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.

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.