Broken and Blessed

 Several weeks ago, I broke my ankle. In the past, I would have had a giant pity party and lamented the pain and inconvenience to everyone around me. And even though it has put me a little behind in my writing, it hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm or caused me much distress.

I am writing about it now for two reasons. The first is, I wanted to use this real-life situation to share how negative events can give birth to positive things – that is, if you look for them. The second is, it put a tiny glitch in my binge free life that I had to figure out how to deal with.

Positives From Negatives

I broke my ankle playing tennis. I know, it’s not a contact sport, right? But I couldn’t help going for an overhead that was way out of my reach. As soon as it happened, all play stopped on three courts and everyone rallied around me. They got me to the ER and stayed until my family arrived. After a few days, and when the swelling went down, the orthopedic doc cast it all the way up to the knee.  People sent cards and called to check on me. One friend even sent me a bedside bell. It sounded just like the bells on Downton Abbey except that when I rang it, no one came to my see what I wanted, I just heard peals of laughter coming from the other room.

Since our vacation was set for the following week, my husband rented me a scooter. With one knee propped up and my good leg pushing me forward, I felt like a kid at play. It was an enjoyable conversation starter too. People commented that I needed to have it motorized. I talked to more strangers and made more friends on vacation than I ever would have in the past.

While packing for vacation, I discovered that I could pack four different shoes instead of two pair. I’m not a clothes horse, but I like shoes, so I thought this was a good thing. And since I could not drive, I enjoyed the scenery while my hubby drove from our home in Georgia to the Florida coast.

I also found myself on my knees a good bit. I had to crawl in my bedroom and up and down the stairs. Being on my knees reminded me that I don’t pray as much as I could. It helped me to get back into the habit of praying, whether on my knees or not.

The Glitch

About two weeks after my ankle broke, I noticed my pants were feeling a little tight. I had gone from being active every day of the week to being non-active. At first this caused concern. The old thoughts started taking over.

“I can’t stand this.”
“I have to control my eating so I won’t gain weight.”
“What if I gain so much weight I won’t be able to fit into my clothes?”
“What if I get so bored, I can’t stop eating?”

I spent a couple days trying to work out what to do about these thoughts. And during that time, I noticed my anxiety level was high, my eating was erratic, and my pants were getting tighter. I finally remembered that my body is an amazing biological machine and it did not need me to tell it what to do. It knows how to heal my ankle and it knows how much sustenance I need to make that happen. I had to get back to trusting it.

So, I did what I have trained myself to do from the beginning of this journey. That is, I acknowledged the existence of the anxious thoughts without judging them as good or bad. This means accepting them as being a normal part of my (or anyone’s) journey. This quelled the thoughts and opened my mind up to a better understanding of my situation, which is -I don’t have to restrict my food.

My body will tell me what I need to eat to heal. And if I listen, it will also tell me when it’s time to increase my activity to strengthen my muscles.  If I gain weight during this time, it’s not a bad thing. I can still trust my body without expecting it to be any certain size. This attitude allows my body to function at an optimal level.

If I had not already been on the binge free path, this broken ankle may have put a major dent in my life and caused me much angst. But I thank God every day for my blessings, despite the broken ankle and other trials. It is true for me that mindset, and not circumstances, determine my happiness. This experience has cemented my belief that when I look for the positive, even in the negative, I will find it.

For more on beginning a binge free life start here.

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Perfect Imperfection

Last week, I was looking online for the perfect photograph to use as a background on my computer.  I found a shot of a lake surrounded by snow dusted mountains.  The mountains were ragged and brown.  The lake sat haphazardly at the bottom of the scene and dark clouds loomed over it, allowing only a few slivers of light to shimmer on the water.  I wondered what made this picture seem so beautiful.

Nothing in the scene was painstaking.  I mean, the snow didn’t worry about where it landed.  The mountains didn’t discuss where they thought it would be best to rise out of the earth, and they didn’t agonize about the shape of their peaks.  And the clouds didn’t care that they blocked out most of the sun.  The photographer took the perfect photo, but what the camera captured was imperfection.  And yes, these are inanimate objects, and I am, well, I’m human, but that landscape is proof to me that beauty in nature, including our bodies, is perfect in its imperfection.

I used to aspire to have the perfect body.  I thought I could control exactly how it looked by going to the gym and following the latest diet.  But no matter how hard I tried, it never looked the way I wanted.  And the harder I worked to get it to fit my ideas of perfection, the more out of control I became.  Like many women, this was one of my main thoughts day and night, and it led to bouts of depression, anxiety, bingeing and for some years, purging.

By the time I began my binge free journey a couple years ago, I had already been through body image therapy.  I can remember how agonizing it was for me and all the women in the group to say even one nice thing about some part of our bodies.  I was relieved when the course was over.

For a long time after that, I tried hard to love my body.  But no matter how hard I tried, that did not happen.  I couldn’t make myself love it, just like I couldn’t make myself love a person I didn’t respect.  But once I began to nourish myself and not restrict foods, something in my psyche shifted and I decided it was time to respect my body.

I began by appreciating what it did for me.  I started with things we take for granted, like -my lungs expand and contract allowing air to enter my body, my blood gets infused with oxygen, my heart beats and distributes that blood through my body, then my cells use the oxygen rich blood to nourish themselves.  How amazing is that?!  I don’t have to force my heart to beat and I don’t have to remind myself to breath, (well sometimes I hold my breath, but you get the gist, breathing is natural!)

I couldn’t make this process happen if I tried, its automatic.  And the body does much more work at a deeper level.  So much more that scientists don’t fully understand everything our body is capable of.

This awareness that my body functions pretty darn well without me having to tell it what to do, helped me to trust it to eat when I needed to.  And once I ate with no guilt or shame, I became aware of true hunger cues.  This took patience and practice, and it was imperfect.  But it happened.

My body may have lumps and bumps, but it has kept me alive even when I tried to force it into someone else’s mold.  It is imperfect perfection in its function and design and I appreciate every inch of it.  It is the representation of me on this earth.  And whether it is thin or fat or in between, I love it enough to present it to the world in the best way I can, but I respect it enough to allow it to look and function the way it was meant to.  And most of all, I don’t worry about what other people think about it.

“I believe there is perfection in our flaws, grace in our missteps and beauty in everything that surrounds us. I am perfect in my humanness, no matter what it looks like.” MD

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Choose To Be Present

Roll call in middle school. The teacher called out names in alphabetical order. When we heard our name, we responded “present.” That may be one of the only times I paid attention in school. Most of my time was divided between talking to my desk-mates, writing and passing notes, daydreaming or doodling in a workbook. I said I was present, but I wasn’t.

A good part of my life was spent trying to improve myself, constantly looking for books with detailed instructions on how to make something happen that I wanted to happen in my life. Mostly it was about losing weight. I thought the weight made me different than others. The only problem was, sometimes I wasn’t overweight, but I still perceived my body as problematic. This was just another way of not being in the present moment.

Mind-drifting and distraction may be a tool that allows us to function in a situation where we feel overwhelmed or unsafe, but we don’t have to stay in this mode. We can choose to live in the present, accepting everything as it happens, even if it is unpleasant or confusing.

When I first tried to be present, I took a hard look at the truth of my life. I saw myself as a person who was just trying to make a decent life the best way she knew how. It was difficult to accept that bad things happen and that I may not be right all the time. I wanted to make everything perfect, not just for me but for my family, for everyone if I could.

I’ve learned that being present is not about trying to be present or mindful as much as it is about allowing whatever happens to just happen. That is, I can allow things to happen without reacting to them or trying to make things the way I think they should be. Even if I think someone else is wrong, I can let them be wrong. I don’t have to judge them, give my opinion or make corrections.

This also means I don’t have to worry about what others think of me. I don’t have to get angry or upset. I can choose to not feel guilty about past mistakes or stupid things I do. The less I react to my behavior and surroundings, the better I can see it for what it really is and make adjustments to bring my life into a healthy state.
I am not suggesting that you can be completely immune to hardship or pain. I am saying you can allow yourself to feel however you feel without determining if it is good or bad. Not judging yourself, or others, is one of the first steps to acquiring a healthy state of mind.

Being in the present is very do-able. But you have to figure out how to accomplish this your way. It’s good to read about how others have overcome obstacles and learned how to be peaceful. But I don’t think there is any one sure way to do this. If you have the desire to live in the present moment, you have already learned most of what you need to know to make it happen. Trust yourself and let it happen.

I used to think that if I accepted myself the way I was at any given moment, then I was settling for something other than my best. But I found I must accept myself the way I am now to find the love and self respect which will push me into my full potential, my best self.

Thoughts on building a core of happiness, click here.

If you struggle with bingeing or overeating – start here

 

It’s not my job to judge everyone, its my job to love them.

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A New Normal

Week 43 -Monday 6AM
I open my eyes. I want to jump up and run downstairs to weigh myself. I want to validate that I am doing something right. I will not go downstairs, I will stay in bed. If the number on the scale is higher than I expect it to be, I could be disappointed and mope around the rest of the day trying to decide if my new lifestyle is working for me. If the number is less than what I expect, I could go all vain and ignore the other good changes in my life. If the number is exactly what I think it will be, I will be validated…
Oh, that’s right, I’m not supposed to be using the number on the scale to tell me if I am worthy. After working on this concept for 43 weeks, the same time frame as a pregnancy, you would think I wouldn’t have to re-remember this every morning. Its not the digital blue number that is the problem, it’s the way I interpret it. I infuse it with meaning about respect and pride and love and worthiness. The scale doesn’t just tell me how much I weigh, it tells who I am, it predicts who I could be, it shows me my failures and celebrates my victories. Shouldn’t I want to know the reality of my weight? Its 6 am and already I’m overthinking. I feel like this is part of my DNA or something.

The above was an excerpt from my journal over a year ago.  I usually go to my journal only when I want to get ideas for articles, but sometimes I see an entry that defined me and I wonder how I even made it through that time.

I am in a completely different mindset now.  I haven’t thought about my weight in months.  I haven’t binged in two years.  My life seems almost boring compared to the times when I actively struggled with food and my body. I am what I always dreamed of being, a normal eater.  And, like many things we aspire to, its not as glamorous as it seemed.  But I am happy and content, which is something I never thought I would say.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too confident, if something will happen that will break me down and send me running back to food.  But my life is not perfect, in fact sometimes it downright stinks, and I haven’t used food to soothe my soul yet.  I don’t even want to.  Now that I can eat anything I want anytime I want, eating doesn’t hold the mystique for me it used to.  It’s a normal function of everyday life. Ho hum.

When I first realized that chocolate cake didn’t really turn me on anymore, it was a letdown.  But I have learned to do many other things to bring fun and enjoyment to my life.  One of those things is to accept and love myself, not in an arrogant way, but in a…well, a normal way.

If you struggle with food or depression or anxiety or self pity, or any other thing that you want to change in your life, just know that you can change to create a new normal.  But first you must accept yourself the way you are at this very moment.  Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.

 

“Instead of trying to change what you don’t like about yourself, like everything about yourself and change those things that don’t fit in with the person you want to be.” MD stmaryseditedaaaaa

There Can Be No Doubt

Recently I watched an online video by a doctor who stated that we should not eat from a certain group of foods.  He had a very impressive background being a surgeon, a public speaker and writer in scientific journals for many years.  He also lost weight at some point in his adult life and was determined that the foods he cut from his diet played a significant role in his weight loss and in keeping it off.

I was mesmerized with the video and how professional and scientific it was.  Just for fun, I googled the foods he restricts and found doctors with just as impressive backgrounds who didn’t agree with him at all.  Their websites were not quite as ‘in your face’ as his, but they, too, believed that certain groups of foods are unhealthy for humans.  However, their lists were completely different than the first doctor’s.  I added all these foods together and realized that if I restricted every food group touted as bad by someone somewhere, I would probably end up having to eat dirt and maybe a few wild berries.

In the midst of all the hype in the media about what is good and bad for us, it is difficult to feel comfortable eating whatever you think you want. We all want to do the right thing for ourselves and our bodies.  But the people we depend on for information about diet and nutrition have let us down.  And I don’t mean any disrespect, but just because doctors and medical professionals have degrees behind their names doesn’t mean they understand the problem of overeating and obesity.  If doctors, diets, pills, nutrition experts and exercise gurus had the magic solution to the problem of obesity, overeating and disordered eating, it would have already been solved by now!

And the reason it has not been solved is because we buy into what the ‘experts’ say.  We think they know better than we do what we should eat. This is false! No one knows better what you should eat than you and your body. And once you begin to trust yourself you will understand this concept.

The first several months of my binge free journey I would second guess myself.  I would hear of a new breakthrough diet or some new superfood that we should be eating and I doubted my decision to eat what I wanted.  I wondered if I should go back to counting calories or trying out the new food or stop eating certain foods. When these thoughts crept up, I found myself with cravings, which made it harder to eat sensibly.  In other words, thoughts of restricting portions of food (by counting calories) or thoughts of restricting certain types of foods (sugars, fats) caused me to crave more food and eat more.

I do advocate eliminating one thing from your diet, though, and that is guilt.  Yes, guilt is the number one cause of the restrictive thoughts that create cravings and make you overeat.  When you eat what you want, you must truly believe that you can eat anything you want now and forever after.  This means you cannot worry about how many cookies you may eat now, you cannot think about eating less at the next meal or running five miles to make up for these calories.  You can’t think of the cookies as a special ‘treat’ that you are only allowed to eat once in a while.  You must allow yourself to enjoy the cookies for what they are and tell yourself you can eat them anytime.

Once you can do this, shame-free, you will find yourself eating a few cookies and putting the rest away.  There is no urgency to eat them all now if you can eat them anytime you want.  And by allowing yourself this freedom, your body will reward you by giving you a feeling of satisfaction after a couple of cookies or telling you when it doesn’t really need or want cookies, and you will grow to be repulsed by the thought of eating the whole box.  You don’t believe this?  Give it a try and see the amazing results.

The statement, ‘eat whatever you want’ may sound like sketchy advice, but it is the only advice that helped me to stop bingeing and overeating. And I am not the only one. There is a large presence on the internet, in books and videos stating that restricting certain foods or portion sizes does not produce the results we hope it will, and even increases our chances of eating unhealthily and gaining weight in the future.  Unfortunately,  some of that hype places too much importance on keeping weight down.  (This warrants an entire article to itself, stay tuned.)

I don’t have the technical skills or the money to make a slick video just yet, but when I do, I will be as adamant as the doctor who wants you stay away from certain foods.   But my mantra is- don’t restrict any food from your diet.  I want to stand on the street corner and shout to everyone I see, “Eat what you think you and your body want and need, eat when you want, wherever you want, however you want, as much as you want, with no guilt, no shame, and watch yourself morph in to the person you have only dreamed about becoming.  Free yourself from bingeing and overeating forever.” Amen.

I have stepped down from my soapbox now. Thank you for reading!

Binge free- steps to start – click here

“Food is not something to try to avoid.  It is energy for your body.  Give your body some credit for knowing what to do with it.” MDfall color impression again

Can I Be Weightless?

My mom used to weigh herself every day. She kept the scale in the bathroom our family shared. She would go in, pick up the scale from the tile floor and gently place it on the fluffy bathmat in front of the tub. She explained to me that placing the scale on the bathmat made you weigh less. For years, whenever I weighed myself, I would try to find the thickest rug to place the scale on. One day, it occurred to me that if the scale resting on a rug was not a true representation of what I weighed, then why was I doing it? I realized that, like my mom, I derived a good portion of my self-worth from where the needle pointed on that scale. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to function without thinking about my weight or my body size. I wondered if it was even possible. The allure of the weighing machine was disturbing. It promised changes that could enrich or devastate my day, my week, my life. But it could only do this if I allowed it.

 

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I try very hard to be kind to myself and not judge myself or others based on body size. And just when I think I have become completely nonjudgmental, I find myself being delighted and high-fiving my husband when I mistakenly put on a smaller pair of jeans and they fit perfectly.

In my psyche, there is still a tiny space occupied by a belief that a smaller body is better. It takes up much less space than it used to, but it’s still there.

How do I deal with this? I check my thoughts as they come. When I find myself thinking about my thighs, I don’t judge them and I don’t judge myself for thinking about them. I just notice my thoughts, then let them go. No standing in front of the mirror and pinching my thighs from behind to see what they would look like if they were smaller. Yes, I used to do this.

So, when I was delighted for getting into smaller jeans. I told myself it was okay to be happy about that, but it wasn’t the thing that would make my day. I accepted my reaction and found more interesting things to think about to make my day exciting and fun.

I’m not missing the irony here.  Since I have stopped striving to be thin, and have begun eating what I want, my body is changing to more accurately reflect how I view myself.  But my view of myself is not necessarily thin. My view of myself is that I am a valuable person.  Regardless of what I look like or what has happened to me in the past, I am a good human being who deserves to be here.  By thinking this of myself, my body is conforming to that end – becoming healthier.  That weight loss may be a part of this is just a side bar.

Can you learn to accept yourself as you are – no matter your body size?

Over a year ago, I started to say this affirmation every day. It took a while, but it eventually began to sink in and, most days, I truly believe this. Use this or write your own affirmation to say everyday.

“It doesn’t matter what my body size or weight is.  It doesn’t matter what other people think of my body size. I don’t get my self-esteem from the size of my body. I am an integral part of this universe and hold a special place in it.”

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For tips and steps to take action to stop bingeing click here

Binge Free – The Beginning

I used to be hungry all the time. My hunger wasn’t about food, but I used food to try to satisfy it. Nothing filled it up. No matter how much food I stuffed down my throat, there was no satisfaction, nothing to tell me that I’d had enough. It’s like when a light switch doesn’t work and you want to go to sleep, but can’t turn off the bright light. A pathway in my brain said, Feed me, but never switched off to say, Ok, that’s enough.  Another part of me would say, Stop eating, but it was a condemning voice that said..

“You are such an idiot, why do you do this to yourself, you are such a loser.”

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I ate even more to quell that voice. The more I ate, the guiltier I felt.  Still hungry, I told myself, I’ll just eat everything I want now and make up for the extra calories tomorrow by eating less or exercising more.  That is what I wanted to do, but never did, at least not for more than a few days.

For years, I would get home from work and stand in my pantry and devour everything I could find until I felt so sick I had to vomit to get some relief.  When I didn’t vomit, I laid on my bed and berated myself and swore that tomorrow I would eat properly.  Sometimes I looked at diets or food plans online, printing lists of acceptable foods to eat. With raised spirits, I told myself, I can do this!  I’d get up in the morning with a new outlook, drink an instant breakfast, eat salad for lunch and make plans for a healthy dinner.  All the while counting those nasty little calories.  But when I got home, I would overeat or binge and start the ‘guilt, self-loathing’ cycle all over again.

One day I realized that the voice accusing me and telling me I was a malfunctioning person could be wrong.  Instead of my whole persona being flawed, maybe my thinking was just incorrect. So I thought….

Maybe the thoughts I have about being defective don’t really mean that I am defective. Maybe the thoughts are flawed. Having flawed thoughts does not make me a flawed person. I feel like I am defective down to the core of my being most of the time. But just because I feel a certain way doesn’t make me that way. I feel like I don’t fit in with most ‘normal people’. But what if I’m wrong about that? Maybe I am really a good person and I’m just telling myself I am bad because of all the crap I went through as a kid or because my brain is shaped a certain way or my DNA has an extra chromosome or some other reason I don’t even know of.  Maybe I have just convinced myself that I am different from ‘normal people’, especially when it comes to eating. And maybe I don’t feel like I fit in with others because I am telling myself I don’t fit in. And maybe I can change those thoughts. Maybe?

With this new idea, I realized that breaking out of the spiral of overeating-binging-loathing-dieting-overeating did not have to be about changing my eating behavior.  To break a cycle, only one thing needs to be changed, and who said it has to be your eating behavior?  A big part of the binge eating cycle is guilt and self loathing associated with overeating. My thinking continued…

 “What if I could change my thoughts instead of my eating behavior? Eating does not HAVE to make me feel guilty. I choose to feel guilty when I eat too much or eat a forbidden food. And if I have a choice to feel guilty, I also have the choice to NOT feel guilty. I don’t have to berate myself.”

I thought, like most Americans, that if I could diet and lose weight, I would be healthier and happier.  It makes sense; dieting leads to weight loss which leads to feeling good about myself which leads to no bingeing.  The trouble was, it never worked that way for me.  I would drop a few pounds, start feeling good about losing weight, then eat a donut in a weak moment and end up sick from raiding the refrigerator.  Then on to a bingeing episode which could last months. I asked myself…

“What if I could get out of this cycle by stopping the guilt and self-loathing part instead of trying to diet or change my eating behavior? How would this work?”

I stopped binging the very first day I began to think and say out loud, the thoughts below. Stopping bingeing is the easy part.  Learning how to live a better life and accept who you are takes more work.  But it is worth it. And you can do it!

I will not feel guilty for any eating behavior, that includes overeating and bingeing.
• I will not feel guilty eating any type of food. All foods are good.
• I will not think about restricting any food.
• I can eat what I want today, later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for the rest of my life.
• I never have to diet or restrict food again.
• I will not judge myself based on my body size or my eating.
• I will eat what I want, when I want, in the amount I want.
• I will not make myself eat anything I do not want.
• No matter what I eat, I will always plan on still eating whatever I want at the next meal or the next time I want food.
• I will not plan to restrict food or exercise to ‘make up’ for eating now.
• If I eat too much and become uncomfortable, I will take note how it made me feel physically, but I will not berate myself or feel guilty or bad for eating.
• I will stop using words like fattening, sinful or decadent in regard to food.
• I will not count calories or macros or fat grams or anything else associated with controlling my food intake.

It took me about a year to understand that eating like this was more important than losing weight.   Losing weight has always been my main focus.  And to that end, I tried to eat what someone else said I should eat by following diets and food plans.  But when I began to trust my body and eat what I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start to repair itself and begin wanting healthier foods naturally.

I gained a few pounds at first, but after a year, my weight is inching down. The weight doesn’t matter that much, though.  What matters is, after many years of bingeing and restricting, I now eat whatever I want and I don’t eat anything I don’t want.  I am strong and healthy and my body is adjusting its weight to reflect that.  I don’t force myself to eat a healthy meal to get some dessert.  If I want dessert only, I eat the dessert.  I put no restrictions on food or eating.  My meals are typically healthier than they have ever been, not because I force myself to eat well, but because I naturally want to eat well.  Sometimes I still have cravings, but usually they are for things like chef salad, ice-cold watermelon, or hot homemade soup.

Are you ready to be binge free? Take Action.

If I did this, you can too!

“I don’t need to compare myself to others.  The space I occupy on this earth is just right for me.  No one else can fit into it and I cannot fit into anyone else’s space.  I will strive to be my best, but will always appreciate who I am and where I am right now.” MD

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