Thursday, June 24, 2010
I'm worth it.
Repeat after me - I'M WORTH IT!!!
Now by a show of hands, how many of you actually, really, truly believe what you just said? I'll tell you honestly, I've struggled my whole life with my own self worth. Only recently am I starting to come out of the dark cloud of not feeling good enough that has followed me around since I started gaining weight as a 4 year old child.
I'm behind on my watching of this latest season of Biggest Loser. I already know who wins - but I haven't yet seen all the episodes leading up to the Finale. So I was watching Episode 13 last night - just after Vicki (Blue Team) finally gets her chance on the ranch after the other contestants have already been battling it out for 12 weeks. As Jillian notes, she's obviously behind everyone else, both physically and mentally. While the other contestants have had the opportunity to break through tough moments, Vicki is still wondering WHY she got so big and is struggling with the "menial" task (according to Jillian) of running sprints. Don't we all at some point? Finally she breaks down into tears and offers up that she can't do the exercise and is doubting her progress and achievements because she has never felt good enough. That her parents should have had a more beautiful daughter. That she wasn't smart enough, skinny enough, popular enough. It is for these moments that I watch this show. I think this will be my last season of watching though. Because on my own personal road to healing and recovery, I have chosen a very different path than much of what that show lauds and stands for and there have been so many times this past season that I am physically revolted by what those people are made to do and believe in order to lose weight. How different from just a year ago when I couldn't get enough of it and spent my days dreaming about how I was going to be on the next Biggest Loser season. Now I wouldn't wish it upon my best friend. But alas, I digress. I was talking about the emotional moments. The true and honest reflections of ourselves in these contestants that we can all relate to at one point or another. That's good television. There's a reason that the producers show us these poignant and touching moments - complete with melodramatic score in the background. Because they are so real. And because all we "fatties" can relate. I related wholeheartedly to Vicki's plight. I too have felt "not good enough".
Welcome to the paradox of being fat. I am fat because I don't feel like I'm good enough, and I don't feel like I'm good enough because I'm fat. So how the heck does one begin to talk themselves out of that conundrum? It's a cyclical, never-ending (to some), downward spiral that is so familiar to most of us, it makes you want to spit just reading it and saying it. I for one was angry with it. I wanted to throw stuff at that paradox and call IT names! And then I wanted to cry about it and throw my hands in the air, call it impossible, and eat a bag of Cheetos to make it go away because it's too hard to beat so I let it beat me. And it beat me over and over and over again until I was worn down, binging and too fat to care.
But when I was done being angry at a situation that looked like it couldn't fixed - after I had let the dust settle a little on my last infuriating binge, I agreed to open it up and look at it again, to slowly break it apart and separate the pieces of it so that there was just enough room to insert my Spark dynamite and blow it up!!!
The aftermath is messy. But the good thing about blowing up a paradox is that you can see all the little, individual pieces for what they are instead of just being part of the larger problem. You can start to clean up the mess - to re-assemble the whole person from the pieces. You can keep what is shiny and good, and throw out what is dingy and bad. This is the stage I am currently in and I love it. I'm finally beginning to organize my life. I've dumped everything out of the big container and I've bought new, pretty containers to put everything back in.
Unfortunately, I can't break down 5 years of therapy in one blog. But hopefully I can offer a little insight to my journey and what I have discovered about my own personal self worth and the conundrum that so many of us find ourselves in when we arrive here.
I've talked a bit in previous blogs about the role food was playing in my life - substituting for relationships, filling the void, making me feel full in more ways than just physical - but I know now that it was a fake full. And we've all heard people say that they lose weight when they find out how to really "meet their needs" without the use of food. But that is a long and painful process that you can't just come up with overnight. Hold a chocolate bar next to your face and ask yourself what you really need and you're going to think you need the chocolate bar - it's that simple. And food is always there. Food is dependable. Food doesn't break up with you. Food doesn't call you fat...it just makes you fat. It's sneaky like that. Personally, if I found out my best friend was sneaking around behind my back to sabotage me, I wouldn't be very happy about it. But this is exactly what happened with my relationship with food.
The problem with letting it go though is that I needed it. I needed it desperately. Not just for the whole "you need food to live" thing, but because I needed it to stay fat.
WHAT? But aren't you trying to lose weight?
Sure - I was trying to lose weight. Diet after diet, I would give it my "all", my "best shot" and then fail. And I would use that failure, and the subsequent re-gaining of the weight to prove to myself just how unworthy I was in life. Unworthy of healthiness, unworthy of happiness, unworthy of love. It fit the mold I had made. I grew to expect this of myself - and thus grew my reluctance to try anything new. Why would I try? I'm just going to fail again. I set myself up to be unworthy because my unworthiness allowed me to eat. Allowed me to go on gaining weight and ignoring my problems. It was my perfect excuse for every failure in life. I can't because I'm fat...I'm fat because I can't. I needed to be fat because that is how I validated myself. The act of eating itself - the contribution to my ever increasing weight-gain - was a validation and it made me feel full and loved and like I was giving myself something positive. Even though it was really negative, it was a positive validation. Being fat gave me a reason to live - but in a very, very negative way.
Meanwhile - in every other area of my life I was growing and achieving and proving my intelligence and worth every single day. I graduated at the top of my class in a double major honours program. I landed a job in my field fresh out of school. I moved up the ranks quickly, proving to myself and everyone else every step of the way that I could do WHATEVER I put my mind to. Everything except my one deep, dark, dirty little secret. I wasn't good enough to lose weight. A glaring blemish on my otherwise fabulous resume of life. She's really great at all of these things - but have you seen the size of her ass?
At one point in my teenage years, my mother actually told me that my father believed that fat people were stupid, because if they were truly smart, they could figure out how to lose the weight. She somehow thought that this would give me the motivation I needed to get skinny. It did just the opposite. After her little confession, I packed on about 50 pounds. Now, I don't believe that that's what my father actually said or believes since he has been an avid supporter of mine for my whole life - but the reason I'm sharing this horrific tale is because it only worked to solidify my own idea that I was "less than" - if my father thought that I was stupid because I was fat, then how could I possibly think any better of myself? And as twisted as it sounds, this was also a validation for me. Even though it was as negative a response to what I put out to the world as the name calling of school kids or trying on a pair of jeans and realizing you need the next size up yet again - it was, nevertheless, a validation that as long as I was fat, I was allowed to fail, because it was expected of me.
I have now learned to detach the failure from the fat. And on the flip side - the success from the skinny. That's what happens when you blow up your ideas about how things work and rip apart that downward spiraling paradox. I know now that I am allowed to try, and to succeed and to fail. And that NONE of that has anything to do with my weight, or with my personal value to the rest of the world. People will not like me less because I have my own opinion. Just because I binge on occasion doesn't mean I'm a failure. I can't just give up because I have a bad day. THAT is not what is expected of me. Because I expect so much better from myself now. I am worth working for. I am worth trying out. I am worthy of health, and happiness and love. And when you convince yourself that you are worth something, doing things for yourself becomes easier. Yes, I will cook myself that healthy dinner I've been meaning to try - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will stay outside to watch the sunset a little longer - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will run that extra mile and push myself as far as I can go today - because I'm worth it. I am done feeding myself validation. I am done seeking positive validation from negative reactions and opinions. I am done accepting the excuse that I can't when I know that I can.
Now repeat after me again - I'M WORTH IT. And this time - believe it.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Alas, I promised a blog and a blog ye shall get. Unfortunately though, I'm not feeling particularly brilliant tonight, so I'm throwing together a hodge-podge of things that I'm thinking that may or may not have any relation to each other, but that I find interesting nonetheless.
I was hoping to be able to write a blog today entitled "Surviving the Conference 101" but quite honestly, I don't think I made any great finds that are particularly Spark friendly over the past weekend, and I did well just to make it out of there without any significant damage - consumption of a WHOLE Vosges chocolate bar (2.5 servings worth - yikes!) on Friday night aside. I had many good intentions - I left my house on Thursday morning with my water bottle in tow, a baggie of almonds, cherries, carrots and a couple of low-cal pumpkin muffins to keep me on track since I knew we weren't being given a lot of time for lunch and dinner was going to consist of hors d'oeuvres and beer. But when I went to eat my snacks I discovered my muffins were moldy - ick - and quite a few of the cherries had gone bad as well. So much for that plan. So I ventured out to Corner Bakery for lunch and chose what I thought would be a healthy option - a vegetarian panini - only to find out later that it was one of the highest calorie and fat options on the menu. Ugh - just because it's veggie, does NOT mean it's healthy. For the record, I could have gotten a chicken salad sandwich, mayonnaise and all, for fewer calories than this bad boy. Dinner was as I suspected - fried hors d'oeuvres and an open bar - and since they had really given us no break time during the day we were all starving. Down the hatch with mini sliders, egg rolls, dumplings, potstickers, and home made potato chips that were to die for. But I wrote everything down and tracked it all and at the end of the night only ended up going over by a couple hundred calories...I think. Eating out is always so hard to track! But I was enjoying the company, the fabulous views of the Chicago skyline from Navy Pier and the fantastic entertainment for the evening provided by some of my local theatre friends. All in all, not a bad day.
Friday, I vowed to be a little more successful at staying on track than I had been on Thursday, but this was going to be tough since all meals on Friday were provided by the conference which meant I didn't have much control over what was served. But I DID have control over what I chose. Fruit salad and a bagel with light cream cheese for breakfast. Not too bad, except that on a second pass of the table I grabbed a mini chocolate scone - it was calling my name...seriously. You should have heard it! Lunch was at a local Mexican restaurant at which I selected a salad topped with skirt steak. A great choice, with a nice honey mustard vinaigrette option to top. Too bad I also bowed to the power of the chip basket. Doh! And then there was dinner...it was supposed to be another night of food and wine on board a cruise boat on the lake, however, at about 4pm the skies opened up and the apocalypse happened in downtown Chicago so I decided that maybe the boat would be better saved for another time. I grabbed an apple and a power bar from the snack buffet and made my way to a show at my theatre. By the time the show was over, my stomach was growling again. I caught the bus home, thinking of what was in my fridge that I could throw together quickly for dinner. As I rounded the corner to my house I noticed that the neighbourhood looked strange - this eerie light cast over everything. And the bank parking lot lights beside my house were out - hmmm, must drop by the bank tomorrow to tell them that's unsafe. I opened the door to my place, flipped the light switch on - nothing. Flipped it up and down a number of times (like it was going to change the outcome) - nothing. Ugh. The storm had knocked out my power. I lit a candle and sat on the couch. Now what? Besides peanut butter and bread I didn't have anything that didn't require cooking. Foiled again. So I sat in the dark and ate the chocolate bar - a gift in our conference swag bags that also came with a huge bag of jelly beans and Frango Mints. After calling my boyfriend to have him log into Spark and spin the wheel for me (I couldn't break my streak!!!) I flopped into bed early and decided to call it a night. Who knows how much damage I did?
Saturday was the final day of the conference - I knew we were getting breakfast and lunch on them so again I braced myself for a day of making tough decisions. The continental breakfast buffet had an assortment of fruit - yes! but nothing else besides calorie laden muffins (not a whole grain or bran in sight) and those dreaded croissants (why are you the bane of my existence, you sweet, buttery, flaky goodness). Thankfully they were all mini, so I grabbed the healthiest looking mini-muffin, ONE mini-croissant and a banana and made my way to the first talk of the day. Lunch was a choice of assorted pre-prepped bagged lunches, so I opted for the Pesto Chicken wrap. To my dismay, even the veggie salad option was served with chips and a cookie and no fruit. I ate what was put in front of me, cookie and all, because breakfast had left me a good hour and a half ago and I was starving. Where were my cherries and almonds when I needed them? At least I still had my trusty water bottle and made good use of the new one they gave all of us in our swag-bag. I was definitely thankful for something!
By the end of the conference I was craving hot dogs because of all the junk I had consumed over the 3 days, but I pushed aside the craving and ate the last helping of chicken ceasar salad that I had in my fridge. It tasted good. And healthy - even with the dressing.
So there's my Conference Survival Kit in a nutshell. You know you're going to be put in positions where you have to decide. You also know you're going to be thrown off your normal eating schedule and will likely be hungry by the time you eat. You could say the same thing for vacations, or trips home, or any other day of the week that doesn't look "normal". I made the best decisions I could for what I was given and I feel a sense of accomplishment for that. All in all, I didn't end up going over on Friday or Saturday, even WITH the chocolate bar. But I was definitely happy to get groceries on Sunday and prep my lunches for this week. "Back on track" as they say, although I don't think I was ever really "off-track" - just removed slightly from the path I wanted to take. Still moving forward though. And realizing that every decision I make, in whatever situation I end up in, is still me moving forward with this journey. So maybe I take what I said earlier back - maybe I DID make some great Spark-friendly finds this weekend. I found my ability to stick to this through the paninis, and croissants and tortilla chips. And after all - isn't that what we're all really here to do?
And here are a few things I've noticed that will serve as a commemoration of where I am right now, today:
- I have a problem in that my pants are falling down and I don't own a belt. It's a GREAT problem to have.
- I walked home today even though it was threatening rain and 83 degree heat with a humidity rating of high 90s.
- Two months ago I couldn't do this:
or even this:
because my stomach was too big and my legs and arms were too short and fat to reach - but I can do all of them now with ease!
- I am marveling at my interactions now with people I don't know and really starting to see a difference in how much more confident I am when I talk to them, when before I would look at the ground and mumble.
- My energy is higher, my mood is better, and my brain is clearer to accomplish the things I need to get done in a day.
Even though I have taken a bit of a break this week from the vigorous exercise of the past two weekends, I can't feel bad about that. I'm settling into my 20 pound (so far) weight loss for a little while. I think mentally I need some time to catch up. I'm not expecting the scale to move much this week - and maybe it shouldn't. I'm half way already to the most weight I have ever lost on a "diet" and I will admit that that freaks me out a little bit. I need to be in the right place mentally once I get there to shatter that record and keep on keeping on. Because once you really start changing in this incredibly positive way, you really can never go back to the way it was before. And this weekend, I proved that to myself!
I guess I made more sense out of this that I thought I was going to :)
Monday, June 14, 2010
I am not a food sharer. I really, seriously suck at sharing anything on my plate. I'm like Joey on Friends (ah, Friends - I miss that show) when he goes out on a date with a pretty girl and has to dump her because she took one of his french fries. You take my food - it's just not gonna work out between us.
This bad behaviour is especially difficult when you're in a relationship. And I'm in a relationship with a fellow foodie. We love going out to dinner at new places, ethnic restaurants, hidden gems of culinary delight...mmm. And while one little bite off each others' plates is fine and kinda cute (because I certainly don't mind digging into someone else's dish), any more than that and you might hear me omit a small, but audible, growl, moving my plate away from the wandering fork and hoarding it like Gollum. My Precious!
I have realized lately though, that this behaviour is also closely linked to my Clean Plate Syndrome and that by NOT sharing my food, I am more likely to eat more since I haven't quite mastered the "save half for later" skill. So what's a food hoarder to do but open up and offer some to the fellow diner? I shudder at the thought.
I guess it's no big secret anymore that I'm a secretive eater. I have used food for years for a variety of purposes, but one big one is so that I can have something all of my very own that no one else knows about. Those of us who have lacked enough privacy early on in our personal lives (read: loving but intrusive mother) need SOMETHING that is off-limits to everyone else, and food just happened to be my thing. In my youth I became the master of eating five Oreos - one out of each row - and putting the bag back EXACTLY where I found it so as not to arouse suspicion. I also ate random items like baking supplies (nuts, chocolate chips, etc.) that were in large enough containers a small handful here and there wouldn't be noticed. I ate things out of the downstairs pantry that had been put away for later, so that by the time someone noticed stuff was missing it was months later. Or conveniently for me, I could easily blame the theft on my two growing brothers and their never-ending appetites. I even snuck food during family dinners, right in front of everyone sitting at the table. I'd help myself to an extra serving here and there when I thought no one was looking, hoping no one ever questioned me about how much I was eating. The serving dish never made it by my place setting without just one more little bit ending up on my plate. I learned to binge on really bizarre food combos like Saltines and butter because they were always available, and because no one usually looked in the Saltines box unless someone in the family got sick. And I did all of this while no one was looking, while mom was at work, or while I was home alone. My little secret. Something that's all mine.
It's because this food is MINE, MINE, ALL MINE, (and has been for years) that I can't conceivably justify letting it go without somehow letting go a little piece of myself with it. If you eat off my plate, you may as well be taking a bite out of my arm, or my leg - or deeper down, my soul. I have needed my food to make me into a whole being - a woman with turkey legs, and pork shoulders and beef ribs and a mashed potato stomach - and sweets and treats on the brain all the time.
But just as I've been building myself up with food, I've also been building my wall to keep other people out - "You can't have a taste of my food, and you sure as heck can't have a piece of me." Until suddenly you wake up to the reality of the situation and realize that although you may have the love of food, you don't have a single, solid relationship with another human being that is worth as much to you as an evening at home with your couch and a bag of potato chips. This happened to me, quite recently. And when it did, I got very depressed and just wanted more potato chips.
Thankfully, my relationship with my stellar therapist was on track at the time and we got to sorting out this issue, and quick. Social eating is the LAST possible behaviour to be "fixed" in food addicts. EVERYONE - skinny, fat, athlete, couch potato - has social anxiety around eating. Everyone. No one is alone in this category. Everyone at the BBQ is wondering if so and so is watching what they put on their plate. Everyone at the birthday party is wondering whether or not they should really have a 2nd piece of cake. Everyone has issues with Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes Easter. We are only human. And oddly enough as humans, we are utterly and completely fascinated by each other and what we all eat.
As I've been working my way through this issue in my therapy and in my life, I have managed to loosen up a bit. SparkPeople has absolutely helped as well, but I'm finally learning to share. I'm learning to share not only my food, but my life as well. I'm working on breaking down my walls and getting closer to people - and letting people get closer to me. And when I'm full, I give what's left on my plate to my boyfriend - He of the iron stomach and the enviable metabolism. Not only does it help me stay in my calorie range, but it also helps me leave the table feeling good about myself and what I have accomplished.
I won't lie - I'm still mourning the loss of half a plate's worth of my breakfast burrito yesterday morning, but I'm moving on. I've got half a plate's worth of my Chicken Shwarma and Fattoush Salad waiting for me in the fridge for dinner! And tonight - it's MINE, MINE....ALL MINE...but really, if you want a bite, I'd be willing to let you try.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
He told me I could have a cookie too. Drat! Now what? Do I want the cookie? - Yes. Can I afford the cookie (calorie wise)? - No. If I have it, I'll go over for the day. But it's there, and it's chewy and delicious and he offered it to me for free...
This is what's going through my head tonight at Roly Poly as I'm standing in line to get my dinner wrap. I had a Groupon for $10 and since I'm staying at the theatre late tonight to see a show, I figured it would make for a nice, healthy dinner. (Side Note* if you don't know about Groupon and you live in a fairly metropolitan area - you should. Google it right now!)
I selected my healthy wrap (a California Hummer with added chicken - yum) and a bag of Baked Lays. Perfect. Within my calorie range for dinner and a nice little treat since I haven't eaten out all week. And then comes the bad news...
"You can have a cookie with the $10 Groupon as well."
Oh Lord. I love their cookies. Fresh baked. Chocolate Chip, White Chip Macadamia, and the chewiest Oatmeal Raisin ever.
"Thanks!" I say, eyeballing the cookie pile. Get out - leave now, go far, far away. I retreat to the other side of the restaurant with my chips and my beverage to wait for my sandwich order. I opened my bag of chips and started to snack on the salty goodness. See? - there. You don't need a cookie. The chips are doing the trick. BAH! You SO want a cookie. Yes brain, you're right, I so want a cookie.
I finished my chips and paced, nervously. Finally my sandwich order was up. I saw the guy behind the counter, the one who made the cookie offer, look at me as I walked to the door. I thought he was going to yell after me - "You forgot your cookie!" But he didn't. He just waved goodbye as I walked out the door.
No - I didn't forget my cookie. This time, that cookie is staying in the basket.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Oh, Whole Foods...how I love thee.
On Thursday mornings, my weekly schedule brings me close to a Whole Foods Market. Since I'm on my way to work when I pass by, I usually can't stop for long or buy too much because I have to keep it with me at work all day. Sometimes I'll peruse the salad bar and pick up some tasty items for lunch. Other times I'll just swing in to say a quick hello to a friend of mine who works the early shift at the store.
This morning I was out of fruit to take in my lunch, so I decided to run in quick to pick up ONE nice piece of something. $32 later I exited with:
- 6 white peaches
- 1lb fresh cherries
- 4 can coconut water (been wanting to try this and my nutritionist actually recommended it this weekend)
- 2 pre-made Caesar salad kits - on sale for $2!!
- 1 box organic dark chocolate cookies
- 1 box organic sugar cookies
Now I absolutely needed all of these items - fruit for my breakfasts & lunches, salad kits for a couple of quick dinners (add grilled chicken and go), coconut water for replenishment after a workout, and the cookies for lunch snacks (I take them home and split them up into serving sizes immediately to avoid temptation and add them to my lunches for a treat - that way I also avoid wanting a dessert after dinner). But the reality is that I could have easily spent about $100 and done a lot more damage on the nutrition front.
Whole Foods - though wonderful, and seemingly healthy in that raw, nutritious, organic kinda way - can be deceiving. One - it's expensive compared to most grocery stores. And Two - just because it's organic doesn't exactly mean it's low cal. A differentiation that has been hard for me to learn and accept.
You see - I'm a food addict. And I love grocery stores. I think maybe part of this is because my grandfather and his brothers, and then aunt & uncle by succession were in the grocery business. Our family owned the one grocery store in town for about a 30 mile radius. Those are good odds. I have a lot of fond memories of that particular store (which has now been sold, but still remains where it always was). Heck - I have a lot of fond memories of food in general. But where I am going with all of this is that I'm a bit of a freak-nut when I walk into a place like Whole Foods and see the perfectly stacked fruits, and fresh herbs, and tantalizing seafood options, and bread...drool...don't even get me started on the bread. It's a feast for my eyes as well as my stomach. My senses are ablaze with the colours, and odors and organization of the pretty food stuffs. And they PLAN it that way, darn it! I am but a pawn in their little grocery store game, flitting about the store, absorbed by lovely isle after lovely isle. Plan or not, I ALWAYS end up buying more than I bargained for at a grocery store.
So this morning I tried my best to stick to my guns. I didn't have a list, so I knew I was venturing into the danger-zone without my battle weapons in the first place. Proceed with caution. Get the fruit you came in for - check. If you need to browse, stick to the items you know you need for lunches - check. Oh, but look at the... NOPE, not this time. Put it on the list for this weekend if you really want it. I figure if I give myself a couple of days to think about it, chances are the "I want, I need"s will go away. But I do know I'm going to venture back this weekend to buy some fresh herb planters that I do really want (and have for a few weeks).
All in all, I didn't do so poorly. I still spent more than I was bargaining for on the way in, but I consider it money well spent. And for those of you who haven't tried it yet - coconut water is...interesting. It's rich, a little bitter - maybe even salty tasting, though it only has 50mg of sodium per serving, with a slight hint of coconut. It's OK. Maybe a bit of an acquired taste - but with 690mg of potassium, it's definitely a healthy boost. I'll get through the four I bought, then make a decision as to if I'll buy more.
Until then, Happy Grocery Shopping!
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