I know I've blogged a great deal about food addiction and in the past I've made comparisons to other addictions of the less socially acceptable type, such as smoking, alcohol and drugs. Let me stress that I don't make these comparisons to marginalize anyone battling such difficult addictions. I have some wonderful friends who are battling and beating their addictions and they have inspired me, as well as made me realize that my addiction could also be debilitating and, unfairly, was "understandable" according to well meaning friends . (I mean, I work so hard, such long hours and all the travel? No one can eat well under those circumstances, right?) Instead I make these comparisons because there is a part of me that has realized that food addiction can be AS DANGEROUS to our long term health as other addictions and it is SILENTLY killing people I love. And it has silently been killing me for the last few weeks, as I slowly slipped into behavior that, frankly, became embarrassing. I've even found myself avoiding people I did not want to see me "like this." Sound familiar?
As dramatic as I might sound, the truth is, right now my body aches terribly and I have not exercised in about two weeks so it's not the "good" kind of ache from developing muscles. Instead, my shoulders are sore and achy, my neck hurts miserably, my sciatic nerve is pinched in my left hip, my face has erupted in pimples again and I have circles under my eyes. It truly looks as if I've been on a bender. And in a way, I have.
I finished my 4 week intermittent fasting/fat loss program a few weeks ago with mixed results. Given my shoulder injury I had a challenging time keeping up with all of the workouts I had planned, and by the 4th week (and 4th straight week of travel), I realized I hadn't really been able to give it the full attention it needed. I do not have amazing results to speak of - not at all indicating "it" didn't work as much as "I" didn't do the work needed to make it work. Because most things will WORK if you WORK them.
I did find that I can tolerate black beans and sweet potatoes more than I thought I could. But the sweet potatoes are still a slippery slope for me.
So is cheat day.
Sigh. It all sort of started and ended with cheat day. There was a part of me prior to beginning this program that knew, in the back of my mind, that an off the rails "no rules" food day was a stretch for me. My advisers tried to tell me to only have one or two cheat meals then, to keep myself in check. Or just add certain foods in to the meals I would normally eat, and indulge in fruit on that day. I had options. Instead, I chose door #4 which included, by the 4th and final cheat day, crappy eating that began at midnight and didn't end in 24 hours. It was easy to fast the day after cheat day, I hurt so badly and felt so awful that I didn't want to eat anything anyway.
This isn't NEW news, but I have confirmed for myself that I'm an extremist when it comes to food.
When I'm good, I'm REALLY good. Resolve of STEEL. Rarely missing workouts or "slipping" up especially when I'm accountable to others or they are counting on me to help them along.
And when I'm bad, I'm SO BAD IT HURTS.
Is there a happy medium, for me?
My fall from grace after this program was helped along by exhaustion and poor planning on a work trip a few weeks ago. Three days in a classroom, even with very interesting presenters, is tough for me. I reached for a diet coke. The candy and crap soon followed. It was a fall from grace, and I fell a long way and the landing HURTS. Ah, diet coke. My frien-emy. You quickly helped me spiral out of control, once again.
I've been on the fence for about a week. Making a great deal of great choices and quite a few not so great choices. Eating PERFECTLY one day, then walking into Publix to get a pint of raspberries and walking out with a pint of coconut milk ice cream and a container of dark chocolate covered cherries. (I practically got a high five from the kid who bagged my groceries). Little did he know he was further encouraging what went down a short while later.
What I have learned and am still trying to wrap my mind around is that I THRIVE with parameters. I do very well within certain plans or rules. Other people do NOT do well in that head space and that is totally a personal thing. I DO. I need it. Does it mean I'll never eat cheesecake again? No. Do I need to eat it every Sunday? Again. No. Should I maybe limit it until I've reached my fat goals? Not even going to answer that. I know the answer.
"Moderation" is a word I just cannot claim right now in my journey. Sure, it is healthy for some people and I'm really glad they are able to enjoy a weekly or even daily dessert and still maintain a certain size/weight/athletic performance. What I realize is that my metabolism was broken for SO LONG and my head in the sand in regard to nutrition for most of my life, that I may not be able to enjoy moderation for a long time. For me, eating off the rails like I have been for the past few weeks resulted in weighing in at 199 again. Yes, that's not a typo. My low was 170.8 at the end of February...around 185 after the intermittent fasting 4 week plan...and 199 this past Monday morning.
I need a plan. I need treats in a controlled and limited environment. I'm sure some of you are reading this thinking it's just too extreme to live this way. Or that it's unhealthy, mentally.
I beg to differ, based on my current status. I'm going to share a very honest, raw, true life story with you from last night and today to prove my point.
In just a few short weeks, sugar once again completely and utterly consumed my life and my thoughts. Let me share an example - I had a great dinner last night at a paleo friendly restaurant in Charleston, SC called Sesame Burgers. They serve grass fed hormone free beef burgers, amazing salads, etc. Everything is made from scratch (in fact it amused me at how excited the server was about how they make their own mayo - I wanted to squeal, so do I! but decided to let her have her moment...) Surprisingly this restaurant was located in the mall.
I ordered the fig & bacon jam burger with blue cheese. It was incredible. No bun not because I was trying to be "good" but I have zero interest in bread which I know is quite strange. I also had a really pretty spinach salad with melted brie and apples and some sweet potato fries with more blue cheese, pancetta and a red wine reduction. It was so amazing. Best meal I've had in a long time. I was SO FULL. (uh can you say that's a lot of cheese but I'm partial to fine cheese and hey, I don't have parameters right now remember?)...
And all I could think about was dessert. Thankfully the waitress didn't give me that option. I left sort of embarrassed that I even wanted dessert, and thinking about the crazy look I would have gotten from her if I had pretended I still had room in my gut for some since she saw first hand what I had eaten. I decided I would walk by the cookie place and see if anything there struck my fancy.
I walked back through the mall and passed a coffee/dessert place that looked interesting but kept going. AsI approached the cookie place I realized there was someone sitting on the bench adjacent to it. They would see me get the treat. They would probably think something like "her thighs don't need that cookie."
Suddenly I weighed 285 pounds again, in my mind, and I don't think I realized it. I ambled to the exit fumbling for my keys to my car. I was overly alert since it was dark and I was not sure how good of an area of Charleston I was in, alone, late at night (smart, I know).
I got in the car and started wondering if I would pass anywhere on the way back to the hotel where I could get a dessert. Maybe a Publix where I could get something from the bakery? But no, I'd rather have something more like homemade. Dang - why didn't I just get a dessert from the restaurant where I just was? I contemplated baskin robbins. But then remembered how much ice cream makes me hurt. And my neck was already killing me (likely all the cheese, honestly).
I arrived back at the hotel and parked in the garage underneath the building. I climbed onto the elevator and pushed the 1st floor button. My room is on the 3rd floor. But the restaurant is on the 1st floor. I could get dessert there.
I got off the elevator on the first floor and walked a few steps to where I could see the lounge/restaurant. There were too many people there, all of which would see me with my dessert and think, "she really should watch what she eats." I quickly turned around and got back on the elevator.
When I got to my room I snatched up the room service menu, sugar still consuming my thoughts, even though I was consciously embarrassed by it as I had already avoided 3 situations to have something "bad" which is funny as it was because I didn't want to be judged, NOT because I didn't want something. At this point I'm keenly aware of how unhealthily I'm behaving inside my own head. Peanut butter pie, no, don't really care for that. Southern pecan pie with white chocolate ice cream, that sounds interesting but still not really what I was looking for. Warm brownie with vanilla ice cream now that might be a contender. But it's just a brownie. Not a special brownie. Not a homemade brownie. And the ice cream will make me hurt.
I probably picked up the menu and put it down 3 times. Then I proceeded to take 2 aleve for my aching neck and lay down only to watch TV for the next several hours staying up unnecessarily late.
I woke up once again exhausted but better rested than the prior few days, still mildly embarrassed in my own head about the dessert fiasco, not sure if I was more embarrassed about the fact that I didn't want people judging me or about my inability to make a decision and just get something.
This morning I was fortunate to meet some friends for breakfast at the hotel. I had a veggie omelet (no cheese) and sausage. It was really good. The company was really good. The chef brought out some homemade mozzarella he had crafted into a caprese salad. I had a few bites and it was awesome.
On my way home from Charleston I stopped at Earth Fare to pick up some kombucha, pasta for my peeps at home and whatever else struck my fancy. I left with 12 kombuchas, 2 bags of almond flour, a container of dried mango and dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice (finally found those!). Truly, I do not need dried fruit in my house. This I know. For the occasional recipe it's good to have, but I have no business having it around. I bought it anyway. I had a major urge for something sweet. They have paleo treats here, ooh, I could have one of those. I thought about it when I was in line already. Too late.
At that point I became fixated mentally on a milkshake. Interestingly, I've had a few of those recently. It's been super hot and all the car travel makes one so inviting. Making the mistake of not having ice cold water with me has not helped. I've also eaten fried chicken and french fries a few times in the last week. Even from Chick Fil A, it has resulted in a major stomach ache.
On the drive home I passed a Publix and was afraid to go inside. I have not proven myself very trust worthy. There are a bunch of miles after that last Publix before I reach actual food again.
One side note - I haven't reduced myself to eating at McDonalds again - that's just not food. Ha.
I knew I would eat off the Pooler exit. I was afraid I would go to Chick Fil A and get a stomach ache like I did the day before. I don't need a stomach ache. And then I'll be tempted to get a milkshake. Crap, I don't want a milkshake. Nothing worse than having your hands/arms ache while driving 2 more hours home.
I saw a Panera sign and it was like the heavens opened up.
In line at Panera I almost grabbed a row of chocolate chipper cookies. Almost. I averted my eyes quickly. I ordered my usual Power Mediterranean Chicken salad from the hidden menu with added pecans and avocado. The dressing is fresh lemon and a packet of olive oil. It was amazingly satisfying.
I wanted dessert.
The thing is, in the past I would think, just get a dessert already and it will be over with. But I've already done that. About 10 times in the last 12 days. I'm not getting it over with. I'm getting it started again.
I looked at Facebook and saw a message from a friend who is doing a W30 right now and vented about her day, mentioning it would be a miracle if she made it through the workday without alcohol or chocolate. Her message gave me strength and purpose. I went through the Panera drive through and ordered black coffee. It was REALLY good. Though I'm not sure if I enjoyed that OR having beaten the sugar dragon down more. I can't decide.
But I know this. I have won more battles than I have lost these last few years.
It's amazing to me how quickly and easily I can revert to old, unhealthy behaviors. Much like an addict. But I cannot avoid the grocery store forever. I just have to go in there with a plan and a list. I may always be that way. The light bulb went off as I thought through this whole 24 hour dessert fiasco. I wanted to eat in secret, in private. Anything you don't want the people you love to see you doing is likely NOT good for you.
Is it ideal for me to have to live this way? No, I would prefer a life of moderation. But is it my reality? Yes.
And do I want to heal from this? More than I will ever be able to describe to anyone, ever.
I'm doing another Whole 30 starting tomorrow though I'm doing a little bit of a 21 day sugar detox hybrid - I'm not allowing dried fruit (hoping those craisins last the 30 days - ha) and actually limiting my fruit to green apples or green bananas. Now my Whole 30 wouldn't measure up to someone's first REAL whole 30 - meaning I've come to realize that there is a trace of sugar in the ingredients in the Panera salad. But I am unconcerned with that. I will be home only 10 of the next 31 days. Half of those will be days we have church. Time is NOT on my side. So there will be meat that is likely not Whole 30 compliant as I will be eating the majority of my meals in restaurants. So I'm ok with that because I don't think those things will hurt my results. The trace sugar is what it is. It will not keep my sugar dragon fed. But it will make my plan NOT a true Whole 30 and I'm ok with that. I'll think of my own fancy name.
Thanks for reading this super long update. I shared the details of my last few days with you because I need you to see how real the struggle is. This is not me being dramatic - this is the reality that is my head and has been my struggle as of late. And yeah, it is dramatic. Welcome to my filing cabinet. Yeah, I'm ready to get out too.
Not only am I going to focus on my nutrition this month, I will be getting moving again. I eat so much better when I'm active and the good choices come easier when they are equated to fuel. Going to make myself a realistic workout plan designed around strength building and some fun runs. I'm going to enjoy sweating and feeling strong again.
I'm also going to focus on my mind and my heart. I've decided to work through the Celebrate Recovery books. I have them and have never cracked them open. But it's time. It's time to call a duck, a duck. It's time to take control of the mind portion of this battle and arm myself with the right tools and strength I need to keep on winning. And battle this head on like the real attack/addiction it is. I might even attend a meeting if I am home on a Monday night anytime soon.
Celebrate Recovery Step 1:
I admit that I am powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18 NIV)
Yep. On my own, I'm powerless. I need God to help me with this. I rely on Him for everything else in my life and it is finally time to give Him the reigns here so I'm turning them over. If you've followed my blog at all you know I'm a Christian, you know I love Jesus and you know my husband is a pastor. I don't talk about that much as this blog is much more focused on my health. But it's time to let Him into this process and let Him take over. Maybe it's why I haven't been able to fully finish this race or reach my final goals. Maybe He wants to be part of it. I hope you'll stick around to find out.
I'll keep you as updated as I can. In the meantime, pray for me?