Saturday, February 20, 2010

Baby Steps. Little, Teeny Tiny Baby Steps

It's been two weeks and two days of cleeeeeeaaaaaan, normal eating. Three meals a day, two snacks, no real feelings of deprivation. I am working on my CBT workbook, which makes me feel like I am back in grad school. Or college. Or elementary school. They have a very defined eight-step plan, which I am amending to suit my own needs. For example, Step Two involves only weighing yourself weekly. That will be very difficult for me, and I refuse to do it until I am solidly back in a specific weight range (which is about 10 pounds from now). The good news is I am getting really close to defining a plan that works for me. Meaning, should I slip up, I think I may just have a good safety net.

Through copious reading, online research and lots of thinking, I have determined that the FIRST step after a binge is to not refer to said event as a binge, but rather an event of overeating. That happens, and that is normal. People do that alllll the time. But the average person, the normalized person, would bounce back after that. Me, it usually starts a cycle, one that can last a day, a week, a month, or a year. So I need to think of it as an isolated event, one which I can fully recover from.

The next step: Return to regular eating asap. One of the bad things about my cycles is that I will skip meals and instead sort of graze all day. I may start the day off with a few bowls of pretzels. I may follow that with something equally as ridiculous. Around lunch time, instead of eating a normal lunch, I will make cookies and with my girls and eat those. More grazing, mindless eating, not a real meal for miles around me.

I have been journaling after every meal and snack. This is part of the CBT workbook paradigm, too. I found a great application for my iPhone, which makes this diary-keeping a million times easier. A notebook and pencil? So 2009. I have learned some interesting things: Yes, I am an emotional eater (I want to eat when I am sad, upset, angry, etc. but really, who doesn't?) but I am also a bored eater. This longer winter, which traps me and my toddler daughters indoors, makes the days quite long. During warmer weather, we are out all the time, taking walks, going to the playground, visiting the zoo. But these days, snow and slush and generally bad sidewalk conditions trap us indoors. This is part of the reason why January was so rough for me: Wind chills kept us indoors, but try telling that to two toddlers who want to go outside. My patience plummets and my will power erodes, in like seconds. I am finding that when we are busy, have plans, and are able to get out, I am less inclined to even THINK about eating poorly. I am less inclined to visit the foodstore and buy a tub of caramel corn.

What I am working on now: Trying to find replacement activities to turn to should the desire to eat unhealthy rear its ugly head. One of my research missions turned up the fun fact that the urge to binge, the desire to binge, usually only lasts about a half hour. If you can make it through that half hour, you are going to be okay. This, of course, could be a bunch of BS but I am taking it as truth. Why? Because it makes sense: Give me thirty minutes and I can find something to take my mind off of eating. If I were seeing a therapist in conjunction with this workbook, the therapist would help me come up with ideas. But I am fine thinking this through on my own.

What I am technically working on now is introducing my own "forbidden foods" into my eating. So that Monkey bread that i made with my girls, which is pictured above, I had one cube. That is reasonable, right? I mean, I WANTED to eat a clump of cubes. I wanted to eat the warm, raw, sugar-coated dough. But I didn't. I ate one cooked clump, savored it and didn't get sucked into the fuckit vortex. The next day, I had a handful of pretzels, a HUGE trigger food for me. Just a handful. And I didn't get sucked into the fuckit vortex. A minor victory. I am trying to do this every day. But, like an anorexic, I struggle with taking even bites of "forbidden" food that I feel will trigger me. But I can't live life like that. That isn't normal.

To recap, what I have kinda mastered:
1. Put a fence around eating episode and call it an isolated event. Period. Don't get sucked into the "Fuckit" vortex.
2. Return to normal eating...3 meals, 2 snacks, at normal times.
3. Keep food journal after each meal and snack.

Next Steps:
• Think of replacement activities
• Introduce forbidden foods sloooowly and carefully

Down the road:
• Dealing with emotions instead of eating them
• Dealing with situations that make me vulnerable
• Dealing with body image issues

Thanks for the comments. I reread them over and over again because while intellectually I KNOW I am not alone, I am glad to have intelligent, thoughtful, company from women who really get it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Becoming My Own Therapist: CBT, Here I Come

It has been eight days since I have binged. Eight whole days. This is the longest I have gone in a while. Three meals, two snack, every day, no exception. Gym every day, running a minimum of five miles.

(You think the pounds would be FLYING off me. Alas, only about two pounds in the past eight days. I am hoping for two by ten days. It has been very discouraging and I have been very vulnerable for binges every day.)

But I have been here before, in this place, so I am not getting too cocky yet. And the point now, my goal now, is to NOT be here again. It is to get to the root of this problem once and for freaking all.

Yo-yoing is not working for me. I continue to yo yo back and forth, and gain and lose the same weight all the time. I do keep it in a range, and I guess that is good. But still. Clearly my long term plan isn’t effective. Clearly my pattern of eating and exercise is flawed. Clearly denying myself foods doesn’t work. Clearly I resort to binges and binge cycles that last anywhere from one meal to one year. And clearly I haven’t figured this out, otherwise I wouldn’t be struggling so much with weight.

So I did a little research and I have decided that I am going to do a little self help. Yes, I will lick this on my own. I quit drinking on my own, so I can do this. I don’t really have a choice. I think institutionalizing myself for a year might be a better idea, but I don’t have time for that. Besides, I don’t want to learn to recover from disordered eating in a controlled environment: I want to figure this out in the real world. I don’t have time to attend therapy on a regular basis. I need to do this myself. I don’t have a choice.

The method I deem best for me: Cognitive behavior therapy. CBT is based on the premise that our thoughts (cognition) cause our behaviors. Therefore, my evil thoughts are causing me to overeat. So if we change the way think, we can change the way we feel. And won’t that just change everything?

The goal is to understand the relationships between thoughts, emotions and actions. The sunny side of this is once these relationships are understood, I can replace those bad, negative thoughts and emotions (which lead me to binge) with more positive, happy thoughts and emotions that will keep me on track. Sounds easy. Ha.

I have culled some info from several sources and have created my own eight-step program. Go me. I have no idea how long each step takes, but I intend to stay on each step until I master it.

The first step is recording what I eat and how I feel. I started yesterday and it feels good to do that. I am sure that one day isn’t going to make a huge difference but to be honest I do feel a little more enlightened. Yes, I eat when I am stressed or angry or sad. I guess that makes me an emotional eater. I get that. Add that to my long list.

So now, the end goal is to figure out HOW to handle those emotions instead of burying them in food. Instead of eating, what can I do? And since I know this about myself now, and I know when I may be upset what preventative measures can I take to help myself before it gets bad?

That is all down the road. Right now it is all about seeing the connections. And I will see the connections more clearly as I journal every time I eat.

The book mentions that even the intention to restrict food can lead to overeating. I guess it makes sense, on a certain level. And I do see that the deeper I get into this disorder, the more I am restricting my food. Because while I am an emotional eater for sure, I am also easily triggered. Well, I guess that is emotional: I feel like I fucked up so why not just keep on eating more and more and more. Even one bit of something I deem “bad” indicates to me failure. Why am I so hard on myself?

How long will this step take? Maybe two weeks, I’d say. I need to clearly see a correlation between my thoughts and my eating behaviors. I need to see clearly when I want to binge. I need to identify my vulnerable times. Once I get there, it’s on to step two, which limits my weigh-ins to once a week. THAT is going to be very hard step. I weigh myself daily (sometimes at night too, which is terrible). Ugh. The journey continues…. and continues.... and continues....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Comments as a Breadcrumb Path: Keep em' Coming

To the awesome comment people: Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a really hard time for me right now and I am trying hard, veeeeery hard, to start each day right and stay on track as long as I can. I keep breaking, every day, and it still sucks. When is this cycle going to end? Or, this cycle of cycles?

What scares me is I am at the point of NEVER feeling full. In the beginning, when I "slip" and have an overeating kinda day, and then I eat too much, my body warns me by making me feel very full. It is an awful feeling. But, as I continue these daily episodes of eating waaaay too much, my body adjusts and seems to ask, "Hey, can I get some more? Because this is barely filling me up at all." Oh, and I don't enjoy the food I am putting in my body. Almost tasteless, it all is.

I have been very aware this cycle, and I must say that I am usually not so aware. That, I guess, is a start. I ordered a book that was delivered yesterday about binge eating. Once again, I am not sure I fit into the classic binge eater definition. I think I have created a brand new eating disorder: Half the way (or more) spent eating very healthy; skip dinner and eat too much crap (by too much crap I mean, for example, last night's binge: An entire bag of caramel popcorn, a bagel with melted cheese, two peanut butter protein bars....) I feel shame, anger, sadness, disappointment and that awful aura of helplessness.

I know I need to do this myself. Another fun fact about me: I am a recovering alcoholic. I quit drinking on my now (no AA, no therapists, etc) and have been sober 7 years. My drinking problem was huge and I conquered that alone. Why can't I do this? Why?

And not to pt too much pressure on you comment people, but it means so much. I was in bed, reading through my blogroll one morning, planning my day of crap eating in my head, when I read a comment from one of you. And I stopped. I ate well and was on track until nighttime. So it helps.

I'm trying people, I'm trying. I am knocked down every day, but I keep trying. Naturally I hope the book I got yesterday is the Magic Cure. And this blog is another Magic Cure. Because something HAS to give: I have been dealing with this long enough. I want I need, I am beyond ready to be in the recovery stage.

Please, lease please let this cycle of cycles be ending. Please let me have the courage to talk about this with someone in real life. Please let the book give me a path. And please let your comments form a breadcrumb trail that leads me to the land of recovery.

Becasue right now, I hate myself. And right now, I look at my body and I think it is awful. And I need to get out of this space.

And you know what, we should start a Binge Police business. I want to hire someone to shadow me ALL day and slap me as soon as I start to binge. A little unconventional, but it would work. I have a feeling that is a business that could really tae off. Because bingers need to get back on track and then we can steer our own ship. But getting back on track is SO hard.

See, as that picture shows, I told you when I am healthy I am really healthy. The best part is I really LIKE food like that. That caramel popcorn I shove in? Not so much.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hello Darkness, My Old Binge Friend

Mid-binge here, people (?) I am mid-binge. So far today I have had brownies, Sun Chips, half a loaf of French bread and a protein bar. Oh and a cu of Cinnamin Toast Crunch. Normally this much food would give me a stomach ache, but my stomach is nice and stretched from three days of this.

And tonight we are going out to eat at a fancy French restaurant. My picky appetite limits me to a random fish dish and a chocolate souffle.

This sucks. It really does. I feel gross and bloated and fat and ugly. I can't look at myself in the mirror. I don't feel healthy at all. I skipped my morning run, which is not good. And I am wondering, yet again, what causes these cycles and why the hell can't I get out of them? What is it going to take? How do I flip that switch? I need answers because I can't go on like this.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Diagnosing Myself: Yes, I Have a Fool for a Patient

Thanks, intrepid and brave commenters. I will staring the blog roll this weekend, so keep the site and suggestions coming! Obviously I know I am not alone in this but knowing there are others out there is very, very comforting.

I am not sure why I am obsessed with labels, but I need to know what is wrong if I have any hope of fixing it, right? I never felt comfortable with the “binger” label. It seemed to extreme for a behavior pattern that I float in and out of with no real pattern. The eating part is a tiny part of the issue, in my opinion. Below is the criteria for BED (Binge eating disorder), according to that bible of hypochondriacs and afflicted alike, the DSM-IV:

1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

Eating, in a discrete period of time (within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances; A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

2. The binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following:

• Eating much more rapidly than normal

• Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

• Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

• Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating

• Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or feeling very guilty after overeating

• Marked distress regarding binge eating.

• The binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for 6 months.

3. The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (eg, purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Sure, I can easily admit that most of those things have applied to me at one time or another, and some more regularly than others. But even still, it is not a perfect fit. And it focuses too many on my actions and has little regard for other issues I have: Like extremely rigid eating patterns and fear of putting myself in positions where I may be tempted to eat food I deem that I shouldn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone out for dinner with friends and ate nothing, claiming that I ate early with my daughters because I was famished. I have gone to parties and have been paralyzed with fear once I saw the food table. How vacations required so much advance work by me, to make sure we had a hotel with a gym. I traveled to Asia once with an entire bag of food, including many boxes of granola bars and sandwiches that consisted of six slices of honey roasted turkey (60 calories); one sandwich bun (140 calories) and dijon mustard (just a few calories).

I am, by nature, a picky eater as well. I am borderline vegetarian. We are going out for Date Night on Monday to a French restaurant and there in not ONE thing on the menu I can eat (lamb…oxtail…sweetmeats…no no and no). So it is really easy for me to hide my disordered eating under my pickiness. It is amazing how easy it is to fool people. So easy.

My internet research has brought me time and again to, a website about eating disorders. I also read Abby Ellin’s article on diagnosing eating disorders in the New York Times earlier this week. It is all about EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified) which is, in the end, the label that I bet I will end up with. Why? Because there is much more to my disordered eating than just eating too much.

Day 2 of clean eating (take, what, 168?). But the night I young and I need to run a few errands and there is that chance that I will come home with a secret bag of food. Good grief. Getting back on track is so hard.

More About Me

• I am a runner and I run everyday, usually around five or six miles.

• I do not fit the typical profile of the typical binge eater in that I am not very overweight. I am 5’6” and my highest weight (non pregnancy weight) hovers around 180. My all-I-Can-Eat weight paired with not exercising hovers in the upper 160s. My lowest weight was in the upper 120s, which was too thin for me.

• My ideal weight? Probably in the 130s. The body image side of me says lower 130s. The smarter side of me realizes upper 130s is probably healthier.

• I gain and lose weight alarmingly fast.

• I can gain ten pounds in about two weeks. Yes, I realize some of this is water weight, etc. But still, it is possible for the scale to make a big jump, which usually derails me.

• When I derail, I reeaaaaaally derail. I can get off track and stay off track for months. During this time I will struggle daily with binge eating.

• Typical cycle: Binge eat one day; starve myself the next; normal eating on day three. Wash, rinse, repeat.

• I have two young daughters.

• It is shocking how much I can eat and not feel sick. Shocking.

• I do not make myself throw up, but don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I wish I could. How sick is that? But I won’t cross that line.

• My biggest issue is not derailing for long periods of time. If I mess up ONE meal, one snack, or make one tiiiiiiiny mistake, I punish myself, in a way, by continuing bad eating for, oh, MONTHS. Yes, I am that unforgiving of myself.

• I am keeping on the down-low for now. Not sure if I can or will reveal myself. I have another blog, with pictures and names and all that, but for now, I am just a Binge Eater with a secret blog.

• I live in the Big City. We also have a home in the Big Country, where we spend our weekends. This is important to know because it affects my eating.

And now, what I am looking for:

• I really want to create a community of bingers here. I want to find other people like me who suffer with this. I want us to reach out to each other and help each other, just by being an ear to listen. Or a blog to read.

• I really want to get this binge eating under control. This IS within our capabilities. It truly is. I know I can do this, but I will need to make some big adjustment. For example, I need to learn how to not set my mood by the number on the scale. I will need to learn balance and moderation. I will need to stop looking in the mirror and hating what I see. That’s easy. Right?

I made it through yesterday eating clean and not binging. It’s a start, right?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I’ve Been Cured!

OK, so I haven’t been cured yet. To borrow from Mr. Hemingway, wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? That it could be THAT easy? That just going to one meeting would set a whole bunch of unstoppable balls in motion that would lead instantly to a cure.

All day, I went back and forth between Good Idea and Bad Idea: Go to my first meeting or just continue my now 11 day binge. Believe me, each hour was a struggle. Those pretzels in the cabinet were calling my name. There were way too many temptations. But I didn’t waver and I was clean, all day long.

The meeting started at 6, and I got there just a few minutes before, lest there was some sort of social situation that I would have to participate in. Not quite ready for that. Walking up to the church, I kept thinking, I could just go on the drug store and pick up some snacks and just go eat them somewhere and skip this whole thing. I tried opening the doors, but they were locked. It’s a sign! Go eat! I found the right doors, which lead to locked interior doors. Another sign! Leave now. Yet I fumbled around again and found a second set of unlocked doors. And followed the instructions posted on a piece of paper that was carefully coated in plastic down to the big room in the basement. There was no stopping me now.

Two steps down into one of those church basement rooms: Folding chairs stacked in the corners and angel-like choir robes hanging on racks and cute little Boy Scout ribbons hanging near a bulletin board. This is a place where coffee in Styrofoam cups are served after services. Where Entermann’s cookies are arranged earnestly on paper plates. Where people sit around and bask in that post-church glow together. And also, apparently, where addicts of all sorts sit around tables and try to keep their various demons at bay. Maybe the church goodness and serenity seeps through the floors.

It was a small group: Four women and one man. The man surprised me. Not that I don’t think men can have eating disorders: Of course they can. But still, I was a little surprised. I just pictured OA meetings to be all women, all the time.

I can’t talk about these other people, share their names or their journeys. But I will say this: I was by far the smallest person there. I was kind of wondering if they would resent me for that, or marginalize me. Or think that I don’t really have an issue. I may have felt out of place physically but I felt right in place, mentally.

The meeting was exactly how these meetings are stereotyped: I had to introduce myself each time I spoke and announce that I am a overeater. “Hi I am J and I am an overeater.” “Hi J!” came the enthusiastic chorus each time. And “Thank you J!” after I spoke each time. To be honest I almost broke into a case of inappropriate giggles a couple of times because it just seems absurd to keep saying this over and over again. But I guess this is apart of the tradition and structure, and traditions and structure are good.

The meeting lasted about 50 minutes, and this is what it was like: The chairwoman opened the meeting and read some things. Other people were asked to read a couple of pages loud as well (the 12 steps, and other basic background). It was made clear that OA is not affiliated with any church or political group or anything about, oh, 75 times. And then it was asked if anyone wanted a coin. Apparently you get keepsake coins for different levels of sobriety I got coin to represent that I have not binged in 24 hours. Go me! After that, it was asked if anyone wanted to choose a topic for this evening’s meeting. This being my first meeting. I had no idea what this meant. The chairwoman told us to flip through the index of the voices of recovery book. Self-love, self-judgment, sanity, secret of recovery, service, slips, sponsors, steps, stubbornness, struggles….and that is just a sample of the “s” list.

There were two things I learned at this meeting that made it completely worth my time: One was that surrender is an unconscious event. This was a thunderclap realization for me. All these years I have tried to force surrender. Instead, the passage we read said, we need to do the footwork, to go through the motions and the surrender will come. Yes, this involves the infamous 12 steps, and even as I listened to those steps being read out loud I though, there is no way I am doing that one (to wit: apologize to those I have wronged? No way! Be of service to others? I have no time for that! I have two kids and a life.). So you can say I will be dragged kicking and screaming through this process. If I even do it.

The second insight I realized was all those awful qualities I have, like impatience and fear of change, they aren’t going away. Ever. The best I can do is temper those qualities. TRY to be more patient. TRY to embrace change. And when I start to feel impatient and rigid, TRY to figure out a way to make it better. Try try try. That is all I can do.

It isn’t over yet, but Day Two of clean eating. Victory might be mine. Right.