whispers of progress

So, I’ve spent some time with the floodgates open. I got rid of the “lists” of good and bad foods. I’ve eaten whatever I want and as much as I want. This phase was absolutely necessary for me because I needed to give myself permission to eat… without guilt. I’m freaking out less and less over my size and food. I’m not fighting with myself over holiday food. I’m also not bingeing. It’s a funny thing, when you give yourself permission to have something, your rational self can actually make decent decisions if you let it.

I can’t believe I’ve actually chosen to sit and eat without distractions several times. Being “alone” with food was always a struggle for me. I can’t believe I’m actually turning my nose up at Little Debbie snacks, oreos, french fries, and even some donuts. I’m trying to remember when I had a french fry last… I think it was over a week ago… I had 4… FOUR french fries. The kids had baked some for their chili and I snagged a couple that looked perfectly cooked, savored them, and then didn’t want any more. Say what?

Ok, and here’s something else I’m noticing. When I eat in front of the tv now, I’m not completely numbed out. I actually take small bites and taste the food. Not every time, but more often than ever before (which was never). When it stops tasting good, I’ve even… gasp… stopped eating. Now, of course that’s easier to do when you’re not eating while doing something else, but like I’ve stressed, I’m trying to keep from turning this into a list of rules to follow. I’m allowing myself to gradually make changes. When I feel strong enough to tolerate eating without distractions, I do. Like the other day, I had tofu scramble and then I was going to eat an orange. Well, I took a couple of bites of the orange and thought, “this really doesn’t taste that good.” I thought maybe it was the orange, but I didn’t throw it away just yet. I stopped eating and decided to wait till I was fairly certain I was hungry again. The orange tasted better later, which meant the reason it had stopped tasting good was because I was full before.

Then, last weekend the Husband and I went out for lunch. I ordered a cup of black bean soup with a baguette, an amazing half veggie sandwich, and mineral water w/ lemon. Oh, and a chocolate chip cookie, almost forgot about the cookie because… get this, I still haven’t eaten it! It’s in the fridge. Anyway, I decided to follow Josie Spinardi’s advice to eat what you like best, first. I thought about the cookie, but then thought, “I know that if I only eat the cookie I will be hungry and moody within an hour.” So, I turned to the soup, bread, and sandwich. I smelled them like the judges on MasterChef do. I imagined myself being a food connoisseur. I thought about Anton Ego from Ratatouille who will only swallow food he loves. The bread and soup smelled awesome, so I thought I would start there. I was tempted to avoid the bread for diet-mentality reasons, but ditched those thoughts immediately. I don’t like the really hard crust, so I broke it open and pulled out the soft middle (usually I would eat the whole thing anyway). I dipped this into the soup (my favorite way to eat it). Yum. I did this till the tiny inside was gone (like three bites). Took a sip of mineral water. I smelled the sandwich again and had a bite of it too. Yum. Then a spoonful of soup. Yum. Took a sip of mineral water. Yum. I liked all three. So I repeated the process. Bite, bite, sip. Then I paused because something had changed. It was subtle…. extremely subtle, but there was a shift. I couldn’t decide what it meant but I thought my body might be saying “all done”. I looked at my food. More than half of it left. How could I be done? I repeated again, but this time really focusing on the taste and texture, and then sat there… contemplating.

The “clean plate ranger” in me screamed “you can’t leave that food there!” The guilt monster yelled, “what about the cookie? The Husband got the cookie because you wanted it. Are you going to waste the money spent on this meal by not eating every bite?!” The diet monster insisted that I was, “only pausing because I was trying to ‘be good’ and lose weight.” I told them all to shut up a minute so I could listen to my body. I decided that I had eaten enough, not because some diet said I was out of points or calories or exchanges. I was no longer hungry, and I was perfectly satisfied. I was still a bit thirsty, so I had more mineral water. We packed up the remaining food and I had it later that afternoon when I got hungry again… except for the hard crust on the bread, the Husband ate that. I do still have the cookie though, which I had honestly forgotten about until now. How does a sugar junkie forget about a chocolate chip cookie? Yeah, it seems amazing to me too.

Now, I should note that I did end up overeating for dinner. Mainly because I ate dinner in front of the TV. Still even though I was stuffed, it wasn’t a binge, and I wasn’t angry at myself. I noted that I felt really uncomfortable, sick even, and then I let it go. Late that night, once the stuffed feelings had subsided, I thought I wanted some potato chips. I had five small ones. I tasted each one and they didn’t taste nearly as good as I hoped, so I stopped eating them. I decided I must be eating for reasons other than hunger (major breakthrough), because hunger makes food taste better, not worse. I realized I was tired and needed to sleep… I left the chips and ate nothing else.

This was totally abnormal for me. If I’m “off my diet”, I don’t stop eating chips (or anything) simply because I’m not hungry. I would have finished those chips, and then if the taste wasn’t satisfying, I would have hunted around in the kitchen for something else. This especially would have been an issue if I was feeling guilty over eating past fullness at dinner. I would have thought, “oh well, I’ve already blown it, so why not eat everything I won’t allow come morning.” If that thought crossed my mind (which I genuinely don’t remember), I pushed it aside and focused on truth, let go of guilt, and listened to my internal cues. No sense in entertaining “last supper eating” because I’m allowing myself to eat whatever I want. These are some significant changes for me. My relationship with food is definitely changing. Hooray!

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stay calm, StAy CaLm, STAY CALM!

I’m having an “I feel ginormous day”. Today I feel like humpty dumpty… waddle, waddle… and I’m doing everything I can not to “fall off the wall” and right back into a diet. I’m fighting diet thoughts BIG TIME. I even thought about stepping on the scale – which hasn’t crossed my mind lately. Part of me wants to see the number in the hopes that it’s not as bad as I fear it is. Either way though, if it’s not as bad as I fear… I’ll still be angry with the number. And if it is as bad as I think… oh Lord, have mercy.

((Panic))

I’m trying to tell myself to “stay calm!” I just want something positive about this process to pop into my head right now. I think, “well, isn’t it nice to eat what you want?” And then I yell, “NO!”

I had an allergic reaction last night to something I ate. I don’t know what I reacted to, and now I can’t eat anything I had last night until I figure out which item was the offender. Maybe the allergic reaction is what’s setting off this panic feeling. Maybe that’s what has me questioning everything.

My PJ pants are tighter and I want to have a mini temper tantrum in the middle of the floor.

Then I go to the coffee maker and the Husband has left a note beside it saying, “it’s not working again.” NOOOOOOOOOO! Seemingly small, but wouldn’t you know the thought, “well, you shouldn’t be drinking coffee anyway” pops into my head. Seriously, could the diet police just shut up for a moment. This is why we need to tell our kids, “Oh be careful little eyes what you read.” Every diet book, blog, article I’ve ever read is flooding my mind at the moment.

StAy CaLm!

But I can’t stay calm because negative thoughts are pelting me. I feel like I’m in the middle of a storm. I’m getting tossed about the boat like a rag doll. I picture Truman trying to escape the dome of his fake life. The show’s director says, “what actually disturbs you the most is that Truman actually prefers his cell.” Do I actually prefer being a slave to diet mentality? Do I want to live the rest of my life chasing something so fleeting as a number on the scale? NO!

STAY CALM!

And then I’m reminded of another storm. The passengers in the boat are frightened. They are at the mercy of the waves overtaking them. They are powerless. Their doom is imminent… unless…

The disciples went and woke him [Jesus], saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. (Luke 8:24)

Oh Lord, rebuke the storm that rages in my mind. Draw back the waves of discontent, distrust, and disbelief. Calm my spirit. (Psalm 42)

 

of cowboys and dieters

I was thinking about how I really hope my girls don’t adopt warped food and body images from me. I pray that somehow they will follow a different path in this area. In some things, please follow in my footsteps… but not in this. I’ve been aware of this influence I could have on them for years, but I think it really hit home one semester when I taught K-2nd graders at our homeschool co-op. I asked for prayer requests and one darling little kindergartener asked if we could pray for her “mommy to stop her diet”. I said, “why do you want her to stop?” She said, “so we can have candy again.” My heart broke. Here was this mom who thought she was doing something “good” for her own body (losing weight), and unfortunately it was negatively impacting this little girl. She actually seemed angry about this. She didn’t understand why mommy wasn’t allowing candy in the house, to her it just seemed like punishment and restriction. Kids don’t perceive things the same way adults do. Things are often black and white to them… no grey.

The more I thought about it, the song, “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” came to mind. I decided to hijack the lyrics a bit – so here goes:

Diets ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold.
She’d rather have some freedom than diamonds or gold.
Elusive numbers and old faded dreams,
And each night begins a new day.
If you don’t understand her, an’ she don’t die young,
She’ll prob’ly just hide away.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be dieters.
Don’t let ’em weigh their bodies or scoff at their looks.
Let ’em be happy and content and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be dieters.
‘Cos they’ll never be free and they’re always alone.
Even with someone they love.

Diets like weight related chat rooms and guilt-ridden mornings,
Little toned bodies and fear and jeans that are tight.
Them that don’t know her won’t like her and them that do,
Sometimes won’t know how to take her.
She ain’t crazy, just different but her pride won’t let her,
Break free of what keeps her in the fight.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be dieters.
Don’t let ’em weight their bodies or scoff at their looks.
Let ’em be happy and content and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be dieters.
‘Cos they’ll never be free and they’re always alone.
Even with someone they love.

Ok, so I’m not a musical genius or poet, still, you get the point. Personally, I don’t have a problem with cowboys… many are more respectable than some “doctors and lawyers and such” lol. I’m also not here to bash or to blame mothers. We have all fallen prey to the lure of perfection. It happens. None of us are perfect parents. Thank the Lord for forgiveness. My point is to make us aware of the tremendous influence we have over our kids (especially when they’re younger). If we’re to change the tide for the next generation, we have to realize that fact. They are watching us. How do we handle food? How do we handle the scale? What are they learning from the way we treat our own bodies? If you have a young girl in your life (whether you’re her mother or not), be careful what you say about yourself (I’m so fat, I can’t control myself around food, I have to diet…etc), and especially be careful what you say to her (puttin’ on a few back there, should you be eating that, you’re getting too big for your britches). I haven’t even addressed how children will influence each other. Maybe another day.

Even if you try to do everything right, that doesn’t mean your daughter won’t fall for diet mentality. Lord knows there are plenty of influences out there to sway us. We can’t do this on our own. We need to pray for God’s protection… but in the end, if they choose to head down that path anyway, we know He has the power to set them free.

 

The DIEt Monster

One thing women all over the world have in common is the desire to be beautiful. We long to have someone treasure us. We want to believe we’re attractive. We dream of being someone’s princess. We like that “forsake all others” notion and want to be worth making that sacrifice for.

Unfortunately, there is something hell-bent on distorting it all. The DIEt Monster knows what we long for and he uses it to get us to turn on our own bodies. We starve ourselves, chronically diet, excessively exercise, undergo surgery, pluck this, shave that, push-up, suck in, color, polish, make-up… It’s no longer about “accentuating our positives” but rather about chasing that elusive image we have in our heads of the perfect woman. The problem? She doesn’t exist. She’s an airbrushed figment of mankind’s imagination. Striving to be her is like striving to be a unicorn. It’s a myth.

The DIEt Monster tells us we can’t be satisfied with our size. It tells us we can’t be trusted around food. It’s that voice in our head echoing every “expert”we’ve seen on TV or read about in books and magazines. He bombards our minds with those voices and before we know it we’re left with carrots and celery sticks to choose from…. and they must be organic too. He cycles fear through our mind that letting go of the diet books, diet apps, calorie counters, scales, weight-loss forums, and exercise regimes, will find us stuck in our bedroom, unable to fit through the door. He makes us question our worthiness of love if we gain weight. He praises us for losing weight, then turns around and mocks us saying it isn’t enough… pressing us to lose more.

I’ve got news for you (and me). For the DIEt Monster, it will never be enough… never. Even if we get to our goal weight with diets… if we don’t let go of the diet mentality… if we don’t kick the DIEt Monster out of our life… we’ll still be miserable. You see, happiness isn’t in a number on the scale or on a clothing label. Never has been, and no matter what the diets promise, it never will be.

Why do I keep harping on the diet mentality stuff? Because I believe it’s one of the first steps in moving on (First is admitting there’s a problem). Most “naturally thin” people aren’t that way because of genetics. I believe they don’t have a weight issue because they don’t consciously diet. They eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are full. They rarely eat for emotion sake and they never beat themselves up for what, when, or how much they eat. They simply don’t diet. The hard part for professional dieters is the letting go. We’ve bought into the lies of the DIEt Monster and letting them go is mighty hard. It’s a daily battle for a while. It’s a battle I’m in even as I type.

I woke up this morning craving fruit. I questioned whether this was me trying to start another diet, or perhaps feeling guilty for what I ate last night. I haven’t craved fruit in months and yet all I could think of was strawberries, blueberries, oranges…. etc. I didn’t want them because some diet said I should have them, I wanted them because my body was telling me fruit sounded good. I could imagine the juiciness and how it would taste. The DIEt Monster would have me believe that allowing donuts and pancakes and ((gasp))… coffee… would doom me to perpetual binging. Well, obviously this is simply not true. This morning I ate fruit. Just fruit. I ate it till I didn’t want anymore.

Now, I could suddenly think “I’m cured! My obsession is over!” While that is a tempting leap to make, I know that if I box myself in like that… and then I eat a bag of Sun Chips for lunch, I’ll be more likely to feel like a failure and I know I’ll question whether this process is such a good idea. I would be setting myself up to let that diet mentality back in. Instead, I’m choosing to look at this morning’s breakfast for what it was… breakfast – nothing more. Does it show progress, sure, I can admit that. However, I’m not putting pressure on myself to eat fruit tomorrow morning or a salad for lunch today. I’m simply saying, “I’ll eat what I want the next time I’m hungry”.

What I’m learning is that the DIEt Monster is a liar. While in the beginning it appeared he was right… that I would be totally out of control for as long as I “let go”… that is going by the wayside the more I truly let go of the diet mentality and stop judging myself for what I eat. I’m learning I can trust my body’s signals in this area. More importantly, I can trust the Creator of this body. I think the DIEt Monster is a bit angry I’ve kicked him out, but that’s ok with me because I don’t want him around anyway.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10 (AMP)

Phases and Stages

I spent a lot of years in the “Diet Cycle Phase”. This is where a lot of American women live (some don’t even realize they live there). They cycle in and out of “diets”, “nutrition plans”, “workout regimes”… it’s like the hamster wheel. You think you’re moving forward, but eventually you realize the scenery hasn’t changed despite the passage of time. My more recent “diet” ventures championed the “in the name of health” banner. That seems to be the more popular version of dieting today… “getting healthy”. In fact, I’ve discovered that I can apply “diet mentality” to almost any way of eating.

What is diet mentality? Well, for me, it’s the notion that I must weigh/measure something in order to lose weight. It’s the thought process that says, “I can’t eat that… or I MUST eat this.” It’s the idea that I need some outside source to police me (diet plan, eating guidelines, scale, tape measure…etc). It’s also a mindset that absorbs a lot of brain power.

Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of years there.

Hanging out in this new space is proving to be unfamiliar territory. Oh sure, the familiar beckons at every turn. You don’t need to go far to read, see, or hear something about this nation’s obsession with body image and food. To stay the course certainly feels like swimming against the flow. Still, there are some who have navigated these waters. I mentioned them in this post if you want to read some of their books. While I do not agree with Geneen Roth on everything, I do find her detailed view of the four stages of “breaking free” to be quite helpful.

I am quite familiar with stages of recovery. I remember learning about and experiencing them when I went through bereavement classes and support groups years ago. Knowing that the stages are normal helps a person accept where they are in the process because they know it’s just a stage. The same is true for the stages associated with breaking free from dieting. Where am I? I think I’m somewhere between stage 2 and stage 3. I’m not fully in either one but I’m definitely seeing some of the benefits from stage three.

There is no set time to move through these stages. Of course, I do think I’m moving faster because I am rejecting diet mentality wholeheartedly. I’m refusing to let it sneak back in. This is probably the most difficult part for me. I’ve spent a lot of years thinking about dieting. It’s freed up some bandwidth in my head, which sometimes leaves me feeling a bit unsure of what to do with that space. I’ve been letting it rest mostly.

When we were really in the throes of grieving the death of our son, I remember someone asking one of the support group moderators how we should respond when someone asks, “how are you doing?” If you’ve been through the grief process, you know what a loaded question this can be. She told us to simply say, “I’m right on schedule.” If they require an explanation of such an unconventional response (the usual being “fine”). We can say, “I’m exactly where I should be in the grief process.” Of course, you can get even more specific if you want.

I used to ask the scale how I was doing, now I ask myself. My response? “I’m right on schedule.”

I’m going to leave you with this powerful video about “WEIGHT”.

ditch the scale

Actually, the title could be the entire blog post:

DITCH THE SCALE!

Do it. Right now. Stop weighing yourself. Has weighing yourself ever brought you long term satisfaction? NO. What do you hope to accomplish when you step on the scale? What do you really learn when you see that number? Is it uplifting? Does it make you feel good about yourself every time? Does it add quality to your life? Does it increase your libido? Does is add years to your time on earth? Does it help others? Does it benefit society? Does it enhance your worship of God? Does it make a difference in the world? Does it feed the starving? Does it clothe the homeless? Does it add to your financial security? Does is make your children smile? Does it create fond memories? Does it love you? Do you love it?

So much time spent measuring ourselves on the scale. So much wasted time. Let’s start living beyond the scale…. you know… life, that place where the really important stuff happens.

bumps in the road

As with any journey, moving from diet mentality into freedom is probably not going to go smoothly all of the time. For me, the thoughts of diet, weight, and food have been such an integral part of my life, for so long, breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes the habit takes over, especially when I’m tired or stressed.

The other night I didn’t realize that something was bothering me… it was lurking just under the surface enough that it wasn’t blatantly obvious. Well, my old reactions to this kind of stress (meeting the expectations of others) kicked in and I wanted a huge slab of chocolate cake. As you know, I’ve chosen to just go with it for now, so having the cake isn’t where I messed up. No, the error came when I snapped at my darling 10 year old for asking if she could have some too. I pointed out that she had already had ice cream and that this was my dessert. Now, before you think, “well, of course, she had already had dessert”, let me clarify that the Husband had told her she could have some of my cake if she wanted. So, she wasn’t being selfish or anything like that. This child will readily share anything she has with others and even offered me some of the ice cream earlier. I was waiting for cake.

Instantly I felt horrible. She had little tears in her eyes. I had dumped guilt on her. I do not want my girls to have those kinds of feelings around food. Here I was acting like a starving, caged lunatic who will fight to the death to keep her food.

“Fine, you can have a bite.”

Yeah, that wasn’t any better. She was like, “No, I’m ok”… with tears. I could tell the Husband was less than thrilled by my behavior. As was I, but I felt like I was careening toward disaster and couldn’t do anything about it. He started apologizing to her that he hadn’t gotten a second slice at the store. I know he was thinking, “so mom wouldn’t have to share if she didn’t want to.” He figured the slice was so huge, and I had been doing so well with sharing, there wouldn’t be an issue. Boy was he wrong.

And so was I.

I felt even worse. Suddenly the cake tasted like crap. I set the rest of it on the coffee table and contemplated storming out of the room saying something like, “Here, you can have it”. Boy am I glad I didn’t say that. I was fighting back tears myself. I felt so conflicted. I was mad because I felt guilted into sharing… but I was also angry that I reacted so badly to a situation that really, in the great scheme of things, should have been a non-event. “May I have some cake?” should have been followed by, “sure, sweetie, let me get you a plate.” Ugh! Sounds so simple and yet I utterly screwed it up.

Darn it.

I took a deep breath. Looked at the cake. Took it to the kitchen and cut her a piece. I handed her the plate and said, “I’m so sorry.” I may cry right now remembering how badly I behaved. I may cry thinking about how that one interaction might mess with her view of food for years to come. My words made her feel guilty about asking for cake… cake! No one should feel guilty over cake.

After everything settled down, I realized why I was stressed and made a decision that I’d been unwilling to make until that moment. I decided I was feeling pressure from others (and their expectations of me) to do something I didn’t want to do (totally unrelated to cake, lol). The only reason I would say yes would be to please others and perhaps feed my pride. I was trying to stuff down the stress with the cake and my darling little girl stepped right into the line of fire.

Now, I could continue to beat myself up over this bump in the road, but that would just set the cycle into motion again. I must forgive myself like my precious daughter has already forgiven me. I must recognize that this process is going to take time. No doubt there will be other bumps along the way, but Lord willing, they will become less and my reactions will improve over time.