eating

When I started sketching out what I wanted from the blog, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to begin at the beginning and address the main pillars of living a mindful life: spirituality (soul, mind), movement (body),  breathing (body), and eating (body). While I categorize my entries either as mind, body, or soul, many of these pillars cover more than one thing. Sure breathing is life-giving in body but it also quiets the mind. Same with movement. Spirituality nurses the soul but using it as a foundation for finding a community that you can become a part of is also of the mind.

Eating follows the same path and is another pillar.

 

I’m an overeater and I use food as a substitute for emotional and mental release.

Like 99.99% of those who identify as women, I’ve been sexually harassed as well as having been date raped multiple times. I have also struggled with self-image problems for the entirety of my life. Being “fat” protects me from futher sexual abuse and tells me lies about my mind and my self.

I don’t remember a time I wasn’t dieting because I was “fat” when pictures of my youth tell a wholly different story. I am tall for a girl (I’m 5’10”) and because of my height, I did not nor do not fit into standard issue clothing. (Being fat and tall, lol, right.) The story my mother loved to tell as I was such a big baby (11lbs 7oz; 24″ long), my grandmother had to come with 12-month-old sized baby clothes because I couldn’t fit into what the hospital had given my mother. And because I could not fit in clothes that were was accepted for my age (going forward), I was labeled an “other.” And that otherness shaped my entire life.

My mother put me on a diet when I was about 10 or 11. I remember being weighed and clocked in about 113-117lbs. I was about 5’2 or so. I was told by my family I was “fat.” I ate pineapple, grapefruit, and cottage cheese for so long as a kid, I get terrible memory flashbacks as an adult. When I was 13, I was 5’9 and about 140lbs. I used to watch exercise shows obsessively determined I could get back to 120lbs and have rock hard abs.

I remember my mother took me a modeling agency when I was 15 or so. I was told at 145lbs, I was “too fat” to model and needed to lose 20 or so pounds. That went over well.

When I was 17, I was 5’10 and 170lbs.

In every one of those pictures from my early life, I don’t look just average, in some, I look positively underweight.

But I was “fat.”

And no matter what I weighed (my highest was 326), I’ve always been “fat.”

I needed to rethink my relationship with food, what I was using it for, and how to give myself a better quality of life.


Last summer, my partner and I got colds and they were pretty horrific. I spent a good four or five days on the couch with tissues, cough drops, and trashy TV to sustain me. In my mindless wandering of something to watch, I stumbled across My 600lb Lifea reality show that “examines” (my quote marks) and exploits (totally) people who are beyond morbidly obese, sometimes beyond 100lbs or even 200lbs. The carrot, from what I have seen, is the “stars” of the show get bariatric surgery as we also follow along with their lives before and after the surgery is completed. For many, it’s a godsend but for others, we are told, they are shamed when it is discovered they were eating six meals at McDonald’s in one go as the camera pans to their secrets laying on the floor of their car.

I saw how easy it was to live a 600lb life. Eating for soothing purposes was “easier” than keeping your body in motion. Having a healthy relationship with food seems “hard” when it is far easier to sustain that rather than trying to drop 100, 200, or even 300lbs from your body.

That’s when I started becoming self-aware in my struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with my body and my dependence on food for support. My self-esteem and confidence are shot because I hate myself so much and because I hate myself so much, I’m overeating for that quick endorphined high where I don’t feel like I hate myself even for a minute. And in the process, I kept telling myself I was fine because I didn’t have any problems typically associated with being fat (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease)

It’s a never ending cycle. My own private ouroboros. I am exhausted and I want to stop eating my own tail.

In late January, my partner and I decided to make the lifestyle changes we need to make for a healthier and longer lasting life. Not long after, he found out he has diabetes so that doubled down our decisions. In early February, we started a no added sugar, low sodium and carb, no cow dairy, and no gluten (for me) diet. Since the beginning of January when he was at his heaviest, he has lost over 30lbs. Me? Even after weeks of being on the straight and narrow, I take every opportunity to overeat. Friends in town? Time to binge. Period coming? Time to eat all the things. From February 10 to mid-March, I lost 11lbs but it was the hardest 11lbs I have ever lost. As we begin to head into May, I’m bouncing around the same five pounds lost / gained in the last month. I am struggling now to not put a time limit on how much weight to lose before a specific date. If I don’t poop on a daily basis, or my period is coming, or I’m stressed, I can weigh as much as five pounds from one day to the next. My body is literally fighting me to get the weight off.

It’s hard. It’s hard accepting these things about yourself that is self-sabotaging to your health because it is, as you see it, failure. And when you’re a failure, you need to self-soothe and the process begins all over again.

And I haven’t even started on the societal roles placed on those who are deemed “fat” (whether actual or perceived) or the diet industry in itself because that’s another post or twelve.

I want to get this post at the beginning of the blog because in order to accept mindfulness as part of my life, I need to accept and let go of things that have been harming me and stalling a participating life. It’s scary accepting the things and working past them but I want to a live a participing life rather than a paralyzed one.

 

 

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movement

I’ve been thinking about the movement of the body, my body, a lot. Was my daily yoga and stretching enough? Should I be moving more? Different moves? Was what I was doing enough? The frequency?

Could I be better?

So I timed it.

16 minutes.

That’s all it takes through my daily yoga and stretch moves.

16 minutes out of a 24 hour day.

That seems to be manageable. Easy. I have a routine. I begin with cobra prose and end with my ankle exercises. Sometimes I add to the routine but the routine is pretty steady.

I can do this.

But most of the time I don’t. I don’t want to move in the morning. I want coffee and Facebook. I look at my yoga mat as if it’s the devil herself. I feel guilt when it gets to early evening and I have not moved. Walking my dog does not count. So, I don’t do it and promise myself I’ll do it the following morning and the cycle begins all over again and before I know it, weeks have gone by.

There are too many studies that show exercise, even yoga, is beneficial to elevating your moods especially depression and anxiety. There are other benefits too: better quality of life, strengthening of the body, less stress, and less like to get illnesses, such as diabetes and heart problems, related to a purely sedentary life.

Why am I not moving?

Last summer, my partner and I both came down with pretty awful colds. We were down for close to a week. I spent my awake time laying on the couch, cough drops and soothing drinks nearby, watching trashy television. I was eating sporadically and I’m betting it was mostly junk. I flipped through TV channels and found My 600lb Life playing on continuous loop. The show is about people who literally weight 500, 600, sometimes more, pounds. The struggles they go through with their daily life, their wants and desires of what would be required of them to have a better life, how they got to be the weight they are now. Ultimately, they go through bariatric surgery so we follow their lives after their surgery too. So many of the people are grateful for a second chance and how much moving and weight loss have improved their lives considerably.

As I was laying there watching these sad stories, it dawned on me how easy it would be to get to 600lbs. It seems easier to do nothing and eat everything. This scared me. I also thought of my mother. She gave up living her life in her mid-60s and decided it was easier to eat foods that were not part of her diabetic diet and sit in a chair all day watching TV. While she didn’t gain weight what she did gain was immobility and more health problems. By the time she died at the age of 74, she was in a wheelchair, out of control diabetes, loss of several of her toes, and congestive heart failure. My brother and I found this to be a wake-up call to our own lives. We made promises to change our lives so we did not end up like our mother.

A year later, some things have changed but not enough. My partner recently found out he has diabetes and we changed our eating habits and the types of food we were putting in our mouths. We now follow a low-sodium, carb, no added sugar, gluten free (me), cow dairy free and no white food (rice, bread) diet. My partner has lost 30lbs in nearly 3 months. I have lost 11lbs but I have the data as to why I’m not losing weight. I cannot be trusted around food and I’m not moving. I have to stop treating food like a stop gap for my emotions and feelings and I need to stop looking at movement as an anathema.

My therapist is a yogi and she’s teaching me to yoga poses that are restorative as well as strengthening my core. She’s teaching me how to breathe. She’s teaching me how to move.

In the last couple of weeks, I have become more mindful of moving my body. 16 minutes is all I need. I hate to say force, but I force myself to do yoga in the morning followed by a shower and the thing is, when I have done these two things, I feel so much better about my day rather than mindlessly laying about in my own filth, staring daggers at my yoga mat. The movement loosens up my hips so my sciatica doesn’t flare and the ankle exercises warms up my ankles and I have greater movement when I walk. I noticed after a week or so of yoga every day, when I woke up in the morning I wasn’t walking like a duck. My right ankle has arthritis from an accident that happened in my early 20s. I have had five surgeries, the last in 2012, to fix and manage the arthritis. Doctors have said if I’m not doing my ankle exercises on a daily basis, I could see more surgeries in my future with possible ankle replacement in five or so years.

I don’t want to be my mother and I don’t want to weigh 600lbs and I want to walk all the places.

Persephone has decided to come back to the surface and spring is finally blooming here. My new goal is to do my yoga in the morning and walk a few miles, with the dog, in the afternoon. If I can’t, for some reason, spend the 16 minutes to stretch, I’ll at least do my ankle exercises and walk. My partner and I are going on vacation in a few weeks and there will be a lot of walking. I don’t want to find myself in the evening with my leg propped up because of how bad my arthritis flared. I may not be able to get rid of my arthritis, and my crazy, for good but I can manage them if I just move my body at least 16 minutes a day.

While I have to talk myself into moving and walking, it’s becoming easier. There is a moment of pride not only that there are nearly immediate results but I have completed something that makes me healthier. I have to keep it up, sure, but I’m slowly moving my body and learning to enjoy the movement. What seems a bit hard in the beginning will become easier.

Move your fucking body.

 

Breathing

At any therapy, mindfulness session, DBT book, or whatever, the first thing discussed is how to breathe.

Like what the hell man, I already know how to breathe!

No, no you don’t.

It’s super easy. I promise. Anyone can do this.

Take a deep breath counting into five through your nose. Now take a deep breath out counting to five via your mouth.

Annnndddd you’re done.

You can do breath work anytime and anywhere. When you’re driving, watching TV, or before you go to sleep. A good rule of thumb is work on your breath work for about a minute at a time. It’s especially helpful when you’re in a crisis, stressed, or your mind is amped.

Learning how to breathe, properly breathe, creates a present moment. It may not feel like it, but you are here. Now. In this space. Your only focus is on the body as you breathe in and then breathe out. Because you’re being present, the mind starts to slow down. Literally all the therapy I’ve been through and DBT books I’ve worked through use breath work in the very beginning because it can often help someone who is in crisis to calm down and to relax.

My favorite phrase is “That shit is hard,  yo!” when I talk about being mindful, and I’ll probably overuse that phrase, but learning how to breathe is hard work. Even now as I write this, and I’m coming down from week long manic episode, I am breathing in for five through my nose and breathing out for five via the mouth as I type but my first inclination is to rush through it. I don’t want to be here.

So, I stopped writing and worked on breath work for a minute and I felt like I could physically feel the pushback. My mind is screaming, “We are just fine, thank you!” but I know it’s half-truth. My brain is mostly fine with the legit drugs but it’s not wholly fine and that’s what I’m looking to work through.

My brain can be an asshole at times.

I’m writing about breath work and I just completed a cycle of breath work but I feel like nothing has changed but it has. That is totally OK. One thing I will drill in your head as much as I need to drill it in mine is being mindful is about practice. There is no gold star, no ending, no grand prize at the end. Some days it’s going to really fucking suck and other days you’re going to feel amazing.

You can do breath work any time you want and how many times a day you want. There is no limit. Sometimes I do it before I drive because driving can often give me anxiety. Other times when I’m spacing out (lack of awareness of anything or anywhere), I will snap back and do breath work to remind myself I am physically in this body at this very moment in time. When I feel my anger rising, and if you’re bipolar holy fuck does it get amped, I try and stop to do breath work before something terrible comes out of my mouth.

Even if my mind is not a calm place, doing breath work totally brings me to the moment. I can take stock and say, “Okay, Lisa. You’re about to get angry over a stupid thing. Take a step back and chill.” Even just thinking of doing breath work before I explode is being present.

Don’t forget to breathe today and remind yourself you are very much here.