Familiar Territory

It’s not the same. My addiction doesn’t cause me to enter dangerous parts of the city late at night, looking for someone from whom I can purchase an illegal substance. It doesn’t involve needles or fire. It doesn’t make me dangerous to be out in public. It’s highly unlikely to cause me to steal from someone I love.

So it really is not the same. And yet I can relate.

This article is some very powerful stuff. It’s written by Russell Brand, whom I only know peripherally as some kind of celebrity, talking about addiction and addicts. In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I think there are a lot of people out there with this sort of thing on their minds. I’m sure a fair portion of them are addicts or recovering addicts, thinking to themselves, “There but for the grace go I…”

Drug addiction may draw its victims out for years—but it kills comparatively quickly to my addiction. If I thought of cookies the same way I think of things like heroin…well, I might not have ever had cause to start this blog in the first place. So no, it is not the same. …but the effects, while subtler, more difficult to notice, and easier to pass off as nothing to worry about, are pretty damn similar.

I am still trying to find my way to any path that has a name in any way similar to “recovery”. I must check daily that I am still reaching for it, still searching for it in the dark.

The contents of that article are familiar territory. They are a good reminder of just how important it is that I’m trying to widen the map.


What’s Your Excuse?

I’ve been pretty candid on this blog about how I have an eating disorder*, and how that disorder is caused by an addiction to various foods, most specifically sugar and pastry. I have a lot of difficulty with self-control when it comes to food in general, but there are some things I just can’t seem to keep myself away from, no matter how hard I try. I’ve been through that cycle of determination (“I can do better next time! I will do better next time!”), failure (“I didn’t do better this time.)”, and shame (“I’ve failed again—I’m a terrible person.”). I’ve dealt with trying to negate the guilt whenever it wasn’t constructive guilt, but the guilt and the shame aren’t what I wanted to talk about today. What I wanted to talk about today is the actual failure that happens before the guilt. I don’t know that this will turn into anything more worthwhile than some navel gazing, but being a creative type, I do know that navel gazing can often be pretty integral to many processes. So here we go.

I try very hard to stay away from foods that I know will cause me problems if I’m around them. I haven’t been that great about it through the month of December, but I blame the holidays on that one (which, really, is mostly an excuse, but I’m getting to that). I will however, do things like something I did the other day.

A friend of mine is getting married in April, and had a wedding prep party of a sort, at which there were expectedly a bunch of snacks and so forth. Once the party ended, our hostess, another friend, and I were divvying up the leftover snacks. I took home some cookies to share with my husband, but I did not take home a sweet spread containing peanut butter and chocolate chips, because I recognized that, while at the party, I had trouble keeping myself out of it. So I did feel pretty good about that…especially since I’m still battling a craving for more of the stuff, two days later. It is a dangerous substance for me, one that I hope to see at other parties in the future, but one that I don’t intend to ever make myself or have in my own house.

But barring occurrences like that, my willpower concerning certain foods is next to nonexistent. And like I said, it’s been pretty bad lately. Some days/weeks/months are better than others. And it isn’t always due to lack of awareness, either. I am very aware of the problem. I am very aware of how I will feel, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, practically each and every time I’m battling an urge to eat something I know I shouldn’t, and cave in anyway. The guilt has, by now, become second nature (sometimes to the point that I don’t always notice that cautionary voice, as I’ve gotten really good at ignoring it—and that’s definitely part of the problem), and that guilt stems from knowing that I will be unhappy, in some way or another, at a later time, after I’ve caved into my addiction yet again. But still, I keep putting my hand back in the cookie jar.

The reason?

There is always an excuse. Always. If you’re reading this and you’re an addict—whatever your vice may be—you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re reading this and are not an addict, then I’ll explain.

Let’s say that I want a donut. It just so happens that on this day, I am at a social function at which there are many donuts present, and they are free for the taking for all attendees of this social event. Even though I know in my heart of hearts that I should either not have any donuts at all, or, if I am going to partake, should only have one donut, I am, about 80 to 90% of the time, almost guaranteed to over-indulge. Here is a list of possible reasons why:

  • I’ve been good about my diet lately, so I deserve a treat
  • I am not often at social functions that have free donuts, so indulging just this once won’t hurt (This excuse never takes into account the fact that there may be many other areas in my life in which I do have access to indulgent foods, so “once in a while” often turns into “all the goddamn time”)
  • I have difficulty passing up free food
  • I have difficulty passing up an excuse to eat junk, because hey, it’s an excuse to eat junk! It’s justified, right?
  • I’m right about to start, already on, or have just finished my period
  • It is almost, is, or just was my birthday/Halloween/Christmas/any other holiday
  • I have any reason whatsoever to celebrate anything
  • I just want a goddamn donut, ok?
  • I’ve been under a lot of stress/feeling depressed lately, and a treat would really help me feel better (Actually, no it won’t, at least not in any meaningful or lasting way, but that doesn’t matter)
  • I’m bored
  • I know I won’t have time for dessert later, so I should take advantage of the opportunity to have a sweet now while I can
  • I don’t know when next I’ll have access to something sweet, so I should take advantage of the opportunity to have one while I can (This is a big holdover from my childhood)
  • I’ve just had lunch or dinner, and so my brain is in the mood for dessert (Tell me again why it is that we reward our children with more food once they finished their initial food? I feel like Pavlov’s freakin’ dog a lot of the time, and I haven’t lived with a parental figure in years
  • (When at home) Well, I’m almost out of X, anyway, might as well finish it
  • Tomorrow is another day—I’ll try again then, the day’s already half over, no sense in being so strict about it now
  • It’s a day that ends in Y

Like I said, there is always an excuse. There is always a way to justify giving in to the addiction, because, well, it’s an addiction. That’s how they work.

And yes, I am fucking sick of it. I hate that cycle (determination – failure – shame). I want to be rid of it—the fact that I had bariatric surgery is actually a bit helpful, in a lot of ways. But to get further—well, I’ve been intending for a while now to go talk to a professional about it, and haven’t quite gotten that far because of insurance reasons.

In the meantime…

Lately I’ve been pondering why I have such a strong emotional attachment to some foods (an emotional attachment that is part of the reason I have such horrible willpower), and I’ve actually come up with a possible explanation.

There are many people in my family who are, shall we say, rather concerned with their own affairs. Some of them have gotten better over the years…some of them haven’t. It was difficult being a child and growing up in that atmosphere. So I had to find a way to cope with it. So what’s a great way for a child to feel special? Why, give her a treat. Treats are, by definition, special—if they become common, everyday things, then they aren’t really treats.

So basically, I used food as a form of self-comfort to fill a human being-shaped void, to soothe that childish ego that always wants to be the center of attention, but always feels ignored instead. Food is how I deal with my abandonment issues.

I shall have to see if I can find any constructive ways to deal with those issues on my own, until I can speak with a professional. In the meantime, I do feel a certain amount of empowerment with that idea in mind. I have long wondered why I feel such a strong emotional attachment to food. …especially as an adult, now that I have much more control over my own life (agency, free will), and have built for myself a much more stable environment.

Though I do, even as an adult, still feel, in certain situations, and on a pretty consistent basis, as though the carpet is about to be yanked out from under me at any moment. I know that nothing lasts forever…but still I have difficulty dealing with an adapting to change, under a lot of circumstances. Really I usually just try not to think about the possibility of it too much, lest I freak myself out.

Anyway. I will continue to ponder the whys and wherefores. But tonight, it is currently -12°F in Indianapolis, which, with the wind chill, feels more like -32°F, and I’m bound for bed soon. If you’re in or around the Midwest, I hope you’re weathering the aftermath of Winter Storm Hercules well. Either way, here’s looking forward to all of the potential that tomorrow holds.

*If you define the word “disorder” as, “a disturbance in physical or mental health or functions”, then yes, by technical definitions, I have an eating disorder. The ways in which I eat are harmful to my health, and are not what might be defined as “normal” eating habits. I’m not sure why I feel the need to keep justifying my calling it that—perhaps I feel I’m being melodramatic, or perhaps because it’s really self-diagnosed—but really, no, I am not. I have an eating disorder.

Your Existential Question of the Day

What does it mean to be “attractive”? This photo series, created by Gracie Hagen, examines this. The series is comprised of artistic nudes, so if you do not care for nudity or are in a space where viewing it would be inappropriate, you should not click the link.

Essentially, this series is all about body language. Hagen photographed models standing in two different poses. First she photographed each of them in a pose that is considered conventionally attractive. I noticed this typically involved body language elements that conveyed a sense of self-confidence and maybe even pride: Chest up, shoulders back, gaze level or directed upward (as opposed to meekly cast down), that sort of thing. So in essence, the models look attractive because they act like they think they are attractive. I have noticed that doing so myself has a similar effect on people. If I act as though I feel confident and attractive, then people respond to me as if I am such.

Conversely, when Hagen had those same models stand in unflattering poses–slumped over, eyes downcast in embarrassment, shoulders down, etc.–they looked considerably less attractive. Which brings to mind the concept of how we cannot expect the world at large to like us if we don’t find some way to like ourselves, first. It is, at any rate, much more difficult.

All of which–for me, anyway–boils down to this:

Find a way to love yourself.

End of story. You may think you are unworthy of love, and a terrible person, and if you’re reading this blog and you do think this, then chances are it is weight and/or eating disorder related. I know of at least one friend of mine who has difficulty seeing the good in herself because of reasons related to her weight and her issues with food. It is a thing. It exists. Do not be ashamed. I have been there myself. And perhaps it is easier for me to say this because I am much closer to the other side than I was nine months ago, but nevertheless:

Find a way to love yourself.

There is a way. You can find it. The world is a much more beautiful place with love in it, and where better to start than with the only person you will always be with for the entirety of your life?

Welcome to December

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Between all the baking I did and the subsequent eating, I gained around four pounds, but that’s ok. Why? Well, for one, it was Thanksgiving. While I was worried about this exact thing happening, I figure that Thanksgiving is one of the three days of the year I should be able to indulge within reason and not guilt myself over it (the other two being Christmas and my birthday). Note the key phrase, “within reason”. So yes, I gained four pounds last week. On the other hand, I did not stuff myself to pain or even real discomfort during Thanksgiving dinner, so I consider that a major plus considering my control issues. Four pounds is not that much. I will go back to following the rules I rather blithely ignored last week, and the pounds should go away again. Plus, my amazingly supportive husband has offered to pay my way into some sort of exercise-related something (I am still trying to find a bellydance instructor, and am keeping my fingers crossed). So I will accept the price of enjoying my holiday-related indulgences last week.

Beyond that, I wanted to share something I found on Facebook by way of a friend. It appears to be public, as I was able to read it, and it very well illustrates something I’ve been pretty irritated by for a while.

When the news reporters interview me in my prison cell, when people are filling out their life or property insurance claims, when my victims’ parents and children and spouses stand up on the witness stand and cry and look over at me handcuffed to my defendant’s chair and beg to know “Why???” I will have an answer for them.

“One too many fat jokes.”

Seriously. We aren’t funny. To me, laughing at a fat person and how fat they are is like laughing at a heroin addict and how addicted to heroin they are, or laughing at a person with Down Syndrome and how Down Syndrome-y they are. In the one case, the laughing person is making light of someone’s crippling addiction, and in the other, they are making fun of someone who was just naturally born different. And in both cases, the butt of the joke didn’t have any say in the matter–you might choose to take heroin, but you don’t choose to be addicted to it any more than someone with Down Syndrome chooses to be born with Down Syndrome. So it’s pretty nauseating to me to see the way fat people are portrayed in the media. I am so happy to see that I’m not the only one.

This actually reminds me of a very interesting conversation I had with my sister while she was in town for Thanksgiving. My sister is a smoker, and mentioned the searing judgement that emanates from some people when they see her smoking. I don’t remember her exact wording, but she did seem to imply that I had no idea what that was like. I pointed out that yes, I actually did have an idea of what that was like. How many times have I been in a restaurant and ordering or eating food and wondering what the people around me thought? How many times have I been at the movies with a bag of popcorn and thought that surely everyone around me felt nothing but disdain for the fat chick who really didn’t need all those calories and salt? Hell, I’ve even been embarrassed about my food choices on my own blog. So it was interesting to connect those particular dots and illustrate how my sister and I had that particular sort of connection going on.

Given the way Thanksgiving went for me, I am now dreading Christmas a lot less. I think I will be even less afraid if I can find a good bellydance or yoga class between now and then. In the meantime, stay warm, everybody.

Yes, It Really Starts this Early

This morning, a friend of mine shared this article on her Facebook page, entitled, “Uh Oh: My Child Might Have An Eating Disorder”. I gave it a read, as this is the sort of thing that’s relevant to some of my interests, and I was curious to see what the situation was.

The article doesn’t say how old the child in question is, but she’s pretty young. And I would be willing to bet money that there are people out there–because this is the internet–frothing at the mouth because of how alarmist this article is. The child couldn’t possibly have an eating disorder, she’s too young.

If a disorder is a thing that disrupts or prevents conventional or healthy behavior, then it is entirely possible for a young child to have an eating disorder. And more to the point, I know this because mine began when I was a young child.

This article actually made me remember some things about myself that I’d forgotten. Like how, once when my (step) uncle was visiting, we made cookie dough and put it in the freezer to chill. Then something happened, and the cookie dough was forgotten, and we never actually made cookies. Except I didn’t forget about the cookie dough, and I would sneak it compulsively. (This was at the age of seven or eight, folks.) I used to sneak candy all the time. Like the child in the article, I would also get really excited about sweets, and would ask for them at odd times of the day. I was much better able to get away with this at my dad’s house than at my mom’s, and I remember frequently eating ice cream at odd times, or drinking can after can after can of soda because it was so good, I just couldn’t stop. One year, for Christmas, my Papaw gave me twenty dollars. I walked to the Village Pantry near my dad’s neighborhood and spent all of it on donuts and ate them all myself. Twenty dollars worth of glazed donuts is a lot of fucking donuts.

When the friends I had in my dad’s neighborhood would have slumber parties, I remember I would get so full on snacks and soda that I would consider making myself throw up so that my stomach would stop making me miserable.

If the compulsory ingestion of a substance known to be harmful to oneself is not the hallmark of an addict, I don’t know what is. I am an addict. And I started really, really young.

I’ve been worse about my intake this last week than I thought I was. I’m back around 180. I will be asking for another adjustment when I go to see my surgeon in a week or so (and not just because of the weight increase, but because of part of what’s causing the weight increase–I’m having issues with actually feeling hungry). And I do have the business card for an addiction counselor that my surgeon recommended. I’m just waiting to contact her until we figure out what’s going to happen with our insurance next year. …which leaves me in a bit of a lurch over the next two months, which, lucky for me, are The Holidays.

(Pro Tip: For anyone working their way through compulsive overeating/other eating disorders, the holidays are an absolute nightmare.)

So yes: It is very possible for a young child to have an eating disorder. I only hope that it’s also possible for a young child to overcome an eating disorder if it’s recognized and treated early on. And I wish that family all the best.

Edit: Oh, and by the way, I thought I should give you all fair warning. In conjunction with that whole holiday thing I mentioned, I also suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder, which you may know by the term “seasonal depression”. It is therefore very possible that my posts may start becoming less thoughtful or exuberant and more negative, as part of the reason this blog exists is for my own catharsis. It’s not guaranteed that it will happen. Last year, for example, I was barely bothered by the winter, and there were plenty of non-SAD reasons for me to be down about things–and I wasn’t. But this year…this year, I started feeling ghosts of it a couple of weeks before Halloween. So if my posts take a turn for the negative, just know that it’s caused by a combination of food cravings and the weather, and that the blearch should subside on the nice, bright sunny days.

An Article and Other Musings

Happy Thursday, everyone. First, I wanted to share this article, “13 Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick And Fat“, as I found it very interesting. Obviously one should be careful when getting nutritional advice from the internet, but there are sources linked in this article, which is always comforting. Those of you out there with a nutritionist or dietitian in your life might find the information in this article makes for some interesting (and hopefully informative) conversation. We’ll see what my dietitian has to say about it.

Secondly, I wanted to vent. Sorry if this is TMI, but this month’s cycle sucks for food cravings. I’ve been eating way more junk than I should have, and there are, of course, moments I’m not exactly proud of that have come as a result of this. I am finding, though, that I am able to at least mitigate the guilt and self-hatred by reminding myself that this isn’t something I make a habit out of doing anymore. And really it’s that “anymore” bit that’s the primary mitigating factor. This weakness is temporary, and I am all too aware that it’s almost entirely hormone-induced. There’s stress in the mix, yes, but I think the reason I’m caving in so easily is because of the hormones.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the middle of next week. In the meantime, I’ll just keep rolling this rock uphill…

Status Update #6

September was an interesting month.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight last month: 183 lbs
Weight today: 179.4 lbs
Total lost: 59.8 lbs

It was effectively the exact opposite of August in terms of weight loss. I am freaking out about it less than I might otherwise be, however, because there’s a good reason why I barely lost anything since my last status update.

A day or two after last month’s update, I went back in to see my surgeon because I still wasn’t able to eat anything. He removed all of .5 CC of fluid from my band—apparently the band was not completely empty upon implantation as I thought, but did contain a baseline amount of fluid—to loosen things up so I could eat again. When the size of one’s stomach is significantly reduced by a physical object and then the tissues around the object are really, really enflamed, it makes it pretty difficult to ingest anything. I was even starting to feel uncomfortable drinking Ensure right before he loosened my band.

But once the inflammation finally died down, this newfound room in my stomach did what it was supposed to do: It allowed me to eat. It allowed me to eat a lot more than the band had previously been allowing. So ate I did, and as a result, I only lost around three pounds last month.

This potentially means that I still haven’t hit the point at which my weight loss just naturally slows down on its own, so, as I said, I’m not freaking out about it. Yet. My surgeon replaced the fluid he removed last month when I visited him today, so we’ll see what happens in October. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get back on track. It’s amazing how horrible it can make one feel to suddenly not lose as much weight anymore after a period of fairly regular weight loss.

Also, my doctor provided me with the name of a psychologist who he says works with patients in need of addiction counseling. This is a thing I’ve been intending to do for a while, and before this month, I was doing reasonably well managing on my own just because I physically couldn’t eat a lot of junk. I noticed a marked difference in my portion sizes with just that tiny amount of fluid missing from my band, however, so the monster is once again rearing its ugly head. It doesn’t help that we’re coming up on the Season of Gorging, where “enough” has to come with third and fourth helpings of all of the everything.

I hope the beginning of fall finds everyone well. I am, in addition to looking forward to once again having a more restricted diet, working on the first of my next two albums, planning for next year, and looking to take on more freelance work.

May this harvest season bring you all the fruits of your labors.

Ps. There isn’t a photo for this status update because my appearance really hasn’t changed much since last month.