BoPo Revisited

There’s this whole other way of living out there…non-diet, size neutral, eat what you feel like eating, exercise because you want to, gently. Who knew?

I have been anti-diet, size neutral, body positive and into Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating since Jan 1, 2017, an auspicious day when the prison bars opened and I walked out into freedom.  (If you are unaware of just how messed up I was regarding body image and food, take a look at the post: The Body Positive.) I received a request from my sister Amy to revisit the topic, now that some time has gone by and I have completely changed my disordered ways.

Well, let’s start with what I have been doing differently.  Instead of constant restriction or worry about calories and types of food, I have opened the flood gates and have been eating whatever the hell I feel like eating and at whatever time of day or night – tuning in to my hunger and cravings instead of tuning them out. The first time in early January that we were at a restaurant together and I ordered (gasp) fish, Leo looked at me quizzically and says, ‘Mom, no salad?’  When I got over the fact that my teenage boy noticed me, I started to feel bad for the messages that I have obviously instilled in him about what mom’s should or shouldn’t eat. Shit!  I didn’t want my body image baggage to affect him.  For his whole life though, I have restricted, stressed and worried unless the prerequisite burning of significant calories had occurred.

Well, NOT ANY MORE.

From my research on recovering from eating disorders / disordered eating and over exercising, this was the stage where I was lifting the taboos from all foods.  It’s key that for a number of months, or a year or so, one goes with whatever the hankering is for and try to really tune in to the exact food that is being craved. Almost always, initially, it will be previously demonized foods like: french fries, desserts, melted cheesy-foods. After paying some attention to those particular foods (the previously demonized ones), they will lose their power and we won’t feel the need to indulge in them as often.

I am already noticing that some foods are losing their attraction, just because now they are allowed. Their allure is lessening.  Don’t get me wrong.  This intuitive eating method is NOT a weight loss method.  It is rather, a way to learn to be in tune with your body and what it needs and wants. What ever develops from that…so be it.  Some gain.  Some lose. Some stay the same.

Another big step was to rid my social media sights of anything or anyone who would trigger my thinking back to the old ways.  So, I unfollowed or unfriended sites and folks with mentions of dieting, weight-loss, green smoothies (YUCK!), cleanses or over-exercising.  Also, I had to let some friends know that I now take exception to body-slagging, diet and fat-phobia talk.

As for exercising, I am doing a lot of walking, because I enjoy it and because, while I walk, I can educate myself using podcasts.  I have now listened to hundreds of hours.  My favourite podcasters are:

  • Christy Harrison on Food Psych podcast https://www.christyharrison.com/foodpsych/ ;
  • Chris Sandel http://www.seven-health.com/;
  • Meret Boxler on Life. Unrestricted podcast http://www.lifeunrestricted.org/ ;
  • Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio https://summerinnanen.com/frr/

There are also life changing books available:

  • Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size; 
  • Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating; and
  • Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Another thing that’s good about walking: I can do errands and make it functional exercise, like fetch the mail and a few groceries items.  Can’t do that on the treadmill or on the stairway to nowhere. I am also still doing yoga but it has morphed into a very gentle version of yoga.  No more power yoga and way fewer handstands.  Instead of compulsive exercising for the purposes of looks or to burn calories, now I exercise because it feels good.  Exercise is a gift to my body, much like slaking my thirst with a glass of cool water.

So, what has changed for me.  OH MY GOD.  I am free.  At last.  I do not wish my previous shit on anyone.  That was a horrible way to live.  I have gotten rid of my scale so I don’t know how much, but I have gained weight.  But, seriously, who cares?  WHO THE HELL CARES if I have a bigger dress size?  I know one thing for sure, my hubby is enjoying my bigger boobs. A win win.

Is it difficult to do a 180 degree turn at this stage in my life?  Well, you know that saying: fake it until you make it?  That’s me.  I’m pretending to be one of those people who eats whatever they want.  We have all known at least one friend like that, right? That’s me. It’s working and it’s exciting to be able to just EAT WHATEVER I WANT and NOT OBSESS ABOUT IT. God.  It’s so much better this way.  I welcome you to join me.

When I’m having a bad day, I check in with a couple of closed facebook groups which are full of people going through exactly what I am going through.  I was having a really bad day a few weeks ago — scared about my changing body and hoping I was on the right path. I posted to the Food Psych podcast facebook group and within a few minutes I had answers to my gnawing worries.  One person encouraged me to simply lessen my mirror time.  Imagine.  I don’t have to check myself out so much and that will make me feel better.  It works.  Another person responded that I may want to go buy some larger clothes because wearing tight clothes can be distressing at this stage. Off to the thrift shop I went and found some beautiful jeans that fit so well at thrift prices. Their responses really helped me and I was touched.

I would love to help even one person to get out of the restriction / over-exercising hell.  If I could save one person from wasting themselves in the diet-culture crap, that would have all been worth it.

I will end with truisms that I have learned so far:

  • All bodies are good bodies.  This is key.
  • Our body knows what is best.  Tune in.
  • Diets don’t work.  Why does Weight Watchers have a lifetime membership?  Think about it.  It is a profit driven business based on diets NOT working.  Am I right?
  • If it feels like a chore to exercise, take a break.  Sit down and enjoy a rest or go for a stroll, admire nature or window shop.
  • If your Instagram is full of skeletal bodies with six-packs, that’s not helpful.  Unfollow.
  • Diet talk is not helpful and it shouldn’t be how we bond with each other as women (or men). Diet talk is lame. Step away from those people or help them to know they are triggering you.
  • Journal writing and meditation helps work it out.  Meditation can take place while walking, if that works for you.
  • Juice fasts are diets.  So are cleanses.  Diets don’t work.
  • Not only do diets not work, you will likely gain more weight in the 3-5 years after the weight loss.  This is because your body is rebounding from thinking there was a famine and slowed your metabolism.
  • Some lifestyle choices are just glorified diets.  Diets don’t work.
  • If you have a craving for a food, think about eating that food.  Your body is asking you for it.
  • If you get a feeling that someone is anorexic (because you have never seen them eat and perhaps is skeletal – but not necessarily) they probably are. Anorexia is a very secretive condition.  However, if you can, reach out to them in a gentle way.  Tell them you care.  This will mean a lot.  I was there.  I know.
  • Anorexia is a very lonely mental illness which can be fatal.
  • If we don’t buy into it, we can beat the trillion dollar per year diet industry….together.

Just in case you would like to read these again:

Intuitive Eating Principles by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
  2. Honor Your Hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
  3. Make Peace with Food. Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
  4. Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
  5. Respect Your Fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
  8. Respect Your Body. Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
  9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
  10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

Copyright 2007-2017. intuitiveEating.org All rights reserved.

dykes water
It’s a journey my friends.

Reach out to me, I would like to help…

Leave me a comment.  I love ’em~

~M

Anorexic Sweet Sixteen (1981)

At sixteen I experimented with dieting and it led to a full-blown eating disorder…

1981 was the year my Mom morphed into a love-sick teenager right before my cringing eyes.  My parents were in the midst of a break up but the first step was for them to have a trial separation while still both living in our bungalow. Mom had the basement and Dad had the upstairs.  They shared the kitchen.  I remember Mom writing her name on her row of eggs on the inside of the fridge door.

Before long, Mom started dating an alcoholic she met at the Legion.  Good choice.  I loathed the way she behaved in those months.  She started wearing really tight clothing and tons of makeup.  She was going out to the Legion many times a week.  It infuriated and sickened me.  My fifteen-year-old self was ashamed of the person I had basically worshiped prior to that.  I think Mom was rebelling and bingeing on that aspect of life because she had been depraved of proper affection and love by Dad for years.  It was just sad.

I used to make phone calls to my eldest sister, Eva, who was married, and tell her my woes.  I would tell her how Mom and Dad were always fighting and bickering.  Soon, she invited me to live with her and her family, three-hours away in London. Later that year I would come back to visit and by then, Mom had gotten a place: a 1.5-bedroom apartment above the Knights of Columbus Hall up by St Mary’s School.

My little brother Luke was living with her and while there, slipped into a shadow of his former self.  He continuously watched television and became very quiet and sullen.  It would break my heart to see what my little brother had become in this dysfunctional arrangement.  I blamed myself for decades afterward, that I had abandoned him there.  Finally a wise therapist told me to let that go.  I was just a child myself at the time.  It was not my fault. The other adults should have been there to help us through it, she explained softly while I wept, in her chair.

Anyway, living with my eldest sister and her family, I realized that every family  has their problems and pressures.  Sometimes I would wake up at night and hear them arguing with each other about money.  Taking in a teen isn’t without cost.

I knew that I needed to chip in. I picked up many babysitting gigs and even braided the hair of a few ladies on the street. For a couple years, french braids were at the height of fashion and, I could braid.  Layla, my red-headed friend who had moved away had taught me.  I would charge $10 – $20 for a braid and that was a lot at that time.  The ladies would gladly pay me because their long hair would be up and out of their way for days in a good braid and, they could go out on the town with hubby and be in style.french braid

Always the entrepreneur, when I had a free night, especially on a weekend, I would call some parents and let them know I was free. Nine times out of ten they would call back and hire me to babysit for the night.  I didn’t buy groceries or anything with my money, but, at least I didn’t need to ask for any spending money. I also paid for my driving school with that money.  I was very eager to learn how to drive and I firmly believed in learning correctly. Interestingly, I later became a Transportation Officer in the Army and then a Driving School owner.

Eva took me down to enroll in the Catholic High School for grade ten.  I would take the bus every day.  The bus stop was only a minute away.  The problem was, going to Catholic High was going to be a huge change.  I had been going to St. Joe’s in Barrie with its 163 students.  2000 students went to Catholic Central High in London.  It was huge.  I was completely lost there.  I had been a total jock at St. Joe’s.  On every team.  Excelling at almost all my subjects.  Known by all.

At CCH it was a different story.  I didn’t make the basketball team.  I just could not believe it.  I went to the coach and begged my way onto the team.  She told me I would likely ride the bench all season.  I said, ‘I don’t care.  Please let me play.  I will not survive here without basketball.’

bball

Basketball practice was every morning at 7:30. I had to take the city bus for 45 minutes to downtown then run five blocks to CCH, then run for an hour of practice.  Normally that would be no problem, because I had been super fit.

However, at that time, I had become anorexic.  I was living on about 800 calories or less per day: a tiny breakfast of half a pita with 1 precise tablespoon of peanut butter and exactly 8 oz of skim milk that I mixed from powder into a plastic cup each morning (blech!!!); an apple for lunch and the smallest dinner I could get away with. Eva was watching and I would try not to upset her.  I didn’t want her to know my secret.

I was growing and I was expending a lot of calories for basketball.  I was extremely emaciated and lacked any muscle tone and had very little strength.  I really don’t know how I physically carried my frame around for the day. The human body is an amazing machine.

 

The anorexia started innocently enough.  Eva had started going to Weight Watchers to lose the baby weight from her second pregnancy.  Her first born was now two.  She asked me if I would like to eat the same way as her.  We could do it together.  But, I did not need to lose any weight.  My body was an average size and quite muscular.  But, I was open to trying this new thing with my sister whom I looked up to so much.

I loved doing things with Eva.  We had a lot of fun together and did a whole lot of laughing together.  But, as I started restricting and losing weight and then going back to Barrie for a visit, my friends made quite a big deal about how great I looked.  I thought I should lose even more.  I have very strong willpower when I draw on it, so restricting even more was possible.

It wasn’t at all fun, but, by this time it had become a bit of a weird addiction and a secret project which somehow gave me comfort — ridiculous, I know.  I was riddled with fear.  Worried that if I ate as much as I wanted, I would get very fat very fast. I was ashamed of myself for being so self-centered.

One day, I was out with Eva running errands.  I was walking up to this window of this storefront.  I was watching the reflection of this skeletal figure walking up to the window and I was looking to see who it was.  I did not recognize myself.  I was that skeletal form but, when looking at my reflection, I saw a fatter body.  Dysmorphia is what they call this phenomena.

When laying down in my bed at night, my bones were pressing through my skin and it would hurt.  It was quite hard to get comfortable.  There was a pull chain above my bed to turn out the light.  I had to will myself to raise my arm to reach the chain to turn out the light.

I continued this way for the year – holding out even though Eva would scream at me to Martha please eat!!!!.  By the end of it, I was about 80 pounds and was getting sick a lot, always freezing cold, no period, short of breath, thinning hair, bad breath, coated tongue and of course, always starving and suppressing it.  Anorexia is hell.  It truly is. Do not go there.  Please don’t.

From my research now, I have learned that Anorexia Nervosa is a mental illness.  I would have several more battles with mental illness in the future, but not for nearly two decades.

I had strep throat over and over that year.  My immune system was shot.  Going to see Eva’s doctor, a European with blunt speech, asked me if I was losing this much weight on purpose.  I remember liking how he worded that question. I opened up to him and told him the truth.  Right away he organized a counselor to come and see me at home a couple of times per week.  The counselor was wonderful.  I really liked her.  She explained to me that I needed to put more fuel into my body.  I had been complaining about not having any energy (do ya think?). I liked how gently she explained these simple matters to me.  She helped me to stop the behaviour.

However, I was terrified of opening the flood gates of eating.  I thought I would never be able to stop once I started.  I was starving but I was afraid to eat.  So, then the bulimia started.  I would open the flood gates.  I would eat thousands of calories in cookies, chips, cake, baked goods and then I would take a large dose of laxatives. Chocolate X-lax was my purging tool because I was unable to make myself vomit.

By the middle of the night, my guts would be gurgling. But, it would do the trick.  Everything would be voided explosively into the toilet.  Sometimes it was quite embarrassing, depending on where I was when the void wanted to begin and, it was never funny like the time in Virginia with my friend Nancy when I was large with pregnancy and drank way too much prune-juice.

The Bulimia went on for about another year or so and by then I was living back in Barrie and attending grade eleven.  For years, I would go through times of wanting to lose weight again and so would start to restrict, but, it always led to bingeing and purging again.

Joining the Army put a stop to it for a while because I simply had no time or energy to devote to body size.  But, the demon returned in the form of exercise bulimia, orthorexia (obsession with finding the most nutritious foods), food rules, restriction and preoccupation.  It stopped in 2017 (Read Feelin’ Fine), three and a half decades later.  Now, I am able to happily refer you to the following: 8 Ways to be Free of Diet Culture 🎈

Be good to you. ☮️