My Life in Comedy

donut

For everyone out there who is fighting the Friday donut assault, I salute your bravery and courage. We can do this.  Every time you pass the box (left conveniently right outside your office) think this:

“That’s not my food.”

“I don’t need that.”

“I deserve more than sugar and fat.”

“I will NOT run them down with my car after work.” (oops! Did I say that out loud?)

I think I could do a pretty good standup routine about compulsive overeating. I wonder if it would be funny to anyone else?

Food Plan – Take 10,000

 

“And I said to my body. Softly. “I want to be your friend.”

It took a long breath.

And replied “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”

– Nayyirah Waheed

So it turns out, I don’t know how to eat.

I think I know how to diet. I mean, I can take off weight like nobody’s business. Despite the fact that this has never worked for long and that I started telling myself that “diets don’t work”, I still joined OA and went on a diet.

When I really started tracking again, I found that I was only eating around 1100 calories a day. (That’s on days I was on program. Other days I was racking up 5-7 times that.) That’s an okay total if I was lying in a hospital bed all day, but I’m walking 5+ miles a day and doing pilates five hours a week. I need fuel for that.

So I asked my sponsor and the other folks in my meeting for help and even – gasp – asked my higher power for guidance. I got a resounding “Google it” which might have been me talking but then the quote above showed up and I figured I was on the right track.

OA doesn’t not dictate or even really recommend a diet. They have different plans of eating that are very generic and you can modify to suit your needs. Everyone one of us is different and reacts to different trigger foods. We have different body types, weight, exercise and so many variables.

When you think about it, anyone writing a diet book is pretty bodacious to say that this diet will work for everyone (please consult your doctor before beginning…..)

So I Googled and I made a list of super foods and power foods and nutritionally dense foods. Then I looked at the OA Dignity of Choice pamphlet to get more ideas. Then I played around with the food tracking module on FitBit for a couple of hours. I finally came up with something that was under calorie recommendations for me, but only slightly, and seemed like it was simple enough to work and hit the high points for protein, carbs and fat. I added in fruit and grain and dairy (which I NEVER eat when I’m dieting.)

That was a little scary so I sent the plan over to my sponsor to see if my compulsive brain was on the right track and really listening to my higher power. Asking for help is new to me. So is the idea that just researching isn’t enough to make me 100% positive I am on the right track. Freaky.

So my plan of eating is this: 12 ounces of protein, 1 fruit, 1 dairy, 1 starch, no more than 32 grams of fat, 2 cups of cooked vegetables, 4  cups of raw vegetables and 96 ounces of water, plus vitamins. Since I have diabetes and had WLS, I decided to split these up into 6 meals/snacks. To get that many veggies, I’m going to have to make vegetable soup and smoothies and drink my veggies.

I am still avoiding my trigger foods, so in general avoiding processed food, junk food, soda, candy, sugar, etc, etc, etc.

Trying to eat at the table, put my fork down between bites, don’t drink with right before, during or right after my meals, be mindful. It’s a lot, but I don’t have to be perfect and I’m going to stop expecting that.

Step 2

Humility

I was comforted to learn that it is not unusual for people to come to OA and be scared away by the “God thing”. I have never had a problem with God, just religions which dictate what that is supposed to mean. I used that as an excuse to walk away. When I came back, maybe twenty years later, that was the biggest obstacle for me. I was ready to brazen it out and pretend, if that was what it took.

What I found was that I had it all wrong. OA doesn’t care if you believe in God or not, or that you belong to any religion.  The phrase “God, as I understand him” is now prominent in all the literature. What a relief! What that emphasizes is that compulsive over eating, like a lot of addictions, is an emotional disease with physical symptoms and a spiritual cure. They don’t care if your idea of God is a doorpost or an omnipotent (but loving) deity.

It turns out that my own idea of God had changed many times in the last 50+ years. It still isn’t something that would lead me to a church. Or temple, since we are Jewish.  We haven’t really gone to temple since my son was bar mitzvah’d last year. I think of myself as a social Jew. We light the candles, say the prayers and get out the good dishes for the high holidays.

What that gives me is a sense of connection to the other Jews across the planet. And that connection is what I believe in and forms the basis for my own spirituality. I feel my “higher power” when I reach out my empathy to feel what the people around me are feeling. When I am part of a group – from two to a thousand – all thinking about the same thing or doing the same thing. Saying the national anthem, praying, holding hands, singing a song – as long as I can get a sense that others are focused on the same thing that I am focused on, then I feel connected.

When I was young, that sense of empathy was too painful and I shut it down. For years I pretended that I didn’t feel anything – except anger. I refused to let myself cry – except in anger. I was big on anger. Anger felt powerful. Anger felt just. Anger felt strong.

But then, I worked a lot on feeling my emotions and dealing with them over the years. I’ve had some amazing therapists over the last 40 years and I’ve made a lot of progress, I just forgot to let myself have a spiritual life.

Despite that, I believe that God (as I understand him) has been working in my life anyway. My religious friends are all going “DUH!”.

How else can you explain the things that have happened in my life? Not the bad ones, the amazing ones.  As I work on Step 4, I’m also going to work on making a list of all the ways that being part of the spiritual universe (I really gotta work on my phrasing.)

So, for all my 12 step buddies out there, here you go: I have come to to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. For me, this just means I can’t do it alone (I have 50+ years of clear proof) but I think that help is available. Some way, some where, some how.

Step 1

journey1000miles

One of the things I came to understand and accept after the workshop March 19th is that Steps 1 = 3 are decisions, not actions. I was trying to figure out how to do them but it turns out, it was a little like the ruby slippers – I just had to click my heels together and believe.

Step One says “We admitted we were powerless over food ~ that our lives had become unmanageable.”

I I struggled with that because powerless meant helpless to me. I am not helpless. I am strong. I can and have done so many things. It helped to hear others that said the same thing – that they had to just admit that this was one area where steamrolling ahead just didn’t work.

I also really struggled with feeling that my life was not that unmanageable.  I have a family, friends, a job and a house. I’m very fortunate that all of those are pretty top notch. So what is so unmanageable?

What I learned in the last month was that food was the oil that made my life manageable and when I was trying to get “on plan” or falling off my plan, then I was often impatient, inattentive or just plain mean. If I was stressed about family or friends or work or money or ANYTHING, I had food as a crutch. Credit card bills too high? Have a cookie. Crazy day at work? Where’s the ice cream? No retirement plan? Bring on the fried chicken.

Sounds funny, doesn’t it?

For the last few months I would get so angry with people who kept saying they had to reach rock bottom before OA worked for them. I’m not at rock bottom. I’ve seen rock bottom and this ain’t it. It’s far from rock bottom. So OA won’t work for me? I have to keep suffering and hating myself. No. That was just my compulsive brain finding one more excuse not to jump on board.

Finally I could admit that I WAS at the end of my willingness to accept that that’s just the way my life was always going to be. That I was tired of the same yo-yo life of working to remake myself and my body, then sinking (or diving head first) back into the abyss.

I actually wrote this down on a sticky and taped it to my computer at work:  “If I am feeling overwhelming emotions of any kind and I turn to food instead of allowing myself to feel those emotions, that is INSANITY.”

It seems to help.  All the tools help. Having a sponsor. Going to meetings. Writing. Making phone calls.

Laying off my “alcoholic foods” helps the most, but the exercise helps a LOT. I’ve been taking brisk walks around the building when I feel like hitting the donuts or candy that lies around every freaking office in the world. I walk inside when the weather isn’t good, but try to get outside if the sidewalks are at all clear and I don’t think I’m going to bust my butt on the ice. This helps keep the stress to a minimum.

I’m also trying to be more of a listener instead of a talker. Ask, not tell is my new motto. What do you guys think? I say that so much I should have a sign printed up. Maybe a t-shirt.

Abstinent

abstinence

Today is Monday, March 28, 2016. I have been abstinent for 7 days. <cue the trumpeters!>

I’ve been learning and thinking a lot since last Sunday night. Oddly, I’ve been more peaceful about food than I can ever remember being. Usually I’m white-knuckling it through just about every day when I’m “on plan”. Every meal is a struggle and I think about food ALL THE TIME. I am angry and irritable and God help anyone who gets in my way.

This week? Not so much. I facilitated a really big strategy session at work. Usually that sort of thing stresses me out, which leads to eating, which leads to over eating and descent into at least a brief period where I am out of control.

Not this week. My workout was a success. I lost a pound and a half – woot!

I think the difference is that in the past, I would have skipped my walks and workouts to make time for the work. This week, I actually walked MORE than usual, went to pilates every single day after work and ate nutritionally dense foods. I cut back on my caffeine and drank about 100 ounces of water a day and took all my vitamins.

Whoa! Who is that masked woman? Ha ha. Seriously. When I think of having a successful week at work, those are not the things I thought about in the past. I think this job is good for me. There are no late nights or early mornings or weekends. 40 hours is the rule and there has to be a really good reason to make an exception to that rule.

Another thing that seems to have changed. In the past, when I was working on my eating problems, I’ve focused on writing and making plans (a diet, an exercise schedule, etc.). Those are actually the first of the OA tools that I started to use. The past few weeks, instead of writing and planning, I’ve been more focused on meetings and literature. I’ve been attending meetings either live or online and listening to podcasts and reading the OA and AA literature. My brain is still resistant, but not as much as it was, so that’s progress.

Part of me wants to cringe at all the things I’ve written with such authority about losing weight and getting on track and blah blah blah. Sure, it worked for me. But never for the long term. No matter how much I lost or how long I stayed on track (18 months, 150 pounds was my highest after WLS), I fell off the wagon. Today I am trying to be more humble and learn from the other compulsive over eaters that have gone before me on this path. I am the student and I am ready for the teachers.

So, for today, I have been abstinent for 7 days. Tomorrow I have a plan for doing it again, but that’s as far as I can commit. One day at a time.

 

PUT THE FOOD DOWN

putthefooddown

The last three weeks have been pretty intensive in terms of becoming teachable. My ego and my crazy compulsive overeater’s brain have been telling me crazy shit for a long time. I went to an all day OA workshop on the 19th that annoyed me (maybe because I didn’t want to hear or wasn’t ready to hear what was being said). I had a lot of emotional moments where I would start to cry at something that was said. I took a ton of notes. I could feel some of my resistance to the program starting to break down.

The day after the workshop, I woke up with a kidney stone and/or a UTI that sent me to the hospital emergency room. I was worn out and exhausted when I came home and my lovely husband and son waited on me and pampered me all day. I stayed on track eating-wise until about 9:30 Sunday night. I should have been in bed, but instead I was watching TV.

Suddenly I thought “I’ve had a hard day. I’m sick. I’m in pain. I deserve some ice cream.” The deed followed the thought with barely an instant’s delay. Not even a minute later I was cozied up in my chair again and the first bite was melting on my tongue.

Then the speaker’s voice from Saturday came into my head.

“Put the food down.”

He kept saying that ALL DAY. As if that was possible. As if I could do that. It made me angry. If I could put the food down, I wouldn’t be going to OA. I took the second bite, purely out of defiance.

“Put the food DOWN.” It was louder this time. I hesitated, briefly, as I took the third bite.

“PUT THE FOOD DOWN!” Now it was like thunder inside my head. I wanted to. I really did. But my diseased brain was fighting my willpower. Part of me knew, KNEW that I was going to lose and I was going to eat the whole carton. That I would sit up late into the night and watch tv and eat everything in the house that I could find. That I would wake up from my food coma tomorrow morning and despise myself.

I could feel the tears starting. I spooned up the fourth bite.

And then something miraculous happened. I closed my eyes and I remembered something else he said. “You are powerless over food. Not HELPLESS.”

I found myself thinking loving thoughts. I thought of my group at OA. I thought of their faces, their voices. I could hear their voices lifting me up. I stopped thinking I deserve ice cream and thought: I deserve a LIFE. I deserve to be HAPPY. I deserve to take care of myself.

I put the food down.

I put the fourth bite back in the carton and put the lid on. I went to the kitchen and put the carton into the freezer [NOTE: I should have tossed it in the trash!]

I washed out my mouth and got some water. I turned out the lights and I went upstairs to bed.

If you have never struggled with compulsive over eating, you probably don’t realize it, but that was the moment that it became possible for my life to change. 

 

 

 

Crappy Day

Yesterday was not a good day for the plan of eating. For one thing, I didn’t have one, so when I got hungry and my son offered to make me an egg and toast, I said yes.

It was whole grain, sprouted bread and I talked myself into believing that it would be okay.

But then I didn’t plan a good lunch so came in from working in the garage faint with hunger and grabbed the Nosa lemon yogurt. I knew. KNEW that it was full of sugar with the first bite, but I kept eating it. 36 grams of sugar. More sugar than I’ve had in total for the last two weeks.

Two weeks where I lost more than 2 pounds. 2 weeks when I had energy and good mood and felt great about myself.

So I had the yogurt and then tried to get back on track. I had a salad with chopped egg and bacon on it and that seemed to be fine. But  before dinner I was starving and I offered to take the boys out for burgers and fries just so I could have one.

I ate all of it. For forms sake, I left the last three, pathetic, overcooked and dried out fries on the plate, but I ate the other 100 or so. Dipped in ranch dressing, no less.

I had half the burger but by then I was so full, I was feeling sick. Instead of leaving it on the table, I boxed it up and brought it home. (I have successfully boxed up food before and left it on the table “by accident” but not this time.

A couple of hours later I had angered my son enough to leave the living room and I was alone and ate the rest of the burger.

Then I crawled upstairs and into bed and pulled the covers over my head.

I woke up this morning, determined to make THIS DAY a better one. That’s all I can do. Work on today.

 

Exercise at 53

My birthday is this month. In a mere 16 days I’ll be 53. A child, you say. A youngster.

Not so much.

In 2009, after my weight loss surgery, I was seven years younger and did some extreme things to get into shape. Kick boxing, running, cross fit, crazy boot camps, high impact/aerobic workouts.

For the last four years, I’ve been trying to do some of those things and failing. Minor injuries that have healed but have been a wake up call that I have to change how I go about getting into shape.

This is why, finally, after 20 years of hearing about it, I tried Pilates. I have no idea why I resisted the idea for so long. I don’t think I even knew what it was, but for some reason, I was determined not to do it.

In November, I finally took a free introduction to the Reformer given by the studio I now attend. A good way to get to know the instructor, the moves and the equipment without committing.

I confess, my first thought was – lie down to exercise? Sign me up! It’s harder than it looks. But it works great. And I find that I can actually get myself up at 5am to make my 6:15 class (that is a 40 minute drive away.)

The class is in Carson City, near where I work and I started it when I got hired and two weeks before I actually started. That way, I got used to the routine, and when I went to work, I had no excuses about putting it off until I was settled in my job. (I am the QUEEN of excuse making – trust me – this would have happened.)

At first I went 3 times a week for an hour. I started in November and lost 2 pounds in two months. Not a lot, you say? Ha! I lost TWO SIZES in  two months. That stuff works. And, I like it. My whole body feels better. I notice when I skip a class and not in a good way. I started out being able to do maybe 25% of the workout. Lots of resting and starting again. After three months, I find that I can do almost all of it – maybe 75%. This feels like great progress.

This week I added a fourth class, so I am going Mon, Tues, Thu and Fri for an hour each. If I add a fifth class at some point, it will most likely be on Wed as I do not want to drive 40 minutes for a workout. (Though I COULD also add the North Carson OA meeting at the same time. Something think about another day.)

Everyone I tell about it says, but it’s too expensive. Did I mention that my gastric bypass cost $70k? I think $12 for an hour class is much more reasonable. Three times a week for four weeks comes out to (wait while I do the math) $144 a month.

I’m also walking, which is completely free. About a month after I started Pilates, my old friend Ellen (we were roommates for study abroad in London in the mid-80s. Yes, I’m that old) sent me a Fitbit. I freaking love that thing. I am so competitive with myself and I really, really like metrics. So, I am trying to get as close to 10k steps a day as I can. This has also helped with tracking my food, sleep and resting heart rate. Thank you, Ellen!

I know that when I exercise, I not only look better, but I feel better. That’s both physical and mental. So I try to remind myself when I feel like skipping it, that not skipping it will feel even better.

Hello, My Name is Karen

In November last year, I found myself once again trying to get a jump on my New Year’s resolutions. I started Pilates. I started trying to eat better. It was really hard and slow and I was depressed about how often I’ve started over. Succeeded. Gone off track. Started again.

Exhausting. I thought of my counselor and dear friend Rebecca and wished she were nearby. I thought of going back to Green Mountain for a week. Or a year.

In my search for inspiration, I stumbled across this online test at the Overeaters Anonymous site. There are 15 questions.

  1. Do I eat when I’m not hungry, or not eat when my body needs nourishment?
  2. Do I go on eating binges for no apparent reason, sometimes eating until I’m stuffed or even feel sick?
  3. Do I have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment about my weight or the way I eat?
  4. Do I eat sensibly in front of others and then make up for it when I am alone?
  5. Is my eating affecting my health or the way I live my life?
  6. When my emotions are intense — whether positive or negative — do I find myself reaching for food?
  7. Do my eating behaviors make me or others unhappy?
  8. Have I ever used laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, excessive exercise, diet pills, shots or other medical interventions (including surgery) to try to control my weight?
  9. Do I fast or severely restrict my food intake to control my weight?
  10. Do I fantasize about how much better life would be if I were a different size or weight?
  11. Do I need to chew or have something in my mouth all the time: food, gum, mints, candies or beverages?
  12. Have I ever eaten food that is burned, frozen or spoiled; from containers in the grocery store; or out of the garbage?
  13. Are there certain foods I can’t stop eating after having the first bite?
  14. Have I lost weight with a diet or “period of control” only to be followed by bouts of uncontrolled eating and/or weight gain?
  15. Do I spend too much time thinking about food, arguing with myself about whether or what to eat, planning the next diet or exercise cure, or counting calories?

If you answer yes to “several” you might have a problem. Several is formally defined as more than 2 but not many.

I answered yes to 12 out of 15 and in the distant past (more than 20 years I’m happy to say) I could have answered yes to all 15.

I found this to be depressing, initially. I’m not sure why. It could be that I had major surgery to rearrange my digestive system to lose weight, then gained most of it back.

But deep down, I think it is because I’ve spent so much time in my life working on my issues with food and I just want to be done with it. I keep thinking I AM done with it. But I’m not and after taking this test, I was ALMOST ready to admit that I might never be done with it.

So what do you do when you have a problem that may be life long, definitely impacts your health and the lives of your family? If I was an alcoholic, I’d immediately think of of AA. Since my problem is food, OA is the reasonable answer. Crap.

This is not the first time I’ve  considered OA. Part of my resistance has been an unwillingness to believe that I have a disease and that a big old dose of willpower won’t cure.

Then there’s the God thing. I tried an OA meeting once but after listening, decided it wouldn’t work for me because I don’t believe in God and so I have never had faith in God as a Higher Power that could save me from myself.  As an entity at all interested in me and what I was doing or not doing. I’ve tried various religions and we have finally, as a family, settled on what I like to call Social Judaism. We light the candles, say the prayers and drink the wine on Friday nights. Occasionally we go to Temple. Our son was bar mitzvah’d.

I live in a rural area, so the other compulsive eating programs I found were not available. There are OA meetings almost every day of the week in the wider Carson City area. More if I drive to Reno.

Still I resisted. How can God help me if I don’t believe in him. (And I know, my Christian friends will say, He believes in me. Thanks. Still doesn’t help.)

So I did what I always do and I Googled it. “How to be part of OA without believing in God”. 896,000 results in .65 seconds. I started reading and found a lot of reassuring articles that says OA will not reject you. You won’t be a freak. And, yes, you have to hear the word God a lot, but that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and a lot of the steps in the list of 12 have to do with God and a higher power. Then I found this:

There are many acronyms for the letters G, O, and D, including: Good Orderly Direction or Guidance on Demand or Get Out Devil or Go On Dreaming or Group Of Divas or Gift of Delight or Gone off Destruction.

So I went to my first meeting. I listened to the invitation and the Twelve Steps. We took turns reading from the OA literature. I listened to their stories and I shared mine. I went to another meeting in the area, with some of the same people and some different people. I discovered that the meetings are formulaic and repetitive and I felt frustrated. I wasn’t seeing anyone that seemed to be successful. By that, I meant thin. But I kept going. There was something there. I bought the Just for Today book and started reading a page a day. (It’s online, too.)

About a month into meetings, one of the members said “this is an emotional problem, with a physical symptom that has a spiritual solution.” I cried. I started to listen more carefully to what everyone was saying.

One day another member talked about how the program had helped to bring peace, even if it didn’t bring thin thighs. My mean girl brain thought that was crazy. But then my sane brain asked if I wasn’t losing any weight, (a few pounds since November was not what I call success) then what if my goal, for once, wasn’t about losing weight?

WHOA, NELLY! I’ve had this crazy thought for the last few years and been making resolutions that had nothing to do with losing weight. Well, at least the public ones.  I could do with some peace.

So that’s what I’m doing. To paraphrase today’s Just for Today thought: I’ve begun working a spiritual program. I can’t imagine that I will ever become a spiritual giant. But if I look at myself realistically, I realize that I’ve been doing better than I thought I was.