Category Archives: overeating

A worthwhile look at Anti-Coping

Last week I asked the question, ‘How Do You Deal?’ and received some very supportive, honest answers.  In times of stress I have found myself trying to deal with boulders by trying like hell not to let whatever is happening in my life CONSUME my life. 

Discussing enormous stress-related issues always gives me a reason to use the swimming analogy:

When things are going smoothly, you’re in the shallow-end doing nice, easy laps.  You’re relaxed because you have complete control of your surroundings: you can clearly see that the other end of the pool is nearby; if you happen to get tired you can easily ground yourself by touching the bottom if you’re so inclined.

When stressful or anxiety-filled situations start entering your life, you don’t feel as much in control as before. You may sense that the bottom is still there but it’s harder to see.  The water isn’t calm like before.  You’re fatigued but you know that you can still make it if you keep your head clear, stay calm and maintain a slow but steady pace.  You have an idea where the other end of the pool is but because of all the choppy water it now makes it more difficult to visualize. 

When stress becomes all consuming you can’t see the bottom anymore.  The end is no longer in your sight and you can’t sense where it is.  You feel like you’re swimming against a strong, choppy currant and you start hesitating, wondering – even doubting if you’ll ever make it.

For me, that’s when panic sets in and I begin frantically searching around me looking for stability.  It’s usually around that point when I see what I think is a life preserver floating nearby.  It’s not, though.  It may look like one but this floatation device looks and tastes just like a donut (minus the sprinkles). 

 

doesn't it kind of look like a red and white donut?

 

The trick of course, is to not allow myself to get to that last scenario.  I’ve always said that I use food as a means of coping – a band-aid to help me deal with whatever is going on.  I never realized that my choice of words were utterly inappropriate for what I was describing.  My food – my safety device, my ‘band-aid’ is not an aid whatsoever.  All my band-aid does is cover up the wound so that I can’t see it while I’m busy distracting myself. 

Huh.  Why is this just now clicking with me?  I mean, deep down I always knew it wasn’t a healthy way to cope, but I think that sometimes it’s easier to give simple answers to hard questions because we don’t have the energy to sit down and think about what they actually mean. 

This morning I read Kyra’s post on Anti-Coping.  It resonated with me so much I had to share a link to it from here.  Her words hit me at precisely at the right time and I feel like I have a better understanding of why I use food in times of extreme stress.  It is powerful, direct, to the point and absolutely worth reading if you happen to use food like I tend to do when stress becomes too much:

…from The Never-ending Adventures in Fitness and Life:  Anti-Coping.

Food Monsters and Spring Photos

Things here at Casa Recup are moving along, albeit slowly.  I’m having deja-vu with my caregiver responsibilities.  This time I’m the strong, healthy one leading around the foggy-headed, washed out, tummy-sensitive spouse.  It’s amazing how anesthesia affects people differently.  Craig is finding it hard to concentrate but nothing like what I was suffering last year (remember when I thought I was taking one of those online quizzes and found that I’d actually signed up for a dating service?) Yeah, he’s not that bad, thank goodness. 

Yesterday the both of us were a bit disheartened because for a brief time, Craig’s mystery pain came back.  It was so bad, he had to go back to bed for the rest of the morning.  I immediately went into panic mode and without even thinking about it began looking around in the kitchen for something – anything sweet.  I knew what I was doing and consciously made the decision to focus on what I was going to find instead of how it would make me feel afterward.  It’s amazing how determined one can get when she sets her mind to something.  If I had that kind of intense focus on other parts of my life I’d probably be rich. 

What is it about stress and food, specifically?  I’m reading other blogs where my cohorts are having the same issues: things get tough and all they want to do is comfort that fear, that loss of control, like I do –  with food.  What is it about our brain wiring that makes us head straight for the pantry when we know that it isn’t healthy for us to do so?  For me, that part of my brain just shuts off and I have tunnel vision until I achieve what I’ve set out to do: push that fear down with food until that uncomfortable feeling in my gut is all have left to think about.   I didn’t binge eat, but I did have the beginnings of a pretty good stomachache by the time I was done.  Mission…accomplished?  I’ve gotta find a different way.   On the bright side, I am able to manage these thoughts when I’m having run off the ordinary every day stress. It’s the kind of stress that shakes my world which causes me to seek out that sugar and carb abyss. 

It wasn’t until later that evening that I started thinking back about my own surgery last year.  I remembered something that I brought to Craig’s attention. 

As I was being wheeled back into my room after having had my hysterectomy I recall having the worst menstrual cramps of my life.  My first thought: What the hell?!  Didn’t I just have my gut opened up and worked on so that I never had to suffer this pain again?  What is happening? 

I relayed this memory to Craig and assured him that of course he will be having pain in the area that’s been causing him grief for nearly two months.  He just had surgery in that very spot and it’s going to take time to heal; we simply can’t make judgments this soon in his recovery.  Yes, it is unfortunate and unfair that we have more waiting to do, but this is the way things are and we just have to be patient.  What other choice do we have? 

I am so grateful that whenever I’m going through a personal crisis, there is usually something good happening to balance it out. 

When I was going through my first divorce, I became friends with Craig. 

When Patty died last year and I had my surgery, my art business was born. 

This year, as Craig and I deal with his health issues, surgeries and the unknown, my art career is beginning to move slowly forward.  I have been selling consistently at the gallery in Indianapolis (thanks in part, to a few very loyal collectors) and I was asked to provide nine framed prints of some previous work for an animal hospital that just opened this past week in my town.  In fact, they officially opened in their new building the day of Craig’s surgery.  So, while I’ve been caring for Craig I’ve also been getting work together to take to the hospital before their Open House next week. 

One would think I’d have no time to fool with unhealthy eating habits but hey, at least I’ve got a few surprises left to share, huh? 

Not having had time to paint, I’ve been taking lots of photos in my yard which is buzzing with activity.  Here’s a couple that have made me really happy this week: 

 

Poppies are my absolute favorite flowers; I’ve always wanted to paint them but was determined that they came from my own yard.  I haven’t painted flowers in a long time so you might be looking at my next painting. 

fairy2013

 

My peonies are up as well, so of course I had to include Shaylee, my favorite fairy that watches over my creek every summer.  I’ve used her in a couple of paintings, one of which was claimed by one of my favorite people last year – Teresa from Spirit Grooves.  Photographing this sweet wonder along with my flowers and the many birds that stop by to cheer us up is enough to get me through the rough patches, and I really do feel blessed in my life.  This is just a hiccup, and I need to figure out more appropriate ways to deal with the challenges life brings.  I think as always, awareness is the first step. 

Anxiety vs. Food

If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, seen a weight-loss commercial or an interview of someone who’s lost a significant amount of weight, you’ve probably heard them say, I’m never going to be heavy again!  Personally, I’m too afraid to utter those words.  Rather than test fate, I know that I still have to take things one day at a time.   2012 has taught me many things – mainly, that nothing in life stays the same.  Never before have I been more aware of that than the past few months.

I spent the majority of this weekend working at Patty’s house, removing the last of her belongings and saying goodbye to the one remaining thing that linked me together with her – her home.  I’d been dreading Saturday and Sunday, becoming increasingly agitated as last week drew to a close, but attributed my emotions to a host of other, unimportant things.  With my anxiety building, I found myself wanting to reach for copious amounts of comfort food before the weekend even arrived. 

This time I tried to think ahead and made a plan to busy myself with painting instead of eating.  By the time Thursday arrived I was furiously working in my studio, finishing three watercolors before the day was over (quite a feat for me.)  All three paintings had themes that were specifically chosen to give a calming, zen-like feel.   Here are two of the three that I finished:

 

 

Thursday came and went and I climbed into bed exhausted.  I wish I could report that I didn’t give in to numbing my grief with food, but I’d be lying. 

On Friday, I woke up determined to not only begin, but complete a very tedious art project.  Working solely with cut paper and glue, I pushed myself for over 12 hours until I finished this: 

I regularly post photos of work in progress on my Facebook art page (which you are invited to ‘Like’ if you’re a Facebooker) and I love receiving comments and ideas from people.  On this particular project I had several comments from some very wise people who saw things that I didn’t.  Well, not until it was pointed out to me:  one – she’s a young Patty (who used to wear a red hat every time she went out) and two – she is me.  Two people combined to make a self portrait. 

Well now, that ought to make a good topic for a therapy session, no?

Again, when I was finished I’d hoped that the anxiety I was feeling would be gone and that I could wake up on Saturday and put myself into full work-mode.  The weekend came and went, leaving me feeling completely drained, both emotionally and physically.  I didn’t binge (I didn’t have time), but I did make extremely poor choices and ate without regard to any consequence. 

Today, I’m feeling disappointed in myself; I really wish I’d been able to channel my emotions strictly into my work – to completely lose myself in distraction.  After seven+ years in maintenance, you would think that I’d have worked out this part by now. 

If anything, this experience has shown me that I will most likely always be a work in progress.  Now that the crisis has passed all I can do is pick myself up and try again next time.  Until then I’ll just keep reminding myself that at least I haven’t thrown in the towel.  I’m still fighting to figure things out and hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to say that food and I have a very healthy relationship with one another.

Have a good week, everyone. 

XO,

~E

 

Beginning Again

I had a déjà vu experience this week.  I found myself overwhelmed and anxious (I know, nothing new there, right?); but, it triggered a sugar craving like the ones I used to get when I was heavy.  The feeling was instantaneous.  It wasn’t a simple desire, but more like a desperate urge that I had to fill. 

No, I wasn’t on Pinterest looking at all of the food porn that’s constantly making appearances, nor had I just finished watching something from the FOOD Channel on TV.  I wasn’t even near the kitchen when it happened.  I was in my bedroom, reading.  Specifically, reading about the ‘8 Mistakes Small Business Owners Make’ when I put my laptop down and started thinking about eating. I got up from my comfy reading spot and my train of thought specifically went to lemon squares.  What my deal is with lemon squares lately, I do not know.  But there it was, festering.  I began to pace around the house, wondering which route I would take to get to the one place in town that has the best lemon squares I’ve ever had. (Damn you, Uptown Kitchen!)  Just so you know, not only was it storming outside, but it was also cold – the two things that normally wouldn’t drive me from the house for anything.  But as I say, I had serious crave brain going on. 

I changed my clothes, put on my shoes and took one last look outside at the wind and rain, and noticed something.  I couldn’t stand still.  I was shifting from one foot to the other.  Slowly, I started paying more attention to my body language – the fidgeting hands and the urge to leave the house.  I realized then that what I was experiencing was the same type of feeling I used to get in college, which always led to a sugar binge.  I’d have a deadline for an art project that I felt I wasn’t ready for;  or, say, a critique in class that left me feeling unprepared and nervous.  In other words, my anxiety was at warp speed and wanted that sweet relief it once used to get. 

I immediately sat down at the table with my coat still on, picked up a marker and slid over a piece of watercolor paper.  If I want sugar that bad, I’m going to have to work for it first, I thought.  I began to write down all of the things that I was feeling anxious about.  The first thing I wrote down was the word Etsy.  Okay, I’m obviously having anxiety over starting my own business; that’s perfectly normal.  But then I began writing things down that included phrases like: time constraints, not enough talent, fear of making mistakes, poor marketing skills, and so on. Separately, I wrote a list of frustrations I’ve been experiencing as a result of my sloth-like recuperation from surgery two months ago.

It took about 15 minutes to purge myself of the negativity I’d been keeping locked away in my mind.   When I read everything through a second time I realized that aside from my post-surgery woes, 90% of what I wrote came from something I’d recently read about starting a business.  There are endless articles online that want to show me what I’m doing wrong, what I could be doing better and why I’m not succeeding.  Realistically, if I took every piece of advice and actually did all of those things, I’d literally drive myself mad.

 

 

Starting anything, whether it’s a business or a diet can be extremely intimidating.  One of the reasons why it took me so long to regain control of my health was because it was too overwhelming to throw out all of my off-limit foods and adhere to a long list of diet rules and make time for all of the exercises and weight loss group sessions.  Doing nothing may get you nowhere, but feeling like you have to do everything perfectly can make you feel just as paralyzed, trust me. 

I may have conquered my weight issues, but stress, anxiety and fear are just a part of life.  I needed to get a handle on how I was going to deal with my feelings of doubt but reverting back to old habits was simply not an idea that I had the luxury of entertaining. 

Deep Breath……now repeat: We do what we can do. 

Okay…so, yes I’m nervous;  yes I’m scared, and yes, I’m afraid that I may screw up; but I also need to start taking my own advice.  Maybe there was a reason why Woman’s Day contacted me during the same summer that I had major surgery and my job ended. Perhaps I needed a reminder of the day I began the bold yet scary task of losing weight; of how hard, yet how rewarding it was/is.  Maybe it was to remind me that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and afraid – I just can’t let it stop me from the act of beginning. 

If you’re beginning something new,or contemplating a new start for a better life, you’re not alone.  Just remember to keep focused, do what you can and treat every little accomplishment as a big deal, because it is.  We have to remember that to succeed, we must begin, regardless of how small and insignificant the act may sound.  Because really, who knows where we might just end up? 

 

 

 

**GIVEAWAY**

I had thirteen responses to my book giveaway, and I was glad to see many new faces in the comments section!  If you’re new here, WELCOME!!

It would have been so COOL to have taken pictures of me plugging in my cyborg robot as it mathematically produced the lucky winner from its mouth (which also serves as a printer!) But, my bazillion dollar robot is unfortunately in the shop at this time so I had to resort to option 2:  asking my husband as he was leaving for work to shout out a number between 1 and 13.  He yelled back:  NUMBER ELEVEN – HAVE YOU SEEN MY COFFEE MUG?  You’ll sleep well knowing that we did find his coffee mug (and thanks honey, for the help!)  :)

So, Margot – you are my lucky winner of Unjunk Your Junk Food!   Please contact me and send me your address so I can wrap this baby up and ship it out to you ASAP!! 

To the rest of you who entered and to those who entered after the deadline, I plan another giveaway next month, as I always do around my blog’s anniversary – and I have a few great items lined up so stick around!

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you back here next week.

xo,

~Ellen

The Ups and Downs of Weight Loss

As I was catching up on other blogs last night I came across a post written by a blogger that resides pretty close to my heart.   She is a special one, Teresa is.  Always supportive, always thinking of others needs – even when she herself is struggling.  I noticed that she hadn’t posted in a while.  When that kind of thing happens to a blogger I value, I both worry and talk myself out of worry.  “I hope she’s not sick.  No, she’s just terribly busy, that’s all.  It’s fine.”  Finally a post popped up in my reader and as I read, I realized, at least partly, what had been going on. She’d gained 12 pounds and avoided writing about it on her blog.  I could feel the frustration in her words, the disappointment she felt in herself, and finally, her determination to get herself back on track.  Her commenters were loving, kind, and supportive as they always are within this community. 

That post immediately transported me back to the time when I could have been the one writing those words.  I’d finally broken from the 200’s and slid into the 190’s seamlessly.  I had a little help breaking through that barrier, though: stress.  My first marriage was failing.  Consciously I didn’t know what was happening, but deep down I must have been aware of the affair.  I kept myself busy with diet and exercise and that became my focus. If I look better, I can save my marriage.    The weight continued to drop and I made it down to the 180’s. 

I don’t quite remember what triggered my sudden reversal, but I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that since my weight loss didn’t affect how my husband felt about me, I kind of gave up on it.   Becoming healthier wasn’t going to save my marriage, so why bother?  (as I write this, I wish I could speak to that girl and give her all the wisdom she would ever need to know about putting herself first. It kind of breaks my heart to see myself as that person but in retrospect, I needed that experience to happen in order to save myself.) 

What followed was depression.   Depression and overeating go hand in hand with me and so I ate, while watching the scale rise, rise, rise.  I remember continuing to weigh myself even though I knew I was gaining.  I think it was probably some form of self punishment, because it only made me more depressed.  And yes, then I would eat more. 

It wasn’t until one morning when I weighed in at 199 that something ‘clicked.’  You hear people say that a lot….. I don’t know what happened.  Something just clicked…Sometimes we can explain it; sometimes not.  For me, it was like I’d finally had my fill of self abuse.  Suddenly, I was done abusing my body for an action that wasn’t even mine to own.  I was angry, and sad, and determined.  And it was enough to turn me in the right direction once again.  Yes, I was losing the same 15 or 16 pounds that I’d already lost, but it was my life and I had three choices: to continue abusing myself, to stay the same, or to regain control of my life.

 

When reading weight loss success stories and seeing the before and after photos, it’s easy to forget how much time has passed between Point A and Point B.   Many of these stories are just snapshots of what was in reality, many months of denial, bouts of depression and then finally, clarity.  Every day provides us with some kind of challenge.  Maybe today it’s the decision to have a hysterectomy.  Maybe tomorrow it’s trying to figure out how to deal with the constant fear of that post-menopausal weight-gain that one keeps hearing about.  The point is, today is all we have. 

We do what we can do today. 

We find the strength today. 

Life is going to roll on as she pleases, and sometimes she’s going to roll right over us, like it or not.  Maybe next time when she’s in her foul mood, we step a little faster; maybe we get lucky.

I feel terribly lucky right now.  For years I chipped away at my weight alone, not realizing this community even existed.    It’s only now, in maintenance, that I feel truly home with all of you, wherever you currently are in life. 

I wasn’t really sure where this post was going when I started it this morning but I guess the bottom line is this:  please don’t consider yourself a failure when you don’t meet or exceed your expectations.  It may take 4 or 5 ups and downs before you hear that ‘click’.  It doesn’t mean you don’t want it badly enough.  It just means that you’re still learning how to get there.

Have a great Thursday.

XO,

~Ellen

To Whom It May Concern

February 2nd. 2012

Dear Indulgence Pastry Shop and Café,

I am writing to let you know the effect your bakery has had on me over the past few weeks.  You are very conveniently located right across the street from where I practice yoga, and your bright red sign catches my eye while driving to work as well. I have enjoyed every minute of walking through your front doors while the scent of cinnamon, yeast and chocolate overwhelm my senses.  Exiting your store however, has left me silently comparing myself to a recovering alcoholic walking into a local bar.

I was first introduced to your establishment when my employer was gifted a box of your oatmeal raisin cookies.  She loved them so much, she recently began asking me to drive to your store so that I can pick up some of those ‘wonderfully crunchy on the outside yet chewy on the inside bundles of love’.  Giving her order to one of your staff members is easy.  The girls are always pleasant.  However, I have issues when I am asked the question that always follows:  ‘Will there be anything else?’  That is when the proverbial cookie begins to crumble. 

Lately, I have been unable to say, ‘No thank you, that will be all.’  Instead, my eyes fixate on the soft and buttery sugar cookies that look like they’ve just stepped out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen.  They are always in the window casing, sitting pretty with pale yellow, blue and pink icings just waiting for me to call their name.  My eyes then shift to the large white boxes of Day Old Breakfast Sweets that never taste like their a day old; they simply taste like More.  When I ask to peek inside one of the boxes (which has a sign marked $6.95 per box) I gaze upon a loaf of Monkey Bread drizzled with a cinnamon sugar glaze, 2 blueberry muffins, 2 blackberry Danish, and three chocolate cream cheese croissants. 

I am ashamed to admit it, but the box came home with me.  I knew better.  I know better.  But I talked myself into believing that I had a plan: I would simply divide each pastry in half, then into separate baggies and put them all into the freezer which happens to be inconveniently located in my garage.  I could then indulge myself a bit at a time like a normal person.  That didn’t happen, however.  I found myself walking to and from the freezer so often I think I wore a path in the floor. Before long my stash had vanished, leaving me feeling embarrassed, a bit humiliated, and a lot heavier than I was just 3 weeks ago.  I should have stopped as soon as I began hiding your goods so that my husband couldn’t see what I was doing to myself.  Instead, I went back to your café for more.

Being an emotional eater with stress being my biggest trigger, the past few weeks have brought on a massive nutritional breakdown.  I went completely out- of-control and used your desserts as a form of mind-numbing medication.  Mr. Baker, I love your pastry shop and café.  Too much.  Which is why I can no longer afford to give you my business.  In my years of maintenance I’ve managed to say no to countless desserts and second helpings literally hundreds of times.  I’ve gained the knowledge of what it means to exercise as much as I consume so that I can maintain my weight.  But sadly, I haven’t been doing that lately.  Instead, I’ve been feeding my anxiety with your decadent foods which could quickly ruin all my years of hard work. 

No worries to you Mr. Baker; you’ll never lay eyes upon this letter.  I am instead writing it for myself because I have a certain responsibility to fight for my body and my health, even though I’ve been doing a very good job at ignoring that.  Secrets can be dangerous things, which is why I’m posting this letter on my blog.  Now that my secret is open to all who read it, I can no longer pretend that things are fine when clearly, they are not. 

Keep doing what you do, Mr. Baker. Keep serving to those who can sit back satisfied after one cookie and a cup of coffee. I, on the other hand will be marking a red X on my calendar at day’s end, serving as my visual reminder that I have survived my second day of being back in control. Tomorrow when my head is clearer still, I hope to be the slightest bit stronger than I am today, learn something from my recent bender, and once again, work on finding other ways to calm my nerves. 

Sincerely,

Ellen, a fat girl wearing thin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Three bloggers were at work this past week, helping me in ways they don’t even realize. It was because of these three that I didn’t head back to that damnable bakery for another box of day-olds. 

The first: on January 27th I told someone what I was doing.  Munchberry (for better or for worse) happened to be on the receiving end of my confession.  Her response, being both kind yet firm, was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. 

Then, on January 30th  I came across Karen’s blog, where the following words hit me square on top of the head. I have since copied them so that I can refer back to them:

  • The words you choose create your reality.
  • You only need enough guilt to prevent you from torturing and killing other people.
  • Dieting is a Band-Aid for a deep wound.
  • Change occurs in the moment.
  • Abusing food cuts our heads off from our bodies.
  • Criticism (from others or from oneself) never motivates.
  • It’s not the food that hurts you, it’s the self-loathing.
  • If you keep saying, “I can’t eat ________” or “If I eat ________, I’ll never stop” or “I can’t have ________ in the house or I’ll eat it all” those things will be true.
  • Once you label yourself, you look for experiences that will prove it.
  • In order to protect ourselves from outside criticism, we start doing it to ourselves.

Finally, on January 31st I read this post, written by Cammy. It served as my reminder that I will never be perfect, and allowed me the freedom to write today’s ‘letter’ without shame.   I will always have failures both big and small, but thanks to Cammy’s post I am learning that I can Fail Better.