Ground Zero

I’m starting over from ground zero.

I’m reading Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth and it is rocking my world. Totally rocking my world.

And the first thing I’m going to do is start eating when I’m hungry. And ONLY when I’m hungry.

I started this morning.  I had a big dinner last night (let’s not talk about it), and so, when I was still sitting around, drinking coffee, and asking myself if I was hungry at 8:30 in the morning (I usually eat around 7am), I had to make the decision to go do something else until I was hungry.

And it made me feel a little panicky.

I don’t know why exactly, but I was worried. That I would mess up my schedule or my metabolism or something. Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? Shouldn’t I just have some fruit or something light, or…?

But I didn’t. I took my coffee upstairs and went to work.  And I didn’t end up feeling hungry until 10:30.

At 10:30, I thought, “I should really just wait until 11 and eat lunch.” But I was hungry, so I honored that. I asked myself what I wanted and I heated up 1/2 a leftover pork chop (chopped up), stirred in two eggs, scrambled them, and ate them in two small tortillas with cheese and salsa, and 1/4 cup or so of raspberries on the side.

And it was delightful.

Now, it’s almost 2pm and I’m not hungry yet. I may get hungry soon. I may not.

But I’m going to try to honor it, no matter how scary it feels.

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Two Weeks

I am on week two without my therapist.

My beloved therapist has decided to quit her practice and move on to other things. On an interpersonal level, I am happy for her and proud of her. On a patient level I am a little pissed off and frightened.

I was fine last week, and the week before that. And even the week before that. About two months ago, she told me she thought I was ready to be done with therapy, that I didn’t even need a referral to someone else in her practice.

And I agreed with her. Mostly.

This is the third time in my life a therapist has told me that I was done. That I was “better.” That it was time to move on.

I am still fat.

I am still struggling knowing what to eat. I am still struggling to be happy with myself. I am still struggling forcing myself to exercise. I am still dissecting every day, every meal for what was good and bad about it.

Is this what better looks like?

To be fair, my current therapist made no bones about the fact that we are never “better” never “fixed” never done with our struggle. Just like an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, I will always be recovering from an eating disorder. There is no magic mile marker.

And that’s terrifying in and of itself.

Whatever else is going on, I’m definitely having a hard time today. I’m sitting here crying as I type this, but I’m uncertain exactly why.

I feel lost.  I feel unmoored. I feel like I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what my next steps should be.

Almost every day, I think I should go on some sort of diet, some regimen, some eating plan. I think I should make a commitment to do something long term. For the entire summer, or for an entire year. Something. Anything.

I’m grasping. Gasping.

And the thing is, I think I know what my therapist would say. She would tell me that all those plans and protocols were an emotional crutch. That I want to do them to try to lose weight, to try to be different rather than coming to terms with the person I am.

I’m a big believer that you need to address the root causes of things. You can’t put a band-aid over a wound and call it OK — when something is still stabbing you. You can’t try to treat the symptoms while the disease still rages.

I feel alone, though.  I feel confused, and tempted, and like the whole world is conspiring against me sometimes.

Several people have suggested I join OA, but the absolute horror of that has kept me from it. I can’t even express the waves of shame that come over me when I think of joining an OA meeting. I’m just not ready for that. I don’t know if I ever will be.

And the other half is that I know what they will say. Make different choices. One minute, one meal, one day at a time. It’s the same for an alcoholic or a drug addict. (Except that they don’t have to face their drug of choice every single day; they can remove it completely from their lives.)

I see frightening thoughts go through my head sometimes. I wonder if I could just stop eating altogether for a while. I wonder if I could focus on eating as little as humanly possible. Luckily, I recognize those little demons for what they are. Plus, if history has taught us anything, I would last about an hour on any kind of deprivation diet before diving head first into a bowl of ice cream.

I’ve got no answers today. I’m intensely considering calling my therapist. (This is her last week — maybe even her last day.) But I don’t want to. I don’t want to admit we were wrong.

I’m not better. I never will be.

And today, that’s not OK.

365 Days 

I’ve been toying with the idea of going Paleo for a year.

Three weeks ago, my therapist asked me to go Paleo for two weeks — not necessarily because of the health benefits or nutritional benefits, but basically because it would cut off access for me from my preferred binge foods. So, I dutifully complied, including the cheat day she suggested. 

Thirteen days in, I decided to weigh myself.  Bad idea. After a month of regular gym-going and two weeks of Paleo, I was actually up a fraction of a pound.  

I was incredibly angry. I was angry at my body, because it felt like even when I was doing everything “right,” I was still being punished. My therapist asked me to throw away my scale and give it more time.  I went off the wagon for four days.

But yesterday I climbed back on a little half-heartedly. Today, I worked really hard at the gym. I’m having fruit and Paleo granola for breakfast. 

And I’m contemplating committing to this for a year. 

I’ve done a month.  I’ve done two weeks. Neither was enough to see big changes or lasting results. It wasn’t enough to truly break my bad habits or make cleaner eating a habit. It wasn’t enough to break me of my after-dinner sweets habit or my afternoon snack habit. 

A year might be. 

I’m saying a year instead of forever, because forever still hurts. I can’t think about forever without my moms chocolate chip cookies or bread. 

But a year is not forever.  It’s only 365 days. Anyone can do that.

I’m going to keep mulling it over and talk to my therapist about it on Thursday before I make any sweeping decisions, but it’s feeling right even as it feels insurmountable at the same time.

That’s probably a sign. 

The Clothes Make the (Wo)man

I just bought an entire wardrobe of clothes in a size larger than I used to have, and I feel great about it.

Isn’t it funny how looking better helps us feel better?

A few weeks ago, I broke down and bought some new jeans. All of my existing jeans gave me a muffin top and were uncomfortable. I ended up buying jeans TWO sizes larger than the ones in my closet — though, I really should probably have only gone up one size. But that’s what belts are for.

In any case, I ended up telling my therapist how hard it is for me to buy bigger clothes. I feel like it’s a waste of money, somehow, that I should just wait until I lose the weight.

It also feels like admitting defeat.

We worked on these ideas, and when I told her how much I had wanted to book a session with  a stylist I met — but didn’t because I thought I’d wait until I lost 10 pounds or so — she told me that if I wanted to, I should book the stylist.

Do it. Don’t wait.

One Step Forward On a Treadmill

This week I went to the gym twice.

This may not seem monumental, but as someone who loathes the gym, formal exercise, and getting sweaty, it was a pretty big step.

I tried to go on Monday afternoon, with my toddler in tow. I mistakenly assumed that the rec center had childcare all day and, well, they didn’t. We left, and I felt utterly dejected. I binged that afternoon.

But Tuesday morning, I got up at 5am, was at the rec center by 5:30 when it opened, and worked out for 40 minutes.

And then, even crazier, I got up and did it again on Wednesday.

I know.

(I didn’t do it again today because we were busy having a snow-pocalypse, and the school district declared a snow day, so I figured it was best to stay off the roads at 5am.)

My therapist was elated. She said I freaked out on Monday afternoon, because it was once again someone telling me I couldn’t be successful at exercise — even if that wasn’t truly what was happening at all. But she was extremely pleased with my progress.

The gym, something once anathema to me, didn’t feel that bad at all. I was able to just walk on the treadmill without a lot of voices in my head telling me how I should do more, or that everyone was judging me for walking, or comparing me to the crazies running on the stair climbers. Mostly.

And I didn’t beat myself up when I didn’t go today. Granted, I shoveled the driveway, which was plenty of a workout for me today.

My assignment for this week is to do a short breathing meditation before breakfast and lunch each day.  Just three minutes.  Or one minute if I have to.

I am also supposed to NOT start counting calories yet, even though it felt like maybe I was ready. Instead, I’m going to refocus on mindful eating.

One step forward…

Some Stats

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million American women and 10 million American men grapple with “a clinically significant” eating disorder at some time in their lives. The number of new cases of eating disorders has increased every year since 1950, and anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

“These illnesses do not discriminate,” Claire Mysko, NEDA’s director of programs, tells Mashable. “We’re talking about people of all ages, of all ethnicities. We’re talking about men and women. We’re talking about people of all sizes.”

Youth are especially impressionable. NEDA states that 40-60% of elementary school girls (between the ages of six and 12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, and females with anorexia nervosa between the ages of 15 and 24 have a mortality rate 12 times higher than that all other causes of death.

Firsts

My first Christmas without my father has passed.  In a couple of weeks, it will be the first time his birthday arrives without him.  He would have been 65 this January.

Actually, it was the first Christmas without my father and my grandmother, and only the second without my grandfather.

At Thanksgiving, my mother remarked that we’d be done with the firsts by about October of next year. As if to say, if we can get through this first year after, things will be better.

I’m not sure that’s totally true.  Will I ever not miss him on Christmas? Will January 9th ever be the same for me? It might get a little easier, but not necessarily better.

Clean slate

I have that feeling again, though. That feeling that I desperately, desperately want to change my life. I want to be different. Better. I think my therapist would ask me what’s wrong with me right now. Not good enough, my inner critic says. Never good enough.

Yesterday I made a long list of things I want to change, things I want to do more of or less of.

  • 20 minutes of intentional movement every day
  • an hour a day of focused attention on Devyn
  • walk the dog more
  • create more daily rituals
  • organize my closets
  • donate, donate, donate — get rid of STUFF (I always have this urge after Christmas)
  • yoga practice
  • meditation practice
  • organize my finances
  • invest
  • be more loving
  • be more thrifty
  • get outside
  • embrace the seasons
  • ask for help
  • stop gossiping

The list goes on. That’s just some of them.

I’m not sure what good it does to make these lists. Science tells us that 88% of people will make a New Year’s resolution, and only about 8% will keep it.

Connecting the Dots

When I told my therapist, Amy, about Devyn’s shit fit, and my subsequent crying jag (a friend of mine said, “I’m sorry you hit a grief pocket,”), Amy asked me, “So why were you taking on her stuff?”

Six months ago, a friend miscarried, and when I told Amy about it, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. She said, with slight amazement, “if someone walked in here right now, they’d think you we’re the one who lost a baby. You can’t grieve for her, you know.”

I take on other people’s shit. It’s why I cry at commercials and why reality shows make me uncomfortable. I am way too empathetic — to the point that I don’t have clear boundaries.

I then told Amy about a problem I’m having with a client right now; she disappeared for three weeks and didn’t respond to email so we couldn’t do our work, and now doesn’t want to pay because we didn’t do any work. And I compromised with her, and offered to make up part of what she’d paid for.

And Amy asked me, “Why are her needs so much more important than yours?”

Another running theme in my life, that everyone else’s needs and problems take precedence over my own. I don’t even keep promises to myself very well, yet if I make a promise to someone else, you can bet it will get done.

Finally, I told her my humiliating wedding dream, and we talked about how I’m awfully mean to myself. “You’ve gotten the message from others, when you were a kid, that you weren’t good enough, and you internalized it. That’s made you really hard on yourself. It’s made you get in the habit of putting others’ happiness first, because you felt yours didn’t matter, and because you’re always trying to figure out if people are happy and how to make them happy, you’ve become so attuned to what other people feel, that your boundaries are non-existent and you take on other people’s shit.”

Wow. Ding ding ding. Give the lady a prize.

Now we just have to figure out what to do about it.

Washed Away

I was emptying the dishwasher when my dad died.

He was in Dallas and I was in Denver, and there was nothing I could do about it. There was nothing I could do. So I emptied the dishwasher.

And then my mom called to tell me. But I already knew.

~*~

I was reminded of that moment as I was emptying the dishwasher today. I was crying as I pulled the forks out of the basket and wiped the accumulated water off the bottoms of the glasses.

My toddler had just engaged in an epic, 45-minute shit fit, which I had handled like the most perfect parent ever (mostly). She had finally cried herself to sleep in my arms, so I put her in her bed, went downstairs and started to cry uncontrollably.

I thought about pouring myself a drink, but ever since she was a tiny baby (and routinely reduced me to tears) I have had a strict “no drinking while home alone with the baby” policy, because it seemed like a slippery slope.

So instead I just cried. And emptied the dishwasher.

There is nothing so lonely as disciplining your child. You feel like the only person on the planet.  I called my husband for support.  I called my mom to cry to her. It didn’t help.

I was still just as alone as before. Alone with a crying, screaming baby — which was clearly an indication of my failings as a parent and, let’s be honest, as a person.

Sweep it under the rug.

I’ve always had a tenuous relationship to housework. I don’t like it and it doesn’t like me.

But there is a part of me that loves order.  I turn to tidying in times of deep emotional stress.

Once, when I worked at a magazine that was run by a psychopath, I was put in charge of getting the magazine to the printer on time for deadline.  By myself.  For the first time.

It was awful. I had to tell myself multiple times that night that I was NOT going to let the publisher see me cry — although I desperately, desperately wanted to.

Instead, I completely cleaned and organized my editor’s desk. She would be the first to tell you, she is not a tidy person. Her desk was a veritable landfill of papers, granola bar wrappers, old magazines, file folders, etc.  And I cleaned and organized the entire thing.

I’m pretty sure she was horrified, but luckily our friendship (and my job) survived it.

It wasn’t about her, though. It was about giving me something to focus on that I could control.

When I was sixteen or so, I went through and cleaned out my bedroom. I put so many trash bags at the curb for pickup that the neighbors came over and asked my parents if we were moving. For months afterward, my family gently mocked my new drive for simplicity.

But 16 was a hard year for me. I was growing up and didn’t want to. I didn’t like the way I looked, or my social status among my peers. I was bored to tears with school and madly in love (as only teenagers can be) with a boy who just wanted to be my friend. It was rough. And so I tried to control the thing I could control, and I cleaned my room.

Airing my dirty laundry.

I go through periods where I decide I’m going to get better at cleaning in general.  I decide that it’s an important part of being a grown up, or a wife, or a mom, or a woman, or whatever, and I make a concerted effort to do better.  I make up lists and schedules and plans. I spend an entire Saturday getting us back to zero so I can expend less effort keeping it up (what??).

I went through a FlyLady phase when I tried really hard to drink the kool-aid that I could be the perfect housekeeper in just 15 minutes at a time. I even bought one of her purple brooms, and while it is a seriously awesome broom, I am just not cut out to be a “Fly Baby.”

The very term makes me shudder a little, I’ll admit it.

I went through a phase of trying to do it every weekend.  Or every Monday morning. Two or four hours straight with the music blasting and getting my exercise in for the day by mopping. (And probably doing a really shitty job of it, too.)

Right now I’m in my hire-a-housekeeper phase, and I feel both giddy and guilty about it.

Giddy, because it’s something I’ve always wanted. Ever since I’ve been out on my own, I’ve dreamed of having the luxury of being able to hire someone else to do all the chores I don’t like to do. (OK, not all the chores: I haven’t outsourced folding laundry yet.)

Both my grandparents resisted getting housekeepers after their spouses were gone and they were “up in 80” and unable to do as much as they used to. My mother says she wouldn’t like it, that she would have to clean up before the cleaner got there.

I don’t have that particular issue. I do make sure we clean up all the clutter the day before the cleaners come — but only so that they have unfettered access to sweep and dust and spritz and spray to the best of their superhuman abilities.

On the other hand, I feel totally guilty about it.

It feels like an absolute waste of money.  It feels like something I should be able to do myself. Hell, I work from home. Part-time. What the hell is wrong with me that I can’t keep the house clean?!

But I can’t.  Or, maybe more accurately, I don’t. Cleaning isn’t a priority for me. I’d much rather read a book, or write a blog post, or play with my kid, or cook something, or go shopping than clean the house.

Until I need to clear my mind. And then I opt for cleaning up any day.