Category Archives: food fights

taming the tyrant

Spider Solitaire (Windows)

Image via Wikipedia

I like to blog.  Really, I do.

It does seem that lately, though, I spend much more energy thinking about blogging than actually blogging.

Instead of going on an on about how awful a blogger I am, I am going to use this as an opportunity to practice not beating myself up.  I get these opportunities a lot, it seems.  Another way to phrase that would be that the habit of self-berating crops up almost everywhere I look, but I am more and more on guard and more and more learning not to fall into that easy pattern that kills me not so softly.

I read a great blog post today about this “inner tyrant,” and about harnessing it’s energy for something positive.  I also tried to make a dietary change today (no, not going on a diet, just changing one thing—hint: it has to do with a certain sugary caffeinated beverage).  I have realized that I need to make this change more slowly, to ease into it a bit.  I had planned to go “cold turkey,” so to speak, but it seems that’s not such a good idea.  That tyrant, who always seems to be with me, wants to tell me that this is a failure.  I am choosing to see this as another example of slow change, another way I can care for myself.

I said, “another example of slow change.”  The first example of slow change is somewhat silly, but it has stuck with me and comes back to me over and over as a reminder to not expect immediate and dramatic results the minute I decide something should be different.  “So what is this example?” you ask.

Spider solitaire.

I have been playing quite a bit of spider solitaire these last couple of months.  When I started, I could win on the first level every time, but it was pretty boring.  I tried playing on the second level, but I would rarely win.  So rarely it seemed like I never won.  In a very un-me-like move, I decided that winning didn’t matter, and I would play the second level because it was more fun, even if I lost nearly every time.  Then something weird started happening.

I started getting better.

The spider solitaire game on my computer will tell you your win/loss statistics after every game.  When I started playing, I was winning about 2% of the time.  I didn’t pay too much attention to those statistics until I noticed that they were going up.  Before I knew it I was at 7%.  Then 10%.  Dear readers, I now win 26% of the time (um, I played a LOT of this game while I was recovering from my surgery).  The thing is, normally a 75% loss rate would normally really bother me.  In light of the 98% loss rate when I started, 75% doesn’t look half bad. 🙂

The spider solitaire is serving as a good reminder to me that change comes slowly, that I don’t have to go from 0 to 60 overnight, and that beating myself up doesn’t make me go any faster, anyway.

I’m hoping there’s a way to get this inner tyrant to remind me to be gentle, to remind me that if change comes at all, it comes at a creeping pace, so slowly that we scarcely notice it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be playing some spider solitaire.  27%, here I come!

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why I don’t diet

I have toyed with the idea of this post for a long time.  I have a lot of anxiety about either being misunderstood or judged harshly about this topic, so it was easy to put off.

In March of 2008, I gave up dieting.  I had been thinking about it for about two years before that, ever since I read Geneen Roth’s Breaking Free From Emotional Eating.  What I read in that book resonated loudly within me and something deep inside knew, knew that it was a message for me, but I wasn’t ready to really face the reasons behind my emotional eating.

Finally, in March of ’08, I reached my breaking point.  I had been struggling with trying to diet for several months, but the pain of infertility just dumped me back in the arms of comfort binging time and time again.  I was miserable, and my struggle with food was just an expression of that.  I knew something had to change.  I re-read the book, and decided to take the plunge.  No more diets.  I would be dealing with my eating problem in a different way now.

Mr. X was initially supportive, but after about a month, became very critical of my efforts (especially when I started to gain weight and I didn’t freak out about it, when I didn’t immediately run back to dieting).  A huge piece of the downfall of my abusive marriage is tied to my decision to start dealing with my emotional eating, to stop dieting, to start caring for myself in tangible ways, and in my defining myself as different than Mr. X in regard to food.

I’ve talked here about my struggles with food several times.  Food is a struggle for me, and comfort eating is the primary way that I’ve learned to cope, learned to survive my pain.  The reason that I don’t just go back on a diet is that, for me, dieting is just the flip side of the emotional eating coin.  Instead of numbing out with food and with regrets about eating, I would be numbing out by obsessing about calories and fat grams and ounces lost or gained.  And what’s worse, the thing that feeds dieting for me is self-hatred.  I have to loathe my body just enough to push myself into deprivation mode.  This is what dieting is for me. I know it may not be that way for everyone, that’s why I don’t go on your blogs and wag my finger at you for dieting (well, that’s one of the reasons; the other is that I don’t want to be an asshole).  I have some pretty fucked up ways of thinking about food and thinking about my body.  If I diet, it just makes it all worse.  As hard as the struggle is right now, I know that dieting would be worse.  I am committed to working on my problems with food; dieting would only mask them and make them worse.

I don’t expect everyone to understand.  I don’t expect everyone to think that I’m right.  That’s why it took me so long to write this post.

I’d like to tell you about an experience I had last night.  I was thinking about eating, about how I wanted something or the other, but feeling not hungry in the least.  For some reason, I decided to challenge my “mouth hunger” and asked myself if I really wanted to eat.  A quiet voice inside said, “no.”  Immediately I was flooded by grief, by the very feelings that I know I’m eating to suppress.  I remembered thinking, “No wonder I eat so much.  I can’t feel this way all the time.”

I am hoping to learn new ways to deal with my feelings.  In the meantime, I’m going to love myself as much as I can, and for me, that means not dieting.

I will leave you with a quote from the book that has had the most positive impact on me in this struggle, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies:

Self-contempt never inspires lasting change.

For me, the only way for me to sustain a diet is to live in a constant mode of self-contempt.  I refuse to do that anymore.

stuffing it down

I realized recently that a lot of my time has been taken up lately by thinking about food and my body.  Food thoughts include (but are not limited to): what I want to eat, what I shouldn’t eat, when will I stop wanting to eat that, why I eat when I’m already full.  All of this food stuff has been exacerbated by the recent news of high cholesterol.  Yippee.  My body thoughts are generally dominated by uncomfortable obsessions about my clothing size and punctuated by moments of body hatred.

Of course, if I’m thinking about obsessed by thoughts of food and my body, it doesn’t leave much room for what’s really going on, now does it?  And what’s “really” going on has very little to do with either food or my body, and a lot more to do with all the feelings that get stuffed below the surface when I turn to those old familiar ways of coping.  Apparently it’s much more comfortable to think about what I should/shouldn’t be eating and how awful my body is than about how bad I’m hurting, than about the feelings that I am working so hard to escape.

And there ARE lots of feelings there, just ask my dreams.  Lots of bad horrible dreams lately.  Mr. X usually has a starring role.

Or you could ask my therapist.  Apparently when I gave her my long, sad story I seemed close to hyperventilating.  She also pointed out that I seem a bit hypervigilant, which seems to be an astute observation.  (I’ve actually been thinking about that one quite a bit and think that this may be part of why I’m so into being alone lately.  Less to be vigilant/hypervigilant about if you’re by yourself.)

So there are feelings there which I am trying my darnedest not to feel.  They seep through though.  Like right now, I haven’t even said all that much about what the actual feelings might be, but I feel on the verge of tears.  Which may be why I’ve put off writing this post and just resorted to reveling in Miss Famous’ cuteness.

So I am working on following my acupuncturist’s advice.  We talked a lot about this during my last session (for me, she’s practically as good as a therapist, herself).  In following my Needle Lady’s advice, I’m trying to shift my focus from “fixing myself” to “loving myself.”  Which is hard when all those body thoughts keep telling me I’m unlovable.

I know, know, know this is not about food or my body.  I know it’s about the pain that I’m storing deep inside.  Pain about the divorce, pain about the marriage, pain about being childless, pain about not having the kind of life I thought I would have at this age, pain about disappointment.  Take your pick.

I have my second therapy session tomorrow.  Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us.

under the surface

Just as I have been assailed by my bad body thoughts lately, it seems I have also been firmly back in the grip of compulsive/emotional eating.

What I have learned in the past is that this “hunger” that is not felt in my body but despite it, is not something for which I need to punish myself, but rather is a signal that there are some feelings that I have not been willing to face, some feelings I am wanting to push down and away, some feelings that are so uncomfortable I would rather feel the physical and emotional discomfort that comes after a thorough binge.

And it works…to a point.  I have been so unhappily distracted by thoughts of how terrible my body is, how bad I am for continuing to eat this way (thoughts so old and familiar that they seem to bring a cruel comfort) that I have had little idea of what is really going on under the surface.

These subterranean feelings are not totally hidden; I get glimpses of them every now and again.  Today I had a glimpse and was somehow able not to cover it over with cookies and ice cream and ohmygodI’msofat.  Somehow.

These feelings that peek out are painful.  It is so much easier to get caught up in the cycle of overeating and self-recrimination than to feel them.

Quite possibly not unrelated, I have also been thinking of last Thanksgiving.  Last year at this time.

It was one of the last good memories I have of my relationship with Mr. X.  My parents came to visit us, and as was his tendency, he put away the crazy so the company wouldn’t see.  I remember the day they left, however.  They weren’t half an hour gone before his moodiness came back, before once again I became the figurative punching bag for his unhappiness.

But Thanksgiving was nice.

Today I had a strange feeling, and I realized that I miss the good times, and I miss him in those good times.  I miss what I had convinced myself was the true nature of our relationship—but really was the mask.

And that missing is a feeling that I am not “supposed” to have.  I don’t want to have it.  I don’t want to miss this person who has caused me so much pain.  I don’t want to associate him with anything good, with anything happy.

I was asked today if I had any children, and for a moment, found myself wishing that I had had a child with him.

And then I remembered how things turned out in the end, how I realized I wouldn’t want him to be the father of my child, how his true nature came to the surface with a vengeance when I had the audacity to tell him “no.”

I spent so long worried about not being “wrong”—I twisted myself up like a thousand knots to make him happy—that the one thing I was really “wrong” about—being in that relationship to begin with—was the one thing I couldn’t see.  And now, mixed up with all my other feelings of yearning and grief is also the feeling of being a failure.  Of wasting six years of my life caught in his haze.

And I know that I did the best I could.  And I know that it is not my fault.

But the feelings are still there.  And they must be felt.

Healing is so complicated.

how to be kind to yourself (and those around you, too)

On avoiding my feelings

Through my journey of both IF and struggling with my compulsive eating, I have found that I have a million ways of pushing my feelings aside to the point that sometimes I’m not even aware that they’re there.  I’m only aware of the food, or that I feel fat, or, or, or…

Last night I had one of those experiences.  I had been feeling out of sorts all day, and pushing myself all day, and thinking of food all day, and eating all day.  When I finally got alone with my thoughts, it just all poured out.

This reminded me of something I just read (actually re-read) recently:

 

“There are some feelings about which there is nothing to do.  Some bad feelings simply need to be felt.  Only after you begin to feel them will you be able to find enough inner comfort to address them.”*

 

May we all find the inner comfort today to attend to these feelings that must be felt.

 

 

*From this book, of course.

Taking Care

In my struggles with food and body image, I have made a lot of realizations about myself.  Of these realizations, one that has possibly the most importance is this:

I am not very good at taking care of myself.

(I have to be very careful when thinking about this, to not turn this realization into an opportunity for self-flagellation.  Another realization I have had is that I tend to turn tools for growth into weapons against myself—this is probably tied into the realization above.)

I’ve been thinking about the idea of taking care of myself a lot, particularly as the last week or so has been especially rough, due in part to some stresses at Mr. X’s job, on top of all the usual IF pain and the uncertainty about our future.  I have found myself EATING a lot (as opposed to eating, which is simply ingesting food to provide your body with energy to function). EATING (for me) is more about hiding from my feelings, finding a way to be numb, and in the post binge-aftermath, giving myself something else to think about—in particular, “how bad I am for EATING.”

So this EATING is a less than ideal form of self-care, which I have known for a while, but the more recent development is that I am aware that I EAT in part because there is a lack of good self-care in my survival toolbox.  As I have been working through Why Weight?, I am realizing how much I EAT simply because it’s easier.  I’ve been noticing that I’ve had cravings for salad and stir fry and other yummy, nutrition-rich things, but I just haven’t had the energy to get it together.  It’s much easier to just grab some ready-made, no-cooking-necessary chocolate than get my shit together enough to eat what I really want.

Part of this comes down to the fact that I’m  not listening to my body.  My body is telling me exactly what it wants, exactly what it needs, and I just say, “Nah, not this time.  How ’bout some chocolate?”  And it’s not just with food.  So many times I hear that little voice “I’m tired,” or “I want to journal for a while,” and I respond, “No time.  How ’bout some chocolate?”

So here’s the challenge—taking the information from these realizations and not using them to damage myself further with endless self-chastisement.  The challenge is using these realizations to actually find new ways to take care of myself, and not just new ways to punish myself.  As I am learning:

Self-contempt never inspires lasting change.*

*From When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies