More Thoughts About Food

I’m starting to think maybe this would make a good weekly post. But then again, I’m worried that all it’ll let me do is find a new way to obsess about my eating.

I suppose the only way to know is to experiment and see what happens.

I’ve talked some about my dieting, body image issues, and consequent binge eating tendencies. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but as is pretty common, I suppose, I also happen to be an emotional eater – ie I use food to cope with my struggles. Which ironically leads to more struggles because of my body image issues. And I think you guys can see where this painful cycle is going.

I read A LOT. I read books and articles and blogs and really anything that isn’t poetry or two dense a scientific study. I read fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, though I tend to draw the line at fantasy (and yes there is an extremely clear distinction in my head between science fiction and fantasy).

I like to learn.

If I could learn ALL THE FREAKING TIME, I’d pretty much be the happiest person on earth. My brother and I have agreed several times that our ideal path in life would be student (as in continue to learn things but never actually apply them to a career). Too bad it’s really expensive to do that.

So I think once a week (or more right now cause there are so many right now) I will share with you guys something interesting I read with regards to this eating issue. I don’t know what to call it. The best I can say is that I have a shitty relationship with food. I told my counselor ideally I’d have no relationship with food. We both agreed that wasn’t really an option. That’s the difference between drug addiction and food addiction. Neither is easy to get over (don’t get me wrong). But whereas one can by nature survive without the drug, food is something everyone must consume. It is unavoidable. A person addicted to food cannot go cold turkey.

This week I would like to share something with you from The Anti-Diet Project, which I have a feeling will be a common source in these weekly posts. This one interests me on a scientific level (while absolutely horrifying me on a personal level). Please actually go and read the article first.

Link to article. Link to original document.

Ok. Scientifically, they did some fucked up experiments back in the day. Can we all agree on that for a second?!

Personally?

This experiment fed men approximately 1600 calories a day and considered it starvation. So of all the various diets, lifestyles, etc. I followed the one I probably felt best on still recommended I eat between 1200 and 1499 calories a day…Until this program 1200 was my upper limit (when I was not in a binge cycle obviously). There was a summer I was eating around 700 calories a day for three months. So if these guys saw these effects after eating 1600 calories a day for a year…I can only imagine what the last 15 years of on and off dieting has done to my system.

Secondly, I think it’s important that this experiment focuses on the psychological side of caloric deprivation. I’d say to this day it is my brain rather than my body that drives 90% of my eating behavior. And after a decade and a half of yoyo dieting my brain, which is oh so capable in other ways, literally has no idea what it’s doing. Plus every time I see food or think I’m hungry I become an emotional wreck. (OK not every time, but really far too often).

The requirement to walk 22 miles a week. The only reason this caught my eye was because of the obsession with the 10000 steps a day thing. For me 10,000 steps is about 5 miles. That means 35 miles a week. Just wanted to throw that in here.

3200 calories a day for the first 12 weeks. THAT SOUNDS LIKE HEAVEN. Also I’d look like a whale at the end of that. (These are truly that thoughts that just went through my brain.

“…Held bites in their mouths for a long time without swallowing…” does that remind anyone else of the whole chew your food a hundred times before swallowing that I swear to god is a real suggestion (or at least was at some point) to people trying to lose weight.

“Many men began obsessively collecting recipes…” Pinterest anyone? But really? Do you wanna know how many recipes I have on their. I’ve reset my pinterest several times because it got to a point where I felt ridiculous having so many recipes that I never actually went back to try.

“They guzzled water, seeking fullness…” oy vey!

Sometimes, this permeating dullness gave way to moments of inexplicable euphoria followed by an emotional crash. One subject was eventually eliminated from the project for sneaking unauthorized food in town. After doing so, he found himself so “high” that he stopped at 17 soda shops on the walk home. “He kidded with the fountain girls, thought the lights more beautiful than ever, felt that the world was a very happy place,” the researchers reported. “This degenerated into a period of extreme pessimism and remorse; he felt he had nothing to live for, that he had failed miserably to keep his commitment of staying on reduced rations.”

But really though. Does that remind any of you guys of falling off the wagon. “Oh my god, that was so good, I really needed that [insert non-diet food here].” But then an hour later you’re like “How could I do that to myself?! Now wonder I’m fat! I’m such a failure. What’s the point?!”

And then the part that scares me the most…the psychological effects. While some mood and social behaviors seemed to stabilize after a few months of rehabilitation, “…what seemed to linger long after was this inability to distinguish between the constant gnawing of hunger and normal appetite. Appetite is a question to be answered with a meal. Hunger is a need, an enduring hollowness that begs for satisfaction by any means necessary.”

And this, dear readers, this is my struggle.

After 15 years of this shit, I don’t know what’s my normal appetite and what’s my brain just being bored or frustrated or angry or thinking I’m starving myself (which I have a feeling I’m doing more often than I realize). I just don’t know. And the things is, most of us dieters (and by the way, I’ve been dieting for a lot less time than a lot of people out there) never go through a rehabilitation. Just more food for thought.

PS I’m happy to share I had a scoop of ice cream with my lovely man last night and didn’t feel the least bit judgmental of myself!

 

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Honest Post

I’m still totally figuring this blog thing out. Wednesday blogs were supposed to be about work. But ugh. I don’t know why I assigned myself a weekly writing assignment on something that very rarely has anything worth writing about.

Also, work has just not been a focus in my life lately at all. I’m still seeing the counselor. I like our chats. We haven’t gotten to what my true calling is yet. And I’m ok with that.

One of my assignments from my counselor is to journal. And journaling for her takes on a very specific structure. One – identify something that made you feel something. Two – try to figure out why this feeling or its cause stuck in your mind. Three – think of something you could do as a result of this (note, you don’t have to do it).

This assignment allowed me to open up to my counselor about something that really scared me. And it’s something I’m now gonna tell you about. Not everything. Some things are private after all. Even for me. But I will share some things.

On Monday, by the time I got home I was in a pretty bad mood. I was mostly frustrated at work (or the lack there of) and a little upset with Peter (who has too much work, ironically). By the time I was leaving work I was already doing something that has become a core part of my being, I was planning how I was going to treat myself to a yummy indulgent meal to make me feel better.

Now, I know, from years of who-knows-what, that eating away my negative feelings does nothing. I also know, from those same years of who-knows-what, that there is a way to indulge myself without grossing myself out. But fuck it, I wanted to binge.

But that side of me that knows those things from those years of who-knows-what has become a close second nature to my binge-self. And so I got home and I tried to do yoga to calm myself. And I did calm myself. I chatted with a friend from college. And all-in-all I’d say my negative feelings were down to a manageable level. But the thing is, I had already gotten the idea of that binge in my head. And even though I was calm. I wanted it. It’s gross, and it’s sad, but it’s the honest truth.

My binges, or what I call binges (I’m not an expert and I honestly have less and less understanding of what a binge actually consists of), have changed drastically over the years. It seems that the point that makes me feel physically ill has changed drastically over the years. On Monday, I ordered myself a medium pizza. That was it. It used to be pizza and pasta and chicken tenders and breadsticks. Or one of those giant cheap Chinese lunch combos and potstickers and crab rangoons on and throw in an extra side of pork fried rice just in case. But now, it was a medium pizza topped with bacon, mushrooms, and onions (delicious by the way). I literally started feeling sick on the last slice guys. And I still finished it.

Then instead of sulking at home I took my book and I went out to a tea shop and I read for a two hours. And I felt more or less fine. But when I went to bed, my stomach said “Fuck you.” I couldn’t fall asleep. I felt nauseous but I couldn’t throw up. My binges have never been followed by purges. I spent three hours sitting on the bathroom floor, reading, and hoping my body would come to its senses and just throw up. Eventually the nausea subsided and I went to sleep.

The truth is, this is nothing. This is a fluke. This is a blip. The truth is, when I really hit a trigger, I binge every day for up to a month. The truth is that every time I am able to normalize, eat well, and not go to the opposite extreme of restriction, I think I have killed the demon for good. This thought makes it so much more crushing when six month or a year later something triggers another cycle.

I cried to my counselor for 50 minutes yesterday about how I have a shitty relationship with food. She asked me what I wanted. I told her I wish I could trust my body. I wish that if I felt hungry I could respond by saying “I should eat something” instead of saying “Maybe I’m just bored, let’s chug three cups of water to check.” I wish that any time I ate something unhealthy or that didn’t fall into my plan, I didn’t feel like a failure of a human being. I wish I didn’t have a plan.

On Making Hard Decisions

I’m rehoming Milo.

This was probably the hardest choice I’ve had to make to date. Harder than deciding to quit my job in Michigan and move home. If only because it hugely affects a life other than mine. Harder than deciding to get a dog – which is a problem of its own.

I’m rehoming Milo.

Sometimes I have to say it again and again until I stop feeling the tinge of nausea I feel every time. This decision has been a long time coming. And when I faced it it was like a wave. I ran away from it for so so long and when I finally stopped and faced it it hit me, but I didn’t drown. I coasted. I’m still coasting. The wave hasn’t totally ebbed yet.

I’m rehoming Milo.

And I’m doing it for both selfless and selfish reasons. When I got Milo I was unemployed and naive. Even though I knew I would be working a full time job, I figured I could make it work. In my plan I’d buy a house with a back yard, close to work. I would come home for lunches on days Milo was home. And he’d go to day care a couple of times a week. I’d seen my friends do it. I thought I could too. But there are things we can’t plan for. And things that, in my naivite, I chose to ignore.

I’m rehoming Milo.

Sometimes you can do all the planning in the world, but still your life will go where it may. Instead of buying a house, I ended up renting. I searched high and low and found an amazing apartment that would accept dogs. It’s not that hard in Portland. This city loves its canine (and feline) companions. I found Milo an awesome daycare and he went twice a week. On days he was home, if the weather allowed, I’d take him to work for half the day. He had to stay in the car, but I could more easily take him on walks those days.

I’m rehoming Milo.

Then reality hit. This was harder than I thought. Sure there are excuses I could give. But what it came down to is that the time I was able to give Milo was not enough. Though he seemed perfectly content – he wasn’t ruining anything (amazing) and I actually transitioned him out of his crate at this time – something in him was slowly dulling. His excitement was a little delayed. And the cries that would come now and again when I walked out were truly heart wrenching.

I’m rehoming Milo.

So maybe he wasn’t so perfectly content. Just well-behaved. When I got Milo, an Australian Shepherd mix, a good friend of my mom’s told her I should reconsider. Aussies are high energy dogs, she said, and smart. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. And boy was she right. Sure, he is a good dog and he knows what he can and cannot do. But he deserves more. He deserves a home with people that can give him more time, all the time. He is a dog that deserves all the time.

I’m rehoming Milo.

And I’m doing in the way I believe will benefit Milo the most. Working closely with the rescue that helped me train Milo when I found out he was deaf, I’ve met several families that have shown interest. Though fostering Milo after deciding to give him up has been tough, my hope in rehoming him was not to get him out of my life, but give him a better life. This week I finally met Milo’s forever family. Though his new home is not exactly what I pictured (a big farm with lots of dogs and maybe other animals to run around with and herd), it is somehow even more perfect.

Milo is going to a new home.

A new home. With a new family who is more capable of caring for him than I am.

Milo is going to a new home.

A home where he will be able to spend almost no time alone. A home recently purchased by a couple who is much more settled down than I. A home with a fenced in backyard.

Milo is going to a new home.

But it’s not just the home that is new, but the life. A life where he gets to go to work with his hoomans every day and to a ranch to run free twice a week. A life when after an exhausting day of socializing and exploring the office, he gets to go home, maybe go for a run, and then watch over his people while they chill on the couch watching tv.

Milo is going to a new home.

And I believe he will be so much happier.

Milo is going to a new home.

And I have cried some tears, and I will cry many more. And Milo might be confused about my disappearance, and think I didn’t care for him, but soon enough his new life will become the only one he knows.

Milo is going to a new home.

And we will both be better and stronger for it.

Lessons learned:

  • Make sure you are ready for a dog.
  • Make sure your life is ready for a dog right now – don’t plan for it happening in the future, you can’t plan for everything.
  • Rescue don’t buy – you can handle it, I promise, and while there are some good responsible breeders out there, there are too many that are not and so many dogs in shelters that need a good home.
  • Give some serious thought to what you’re looking for in a dog and what you have to offer. Be able to speak to this.
  • Do your research – both on breeds and on specific dogs. Most shelters and rescues will have been fostering the dog, so they know it. Ask questions. Share your concerns. They’re as committed to finding the dog its forever home as you are.
  • Be prepared for rejection – a good rescue will be looking for the right home not just a home. Understand that that might not be you. Feel free to ask why, perhaps there is something you’re overlooking and you don’t even realize that will make you reconsider dog ownership or even the breed you’ve been looking at.
  • Know what you’re getting yourself into – a lot of people have an idea of what being a dog owner will be like, but that idea is often wrong. Do research. Ask your friends. See if they’d be willing to let you dog sit for a weekend. Be honest with yourself if realize you’re not ready.