Rock Bottom. I’m There.

Yesterday evening I stepped on the scale and found to my horror that I did in fact weight MORE than I weighed the first tine I started our program. I think I was kind of waiting for it, pushing it up ever closer (I gained 10 pounds this week…who does that?). Why? I don’t know. Maybe in a way it was to put an exclamation point on and bring closure to the last 2.5 years of consistent weight gain, almost to force myself to say “ENOUGH OF THIS CRAZINESS!”

I think my compulsive overeating and over-drinking is a form of “self-harm” yet I don’t feel I do it intentionally TO self-harm. I don’t think about much when I’m engaging it in actually, except that I like to eat and I like to drink, I like the short-term effects of having done them both, it is a way for me to kind of rebel and to “cut loose” and to “relax” because it seems my whole life is about regulating what I eat and drink. So, when I STOP doing that (regulating) it’s like I’m getting the burden of that particular discipline off my back, because it’s pretty exhausting.

But then I pay the consequences for it, which are, truth be told, MORE exhausting and demoralizing to boot. I have to face people I haven’t seen for a very long time and see the moment of shock registered on their faces because, let’s face it, it is pretty shocking to see someone gain over 100 pounds since the last time you saw them.

Then I feel like a failure and a “has-been” all over again, which continues the cycle of self-soothing with food and drink.

I think I’m mad at God. I know I should not be, and it’s weird to even type those words out loud and “admit” to it, almost like I’m breaking come eternal cardinal rule or something, but then I think of Job and don’t feel like its taboo to recognize how you feel and write it down. Now, I’m not claiming to have any rights to be mad at God like Job did, but I think I’m more disappointed in MYSELF and how I’ve handled (or not handled) the challenges that life has given me.

I’ve always had a desire, truly, to be “normal” and live a “normal” life and I know that sounds extremely strange. The fact of the matter is that God has called our family to a very ABNORMAL life, in challenging ways, and I don’t know if I’m up for the task.

I feel a sense of grief on one hand for my son and the challenges he was born with and will need to continue facing in his life, and I feel a sense of loss and helplessness in my inability to make things better for him, to make things easier for him, to make things more “normal” for him. In that he’s our only child I also feel a sense of deep uncertainty about our future and his, since usually children take care of their aging parents, I feel that our son may not be one of those types of children and in fact we will be taking care of HIM which is fine but also scary because what happens when WE are gone? Who will he have? Who will take care of him? What will his life be like?

Worry worry worry, about things I can’t control. What I CAN control is what I do today, which direction my health is going. What I CAN control is how my husband and I continue to train and equip our son to be independent and to be a man of virtue and character. He’s 12 years old, so we do have a little bit of time left to do that before he is all of a sudden a MAN.

I can tell you this for today, however, I do feel like I’ve lost my joy. I misplaced it somewhere along the way, and I haven’t been able to find it for a good long time. If you see it lying around somewhere, can you let me know? I didn’t put a GPS microchip in it, so you may not even know who it belongs to, but perhaps some day it will find its way back to me.

Thank you.

Recipe for Feeling Miserable

Every day I wake up and think “this will be the day I turn things around”, and for a few hours, I do! Then the familiar “you are a failure” mantra starts replaying in my brain, and it isn’t even AUDIBLE, it doesn’t even use WORDS. I just FEEL it. I feel it all around me. I feel it with every step. Every time I sit down in my chair or get up to do something I feel it. The large. The jiggle. The stress on my knees.

No words are even necessary to feel like a failure when you are fat. The “weight” of the non-words are exponentially compounded when you have recently been healthy. For me, it was 2.5 years ago that I was healthy. I had a BMI of 21 and a body fat of 23%. Now I look at myself, I FEEL myself all around me, night and day, and think “what the hell happened to YOU?”

I wish I knew. I’ve recounted the timeframe many times in my head, trying to figure out if there was a single moment where a flip switched to “fat brain” or if it was a slow decline which picked up momentum and steam with every pound gained. I couldn’t tell you. Every analysis of my then-circumstance or rumination of my then-thought process ends up sounding to me like an excuse, or blame, or both. It’s hard to look at it objectively.

The most objective way I can put it is that I STOPPED being in the habit of practicing health. I had developed healthy habits over the previous 5 years, and in the process lost 150 pounds, then maintained a healthy weight for 3 years. I had run a marathon for the first time in my life, and taken part in a sprint triathalon. I felt healthy, I looked healthy, and felt GREAT! Did I “forget” that my body was prone to gain weight? Did I feel SO good about myself that I took the health for granted? Did I take other so-called “expert’s” opinion of significant long-term weight loss (that it is IMPOSSIBLE to sustain for 5 years) to heart and allow those opinions to have power over me?

(By the way, true story, a professor in my graduate studies course in my Obesity Prevention and Management Master’s Program ACTUALLY SAID that significant weight loss is impossible to maintain for 5 or more years, and I KNOW THAT IS A LIE because I personally KNOW people who have lost 200+ pounds and remained healthy for TEN YEARS now! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT PROFESSOR DOING LECTURING IN A CLASS FOR OBESITY PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT IF THAT IS WHAT HE IS TELLING PEOPLE STUDYING THHE SUBJECT???????????? – Why did I even let that into my HEAD?)

Did I let the stress from starting a graduate program knock me back into unhealthy stress-eating? Did my routine-change encourage me to give up on exercise, which started a slow creep, which demoralized me? Did I let small twinges of hopelessness that began with the slow creep turn into big scary monsters of hopelessness? Did I let that hopelessness turn into depression turn into more uncontrolled eating and drinking? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

In other words, it wasn’t one thing. It was a perfect storm of things, any of them at any point I could have managed on their own, but I wasn’t ready for all of them together, some as a result of others, some contributing to others, but all translating into gaining 138 pounds over the last 2.5 years. Note to self: Develop the habit of healthy stress reduction which doesn’t include over-eating, and does include continuing my exercise program.

“I didn’t gain it ALL back! Hooray!”

That’s me, looking for the silver lining. I have to do that, otherwise I just want to crawl in bed and sleep all day. We had a debate in one of our courses last year, does depression cause obesity or does obesity cause depression? If one is not in management on one’s emotions, can that hopelessness be the cause of the weight gain, or is the weight gain a cause of the hopelessness that comes with it? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

All I know is that I felt happy when I was healthy, and I feel miserable again now.

But back to my silver lining:

It’s true, every time prior to THIS time that I would gain weight back it would always end up in me being HEAVIER than I had been before starting the last “diet”.

This time I did not do that. While I haven’t LOST weight significantly over the last 6 months, I don’t feel like I’m still on an upward trajectory, I have stabilized. Knock on wood. OK, that isn’t exactly true how I phrased that. My NET loss and gain has been zero over the last 6 months, although in the last 6 months I have actually lost 35 pounds and gained it back.

So, back to the big picture, today I will choose to focus on that single, deliberate truth, that I did NOT gain it all back again (the 150 pounds) before starting to get healthy “one more time”.

It’s what I have today. I will cling to it and follow my structured eating program TODAY.

Thanks for listening.

Chapter Two – It’s very frustrating, debilitating, demoralizing, and it also just plain SUCKS being this large

I want to describe as fully as I can what it actually feels like to be so large. For my fat to stretch the capacity of my skin to its outer limits, feeling like it’s just going to bust through at some point and overspill its “skin container”.

I want to discuss how I feel when I sit, when I take a bath, when I stand up, when I walk, when I lie down, when I roll over in bed, when I get in my car, and when I sleep.

I feel like a bumbling, lumbering clown when I walk. No question about it. I don’t know an adequate word to describe the disgusting feeling of having so many thick rolls of “prison” around my arms, my middle, my chest, my legs, my knees, my neck, my back, my hips, my butt, etc. To try to put my arms down straight to my sides only to realize they can only go down to about 45% because I feel like the giant blueberry on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, what was her name, Violet? They had to roll her to the juicing room to flatten her out again.

I feel like I need to be rolled to the juicing room.

Every morning when I awake, the first conscious thought I have in my brain is “Man, I’m huge!” When I go to bed the last thought I have in my brain is “Man, I’m huge!” It is a thought-prison, a physical-prison, a dream-prison, a potential-prison, a life-prison to be this large when I know there is a healthy person inside of me. I know there is because I’ve BEEN her before. And then I must have forgotten what it felt like to be huge, because the fear of being huge dissipated, and, well, I got huge again. Somehow all my time spent a “normal, healthy BMI” gave me a false sense of security that somehow maybe I WAS normal.

I will NEVER be normal. And that’s a fact. I will ALWAYS need a structured eating program, whether I’m in the weight loss phase, the transition phase, or the maintenance phase, I will ALWAYS need that structure, someone else’s judgment telling and showing me how much fuel/food I need and what types of fuel/food I need in order to continue to live the healthy life I want to live.

Funny, too, because I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Nutrition, I’m an NDTR (Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered), and I’m 2 classes away from obtaining my Master’s Degree in Obesity Prevention and Management. You’d think I have myself figured out by now. I’m STILL learning. Believe me.

So, back to how I feel.

I feel large. My chest rests on the dining room table when I’m working, and on the steering wheel of my car when I’m driving. For heaven’s sake, I can actually use my chest as a SHELF for my TEACUP when I’m sitting in my chair in the living room/library. Yes. It is true. My husband even has a picture of that for posterity sake. Pretty disgusting.

I took some “before” pictures of myself yesterday, they aren’t pretty but they ARE accurate. I’ll post them here if I can figure out how to do that. I saw a fellow coaching friend of mine last week, and it was very hard but I wanted to show up.

How do I feel in the tub? Large. Huge. Like one continuous blob-like entity. It’s hard to “clean” myself after I go to the bathroom unless I strike a certain “pose”. It’s humiliating to go ANYWHERE knowing I had health and then I squandered it. Again. I don’t even have an excuse for what I did! Sometimes I feel like God may have made a mistake putting me in charge of myself. I have proven myself incapable time and time again, I muck it up and seem to be slowly killing myself with my neglect, and it isn’t just neglect, sometimes it is willful rebellion! What is wrong with me!?

I feel like I move through this world as semi-invisible. People don’t want to meet my gaze, and I don’t want to meet theirs. I rather they DIDN’T notice me, and most don’t let on that they do, but how can they NOT see the literal ELEPHANT in the room, lumbering towards them? The move aside discreetly, and sometimes not so discreetly, giving me a wide berth for my gargantuan hips.

I feel hopeless in my current state, my current course of action, with no hope whatsoever. Well, I can’t say that, I am on day one of TRULY staying on program and sending my body different instructions, so here I go. I know it takes full adherence to the program, and I’m willing to do that now. Submit. Surrender. Stop substituting my own judgment for the judgment of the plan. Enough. Let’s do this.

I am prepared to begin again, I have enough fuelings for several months of program, and it is simply a matter of doing the do now.

This morning I was 257.7, so down almost 2 pounds. But I was not fully on program yesterday, which was SUPPOSED to be my day 1. Instead of went “Lyft” driving unprepared and ended up choosing to have a Portillo’s hotdog for dinner instead of coming home and getting my next fueling. But it did give me some good material for this blog today, to still be able to feel what I feel at my worst/heaviest, because I KNOW that after even a few days on program I am going to have a different mindset than I do right now, so I wanted to catalog THIS horrible state of mind and how I feel before I go and get all optimistic and hopeful as the plan begins to work. It is for POSTERITY sake that I do this. But from here on, I will not deviate. If I don’t have an adequate Lean and Green I will simply have 5 fuelings in a day. Period. Here goes.

Chapter One

My own scale didn’t recognize me this morning. That is how much weight I’ve gained in the last couple months.

I have an “Aria” scale by Fitbit, she is programmable for up to 8 people stored in her memory chip, and while she knew me a few months ago, this morning when I stepped on her to record my “start weight” she treated me as a “guest”. I’ve had her for years, so this callous greeting (unintentional on her part I know, she could hardly be expected to understand how someone can gain 35 pounds in 3 months) was a stinging reality check.

259.5

Ouch.

It is January, and last July I topped out at 258.6. I “began in earnest” (it’s always in earnest, never is it NOT in earnest) my structured eating program, and steadily dropped 36 pounds in 11 weeks to 222.5, but the something happened (something always does) to throw me off track and I began to climb again. Since when I’m on my way UP I always seem to avoid the scale, she couldn’t compare the smallish daily gains and identify them with me on my way up.

Two and a half years ago I was at my healthy weight of 122.5. I felt like I was “On Top of the World (insert Imagine Dragons lyrics for the song here). I had lost 150 pounds in my most recent effort, and had been maintaining a healthy weight (BMI) range for three years. The only way I can describe the feeling of being healthy is “floating on air” and LOVING it, loving ME. My occupation is within the health and fitness field, and it was effortless and fulfilling to help other people achieve their health goals when I myself was modeling it. I felt authentic, congruent, and bullet-proof.

Turns out I wasn’t as bullet-proof as I thought.

So, what happened? I mean what REALLY HAPPENED between my ears and within my physical body to bring about the weight gain cycle? What happened? How did I “lose” my edge? Did I wake up one morning and suddenly “forget” to practice my healthy habits of structured maintenance eating and healthy motion? I mean really, how does someone throw away their health? WHY does someone throw away their health like that? These are the questions I want to explore in this blog. I want to delve in to the theories and the practical actions as much as I can, to UNDERSTAND.

I don’t believe in regret. It isn’t a very useful emotion. (Ok upon further reflection I think I told a fib just there. I DO regret my actions. I don’t think I’d be human if I didn’t. I WISH I would have continued practicing my healthy habits, my structured eating, and my healthy exercise. I really do. It IS useful inasmuch as I can harness that while refraining from self-loathing thoughts taking over AS I regret.) But I do seek to ask myself three questions as I examine my recent gain.

  1. What happened?
  2. What was missing?
  3. What is next?

Gaining weight quickly is somewhat an out-of-body experience. It’s like I was WATCHING myself from outside of myself, and I do distinctly remember some very concentrated periods of incessant eating for days at a time with a “Honey Badger Don’t Care” type of an attitude. It was like during those compulsive overeating days or weeks I threw caution to the wind and the consuming of the food was all I could do, all I could see, all I could focus on. I did KNOW exactly what I was doing, but during those times there is a kind of a hopeless “what does it matter anyway?” narrative running through my mind. I know, factually, that I will gain weight while I’m engaging in that activity, but I do feel almost powerless to stop it, to make a new decision to walk away from the cheese, crackers and wine. I stop taking care of myself during those periods. It’s a scary place to be.

I would not say I’m a binge-eater, but after studying eating disorders at the Masters level in the graduate program I am enrolled in, I have come to understand that my patterns are more in line with “compulsive overeating” which also contains elements of “Night Eating Syndrome”.

It has been helpful to put a label on it to a degree, although I don’t define myself by labels it doesn’t change the fact that when in periods of weight gain I am in fact behaving in a way which clinically could diagnose me with these things in combination. Sort of an EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

Weight gain is a physiological process when the body is receiving more calories than it is expending throughout the day, day after day. It is inevitable. Genetics has a large part to play on how our bodies process and store fuel (food), so if you combine the genetic propensity to gain weight and consistently giving your body more calories than it needs it is no mystery that weight will come on. Lots of weight.

So what does compulsive overeating and night eating syndrome look like, when in combination?

Well, some days it was simply compulsive overeating, which means I was constantly “grazing” on small amounts of food throughout the day. While different from a “binge” where you consume large quantities of food, compulsive overeating is characterized by mindlessly reaching for food many times a day and rarely experiencing hunger.

Binge eating is more of having a voracious appetite (in the mind) and trying to satisfy it all at once. Compulsive overeating is having to be constantly eating for the sake of constantly eating, but rarely feeling “overstuffed” like binge eaters do. It is a different feeling, psychologically and physically. Binge eaters typically feel somewhat “trance-like” while they are engaged in a binge, and often don’t remember the particulars of what they are eating especially WHILE they are eating it. Compulsive overeaters dream about food, spend their day planning what they will eat next, and get excited at the prospect of nibbling on things all day long. Either behavior will result in a vast excess of calories consumed as compared to what the body actually needs, so both behaviors will result in weight gain.

So how about the night eating component? Well, while I was gaining weight there would also be days where I was adhering to my structured eating program throughout the day, and therefore by about 5pm I would only have consumed 300-600 calories. At some point in the evening, not after I had gone to bed, but usually around 6 or 7 pm, I would “break” with my structured eating program with a glass of wine, thinking “I deserve this, I’ve had a hard day” and then I’d reach for the cheese and crackers, or cinnamon toast, or avocado toast, or bruschetta, or whatever we had handy in the refrigerator. It was usually not sweet, as I don’t have a sweet tooth, but it WAS extra calories. Since my body had been in a “fasted state” most of the day, the result of me introducing so many calories at the end of my day simply resulted in weight gain also.

This went on for 2.5 years, which is where I find myself right now, having gained a whole other ME in weight.

This is what happened physically. This is what I DID to myself physically. It didn’t “happen to me”. I DID this. I take responsibility for it, I own it, I want to play “above the line” in my assessment of what happened.

So, now what? What was missing?

Crickets.

Until next time!

Goethe Girl’s Journey to Health – Prologue

Introduction.

I am fat. There are no two ways around it, and really no “nice” way to say it. I’m just fat.

I have not always been so, nor always been not so. I seem to oscillate in that “yo-yo” cycle of lose – gain – repent – repeat with some regularity, every few years.

Currently, I am in the “fat” stage of the cycle and to be honest I’m ready to get off this crazy ride. It’s not good for my overall longterm health, let alone my short term health, and I feel like I’m in this prison of a bloated body.

Yes, “prison” seems the appropriate word for it. However, it is a strange sort of prison, it is a prison where the door has been flung wide open for me to leave this cell anytime I choose, but for some reason or another (which continues to elude me) I don’t leave it.

I do hate it in this cell, however. This I do know.

It is cold and dark in here, and my thoughts seem very far away, as if someone else is thinking them and that someone is not me.

It’s like someone has dropped this fat suit on top of me, which has swallowed me whole, and I can barely move or breathe.

No, I don’t like it in here one bit.