Monday, January 25, 2010

I Eat Because I'm Feeling Guilty about Being Ashamed of my Anxiety Induced Emotional Eating.

On a really bad day I might even be feeling a little lonely and unloved into the bargain. I might feel disappointment at my failure to solve the underlying problem. If I really did some digging I could probably drudge up helplessness and frustration at the immovable nature of my situation and then sink into a deep, dark depression.
Knowing me the funk, which I have learned to call general crabbiness, would last about a day. Then things would pick up. I would start to get cheerful. I might even treat myself to a little something, a celebratory doughnut. A cookie. A cheer-me-up mocha frappuccino.
That at least was how I knew to deal with what was going on in my head in the past.
Eat first, ask questions after the second or third course. Possibly over dessert. Or never.
Just eating made me feel better, and since I was convinced there was no way I could handle my emotions themselves let alone, God forbid, the problems that were causing them, I had learned to cope using chocolate syrup. Pizza. Beer. Cake. Lots of cake. Sometimes with ice cream.
Since I had been spackling in my problems with food all my life I had become an expert at ignoring them, and the ensuing melancholy that accompanied them.
I had become so good at it I didn't even recognize, couldn't name, didn't really have a word for (at least not one that I would or even could say aloud) what I was dealing with. This is how it worked:

A problem occurred.
This caused an emotionally painful sensation.
I, Believing with my whole heart and soul that I was completely destructible, utterly incapable, and lacking in any brand of emotional fortitude, would begin to feel helpless. Frustrated. Disappointed with myself and the whole situation.
I would then begin the long process of trying to talk myself out of feeling anything at all. It was irrational to feel anxious about whatever the problem was.
It was furthermore silly of me to get so frustrated over such a small thing.
On this I would come to the conclusion that I was acting ridiculous. The problem would resolve itself or not. Feeling rotten over it would not help. I should buck up. I should pick myself up by the seat of my pants. I should stand tall. Pull myself together. Stop acting like such a pansy. Stop Feeling Whatever I Was Feeling Because it Wasn't Helping. It Was Not Reasonable. It Defied Logic to Feel That Way.

Because feelings of course, ought to be reasonable, rational and logical. Just being feelings is never enough.

And then I would cheer right up. For five minutes. And then I would feel lousy again. And ashamed of feeling lousy. And guilty for giving in to the melancholy. And disappointed...
And very soon happier for the bit of chocolate I'd sampled at the store. In fact what would really make me feel better would be a much larger piece of chocolate. Cake. With ice cream. Maybe I would call a friend to go with me and the resulting guilt would be lessened for the fact that I had not just eaten enough for a small South American farm village by Myself.
And now another problem had arisen, but at least the initial one was further away and less prominent and all those scary emotions that I just KNEW I wasn't capable of dealing with were a lot quieter.

So the simple version:
Feel lousy about the problem.
Pass judgment on myself for feeling the unpreventable, inevitable, natural (however rational or not) emotions that had arisen out of the problem.
Feel lousier about the problem AND about myself.
Slip into an incurable funk.
Call someone to share in the misery and the cure: something with more calories than Michael Phelps eats in a week.

30 plus years of dealing with my problems (yes, I even learned how to call them challenges or opportunities, but the new name did not change the prescribed cure) this way had made me not only unable to cope with my emotions in any other way, but utterly unable to even Identify them. Some of the uglier ones, the ones I felt were my irrational self behaving irrationally, the ones I was time and time again telling myself were wrong, those I wouldn't even admit, not even to myself, that I would ever feel: you're not supposed to be ashamed of yourself, that's an old fashioned notion; it's wrong to feel guilty, guilt is for Catholics; anxiety is irrational and reserved for neurotic characters in Woody Allen movies; fear is for pansies; loneliness is for people who aren't self sufficient and independent.
When I finally started reading about some of the main instigators in emotional eating - fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, shame, guilt, helplessness, disappointment - I realized I had got so good at ignoring them, talking myself out of them and finally frosting them over with cake and ice cream that I Couldn't Even Put a Name To Them.
I felt bad. I ate. That was all I knew.
One of the books I read asked me to remember a time I felt ashamed. I had to go all the way back to when I was seven or eight. Then I remembered what it felt like. Then I could identify times all throughout my life when I'd felt that way. I finally realized that shame, despite all the rationalization, all the judgments I'd passed on myself for feeling something unreasonable, had Nonetheless taken up considerable time, space and energy throughout my life.
The book went on to pose the question whether, in all those times I'd felt that way, had I worried that, if I admitted to feeling that way, I might somehow see myself as less strong, less courageous. More fragile.
Yes. I had to admit, I sometimes thought my emotions would leap out of their locked up, chocolate covered high security cabinet and strangle me. Choke me right to death. Yes, I thought I was not strong enough to deal with something as big and powerful as shame. Or guilt. Or anxiety. Fear, disappointment. Helplessness, loneliness.
The book posed another question:
Had all my efforts at judgment, rationalization and self soothing in the form of food ever made the problem Or the emotion go away?
So I Had actually eventually coped. Had it killed me as I'd thought it might? Had those things leapt out and strangled me?

No. I had to admit. They hadn't.
In the end, all the reasoning, rationalizing and finally eating had just gotten in the way of what I had ended up doing anyway: coping.
They had given me a reprieve, but not let me off the hook.

So now, when I find myself saying, "I shouldn't feel disappointed just because...." I realize that regardless of whether I should, I am.
Whenever I find myself manically reaching for morsels of things around the house, trawling the cupboards for something less bloody healthy, opening the freezer just one more time to see if any ice cream has magically appeared there, I take a break. I try to identify what crack I am trying to spackle shut. Sometimes I have to visualize another time when I've felt this way and try to put a name on the thing.
I identify the sensation.

Then I wonder what might be causing me to feel that way.

I identify the problem causing the sensation.

Then I make phone calls. I get on google. I go to the library. Or maybe I just need soothing and cheering up. And then I go see Gramma.

Mostly I remember to have faith. I am not going to die of disappointment. There's been plenty of that in my life and in 36 years it hasn't killed me.
I'm not going to die from feeling helpless, and shame and guilt, no matter how old fashioned or how non-evangelical do not bite.
In fact, these are normal, natural things I am perfectly able to cope with. Have, in the end, always coped with, no matter how I've staved it off with ham and smoked gouda.
My emotions have a job to do. They let me know when there's a problem. They say something about the nature of the problem. They help motivate me to solve the problem.
They are not irrational. They merely are.
They do not require spackling.
They do require a little faith that I will be able to do no more than what, in the end, I've always come around to doing: cope.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Two days ago I finished my first marathon at 3:58 - that's a 9 minute mile. That's a full Hour and 1 minute above average for women.
I can't help remembering how In the beginning of my journey all I could think about was how much I hated the exercise, how deprived I felt without the foods and portions I was used to. I couldn't help focusing on the long, long and seemingly tedious, no doubt strenuous and probably tortuous distance between then and now, not to mention the terrifying potentiality of a journey back.
Now, the potentiality of a journey back out of the question, and the time behind me feeling as if it passed in the blink of an eye, I have to strain my mind to remember how it felt to think my weight would take eons to get off. And hop back on in a trice. I would expend titanic efforts, I thought. And never eat anything good again.

Today as a wear my marathon medal around the grocery store I look back at my efforts even of day before yesterday and think, no, it wasn't anything even unpleasant, let alone tortuous. In fact, I had a blast.
And now, looking back across the vast, far reaching expanse of time since my first weigh in, that same vast expanse of time which seems to have gone by in a trice almost without notice, I think, all the fear, all the dread, shame, guilt, anxiety I put into not taking care of myself was infinitely more strenuous, infinitely more tortuous, infinitely more terrifying than all the treadmills, dumb bells, hill repeats and 24 mile runs uphill both ways in the snow ever provided.
In fact, being healthy, taking care of myself, running, dancing, hiking, swimming, eating fabulous home cooked meals and treating myself with love and respect, all those things are not only a breeze, they're a pleasure.
A far greater pleasure than any of the tasteless, dull, pre-prepared foods and boring, unoriginal sitcoms I'm missing out on these days.
Thank God for marathons.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me

Friday, January 15, 2010

Not unless I was Running from something...

Preferably something big and scary. With teeth. And claws. And even then I'd have probably run out of steam quickly enough to be lunch. I always swore that no one would ever see me running anywhere unless there was a cheetah chasing me or at least a beer and some ice cream at the not-so-very-distant end of the run.
And the reason for that, I told myself was because running was unhealthy. Running was bad for your knees. All the runners I know had back problems. They're crazy as loons those runners. And if they don't get hit by cars they'll be eaten by mountain lions, surely.
I wouldn't even try anything like it. I'm not crazy. That's why.
But the real reason, one I not only did not know of but would never have acknowledged if I had, was that everything hurt. All the time.
My knees ached. My feet hurt. My back was creaky. If I moved to far too long I would be embarrassingly winded.
It was because I worked at a job that had me on my feet all day. And when I quit that job and got a desk job it was because I was so frustratingly sedentary.
I never would have admitted that my knees hurt because I was walking around with an extra 100+ pounds on them.
I couldn't say aloud, not even to myself, that my back ached because not even the world's best mattress could hold the weight around my middle well enough for me to sleep comfortably in any position.
My feet hurt because there was no such thing as an orthopedic shoe or insert or magic whats-its that could cushion 277 pounds of weight on a mere 70 sq in of feet.

All that pain. I thought. Runners have to endure it all the time. The poor buggers.
And this Sunday I am running a Marathon. And my knees are perfectly healthy. My back feels better than it has in 15 years. I have been walking around town in heels all day and my feet feel fine.
Thanks to running.
Thanks to marathons.
I am pain free.
And I have great back muscles that will support my spine for years to come.
And my knees? My feet? Well, see for yourself.

Alyshia Davies
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Nothing is safe Someday or other it will all end in tears. You can't avoid disappointment but you can enjoy success." -Me

Monday, January 11, 2010

Martin S. Somewhere in the South, Alabama maybe?

Eat 3 meals and two snacks. On a schedule.
Only eat 3 meals.
Eat 6 small meals
Eat mostly protein
Don't eat too much protein. Eat mostly carbs.
Don't eat saturated fat
Eat some saturated fat just eat lots of unsaturated fats preferably omega 3 fatty acids for your brain and polyunsaturated fats for your HDLs.
Don't eat red meat.
Too much turkey with triptophan will make you sluggish.
Coffee is bad for you.
Drink coffee, the caffeine is good for you.
Eat lots of whole grains.
Don't eat carbs, especially grains.
Eat lots of superfoods.
Do lots of ab exercises for a flat stomach
Ab exercises just give you big abs.
Running is the best exercise.
Running lowers your blood sugar and makes you hungry.
Eat this. Don't eat that. Substitute raw onions for pasta or white beans for rice or yogurt for ice cream or cardboard for bread ...
You get the picture.
My first ever diet had started on Thanksgiving day when my dad grabbed my hand as I was reaching for a chip. "I'm putting you on a diet," he said. The whole family was in that living room. All of them were staring at their feet. No one was there to stand up for me.
I ran screaming and crying out of the room.
My step mother came. Finally, I thought, someone to offer comfort.
She told me about her own diet experiences. She gave me her hints and tips from last year's weight watchers adventures.
She shared with me how God had spoken to her and told her she should weigh 126 pounds.
This did not make me a believer.
Dieting was simple really. I just wouldn't eat. For a week. And then I'd be OK.
And I didn't eat. Until dessert.
When we got home I got out the dried mustard. My teacher had said if you ate poison and needed to throw up you could heat dried mustard with water.
It made me sick. But my prize winning stomach of steel was just as full. Just tied up in knots.
And I was still fat enough to merit being humiliated in front of the whole family at Thanksgiving.
That was the beginning.
After that there was the cream cheese only diet. There was the 1 cookie for each meal diet. I was only going to eat a special kind of salad I'd invented with vinegar and no oil.
As a teenager I discovered Programs.
Jenny Craig.
Weight watchers.
South beach
By the time I was 19 I knew everything there was to know about dieting. What all I was not supposed to eat was astonishing. The list of things I WAS supposed to eat was terrifying.
No ice cream.
Lots of broccoli.
No cake.
Brussel sprouts.
Ixnay on bread.
No red meat, beans and dry chicken instead.
No ice cream.
I was supposed to find a piece of fruit to be a good dessert. Fruit as dessert.
That was like wearing toilet paper as a dress. Or building a house out of toothpicks.
It was.... Highly unsatisfactory.

By the time I was 29, 10 years later, I was 75 pounds overweight. I still knew everything there was to know about dieting, but by now I had given up. I was going to eat whatever the hell I'd wanted because the no-fat diet and the no-carb diet and the no-food diet and the highly confusing magic glop in the cereal bowl diet had all been... Highly unsatisfactory.
Not to mention painful. And humiliating. And in the end rather pointless.
It wasn't long before I found myself 130 pounds above my ideal weight. Morbidly obese.
I was going to die. This time I was going to have to do something, and I was going to have to do it right rather than keep doing it over and over again.
Google and amazon became my best friends. I read articles and magazines. Text books with 1000 pages.
They told me what I already knew. I needed to eat less and move more. Duh.
Until ...
I stumbled across Geneeen Roth's Breaking Free of Emotional Eating.
She wasn't a professor or a doctor or a fitness trainer. She was just a lady who had been fat.
Like me.
Her prescription, her secret to success, her magic bullet for staying thin? Eat what you want.
When you're hungry.
It sucked.
That is what had got me to my gigantic weight problem to begin with. What the hell was she thinking?
Reading on I realized there might be some merit to it:
Eat what you really want, not just what's around, or what you think you want, or what was just advertised on TV. Those are not things you want. They're just things someone has made you believe will make you feel good.
But really, what makes you feel good is gramma's grilled chicken.
A piece of cheese.
Very rarely, almost never but sometimes, a whole bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough.
And, if you really think about it, your not as hungry as you claim to be. You're tired. Your blood sugar is low. You're crabby.
Crabby is not hungry. Crabby is just an emotion you're trying to feed and magically change into happy.
But what's wrong with crabby? It's normal to be crabby. Or guilty. Ashamed. Angry. Depressed. Lonely. Disappointed. Helpless. Anxious.
The answer to these things is not a piece of chocolate cake. In fact, you are probably going to eat the piece of chocolate cake and still be crabby or guilty. Ashamed. Angry. Depressed. Lonely. Disappointed. Helpless. Anxious.
My story is that I had got so in the habit of reaching for food whenever I felt bad that I could no longer even identify What I was feeling. A book I was working with asked me to remember the last time I'd felt disappointed. I couldn't remember. I had to think all the way back to the seventh grade when my friend Jason had been the only one to ask me to dance.
After that I wracked my brain.
I was disappointed that time my boyfriend had chosen an "important" soccer game over me, ice cream and my best lace under things ON Valentine's day. That was a no-brainer. I ate the ice cream by myself.
I was disappointed in fact, a thousand times over in my adult life. Always culminating in me putting on my bravest brave face, telling myself it was silly to feel that way (the man I loved was not a complete douche bag. Of course not. It had really been an important game. It must be a cultural difference), polishing off that last bit of ice cream because there really wasn't that much left.
And still disappointed. No less in fact.
But now ashamed of myself for having eaten the ice cream.
Angry with myself for being unreasonably, stubbornly disappointed.
But I have forgotten how to cry and that has made me awfully hungry.
And when I was doing all this work remembering the stupid man (whose name by the way was Martin and no I don't mind using his real name and really I'd give you his address and phone number, too if only I had it) who had treated me poorly and how I had aimed my grief at myself, I realized that so much of my problem had come from the mistaken notion that whenever something bad happened it must be that something was wrong with ME. Martin (watch this spot, if I ever find it I'll at least paste his e-mail here) was innocent. If he treated me like trash it must be because I'd behaved like trash. Or something.
And all at once, remembering how I stood there, 19 with my ice cream and my black lace and was told like a naughty child that Valentine's day would have to wait, I suddenly realized, I hadn't been hungry in years. I had just been disappointed, angry, tired, bored, guilty. Ashamed. Depressed. Disappointed. Helpless. Anxious. I didn't know how those things felt anymore. And I didn't know what it meant to be hungry and now I was going to have to find out.
I spent the ensuing months inspecting every morsel before it went in my mouth. Was I hungry? Was it going to satisfy my hunger? If not, what was causing me to put it in my mouth? I spent days figuring out what I was feeling that had driven me to go through a whole packet of dried figs in 2 days. Three, six mile runs were dedicated to whether I had been really and truly hungry when I'd had that block of brie or if I was just feeling ashamed of how I had fibbed to my boss about an important e-mail.
I did that for months.
I still do that.
It took me a week to figure out my sudden pumpkin latte wave had been brought on by a guy I was dating who felt the need to tear me down to make himself feel less threatened (his name was Roberto. I do have his address but this is a fairly small town so you won't need it). The endless stream of candied walnuts? Well, sis was up for a visit and making sure she and I both survived the week with no more sibling induced permanent scars that we'd gone in with had been no easy task.
I'd come to all these brilliant conclusions while jogging. And I am happy to say that at least 95% of the time I'm able to figure out whether I'm really hungry for that morsel, and if not why I would ever dream of putting it in my mouth in plenty of time to put it down and back away.
The other 5 per cent? Well, a little emotional eating is just... Normal.
After all, an occasional rain does not cause a flood.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Nothing is safe Someday or other it will all end in tears. You can't avoid disappointment but you can enjoy success." -Me

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things I Can't Do

My current list: Nothing. I learned this for absolute certain when I crossed the finish line at my half marathon last August. I had officially lost 130 pounds. I had quit smoking and, as of that very day, joined the ranks of the 8% who make it past 6 months quit and subsequently go on to successfully kick the habit in numbers of about 92%. I had learned, however inexpertly, the complicated art of Latin Dance. I had gotten up before 7 every day since I'd quit smoking.
And now I had run half a marathon. In under two hours. I looked back over the finish line and I saw all those people crossing the line whom I had passed just a few minutes before. The first time I'd seen them I was at the start line in my $19.99 Walmart shoes and my lucky favorite purple shirt that only chafed a little. They were chatting, stretching, standing around looking runnerly in their shoes that did something magical to something called a gait, and their shirts they'd bought at a store that didn't sell cosmetics or dog food or frozen pizza. They looked like they knew what they were doing. They looked like athletes.
As I had run I would find myself pulling in front of one of these titans of athletic prowess, and hold back. No, I would say to myself, I don't want to overdo it. She's clearly a better runner than me, no way I could finish ahead of her.
Then something happened. To my left the mile marker caught my eye: 10 miles. 3 miles to go. I feel pretty good. No really. I could have sworn it was more like mile 6. And then it dawned on me.
I live in Timbucktoo. At least if Timbucktoo were a tiny, remote village in the northern California foothills. I run in places which have names (that I have of course given them) like "Old Bastard Hill" and "Not Enough Expletives Rise." On my runs at home the last 3 miles include "The Wicked Witch," (it's technically Pine Gulch - as in Mrs. Gulch, at a 6-8% grade and goes on for 0.9 miles), "Snake Bite Hill" (so named because the first time I ever ran it I had to check to make sure a snake hadn't bitten me in the butt) and "The Corkscrew" (it was too steep to build the road straight up so they wound it around the hill like a corkscrew).
There is in fact no full mile on the run that doesn't have at least one hill that, if you thought about it too long wouldn't make you wish you lived in Kansas.
"3 miles." I said to myself. "And none of them is uphill." Suddenly my feet told my brain they'd take it from here. I waved as I passed the lady with the tatoo on her left hip that said "26.2" and I started to smile as I passed the guy who had passed me at mile 1. One by one the fancy gait correcting no-produce-department equipment people fell behind.
My final time was 1 hour 51 minutes. Above average even for all those non-Walmart athletic people. Me and WTF Ridge had made me faster than all the fancy shoes a girl could wish for.
As I crossed the finish line I knew, I knew I could do anything. Ever since then I've caught my self saying, "I can't..." And "I'll never..." And I laugh. I correct myself. "I can. All I have to do is learn, and in time I will." I tell myself that all the time, and the image of the red painted grass finish line under my Walmart shoes passes through my mind every time.

So if you're facing your impossible lose weight New Year's Resolution, thinking you can't, or you'll never, think of me. And tell yourself "I can. All I have to do is learn, and in time I will."

Addendum: Two days ago I crested "Holy Crap Summit," and turned onto "The Corkscrew." It was the last mile of my last 24 mile training run. Two weeks from today is my 36th birthday. I am running my first marathon 2 days before that.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist
I can do anything and I intend to take as many people with me as I can