My Skin Hurt

Contentment: the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things just as they are; peace of mind

A few years ago now and for decades before that, I had this awful phenomenon that would happen to me.  My skin would hurt if I perceived that I had eaten too much or not exercised enough in a given day.  I would have this feeling overwhelm me, born of guilt at not fulfilling my compulsion to perpetually under-eat (and I LOVE food)  and / or to not exercise every day, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, hunger pains and sore muscles.

I have stopped the madness over the past three years, spawned by the need to take medication which causes weight-gain and, have slowly begun to just be okay with looking like a normal 53-year old menopausal woman.  I have come to the sad realization that it doesn’t matter so much what your Earth Suit looks like, if you don’t let it matter.  It is the ‘not letting it matter’ that is the tricky bit, especially if your brain is wired for approval like mine. ‘Sad realization’ because of all the time, preoccupation and wasted potential due to being ignorant to the reality that how your body ‘looks’ doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think, in this Western world. And, as another friend told me her mom would say, ‘dear, your body size is the least interesting thing about you.’

How about we make these things more important than the shape and size of our body:  enthusiasm, zest for life, helpfulness, kindness, compassion.  How about we stop telling little girls that they are so pretty and focus on how kind they are?

Over the past three years, I have been so much happier, it is profound.  (Okay, I have had moments of uncertainty, but they were fleeting, comparatively).

I was walking with a friend the other night whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and this post was imagined.  Due to my Earth Suit looking a lot plumper these days (which I am totally fine with), she asked, ‘So, are you still doing a lot of yoga, M?’  I chuckled in my head at this.  It is inevitable, this question.  Just like last week at the physio, he goes, ‘so, any thyroid issues these days?’  ha ha!  No, actually.  Just eating like a grown-ass woman, as one of my fave podcasters says: Summer Innanen. Of course, I didn’t say that, I just said, ‘um, nope’.  To my friend I tried to gently express the shite I have been through.  Knowing her to be a dieter and she having already poked fun at her ‘fat’ (of which she has none, oh friggin geez).  I explained that yoga had been a dozen year obsession which was all about ego and not really about zen at all.  It was a compulsion when it should have been a path to peace.  It was the opposite, and it made me skinny and very muscular.  (See for yourself: https://youtu.be/9lSU9I-ZPbk ).  Oh excuse me: lean.  The new word for skinny.  It also made me cra-cra.

I have had a new thing happen for the very positive, of late.  I have had all this energy and yearning to be athletic again (like I was as a girl).  So, I have taken up tennis lessons and just loving the feel of my body as I strive to hit that effing ball.  (It’s amazing how much I just want to hit that effing little ball.)  And, with a tennis court right behind my house, well, I’m set!  Pun intended.

The other day, out of the blue, I had a yearning to go for a bike ride.  I was able to adjust my son’s bike to handle my shortness and off I went.  It was fabulous.  I tried frisbee-throwing, swing dance and archery at the #tryitinwolfville initiative. I just have this energy and wish to move my body and it has nothing to do with being fit.  It’s just about joy this time, folks.  And, on the other end of things, sometimes I’m just tired and I take a nap in the middle of the day.  Lucky as I am to be able to do that.  Yo Universe, thanks againLife just keeps getting better as I strive to be like that little girl in the image above.  Not a care in the world and certainly no thoughts of dieting, restriction or gym time, just free to be me.

Any comments would be welcome, as always and I love to hear from you!

(The picture is of my little brother and I when we were kids at the camp.  Taken by our eldest sis.)

My Small-Steak Freak-Out 🐂

Let me ask you something, in all the years that you have…undressed in front of a gentleman has he ever asked you to leave?… No? It’s because he doesn’t care! He’s in a room with a naked girl, he just won the lottery. I am so tired of… waking up… and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it…. I’m just through with the guilt. So.. I’m going to finish this pizza, and then… tomorrow we are going to go… buy ourselves some bigger jeans.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

For most of my life, I have been completely messed up with regard to body-image and worth regarding its size.  It is a sad story when considering just the amount of time, thought, energy and tears that I have expended with regard to this.  I will reference an earlier post that I have written on this topic: BoPo Revisited.

Since January 2017, I have been working and trying and hoping to get this monkey off my back and to just really be okay with my still strong, newly soft body, more lustrous hair, clear skin and more peaceful attitude.  I strive to go about my day without judgement and with forgiveness toward my past and to just be chill with regard to food and exercise rules of the past.

I’m getting there folks.

Some days I barely think about my past.  Where as before, I would be worried about every food choice; doing way too much exercise and giving myself way too many imaginary pats on the back for that plus food restriction.

Just now, as I was walking to my office and I had this funny (scary) memory of a freak-out that came from nowhere.  The preparation of a meal used to be a major production (ie: in my mind).  My thoughts around ‘did I deserve’ this meal would run rampant.  Had I done enough exercise to allow for a big meal or should I just eat a salad while my family ate the well-rounded meal, that I made.  This was a daily, useless ordeal with many pitfalls.  I’m exhausted just remembering it.

So, this one day, I’m cooking up steaks — a real treat.  There were two large ones and a small-ish one.  I fried them in our cast-iron pan with garlic and herbs.  They smelled heavenly.  Meanwhile, Dean mashed the potatoes and Leo set the table to include steak-knives, salad and red wine.

steak

I placed each juicy steak on a plate to rest, thinking, of course, I would have the small one…

but,

when I turned around I was both confused and horrified to see that Dean had taken the small one.  Then, a completely inappropriate reaction erupted from myself.

‘Dean, the small one is for ME!!! Why on earth would YOU take the SMALL one??!’ I shrieked at him.

He looked at me. Looked at his plate. Looked at me.

‘I thought I would leave a large one for you, Morgan, since you’re the one cooking them.’

My face was red.  My mind was confused.  Didn’t he GET that I didn’t DESERVE to eat a large one?

Leo weighs in.

‘Mom. Chill. We usually have too much anyway.  Dad will not starve.’

But, you see, I wasn’t worried about Dean starving.  I was worried about ME eating more than I should.  More than I deserved.  Fuck.  Messed up.

Thankfully, this little freak-out episode was close to the time of my epiphany away from disordered eating and over-exercising.  Praise Jesus.

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

Crazy Train 🚂 (part 3)- Home-ish

I would ask total random strangers to look into my eyes and see the flecks. The flecks are magic, I would say.

My husband, Dean flew to Toronto to meet me and take me home to Nova Scotia.   He had arranged for his eldest sister from Newfoundland to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks to help out with Leo while I was sure to be in the hospital and Dean would be running back and forth watching out for me and bringing me what I wanted. Manic me was very demanding (unlike normal me). Ha ha.

The saddest thing about this whole story is that it could’ve been completely avoided if I had been fine with taking lithium. But, at that point in my journey, and because of my disordered eating and body image problems, and knowing that lithium causes me weight gain, I refused, absolutely, to take it. So, you would think I preferred the option of going crazy over getting fat.  And that I selfishly ruined everyone’s Cuban vacation because of my issues with food and body image.  Crazy train anyone?

In the hospital they put me on extremely strong medications: anti-psychotics, lithium, antibiotics for the bronchitis and a sleeping aid. I was a walking zombie.  I was extremely ill in the hospital and very upset to be on medication and to be tied down. The nurses constantly told me to go to my room and get some sleep. But when one is manic all one wants to do is relate and connect to others. Even though I was a walking zombie, it was still very difficult for me to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. As a manic person, medications have very little effect compared to what they would on a regular person.  One side-effect of the anti-psychotic drug was the feeling that my skin was crawling. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever encountered.

When the nurses wouldn’t pay attention to me I found ways to entertain myself.  I would walk past the nurses station window where a few nurses would be quietly working with their heads down and I would SLAM my hand against the glass.  The nurses would jump from fright as I quickly walked away.  I was sure they had no idea that it was me. One evening, I decided to pull the fire alarm. As the nurses scrambled to get all the patients out of the rooms, I snickered with my hand over my mouth, by the wall. I was then noticed, yelled at and put in solitary.

What  I did next seems unbelievable now that I have my sanity back. I believe they would never let me out of that room. A half hour may have a lapsed  when I realized two things: I had to use the bathroom, #2, and, I was very thirsty. Because I truly believed that they would not come back for me, and  I was firmly ensconced in cra-cra land, I went over to the corner of the room,  squatted and pooped. Then I started to bang my cup on the door saying that I was dying of thirst. An idea emerged: I would have to drink my own urine in order to stay alive.

It was salty.

Next I started to sing at the top of my lungs and trust me, that little solitary room had great acoustics  (this is a Kris Kristofferson song that Willie Nelson sings so well) and quite apt at parts…

Take the ribbons from your hair, shake ’em lose and let ’em fall. Let ’em fall against your chin, like the shadows on the wall.  Come and lay down by my side in the early morning light, all I’m taking is your time…help me make it through the night…(This is where I would seriously belt it out) Well, I don’t care whose right or wrong, and I won’t try to understand.  Let the devil take tomorrow, cause tonight I need a friend….it’s sad to be alone…help me make it through the night

I knew that whole song by heart because Mom used to play it over and over again when she and Dad were separated but living in the same house. I was in extreme discomfort in the solitary room. My thoughts where racing. My skin was crawling. My mind was blowing. There was no sleep in sight. I could not stay still. Psychosis is shitty.  Truly.

Finally they let me out. I gladly went to my room. My next plan was to escape and run home.

I studied the delivery door to the locked psych ward. Suddenly, I saw my chance to escape into the February night and I was GONE.  Hightailing it through the lobby with my ass hanging out of my johnny  coat, with my SmartWool knee socks and Birkenstocks on out into the parking lot, down the concrete steps, turn right down the hill, turn left, through the intersection and starting up the hill. Suddenly I realized how cold I was and that my feet were freezing. later I found out it was -20°C. If I had gone the wrong way and landed in the snowbank, behind the hospital, I may never have been rescued from the cold.

As it was, two older ladies in a large sedan pulled up beside me as I made my way up the hill. Seeing how I was dressed and with my hospital wristband on, they asked me to get in the car with them for a ride. I must have thought that would be a good idea. Even through the haze of psychosis I knew that my safety was threatened. I ran into the parking lot of the Catholic Church (irony on that not lost on me) and they let me get in the car to get warm. Next they locked the doors and called the police who escorted me back to the psych ward  and back into solitary.  When Dean heard that I had escaped, in my condition, dressed in a tiny cotton johnny coat, he was furious at the hospital.

I was in for two weeks then out for week at which point I stopped taking the medications and became manic again.  So, I was back in for another two weeks.  It takes about two weeks for the lithium to take effect.  When I was home with my family and dog Lady, and I was out of my head in cray cray land, I could swear that I knew what she was ‘saying’.  I would look at her and her ‘words’ would pop into my head.  Ooookay.

Mental illness is a real thing, not to be trifled with.

Lady Jane, 2 years old