purchased an MBox, figuring I could run that myself, and it was all I really needed anyway.

Josh had been using my Dad’s MBox for working at home, but it bit the dust. He had some stuff he really needed to be able to do, so I happily offered to lend him mine. I knew it would take a little while for me to get around to installing it anyway. But, as has a way of happening, it was about 3 years before I got it back from him. Shit happens. That I’m not upset about.

But that’s where things get a little murky. Unfortunately, in that three years I moved. I knew exactly where the ProTools install disk was in my old house. I have turned my (new) house upside down looking for said disk, and…nothing. It’s possible that it mistakenly got thrown away when we were moving. I have no idea. It might still be packed in some box, although I think I’ve gone through every possible box three times now. You see, there was no point in installing the program, because it won’t run without the hardware plugged into the computer. So until I had the MBox back from Josh, there was no point going any further.

Now that I have the MBox back, I have at least gotten it running with GarageBand. (I won’t do my album on GarageBand, however. I am so much more comfortable using ProTools, and it’s just a much more comprehensive program, with way better editing capabilities.) So I can throw down a quick writing demo. You’d think.

Except that tonight, when I was trying to do just that, everything was all good for the first hour or two. Then, out of nowhere, the MBox started making this hideous feedback-y, awfully loud, buzzing noise. Nothing I did would stop it. Well, that’s not true. Some buttons pushed did stop it, but unfortunately when I pushed them again to set things where they actually needed to be, the noise was still going strong. My only option left was to take my mic out of Input 1 and plug it into Input 2 instead.

Ahh, problem solved.

For another hour or two.

Then, wham! Same bullshit started happening again. Of course, I tried reverting to Input 1, but it was still reacting the same way there too. So now two of two channels were fucked. My only possible brainchild of a solution was to try a different mic cord. So I did.

Ahh, problem solved.

Except.

Except that now it sounded like ass. Instead of a lovely, present sound, my guitar or vocal tracks recorded with the new cord sounded like I was halfway down a tunnel. Far away. Strangely echo-y, although there were no effects on the track.

Oh, that’s about when I got angry.

And maybe I’m having a little pity party.

I’m a single mum, unable to work, on disability, with barely enough income to pay the rent. Literally. Scary, paycheque to paycheque kind of existence. (I know I am absolutely not the first, nor will I be the last to go through this. But anyone who’s ever been in this position can attest to the awful fear that it holds hanging over your head on a constant basis when you are responsible for three other little beings as well as yourself.) I did what I was supposed to do: I saved up the money to set up a creative outlet for myself. And now it’s not working. And I can’t afford to replace it with something new that does work. And this is too old and out of warranty and probably not worth fixing. And now that I’m finally, after 20 years of NOT getting off my ass, doing the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 5 years old, I feel like there are hurdles where there shouldn’t be. And I’m pissed. I kind of want to have a tantrum all over the floor like a toddler.

And I’m not saying I won’t either.

Will I figure out a solution? You bet your fucking ass I will. Will I let myself have a little pity party and feel angry about where I’m at right now, and the hurdles that I have to jump…again (it’s a recurring fucking theme in my life)…yup, probably. What would be the most constructive? To figure out how to feel angry without sliding into a pity party. Because anger and self-pity are not the same thing. But it sure is easy to intertwine them.

In the past, this is when I would self-medicate with food or cigarettes or booze or a few other things…anything to stuff down those angry feelings and Not. Feel. Anything. Anger was too scary. That may have had a little something to do with getting to be 100 lbs overweight. (Yeah, haven’t ever really said it out loud in quite those terms before. That’s probably a whole other post on it’s own. But for now, just realize that those were big words for me to say out loud. Or type out loud. Or, well, I think you get the idea.) Sure I have had some health issues that more than contributed to my weight. But an awful lot of it has had to do with stuffing my feelings – lots of different feelings, but surprisingly often it comes down to anger – down my pie hole.

Tonight I made a salad for dinner, a very specific one that I was honestly craving, and had been all day. I did not eat the box of Oreos in the cupboard for dinner. Or toast and butter. Or any of the things that would not have been listening to my body and honouring what it was asking for. Tonight I did not pour a drink. (This one hasn’t been an issue for a lot of years, and really, really isn’t much of an issue these days because my medication doesn’t combine well with alcohol. It just makes me feel ill after one or two drinks. So I’m a lightweight in this arena these days.) Tonight I did not light a cigarette. (I quit in September of 2009.) You know what I did?

I sat down and I wrote this post.

I stayed with my feelings, even though they were uncomfortable as hell, and they really…um…sucked.

I observed the vibrating, gnawing, slightly nauseous ache in my belly. The one that is somehow attached to the pull and tightness through my shoulders. The one that gives me slightly painful heart palpitations. And the same one that is all pulled together by the pain in my head, the throbbing in my temples.

And I waited. I waited to see how it would process. I waited to see how I could or could not let go of feeling angry. I waited, but I did not try to change anything. I just waited and observed.

Now, to be fair (and realistic), I should be honest with you. I’m still waiting. And I’m still observing. And nothing’s changing yet. (Maybe I’m just not that evolved. A distinct possibility.) But I’ve also made up my mind not to “do” anything about it. It’s been about 2 -3 hours. And I’m just simply trying to get more “conscious” of the process of observing and not trying to change. It’s a weird and uncomfortable things to observe yourself feeling angry and not try to change it.

Anger is so uncomfortable, and our society has made it so unacceptable, that we try to skip out on that place as quickly as possible. Get. The. Fuck. Out. But maybe this is how you successfully process it? By just allowing yourself to be there, no judgements, no actions. (On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I’m talking out of my ass. Just keep that one in mind.)

Time will tell, I guess.

How do you process anger? What are some of the healthy and unhealthy ways you’ve worked through, or gotten stuck, in anger?

04
Jan
11

How Did I Not Get This Before? Self-Abandonment is D-U-M-B.

OMG. I just had an enormous revelation.

When I eat, or shop, or have sex, or take meds, or have a drink, or zone out in front of the TV, or get lost playing Plants vs. Zombies, or take a nap, or get lost in Twitter or Facebook, or do any of the other thousands of things that I have been known to do in order to evade my feelings…

I AM ABANDONING MYSELF.

I have had these exact words said to me: “When you eat and you are not hungry (shop when you have no money, etc. etc. or any of the above list), you are abandoning yourself.”

W.T.F. How did I not understand that what they meant by saying that was that…I WAS ABANDONING MYSELF!

I am someone who may have, on occasion, fallen prey to the Knight in Shining Armour ideology. So when I have not been rescued, or at the very least been met where I am by the people who I believe should be meeting me there, I have always pointed the Finger of Abandonment firmly at the other party. And, in fact, I mostly still stand by those finger pointings. (I do not point fingers lightly, people.)

Right. So. However. (And this is a big however.) I have consistently failed to recognize the areas in which I have just as coldly abandoned myself. And that, people, is unforgivable. (Except, of course, we do have to find forgiveness for ourselves in order to love ourselves, blah, blah, blah. That’s my self-help course number 2. Fageddaboudit.)

When I go to put something in my mouth – and although this could be as seemingly insignificant as a piece of cucumber, it is more often a piece of chocolate or an entire bag of chips – and I am aware of not being hungry for it, I am abandoning myself. Period. I’m not choosing to listen to and respect my body.

When I am aware of being hungry for, say, chicken and salad, and instead opt for ice cream and cookies? Same deal. I am choosing the easy out, the thing that is within easy reach and takes no work, instead of deciding that I am worth the effort and the work it may take to prepare what my body is actually asking for.

When I’m feeling an emotion that is uncomfortable and from which I’d rather escape? My general solution: shove something (Quick! Anything! No really, anything! Just put something in your goddamnedmouthsoyouwon’thavetofeelsoshitty) into the mouthhole. This functions like a cork, stopping the feeling of any emotion in question.

(Does this work, you may ask? Not at all. Why does it continue? Shut up, stop asking stupid questions.)

Is this taking good care of one’s self? No. Is this what we would refer to as abandonment? Yep. Sho’ is! See Intention #5 regarding corking up the mouthhole in order to successfully abandon myself.

How is that OK? It just isn’t, period. How do I realize all of this every so often, and then magically manage to forget it again? Pesky Alzheimer’s…

So here I go into a grand new year, hopes high, and intentions clear. And this is a really big one for me: not abandoning myself. It overlaps into so many other areas…like Intention #1, 2, probably #3 if I really get down to it, #4, #5, #6, and #7. So, yeah, kinda all of my New Year’s Intentions can be boiled down to that one overlying concept: Thou Shalt Not Abandon Thyself. Those are big, scary (why scary? they shouldn’t be scary. but whatever. they are to me.) gigantic words. And it’s a lot to live up to. But it’s also a slap in the face to realize that for 37 years I have done the polar opposite in so many areas of my life.

So why not shake things up a little? Try out a new spin? Wanna come along for the ride? It will be scary, fun, sad, fulfilling, and ultimately, the key to…everything fabulous. C’mon, let’s do it together. Let’s stop abandoning ourselves. In turn, that means we will consistently show up for ourselves, pay ourselves heed, and make choices in our lives that resonate within us.

I’ve heard some pretty great speakers and writers talk about just showing up. Danielle LaPorte. Martha Beck. Joan Lunden. All women who are very successful, and for whom I have a great deal of respect. And they all talk about just showing up. To me, that holds inherent within it the concept of not abandoning one’s self. They don’t equate to exactly the same thing, but they are awfully related.

So here I go, into the fray. Showing up and not abandoning myself.

Look out.

03
Jul
10

I’m making me sick

My back injury was what it was. The fact that it continues to restrict me and affect everything I do is not OK. I am aware that it is potentially a way that I hide from all the things I don’t like to deal with in life…you know, responsibility, and, um, you know, responsibility. (Bloody hell I’m eloquent at 2 am!)  But it is certainly not a conscious choice for it to continue holding me back from participating in my life to the fullest. However, there is a school of thought (which I guess I kind of do actually subscribe to) that says everything in our lives, good, bad, and ugly, WE have attracted. So on some level, I have attracted this injury and its longevity. I guess I need to work on ceasing to give energy to said injury, and instead, consciously attracting healthier somethings into my life.

But I ain’t there yet. Back injury aside, I swear that I am the harbinger of ridiculous and unidentifiable diseases. For the last two weeks I have been bitch-slapped by something that may or may not be parvovirus. It started with the skin all down the back of my arms and across by back hurting. You know the way your skin hurts when you have the flu? Times that by 25 or so, and that’s where I was at. It lasted about 5 days, and a Saturday night visit to the ER (always entertaining), and a few blood draws confirmed that it was not septicemia. I could have told you it wasn’t septicemia. But my sister is a nurse, and she was concerned that, because I had recently gotten a tattoo, I might be septic. And she was right to be concerned. My symptoms were awfully similar to textbook. But I’ve been septic before, and I know how that manifests in my body. I also know how quickly it (and every other malady) goes from 0 to 60 in my body. The last time I was septic, I went from first feeling a sore throat which I knew was the onset of strep throat (later confirmed to be strep group G), to being in shock in the back of an ambulance in….wait….count ’em…..8 whole hours!!! A week in the hostpital, IV and oral antibiotics and painkillers. Oh, it was such good fun. NOT!

Clearly I get easily off track here. So, I was not septic, but I had skin that made my sheets feel like sandpaper when I tried to lie down to sleep. Right. So. That started to settle down after about 5 days. Then I put some lotion on my legs one morning, about 2 days later, which immediately started to sting moderately. Did I stop? No. Why listen to signals like that? All over my legs. And all over my arms. Arms did not sting, just the legs. Within an hour, rash all over my legs (but not my arms!?!) that was clearly blood vessels under the skin having broken. Fabulous. Then there was a weird spot that showed up in my lady bits. We won’t talk about it in detail. But suffice it to say it was weird enough that I went BACK to the ER. And when the doctor has you up in the stirrups, the last thing you want to hear is, “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like that before!” Great. I’m not looking to be a guinea pig for medical science, ladies and gentlemen. Just want to know WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN MY HOO-HOO!

Then the kicker. Hands and feet started to swell up. Then wrists and ankles. Then elbows and knees. Thankfully it stopped there.  Didn’t really hit my shoulders or hips. But the swelling got so bad I could barely walk, I couldn’t make a fist, nor could I completely extend and straighten my fingers. Doctors visits. Blood tests – I’m sure they could have fed a vampire village with all the blood they took out of my body. Biopsies. Doctors saying things like, “Well, I doubt that it’s cancer, so I don’t think you should worry about that” while in the stirrups…terrific! The thought of cancer hadn’t crossed my mind yet, but now that you mention it, it will be SO easy not to obsess!

(A dear friend of mine subsequently told me, “You probably shouldn’t worry about it being from massive head trauma, phantom limb syndrome, Ebola, Marfan syndrome, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers, dwarfism, gigantism, or otherisms for that matter. Just so you don’t focus on it not being from cancer. If you need any other suggestions as to what it’s probably not, let me know.” God bless her!)

After 6 days, the swelling is finally starting to go down somewhat. Most of the blood work came back…inconclusive, really. Indicative of a virus. But in the mean time some other tantalizing tidbits came up. A liver that is not quite cirrhotic. What. The. Hell? I’m not a heavy drinker, nor have I ever been for longer than a couple of months at a time, and those short spurts have only happened 2 or 3 times in my life when I was not dealing well with, well, life. So drinking really doesn’t account for it. Shitty food very well might – and THAT came as a huge shock to me.

So the consequences of my unhealthy relationship with food may be far more terrifying than wearing a size 20. I may have damaged my liver. And as far as I understand it, liver tissues don’t really regenerate with time the same way that some other organs do. For instance, I was a smoker for many years. I know that, having quit, my body will actually start to reverse some of the damage I’ve done to my lungs over the years. It’s a slow process, but it’s headed in the right direction. However, my understanding is that liver tissues do not regenerate the same way lung tissues do. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But it’s pretty scary to contemplate that I may have done irreversable damage to one of my vital organs because I didn’t value myself highly enough to take care of me in a healthier way than by eating.

I hope that I am at least staunching the flow. If I have done irreversable damage to myself, then it is what it is, and I can’t change the past. What I can do is take better care of myself in the future. Staunch the flow. Do no further damage. Take care of myself. Value myself highly enough to make better choices. Love myself. Treat myself, pamper myself, love myself in ways that do not involve putting something in my mouth. And the things that I do put in my mouth need to be low on the processing scale, high on the natural scale. More salads, chicken and fish. Fewer Oreos, chocolate, and candy.

I am worth taking the time to prepare something that is rewarding to eat, instead of reaching for whatever is already packaged in the cupboard. I am worth cleaning up after making myself something nutritious and delicious instead of grabbing something with just a wrapper I can throw away, no muss, no fuss. I am worth taking the time, the effort, and the planning. I am worth it.

I am worth it.

That’s what my health depends on, and I am worth it.

15
Jun
10

Gratitude

I have struggled with my weight for as long as  can remember.  I am a compulsive eater, and emotional eater, a secret eater.  And I often hate my body. I know how to use my body and all it’s curves with men, and I guess that’s when I sometimes like my body.  But I mostly hate it.  A lot.

And here’s the rub: when I like my body, when I cherish the way it has protected me, when I can love the dimples on my thighs and the spare tire on my middle…it is then, and only then, that the excess starts to melt away and uncover the other body underneath.  It is a body that doesn’t need to protect me.  It is a strong body.  When I know I like that body so much better, how do I get to the place of loving and cherishing the body I have now, which is what I have to do to get to that stronger body?  Vicious, vicious cycle.

Because at the moment, I’m so sick of this body, with all it’s ailments and jiggles, that I can’t even begin to contemplate getting to a place of love.  Instead, I keep finding myself considering diets.  I believe I have said before, D-I-E-T in my house is a dirty word.  The dirtiest, in fact.  I strive with my kids to get them in touch with their bodies, listening to when they’ve had enough, and stopping at that point – even if there’s food left on their plates.  And my goodness, that is a different situation from my own childhood.  “Finish what’s on your plate.”  That was a common directive around our house when I was growing up.  I can actually remember being made to sit at the dinner table when I was about seven years old, long after everyone else was up and gone, until I cleaned my plate.  We were having steak.  My dad was watching the hockey game on TV in the family room.  I chewed a bite of steak until it was dry and grainy in my mouth, and I almost threw up trying to swallow it.  Ahh, the memories of childhood…

I watch my eldest daughter struggle with the concept of Enough.  I watch her continue eating even when I know she’s full.  And I try really hard to work with her on listening to her body and identifying when she’s had Enough.  But the rules are different at mom’s house and dad’s house, and where she is encouraged to listen to her body tell her Enough at my house, she is told to finish what’s on her plate at her dad’s house.  So I see her struggle and it kills me to watch the ghosted echoes of my own beginnings of a life-long battle.  (And she is my eldest of three.  Who knows if the other two will also fall victim to any of these same pitfalls.)  While I’m encouraging her to find her own body’s Enough, I feel somewhat hypocritical, because I am once again at a point where it’s hard for me to identify my own Enough.

So here I am, struggling to find my Enough, and on most days anyway, hating the dimples and jiggles that I have to show for my lack of ability to hear Enough from myself.  Hating my body.  That’s pretty harsh.  But true.  I hate the way that I can’t wear shorts or short skirts anymore, because the flesh above my knees is far too reminiscent of cottage cheese.  I hate the way that I have developed a new roll of back fat that has never been there before.  My arms horrify me, but I get too fucking hot all the time, and so I wear tank tops to try and minimize the peri-menopausal outbreaks, but horrifying arms + tanks tops do not a happy mama make.  I hate the way that my stomach…no, scratch that, mostly I just hate my stomach.  Wait…yep, I really do.

And I remember, more or less, being in this kind of a place before.  I remember – through years of therapy, books, and soul-searching – getting to a place where suddenly one night, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love for my body, and all that it had protected me from.  It was a very odd experience, and not one that I would have anticipated in the least.  But there I was, sitting on my bed…okay, this might start to sound a little weird and fetishy, but I promise you, it is nothing of the sort…and I remember looking down at my thighs, lovingly caressing them, and being filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  I was suddenly hit with this overpowering wave of understanding.  Understanding that my body had been trying to protect me from all of these emotions that I was incapable of dealing with any other way.  Understanding that I had grown up way too fast, and the knowledge and responsibility that came with that was something that I was trying to hide from, and my body provided me with a physical mass that separated me from the rest of everything.  And I was so grateful to my body for trying to take care of me and love me when the people who should have been doing so weren’t capable of the things I needed them to provide, and I wasn’t able to give it to myself.  So my body took over.  My body distanced me from everyone and everything else in order to protect me.  Physically.  And unequivocally.  Shortly after that experience, I sat down with my guitar and a song came out of it.  Strange as it may sound, it’s kind of a love song from me to my body.  (I will update this with an actual song file when I have it recorded in any kind of presentable form, without computer noises all over the place, as the current demo is .)

Thank you for protecting me when the world fell apart
Thank you for connecting me to the fear in my heart
For sheltering a lonely soul who had nowhere safe to go

Thank you for keeping promises better left unsaid
Thank you for the trust I felt, twisted but nonetheless
You kept me safe and when I hated you, took care of me the best way you knew how

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh I love you
And so I free you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

Thank you for the walls you built that kept it all at bay
Thank you for the padded cell that kept them all away
Fueling the fire, yearning and burning within

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh I love you
Yes I adore you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

The harder I tried, the further we’d collide
A slow angry burn at their failure to provide

Thank you for speaking up for me when I couldn’t find the words
Thank you for your loving curves and the beauty I have learned
The journey has been much bigger than ever I imagined

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh I love you
And I forgive you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

Wow.  Reading those lyrics over now makes me kinda teary.  Those are Big Emotions wrapped up in those little lyrics.  So now my journey is trying to navigate myself back to that place where I can feel gratitude for the protection of a body that at this moment, truthfully, I feel like has failed me.  Between my physical crap thanks to my back injury, and my weight blechshma (I have decided that is a new word, thank you), I am really not a big fan of my body these days.  Will it be enough to listen to that song and stand in front of a mirror deciding to love myself, everyday for a year?  Will the gratitude game I play with my kids at dinner, “Name one body part you’re grateful for and why?” be enough to shift the love/hate balance?  I want so badly to love my body again.  And I don’t mean the, “Oh look at me with my Baywatch body” kind of love.  (Because even though there is, unfortunately, a small…maybe mediumish…part of me that would like to love my Baywatch body, I don’t think it’s really in the cards for this ol’ body and I, this time around.)  I’ll happily settle for the, “I am so grateful to have a body that loves me so much that it hurt itself trying to protect me,” and the “I love this body that has tried to take care of me better than any friend, and parent, or lover ever has.”

Maybe this is a small step in the right direction.  All honesty, all the time…honest.  Coming out of the closet, with the ice cream in hand, is a big step for a compulsive, emotional, secret eater like me.  So laying it all out here is a pretty public airing of my personal dirty laundry.  Super uncomfortable.  But I’m pretty sure, also an integral part of the process.  So between honesty and (publicly-declared) intention, I’m hoping this will help move me in a gentler, more gracious direction.  And if that direction happens to be 50-75 pounds lighter, so be it…but I guess that has to stop being the goal.  The goal needs to start being learning to love myself again, and appreciate the conscious and unconscious ways we take care of ourselves.  To forgive myself, first and foremost.  And appreciating all the varied ways that we can take care of ourselves.  Ways that don’t all begin with Ben and end with Jerry’s.

30
May
10

Honour thyself

Honour thy Father and thy Mother.  That’s how the biblical 5th Commandment goes, if grade-school memory serves.  But what about honouring thyself?  In all the do’s and dont’s we learned as children, rarely is the issue of honouring one’s self raised.

What a horrible, glaring hole in the process of growth and self-realization we all go through on our way to adulthood.

How many of us grow up trying to conform to social ideals that, if we stop and do some soul searching, don’t actually mean anything to us personally?  How many women (men too, but it seems so much more prevalent in women) grow to be good codependent people, taking care of everyone else and constantly putting ourselves last on our own lists?  Not only that, but actually denying ourselves our own needs and trading them for the fulfillment of the needs of others?  Learning distrust – of those around us, but even more damaging…of ourselves.  And when we can’t trust ourselves, we rely on the opinions of others to tell us what we should be, or think, or do.  And then we start conforming to social ideals that, if we were able to stop and trust ourselves, we would see so clearly, don’t fit us personally in any way, shape or form.

Oh, it’s a vicious cycle.  The veritable hamster wheel of self-love/hate.

For so many of us, it is clearly manifested in body acceptance issues.  We know that in North America, obesity has reached epidemic proportions.  And we are not alone.  The UK is pretty close on our heels.  And the list goes on.  Is it the sudden explosion over the last 50 years in fast food?  Is it the freezer aisle and cookie shelves at the local supermarket that are to blame?  They certainly do feed the problem (pun totally intended, by the way).  But do they cause the problem?

Or does the causation lie in the fact that we don’t trust ourselves, and so we allow People magazine and Us Weekly et. al to show us what we should be?  I know, blaming the media is getting to be an old line of defense.  And here’s the thing.  I don’t really think it’s the media’s fault, any more than it’s the fault of McDonald’s or Burger King.  I think they’re unfortunate contributors, but I don’t think they’re at fault.

I think that the culpatory issue is our learned distrust of ourselves, and by extension, our bodies.

Because, make no mistake, we are not our bodies.  I will say it again: WE ARE NOT OUR BODIES.  Our bodies are merely the “house” we’ve chosen, on some level, at some point in the process, to live in this time around.  (And if you don’t share my belief that it really is this time around” and we’ll be having another kick at the ol’ can in a few years or so, just skim that sentiment, focus on the idea of our body merely being a house, and move on.)  Now, everyone treats their house differently.  Some people take loving care of their house, decorating with joy, sweeping and dusting with abandon (well, abandon might be overdoing it…does anyone really dust with abandon, I ask you?), powerwashing the driveway, and re-roofing (albeit grudgingly) every 20 years or so.  Other people may have a little more trouble keeping their house in presentable fashion, perhaps “allowing” their collections to transform into hoarding, thereby distancing themselves from those around them.  (A&E has recently brought this issue into view for the masses with their show Hoarders.)

Fundamentally it all comes down to the same thing.  Trust.  Wait, did you hear me?  TRUST.  Self-trust.  Trusting those with whom you surround yourself.  And deciding who you would like in your life, to whom you want to give the gift of trust, requires TRUSTING YOURSELF.  Trust, trust, trust.  It all comes down to trust.

The equation goes something like this:

1. Look at your house / Feel in your body
2. Asses what needs to be done / Feel your level of physical and emotional hungers
3. Trust yourself, your instincts, and your hungers.
4. Do your house work or repairs / Feed yourself with what your body is asking for.

Now, to clarify, feeding yourself with what your body is asking for is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance.  It takes some pretty big commitment balls on your part.  Because it is anything but easy.  Sure, at first it’s a piece of cake.  Literally.  Or maybe it’s ice cream – for me it’s been a LOT of ice cream.  At first it’ll be all the things you try and deny yourself all the time.  And that’s OK.  It’s really, really OK.  But here comes the trust part…

1. You have to listen to your body, and trust it when it says it’s had enough.  And enough might be a new concept – and that’s OK.  It won’t happen on the first try.  It might not happen on the 10th or 20th try.  But if you start listening to your body, you’ll eventually start to know when you’ve had enough.  And when that happens – usually for me it’s mid-bite – you have to trust yourself enough to stop.  You have to trust that whatever you’re eating will be available to you when you want more.  If you can truly trust in that, you won’t have to eat it all right now.  Why make yourself feel sick and uncomfortable eating tons of something after you feel full, that you can have again when you are actually hungry for it?  When that feeling hits, that “I’ve had enough for now” feeling, the fork goes down, the plate gets pushed away, the refrigerator door gets closed, or the last bite in your hand gets tossed in the trash.  Enough.  Enough for now.

I have to say it was truly astonishing to me when I started to recognize this feeling.  It was even more astounding when I started to act on it.  When I went through my injury, years of medication that made me kinda check out, and weight gain, I stopped acting on, then recognizing that point of Enough.  It’s hard to do when you’re totally checked out.  It requires being present.  That’s a really, really important element.  Presence.  It’s hard to recognize that point of Enough when you’re driving in your car, hell bent for election to nowhere, hiding from the world, scarfing down three burgers in a row, desperate that no one see you while in the act.  At that point you’re not even really tasting your food.  You’re certainly not present with your body.  You have to slow yourself down enough to be really present with what you’re eating.  (And you have to trust yourself enough to be willing to eat whatever you’re going to eat, in front of God and everyone.  But more on that later.)  Taste your food.  What do you like about this taste or texture?  How does it feel in your mouth, your stomach, your body?  Be.  Present.

2. You have to trust that eventually you’ll stop having a Blizzard 6 meals a day.  You might decide to throw a pizza in there for good measure one day.  Then at a friend’s BBQ, you might decide that a piece of BBQ’d chicken and corn on the cob would really hit the spot.  The point is, eventually you will have had Enough of Blizzards, or cake, or Skittles, or whatever it may be for you.  And your body will tell you – as long as you’re listening – that it would like some other, healthier things too.  All of this is a precursor for the biggest leap of faith (BIG, BIG TRUST REQUIRED HERE!)…to start with, you will probably gain weight.  Right then and there, lots of people may run screaming from their computers.  I know – it’s terrifying for those of us who are, once again, 10 or 50 or 100 or 300 lbs over our natural body weight.  But it’s part of the process of learning to trust your body.  Eventually, when your body learns to trust you (how’s that for a switcheroo?), learns to trust that you will give it what it’s asking for, it will start asking for things that nurture it: proteins, vegetables, grains…the good stuff.  It may well still ask for ice cream and chocolate, but you will also be really good at knowing when you’ve had Enough, and magically, things will all fall into proportion.  And that’s when you’ll start heading towards your natural body weight.  Keep up the trust (why wouldn’t you, really?) and you will reach and maintain your natural body weight.

I was there a couple of years ago, pre-injury.  I got there without trying – which is to say, I got there without so much as a single brainwave devoted to “dieting.”  I was doing a whole lot of work on my trust issues, and working my ass off on Enough.  And I got there, kind of without noticing.  Except one day everybody at work started commenting on how much weight I’d lost, and how did I do it, and I’d better order new uniform pants because it looked like I was wearing a soggy diaper in those ones.  And I felt great.  Not because I’d lost weight (OK, sort of because I’d lost weight), not because I’d had the willpower to stick to the newest diet fad (stupid, stupid, stupid….was that too harsh?), and not because my pants looked like a toddler’s (yeah, really not because of that one.)  I felt great because I trusted myself, and I listened to my body, and I recognized and acted on Enough.  That was years in the making.

And now I’m struggling, fighting the good fight, to do all those things all over again.  And it’s one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  Or should I say one food in front of the other?  But I’m so committed to trusting myself again, honouring myself again…I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to sit comfortably in that place in my body, in my soul, I want it so badly I can taste it.  (What is it with the bad puns?  Seriously?)  So I’m doing the work, day in and day out.  I’m in the phase where I’m probably going to gain weight.  Thankfully, on the advice from my stellar therapist, years ago I threw my scale away.  So all I have to gauge it is the way my clothes fit.  And that’s gauge enough for me.  This is the hard phase.  This is when it’s MOST difficult to trust in myself and my body.  But bloody hell am I going to try.  Try to honour myself, because that’s what God, Goddess, or whatever you may call that higher power, intended for me.  Hell, that’s what I intended for me.  I want to honour myself.  And that one starts with trust.

So here goes…..

27
May
10

Am I Really Back Here, Yet Again?

Really? This? Again?

What. The. Fuck.

I thought I had this all under control a couple of years ago. This business of listening to my body and reacting appropriately to the signals it was so lovingly giving me. The method I spent years learning to put into practice, thanks in no small part to Geneen Roth, and a very fabulous therapist who subscribed for the most part to the Church of Geneen Roth.

But. Ugh. Here I am again, like it or not. And may I just clarify for anyone who was unsure: not. I do not like it one little bit. Three years ago, I had lost 40 lbs naturally, gradually over about 6 months, and without so much as a whisper of the word D-I-E-T. A four letter word, if I’ve ever heard one. I was sitting at a very comfortable size 12. For me, that’s about 185 lbs. It’s a weight that is maintainable over the longterm for me, and as such, I happen to think it’s a very good weight for me. I had achieved this weight without consciously trying, and I didn’t obsess about my weight one way or the other. Hello!?! Can you say breakthrough? We are talking Kodak moment of the psyche! Then my fucking back injury happened, I became immobilized, dealt with chronic pain, and my weight went up.

At first I put on 40 lbs in 6 weeks after I’d been put on Effexor. Take that, pregnancy weight gain! Ha! Even when I was pregnant with twins, it took me 9 months to gain 80 lbs, so 40 lbs in 6 weeks was no small feat. All of a sudden I looked like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. Over the next 2 years flat on my back (and not in a good way), I managed to put on another 10 lbs, just to round it out nicely.

Get it? Round it out? (What can I say? I don’t get out much.)

It horrifies and disgusts me, this extra weight I’m packing around. I don’t like the way I look, I don’t like the way I feel, and I’m constantly embarrassed by my body. I’m trying to start learning to listen to my body again, but it’s hard to trust when I listen and end up eating three iced croissants followed by a box of donut holes for brunch. And tonight my family celebrated the twins’ birthday. I was full before dinner even started – full of decently healthy stuff too: veggies and dip, multigrain tortilla chips and homemade guacamole (fantastic, if I do say so myself.) But I still ate pizza, because I was supposed to. I left 1/4 of it on my plate, but I was still so stuffed as to be uncomfortable. I completely skipped the 2 deserts that followed, and I felt good about listening to my body on that one.

After dinner, I started having awful stomach pains, because I overate so badly. And now, after having gotten naked for bed, I can see in the mirror just exactly how horribly distended my belly is. I look like I might give birth to an alien at any moment. Unfortunately, there will be no such easy way out on this one. I can’t just Sigourney Weaver my way out of this conundrum.

Clearly I need to make better friends with my body. I know from my past experience that when I am constantly trying to escape my body, it holds onto weight differently than when I appreciate and love my body for what it is and what it has done for me. I know any doctor will tell you different, but I do know my body well. And I know that when I am at peace with my body and my weight, and also better to take care of myself and respect my own needs, my body does not feel it has to protect me from everything. And the layers of protection gradually melt away.

The challenge now: get myself back to a place of love and appreciation for a body that I currently do not like or respect, between my weight and the constraints placed upon me by my injury. So here goes a big ol’ nuthin’. I’ll keep ya posted.




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