First a little history:
I am a compulsive eater. Every meal, every day, every occasion - I binged compulsively. I never purged. Not even tempted. I thought that "those women" were truly sick. I obsessed about food and would be thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch and supper while I was still eating breakfast. I'm not sure that I ever really tasted my food, let alone savored it, because I ate so fast shoveling it in like I was on a time limit before it disappeared off my plate. I had no concept of what it really felt like to feel satiated and full to a "normal" level. Full for me was stuffed, bloated, on the verge of pain. Sitting around until the next meal wishing I could give birth and get it over with. As a woman who finds security in orderliness and control, I spent years as an adult living with the fear that I wouldn't ever be able to finally overcome that destructive pattern and eat "normally".
For anyone who recognizes themselves in that out of control behavior and still struggles with it, I can tell you confidently that you can learn not only to regain control of your eating, but to actually prefer to - even if you have yo-yo dieted for years like I did.
I've blogged before about how I did it so I won't go into all the particulars here, but it started where it all starts with determination, willpower, and a spirit that says this time you can do it.
After a while and the benefits of your efforts really kick in, your motivation becomes more self-sustaining. Not just at the scale, or in the clothes closet, or amongst your complimentary friends.
Anyone who knows first hand the side effects of compulsive eating, knows that one of the prime targets in the body of a compulsive eater is the digestive tract. We are plagued with heartburn, hiatel hernias, gall stones, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and ---
chronic intestinal gas. Your intestines are in a constant flux of activity digesting too much food. They never get a rest. Add in the fact that most of that food is in the form of simple processed sugars which ferment in the bowel providing a constant food source for the natural bacteria that lurks in the depths causing them to multiply more rapidly than college kids on a mexican beach during spring break. That bacterial overgrowth produces even more gas.
To put it bluntly - compulsive eaters belch and fart more.
It isn't just the increased weight -- a big, but muscularly strong person who eats reasonable amounts at a reasonable rate, produces far less gas. When you throw in all the carbonated soda pop that many compulsive eaters wash it all down with, you triple the gassy effects.
When I am eating reasonably, I rarely pass gas. Even with increasing the fiber in my diet, eating lots of crustiferous vegetables like cauliflower, and beans, I don't have an issue anymore.
I find that I love having a nice, calm, GI tract. I love savoring tastes. I love it when my "appestat" produces that just starting to get full feeling and I can set my fork down for good BEFORE I feel bloated, stuffed, ready to give birth. I truly do. And while I know that the compulsive eating behavior is like a beast in hibernation, I feel confident that if or when it threatens to rear it's ugly head, I am NOT powerless to overcome it.
In fact - I went through an episode recently - thus this embarrassing but true tale:
I recently broke out with a bout of the shingles. If you've had them, you know how painful they can be. Luckily I work with physicians who were able to start me on treatment immediately so I could avoid risking any long term "post herpetic neuralgia" - chronic pain in the affected nerve track. The treatment included a weeks worth of anti-viral medication, heavy doses of prednisone (steroids) for three weeks, and narcotic pain relievers. I am certainly no stranger to taking prednisone. I have taken it for everything from herniated disks, to asthma and allergic reactions. I never understood the fuss people made about the side effects. You'll be starving and won't sleep I was told. Never happened. But then again, I was never on this high a dose. Nerve pain can be particularly difficult to circumvent so they blast you with the steroid anti-inflammatory bomb right off the bat.
Well let me you -- I now know what all the fuss is about! I laid wall eyed at night for hours at a time. Not even the narcotics helped me sleep. And the BEAR - my compulsive eating beast came blinking out of the cave roaring! Right at Christmas no less. I fought for some sort of control, but with the shingles pain, I was unable to exercise which is probably my prime coping mechanism. I didn't panic. I recognized it for what it is and just kept reminding myself of my wise mother's saying - "This too shall pass".
Along with the roaring beast, came the roaring digestive activity. Thank goodness I was on vacation from work. Not just because of the discomfort. To even shop in public or have my nails done, I'd go home feeling like I'd done the BUTT MASTER video for 24 hours straight!
Not just noisy, blustery gas. The kind that could clear out the entire shoe section of Kohl's (thankfully I was at the Kohl's across town...)
I went to my daughter's house Christmas eve and if you read my last blog, was anticipating a meal of cuban grilled salmon. She actually had a nice South American meal of guacamole' and chips with - GASP - black bean salsa, spanish rice, cheesy fried corn, and the salmon. She even baked some wonderful cheese stuffed pork chops for the carnivores amongst us. Then topped it off with a fabulously rich lemon coconut cake. While helping her get ready for dinner I shoveled in chips and salsa at an alarming rate. I had already stuffed myself at a Chinese buffet for lunch where she politely cocked an eyebrow and asked if I was Ok?
In the meantime I found a great "cover" -- my two year old grandson, Jude. While we were cooking, he played in and around the kitchen and his mother asked him several times "Jude did you poopy"?
"No", he would protest indignantly while she pulled out the back of his diaper for a peek all the while he silently eyed me with those wise eyes that seemed to say why don't you pull out the back of GRANDMA's pants!
When I finally laid down my fork after the second piece of cake, it was de' ja' vu. I pronounced that I felt FAT, BLOATED, AND DISGUSTING!
"Mom" my daughter exclaimed. "Don't say that in front of the kids - especially F-A-T"! She went on to explain that she didn't want them to grow up with warped feelings about their body image. She is right, of course, so I kept to my suffering in silence.
After clean up, I joined my husband in the living room and the after effects just kept rolling out. "Oh my God"! What smells like all eight of Santa's reindeer just dropped more than toys on the roof"???
"Scuz me" I mumbled, "Toots on steroids".
"No wonder Mark McGwire isn't getting in the hall of fame - if that's what steroids do to you" he replied tartly.
Non-plussed I reminded him that he was probably just jealous. But inside I was ashamed. Somehow before when I lived day in and day out with the after effects of compulsive eating, I must have become numb to the loss of dignity.
My daughter joined us to cuddle up on her big sectional sofa to watch the children open their new Christmas Eve pj's. Almost like holding your breath -- I pinched, I squeezed. My head swam like I was going to explode -- until I did.
My daughter whipped her head around accusingly and cried "Oh Mom - that is gross and disgusting"!!
My sweet, precious, grand daughter looked up while pulling on her footie jamas and whispered giggling "But not F-A-T, Grandma"!
Christmas day I was able to start weaning down from the prednisone, and with the lower dose, the beast is once again heading sleepily back into the cave to rest. I am back to exercising, and pushing myself away from the table when those first feelings of fullness start to creep in. I'm confident because I really do know and believe that thin feels better than fat tastes.
I'm feeling more in control and that's a gift -- but not one that I'm likely to take for granted.
Or the others around me for that matter....