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Making peace with myself [Mar. 24th, 2012|12:21 pm]

One of the things I haven't written about much here is my current efforts to get back into shape. Part of that is embarrassment: I did so well a few years back, then lost the battle, the war, and additional territory. No one likes to talk about their failures. But it's all part of me, and part of living graciously is being healthy and capable. So I guess I'm going to start talking about it.

One of the most important aspects to me about all this is that I don't believe in dieting and denial. It's the perfect setup for failure. I believe in moderation, intentional eating, and movement.

The other night, I sat in the movie theater surrounded by the delicious smell of popcorn, but didn't want any. A friend brought over home-baked cookies, and I ate only one. We bought my favorite Girl Scout cookies, and they are still in the snack drawer, leaving me untempted.

If I think about these things, the question in my head is, "Does eating this taste better than the progress I'm making feels?" And most of the time, the answer is, no.

When the answer is yes, I do indulge myself. I didn't deprive myself of one of my friend's delicious cookies. Tonight I will be attending a party where the hostess is an amazing cook, and I will definitely be eating some less-than-healthy snacks and having a couple drinks. But I am confident that I will be retaining my center and will not just go crazy at the snack table.

I am in a good place, mentally, about my progress. But I can remember that less than a year ago, the answer to the question of "Is eating this more important than my health?" Was "YES! Yes is is! I don't care about my size, I don't care how I look, all I care about is the smooth, chocolatey taste of this entire can of frosting going down my throat." That was the person I was a year ago. I can remember it vividly.

I don't understand her at all. I can't comprehend why she felt that way. I am baffled by her complete unwillingness to take a walk around the block, let alone actually work out.

But here's the thing that I have to remember: she is still inside me. She's quiet right now, but there will come a day when something triggers her to come roaring to the surface. I've made the smug assumption in the past that she was completely tamed, completely eradicated, only to wake up and find that she had taken over and a year's worth of hard work had been erased and she was completely in control.

I can't beat her by hating her. She is part of me, and self-hatred is self-defeating. I have to be vigilant for her reappearance, but when she does? I need to look at her honestly, ask her why she is here. What is it that she fears? What is is that she needs? What does she want? I have to take the time to love and understand her, and give her the things that she needs that aren't food. She is empty and aching, and food is her methadone for what she honestly needs.

She started to surface last night. I'm home alone for the weekend, I'm still not feeling very well, even though I am improving daily, and I was suddenly filled with overwhelming sadness, loneliness, and a sense of helplessness. Part of me said, "eat those leftovers you're saving for lunch tomorrow, and break open a bottle of wine; it will make you feel better."

I have to say, it was a real temptation. But I took a deep breath, centered myself, and asked, what is it that I really need? The answer was that I had been up too late the night before, gotten up too early in the morning, and was exhausted beyond the usual measure because I'm still getting over being sick. What I really needed was not to stuff my face and watch maudlin movies. What I needed was sleep. And so instead of inhaling the contents of the refrigerator in an act of defiant self-hatred, I went to sleep.

She is quieter today. Perhaps she will eventually learn that food is not the answer to pain. But she can't learn it if I treat her with disdain. She's part of me, and *all* of me deserves to be loved. Love isn't always giving yourself what you want; it's taking the time to really understand what you need.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/794016.html?mode=reply:

[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2012-03-24 05:34 pm (UTC)
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From: anonymousalex
2012-03-24 05:49 pm (UTC)
Well said. And another thing that helps me when mine comes out and I do engage in the occasional act of defiant self-hatred is remembering that there's nothing about it that stops me from going back to normal the next day. If I hate myself for last night's gluttony, another act of self-hatred is just that much more likely; if I treat it as just a thing that happened, without moral dimension, it's easier for me to get back on the horse of moderation. (YMMV, of course.)

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 06:20 pm (UTC)
That's an extremely good point, and one that it's important to remember. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2012-03-24 06:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, right now I'm so embarrassed by my weight. I decided that today I'm going to make a huge effort not to go overboard with the sweets, which are the main reason why I'm overweight. I also know that beating yourself up is counterproductive and takes too much out of you. I'm just going to focus on giving myself positive reinforcement when I do well. I'm proud I was good about not overboard yesterday.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 06:30 pm (UTC)
Sweets aren't my main problem. Continual noshing is. Leftovers that could make another whole meal being nibbled away over the course of an evening. Eating just because other people are eating. Eating because I have a boring task to do and eating makes it easier. I gained back a big chunk of this while studying for the bar exam, and it has just continued slowly upward for the years since.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2012-03-24 06:40 pm (UTC)
i think my biggest issue with losing is that all through high school and college i was anorexic - right up until i got pregnant with thomas. and now, i'm terrified of letting it go? maybe? that's all i can figure out.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 06:42 pm (UTC)
Anorexia was NEVER my problem. I can't really help you with that one.

I'm focusing far less on "losing weight" than I am on "getting healthy" and "being able to do things." I think that really helps.
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[User Picture]From: moon_ferret
2012-03-24 07:43 pm (UTC)
I learned to refer to that as She Who Does Not Love Me.

Most days, I can shove her out into the Lobby and make her do her nails and take a load off. I have real work to do.

Other days I can hear her whispering in my ear that no one really likes me, they just pretend and we should eat to feel better and money management is stupid...

If I let her in, she wrecks everything. I don't like her.

That's how I learned to deal with it. And SWDLM is a sneaky bitch. Some days I don't even hear her come in and it takes me forever to notice her and throw her back out.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 10:02 pm (UTC)
See, I don't want to think of her in that way. I don't look at it so much as telling the person inside me to pipe down. More like putting my arms around a sobbing child and soothing her until I can calm her down enough to find out what's really wrong. I'm working to remember that she is not my enemy, but a part of me that needs understanding.
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2012-03-24 08:10 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Your entire commentary about eating could, with a few word changes, be applied to alcoholics. I might argue there are differences but from what you say they are few and far between.

Food is quite a different story for me. Booze, give me a drip and I'll take the bottle. Food? I'm usually reading or typing and neither external device is happy being stained, so abstaining is quite easy. Plus I do not keep many snack foods around, so having to prepare for twenty minutes just to have food is a bit of a pain. (this was not true in childhood, but I had the metabolism of a running horse back then)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 10:05 pm (UTC)
The major difference is that alcohol is binary. Are you drinking Y/N? If Y, then bad.

Food, you don't get to make that simple distinction. We all need to eat. So it's much easier to lie to yourself about how much you've eaten than to lie to yourself about whether or not you had that whiskey sour.

Not to diminish the difficulty of alcoholism, or any addiction. It's just that food addiction has this unique and difficult additional dimension.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2012-03-24 11:13 pm (UTC)
Love isn't always giving yourself what you want; it's taking the time to really understand what you need.

What an awesome quote : ) I need to really think about this in my own life.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-24 11:26 pm (UTC)
Glad to help.
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[User Picture]From: phillipalden
2012-03-25 01:48 am (UTC)
From my honey to my friends to my family members - I have never seen a physical thing (food) and human emotional health so intertwined. I've had friends (and family members) enter recovery from addiction, yet maintain life-long battles with food.

Part of the problem is that we need food to survive. It's not like alcohol or cocaine where one can (hopefully) stop using and avoid their former drug dealers and using friends.

I have one dear friend whose self-esteem was so battered down by a fucked-up family with an amazing dark talent for using words as weapons - that after 12-Step and almost every religious/spiritual path I can think of, as well as extensive therapy - he still fights an endless war between food and his health.

I'm an ectomorph, so some people think I don't understand, but I do. I grew up around people waging the war and the man I love still wages it. I've had friends with eating disorders, and I've met diabetics fully educated about their condition who still make all the wrong eating choices.

And I too have that little voice. Right now it keeps telling me that I can smoke a cigarette without becoming addicted again. I've tried to be that person many times in the past, and I know that person does not exist. Instead it's the same small voice that has tried to bring me down in many ways, like trying to boost my anxiety level with dark thoughts.

Thankfully, I've found that focused meditation can bring me back into balance and chase that dark side back to the silence that it deserves.

I hope that you can find that precarious balance between who you want to be, and the healthy, happy person that feels good inside her own skin.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-25 02:24 am (UTC)
95% of people who lose weight gain it back again.


Those are huge odds to be playing against. That's why I can't diet again. I have to concentrate on health and fitness. Yes, weight is coming off, and yes, I want more to come off. But the place my head has to be is health and fitness.
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[User Picture]From: blessed_oak
2012-03-25 04:30 am (UTC)
I have to take the time to love and understand her, and give her the things that she needs that aren't food. She is empty and aching, and food is her methadone for what she honestly needs.

I too could have written this, if only I could write that well. I do realise that sometimes I'm so hungry for something, but I have never been able to find out what it is, and food is often the only substitute I can get my hands on in the moment.

One sign of progress for me - I have only just recently been able to truly love myself. And that means all of myself. I no longer have those internal arguments where one voice is hateful and scathing. And it's not that I've banished that voice, it's that I learned that it - that part of me - had believed in lies it had been taught from the outside. Now "we" have learned better.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-25 12:43 pm (UTC)
That is HUGE progress. Good for you.

Learning not to try and eat my problems is never going to end. It's a lifelong habit I must continually watch.
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[User Picture]From: sarah_is_morgan
2012-03-25 09:36 am (UTC)
This made me feel so emotional. You put words to an emotional battle I am currently ingaged in.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-25 12:47 pm (UTC)
You are not alone in that battle, if that is any consolation.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2012-03-25 07:58 pm (UTC)
I started almost a year ago, by promising my lj friends that I would do a 20 minute walk at least three times a week. It sounds like nothing, now, but it was a huge commitment for me then. Now? My hubby and I walk three or four times a week, for an average of an hour each time.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-25 09:56 pm (UTC)
It's amazing how that changes. As sick as I have been, and how slow my recovery has been, I still had to start exercising again because it was driving me crazy.
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[User Picture]From: lyssabard
2012-03-26 01:13 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful work you are doing. (Sounds like someone's been reading Evolutionary Witchcraft? :))
I am also going to be working on my exercise and eating, so this is wonderful to read and remember--thank you!

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-26 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And yay for you, too!
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