It’s Going to Be OK

I know it’s been a while, but truth be told, there’s not been much to write about. Recovery generally means NOT thinking much about food, weight, numbers, etc. Well…until the ED tries to sneak back in.

I’ve gained weight. Roughly 10 pounds in a year. Today, I’m OVER the weight I stabilized at last time. And, boy, am I hit with F E E L I N G S.

The instantaneous urge (and socially accepted message) is “time to lose some weight before this comes a bigger problem.” Boy is that message loud in my head today. But, here’s the thing: I cannot casually lose weight. I cannot. The moment I start trying at all, I am consumed with obsession. The food rules pile up, the number tracking becomes obsessive, and I start spending tons of money on “safe foods” that I may never even eat.

I won’t be able to cook anymore, because tracking it will be too hard. The meals I’ve made and frozen will go to waste, because I won’t know the calories in them. I won’t be able to eat out, because the nutrition information isn’t available. I won’t be able to think of anything but food and numbers. I won’t be able to engage fully with my kids, because I will be hungry and obsessing. I won’t be able to hang out with my new friends I recently made, because I will avoid all social situations where food is involved.

So, here is where push comes to shove — for real. I’m over the weight I stabilized at last time. I’m over my “safe, comfortable-enough” weight. The numbers are wrong, bad, horrible numbers that hurt and terrify me. They are on my chest like an anvil…pressing.

Here’s where my recovery is challenged.

And, this time, I’m going to win.

No food rules. No number tracking. Just as I once sat and cried and panicked over eating an apple that took me over my daily calorie “limit,” I will sit and feel all the pain and fear over being heavier than what was “safe.”

And it will be ok.

I will still be safe.

I will still be a good mom. I will still be a good wife. I will still be a good-enough person.

I will still be worthy of love, and I will still be loved.

It is ok to be imperfect. It is ok to be squishy and lumpy and human. It is ok to recover.

Fear of Weight Gain: When Push Comes to Shove in Recovery

The past couple of months have been easy.
Too easy.
I’ve been eating intuitively, no restrictions…but I wasn’t gaining weight.
And, for a bit here, I genuinely thought maybe my body was just going to stabilize at this lower-than-last-time weight. (And, of course, my eating disorder screamed “maybe if you lose even more, your body will stabilize even lower…”)

And then it happened.
1 pound.
“It’s just water,” I told myself. Fluctuations are totally normal. It’ll probably go away again.
But, it didn’t. Instead, the scale went up a second pound.
And, I panicked.
Why was it so sudden? So much so suddenly? What am I doing wrong?

And there it is: Weight Gain = I’m Doing Something Wrong (Bad); Not Gaining Weight/Losing Weight = I’m Doing Something Right…something good. Admirable.
The core belief.
And, unfortunately, it’s a core belief fueled by a whole lot of reality.

People look up to me because I’ve lost weight. They comment on it, ask for advice, want to follow in my footsteps. It used to be a badge I wore with pride; now, it’s a pain point.

What am I supposed to say? “Thanks! I starved myself!”
Awkward silence.

I hate that I “have to” say “Thanks” at all.
I don’t want to say thanks.
I don’t feel pride; I feel shame.
I feel fear.
The same fear I feel right now, seeing the scale moving up. “In the wrong direction.”
Because weight gain is wrong, and weight loss is right.
Right?

I got cocky. I thought I was “fully recovered,” but I’m not. I’m at a crossroads.
I’m gaining weight, and I have a choice to make — because recovery is all about choices.
I can restrict and try to keep from gaining or even try to lose weight.
Or
I can eat without restriction even if it means gaining weight.

I don’t know if my fear of weight gain will EVER go away. Honestly, I don’t think it will. I’ve never ever been in a place where I didn’t fear weight gain. And, if I can’t change that — the only thing I CAN control is what I do with it and whether I let it control my life.

To be honest, right now, I don’t feel strong enough to face weight gain and not restrict. So, for me, who wants to stubbornly choose recovery — that leaves one choice:

Don’t look.

Don’t look at the scale, don’t face the weight gain. Just eat and don’t look.
And, holy crap, that is the most terrifying thought… which is how I know I have to do it.

Ugh.
Even writing this, I am nauseated with fear.
But my daughter is playing in the next room, my son is sleeping in his crib, and we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday today with cake and burgers, and I want to recover so that I’m REALLY there, participating.

So, I know I have to do this.
Be afraid, feel sick, tremble…and choose recovery anyways.

Goodbye, scale. I choose life.

Weight Loss Addiction

I wake up in the morning, use the restroom, and then slip out of my pajamas while analyzing every inch of my body in the mirror.

Do I look bloated today? Is my stomach sticking out further than yesterday? When’s the last time I had a bowel movement? (You’re welcome for that TMI.)

I step on the scale while holding my breath. I analyze everything I’ve eaten in the last 24 hours. Did some choice I made yesterday mean the scale will be higher today? The what-ifs start: What if I’d just foregone ONE snack, eaten 100 calories less, if I’d JUST skipped the chocolate…

The number comes up. It’s a loss!

I feel an immediate rush of pleasure: yes, yes, yes! I did it! It feels so good!

Do you know that feeling?

How long does it last for you?

It used to last me a while — a week, days, at least that one whole day. A 0.2 or half-pound loss would still give me a little dopamine spike for a bit.

Now, it lasts mere seconds, and only if I drop down to at least the next pound lower. I can maybe drag it out by posting about it somewhere, writing it down, recording it. But never for more than a few extra seconds.

Then, I am craving the next hit. I am thinking about the day to come. I am making food plans, figuring out how best to avoid food situations, re-analyzing yesterday’s choices for what I could’ve done better to get a bigger loss… a bigger hit.

It’s an addiction. And, I don’t know when it became this.

The truth of the matter is, I’m pretty OK with the way my body looks right now. I’m 134 pounds, 5’6”, I lift weights, so I have some muscle definition — yes, I have loose skin, but I’m healthy. I’m average. (That’s frightening in and of itself, but that’s another post for another day.) So, if I’m OK with my body, why do I want to keep losing weight?

This is not something I was ever warned about when I began my weight loss journey. And, maybe it’s not an issue for everyone, but it makes sense that it is for me. I used to use food to get that dopamine rush. Nothing made me feel as (temporarily) “good” (or, at least numb) as a binge. And, over time, I had to eat more and more to get those feelings, which also lasted less time. I wish I had considered that the same might be true for weight loss.

I don’t know how to end this blog because, right now, I’m stuck in this addiction. I can only say, if I did it all again, I would focus more on nurturing the other things in my life so that my world didn’t shrink around any one thing: food, weight loss, exercise, a person… anything can be addictive. And, since I think I’m probably hardwired to be prone to obsession, I would and will focus more on being flexible in any area of my life where I begin to become rigid.

I know I needed to lose weight at one point in my life, but I wish I’d had a better picture of the long game.

Keep Your Diet Away From My Holidays

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I’ve been reflecting a lot about past holidays. I remember sitting in Weight Watchers meetings around this time of year hearing the leaders talk about how to portion out your plate and comparing the different Points values for each of the traditional side dishes. If I remember correctly, Weight Watchers even had an interactive web page where you could build a Thanksgiving plate of food and see how many Points you would be using. Most of us hoarded our “extra weekly points” for this meal, and there was a lot of anxiety over leftovers as well.

I also remember always worrying about what my family would think of however I might look that year. I’ve been a lot of shapes and sizes, and I almost never look the same from one Thanksgiving to the next (and this year is no exception). I’d change outfits a half a dozen times trying to find the right combination of flattering and comfortable.

During my binge eating days, I remember sneaking a lot of food during and around the meal when I thought people were not looking. I remember eating until I was in pain and then doing it again and again with leftovers in the days that would follow Thanksgiving. I felt out of control around those leftovers and, to this day, Thanksgiving leftovers cause me a lot of anxiety, which is why I have always tried to “forget” my leftovers box when we leave my mother’s house (hi, mom! I know you’re reading…)

During my restrictive days, I have some pretty dark memories of how I handled the food during holidays – the details of which I’m too ashamed to share. There was also one Thanksgiving during which I used veganism to avoid eating pretty much anything. Instead, I brought along my own box of “safe” foods so that I could at least appear to be eating something.

Reflecting back on all of these holiday memories really makes me sad: why are so many of my holiday memories about food and weight anxieties? I LOVE the holidays…or, at least, I thought I did.

This Thanksgiving is going to be different. This Thanksgiving, I will not be tracking my food or calories; I will not be weighing or measuring my food; I won’t even be weighing myself. There’s not a single food I will avoid; in fact, if the little voice in my head says to avoid a certain food, I’m challenging myself to eat the thing its telling me not to eat — even if it’s just one bite.

This Thanksgiving, I will not starve all day to “reserve calories” for this one meal. I will eat when I am hungry, and I will eat until I am full. I will trust my body AND my hunger to guide me in how much I should consume. This is the challenge my nutritionist and I have agreed upon: I am to follow my hunger so that we can see what happens. So far, nothing catastrophic.

This Thanksgiving, I will happily and, with gratitude, take those leftovers home and actually eat them. Yes, even the stuffing and pecan pie.

And, when Christmas comes, I will have Christmas cookies, Christmas brunch, Christmas Eve AND Christmas dinners. I might eat past fullness — overeat, you might say. I might gain a little weight. The world will not end.

I’m talking as if this is all easy; it isn’t. But, I’m setting the intention anyways. I’m tired of worrying about calories during the holidays (and every other day too); I’m tired of centering my life around food and body shape. I thought that my life would no longer be all about food when I finally got thinner, but the opposite was actually true.

Food, diets, weightloss, “lifestyle changes” to be thinner, eating disorders, whatever you want to call it…have robbed me of enough time. They are not welcome at my holiday celebrations this year.

1934959_10101199863900073_600206907137622368_n

Eat Less, Weigh Less: A Woman’s Mantra

43117043_10102349786336293_6428486540736856064_nMy whole life, I have always thought there was only one way to “be” as a woman: eat less, weigh less.

That’s how you get thin; that’s how you stay thin. And, women should be thin.

After years of trying and failing to commit to eating less, somehow, I finally got a grip on that chain, and I’ve been toeing that line for a decade.

It’s exhausting. There’s a reason that all of the studies show that most people who lose weight will gain it back. (Even my nutritionist tells me that I’m the first person she’s ever met who is part of the National Weight Control Registry.) I have spent years living in fear that I will gain it all back too. To combat that fear, I clung to this truth: “If I eat less, it can’t happen.”

Starvation is a full-time job. There are no breaks when you turn restriction into a lifestyle. When every calorie matters, food becomes an obsession: the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night. It even invades your dreams. You learn to live at a low level of hunger at all times.

I am so tired of being hungry.

Three months ago, I stumbled into a local gym that provides personal training and specializes in educating their clients about all things health-related. During my consultation, I told the owner that I had nutrition down but was ready to learn about exercise.

For the first couple of months, I continued to do what I’ve always done: eat less. I asked even more of my body, and I was so angry at it when it “failed me.” In frustration, I did, again, what I’ve always done: I doubled down on my commitment. I decided that I would eat even less, I would work out even more. That has always been the answer: eat less, move more. Right?

And then, about a month ago, after literally crying outside of the gym after a particularly bad day in which I felt weak and like I had regressed in my strength training, I found this video by a female fitness (and especially strength training) guru, Natacha Océane. In the video, she halved her caloric intake for a week (dropping from her normal 2,500-2,800 to just 1,400 calories per day, which was about what I was eating at the time) but continued her typical exercise routine. Suddenly, she couldn’t lift nearly as much weight, she was exhausted, and every time she ate, she just felt more hungry.

I felt like I was watching myself from that morning at the gym – unable to lift what I’d just been able to lift a couple of weeks before.

And something clicked. And I watched more videos, read more articles, scoured the internet world of female strength training and…holy…crap.

There is an entirely different world out there.

There is a world of women who are eating more, gaining muscle (which means, yes, gaining weight on a scale), and yet somehow being leaner and stronger and a million times more alive than my starving self.

There are countless women showing how they moved from an “eat less, weigh less” lifestyle to an “eat more, f#@% the scale” strength training lifestyle and are now actually a few dress sizes smaller despite a higher number on the standard scale.

But, more than that, there are women who have said “f#@% the scale, f#@% my appearance, I want to be strong. I want to be able to do pull-ups. I want to run a Spartan race. I want to deadlift double my weight. And that is what is going to fulfill me.”

At first, I was thinking “well of course it’s OK for you, super fit women, to eat more; but, not me. I’m not allowed to eat that much.”

What sealed the deal for me, though, was my trainer very bluntly telling all of us that he sees so many of his female clients come in eating next to nothing and desperately trying to lose weight, and that his goal for us was to see us eating more, getting stronger, and focusing on performance goals.

That told me “Yes, you…specifically you…who are not super fit or lean like the women in those YouTube videos, you who still have a lot of body fat…even you are allowed to eat more. NEED to eat more. This will work even for you.”

And, so I am.

2018-10-15_8-48-59

Slowly, and with a lot of fear and trepidation, but also with trust and just as much stubbornness and willpower as it took to restrict, I am increasing my intake. I am changing my goals.

I am no longer trying to eat less to weigh less; I am trying to eat more to get stronger and to develop a lifestyle in which I am thriving – doing so much more than trying to stay thin.

And, it’s working.

43733861_10102357402503433_855019338845913088_n

I went from never running a mile straight to being able to run a 5k in a matter of weeks. (Aiming for my first 10k on Thanksgiving day!)

43788009_10102357185024263_2510644556173672448_o

If you follow me on Instagram (@saladflambe), you’ll have already seen this, but I gained a pound this month, and it was all muscle; plus, I still lost some fat. All while eating more, not less.

I want to shout it from the rooftops… every time I see someone talking about how little they are eating, I want to take their face in my hands, look them in the eye and say “you don’t have to do that! There is another way to live! And to really, truly be alive!”

43952054_10102357402498443_2476956146963841024_o

Yes, even for you.

 

The Lies “Before and After” Photos Tell

Everyone loves a good before and after photo; lots of people loved mine a few years ago. (Let’s be honest – as much as I wish it were the other way around, it’s the photo that made that post go viral, not my writing.) But, for me, before and after photos perpetuated a lie.

A “good” before and after photo is no better than an ad in a magazine with a too-thin model. A “good” before and after photo says “it is possible to achieve society’s standard of an acceptable body!”

I wonder what my before and after photo made you think…

But, here’s the thing…

Real “after” isn’t so pretty.

Real “after” isn’t always a flat stomach, smaller rear, and toned limbs.

Real “after” is loose skin and stretch marks that I will always carry with me, because I was overweight, and I can’t ever escape that.

Real “after” is persistent and painful skin infections that I get due to moisture getting trapped in the sagging skin on my abdomen.

Real “after” is looking in the mirror and constantly questioning “are those rolls of fat or just loose skin?”

2018-09-21_8-28-38

(Sept 2018)

15895198_10101591058981993_6316387081000897468_n

2015

Real “after” is seeing one body when you’ve got clothes on and an entirely different one when you’re naked.

Real “after” is adjusting your own droopy skin throughout the day, trying to make it look more flattering or feel more comfortable.

Sometimes, real “after” is just as uncomfortable as “before.” Sometimes, possibly more uncomfortable.

Real “after” can mean body dysmorphia.

I wish we could take before and after photos of our minds. What might those look like?

Are “after” minds happier? More relaxed? Freer?

Are they satisfied? Full of self love? Content?

Is life easier?

Or, are they more anxious? Terrified of losing “what they worked so hard for?” Lost? Lacking in a definition of self?

How much mental time, energy, and space is maintaining that weight loss taking up? Can the “after” mind even accept that “after” is here?

And, if we could see before and after photos of minds, would we still choose to pursue weight loss?

And, if so… why?

Whole30 Did Not Make Me Whole

“I am Whole30!” That’s what those who complete a round of this elimination diet post on day 31 (or beyond). Well, today is my day 31, and so, today, I felt it important for me to say…though I successfully completed a Whole30 round, I am not Whole30.

Whole30 did not make me whole.

Let’s rewind.

37260424_10211892904706180_2841913721561808896_n

Like most people with food and eating issues, I have relationship problems.

My relationships with people? …fragile.

My relationship with food? …complicated.

My relationships with numbers? …obsessive.

My relationship with myself? …abusive.

 

Like a lot of people with or without food and eating issues, I often struggle with a feeling of “never enough.”

Never enough money.

Never enough time.

Never enough energy.

Never full enough.

Never fulfilled enough.

Never thin enough.

Never strong enough.

Will I ever be enough?

22221871_10101951257611053_4616164949797964214_n

Funny thing about food issues — they are rarely solved by food. Neither the addition nor elimination of it. That’s because food issues are rarely about food.

They are about fullness. Enoughness. Worthiness.

They are about feelings and the overwhelming act of feeling them.

They are about aloneness and emptiness and the desperate search for connection and safety and something reliable…that will not leave you, nor hurt you, nor change.

They are about control and the terror of realizing how very little of it we have in life. Over anything. Not even over our own bodies.

36552236_10102251928045093_2460792660315602944_n

No diet, meal plan, exercise regime, or heroic amount of self control can solve food issues. And, I desperately wish I could sit here and tell you what can solve them, but your answer will likely be different from mine.

I can tell you that it’s not Whole30. It’s not Weight Watchers or keto or going paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or raw. I can tell you that the answers aren’t there. Those are merely different ways of eating, and food issues aren’t solved through eating (nor are they solved through starving).

In fact, maybe food issues…at least mine…aren’t even food issues at all. Maybe they are, in fact, a coping mechanism for something not even remotely related to food.

This is tough shit, guys. This is coming face to face with yourself and realizing that deep fear of “not enough-ness” you (I) carry will not just go away if you (I) lose weight.

Changing the number on the scale… that’s the easy part of this. Changing the “number” (the value) I assign myself… that’s the hard part.

The “After” Myth

DURING

After.

It’s here.

In my first post, Before, 3 years ago, I said “I’m not to After yet, but I’m closer to After than to Before.”

I now weigh 117 – 120 pounds (depending on the day), and standing at 5-foot 6-inches, that measurement means that After is very, very here. But, before you congratulate me, dear readers…if I have any…and dear friends and family who I know follow this blog… I have to come clean with you: I don’t feel like I’m at After. I’m terrified of being at After. And, I don’t like that After is here.

After5 2

The tagline of my blog is “uncovering myself one pound at a time.” For most of this blog, I’ve spoken strongly about how my relationship with food and myself was what caused my weight struggles. I stand by that. The thing is, the symptoms have resolved faster than I’ve been able to treat the deeper disease. I’ve lost the weight, but I’ve failed to uncover and learn to truly love myself in the process. Truthfully, I have no idea who I am without “needs to lose weight” being one of the primary parts of my identity.

This is why I have not been posting…because this blog is not about weight loss…it’s about life gain. I could not bear to post here about the beautiful things one can gain in life by learning to love yourself while, in the background, hating myself so hard while the weight melted off. Progressing on the outside while regressing internally. Because, that’s the truth, readers. The last stretch of this weight loss hasn’t been healthy OR happy: it’s been agony. It’s been sad. It’s been an exercise in mourning.

After2 2

I’ve gotten so good at putting on the happy face. At “smile, nod, yes, thank you, I have lost a lot. No, I’m not trying to lose any more; you don’t need to worry.” I’m very good at this script, but it’s been such a lie, readers. The truth is my body melted away, and I stared at myself in the mirror not understanding why I couldn’t love the skin I’m in. Why? I thought After was the goal!

But I made a mistake.

A crucial mistake.

I forgot that the number on the scale is only a number. Only just a number. It’s not a before. It’s not an after. Getting that number to a certain set of digits is not my After.

I’m not at After. There is no After – happily ever or otherwise. There is only today. Just today – During.

After1 2

I tell you this now not to discourage you but to hopefully prevent someone from making the mistake that I did and associating After with a number. I weigh 120 pounds and still struggle with my weight. Losing weight does not mean you no longer struggle with your weight; I wish I had truly understood that. I still struggle with food. I still struggle with me.

Looking at the picture I put first in this post, I have to pause. I look at me … past vs. present. That is me. All of those pictures are of me. People say they do not recognize the girl in the other pictures. I’m here to say: that girl is me.

Don’t look at her as an abomination, because enough people, myself included, did that already.

Don’t congratulate me on no longer being her; I still am her. And doesn’t she deserve to be?

Don’t tell me I look better; I don’t. I look different.

Don’t speak of her as if she is a poor, piteous person. She’s not.

She’s me.

She’s standing right here, and she is fucking strong.

After3 2

There. Is. No. After.

There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of weight loss because the rainbow has no end.

There is today. There is now. There is during. There is life.

I uncovered myself one pound at a time; now, I must REcover myself…I must DIScover myself. And that…that is the new goal. Not numbers. Not sizes. Not inches.

Me. I am the goal. Finding. Loving. Being.

Can anybody hear me?

After6 2