Monday, April 27, 2009

too much yes

Alas, there can also be such a thing as too much yes.

Despite several years of working toward finding that point of moderation, I still find myself in situations (notice the passive terminology there—part of the problem perhaps?) where my intake valve gets stuck in the “on” position. This weekend was the perfect example. Burger and fries on Friday. No problem. A little no, a little yes. S’mores by the campfire on Saturday. No problem. A little no, a little yes. Cookout at my brother’s on Sunday. Big problem. All yes. Yes, yes, and more yes. To the point of complete and utter discomfort for the rest of the evening. Too much yes.

I used to swing wildly and widely between the extremes of too much no and too much yes. Diets. Vilifying foods or groups of foods. Counting calories obsessively. Too much no. Binging. Unable to step away from the potluck table. Ordering too much out of an uncontrollable fear of not having enough. Too much yes.

Over the last several years, I have worked toward an all-things-in-moderation mentality. I restrict, but don’t outlaw, sugar, gluten, and dairy 90% of the time because I just feel better when I do. But I also eat a piece of sugar and white flour laden cake at a birthday party for the exact same reason—I just feel better when I do. I eat clean, I eat healthy, I eat a reasonable amount. Most of the time. Most.

Somewhere in my spirit I can’t break this classic starve-binge cycle, particularly the binge loop, no matter what I do behaviorally. At least 85-90% of the time I eat moderately and happily. I eat things I enjoy, and I enjoy the things I eat. I don’t feel deprived, I don’t feel hungry, I don’t feel compulsive or anxious. I just eat. At home. At work. At a friend’s house. At Chipotle. I just eat, and I’m fine.

But then I go to a cookout. To a potluck. To a sit-down restaurant. A switch is flipped, the intake valve turned on, all restraints removed. Why? My mind begins rationalizing. I just want to eat like everyone else is eating (although I’m not—I’m eating much, much MORE). It’s a special occasion (like a Friday… or a Saturday). I won’t get the opportunity to eat this/like this again for a while (like until NEXT Friday or Saturday).

The classic model would suggest I’m binging in these situations because I am starving myself in others. But that is no longer true, at least not in a dietary sense. This same model would also suggest that I’m vilifying the foods that trigger me, therefore causing me to gorge on them from time to time in rebellion. This is also no longer true—I don’t treat these foods as “bad” any other time, I simply eat them in moderation.

So what causes the “safety” on my intake valve to come off? Why, when unlimited options are placed in front of me, do I become a pistol cocked and fully loaded? And why can I be reasonable and healthy at one place during one moment in time, but be completely unable to restrain myself the next?

What am I hungry for that causes me to eat in such a way? These are the questions I am seeking to explore.

Friday, April 24, 2009

deep, cleansing breaths

I am better now.

A good night's sleep, a small downward turn on the scale, and the relief that I can still fit into my shorts—a relief, indeed, on this our first shorts-worthy day—have all come together to snap me back into my right mind.

That, and I'm sick to death of eating fish and chicken.

After a nice, healthy (if you call wanting to cry "nice" and nausea-inducing "healthy") four mile run, the "fast" was broken at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, with only one very, very small order of guilt on the side.

While I know, truly know, that dieting is not the answer, there was a certain shift that was created over the last two weeks—a breakthrough of sorts, if you will. I was able to remember my ability to say no, which had gotten lost somewhere over the winter amidst the roaring PMS and the appetite-stoking sinus infections. My appetite had outgrown me—I fed it after midnight and it grew into something ugly and uncontrollable. These two weeks helped me to remember that I can say no and not die. That is a good thing to remember.

Tonight? Well, tonight helped me to remember that I can also say YES. And that is a good thing to remember, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

more of the same

This is the point at which I go crazy. (Nothing like jumping right in.)

I sat down tonight to a dinner consisting of a six ounce fish fillet, one cup of zucchini, one cup of asparagus, and three cups of plain salad greens. For the tenth day in a row. For someone who loves food as much as I do, this is tantamount to torture. The first night, it was pretty good. The second night, I cheated and put one tablespoon of dressing on my salad. By the fifth or sixth night, my portions were shrinking and my appetite exploding. By night ten, I could barely choke it down. I can’t eat any more.

Let me back up, as the big picture might be helpful. I have struggled with weight my entire life, sliding the little lever up and down the bar in increments that increase with each re-gain. Five years ago, with over 200 pounds on my five foot two inch frame, I determined it would not happen again. I was done. I was going to get to a reasonable, healthy weight and marry it for life.

Over the next year I lost 75 pounds and six dress sizes. At 140, I was in a size ten for the first time since probably junior high, and fairly comfortable with my stronger, trimmer, but still a little big-ish frame. Fairly. I filled my wardrobe with colorful, curve-accentuating clothes, and for the first time in a long time I felt okay. Not good, not out of the woods, but okay. And for someone who had not been okay for quite some time, okay looked pretty darn, well, okay.

I kept the weight off for four years, albeit with many points of struggle and frustration. But I kept it off nonetheless, and I was still hanging on to okay, if only by a thread.

Then came the half-marathon. The carb-craving-inducing monster that made me so hungry I could have eaten my God-awful plaid hand-me-down couch. Then came the injury, followed by the month of rest the doctor ordered right at the beginning of Christmas Cookie Season. Then came the vacation to Florida, and the four sinus infections in the last three months. Then came seasons two and three of Battlestar Galactica, delivered right to my mailbox in a pretty red envelope, paired with my increasing desire to sit on my tired, achy butt and not make myself in the least bit any more uncomfortable than I already was.

I gained ten pounds. My pants wouldn’t button, some wouldn’t even pull up. Tops wouldn’t meet comfortably in the middle—button amicably greeting hole without each pulling away from the other as if in great disdain. And so I did what anyone who has gained weight before would do. I panicked.

I reigned in my eating, when I wasn’t blind-sided by cravings for anything made out of starch of any kind. I tried to work out harder, when I could narrowly carve out the time and the energy to move a muscle or two. I tried to be reasonable. I tried to be moderate. I tried to be healthy. The scale didn’t budge.

Panic grew and spread like the layer of fat sprawled across my backside. My weight consumed my every thought—trying to figure out what to wear, what to eat, what to do. I was at a point of despair. So I did something desperate.

I went on a diet. A restricted-calorie, clean-eating, metabolism-bursting “lose ten pounds in three weeks” diet. I knew better. But desperate times call for desperate diets. I sucked it up and cut veggies and boiled chicken and broiled fish and I followed it 99% perfectly for ten days. The first five days, I lost four pounds. I was tentatively hopeful, but terrified to really let my mind go to anywhere vaguely resembling hope. I’ve been here before. I know the terrible truth. When push comes to shove, none of it matters. My body can’t be trusted.

The scale has read 150.2 for the last four days. I’m still following the diet. I’m exercising as I can. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do—I’m following the formula. I’m not losing any weight.

THIS is where I go completely crazy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a new blog, more or less

For four and a half years now, I have blogged at colla voce about life in general, from the mundane to the sublime. Parenting, sex, eating, dieting, living, loving, learning--it's all there, and will all continue to be. But as of late, the struggle for freedom from the tyranny of "more" has been overwhelming, and the only way I know how to deal with it is to write. Not wanting to bore my already limited readership with post after post about my weight and food related neuroses, I felt it best to create a separate home for these entries. There will be much more to come--about me, about the title, about my struggle and my desire to be free. But for now, an appetizer...


…fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with a large glass of milk… order in the midst of chaos… time… apple crisp, right out of the oven… heart-felt worship… connection with friends, with family, with God… chips and salsa… faith, hope, and love… but the greatest of these is more chips and salsa… time at the piano, at the computer, at the art table… creative outlet… mama mimi’s pizza… intimacy… play-time… touch… fresh-baked bread with real butter… a night out with my husband… freedom… relief… breakthrough… satisfaction… more chocolate chips cookies… warm brownie sundaes with nuts and caramel… apple pie a la mode… the last pack of school lunch cookies… the crumbs at the bottom of the potato chip bag… stale graham crackers out of the back of the pantry… anything I can get my hands on…What am I hungry for?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:2