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

Do I HAVE To Like Myself?

While in college, I once met a guy at a bar.  I know…first mistake, right?  In my defense, the bar was mostly grad students blowing off steam.

This guy was a post grad in engineering and was leaving the next day for a focused study group in another city.  We hit it off with interesting and funny conversation, so we made a date for a Saturday night in two weeks, when he would be back in town.

I lived alone at the time, was struggling with school, being chubby, eating, and life in general.  When we made the date, I figured I could lose at least ten pounds in the two weeks, so the next time he saw me I would look better.  It didn’t occur to me that he must have been attracted to the way I looked that night, but that’s the story of the chronic dieter, right?  I set out the next day to go on the most restrictive diet I could find.

Two weeks later, and ten pounds heavier, I met my new friend for our date.  I was nervous as he approached my car in the parking lot of the restaurant we were supposed to meet.  My pants were so tight, it was hard to breath, and I wore the highest heels I could find, to look taller.  He smiled at me and we went into the restaurant.

During the dinner, I was mortified he would think I was disgusting since it was obvious I had gained weight since we met.  I stammered through conversation that didn’t flow as easily as the first time.  But I thought there was still some kind of spark and wanted to explore it further.  We didn’t go out as a couple after that, but became close friends.

One day, while sitting in the student center, he asked, “Why do you do this to yourself?”
“What,” I asked.
“You know, keep people at a distance. Try not get close to anyone- put up this sort of, wall.”
I decided to be truthful with him.  “Well, for one thing, I was interested in you romantically the first time we met and wanted to get to know you better, but when you saw me the second time and saw how fat I was, you backed off and only wanted to be friends.  It kinda hurt.  Why should I put myself out there to be rejected?”
“That’s, funny,” he quipped, “I thought you were the one who backed off, so I backed off too.”
We looked at each other and laughed.  We never did date but remained close friends.

Sometimes relationships just go like this. And sometimes we make relationships go like this.

After that conversation I began to realize I was ‘doing this’ to myself.  I was the one who thought I was fat and unattractive, so I was giving that information to myself and sending it out to the world.  I wanted to change my outside appearance, not realizing I needed to change my inside appearance.

Fast forward a few decades…one year into learning how to accept myself and my body exactly the way I am. I am beginning to appreciate my value because I am a human being.  Yes, I have accomplishments that I am proud of.  But if I use them as the basis for my self-esteem, I will constantly go through life worried that I must top what I’ve already done.

Don’t get me wrong, striving to be a better person is a good thing.  But when you accept your inherent value and like yourself regardless of what you look like or act like now, becoming a better person is a natural and straightforward process.

Think about it – Do you like to help people you don’t respect or those who don’t like you? It’s the same with yourself… If you don’t like yourself, you will find it difficult to help yourself or do the right thing.

How do you learn how to like yourself?
Know this – You are human. You overeat or binge to quell anxiety and stress.  And even when you are not stressed, you may overeat due to habit.  But your body is doing the best it can for the information you are giving itTake the badness out of this behavior and it becomes manageable in ways that you never even thought of.

With this new understanding, I gave up trying to mold my body and my personality to fit into what I thought others wanted me to be.  I used affirmations and any positive encouragement I could find. After 15 months of this practice, I am still learning new things.  I am happier and healthier in mind and body than I was a year ago.  If I can do this, you can do this too.

 What To Do

Stop using all your effort to berate and criticize yourself and put that same effort into telling yourself  how good you are.  It won’t take long for you to begin to believe in yourself and change your life.

Actions

Say positive affirmations about your worth, out loud, a few times a day.
Read inspirational books and articles.
Listen to encouraging messages.  I recommend  Joel Osteen podcasts (also available on Sirius XM.
Find upbeat people to be around.
Question your motives.                                                                                                                          Practice seeing the positive in every situation.

You CAN do this!

“You are not defective or bad, you do not lack willpower.  You do not have a character flaw or a bad attitude.  You do not have a past or a genetic flaw that you cannot overcome.  You are significant and hold a special place on this earth just like each person does.” MD

stmarysedited

 

 

Is Enough As Good As A Feast?

One of my favorite movies is the 1969 version of  True Grit.  Set in the 1870’s, Mattie is a strong-minded young girl who teams up with a hard drinking US Marshall to find her father’s killer.  When asked why she doesn’t eat more during her first dinner with the rowdy Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, she replies in a straightforward way,

“I’ve had enough. Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have been mesmerized with that saying since I first heard it in that movie.  I used to think it was the brainchild of a savvy scriptwriter, but it’s actually an old English proverb that also appeared in the movie Mary Poppins.

For a long time, I wanted to agree with this proverb, but I couldn’t make myself really feel it or believe it.

“If enough is as good as a feast, why don’t I ever seem to have enough? I never feel like I’ve had enough, even when I am stuffed full and sick from all the food in my stomach. There is still something inside me which screams, “NOT ENOUGH.”

Of course, I realize now that part of the craving for more food had a lot to do with how I viewed myself and that I tried, during every waking moment, to eat a restricted number of calories per day.

But even now, I have times when I want to eat more than my body needs. Sometimes I DO eat more than I need.  But now I stop when I realize I don’t need any more. My body usually tells me when I’ve had enough.  My mind now agrees and I know it’s okay to stop eating.  So, what is the difference between now and back then, when I had the obsession?

How do I stop myself from eating all the chocolate chip cookies I just took out of the oven before my family even gets home?

When I first started this process a little over a year ago, I would just tell myself, I can eat these cookies now or I can eat them later, or tomorrow or any day for the rest of my life. This took immediate pressure off and I no longer felt compelled to eat whatever I was craving. I could then make a choice about what to eat or not.

If I suddenly found myself reaching for a fourth cookie, I just took notice and told myself it didn’t matter how much I just ate, I could still eat what I wanted at the next meal or the next time I felt hungry. I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure in any way.

I said this out loud everyday,  “I can eat whatever I want now or the next meal, in two hours, two days, next week, or anytime, for the rest of my life.”  This helped me to really believe what I was saying.

Once I began believing this, I saw my disordered eating through a different lens.  I realized it was a normal response to the signals I give my body via thoughts about food restriction or permission, and that it is related to beliefs I hold about myself and my value.  In recognizing this, I am able to stop having pity parties every time I do something I consider ‘bad.’

Once the ‘badness’ is taken away from the food/hunger equation, it’s much easier to choose to eat what you think is good for you and stop when you’ve had enough, even if you don’t feel fully satisfied.

But don’t worry, as you continue this journey, satisfaction will be something you will learn how to feel more than ever before.  Most days, you will really feel like enough is as good as feast.  And for those times you don’t – everything will still be okay.

Actions to take to begin your binge free journey click here.

“Just because I don’t feel good at any one time, doesn’t mean better things aren’t happening in my life.”_MG_1186

 

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- First Steps

When I realized it was time to stop dieting and start eating, I was excited.  It was not like the excitement you get when you find the next great diet that would change your life forever, though.  It was more of an acceptance; like a relief.

I began by telling myself I could eat what I wanted and stop worrying about calories and macros.

Before I was binge free there were many times I allowed myself to eat what I wanted. The difference was, I did it with the understanding that I would do something later to compensate for eating.  I knew by allowing myself this food indulgence, I would either exercise, skip future meals, eat salad only, or purge to make up for it.  The price I had to pay for eating stayed on my head. No wonder I never felt satisfied with any food! I was too worried about what I had to do to make up for the sin of eating what I wanted.

New Attitude

“I can eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want.  If I want to eat cake for breakfast, I will.  If I want to eat 10 cakes for breakfast, I will. If I want to eat one thousand cakes for breakfast, I can and I will.”

The crazier my statements were, the better I understood the principle.  For a few days, I still found myself eating around foods that I used to restrict, but I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure.  I just took note of this, ate the food I really wanted and went on with my day.  I only had one mini binge in the first six months using this idea.

Actions

These ideas helped me, but your journey is unique to you.  You can do this your way.

1. No food is restricted. There is no ‘bad‘ food. Try to eat what you think is nutritious, but make all meals substantial and don’t worry if you want sweets, eat them too.

2. Don’t “eat around” any food.  Don’t eat an apple to try to satisfy your craving for a piece of cake.  If you want a piece of cake, eat a piece of cake.

3. Tell yourself, “I am allowed to eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want… I can eat now, later today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.  I will never restrict food again regardless of what I eat now.”  Tell this to yourself every few minutes, write it on your mirror, put this as a reminder on your phone.  Keep saying this until you absolutely believe this deep down in your soul.

4. Figure out what you really like to eat. At first it may be sweets or ice cream. It doesn’t really matter. As you get used to not restricting, your tastes will change. After a couple of months, I desired tuna and asparagus. Remember, since you don’t have to restrict, you don’t need to eat fat free or sugar free foods.

5. If you see something you want and begin to feel anxious, like you could binge on it, tell yourself you can eat ten or a hundred of those. Try to picture yourself surrounded by a hundred cakes or a thousand donuts and give yourself complete permission to eat them.  The crazier your picture, the better.

6. While trying to decide what to eat, check to see if you are having thoughts of losing weight or doing something later to compensate for what you are about to eat.  If so, tell yourself, you NEVER have to diet again, you will NEVER have to restrict food again.  Say this out loud, “I will never have to restrict any food again, not today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year or in the rest of my life.”  Let it sink into your psyche that the food you want and need will always be available.

7. Do not judge or berate yourself.  If you ended up eating something you didn’t want, or overate or even had a binge, just take a note of it and go on. You may feel guilty at first, but once you recognize this, you can change it. No matter what you eat, it is OKAY.  You can stop feeling guilty for eating. It is doable and it is imperative when learning how to eat normally.

8. If you want more food before the next meal time – eat. That’s Okay. Fix another full blown second meal and don’t feel guilty or wrong. It will take your body a little while to get it right. This will not last forever. The more you honor your hunger signal, the shorter time it will take for your body to space out meals to about 3 times a day.  It may take a couple of weeks.

9. Don’t think of the food on your plate as the only serving you can have. Tell yourself you can get seconds or thirds or fourths and fifths, or you can pile the food as high as you want on your plate.  The more you allow yourself, the easier it is to be satisfied with less.

10. When you are not sure what you want or how much you might want to eat, prepare one thing that you think you will like and tell yourself that you will re-evaluate after you try this food you have prepared. You will be surprised at how often the first item you fix will satisfy you.  But if it doesn’t, don’t fret, eat something else.

11. Don’t feel bad about wasting food.  I used to put every scrap of leftovers in the fridge and then eat them before they went bad, just so they wouldn’t get thrown away.  But I now realize that eating something my body does not want or need is damaging for me and is more wasteful than throwing the food in the trash. I do not have to be a human garbage can.  Don’t feel bad about throwing food in the trash if you don’t want it.  As time goes by, you will naturally learn how to cook with less waste.

12. Do not beat yourself up, no matter what!  The KEY to success is to not beat yourself up or feel guilty; no matter what you eat or don’t eat. Even if you lapse into a binge because of thoughts of later restriction, don’t talk trash to yourself.  Guilt is not helpful. A determination to not diet and to not worry about the amount of food you consume will take you further than you ever could imagine. Give yourself permission to eat and not be perfect. You will overeat sometimes, especially the first couple months, but normal people overeat from time to time. As time goes by it will get less and less and the food you choose will be healthier without you having to force it.

13. Be open and prepared to learn something new about yourself everyday.

For advice on binge free living and what you see in the media click here

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“It didn’t come to be natural to me, but when I learned to treat myself better, I found my whole life changing for the better.” MD

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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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