Having a wobble

It’s all beginning to make sense but even typing that sentence makes me feel nervous as I think it’s an indicator that things are going to go wrong. Like yesterday for example. I have been feeling pretty good about things, that I am getting things sorted mentally, that I am moving away from my obsession with all things to do with my body/weight/eating, I have been feeling better and I was looking forward to an evening at home alone.

Now having brought up a large family and now living with my husband who works part time I don’t get much time totally alone. There always seems to be somewhere to go, someone to see so the idea of a bit of isolation is always something I have cherished. I know I am lucky that I have people and that spending time on my own is a choice not where I ended up but it feels like something special.

And what have I done in the past with this glorious “me” time? Well, you won’t be surprised to know that it usually revolved around food. I would treat myself to my favourite dinner, buy myself a pudding and spend the evening eating whatever I liked. Now I don’t mean that I spent the whole evening simply eating but my idea of self care was food (and sometimes alcohol). That was how I treated myself, made myself feel special, showed myself value, made myself feel good. Except, of course, often it didn’t work like that. I would eat more than normal, feel uncomfortable, go to be feeling disappointed in myself and wake up feeling bloated and guilty. And, as you know, I don’t do those things any more.

So last night when the door closed and I was alone I started feeling really edgy. I had hyped up this time to myself but without the food ritual I felt a bit lost. What could I do? How could I fill my evening? I realised (once again) how big a part food has played in my life and how much space there is now. It was a hot evening so I didn’t want to do anything physical, I wanted to just sit and read, but food kept calling to me, no food in particular but just food in general, I suppose the idea I should be eating, but I resisted. I kept telling myself that this was simply mouth hunger, a habit, something that I could resist because I wasn’t actually hungry and it worked. I ate a salad and an orange, had a small glass of wine and then stopped. I didn’t need anything else and most of all I didn’t need to negative stuff that came with it. It feels like another step forward.

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So just do it!

Has it finally worked? Do I feel confident and relaxed? Is my body smaller? Actually the last one doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore because it feels like the first two questions have been answered positively so the final question doesn’t matter that much. Did I really just write that? Who am I? I’m not sure I know anymore because I feel I have changed so much. Scary, but thrilling, stuff.

I feel it would be helpful for me (and maybe anybody reading) to summarise where I am now. That feels all a bit self indulgent, but do you know what? This is all about me!!! Wow, that feels a bit strange and selfish.

Anyway, back to my focus:

1 I am eating more slowly, putting down the food between bites.
2 I am really (and I mean really) tasting my food, asking myself whether I enjoy it, do I want to eat any more of it, would I prefer something else?
3 I am not thinking about food, eating, my body ALL the time. Still thinking about it but I’m not quite as obsessively.
4 I am eating because I am hungry not because I am bored, sad, angry, stressed etc etc.
5 My biggest step forward is being able to identify mouth hunger (which normally happens because of the reasons listed in point 4 and also because I see food, smell food, someone else has food, food is placed close to me). I can tell myself this is simply mouth hunger and resist. Well done, me. Well, most of the time anyway.
6 I can eat out, eat more one day than normal, without thinking that everything’s ruined and I might as well eat everything I can see until I rein myself in and go back on some ridiculous diet.
7 I am never going to diet again.
8 I am enjoying good quality, nutritious food, with the odd something off the list thrown in without feeling guilty.
9 I am eating much less than I used to because nothing is banned. I have a basket full of chocolate downstairs and I haven’t thought about it for weeks. I haven’t eaten crisps for nearly a month (I think) and I haven’t been yearning for them and denying myself.
10 I feel better and think I look better. I don’t know how much I weigh, I don’t weigh myself but my clothes fit and feel comfortable. I move freely and with confidence.
11 I am a different person. I have worked very hard to get where I am, to understand myself more and I feel it is finally working.
12 When I feel it has worked I probably won’t feel the need to write about it anymore which feels a bit sad but I suppose I could tackle any other one of my hang-ups, that should keep me in material for years.
13 I’d like you to try it too and see if it works for you. Think how much more energy you will have to focus on important things if you stop thinking about the size of your bottom!

That seems like enough for now. I am sure I will think of something else and come back to this later.

Enjoy your day x

Reading the signs

I wrote before about how I have been able to identify mouth hunger, that feeling that I want food that isn’t prompted by real hunger but my boredom, sadness, habit etc etc etc But I don’t know what normal hunger feels like: it’s been so long since I have been in tune with my body that I just can’t identify the signals. I know what starving, I need to eat now, hunger feels like but not “if I don’t eat soon then it’s going to get to the point I feel starving and probably eat too much” hunger.

I’ve done exercises to try to identify this “normal” type of hunger but it’s been so long that I just can’t seem to find it ….yet. Over the past couple of weeks I have been eating a lot less (sometimes thinking I might not be eating enough) and I can easily get engrossed in something and not remember to eat at all until my stomach starts rumbling. Also I eat at times so am I actually eating when I am hungry and exactly what I want to eat? Well, probably not yet but it feels like I am working towards that and feel I will get there. My eating has been so disordered and so dictated by outside factors for so long that it’s not surprising I haven’t got there yet. Add to this the amount of fasting I have had to do before operations then it’s no wonder it’s taking me time to adjust.

My eating story

I found the following when reading some stuff on my laptop. I felt very moved by what I had written and felt it would be good to share.

There was a time I was happy with my body when I was younger. I had a healthy appetite, ate quite large portions but there wasn’t a lot of snacking or treats. Then, when I became an adult, left school and started work, I gained weight. I was able to decide what I could eat and how much I could eat at the same time as having a sedentary job so my whole way of living changed. I have always wanted my fair share of food: growing up in a large family I needed my share of love and this is how love was displayed. I don’t think I ever considered how much I actually wanted to eat: I ate quickly so I could have more so I could get more love. That feels really sad.

I always paid more attention to negative comments about my appearance than the positive ones. I never felt I mattered or that I was good enough so it was or had become natural for me to obsess on the things that were missing, the things that weren’t right rather than focus on the good bits and let my mind skip over the bits that might not be “perfect”. It was always, and still is, about what I hadn’t done; I feel I am a “Yes, but…” person and that is the opposite of what I want to be and usually claim to be.

I am tall, I am attractive but I have spent too many years focussed on the number on the dial on the scales. An upward shift of even a pound would overwhelm me, giving me a vision of myself as being out of control, destined to become a huge whale of a woman, pointed at and laughed at by everyone. Being mocked brings back so many painful memories for me.

I have spent so many years dieting, losing and gaining weight, wasting time focussing on everything I ate and then giving up, eating anything I wanted. Recently I have become aware that I can’t spend the rest of my life doing this: it makes me unhappy, it makes me focus on something that should be a minor part of my life, it’s boring, I need to spend that energy focussing on something that matters. Need I go on?

Food is too big a part of my life: I eat when I am bored, tired, when I want to reward myself, when I feel stressed. It’s my go-to tranquillizer, it’s my pathetic self obsession that haunts me when I don’t want it to do any more. I have given up dieting, allowed myself to eat what I want but now I am just eating a lot of junk because I can whereas what I really want is to eat like a normal, healthy person, eating food that makes me feel good mentally and physically, food that tastes great so that I can enjoy some of it without having to eat all of it because I know this is a “treat” and they won’t be on the menu for much longer.

Writing this without too much thought makes me aware of how confusing and overwhelming this all feels. It is only food but in my life it is so much more: it is love, it is companionship, it is distraction, it is reward, it is something to do, something to think about. It is a big, huge monster stalking me, overwhelming, stopping me enjoying my life as much as I should. It is all those negative thoughts and looks from my past, it is all the judgements I feel that have been made about me, it is the way I feel about myself, never feeling good enough, never feeling very interesting, never feeling I mattered so I might as well enjoy the food, and plenty of it. I might as well stuff those feelings down my throat with food, but not too much food so I can maintain the illusion that this weight is somehow nothing to do with me, a mysterious unwanted gift not a thing caused by me. What a sad, confused child I sound.

Hitting the reset button

So yesterday I wrote for the first time in ages and was worried that I had gone right back to the start and the lure of trying another diet was getting stronger BUT then I read back what I’d written and realised I had gone into the same loop I always go in. Basically my thinking was that you can’t do this, you need a diet, you don’t want to look like this, you can’t trust yourself around food, you’ll never be normal. Wow, what a lot of negativity! Talking in a nasty way to myself has become the same sort of habit as trying to lose weight: it’s been a regular feature of all my adult life. Well, no more!

I have not gone back to the beginning but I realise that I use food to keep my emotions under control. It’s my coping mechanism, in the same way that other people drink, take drugs etc. That’s not to say I sit around all day eating but when something important comes along all the important (to me) things about food go out of the window. I am not cooking from scratch, I am grabbing something handy, I am trying to keep my anxiety under control, I don’t want to feel hungry. And, to be honest, what does my dress size matter to a sick child? It only really matters to me and the way I feel about myself. Most other people don’t notice, they’re not judging me on the size of my body, it’s just me that’s doing that, talking nasty to myself.

So what I am doing at the moment is not going back to the start, it’s just realising that I have strayed a bit away from the path that will take me to where I want to be and I am getting back on track, I am hitting the reset button. I now have the time and the brain space to remember what I am trying to do, and going back to doing it. The last two days I have cut back on my eating, not because I am on a diet but because I need to get away from the easy crisps or chocolate way of eating. I am eating stuff that I enjoy, but I can live with feeling a bit hungry just to get back on track. I am not going to stick with this way of eating but I am reminding myself, especially my stomach, of what I want to eat and how much. I am getting back on track.

Plodding on

I’ve said before that trying to forget about food and writing this blog is a bit difficult as this is about food! Well, about my eating, my giving up dieting, my trying to be normal around food (my normal, of course) so I haven’t written for a few weeks. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about all this stuff but it’s felt less urgent, less intense. I suppose that means that it’s not at the very front of my brain all the time, squashing out other more interesting and more useful things. I am getting on with my life and I think that means I only think about food, dieting, my body etc 80% of the time instead of most of the time. Anyone who has spent years dieting, worrying, dieting again will know this is a real step forward.

I still feel conflicted and have moments of panic but most of the time I feel calm. I feel conflicted because I still want to eat the things that I probably shouldn’t but I don’t want to eat them all the time, I can say no, I can say yes but I still haven’t got rid of the emotional response to the so-called “bad” foods. For instance I shared a child’s pudding with my daughter when we went out the other night (a fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever had, chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream). So I didn’t have a lot and really enjoyed it but the old voices started shouting at me: I shouldn’t have had any, the woman next to me didn’t have a dessert, did I really need it or was I just being greedy? It took away my enjoyment and that’s really sad. I need to keep working at it but I am getting somewhere.

Is it real?

I haven’t been writing for the past few weeks as I am trying not to think about this all the time and unfortunately writing about it brings it back to the front of my mind (well, to be honest, it’s there most of the time but I am trying to ignore it). So what have I achieved so far?

1 I have given up dieting. I am never going to diet again. I have wasted too much of my life trying to lose weight on conventional diets, the latest wisdom, without getting anywhere, well ending up bigger than I started. No more!

2 I am eating better, more natural foods, but not denying myself treats. I am working towards finding a way of being relaxed around food, eating, my body, my weight, myself basically.

So far, so positive but one thing I am really struggling with is understanding when I am moderately hungry. I think for so many years I haven’t been at this stage (either stuffed or starving) that I can’t seem to identify when to eat something to stop myself getting really hungry and then having a binge. The steps seem very simple: eat when you’re moderately hungry, eat until you’re fairly satisfied and stop but what happens when you can’t identify this point? I know when I’m famished (normally when I’ve been busy or engrossed in something and my stomach is rumbling loud enough to hear) but normal, everyday hunger? I’m not sure I know what that is. Something like I could eat a bit but not a whole meal. And the calculation is further complicated by mouth hunger (mainly because I am trying to work out if I am hungry or is it just because I am thinking about food) and my past (dieting, eating at set times etc).

Now that’s a bit difficult: I don’t live alone so I can’t always say I’m not eating now as I’m not that hungry as we have dinner, say, at the same time every night. Does my body now get hungry at that time because it knows it’s dinner time? Once I eat dinner I don’t really want anything else though those chattering voices can suggest I might like a bit of chocolate but if I resist then those feelings go away. It’s something I am working on but when I have spent so many years with my eating being governed by external rules it’s not easy to go back to working it out for myself.