Feelin’ Fine (2018)

‘ So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key’ *

In mid 2016 I started on Lithium Bicarbonate (again!) for my mental illness: Bipolar 1.  If you have read my previous posts on body image and on mental illness, you will know by now that I was struggling against succumbing to meds due to the strong suspicion that taking them would cause a large weight gain.

Well, it has done just that. My body now is the stuff of my previous life’s nightmares.  So, why is this post entitled Feelin’ Fine? Confused yet?

Well, I have changed folks.

It started when I hit rock bottom in May 2016.  I had extreme anxiety for days and a panic attack that rocked my world and I was sure I was about to die.  I could barely let go of my husband Dean’s hand.  All I could do to feel better was walk, and poor Dean, suffering with a broken toe, walked with me, holding my hand. (Ya, I know. I have the best husband in the world.)  If you had seen me then you would not recognize me.  I was barely able to look up.  I was debilitated.  The cortisol buildup in my low back was like a knife jabbing me.  Every thought spun out a new list of worries that multiplied.  I clutched Dean’s hand and he guided me gently along through the days.  I did simple tasks like pealing potatoes and hanging laundry.  That’s about all I could do without making copious, confusing lists and notes.

This was the point that I finally succumbed to medication.

Since then, I decided that it is far better to have a clear mind and psyche than it is to be small and trim.

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By my amazing sister Eva*

 

This has not been an instantaneous transformation.  It has taken hours and hours of concerted effort and two years of time going by to change my thinking.  I am doing this by reading books, blogs, articles, scientific studies and by listening to podcasts on this very topic…non-diet, body-neutral, non-fat phobic, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating by podcasters like Christy Harrison on Food Psych; Meret Boxler on Life Unrestricted; Chris Sandel on Real Health Radio; Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio.  These people have helped me immeasurably.  As has my husband of twenty-six years.  He is truly my best, most supportive friend.

It hasn’t been exactly easy to transform my thinking one hundred and eighty degrees.  From a very disordered existence of constant striving to maintain a small, lean body where in almost every waking moment over the last 35 years, I was aware, concerned, worried about eating less and moving more (it was a full-time job to maintain the energy deficit that then felt normal).  I mean, I was eating low-fat while trekking in the Himalayas while simultaneously battling a bowel parasite for jeezus sakes.

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I have become more peaceful by NOT doing anything to try to stay small.  I eat when hungry, whatever I want.  I drink when thirsty.  I move when it strikes my fancy to do so.  No schedule.  No goals.  No competitive work-out sessions.  No marathon-type activity in the off-ing to compulsively train for.  No $60 ++ per week of yoga classes, plus thousands of dollars for months of yoga teacher training at an ashram in the Bahamas (which in retrospect I now realize that I had done not to achieve Zen but mostly to achieve small-ness.  It was like going to a Fat Farm for me.  Okay, a Zen Fat Farm, if you will).

dancer on the fallen tree

I look back on my previous life and shake my head.  But it is all part of my path.

And, who cares if I am not small in size.  I am still ME.

My being is still here.  My me-ness.

You know me?  That person who loves an adventure;

a good doubling-over belly laugh;

a deep talk solving the problems of the world, including what to do with your hair;

a great beach walk or rainy-day stroll;

a carefree dance around the living room or in a random cafe to some good eighties tunes,

a pint and a good cry????

That person is still here and that person is doing okay.  She’s just in a bigger, softer body and she is doing much, much better on the inside, and, thankfully, not doing those annoying hand-stands every five minutes.

prospect-handstand

One last one for the memory bank.  My son took this in Prospect, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The next time I asked him to take a picture of me doing a hand-stand was on the Keji Seaside beach, he goes, ‘Mom, that ship has sailed, don’t you think?’

Right on Buddy.  Gotta love kids.

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I would love your comments…

(The sunflower pic is from Google Images, all the rest are mine, Martha Valiquette, except the amazing Dragonfly which is by my eldest sister.)

*Excerpt from Already Gone (Eagles) Songwriters: Jack Tempchin / Robert Arnold Strandlund

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