Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Courage to Change

Thank you all for so many great comments and suggestions to my post yesterday. The combination of processing through all that mental fodder, writing it out, and then reading so many amazing and helpful comments has renewed my hope that I can be successful at weight loss. Some stark realizations have come to me: 1) my defiant resistance to accepting the real nature my food addiction, 2) my refusal to adopt certain strategies that have helped me in the past...because they are rigid and therefore dysfunctional, 3) my fervent desire, even determination, to be normal about food and eating, and 4) that it's time for me to go to any length necessary to stop this bingeing. I think I'll talk about each of these a little.

First, I had an extremely clean day of eating yesterday, with lots of water intake (that had slacked off during my "lost weekend" (plus 4 days), and woke up this morning feeling SO MUCH BETTER. Head clear, residual remorse pretty much gone, and weight back to Onederland - 197.8. Better. But there is much to do.

There is a saying in AA that you can start your day over at any moment. This refers to cleaning up your negative thoughts and behaviors at any given moment more than to drinking, really. With alcohol, once a drink is on board, the day is almost a guaranteed loss. Doesn't have to be, but usually is. With eating though, it's really true. A bad breakfast (high carbs, sugary, whatever) doesn't negate the remains of the day if the remains are clean and sane and well chosen. Also true is that each new day brings the opportunity for getting back on the boat and staying there. Yesterday I got my sea legs back. I'm on the boat, and though it's early on and feels tenuous because of my recent (and ancient) history, I feel I can stay on the boat. I know that I want to. And I know if I keep doing what I've been doing, it won't happen. Another pithy phrase I picked up in AA: "If you keep doing what your doing, you'll keep getting what your getting." It's starting to feel like the only "thing" I have to change is every"thing".

Back to my numbered realizations - the first being that I am resistant to accept the true nature of my food addiction. I think this is classic DENIAL. Well, it has seeped in at a deeper level than ever before that I can deny my status all I want, but that doesn't take it away or negate it. It is what it is, and I got it. To keep refusing to accept it, or the seriousness of it (because I do believe that I have an addictive personality that carries over into food), I can't take any effective and sustainable action about it - because I'm pretending it doesn't exist in the way it does.

Well, between the comments yesterday, my all too familiar feelings of despair and hopelessness about my recurrent bingeing, and the recent lost weekend, I assert that I am not only aware of my food addiction...I accept it. In AA, acceptance is a big and frequent topic. Once when I was whining about something in my life that I hated at the time, a fellow member said to me, "Well you have to accept it. That doesn't mean you have to like it." I don't like it, but I accept it and I want to live freely even in the face of it. I know this is possible, because it's happened a thousand % for me about alcoholism. And my life has done a 180 turn as a result of accepting it, working with it, and getting better. Why wouldn't I believe this could happen with food?

Second realization is my refusal to adopt certain strategies that have worked in the past when I've given them a brief chance. This has to do with designing a food plan for myself, coming up with guidelines about what and when I eat, how, where, with whom - from which I don't vary at all. At least for the time being. My big gripe with 12 step eating programs (OA, FAA, FAIRA) is their absolute rigidity about every minute aspect of food and eating. Writing it all down, calling in your food to a sponsor everyday, on and on with rigidity that I found repressive and controlling. But guess what? When I did those things, they worked. I don't have to include all those tiny details, maybe; but maybe I can in the beginning and see how it goes. Everything can be subject to change over time, including this kind of eating plan.

I've waxed prolific about the dysfunction of rigidity in 12 step food programs. Sitting here being as honest as I can, I know my resistance and contempt for these tactics has because I want to lose weight, get slimmer and fit, without having to stop eating everything I want when I want to, without having to change the big things I clearly need to change. So I call "them" stupid and dysfunctional, and get fat all over again. It doesn't have to be that way. I am praying for my mind and heart to be more open to these strategies, because I know that for the brand of food addict I am, I'm going to have to employ them in order to get better.

My third realization relates to the first, so I don't need to say too much about it as it's obvious. I want to be normal. But I'm not. Bearfriend, at Friend of the Bear, has a wonderful post about this today - the normal vs. abnormal, at afriendofthebear.blogspot.com. Which essentially breaks down to inner peace vs. inner turmoil and chaos. If I carry on like I'm normal about food, I'm miserable, unhappy, antsy, and endlessly remorseful. If the food is relatively, no - rigidly laid out, the chaos will be lessened, and maybe eventually extinguished. Maybe it won't have to be like that forever, but it does today. It's a fantastic entry Bearfriend has written - check it out. Bottom line - acceptance that I'm not normal about food. That doesn't mean I have to suffer endlessly as a result.

Finally, it's time for me to become willing to go to any lengths to get better. I'm actually considering revisiting OA, at least for a meeting or 2. I have several friends who attend, so I don't even have to go alone if I don't want to. I'm not saying I'm going to join or attend regularly, but I'm going to give it a shot with a hopefully open mind.

Also, I am resuming a food plan given to me 2 1/2 years ago in another 12 step program (called Food Addicts in Recovery). I'm going to modify the plan because what I was using was for when I was 30 pounds heavier. The food plan worked but was extremely austere in selection and forbade bananas, corn, peas, all potatoes and dried beans. None of these foods flip by binge switch, so they are safe. I haven't written out my plan yet, but I will later today. I think it will also be helpful to have one person to whom I commit the food each day, just for a bit. Another good reason to check out OA.

I'm going to plan my meals ahead, have them written down, and check off items as I eat them throughout the day.

Lastly (for now) I'm reconnecting with my therapist with whom I've terminated but see occasionally for a tune-up. Maybe I'll set up appts every 2 weeks or so. I can always do more if necessary.

I've written out goals before on this blog and have basically forgotten them after day one. I am committing and giving my word that I am going to follow through with these and be accountable - briefly I promise - each day. Even if only a couple of sentences per post. If I don't, feel free to call me on it. There are more specifics for me to ponder, many based on suggestions from yesterday's comments. But I've gone on long enough. This is a start. I feel calmer just having a meal plan for this day that so far I've stuck with. Thank you everyone for calling it like you see it with me.


  1. Hi Leslie. This is a great post. As you say, acceptance is the key that allows you to utilise a load of strategies for dealing with food addiction which you know have worked in the past.

    Rigid eating is "abnormal" or "disordered" just as never being able to have a drink ever again in your life can be regarded as "abnormal" or "disordered".

    But maybe we can separate behaviour here from mental state and physical health.

    What we need to aim for is behaviour that produces a good (even normal!) mental state and good physical health. For some people this will require "abnormal" behaviour ie if you are type 1 diabetic you will never be able to be normal around food. It will always have to be calculated and carefully planned. No one would ever suggest otherwise.

    If total planning with food is the only way to achieve good mental and physical health then that is what is needed. Full stop.

    Taking this thing seriously is the essential step. Acknowledging the problem. You've done it. And you have a plan.

    Stick with it!

    Best wishes,
    Bearfriend xx

  2. Hi Leslie, a couple things you said struck a cord with me. First, addictive behavior. This was something I realized a long time ago about myself, and had to admit that it very much affected my eating behavior and choices. I had almost forgotten, but about 25 years ago I realized I could very easily become an alcoholic, and I stopped drinking then and there.

    And the food planning. When I started W.W. I nearly said, over my dead body will I count points. But I did. I became an expert at counting points, and planning my food for the day. When I quit W.w. it was a job to re-learn to count calories, but I did it. And five years after starting, I plan out my meals in writing every day, and count calories every day. Sometimes I count fiber or protein or carbs, etc. But at a minimum I food plan for the day and count calories. And I don't find it a chore anymore, but rather a comfort.

    And the checking in with someone (accountability and encouragement.) I read a lot of other stuff besides W.W. 'propaganda' and many experts say that a key component in successful weight loss and maintenance is having a group or person to be accountable to. And although I love our blog world, I believe a flesh and blood person is a better way to be accountable for now.

    Never give up!

  3. I LOVE having a meal plan. And it's not even necessarily because I want to lose a ton of weight. It's just because then I don't have to *think* about what I'm going to eat or prepare for the day, I already know. And I really like sticking to my meal plan, so I'm likely not to eat other stuff. Plus, having a meal plan allows me to easily fit in five fruits and veggies. So hopefully it will work well for you.

  4. When I look back at when I started WW initially, I planned out my meals. Filled out my tracker and then stuck to it. I lost 20 pounds. It certainly does help to plan your meals. It helps me feel I'm in control. Even though I get sick of counting points, it has become a way of life for me. I think it always will.

    Stay strong.

  5. Writing down your goals and meals is so important. It really can make a tremondous difference - at least it did for me.

    Even now, I still plan my meals for the family pretty carefully. I make a list of possible lunches & breakfasts but just pick them out depending on the day.

    Flexibility is good, but having a written plan is more important than flexibility in my book. For me, too much flexibility left me with too many possibilities to eat peanut M&M's!

  6. Writing goals and meals is a great way to keep on track. The national weight control registry says that most maintainers of large amounts of weight do keep some sort of journal daily.

    I might also suggest reading a book by Kathleen Des Maisons called "The Food Addict's Recovery Program". It's a great book and helped me understand my body a lot more.

  7. AA.... why don't they have a 12 step program for people addicted to food :) it'd do great in the states....

  8. You said:
    "I'm going to plan my meals ahead, have them written down, and check off items as I eat them throughout the day. "

    I think this is KEY.

    Please include some system for making sure you are drinking all your water in this accountability system. A big jug that you empty, tick marks for glasses, glases lined up, something that makes water important/counted.

    You said something the other day about - in overeaters accountability if you say you are going to eat an apple, then you have to eat the apple, you can't substitute an orange.

    And yes, it is extreme, but I understand where they are coming from. They are coming from people that would be very pleased to find they didn't have an apple and substitute a bag of chips.

    my point is that proper/safe grocery shopping and prepping veggies is REALLY important to your process.

    And I personally, substitute the apple.

    I personally just write down the category and then pick from within that category. So my planning would look something like this:
    protein/fruit (after exercise)
    protein, veggie, veggie, starch (lunch)
    veggie, veggie, protein (dinner)

    I simply only buy SAFE foods. And then I just think 'veggie' and eat a veggie rather than thinking 'green beans' and eating green beans.

    I consider fruit, potatoes, grains, peas, rice, beans, corn, squash to ALL be starches.

    Veggies to me are
    string beans (green or yellow)
    Brussel sprouts
    Lettuce (darker greens)
    Tomatoes (in moderation)
    Zucchini or summer squash

    AND You can commit to yourself - by writing your food down down and sticking to it. if you want an outside party - that is up to you. But you CAN commit to yourself.

  9. Leslie, I think you are coming to some realizations that are going to help you through this. Your plan sounds solid. You can do it!