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....