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.

Advertisements

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.

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 #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.

Putting Things in Perspective

So by now anyone reading should know that I have some issues with willpower when it comes to food. …normally that sentence would contain at least one link to a relevant blog entry, but there were so many to reference that I just left it out. But really, if you’ve read even one of my last few entries, you should be up to speed on that aspect of my personality.

The reason why, in this particular entry, that information is pertinent, is because this summer has been…decently terrible as far as my willpower is concerned. My weight is still below 170 pounds, thankfully, but I was so close to 160 at one point. Yes, it’s only a difference of about ten pounds. But my body shows even five pounds gained or lost. The joys of my individual body type.

I hate to say this but, well…I’ve been feeling fat. I find myself back in that cycle of wanting junk foods and eating them while in some weird state of denial that surely I’ll be fine later, and then feeling like a failure and all-around horrible human being after the denial and endorphin high wear off. To say that I didn’t miss this would be putting it mildly at best.

I guess as far as my weight is concerned, I’ve been doing somewhat well thus far, all things considered. But this 160-170 pound neighborhood in which I currently find myself is becoming my new baseline, and thus, putting on even a few pounds because of poor eating habits makes me feel pretty bad about myself. I’m trying to get my eating habits back on track, but it’s not easy.

So I’ve been trying to keep in mind these photos:

Status Update #9

From Status Update #9.

The photo on the right was taken when I weighed only about two more pounds than I currently do. I know there is a remarkable difference between the photo on the left, taken before surgery, and the right hand photo. It’s an amazing record of how far I’ve really come. So as I’ve been hating myself for gaining five pounds, I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. I’m not sure it’s helping, honestly.

And I’ve been trying to keep in mind how much better I feel in the long-term when I don’t give into temptation and when my weight is around the 160 mark. That’s unfortunately pretty difficult when my brain is screaming at me for short-term gratification.

I think one thing that’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately and adding to this overall feeling of “fat” is my stomach. The loose skin is really starting to bother me, and there’s no way to do anything about it without further surgery. Which I can’t afford. …I’ve never wanted to crowdfund something in my entire life, but no way in hell is that happening.

My food and body issues have been weighing on my mind a lot lately. Enough so, in fact, that I finally looked into psychiatric help for dealing with them. But my insurance will only cover 80% of the bill after I have paid my yearly deductible (which I haven’t yet), and before that, naturally, it would be entirely out of pocket. While 80% is a nice high number, the remaining 20% is beyond my means. Not to mention the 100% I would need to pay out of pocket before my deductible was paid off.

So I’m feeling a little stuck in a couple of different ways. I hate being aware of a problem but lacking the ability to do anything to fix it.

About the only positive body-related thing I have to report today is that my hair seems to finally be making a comeback. Hair fall is a natural part of a weight loss surgery patient’s post-op life, and over the course of the last year and a half, my hair has thinned by a noticeable amount. Even the strands themselves seemed less thick than they had been prior to surgery. But I’ve noticed recently that my hair is feeling and looking thicker and fuller again. I was beginning to worry that would never happen, so it makes me very happy that that doesn’t seem to be the case.

…though that happiness is somewhat tempered by my current dismal feelings concerning the rest of my body. Before I had surgery, I typically felt that my only genuinely attractive feature was my hair. My brain seems to be trying to wriggle itself back into that old, familiar mindset. And I’m trying to prevent it from going there. We’ll see how successful I manage to be.

In the meantime, I think I could use a boost. What positive things are going on in your lives that you might be willing to share, readers?

Serendipity, You’re Weird

So apparently February 24th to March 2nd is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Which means that I had my bariatric surgery right in the middle of it. …huh.

If you suspect you may have an eating disorder, or that you know someone who might be struggling with one, you or they can take a screening conducted by the National Eating Disorder Association and Screening For Mental Health, Inc. There are lots of resources out there for those affected by eating disorders to get help. And sometimes something as simple as letting them know they aren’t alone can be a major balm.

If you’d like to learn more about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, or get involved, you can do so by visiting the NEDA website.

Chasing the Wagon

I generally hate the phrase, “falling off the wagon”, but what the hell, we’ll use it this once.

I’m not exactly sure when the fall happened. The way most people talk about it makes it seem like there should have been a definitive moment to which I could point and say, “There–there is where I lost my footing, there is where the positive habits I’d built up were erased”. But I’m finding that it’s not so cut-and-dry. …and yes, it’s entirely possible that that is due to my own denial. Even writing this, I don’t want to admit that I’m as far outside of the scope of what I should be doing as I am. But I am forced to, and, despite not wanting to admit it, I’m happy that I am.

I weigh myself every Saturday. In November–so, three-ish months ago, at this point–I weighed around 164 pounds. This morning, I awoke and climbed on the scale, and discovered I am now back up to 175 pounds. I’ve been trying to be gentle with myself–I’m high-strung to begin with, and am currently working on a project that’s just a little stressful, so I’ve been trying to coach myself to not stress out too much about anything, including things that are weight- and food-related.

But that ends now, at least for anything food-related, anxiety issues be damned. I have not come this far only to backslide. Vigilance is the price I pay for feeling better, both in general, and about myself. I need to not only be aware of my food intake, but I also need to be aware that “vigilance” and “guilt” are not synonymous–it is possible for me to be vigilant without beating myself up for making bad choices.

So now it is time to try and find my way back to those good habits. I (literally, it’s been so long) dusted off my food journal this morning, which I haven’t been using in part due to laziness, and in part because, for some foods, it’s difficult to know how many calories I’m actually ingesting. So, for that latter reason, keeping a food journal seems somewhat pointless. But there is a point to it, I must remind myself, and that point is awareness, conscientiousness, and vigilance.

So no, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I (once again) started caring more about my next fix than my own health. But I can say that as of this morning, I am tired of the excuses and the willful ignorance, and I am no longer going to accept either. There are better ways to deal with stress than food, and there will always be a stressor in my life that makes me want to eat. I accept that fact. But I rebel against the urge to succumb.

My one-year anniversary is this coming Thursday.