Totting it up

So my mind’s been full of food again. Well, only really this evening as I am home alone and seem to have decided eating is something I want to do. And do. And do. Yes I was hungry to start with, but then I seemed to continue. Why? Because I could? There was no-one here to watch, no-one who I thought would be judging? I think I just did it out of habit, a very old habit that seems to have come back because I stopped paying attention, because I stopped thinking about it. I suppose I started to think I could eat normally without having to think about it and maybe I’m just not there yet.

So I ate a bit of breakfast: two small pieces of toast and they were small pieces and later we went out to lunch. My partner was going out this evening so I knew we wouldn’t be eating an evening meal but I wasn’t very hungry. I didn’t eat half the food on my plate and I felt really full. So far, so normal.

But then this evening, after I’d had something to eat when I knew I wasn’t really hungry anymore I continued to eat. I did this sort of stupid mental calculation, something along the lines of “well, you haven’t eaten that much today so maybe you could have/deserve….” and even when I was eating I was thinking about the next thing I could eat, the next thing I deserved. It’s so depressing: I feel good about myself, my life is going well and yet these all habits are still lurking. Still it’s only one evening and it’s just reminded me that I need to be more vigilant, it’s not time to stop thinking about it yet. I shall start again tomorrow.

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I should, shouldn’t I?

One of the (many) problems I have found in trying to eat when I am hungry is to identify real hunger. After so many years of dieting and calorie counting I have found myself mentally working out what I have eaten that day to see whether I can have more food. My body, my physical hunger, doesn’t come into it. It is as far removed from responding to what my body really needs, what physical hunger really feels like as imaginable. It is all in my head rather than anything in my body.

Yesterday I had a “am I hungry?” moment. I had already done my calculations: how long since I last ate, am I “entitled” to food now? I waited, got on with things, waited and eventually my stomach started to rumble. Ah! This was real hunger, not my mental chatter, not my calculations, not boredom, not comfort, this was REAL hunger. So I suppose at the moment I have to wait for a clear signal, I have to ignore my mind, all my old habits, I have to wait. The stomach rumbling is great, something I can identify, but what about when I am getting hungry, when I know I might not to be able to eat later? That feels a bit like trying to identify when I am full when eating: it’s easy to stop when I feel stuffed but I can’t identify what it feels like when I am getting to that point so that if I carry on eating I will start to feel uncomfortable later. So it seems I can identify either end of the scale but I have to keep working on the bits in the middle, the bits that tell me when I am beginning to feel hungry or starting to feel full, when I can anticipate the end rather than wait until I get there. So perhaps I am on the right road? Long way to go….

See-saw

The most frustrating part of working on myself and the way I feel about my body is that just when I think I am getting somewhere, that I am moving in the right direction then I suddenly swing back the other way and enter another period of self loathing, doubt, the chattering, incessant negative voices won’t go away.

In the last few weeks eating has started to feel more natural, more normal. I knew I wasn’t sorted, I hadn’t reached the end, but I felt like I had made huge strides in the right direction. I would catch myself eating something because I was rewarding myself, or because I was bored, but I just sort of filed it away rather than thought how awful it was etc. It seemed to be happening less and less: food was moving out of its place as the primary focus in my life, I was beginning to feel more relaxed about it.

So what happened? I went out today and was sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend when I caught sight of myself in a mirror. What did I see? Well the mirror was low so I couldn’t see my head so all I saw was fat! My stomach looked huge, I had rolls on my back, I thought I looked hideous. I suddenly felt stupid, that I had been deluding myself, I was just being lazy rather than keeping myself in check. I tried to make sense of the way I felt about myself: my clothes are the same size as when I last weighed myself so why should I suddenly feel I had become some sort of whale?

Sitting here now I feel cross with myself: angry because I kept looking, allowed those negative voices to hold the floor, came home and thought about restricting my eating, thought about how other people must be looking at me and commenting on my weight, all the old negative, horrible stuff that has gone through my head for years. And then I decided to take back control: I sat down to write this to reset my brain, to move on, to keep going and tell those voices to shut the f*** up!

Switching off?

Yesterday was a busy day, one of those days that feels like 3 or 4 days rolled into one. Food was relegated to a supporting role: I didn’t have time to think about it and also, interestingly, I didn’t eat very much. When I was rushing around time with a friend I found time to sit down for a coffee and a piece of cake. I ordered cake as there was nothing else to eat and I realised I was very hungry (it was nearly 3 by this time). I cut up the cake and savoured every little square but I didn’t beat myself up for eating it. I needed fuel and it was the nicest fuel I could find. It was what I wanted and I enjoyed it.

Much later when I was having dinner: well, it was more I was finishing everything on my plate when the idea of mindful eating popped into my brain. I had eaten slowly, I had put my knife & fork down between mouthfuls, but I hadn’t thought about checking whether I had eaten enough, how the food tasted, all the things I have been practising for weeks. I was just eating: thinking about something else. I ate an apple after dinner as well not really feeling hungry, but feeling like I wanted something sweet to finish off the meal. I think my mind was very aware I hadn’t eaten much that day and I think my old reward yourself voice was shouting loudly. I enjoyed my evening on my own, relaxing, that felt more important than food but yesterday just reminded me I’m not ready to move on yet.

Step back and recap

I’m feeling a bit more sane about things today! Yesterday was a bad day, a day when I was going to end up as a woman mountain, where I was out of control, well, at least my thinking was out of control. Today I feel better, a bit more normal and a bit more reasonable.

I realised that I was panicking about the whole body/diet thing, that without my daily weighing in (and my mood adjusting accordingly) I felt rudderless. Today I realise that I am doing ok, I am on a road and I will keep going until I get to where I need to be. I need to take a step back from my feelings of being out of control, look at what I was actually doing, remember why I started all this and give myself a good slap (figuratively, of course). So I have summarised my thoughts on all this:

1 I am never going on a diet again, I am not going to starve myself, eat in a strange way, in an attempt to be a size I am not meant to be. All that has stopped;

2 Where I am now I need to be aware of what I am eating and drinking. This creates a bit of a problem because thinking about food is the last thing I want to do because it makes me think I might be hungry and then eat something but at this stage I need to be aware. I am not ready to eat like a “normal” person but I am working towards it;

3 I am fine the way I am: I am perfectly imperfect. I have my own hang-ups and I need to be aware of how much these affect my thinking;

4 I don’t eat huge amounts. When I see diet stories (yes, I still read them, maybe that should stop?) people talk about eating enormous meals, lots of snacks etc but I don’t do that. I normally eat two meals a day, plus a snack or two, one of which is normally fruit. Secret eaters wouldn’t find me very interesting but I do eat when I am bored, become aware of food and I do eat more than I need;

5 I am going to eat less: not in a “on a diet” way but rather just being aware and leaving a mouthful on every plate, re-training my brain that I don’t need to finish it all. I am also going to take a step back when I think I am hungry and tell myself to wait 20 minutes to see if I really need any food. I have done this a few times and end up not eating but I need to persevere. I have put a large question mark on the fridge just to remind myself to stop and think.

I don’t want this to go back into a disordered way of eating but I do need to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Time to take stock.

Make it stop!

Today I am bad tempered. Why am I bad tempered? Because I feel fat. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t like what I see: I don’t see the “good” bits, I just see the fat, the letting-go, the things that make me lesser than. Usually these feelings would make me start on another diet, another restricted eating plan, another trying-on of the jeans with a promise to make them a bit looser, look better, to make myself feel better. So much of my self worth is tied up with how I think I look. I imagine people judging me: people who haven’t seen me for a while thinking about the weight I have gained, feeling sad and ignored, and yet I know so much of this is inside my head.

Through the years I have lost (and gained) a lot of weight: the times I was slim seem to have passed in a flash and I was soon back in those comfortable clothes, long tops, trying to disguise what I see as my failure, hiding the evidence from all those people that I knew were judging me. But did I know it.

Now I am certain I can’t spend the rest of my life punishing myself, restricting what I eat, focussing on how many calories or carbs I have eaten that day, rewarding myself for being “good” and beating myself up for every lapse. A self-imposed life sentence of misery and yet the journey to learning to eat normally, to using food simply as fuel, is tortuous, every turn provides a new challenge, a new uncertainty. I keep going but I doubt myself every step of the way and wonder what those behind me are saying about my body.

Thank you

I’ve written before about how the opinion of other people about how I look matters so much to me: I think they are contemplating any changes in my body even though I know they don’t even notice and if they did they don’t find it very interesting. That’s my stuff.

And yet…. The odd kind comment, compliment, positive remark makes such a difference to the way I feel. This week, for example, two people told me how well I was dressed (I do like to make an effort) and then I get a few messages through this blog, kind messages of encouragement. This positive feedback allows me to take a deep breath and keep my focus on this plan of mine. Over the years I’ve tried to do this over and over again and kept creeping back to the scales, the diets, the worry, the endless boredom of it all, but this times feels better, it’s lasted longer and other people have given me the boost to keep going.

I felt pleased with myself yesterday as I had a glass of wine! So what, big deal, BUT I didn’t feel the need to have another, finish a bottle with my partner. Instead we went out for a walk and I felt proud that I hadn’t used food or drink to fill the emptiness inside me. I walked in the early evening sunshine with my partner and daughter and it felt good, I felt good and the size of my body simply didn’t matter. It feels good.