Player 1: Continue

Yes, the title of this entry is a video game reference.  Deal with it.

This past Friday, I awoke with every intention of beginning a period of better eating habits (what most call “going on a diet”, but I’m trying to avoid that terminology because “diets” are generally temporary and gimmicky) and with the knowledge that my timing was tricky because I was headed to a science-fiction convention.  I find it difficult to eat well at such events for a number of reasons.  The big one is that I’m essentially off on holiday, even if I’m working at the con the way I was at this one, and because of that almost festival sort of atmosphere, I’d rather make indulgent food choices.

But I was gonna try, by golly.  No time like the present and all that.  Then a friend offered to buy me Penn Station not once, but twice, and screw watching my calorie intake, *givememeat*.

And y’know what? Totally worth it.  I would rather have had both of those meals than have limited myself this weekend.  And it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure or that I’ve fallen off any proverbial wagons.  I wanted spicy, warm, greasy, meaty sandwiches, and I ate them, and they were delicious.

Today, I want a spicy, warm, greasy, meaty sandwich, and today, I am not getting one.  Instead, I am eating in, where I can measure and portion my food and write down in my little notebook how many calories, how much protein, and how many carbs I’m eating.  And lunch is sloppy Joe, so it’s not like I’m forcing rice cakes and tofu seasoned only by my salty tears as I lament the lack of delicious greasemeat down my throat.

(To clarify: I love tofu, but it’s gotta be flavored with something.)

Also today, I had a doctor appointment.  As is standard, I was weighed on my way to the exam room.  My scale had me at 264.  The doctor’s scale had me at 247.  So apparently there’s something wrong with my scale.  I know it needs a new battery, so I’ll take care of that, see if any other things need changing on it, and see if that enables it to get back to weighing things accurately.

The possibility that my scale is 17 pounds off is actually not a surprise.  My boyfriend has been weighing himself on it as well, and since his weight hasn’t changed much in the past decade, he was very surprised to discover that he’d gained 17 pounds.  I feel that my doctor visit this morning has confirmed that something is wrong with the scale.

So today begins my renewed efforts to track my intake, curb my impulsive eating, and reduce the amount of junk food I ingest.  My goal is to lose ten pounds by January 1st.  Time will tell how successful I manage to be, particularly with the holidays right around the corner, but hopefully the grace I gave myself this weekend will carry over to those holiday meals if I need it to.

Building a Bonfire

Normally I would pontificate on how long it’s been since I updated this blog, but I wrote this entry mostly for me.  I’m only posting it publicly because sometimes I need to tell other people about things in order to keep them real in my head–it’s like one of those micro-aggressions you do against an abuser (in this case, my compulsive eating habits) to keep your resistance against them active.  So the format of this entry is a bit different.

Though for reference: The last time I weighed myself, I was in the neighborhood of 270 pounds.

My why:

  • I’m frustrated by never having any energy
  • I dislike how cumbersome my body is to move around right now
  • Practically none of my clothing fits and I both miss it and can’t afford to replace it
  • I miss feeling attractive

Challenges:

  • It is very emotionally taxing for me to control what I eat. In order to do so, my life basically has to revolve around what I eat.  I need to focus on making good choices and curtailing my self-destructive impulses.  I need to be diligent about measuring, portioning, timing, and counting calories.  I expect this will take some measure of time away from each workday, and given that my focus on most days is on productivity, it can be very stressful to shift that focus to anything else–this includes things like self-care and even housework.
  • I need the people around me to be supportive of my efforts to eat better, most specifically my two boyfriends, who are the two people I see the most during each week.
  • I worry that my finances might bar me from being able to make good food choices for one of two reasons:
    1. The food that meets my dietary criteria will be too expensive; or
    2. I won’t be able to afford a variety of foods that meet my dietary criteria, and will quickly become burned out eating the same things all the time and slip back into unhealthy eating habits because unhealthier things are less expensive and therefore easier to acquire in a wider variety
  • Eating away from my residence, whether at a restaurant or at someone else’s house, will become either exceptionally tricky or outright impossible. This has a host of implications.
  • Changing things that have become staples of my diet could be tricky.
  • I’m likely to be hungry a lot when I begin to alter my eating habits, which is going to make it more difficult to stick to the new habits. Even mild physical hunger can make it difficult for me to focus, can make me feel depressed or irritable, or even make me feel queasy.
  • The ever-present sweet tooth is still there.
  • My depression and anxiety are, in general, mollified by comfort food, and as these personality disorders are ever-present factors in my life, living without my time-old form of self-comfort can be very tricky. I actually theorize that it was a significant contributor to my nervous breakdown in 2014.

Dietary criteria and goals:

  • Eat once every 3 to 4 hours
  • Eat 6 to 8 ounces of food per meal
  • Eat 15 to 20 grams of protein per meal
  • Do not eliminate carbs, but eat them sparingly
  • Fat is fine, your brain needs it to function
  • Do not drink right before, during, or right after eating—but consume at least 30 ounces of plain water per day
  • Eat between 1150 to 1300 calories a day
  • Track meal portions, calories, protein, and carbs every time I eat
  • Weigh-in only once per month, not once per week as I used to

I am still on the fence as to whether or not allowing myself one “cheat day” each week would be mentally and emotionally beneficial, or do more harm than good.  On the one hand, it would allow me to relax the mental and emotional “muscles” that I keep clenched when I expend the sort of energy required for me to engage in better eating habits.  But on the other, I fear that even one day off from those habits might make it easier for me to slip back into the bad habits.

I have a lot of complex emotional baggage when it comes to food.  Slogging through it can be downright impossible sometimes.  It’s easy to just give up control and succumb to the addition.

But I’m tired of feeling hopeless and helpless.  The inner fire that ignited after I had bariatric surgery, when I began losing weight and feeling better, might have gone out.  But my old weight loss motivations are still striking sparks inside my heart, and I think I’m beginning to once again source scraps of tinder within my will.  Even as I’m terrified that I’ll fail again, I pull from other sources within myself my general attitude of, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and find that I am meekly, cautiously willing to try again to build a bonfire.

But baby steps.  I need to remind myself that it’s ok to go slowly.  It’s ok to make mistakes.  It’s ok to not be perfect.  And that no, this will not be fun.  It’s going to suck ass.  But I’ll dangle my whys in front of my psyche like candy and see if that helps.

So, first goal: Lose 10 pounds by January 1st 2018.

Status Update #16…Sort Of

My last check-in was actually a couple of weeks ago now. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write the usual blog update about it, but instead, I’ve been lax in doing so. Now, where to start.

Firstly, my weight is, according to my doctor’s scale, a little over 190 pounds again. According to my scale at home, it’s still a couple of pounds under. I tend to feel that my at-home weigh-ins are more accurate, as they are done without the weight added by breakfast and clothing, but the metrics from my surgeon’s office scale are what I’ve been reporting in all of these status updates.

With regards to the last couple of weeks…

I used to wish for a nervous breakdown. It seemed like it would be a cathartic release rather than a quagmire of emotion with no definitive beginning and an even more poorly defined termination point. Now that I’ve actually had one…I think I could really have done without.

No, this isn’t a recent thing. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, actually, and realized that the point at which I was in October, right before I started my anti-anxiety medication, probably qualifies as a bona fide nervous breakdown. I couldn’t sleep. I was doing a lot of stress eating. I couldn’t think about housework or my own music without wanting to run and hide in a corner and just cry and cry and cry. Social interactions frazzled me. Being alone left me feeling anxious and depressed. I was a raw nerve, and effectively useless. I have no idea how I managed to finish out the end of my band’s tour, to be honest.

So…yeah. That happened.

By contrast, I’m much better now. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but at least I’m not as bad as I was.

I’ve started therapy. I’ve had only a handful of sessions thus far, so my therapist and I are still getting to know each other a bit. But I’m hoping it will help.

Otherwise, I invite you to read these two articles to get a glimpse of the muck that’s swirling around in my head right now. I find it difficult to be even half this elegant about my own experiences, but these articles are pretty close to some of what I’ve been going through.

11 Habits of People With Concealed Depression

9 things I wish people understood about anxiety

Determining it’s Time for an Adjustment

Everyone’s body is different. Some people have ridiculously high metabolisms—they can eat well over the suggested 2,000 calorie daily limit and not gain an ounce. Some people do just fine with that 2,000 daily limit. With that number and a reasonable amount of physical activity, they maintain a healthy weight and/or comfortable weight for their body type and personal preferences.

Then there’s me. When I eat around 2,000 calories a day, I gain weight. My body doesn’t seem to want to lose weight until I’m eating around 1,200 calories a day. Before surgery, there was no way in hell I could have eaten that little every day. Eating disorder aside, I would have been too physically hungry to maintain those portion sizes.

In the last few months, I’ve had between 1,700 and 2,200 calories a day, on average, give or take. And now I’m back over 180 pounds. Some of my clothes are beginning to fit poorly. I’ve noticed that going up stairs and just general movement is becoming less comfortable or me, and more awkward. As my husband said the other day, I was walking in a straight line, there just happened to be a wall in the way of the route of that straight line…

So I need to begin eating smaller portion sizes in order to return to a weight that is more comfortable to me. But I know from tracking my intake that I can’t currently eat portions that small. I’m just too physically hungry for that. Which means it’s time for another adjustment.

As my surgeon says, the Band is a tool. This sort of situation is what it’s there for.

Though that being said, I was dreading when I might have to do this again. It takes about a week for me to be back to eating solid food again after every adjustment, and I get a little twitchy from the hunger in the meantime. And there’s only so much Ensure a person can drink…

I know that it will be worth it in the long run. It’s just the short-term discomfort that I’m not looking forward to.

My body seems to go in this cycle. I’ll have an adjustment and deal with the hunger while my stomach calms down. Then there will be a period during which it’s still not too sure about a lot of things and I have to be really careful. Then my stomach gets used to this idea again, and I become able to eat more than it feels like I should be able to.

I’m in that latter most phase right now. And as usually happens during this phase, I’ve put on some weight.

My next visit to my surgeon’s office is in mid-January. I’ll ask about getting an adjustment and, as always, post an update on how it goes.

That Update I’ve Been Meaning to Make

I intended, following my check-in with my general practitioner, to post an update regarding my anxiety meds. Then I was generally busy, and then I was sick, so I’ve been putting off a lot of things that I intended to do.

But now that I’m feeling humanoid again, here’s that update I’ve been meaning to make!

The meds seem to be working pretty well. It was, at most, maybe two weeks before I was able to mentally compile a to-do list for the following day while on my way to bed and then not lay there awake for hours stressing out about everything on that list. And the days on which I wake up already feeling overwhelmed and run-down are now much fewer in number. I am once again able to do the things that I need to do without freaking out about having to do them, and the things I want to do without finding them pointless and joyless.

I will still occasionally have the off day. But it seems as though now, instead of spending my entire day anxious and depressed, convinced that no one loves me and everything is pointless, and oh, why couldn’t I have been better about this or that?—I will instead spend a few hours feeling this way a few times a week. These emotions are much less acute and frequent, and they dissipate much more quickly.

And I finally had the energy and mental wherewithal to get back into portioning and journaling my meals.

…and then Thanksgiving happened, and, well, y’know. But I know that once I shake this bloody cold—which has been a hungry virus, let me tell you—I will once again have that ability, that patience, that strength, to stand against those inner voices that tell me I should be eating constantly, and tell them that no, I really shouldn’t.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’m still not dealing with the underlying problems, because I don’t know how to, or even what they are.

The bad news is that I was, around the time of my band’s last show of the year, so generally anxious that if I didn’t have a stuffed animal in my hands to cuddle at all times, oh dear god, I might start crying at any minute. I was a raw nerve around people and all I wanted to do was get away from them. (Naturally, my band’s last show of the year was at a convention, so that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.) This is a Very Bad Thing because it means that my band is probably my greatest source of stress—which I knew, but if engaging in related activities stresses me out to the point of practically being unable to function, well, that’s kind of a problem

Thankfully, I think the actual performance went quite well. It’s the lead-up time to actually getting on stage at an event that makes me get really twitchy.

And the last of the bad news is…

The medication I’m on has as a possible side-effect for women increased difficulty climaxing…

…which is really ironic for a medication that’s being taken to help with anxiety…

…and naturally, I would be one of the patients experiencing that side-effect.

Sigh.

But my doctor says I should only plan to be on this medication for six to eight months. …of course, I’m not confident that I won’t need to get back on it shortly after I stop taking it since, as I said, I currently have no way to deal with the underlying issues, but…yeah.

In the meantime, at least I can function. I can do chores (when I’m not sick with the plague) again. I can enjoy sewing and crafting again. And maybe—just maybe—I can get back into songwriting when I’m done being sick and riding the roller coaster that is The Holidays.

Speaking of which, my next check-in with my bariatric surgeon isn’t until January. So unless I have something to say between now and then, this is the last you’ll hear of me until 2015.

I hope all of you have a safe and wonderful end of December, and that whatever holiday you celebrate, if any, is all that you want and need it to be.

And happy New Year. Maybe set some goals for that new beginning, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not “resolutions”—goals. After all, we only get to start 2015 once.

Why the Pain?

I asked, a very long time ago, Why do I find food so emotionally comforting?. I have yet to really come up with an answer.

But in retrospect, that might not have been the right question to ask.

The ‘Warm Embrace’ of Addiction“, written by Gabor Maté and published on October 21st of last year, details that, “The first question–always–is not ‘Why the addiction?’ but ‘Why the pain?'”

I can absolutely see the logic in this. My eating disorder is a symptom, not a cause. As for what is a/the cause…I’m not going to speculate. At least, not right now. I think that question is too large for me right this moment. But if I ever do make it in to speak with a counselor, then at least I have a record of it here. And I can certainly ponder it on my own, though it honestly feels so large that I would dearly love to have a guide to help me navigate its terrain.

But I wanted to share this article here. Certainly I’m not the only one involved with this blog who’s been asking this type of question. Maybe, like me, you haven’t been asking the right question?

Status Update #15

It’s time for another Status Update.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last time: 172.4 lbs
Weight today: 179.8 lbs
Total lost: 74.6 lbs

There will be no photo this month, as I’ve no positive progress to show. And I pretty much said everything I might have to say in this update in my last post—I’ve started anti-anxiety meds for the first time, and I need to wait and see how that affects me before I can really put much focus toward getting my eating habits back on track.

So otherwise…I hope everyone’s having a good week.

The Beginning of a New Path

Today was the day of my doctor’s appointment to discuss my anxiety problems. I’ve been learning from my friends that a lot of what I’ve had going on is pretty standard for someone with the issues I’ve been having, which is oddly comforting. Obviously I don’t have any updates on how things are going with my new medication yet, but I wanted to at least pass along that the appointment itself happened.

I’ve been prescribed the lower dosage, generic form of Lexapro. It will be a few weeks yet before I’m likely to notice any results. But just having gone through this doctor visit and gotten my prescription from the pharmacy seems to have made me feel a bit better already.

So I’ve taken a turn on this road I’m on and am exploring a new path. We’ll see where it leads.

In addition, I’m planning to reexamine the possibility of going to a therapist after the first of the year. I still don’t feel very confident about being able to actually afford talk therapy, but I’m willing to see what numbers can be juggled and how.

Unless I have anything further to add in the interim, I’ll be back in a few weeks after the follow-up appointment with my doctor to let everyone know how things are going. Have a safe and happy Halloween and Thanksgiving.

On Anxiety

I think I might have mentioned a time or two that I have some anxiety issues. I’m a little hesitant to call it an actual anxiety disorder, as I’ve never been formally diagnosed with such a thing, but it’s not infrequent that my anxiety will muck up my daily life. Maybe I’ll have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Maybe I’ll be too wired to focus on only one task at a time. Or maybe I’ll be so generally anxious that I can’t focus on anything and just sit around worrying about my lack of productivity and how anxious I am.

Yes, I get anxious about how anxious I am.

…that maybe sounds like something disordered, right?

I’ve learned over the course of the last year or so that not everyone with anxiety issues is anxious in the same ways or about the same things. I think maybe I’m still working on accepting the idea that this fact doesn’t make my anxiety any less valid than someone else’s. Just because I don’t feel X about Y doesn’t mean that I’m not legitimately experiencing something that’s causing me problems.

Yes, I get anxious about whether or not my anxiety is a valid response to the world around me.

I spoke in my last entry about seeing my general doctor for a possible way to deal with this anxiety. I have an appointment scheduled for a week from today. I’ll post later about how it goes. In the meantime, I’m trying not to be too—yup, anxious—about it.

I am actually pretty concerned about the idea of mucking about with my brain chemistry with medication. But I know that if I’m prescribed anything, it’s likely to be low-dosage. And I’m willing to see if it will help me, because dear gods do I need something that will help me.

I can’t sleep very well. I haven’t been able to sleep very well for a long time now. I can’t remember the last time I was truly relaxed without a million thoughts flying around in my head. I have so much tension built up in my neck, shoulders, and back that last Thursday morning, I developed a pinched nerve in my back simply because I turned over in bed. Last night, upon going to bed, it felt as if the matching nerve on the other side was being tweaked in a similar manner, so I ended up staying up until 7 AM with my heating pad in the living room trying to keep things relaxed.

There are days that I can get up and tackle the world. Then there are days when the thought of something as simple as doing the dishes freaks me out.

Why is this relevant to a weight loss blog?

My primary means of self-comfort is food. Being so constantly anxious makes me want to eat. A lot.

I’ve been trying to focus on drinking more water over the last two days. I figure it can only help my knotted muscles to keep my body well-hydrated. But apart from that, it’s also helping with my impulsive eating in a couple of different ways. First, the fluid fills up my stomach, thereby leaving no room for any actual food. And second, imbibing said fluid through a drinking straw seems to be satisfying my oral fixation-related urges. I typically chew on my drinking straws while using them, so in this case, not only do I have an edible substance passing into my mouth, but I’m masticating something at the same time. And water isn’t typically known for having a lot of calories in it.

Often when I want to chew on something, I’ll turn to gum. But chewing gum only covers half of the equation. I get the feeling of something in my teeth, yes, but I don’t get to swallow anything. So there are times when it’s not as emotionally fulfilling as I need it to be.

This drinking straw thing is a recent epiphany. I don’t know that it will always be a thing that hits this particular odd spot, but for now, it seems to be helping, at least a bit.

So that’s the update on the game plan I mentioned in my last entry. We’ll see how next week’s appointment turns out.

Status Update #14

Today was my latest check-in with my surgeon. My state of mind is pretty much the same as it was in my last post, so we’ll just jump to the numbers.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last time: 164.6 lbs
Weight today: 172.4
Total lost: 74.6

The crappy, crappy numbers.

I’m not sure why I’ve been having so much trouble lately. I just know that the urge to give in to my cravings for my trigger foods has been too much to resist since about May or so. I’ve done better some days and weeks than others, but over all, it feels like this summer has just been one big ball of stress-induced eating. I know I have a lot going on, but it’s all good things. It strikes me as odd that I’m this stressed out by good them. But then I’ve thought for a while now that I have some sort of mild, undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so that might have something to do with it. Y’know. Just a little.

So today my surgeon and I came up with a plan. I am to see how my stress levels and therefore my eating habits are by the end of the month, and if I haven’t been able to find my way back to more positive places, I need to go talk to my general doctor about trying some sort of anxiety meds/mood stabilizers/etc. My surgeon and I will reconnect in early November and see how I’m doing either way.

Since I can’t afford to talk to a therapist, this plan actually gives me a little bit of hope. Just a tiny amount. I can’t begin to tell you how long I’ve yearned for a better way to deal with my stress levels, or how lost I’ve felt when it comes to finding it. Medication might not help, but I’m willing to try it. Thankfully, if I am prescribed something, it’s likely to be a very small dosage. So…well, we’ll see how things go, and I’ll keep you all posted.

There will be no photo with this update, as you should already have an idea of what I look like at this weight. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to post a photo of myself at a weight with a five in the middle place.