Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Who knew? Why didn't someone tell me this sooner?
All right, so I was well aware of the fact that there were hobbies other than eating, but for most of my life, eating has been my favorite one. Well, maybe not my favorite, because your favorite hobby shouldn't cause you to break down in tears after your done; I'll say obsession instead. If I wasn't eating, I was thinking about food, planning my next binge. The second I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I began to panic. I thought about food all day long, all the time.
All. The. Time.
It isn't so much that I haven't been able to practice willpower before, but something has changed on a much more basic level over the few months. I have essentially been maintaining my weight within a 5-pound range over the past 3 months, and that's great, except for the fact that I'm not at my goal weight yet. I appreciated the experience of maintaining in that range because I was able to prove to myself that my appetite can be normal. On days when I wasn't as hungry, I ate less. On days when I wanted more food, I ate it.
I know, crazy talk.
When you are used to food consuming every thought, the very notion of thinking, "Eh, food...it's all right," feels extreme. I would spend my entire day at work thinking about what I would eat when I got home. My habit after coming home from work would be to plop on the couch and start eating frantically. Sometimes when it gets stressful at work, the thought still whispers through my brain, "Damn, I want to eat pizza...and chips...and M&Ms, and..."; I simply respond with, "No, Erin, you don't do that any more." Even sitting here typing about these things used to be enough to trigger a frenzy, but I'm getting ready to do Pilates...so, no thank you. I would be deluded to say I will never overeat or binge again, but now those thoughts may consume a few minutes on occasion, and not my every waking hour.
Now, I come home from work and either put in some SparkTime, do Pilates or yoga, or over the past couple of weeks, play my saxophone. These activities are not distractions; they are genuinely what I want to be doing. My body and mind actually crave things that are not food-related, and I feel like I've lost 100 pounds just by having the weight of food obsession lifted.
This lack of obsession has worked it's way into my daily life without me really realizing it. I met my dad, step mom, and brother for brunch this past Sunday. Normally, a buffet would set off a feeling of panic: "HOW am I going to eat all this food?" This time, I looked forward to seeing my family. When I got there, the first table I ventured to had the fruits and salad. I filled up a large plate with several fruits and a large serving of greens. My brother, nonchalantly mentioning the 12 mile run he did the day before, had a plate full of waffles, pastries, and pasta. He looked at my plate, shaking his head, "You came here and you're eating FRUIT?"
I shrugged. "I like fruit. I'm getting other stuff in a bit, but I really wanted this first." And it was true.
I proceeded to have an omelette, a small caramel roll, American fries, and a small waffle. Yes, I had a big meal, but I had planned for it. I enjoyed every bite in the moment, instead of thinking about what I was going to shovel in next. My brother and I shared a piece of chocolate cheesecake; I had two bites, and that is all my brain wanted. They tasted perfect, and my brain simply stopped me. No willpower, no arguing with myself.
Also, eating a large meal used to set off a day-long (or week, or month, or year) feeding frenzy. Now, when I have the occasional large meal, I feel satisfied. Odd, I used to feel almost MORE hungry after a large meal like that; the switch would be flipped, and there was no satiating the hunger.
I like my new relationship with food. Now I actually get not only full, but I feel satisfied. I believe I have finally learned the difference between the two. I still truly enjoy food, I still have treats (I have to have some chocolate every day), and I don't worry about being hungry. If I get hungry, I know I'll eat again; it took me an oddly long time to learn that. My food is now served without a side of neuroticism. And you know what? It tastes so much better.
"Are you eating it? Or is it eating you?"
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Today was a very active day--I walked a total of more than 2 hours, and overall it was a fun day. One of my co-workers came over and we went to the dog park near my house. I have an American Bulldog/Pit Bull mix named Dugan, and she has a Lab/??? mix named Raleigh. The dogs had never met before. Considering that my foster dog Kaleigh does her own thing and doesn't really interact with Dugan, he loves having another dog around who will play with him. Kaleigh has shown dog aggression before, so unfortunately, she is not able to go to the off-leash dog park.
Dugan and Raleigh got along great and ran themselves around in circles and frolicked in the water. Here's some pictures, 'cuz, come on, who doesn't like pictures of cute dogs?
Dugan loves the Mississippi River.
Boy, they weren't having any fun at all.
Dugan and his giant head
Unfortunately, a fairly aggressive unneutered dog showed up and started attacking Raleigh (my friend's dog). He was trying to dominate her and was being aggressive about it. When the owner finally did show up, she was actually confrontational when we told her what happened. We decided to leave, and the owner and her boyfriend followed us, yelling some kind of nonsensical blabber about how our dogs don't know how to behave. The dog once again chased after Raleigh, and this time they went out of sight and we heard Raleigh yowl. I yelled at them to get their dog and they were once again confrontational, saying, "You don't know the difference between playing and fighting; if he was fighting, you would know it!" (oh, what a great comfort.)
We leashed our dogs and walked quickly away. But of course I can't keep my yap shut, so I turned around and yelled, "It's people like you who make these dogs look bad," as we were walking away. The dog was an American Bulldog, and it really angers me to see irresponsible owners. While I was leashing Dugan, I said to the other dog that I know it's not his fault. I don't like dealing with bad owners at work, and I really hate seeing them in the real world. It seems to be such an insurmountable problem.
I have never had anything like this happen at the dog park before (although I have seen my fair share of fight injuries in the emergency clinic). I was so mad I was shaking afterwards. I don't like confrontations, especially one that could have ended by them leashing their dog (and an apology to my friend wouldn't have hurt). The "what-ifs?" kicked in and I seriously hope that dog did not end up injuring another dog today. In the end, it's the dog who would have to pay for the owner's stupidity. I am not mad at the dog at all, I'm sad for him.
Luckily, Dugan and Rolly had nearly 2 hours of running themselves ragged before that happened; now I have a napping, happy dog.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Uhhhhhh...yeah...look, we need to talk.
No no no, it's not bad! It's not anything bad. We just need to have a quick talk.
Look, Same 5 Pounds, we've been doing this dance for 3 months now. You leave, you come back, you leave, you come back...I...I just can't anymore...
Aww, c'mon, don't do that...naw, don't do that...you always do that, get all mushy...
No no no, it's so not you, it's me!
Okay fine, it is you. You're just always...I dunno...THERE, ya know? Not just near me, but always ON me...ya know?
No, I don't want more time...I just feel so heavy and weighed down with you...
But that's just the problem, you never change, so I'm DONE.
I...I'm sorry...so if you could be gone for good by the end of July, I think that would really be best.
No, I don't need to think about it, I want you gone.
Well, you need to deal with it and leave, because I will do whatever it takes to get rid of you...
So...uhhhh...yep...um, I think it's best if we never see each other after you're gone, 'kay?
Friday, June 24, 2011
June 20th was the anniversary of the car accident that had killed my older brother, and I had blogged a bit about that event a few times earlier this week. The ensuing aftermath of the accident ultimately shaped who I am today, for better or worse. I had post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and I saw a therapist from the time I was 5, immediately after the accident, until I was 17. I didn't really grasp why I was in therapy at first, but it turned out that I indicated that I thought I had killed my brother Brian. He had removed his seat belt to lean over the front seat to give me a hug, and that is when the truck went through the red light and hit us. The fact that his last act was showing me love haunted me, and I thought I should have been able to hold onto him. If I had, he would not have gone through the windshield, and he would be a 35-year-old man now. I punished myself intensely throughout most of my life over something of which I had no control at all. My punishment was to never stop eating, to never get to feel satisfied.
My best friend and my worst enemy was food. I got up in the middle of the night to sneak into the kitchen and eat cereal or anything else that could be snatched quickly. I shoplifted candy from various drug and convenience stores. I begged my mother for more food and stole change from her to buy snacks. I never, ever felt satiated. When I wasn't eating, I was thinking about food. I ate myself through the grief and pain. My inward struggle was not private--everyone knew I had a problem because they could see it in my fat.
It took me many years to learn that I wasn't rewarding myself with the food. I joined WeightWatchers in 2006, when I felt I was really ready to address my relationship with food. I did manage to take control over my relationship with food and lost 95 pounds. As many have experienced, we picture our problems simply melting away with the body fat. I obsessed over how wonderful my life would be if I could just lose the weight. The Thin Erin I had pictured since childhood was always smiling, was always happy, and was super popular. The interesting thing is, I am an introvert, and I probably still would have been an introvert had I never been overweight because most people in my family are introverts. Since "normal" people are friendly and outgoing, so was Thin Erin. She was as normal as they come.
For some reason, I was always so happy as Thin Erin in my head, but I could not to this day tell you why that would have been. Brian was still not there, my younger brother still struggled intensely because of his head injury from the accident, my mother was still grieving, my relationship with my father was shaky at best, and the bullies followed me everywhere. Thin Erin didn't have any of those people in her world; I don't think she had any actual family or friends. She was surrounded by beautiful and smiling people, and none of them had any names. Perhaps it was simply that Thin Erin had not been in the car accident, had a normal and happy childhood, and was an extrovert. Guilt didn't exist in her universe, because Thin Erin did not have a brother that she felt she should have been able to save. Thin Erin existed in an alternate universe where problems simply did not exist. There were no bullies, no bad grades, no drunk drivers, no angry fathers, no dead brothers, no sad mothers...she was simply thin and happy. She seemed to have a very empty life and shallow existence, but that seemed to be enough.
As I said yesterday, I don't regret being fat. As a matter of fact, I don't really regret regaining the weight that I had lost on WeightWatchers; regaining 95 pounds has taught me so much. I almost got to my goal weight, but my crappy job, my house payment, and the same toxic people were still there. I thought I would create Thin Erin's idyllic world simply by losing the weight. I was shocked to find out that I had not really changed at all. I started to build up my protective layer of fat again, and it has stayed on until Thin Erin was able to learn how to emerge as a real person, and not a dissembled shell of a human being.
Thin Erin will probably not always have a smile on her face, will stomp her feet and cry out in frustration sometimes, and will laugh until she pees her pants on occasion. This time, Thin Erin is going to exist in the real world, with all the happiness, sadness, frustrations, successes, good days, and bad days that ensue.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thursday, June 23, 2011
"When we lose twenty pounds, we may be losing the best twenty pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty."
- Woody Allen
Weight loss journeys seem to be riddled with so much pain and regret. The focus tends to be on how much time we've "wasted" with being fat. The truth is, being overweight doesn't actually waste any time; we have the same amount of time whether we are fat and thin. It's a perceived barrier or, dare I say, an excuse to deny ourselves our dreams. I do wish I had learned this basic principle 6 years ago when I lost 95 pounds on WeightWatchers, but my brain wasn't ready, and I didn't have the tools to help me get to that realization. WeightWatchers is a great program, but I really needed tools to change how I think about myself in a very fundamental way, and not just change my relationship with food. The weight crept back on because, despite being thin, I still hated myself. I did not learn basic love and respect for my body. This time, on SparkPeople, I know my weight loss will be permanent. I will (and have had) ups and downs, but I don't get derailed by slip-ups, and I approach the scale with a neutral attitude. Essentially, I have taken the emotions out of the weight loss and improved my relationship with my body.
I'm not totally at peace with my body, with an incident a few weeks ago serving as an example. I was supposed to do the bike leg of a sprint triathlon with my old running and triathlon training buddies, and because of the torn meniscus in my knee, I wasn't able to do it. I went with my friends anyways, to cheer them on. As we were driving there, one of my friends asked me why I haven't been to swimming practice. I grimaced and said I didn't want to be seen in a swimsuit since I've gained weight. She looked sideways at me for a moment, and then said, "That's stupid. I mean, I don't mean to insult you, but that's just f******g stupid." Well, she's right, what a dumb excuse to miss out on doing something that I love. At least I have honest friends who will call me out on my thinking mistakes. Sure enough, I will be joining my old training buddies to swim again (and I've somehow been talked into doing the swim leg of a triathlon next summer).
Me (on left) and a couple of triathlon training buddies
Despite the occasional slip in self-confidence, I don't regret being fat. I'm ready to be healthier, but my happiness is no longer based on how much I weigh. My thoughts no longer begin with, "I can't wait to be at my goal weight so I can...;" I just do those things now. I have certainly wasted a lot of time thinking that being fat was stopping me from pursuing things I wanted to do. Well, I am done punishing myself. So I'm fat. So what? Is that really a reason to deny myself playing the saxophone, learning to play new musical instruments, singing, belly dancing, boxing, swimming, and seeing friends?
When I started being active on SparkPeople in August, 2010, my main goal was to get ready to lose, and more importantly, to be able to maintain weight loss. I wanted to stop hating myself over something as superficial as my body weight. I did even better than that: I found that being overweight has actually had a positive influence in my life. Being fat has shaped who I am today, and I mean that in a good way. I sincerely do not believe that I would have the compassion and kindness that I have today had I never been overweight. I have a strong desire to help others, and now I have the experiences to help them work through problems. I can face and overcome any adversity, all while asking friends and family for support when I need it. I think people of all shapes and sizes are truly beautiful (which is one of the reasons I get sad when I see SparkFriends speaking negatively about the way they look). I have dealt with a lot of toxic people because they have bullied me about my weight, and now I can tell who is a true friend and who is not. Instead of wishing I had been thin my entire life, I am grateful for these experiences for making me an awesome person.
The only thing I've wasted is a lot of energy and hatred. That is my only regret. The time was there, but I chose to wallow and blame my body weight for my unhappiness. But now, here I am, 270 pounds, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. My attitude is no longer, "Oh the things I will do once I'm thin..."; now I say, "Oh the things I will do today!"
"If nature had intended for our skeletons to be visible it would have put them on the outside of our bodies."
- Elmer Rice
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