Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekly Weigh-In, Week Three

Starting weight: 240
Current weight: 229.5
Change this week: -.5

Total change: -10

Just a small loss this week, though I’m OK with that. My period is here this week, which seems to mean much less predictable things than it used to. When I was younger, I’d get 3 or 4 days of water retention, a day of moodiness and then the start of my period, which would last 3 or 4 days and then be done. Sometime near the end of it I would shed all the water-weight and that would be that. In the last year or so, though, my cycle is completely unpredictable. I occasionally skip a period entirely for no apparent reason, and other times it will come on slowly and meander on for several days.

So I still haven’t figured out if there’s a pattern to the water-retention thing, but I suspect that’s part of what’s at work for me this week. My eating patterns are the same as the past two weeks, and if anything my portions have been a bit smaller because the famed appetite suppressant effect of the Atkins plan has kicked in. Also, I use urine-test strips to monitor levels of ketone bodies excreted so I can get a rough sense of how much fat I’m metabolizing. I know they’re not at all accurate, but they’re pretty motivating for me when the scale itself isn’t helping me out so much on that front. They go from palest pink if you’re just excreting a trace, to deeper and deeper burgundy-purple if there are lots of ketones in your urine. Mine have been almost black all week, which I hope means that I’m still breaking down lots of fat and my body is just doing the camel thing this week. I wonder why we retain water around the time of our periods? In any event, my plan is just to stick to my eating plan, drink lots of water and hope for a whooooosh next week.

In other news, I went out to a bar last night to hear a friend’s band play. I *never* do this anymore, as I’m far too old and my social circle consists mostly of older, sedate people like myself. It was a friendly, hilarious small-town Wisconsin evening of the kind that reminds me why I like living up here. The bar was quite a ways out of Milwaukee, in a little town I’d never even heard of. Once my girlfriends and I were in and situated, the bar owner came over with a tray of shots for us and introduced himself as Uncle Dave. Uncle Dave knew we’d never been in before and wanted to welcome us to his place of business in this most Wisconsin of ways (only in Wisconsin have I ever been to a wedding that featured a tray of various shots for guests to enjoy after they go through the receiving line). He cautioned us that these were not girly shots, but he’d get us something that went down easier if we needed it instead. My knee-jerk reaction to an implied challenge like that is to step right up and show off just how ready I am to play with the big boys, so I grabbed my shot and drank it, as did my girlfriends (nice to know that, mature mental-health professionals that we are, we still crack like an egg to a tiny bit of peer pressure from a man we don’t even know). Wow. It was something called ‘the Knot,’ and it went down smoothly and sweetly but then burned in our stomachs for about 10 minutes afterward. After we grabbed and gulped, Uncle Dave clapped me on the shoulder and said “Good girls! That’s 100 proof!” Never let it be said that I don’t attempt to adapt to my surroundings, whatever they might be.

That, and another couple of mixed drinks, and I’m feeling it this morning. And here’s where all of this has to do with my own attempts to mend my relationship with my body. I was walking up to the grocery store this morning and feeling as if I were dragging a piano behind me. Sluggish, slow, just generally bleh. And for the better part of the walk I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but then it dawned on me in one of those DUH moments—honey, you’re just a little hungover. I’ve gotten so good at ignoring my body that I’ve really lost track of the simple law of cause and effect. I’ve let myself believe for years that my body is just going to do whatever it wants, and that I have little to no control over those ups and downs. But DUH. I drank more than I’m used to, and today I feel kinda grubby. No big mystery, and entirely controllable. No more Knots, no more feeling like this on Sunday morning.

Not a huge insight, but good enough to start me out on my week.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner...

…and staying for the whole weekend? My dad. I live here in the Midwest, where I’ve settled post-graduate school, and he lives in Colorado, in the same house where I grew up from the age of 10 on. Those 1200 miles between us feel about right to me. I get home to visit about twice a year, once over the winter holidays and once for his birthday in mid-summer. I often try to combine my visit with that of one or both of my brothers, one of whom lives part of the year in Colorado as well and part of the year in Italy, and the other of whom lives in Tanzania. So I’m rarely there alone with my father, which works well for me.

When I’m with him, I feel uglier, fatter, more ashamed, less competent and less confident than at any other time in my life. His heart would break to hear this, but it’s true. He was the one that first delivered the news to me that I was fat, 35 years ago now, and he’s never let up. He’s never bothered to hide the fact that he finds me…well, lacking in some ways that he deems critical for the females in his family. In particular, he is distressed by my weight, but also by my general lack of feminine pizzazz.

This is the man who once suggested, in all sincerity, that perhaps I ought to check with some women to see if they can teach me how to wear scarves and jewelry and things, so that I could maybe snazzy up my look a little. This is the man who has been so ashamed of my looks in the past that he felt the need to prepare some old family friends in advance for my appearance when we went to see them for a visit after many years. I never would have known but for the wife of the couple, who told me that my father had taken pains to tell them how big I’d gotten so that they would not be surprised (I weighed around 200 at that point). She said “I was ready for you to weigh 400 lbs from the way he was describing you.” This is the man who would talk rapturously about the handsomeness of my brothers (which they are—no argument there) and then say “And you, Luna…(long significant pause while he fishes for something not-too-brutal to say), you could be as attractive as you’ve a mind to be.” Good catch, Pop. All of this is just a willful rejection of societal beauty ideals. I just FEEL like being overweight and soul-crushingly self-conscious.

This is the man who taught me that I just wasn’t good enough. He was my first mirror, and I learned from him that mirrors were never going to deliver good news.

I was once at a birthday sleepover when I was about eight. The birthday girl’s grandfather was there, and he took a liking to me. Not in a creepy way, at least not that I remember. He made some mention in passing of my pretty chestnut hair. I was over the moon that someone (and a MAN!) saw something of beauty in me. I came home the next day and, desperate for some little crumb of the same experience from my father, I said something about my hair and its chestnut color. He looked up and said “It’s really more walnut,” and went back to whatever he was doing. Color me crushed. I mean, he’s right. It is more walnut. Actually, it’s the color of espresso beans, should we wish to be precise about this. But I felt like a beggar who held out my tin cup for a donation and got a rock in it.

Guilt compels me to say that he is a generous and loving man as well. He is proud of my accomplishments and proud of what he perceives my personality to be. He loves all three of his children fiercely, and we doubt this not at all. I feel that I should be more able to embrace the good in him. Well, no, that’s not exactly it. I can embrace the good. There is much about him I admire and there’s much that he has done for me and my brothers that I deeply appreciate. I love him.

But the truth remains that my stomach will be in knots and my psyche will be on lockdown until he leaves.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lunching Alone

I’ve been weird about social engagements this week. Last week was a hugely social week, with lots of shared meals out in restaurants. I managed to do fine, overall. This week, though, I just don’t seem to be up to the task. Today, for example…I was invited out to lunch with some friends, and I was also invited to the monthly potluck lunch the psychology staff at our hospital holds monthly. All I wanted in the world was to sit in my office, eat my lunch that I brought from home and not have to talk to anyone about what I was eating and why.

So that’s what I did, which was fine. I don’t especially like the way I did it, though—I told the restaurant people that I was going to the potluck, and the potluck people that I was going out to lunch with the restaurant people. I much prefer to be straightforward and honest about things, but I just wasn’t up for the conversation. I’m not even sure what I would have said to either group, besides “No, sorry, not up for it today.”

What bothers me about the whole thing is that I’m feeling kind of rigid and fragile, like I have to protect myself from a situation where I’ll feel uncomfortable or will eat something I regret. Eating in public feels too complicated, though I’ve been able to negotiate it successfully in the very recent past. The monthly potluck is usually a minefield or a gold mine of carbohydrates, depending on your perspective. I didn’t want to sit there and nibble cheese w/no crackers while deflecting offers of poundcake and Cheetos. Maybe I don’t trust myself to make good choices yet.

The bigger issue, though, is my worry about letting people know that I’m trying to lose weight and be healthier. I can’t bear to call attention to myself in that way. I’m embarrassed about my size and embarrassed that I am embarrassed—I’d at least like to be a confident fat woman who embraces her physical self and expects others to do the same, without a self-critical thought in her head. I don’t know; I just feel like people will find me pathetic if I announce I’m changing my eating habits, particularly if they subsequently don’t see my weight change. Why I give a frog’s fat butt about what anyone thinks of me is beyond me. This is old, old shame, I guess, and it seems to be impervious to the self-assurance I’ve built up in other areas of my life.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekly Weigh-In, Week Two

Starting weight: 240
Current weight: 230.5
Change this week: -4.5

Total change: -9.5

After a tough week, things seem to have stabilized a little. I’ve been experimenting some with the suggestions of the kind readers who have left me comments (thank you, AHappyWife, Squilla and *S*!). Here are a few of the things that have helped me with the cravings:

Brushing teeth! Sounds nutty, yes? Well, to me it sort of feels like cleaning up the kitchen and then deciding that you’re not going to dirty things up again by cooking a big feast.

Eating a relatively small amount of something with really big flavor and texture. I got this idea from S’s comment about eating mandarin oranges with coconut. While that specific treat would not be my thing, particularly, it’s got loads of flavor and a nice texture thing going on, what with the plump, juicy fruit and the crunchy coconut. I’m a big fan of strongly flavored things like marinated olives, and I’m finding that a few of something like that gives my mouth something to think about for a while. My current fave is a jar of big green olives, each stuffed with a clove of garlic. It’s a flavor/texture circus, let me tell you— the yielding, smooth, slightly rubbery flesh of the olive, the crunch of the clove inside, the saltiness, the garlicky bite. Mmmmm.

Also, sometimes I’ve found that it works to just stop and experience the craving as fully as possible, to kind of sink into the experience of it and just sit with it rather than having to jump up and respond with action. I’m trying to incorporate more mindfulness into my life in many ways, and this has been an interesting experience. Somehow, fully experiencing that craving seems to lessen my need to actually do anything about it.

Another challenge this week: I’ve been struggling with the thought that I will have to live with this battle raging inside me forever if I really want to embrace a different way of eating and being. One of the things that brings me some sense of comfort when I get overwhelmed with the enormity of this struggle is to take it all one day at a time. I loved the quote that AHappyWife shared: I don't have to do anything forever, I just have to do it for today. That’s one to needlepoint on a pillow or tattoo on the back of your hand.

Oh, and I also did some behavioral things yesterday that just helped me feel generally more in control. Just basic stuff like laundry, straightening up, cleaning the bathroom, etc., but it helped me feel like I had addressed some of my external chaos, so I could allow the internal chaos to resolve a bit as well.

I am pleased that despite the cranky, difficult week I had, I managed to stick to my eating plan. I’ve been able to stay under 25 grams of carbohydrate, eating mainly steamed or fresh veggies and chicken breasts, with a few meals of eggs or beef thrown in, and a couple of nice big chef salads. I’ve snacked on nuts or cheese (or my yummy olives) as needed, mostly in the mid-afternoon to guard against being so crazy hungry by the time I get home from work that I’m ready to grab a squirrel out of the yard and eat him whole (I guess there would be worse things to grab on impulse; a squirrel, while gross, would not be a violation of my current eating plan. I bet they taste nasty, though.).

Anyway, I’ve gotten through this week, the sun is shining today here in the cold upper Midwest, and I’m hoping for a better week ahead.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This is Hard

It's been a challenging week. Lots of eating out, lots of craving things that will not be healthy for me, lots of feeling cranky. I keep thinking "What if it's always this hard? What if I have to fight this fight every day in order to get and stay thinner and healthier?" It's an overwhelming feeling, and it makes me understand why in Alcoholics Anonymous they encourage people to think in terms of "just for today." So that's what I've been trying to do: Just for today I'll eat what I packed for lunch, and nothing else. Just for today I'll say no to the homemade apple cake in the break room, I'll drink plenty of water, I'll choose to eat for health rather than comfort.

But grrrrrrr. It feels hard this week.

I think I've got hormones working against me as well. I caught myself today thinking morosely that my supervisors don't really like me, my coworkers just tolerate me, my friends are growing weary of me, etc. This is usually a sign that I'm PMS'ing, as I'm not usually so prone to such thoughts. It used to be that my period came and went like clockwork, so I had some warning and could sort of predict when I'd be in a crappy, self-pitying mood. Since entering my 40's, though, things have gotten really irregular on the monthy cycle front, and it's anybody's guess as to when the hormonal tide will turn. The zits, the crankiness, the cravings...well, I'd say the tide it is a-turning just about now.

That's all for now, I guess. This feels hard, but I'm still doing it. I've managed to stay on-plan all week thus far, and the toughest of it is over. I've managed to negotiate the situations that challenged me, and now I just have to manage ME.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dinner as Relapse

Sigh. Sugar is like crack to me.

I wrote here about the challenge of social situations, and one of them was my weekly Monday night dinner at the halfway house for addicts in recovery. Tonight it was just impossible to eat like I’d want to. First off, these guys are just not salad dudes. We always end up with some meaty entrĂ©e and a big starchy side dish. Often I can just take some meat and a bit of the starchy whatever, take a little taste of it and then push it around on my plate.

Tonight, though, two problems. The first was that the main dish was sloppy joes. For anyone outside of the US who is not familiar with the sloppy joe phenomenon, they are sandwiches with ground beef cooked in a tomato-y sauce that usually has a fair amount of sugar in it. You eat them on hamburger buns, and they’re pretty darn tasty. So, no way to avoid the sugar there, though I did eat mine open-faced, on a slice of whole-wheat bread rather than a white-bread bun.

The second problem was the GIANT BOWL OF POTATO SALAD that accompanied the main course. And the gentleman who made the potato salad and was quite proud of his first attempt at doing so was sitting right next to me. So I put a smallish glop of it on my plate, and he said “Oh, here, it’s really good, you’re going to want more!” He reached over and PLOP—fixed me up with a big hefty pile of it.

Well, I took my time and nibbled a bit of it and ate my semi-virtuous open-faced sandwich. I could just feel my palate tingling with sugar-love and potato-lust. Oh, white minions of Satan! Vile, carby temptresses! I will not succumb to your siren song!

The potato thing I’ve kind of gotten over in the couple of hours since dinner’s been over, but I’m sitting here craving something sugary like you wouldn’t believe. After I left the dinner/meeeting I went shopping to distract myself, and now I’m sitting here writing and sipping tea in an effort to tell my body to just chill out. Yes, crack may make us feel good in the short term, but we really don’t like all of the collateral effects—the weight gain, the shame, the loss of control. Not to mention the crappy sugar-hangover the next day. Who needs that? I got me some tea, some will-power and some words to write, and I shall ride out the craving until it turns into something else. Sleepiness, probably.

Just out of curiosity, what do you all do when the cravings hit? I could use some new weapons in my arsenal.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekly weigh-in

Starting weight: 240
Current weight: 235
Change this week: -5

Total change: -5

One week, and 5 lbs gone! It’s mostly water-weight, I have no doubt, but I’ll take it. The challenges this week were social ones, as I posted about here. Yesterday I had both lunch and dinner out, which was tough. I think it would work best to declare a moratorium on dining out during this early phase of trying to lose weight and re-adopt some healthier eating, but I can’t bring myself to do that. I have a wonderful bunch of friends, and we tend to enjoy meeting after work or on the weekends to eat and then go do something. It’s kind of a cornerstone of my social life. And besides, I guess I feel like I need to learn to eat out in the world, not only in my own kitchen.

As I think I’ve mentioned, the plan I’m sticking to for now is low-carb and relatively high protein. I’ve been eating a lot of lean meat this week, and LOADS of broccoli, which I detest raw but really like when it’s steamed. Last weekend I steamed up a big bunch and took it for lunch all week, which I think I’ll do again this week. This way of eating works really well for me, especially once I’ve liberalized it a bit to include some fruits. I’m always surprised at how much energy I have when I’m avoiding bread, potatoes, rice, sugar, etc. I’ve always been prone to hypoglycemia, and often if I have a big, carby lunch, by dinnertime I’m weak, lightheaded, ravenous and absolutely unable to make a healthy choice about what to eat for dinner. When I’m doing the low-carb thing, though, by dinnertime I’m usually hungry, but in a pleasant rather than desperate way.

It also feels good emotionally to have a sense of being back in control. That’s a welcome contrast to the way I was feeling a couple of weeks ago, and one I hope I’ll be able to maintain.

So—my goals for last week were to bring my lunch to work and to avoid the fast food trap that I have so often fallen into after work. I am happy to say that I accomplished both! Yay me. I did eat in the food court at the mall yesterday with a friend, but they had a fast food Chinese place where I got chicken and broccoli with minimal sauce. Still, I’m counting this as a success.

My goal for this week is a simple one, but it’s going to bug me. I need to start measuring things. I don’t do that and I don’t like doing it, but I know that I have no sense any longer of what a serving size is. I’m not going to bother for things like my dinner serving of meat and veggies—for that I figure I can eat as much as I like, as it’s not much of a temptation. Where I get into trouble is with snack things, like ¼ cup of nuts or a tablespoon of peanut butter. When I attempt to eyeball it, I go way over what I mean to have, and that’s a source of a lot of ‘hidden’ calories and carbs for me.

So, there you have it. My past week and plans for the coming week in a big, wordy nutshell.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Meet & Eat

Social events are hard. When I’m eating by myself, I can usually make good choices about foods that fit into my eating plan. Whether I DO make those choices is another matter sometimes, but I’m aware even when I eat poorly that the pressures to do so are coming only from within me.

But being with other people—that gets complicated for me. Like yesterday. I was invited to give a talk over the lunch hour for one of the treatment teams where I work. Lovely, warm people all, and they had informed me that they do a lunch potluck, so I could come and be part of that before my talk. So nice! But such a minefield too. People always want you to try their stuff, and there’s such social interaction around tasting this and that and asking for recipes, etc. I find that I do pretty well on a controlled-carbohydrate diet a la South Beach or Atkins, so I’ve been restricting the carbs pretty severely this week. And let me tell you, it was Fiesta Carb-o-rama around that table. Pasta salads, chips and dip, rice salads, cookies…all stuff that just did not work for me. It’s not like I was hungry—I knew this was coming up and had pre-eaten my own lunch (cheese, hard-boiled eggs and steamed broccoli) before coming over. But I just don’t deal with the social pressure that well. I came out of it pretty unscathed, overall; I had some sugar snap peas that someone brought and a few tablespoons of tabbouleh (made with whole grains, so not as bad as it could be). I’m glad that I was the one talking for the hour, so I had an excuse to not dive in headfirst.

That was just a one-time deal. The tougher thing I do is a weekly dinner I go to at a halfway house that’s part of the mental health program where I work. I’m the staff psychotherapist for the residents of the house, and we meet weekly for dinner and a house meeting/therapy group. Each week one of the residents cooks the meal that we all share, and it’s quite a point of pride for them to do a good job. And there are some fine cooks in this house, let me tell you. You wouldn’t think a bunch of addicts early in their recovery would have found the time to discover and embrace their inner kitchen magicians, but damn. I’m thinking maybe they need their own show on the Food Network. (Having written that, I’m now having fun making up names for that show in my head—heh.)

So the general yummy-ness of the food is an issue, but the harder part is that pressure to ooh and ahh over the food and to eat lots of it, and to be sure I’m equally complimentary to everyone’s culinary efforts. I just haven’t figured out a good way to negotiate this situation, and I basically end up eating a lot of stuff that tastes great and keeps me fat.

Part of the issue is that I just hate talking about my attempts to change my eating habits. It would probably solve the problem were I just to say, “Oh, thanks, but I’m on a diet.” But I feel like making any kind of a public proclamation of my intent renders me and my obesity (as well as my attempts to address that obesity) too damn public. I’d rather have people think that I am just too busy and cool and interested in deep and important things to give my fat a thought.

Le sigh.

That said, though, I’ve been doing pretty well this week. I’ve met my goals thus far: I’ve brought lunch every day so far, and I’ve not had any fast food. I’ve also felt in control of my eating, for the most part. No binges, and I’ve been keeping the carbs to a minimum for the moment.

Hope everyone’s week is going well!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I love my teeth. I come from a family of smokers—folks who puffed until their teeth were yellow like corn niblets and their gums were in need of several painful tune-ups from the local periodontist. Me, I smoked, but only for a short time (I needed to bolster my image as a tortured intellectual in college and the turtleneck and black beret just didn’t quite do it), and I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker.

So, my teeth are pearly, pearly white. Two other relevant facts about my parents is that they were relatively wealthy and relatively status conscious, so they paid to have my naturally, uh… exuberant teeth corralled by the local orthodontist into some semblance of unremarkable straightness. Believe me, I’m not complaining—I looked like a beaver until Dr. K got his hands on me. I can no longer chew the paint off a wall, but I’ve learned to forgo that particular activity in favor of teeth that allow me to close my mouth all the way.

Like I said, I love ‘em. Actually, I’m crazy vain about them. I like to look at them in mirrors, just to remind myself that there’s a part of me that’s pretty. There’s not much about my appearance that I take pleasure in these days, but the teeth have stayed with me, through thick and thin, through bad hair days and bad outfit days… and God bless ‘em, they look exactly the same no matter what I weigh.

So, what about you? What are your secret (or not so secret) vanities?

Sunday, April 8, 2007


It took the kind words of AHappyWife to remind me how important it is to be gentle with yourself. Her comment got me thinking about how adversarial my relationship with myself has gotten over this whole weight loss thing. I feel as if there are two of me: the timid, wishful person who gosh, if it’s not too much trouble, thinks she might like to lose some weight at some point, and the out-of-control, demanding, childish me, who tantrums and binges JUST BECAUSE SHE FEELS LIKE IT, DAMNIT!!! The timid, dare-not-be-hopeful Luna walks on eggshells around the tyrannical, demanding Luna, secretly afraid of what she might be capable of. Eating until our stomach bursts? Just watch me. Willfully getting so fat that the only thing we can wear is the living room curtains? Heh. Step aside, missy, and let me at that fridge.

So I got to thinking that it’s time to end the madness. It’s time for a cease-fire in this weird internal war over what I choose to put in my mouth and how I choose to feel about my body. I’m uniting this timid, hopeless, powerless part of myself with this other part—the part that wants what I want NOW—and realizing that kindness toward myself can only be a good thing.

Today I did something I’ve never done before, though I’ve recommended it to clients countless times. It feels cheesy and silly, but I think it kind of works. I printed off some little saying for myself, incredibly basic things like You can do it! and Calm, calm, calm… and I put them around the house. Very simple, yet it makes me feel as if we’re all on the same side here, which is a nice way to feel. If AHappyWife can say kind and supportive things to me, I can do the same for myself. Group hug!

The other thing I got to thinking today was that I think too damn much sometimes. Looking back on these posts, they’re things I need to sort out for myself, and if they elicit some comments from someone who feels inspired to tell me “Me too!” so much the better. But I need to make some active, concrete changes as well. I’m still off the Mountain Dew (whoo-hoo!), still eating more salads, etc, but it’s time for a few more Baby Steps.

So, goals for the coming week:

  1. Take my lunch to work every day.I got myself organized today and boiled a bunch of eggs and steamed a few heads of broccoli.I made myself dinner tonight (grilled some lean beef) and have leftovers ready to go for tomorrow.
  2. Lay off the fast food for dinner.This is a hard one for me.I work long days, and by the end of the day I’m shot and I’m hungry.I’m going to take some string cheese with my lunch as kind of a late afternoon snack to gobble between clients, and then when I leave I won’t be ready to eat my own shoes.I’ve got some chicken breasts thawed for an easy dinner thing, which should help with the need for something easy.

Good enough for one week, I think.

Finally, accountability. I have avoided doing the weekly weigh-in thing here, out of fear that I just won’t be able to get it together enough to actually lose some weight, and I’ll have nothing good to report. Well, I resolve to report the numbers weekly, whether they’re good, bad or ugly. It may be that I’ll end up with a fairly unique beast in the blog-o-verse: a weight gain blog. But I don’t think so.

So here’s the big bad number for today: 240 lbs.

OK. That wasn’t so hard. I’ll have to look at how some of the rest of you report your progress to find a format I like, but it’s a start.

Have a good week!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

One Big Hunger

I can’t stop eating. I’m ashamed to even write that, but it’s the truth, and the one thing I need to face and fix above all else. I’ve had this multi-day binge going, culminating today in two (yes, TWO) meals from McDonald’s, complete with a cinnamon melt at each meal.

I know the cause—like many of us, I eat when I feel sad or bereft somehow. It’s a reliable and easily obtained source of comfort, and it does exactly what I expect it to do. And I know why this week has been such a chow-fest; it’s because the anniversary of my mom’s death was yesterday, and though it’s been several years now, that date predictably makes me feel disconnected and sad. So I get it.

Even so. I know, rationally, that anything I can put in my mouth is not going to fill that hole, and bingeing just makes me feel more disconnected and out of control. It increases my feelings of shame and isolation—like if anyone knew the ‘real’ me, they’d be shocked and disgusted.

Did I mention that I’m a psychologist? And worse yet, I’m a psychologist who works with people in residential treatment for drug/alcohol addiction. I spend my days talking with people about addictive behaviors, about finding better ways to address problems and healthier strategies for managing their emotions. And then I go home and sit on the couch with my awful fast-food meal and my sad heart and disregard all of it.

I remember when the connection between food and nurturing became clear to me. I was driving down to visit my maternal grandmother and grandfather once, probably a year or so after my mother died. My grandmother (who is still alive at 99) has never been the warmest, most nurturing grandma, and with my mother gone such a short time, I knew that it was going to be a difficult trip. I began to be obsessed about going hungry while I was there. Now, there’s a wee grain of truth to this concern…as my grandparents aged, they began to make tinier and tinier meals for themselves, until at some point they were each having half of a steamed apple for dinner (no kidding). They’d cook a little more when they had grandkids visiting, and we’d always offer to make dinner, but there literally just wasn’t enough to make a real dinner with. We’d always each end up with about a tablespoon of chicken salad and some canned green beans or something. It wasn’t the kind of grandma’s house one dreams of. So, OK--I was driving down to visit, and all I could think about was how I was going to get enough food while I was there. I considered stopping at a grocery store, or just buying a stash of granola bars to hide in my suitcase or something… and then it just hit me how it was so not about the food. It was about the feeling lonely and sad and missing my mom and wanting a different kind of a grandmother…


So, here I sit, no better for that insight, apparently, and not knowing how on earth I’m going to stomp out this nasty habit I have. Because if I don’t, I’m just going to get bigger and bigger, and I am so afraid of that.

Words of wisdom, anyone? Books to recommend? Mantras, meditations, healing imagery…I’m open to hearing all of it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Who's that Girl?

There was a time, not that long ago, where I spent about a year eating in a way that felt controlled, calm and principled. I cooked a lot and enjoyed it. I walked about 3 miles a day and LOVED that in a way that I never thought I could. During that year, I lost about 40 lbs. There were certainly many benefits to that--snazzier clothes, more energy, fewer aches and pains, many compliments from others. But the coolest part, to me, was that for once I felt as if I were in control. I keep coming back to the word calm. I felt calm, unharried, optimistic...and I began to enjoy being in my own skin for the first time since maybe ever. I started paying more attention to makeup, started getting my eyebrows done and wearing toenail polish...all these little things that just made me feel female. Feminine.

And that was really, really cool.

Me and the whole femininity thing…we have kind of a troubled relationship. When I was in kindergarten at age 5, I remember trying to get the little boys to play with me by telling then that my name was really Tiger. (Somehow, they didn't buy it.) I have this absurdly traumatic memory from around the same time of this little Springtime pageant we had to put on, where all the kids had to pair up, and the boys got to be vegetables and the girls got to be flowers. You and your partner decided what kind of flower/vegetable to be and then you (and your mom and dad) made costumes for the show. No other little girl would pair up with me, and the teachers wouldn’t let me be a vegetable with the boys, so some adult had to intervene on my behalf and talk two other happily paired up little flowers into letting me crash their twosome. I was a poppy, and the tallest flower on the stage. It sucked.

I was always tall, always chubby, always more into shorts and sneakers than dresses and barrettes (though, sadly, I was not athletic). I was also one of the earliest girls in elementary school to hit puberty, and oh! The agony. Tall, curvy, bezitted me, with the braces and glasses everyone else got two years later. Odd how my premature female-ness made me feel even more at odds with femininity.

By high school I was dressing so androgynously that I got in trouble once for not responding when the assistant principal addressed me as “young man.” It was the early 1980s, which meant I could and did take refuge in polo shirts, Shetland sweaters, loafers—what all the preppy girls and boys were wearing.

Finally in college I started steppin’ out a little…a jazzy new wave haircut, makeup, even daring to experiment with the clothes a little. But I still wanted to feel girly, and I didn’t. I didn’t, in fact, until my mid-thirties, when I lost the weight mentioned in the first paragraph. Suddenly it began to work for me…and I began to claim it and nurture it. But then, I got into a relationship and started to gain again. I think, much as I enjoyed feeling feminine for once, there was some pressure there too. I felt conspicuous and public. People commented on my weight loss, looked at my body, began to expect things from me. Like more weight loss, for one. And I wasn’t prepared. This time, however, I know what to expect. I hope that knowledge will be enough to keep me from retreating to the comfort of my fat and my invisibility.