iamom: (Default)
The beautiful actress and model Portia deRossi (now known as Portia deGeneres after legally adopting her wife Ellen deGeneres' name last week), appeared on Oprah yesterday to promote her new book Unbearable Lightness and to speak candidly about her battles with anorexia and bulimia. Near the outset of the show, she told a heartrending story about how she ended her first day of shooting on the TV series Ally McBeal. She started an enormous eating binge with a bag of Cheetos in order that they might act as a landmark for her at the end of the night. When she saw the bright orange chunks hit the toilet bowl at the end of that night's purge, she would know that her stomach was finally empty. At the height of her disorder, she weighed only 82 pounds, and after collapsing on a movie set at the age of 25, learned that she had osteoporosis, cirrhosis of the liver, and that her organs were nearly ready to start shutting down. In short, she nearly died from malnourishment.

I've never been one to purge, I've only binged. But I really empathized with parts of her story, and that story brought me to tears a couple of times. When Oprah told Portia about how playing Ellen deGeneres's therapist on Ellen's sitcom during the episode when she came out of the closet inspired the largest onslaught of hate mail Oprah had ever received in her entire career, Portia broke down into tears and that made me cry, too. I also teared up a little when Portia explained how much Ellen's unconditional love towards her has helped her to heal herself. "If someone as wonderful as Ellen can love me for who I am, maybe I should, too." I found that so unbelievably touching, I don't know why. I think just the idea of receiving unconditional love from someone no matter what you look like or how you act is not an entirely natural one to me.

Right at the end of the show, she summed up her experiences so poignantly I had to transcribe it. The idea of chronic dieting being its own hell resonated untellingly strongly with me.
Living with anorexia and bulimia is hell. But chronic dieting is also hell. Living your entire life never feeling good enough about your body – always feeling like if you weighed a little less, somehow you'd be happier, your life would be better – is a horrible way to live. And it's a very short step from a full-blown eating disorder, but really the only way I recovered from my eating disorder (and from chronic dieting) was to never, ever restrict any kind of food – not even portion size. And that really is the only way food loses its power over you.

If you can have something every day, as much as you want, you tend not to want to have as much of it anymore. And after a period of time, you actually eat what your body needs, what makes you happy, and you don't think about food ever again. That is how I healed myself.

– Portia deRossi, on Oprah yesterday
Edit:[livejournal.com profile] dizziedumb just posted a few trailers about food movies that sort of speak to parts of this issue here.
iamom: (flying)
Chapter 7 of Roth's Women Food and God begins to deal with the practical application of her approach. She begins by outlining how the way we eat reveals what we truly believe about ourselves here on earth.
In the moment that you reach for potato chips to avoid what you feel, you are effectively saying, "I have no choice but to numb myself. Some things can't be felt, understood or worked through." You are saying, "There is no possibility of change so I might as well eat." You are saying, "Goodness exists for everyone but me so I might as well eat." You are saying, "I am fundamentally flawed so I might as well eat." Or, "Food is the only true pleasure in life so I might as well eat."
She goes on to describe how many of us are so deeply caught up in the stories of trauma and hurt from our childhood or our past that we're essentially unable to live cogently in the present moment. I've expressed that insight like this: Perhaps at one time we used food as a necessary coping strategy to deal with truly negative events that were occurring in real-time, but even though those events are no longer at play in our lives today, we haven't shed those eating habits or those mind-numbing coping mechanisms.
Most of us are so enthralled with the scary tigers in our minds -- our stories of loneliness, rejection, grief -- that we don't realize they are in the past. They can't hurt us anymore. When we realize that the stories we are haunted by are simply that -- stories -- we can be with what we actually feel directly, now, in our bodies. Tingling, pulsing, pressure, weightiness, heaviness, big black ball of concrete in the chest. And by being in immediate contact with what we feel, we see the link between feelings and what is beyond them. We see that we are so much more than any particular feeling, that, for example, when sadness is explored it may turn into a lush meadow of peace. Or that when we allow ourselves to feel the full heat of anger without expressing it, a mountain of strength and courage is revealed.
iamom: (looking out)
After a bit of digging in my LJ archives, I found that I last wrote about Geneen Roth nearly 4 years ago, probably after I'd been referred to her early book called Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by my psychotherapist. In that entry, I outlined Roth's so-called "eating guidelines" and also discussed an audio lecture series I'd been listening to called When Food is Food and Love is Love. At that particular time, I recall feeling personally incapable of following her advice. I do, however, remember feeling that what she was saying was critically and categorically correct.

Her most recent book is called Women Food and God (google | amazon.ca | amazon.com | oprah.com), and despite being obviously directed mostly towards women, I've found her advice and insight to be nearly equally applicable towards men like myself. I've marked up several passages during my read of the first 90 pages, but I wanted to make a special note of the following excerpt:
Our work is not to change what you do, but to witness what you do with enough awareness, enough curiosity, enough tenderness that the lies and old decisions upon which the compulsion is based become apparent and fall away. When you no longer believe that eating will save your life, when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart. When the shape of your body no longer matches the shape of your beliefs, the weight disappears, And yes, it really is that simple.
Read more... )
Preceding this excellent passage from pages 80-81 are some more insights which I've already reached regarding how valid our reasons for overeating are. In essence, we have needed to overeat in order to cope with whatever we perceive our weaknesses or traumatic life situations to be. Whatever our reasons, they have been necessary and valid. However, they are no longer necessary for us to survive, and we no longer need to identify ourselves as psychologically, emotionally, or psychically damaged individuals who require something massive to be fixed before we can take off this weight.

In fact, we are totally perfect just as we are, and once we recognize that and then learn how to trust our own instincts about how to eat for the sake of our body's health and nutrition instead of how to eat mindlessly and to numb ourselves from the pain or frustration we might feel each day, then the weight will come off naturally and relatively easily. And as she says, it will stay off.

What's perhaps most difficult about this kind of approach is that so many of us have tied up a major part of our self-identification as flawed individuals who must be on a restricted diet in order to become healthy. If we have been dieting for a significant number of years (or have felt that we must go on a diet in order to lose weight), then this form of self-identification can become deeply entrenched and tremendously difficult to overcome. But it is absolutely possible to do it. We just need to trust in ourselves, which admittedly is not always easy to do.
iamom: (Default)
Breaking free from compulsive behaviours has mostly to do with present moment awareness. When we indulge in compulsive behaviours, we do so out of a perceived need (or at least, a strong desire) to escape from the current moment in some way. A need to change our level of consciousness so that it becomes different-seeming than whatever's simply happening right now.

When we overindulge in any substance -- food drugs whatever -- we're looking for something else to happen. We're trying to change our current circumstance such that it conforms to some other expectation we have. We're trying to conform generally, and we're not listening to the intelligence of our own minds and bodies.

When we ground our awareness in the present moment -- when we quiet the mind, learn to find the objective witness, and observe truly what is happening in your life at this moment -- we return automatically to our physical centre. Our bodies (and thenceforth our habits) will realign themselves to their natural baselines in all areas. And with that, physical health is realized more fully and impactfully for us personally.
iamom: (Default)
This morning's local CBC Radio One show featured a guest who discussed her problems with being overweight and how she has begun to treat it through the Hypertension Clinic at the local hospital. Part of her treatment was with a dietician, who exhibited signs of actual insight into emotional eating as opposed to what I remember from any dieticians I've met, who basically just outline what I'm supposed to eat and don't deal with that in any way.

Anyway, I was moved to send in an e-mail in response to this guest. Maybe it'll be read on air, I dunno.
Information Morning
CBC Radio One
Halifax, NS

Good morning,

I was moved to write in this morning because of one of the key challenges your guest mentioned with respect to losing weight, that being the emotional motivations we have to overeat. As a classic yo-yo dieter who has gained and lost more than 200 pounds throughout the past 20 years, I am intimately familiar with the challenges associated with losing weight when your eating habits are so hopelessly entangled with sadness, helplessness, and other emotions. It's impossible to make any long-term positive changes to your eating habits if you're hurting emotionally or if you are one of those countless people who comfort themselves mainly with food.

Almost everyone I know who is overweight struggles with this key issue. For any number of valid reasons usually stemming from our childhood or teenage experiences, overweight and obese people learn to comfort and soothe ourselves through eating. We find genuine comfort in food, and filling ourselves with food has become a kind of replacement for the love and respect we feel we're lacking in our lives. Depending on our personal history, our emotions can become so deeply entangled with our eating habits such that we're scarcely aware from one meal to the next if we're even hungry. Many of us simply eat whenever we feel like it, and we only stop eating when we can no longer physically fit any more food into our stomachs.

A number of months ago, I recognized my emotional overeating for what it was and I sought the help of a professional psychologist experienced with eating problems. After several sessions with her, along with supplemental readings from the seminal American author on this topic, Geneen Roth, I've finally begun to make the kinds of permanent lifestyle changes that are resulting in my losing weight and improving my physical health. But I could only do this AFTER I started to deal specifically and effectively with my own personal emotional reasons for overeating.

The mechanics of which foods to eat in which quantities and how much exercise you need are well-known to most of us. But how to deal effectively with the emotional underpinnings of our eating problems is far more mysterious. And they require just as much, if not more work, than learning how to eat "properly."

on golf

Aug. 22nd, 2006 09:47 pm
iamom: (Default)
I went golfing with my dad and his wife today for the first time in about five years. I'm not a practiced golfer at all, and have never seemed to have a natural golf swing nor a strong inclination to play the game.

Today, however, while we played the delightful Briarwood Par 3 on Herring Cove Road (not ten minutes from my own house), I found myself feeling this sort of zen golfing integration. My dad had given me three very wise bits of advice at the outset (in addition to clarifying and checking my grip), and by paying attention to those three things and staying as wholly mindful of my body and its movements as possible (that it to say, just mindful of it, not trying to exert any willful control over it), I had a pretty good game -- not very much distance in my shots, but several of them had nice loft, most of them were fairly straight, and I lost no balls on the 9 holes we played.

His three bits of advice were simple: 1) Use a sensible, comfortable grip and keep your club aligned with your entire forearm at all times (i.e. do not twist or bend your wrists at any point in your swing; keep them straight and firm throughout, twisting only your upper body at the hips and torso and your arms at the shoulder); 2) Use both arms with equal strength throughout the length of your swing (i.e. use even but not overly firm pressure in each hand); and 3) Strike the ball with a slightly downwards blow, such that if your club grazes or divots the ground, it does so AFTER you've struck the ball.

I attribute any coordination or skill I may have displayed today to be purely the fault of the fitness training I've been doing since August 1st (in addition to my dad's excellent tips). I'm aware of more of my body in a more effective way, and I can exert a more total control over its movements than I was previously able to. Reason #39 for undertaking a fitness training program: It might improve your golf game.

I suspect that the next time I'll play golf will be with my dad again, at some point a year or more into the future. We'll see if I'm any better (or worse!) at that point.
iamom: (blue glasses)
Did delts + abs at the gym yesterday. During my dumbbell shoulder raises (3 sets anterior raises + 3 sets lateral raises slightly bent (i.e. with participation from posterior delts) + 3 sets overhead presses (military style) + 3 sets Arnolds), I did ball sits with an aerobics ball pressed between my lower back and the wall (it rolls up your back (and down the wall) with each squat). Ball sits are similar to sissy squats, but because your back is pressing against the ball instead of thin air, they're a lot easier on your lower back than free squats of any type.

For each set, I'm using a weight that leaves me unable to lift more than 15 reps. The Arnolds are a nice finisher for delts, involving the anterior and middle (medial?) delts such as they do. After completing those 12 sets of shoulder exercises (which left my shoulders feeling pretty shredded), I did ab crunches on the ball and a 15-minute set on the treadmill.

The truth is that I feel fucking fantastic. Some of my muscles are fatigued, but not in a bad way. I'm not getting excessive DOMS from this style of lifting, either. After three weeks, I feel stronger, I feel a little leaner, and I feel more sure of myself. I also feel sharper, and less slothful; more centred, more relaxed, more productive, more at ease.

There is a clear benefit to vigorous physical activity on a regular basis. This fact goes unnoticed by, or remains unknown to, many.

(Technical note on the dumbbell exercises: If doing ball sits simultaneously with dumbbell raises, you can use a mirror to keep your form steady. Holding the dumbbells perfectly steady with each squat -- as though you were miming holding onto a railing attached to the wall -- generates the perfect range of motion for each exercise and gives you something interesting to look at in the mirror, too.)
iamom: (blue glasses)
A few weeks ago, I found myself suddenly invested in finding an old-school weightlifting gym. Full of strong, muscular people who pumped iron in a serious way to gain muscle mass and strength.

I found that place in the form of the moderately cheese, yet undoubtedly authentic club called FitnessFX on Quinpool Road. Damn place is right next to a McDonalds, so you kind of dance with temptation at each visit to the gym.

Courtesy of my lithe, buxom personal trainer Andi, I've also discovered weight training on the ball: a series of exercises which develop muscle tone and strength throughout the body, using free weights (at low weight) for long and numerous sets, all while balancing in certain positions on the ball. Trippy experience, and a hell of workout for balance and core muscles, areas I generally neglect (among all).

Have also discovered the virtue of a treadmill for cardio workouts, particularly at high walking speeds on a steep incline. What a great way to hit target HR without wrenching your knees in a 30-min jog. And at my current weight, low impact cardio is always much appreciated.

Feeling objective increases in body strength in places I'd forgotten muscles exist, is what keeps me coming back. The positive reinforcement I've gotten after only three weeks (with 1 week of vacation!) is feeding into the motivation for going, and the two are in this perfect loop that makes me come back every day. Every day! Me, in a gym!

Writing? Haw. Music? Naw. Yardwork and home improvements? Lots of that this summer, and more to come this fall to prepare the new baby's room and set up my working space in the basement. Family visits? Hoo-boy! My mom and her sister left this afternoon and my dad and his wife arrive tomorrow evening. Prior to their arrival, my wife is hosting a BBQ at our house for several of her work colleagues. And prior to that, I need to finish painting the shed. And trimming the lawn at the edges.

So that's where I am right now. Next time, pics of my biceps.
iamom: (iam)
1. Eat when you're hungry. Or more specifically, eat when your body is hungry.

2. Eat what your body (as opposed to your mind) wants.

3. Stop eating when your body has had enough. (My addition: if you're bingeing, stop eating when your mind has had enough, a.k.a. when you become consciously aware that you're bingeing.)

4. Eat sitting down, in a calm environment. This most emphatically does not include the car (my personal favourite eating place).

5. Eat without distractions. Distractions include reading material of any kind, radio, TV, anxiety-producing conversations, or loud music.

6. Eat with the intention of being in full view of other people. To illustrate this guideline, if you're eating and someone walks into the room while you're eating, you don't hide the food.

7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.
I'm currently listening to the fantastic audio lecture series When Food Is Food And Love Is Love by Geneen Roth, which is in part based on her book Breaking Free From Emotional Eating (for more info, please see Roth's search results on amazon.ca or amazon.com). One of the most important things she discusses in this audio series is that these guidelines are an end in themselves; that there is no 'program' you can follow aside from these guidelines that won't end at some point and then leave you back where you started, eating-wise.

Having been a yo-yo dieter for the past 15 years or so, I recognize the validity of what she's saying. Having gained more weight in the past 2 years has also reminded me painfully of that fact: no matter what diet I go on -- presuming I'm successful at following it -- once the diet is over, I eventually migrate back to my regular eating habits and begin to put on more weight. It's a classic vicious circle.

What I like about Geneen's eating guidelines is that, provided you're prepared to do some objective and accurate witnessing of your own eating habits, they represent a way to slowly but surely break apart the incestuous and non-nutritive relationship I have always had with food. And her last guideline is the one that makes it all worthwhile, because it doesn't take away the pleasure of eating, which has also always been a big part of my life.

Accompanying these guidelines is a fair bit of coverage on the emotional reasons for why we eat when we're not hungry, and she does a good job of helping you try to figure out what those are and move past them. Now let's face it, the most people are overweight or obese is precisely because we're eating when we're not hungry, and it's not easy to look within to identify why we're doing that. But there's a huge benefit to doing it: as soon as you start to shed light on the very fact that you're eating when you're not hungry, you start to make progress. And each and every meal or bite that you take while seated, while quiet, and while calm is one which moves you directly towards attaining your natural, healthy body weight.

Another really positive thing about these guidelines is that they don't require you to follow any sort of eating plan. The content of your meals is totally up to you. So long as you follow the guidelines, you cannot help but restore your natural weight. But despite the simplicity of the guidelines, I recognize that they're also difficult. And you kind of need to be following most of them most of the time to see any results. But I believe that if I'm mindful of the guidelines each day (I have them memorized now and try to think of them before each meal) then I'll slowly start getting better at making them a regular part of my lifestyle. It will happen, if I stay focused and don't get too judgmental.
iamom: (tenzin gyatso)
The quote I was discussing here was from Geneen Roth's Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating, and it goes like this:
A quest, it seems to me, stems from an intuitive belief that the key to our wholeness lies in the expression of what we've glimpsed in ourselves but not yet touched. A quest is connected to the you that reaches beyond itself to the thread that connects one human being to another. Questing is an expression of courage and vulnerability; wanting is an act of isolation and fear.
[livejournal.com profile] baal_kriah also commented on my last post with the following insight from the Thelemic tradition (wikipedia | Google), which is, as I understand it, a form of mysticism developed by Aleister Crowley.
There's a phrase from the Thelemic tradition that illuminates for me the difference between "questing" and "wanting". It's "lust of result". When we get caught up in what our actions are supposed to accomplish instead of just acting from our natural and intuitive being then we are in a place of wanting instead of questing.
These definitions resonate strongly with me, particularly in the context of judgment vs. awareness, a topic being covered in the current chapter of Roth's book. Anyone with eating problems should be able to identify with the following excerpt (the boldface highlights are my own):
Judgments do not lead to change.

Change happens the way a plant grows: slowly, without force, and with the essential nutrients of love and patience and a willingness to remain constant through periods of stasis.

If change is what you want, you need to learn a gentler way of dealing with yourself and others.

Awareness, in contrast to judgment, is the quality of attention that is spacious and light. Awareness is attention that observes what you are doing without pushing you in a particular direction.

Awareness is a voice that notices. Just notices. When you walk into the house and are not hungry and head for the refrigerator, awareness is the voice that says, "My heart is racing, my hand is in the refrigerator. The food is coming up to my mouth. Now chewing, now swallowing, bringing the food up to my mouth again. Stomach knots. Cold food. Can't taste it. More food. Still can't taste it...what's going on?"

The judging voice says, "I can't believe you're doing this again! What's the matter with you? You will never learn, will you? Here you go, shoving food into your mouth, look at you, you're disgusting. You said you were going to watch what you ate, and now you are doing this. You're just going to keep getting fatter and fatter; soon you're be wearing nothing but muu-muus."
I suspect that this applies equally to other areas in life than food, if you're someone who has problems in other areas. What struck me most about this was that the former voice, the awareness voice, can't help but lead you to positive behavioural changes because it's not negative and not judgmental and it's just making you more aware of what you're doing. As soon as real awareness is there, the perceived need to do what you're doing (be in bingeing, drinking, doing drugs, whatever) disappears. As soon as you become aware of what you're filling your face with during a binge, it ceases to be a binge anymore and you stop eating. You can't help but stop!

Once the judgment voice kicks in, it automatically causes you to rebel against it. Nobody wants to be judged, least of all by yourself. We're all our own harshest judges already with the regular things we do in life. If we judge ourselves even more harshly on things we're having trouble with, on things that are out of sync or out of balance in our lives, then our behaviours will only worsen as we continue to fight against the judgment. The moment you stop fighting, the healing begins.
iamom: (flying by)
So many of us are afflicted by a sickness of seeking, a sickness of wanting. If we take the time to notice, we're often consumed by thoughts of wanting what we don't have or wanting to be different than the person we are right now. It creates endless suffering, endless frustration, endless pain. It reinforces the feeling that we're not essentially good people just as we are, that we need something other to be whole. That's a farce.

I read recently that the difference between questing and wanting is that questing deals with trying to connect more deeply with something deep inside of you that you may have only glimpsed but don't fully understand yet; wanting is an act of isolation and fear, a path taken out of dissatisfaction with whatever is going on right now. Questing is a means to connect with what is our own essential nature and to connect with other people.

We don't have to be scared about anything that's happening right now. We can trust ourselves and our own judgment and not try to force ourselves to fit into any particular mold or set of expectations. If we give ourselves the opportunity, we can learn that our own true nature is simple and clean, unfettered by neuroses and uncluttered by hangups. All that surface stuff, the stuff that makes us tired, angry or stressed-out every day, is just that -- on the surface -- and we don't need to identify with the apparent pain we feel each day or think that we need to change ourselves to avoid the pain.

We are not the pain. We are not the sum total of all the bad things that have happened to us in our childhood, in our teenage years, in our lives or during the day today. We are not the thoughts, emotions and actions that feel so real and important to us each day.

Like the rivers, trees, clouds and animals, we are nothing more than a simple part of nature and the world around us. We are but a humble part of the regular, natural expression of the universe itself. All the painful and tortured thoughts we think we're harbouring about ourselves are nothing more than mere thought-waves conjured up by a set of biochemical processes in our brains. We are not flawed, we do not need fixing, we do not need to change.

We are Nature itself, indivisible from Nature and sprung directly from It. We are perfect, because we are. And there is nothing we need to do other than accept this in order to live in peace. Living in peace means acceptance of what is; living in peace means not trying to change yourself or the world around you. Living in peace is as simple as taking a deep breath and being mindful of the present moment. And knowing yourself, knowing who you are, and loving what you see unconditionally.

Life goes on in exactly the same way it always has when we do this: nothing at all changes. Except for one thing, perhaps: you no longer feel bothered by the apparent pain when it arises. This is because you recognize that you are not the pain; you recognize that you are just Nature. The same good or bad things will continue to occur in your life once you have this awareness, but now, nothing bothers you one way or the other because there's nobody there to bother anymore.

You are life, nature, the universe itself. You are everything and nothing all at the same time. You are. I am.

OM.

(Goodnight, [livejournal.com profile] fey.)
iamom: (pink)
These are my reading notes from Chapter 2 of Geneen Roth's Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating. My notes from Chapter 1 are here.

To recap, Chapter 1 advised us to eat when we're hungry. But that wasn't instruction to gorge ourselves on crazy food all the time; instead, it was instruction to learn how to recognize our body's authentic signs of hunger, and to learn how to eat with the intent of satisfying that bodily hunger (as opposed to all the emotional and other motivations we have for eating).

Chapter 2 deals with deciding what you actually want to eat, the underlying logic being that if we eat what we truly want to eat, then we're more apt to be satisfied and less inspired to overeat. Just like Chapter 1, this chapter is full of deep insight.

Roth begins by acknowledging that for compulsive eaters, it's scary to think about giving ourselves license to eat what we want because we think we want so much. We think that if we eat what we want, we'll never stop eating and become even more obese. She tells us that in the beginning of this exercise, we likely will eat too much. But once we start to figure out exactly what it is that we want to eat (and also how to eat when we're hungry and how to stop eating when we're full), then we'll naturally start wanting to eat healthier foods in healthier quantities. I'm convinced that this is true.

She also discusses the emotional reasons why we eat, and how the effects of lifelong dieting and depriving ourselves in order to lose weight have skewed our food outlook on the world. She confesses that she has really never felt like a normal person who could walk up to the counter and ask for an ice cream cone without feeling horribly guilty that she was falling off the wagon again. And she notes the effect this has on us emotionally. From page 20:
I could eat from morning till night for the next six months and I would have still dieted and binged for seventeen years of my life. There isn't enough food in the world to heal the isolation of those years. There isn't enough food to fill the space created by the deprivation and the ensuing feelings of craziness. We can't go back. We can't eat for all the times we didn't eat. We can use that pain as an indicator of what doesn't work. We don't have to deprive ourselves any longer. Beginning today.
Read more... )
The gist of what she's saying is that if we learn to trust our own true inner voice about our hunger and what we want to eat, then we'll naturally start choosing normal foods to eat in normal quantities. But compulsive eaters (and frequent dieters) are so out of touch with what they want to eat at any given time that they're usually eating too much, too often. Learning to listen to that true inner voice will fix that tendency. But we have to learn how to trust it.
As long as there are foods you feel you shouldn't eat, you create struggle and conflict. As long as there is struggle, there is bingeing. And as long as there is bingeing, there is fear about eating what you want.

When you let go of the struggle by allowing yourself choice about what you eat, you let go of one end of the rope on which you have been tugging and straining. When you let go of your side, the rope immediately falls to the ground. When you decide that you will listen to yourself and not to your calorie-counter or your fears, there is nothing to rebel against. There is nothing you can't have tomorrow so there is no reason to eat it all today.

When you eat what you want, when you drop the rope and end the struggle between right foods and wrong foods, you will eventually (after your first tendency to eat more than you truly want) consume fewer calories than you did when you were guided by caloric content.
Roth goes on from here to discuss various logistical concerns with eating out and such, as well as more of the emotional underpinnings of the issue -- especially those related to your own expectations and personal outlook on life.
Whenever you notice yourself planning meals around what you should or shouldn't eat, or even around what you might want to eat, you are creating a set of expectations for yourself, which, if you don't meet them, will evoke the familiar feeling of weight-related failure.

As compulsive eaters, we spend our lives forsaking all the moments of satisfaction for a future moment when we will be thin and the deprivation will have paid off. And if and when that moment does come, we are so worried about gaining weight that we focus our attention once more on the future and do not take pleasure in the present.

Breaking free from compulsive eating is also breaking free from preoccupation with the future.
When one women in her workshop asked, "Isn't eating sugar all the time terrible for you?" Roth responds,
Yes. And no. Eating salads and vegetables under restraint and bingeing on sugar whenever you have the chance is not particularly healthy. Sneaking, hiding, or lying about food is not healthy. Punishing yourself is not healthy.
Hear hear, sista. The next chapter is called Distracted Eating: It Doesn't Count If You're Not Sitting Down. Can't wait to read it.
iamom: (pink)
There's this fat guy named Steve Vaught who is walking across the country right now in an effort to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle. He's chronicling his adventures on his blog at FatManWalking.com, and a recent entry of his contained a large portion size of wisdom. I can't link to it directly because his blog is kind of messed up technically, but the entry I'm writing about today is about motivation on 03 22 06 on this page.

From browsing his site, I've learned that after completing two-thirds of his trip (several thousand miles!) he still hadn't reached his target weight. It was bothering him and he didn't understand why he wasn't succeeding. He ended up deciding that he was still eating too badly to lose weight, and that made him take a break from his walk and re-evaluate what he was doing. Some of his insights line up pretty closely with the ones I've been developing lately about this. Things like leaving aside the guilt, stop beating yourself up over bad food or exercise choices from one day to the next, etc.
There is no elusive motivation that once possessed will whisk you into a supermodel body, there is only you and your desire to be happy. The fact that you want something to fix you is the best indication that what needs fixing is you.  Logically you know what the answer is, eat less, eat better and move around once in a while. (Or walk across the country.--ed.)
Vaught says that we all have different justifications and motivations for our bad lifestyle choices, and that we all have our own ways of convincing ourselves that we are "powerless against this 'disease'." He gives us a reality check: You are the problem! You overindulge and have done so for quite some time. Now you need to work to reverse that bad behavior which by now is probably habit. You need to get over yourself and simply go and do something.Vaught:
Once you stop setting yourself up for failure you will release yourself from the cycle of guilt, self-loathing and desire for comfort, then you will start to see that you have to take the good with the bad. In releasing the cycle of weightloss/weightgain and accept the successes with the failure as the big picture you will find that you have all the power and do not need to find motivation, it comes naturally. You are not trying to get happy by losing weight; you are trying to get healthy by losing weight. Happiness should be an element in your life regardless. Once you take the power away from the weight you will feel a burden lifted from you shoulders, start to feel happy and stop punishing yourself and ultimately losing weight will become natural. Cure the mind and the ass will follow.
He discusses a "one day at a time" approach that works for me. I think of this as a sort of continuum of eating and exercise, wherein sometimes good choices are made and sometimes bad choices are made, but ultimately, over time, more good than bad choices get made and you become tangibly healthier. Vaught:
Try your best everyday, make little reminders in your routine to point you in the right direction, It is not the weight that holds you captive or even the food, instead it is the inner conflict about failing to control oneself that keeps you from being successful.
Later on, he came up with a list of specific behaviours he is finding useful. I don't disagree with them. They are (with my paraphrasing):

1. Portion control. To lose weight, you must consume less than you burn in physical activity. To maintain a healthy weight, you must consume the same amount that you burn. It's common sense, and it's true.

2. Variety. Our bodies need a mixture of sugar, salt, fat, protein, everything. But overweight people need it in smaller amounts. Expanding your habits to include multiple food choices is beneficial. Overindulging in any one food is bad, but so is avoiding any one food.

3. Nutrition. Vaught: Once you eat less and learn to feel real hunger and then you have mixed it up and are not in food ruts, then you are ready to start choosing good food over bad. If it is modified, sugar or caffeine or whatever-free dump it. Now you want to eat natural whole foods over processed. If the food does not have a naturally occurring color – then pass.

4. Exercise. After finding that healthier eating habits are starting to take root, you'll find that you naturally want to become more active. It almost happens of its own accord. And even if it's something as simple as walking, that's enough. You can lose weight just by walking!

5. Your mind. Vaught: This effort will fail miserably if you start to beat yourself up over transgressions. You will have good days and bad days. Individually they do not matter. Success is a lifetime thing not a daily. If you are not accepting your weakness then you are not accepting that you are human and that is why you are struggling in the first place.
iamom: (lookingup)
On the advice of a trusted advisor, I'm reading Geneen Roth's book Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (author on google | book on amazon.com | amazon.ca). Unlike many non-fiction books I've read lately, I find it difficult to read this one quickly. It's because there's so much insight on every page it warrants a slower read.

Admittedly, the book's not for everybody. For example, anyone who makes it a scarce habit to eat for any other reason than being hungry wouldn't get much from it. But anyone who has observed in themselves the propensity to eat too much or too often and always for some other reason than being hungry (or for no reason at all) would find wisdom in these pages. I know that I have.

My reading notes from Chapter 1, which deals mainly with the concept of hunger, are below. Material quoted directly is italicized with page number references or else set apart in a citation blockquote (w/blue sideline).
The first step in breaking free from compulsive eating is to eat when you are hungry (page 6). In recent memory, I recall eating mainly without any regard for my actual level of physical hunger at the time. The mere evaluation of how hungry I might be at any given meal time is practically an alien concept to me.

The fear of hunger, like the fear of loneliness, seems to be connected with emptiness, echoes, endless wanting (page 7). I don't think I have a fear of my own hunger per se; more to the point, I'm not even aware of what my own level of hunger is at any given time.

Beginner's exercises.
Keep a log of what you ate, when you ate it, and if you were hungry when you ate (page 8).Log your feelings about eating as you go. Watch for: forgetting to log meals you ate when you weren't hungry; forgetting to log 'bad' meals, random snacks, or binges; excessive self-judgment or congratulation for 'bad' or 'good' eating. Ask yourself: how often do you eat when you are hungry? Can you recognize your own signs of physical hunger?

Don't eat at your regular meal times for a day or two (or longer) to help get in touch with your hunger (page 9). Observe if you anticipate your hunger or if you want to be hungry before you actually become hungry. Note: This exercise may require some advance planning so that you're sure to have food on hand when you are actually hungry (i.e. you may not feel like eating at your regular meal times).

Pay attention to the bodily sensations that you recognize as hunger (page 9). When you feel hunger coming on, stop what you're doing and observe it fully. Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? What happens to you when you feel yourself getting hungry? What do you do, and what do you want to do, when you feel hunger?

When you've decided that you are hungry, rate your hunger objectively on a scale from 1 to 10 (page 10). This will give you an objective way to assess your current level of hunger, and over time, to compare it with past levels of hunger. Until now, we have probably been overlaying a lot of subjective criteria on our perceived hunger levels; using the 10-point scale helps us to unravel that a little.

When you are not hungry and decide to eat, choose a food that you ate that day when you were hungry (page 10). Whoa, this one is heavy. Deserves its own chapter: when you are not hungry and decide to eat? Isn't that like most of the time? In this situation, she goes on to ask us to be aware of:
   -- how the food tastes
   -- how the taste was different when you were hungry
   -- if you enjoy it as much as when you were hungry
   -- what, since it's not hunger, you are feeling
   -- how you know when to stop eating

Common themes, questions and fears.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll eat all the time.
   If I eat when I'm hungry, I'll gain 50 pounds and nobody will love me.
   Your body gets hungry. When you feed it, it gets satisfied. There is no magic about it. It might take a while to sift through the various sensations you feel and distringuish hunger from sadness or loneliness, but that's because you're not used to recognizing hunger -- and not because your body doesn't feel it or because your hunger, if you let yourself recognize it, would be insatiable. No on has to tell you when to eat; your body will tell you. No on can tell you when to eat; they aren't in touch with your stomach. And if you are listening to your body to tell you when to eat, you can also hear it saying "enough."
   If I only eat when I'm hungry, I won't be able to eat as much as I want or when I want it. That's true. But the amount that you want is often not as much as your body wants.
   Ask yourself: What is it that you want from food beyond its nourishing your body?
   Ask yourself: Do you want to eat as much as you want more than you want to change how you deal with food and feel about your body?
   When I'm not hungry and good food is around, I feel that I'm missing something very special if I don't eat. When you are not hungry and good food is around, what you do miss by eating is the chance to take care of yourself, to see that the world won't end if you don't eat the cheesecake. You miss the chance not to get sick, to be so full you can't sleep, and to wake up in the morning wishing the night had never happened. When you are not hungry enough to begin eating or too full to continue, you miss the taste of food anyway.
   I'm afraid to let myself get hungry; I feel so empty. The sensation of hunger is sometimes accompanied by a corresponding physical sensation of emptiness and hollowness; as such, it can sometimes evoke the emotion of hunger too. When physical hunger activates our yearning or aching, we feel frightened and want to push it away. Often we push it away and repress that feeling by eating.
Closing words from Chapter 1.
Physical hunger is of the body. Physical hunger asks for food. Nonphysical hunger is of the mind, the heart. When you see that your physical hunger is capable of being fulfilled, you can begin to allow that same possibility for your emotional hunger.

When you don't allow yourself hunger, you don't allow yourself satisfaction.
iamom: (zoebright)
Someone else I know, the excellent and eloquent [livejournal.com profile] grammardog, has just begun to expound on her motivations about eating and improving her physical health. I've been writing about that too lately, but under heavy cover of a very narrow friends filter. She makes me question the need to keep that discussion under wraps, though. From her entry:
Remember how I did that poll to find out who wanted to be on the weight/body image/food/exercise/fitness/wellness/health filter? Well, I've been thinking more about more about using it and finally talking about some of this stuff, and what my motivations are for doing that, and after all of your dedicated clicking, I've decided not to use the filter at all. LOVE ME ANYWAY. Instead, I'll do cuts for the folks who don't want to read that kind of thing. The reason I've decided to do things this way is that I feel like part of the secret to succeeding with this fucker Body Image is to just stop hiding shit so much. I have never discussed any attempt to improve my health openly, because of my fear of failure. Now, I am trying to adopt a different attitude... that I will always go through phases and lapses where sometimes I work harder than others and eat better than others, and also that it is not the end of the world to not reach my goals when I set them, because they can always be re-set, and probably they always will. I am taking this cue from my experiences with financial problems... the only time they have ever started to work themselves out is when I am honest and forthcoming with them, and not ashamed to talk about them. So, here's to liberation.

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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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