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Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

The cart and horse scenario

In Being Healthy on March 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Picture for a second a horse pushing a cart up a hill. First of all, the horse would have to be trained a bit extra, I’m sure. Then you’re working against physics. Not to mention, I’m not sure there is even a horse pushing harness contraption. You might eventually get there, but it’s going to be a pain in the ass, fraught with delays.

It’s not going to work as well as harnessing the horse and letting it PULL the cart up the hill.

cartoon horse laughing

“So how YOU doin’, sexy lady?”

Women every day are taking part in a similar exercise in frustration, and we have been for decades. We try to make self-hate motivate us to squeeze into an irrational standard set by a distorted societal opinion. Let’s all face it. Society’s opinion of what is beauty is distorted by media, by Photoshop’d images in fashion magazines, not reality. We and OUR CHILDREN, our DAUGHTERS, are paying the price. But I digress…

Self-hate is never going to be successful in anything but breeding obsession, yo-yo dieting and eating disorders. Changing from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one happens slowly.

Major change is incremental. It doesn’t happen overnight. Self-love is the only way you can sustain slow, permanent change. You have to love yourself even if it takes a year for regular exercise to become a habit. You have to love yourself even if you make unhealthy food choices along the way. You have to love yourself in order to not cross over into the unhealthy practice of purging or obsessive diet restrictions (both unhealthy!).

I’ve played out the self-hate scenario many times in my life. Let me tell you how it goes:

I wake up from the pits of depression by somehow convincing myself that I can do it THIS time. Somewhere in the depths of my being, I’ve found the motivation to NEVER EAT sugar or bread EVER AGAIN. I just know that THIS time the weight is going to go away for good…and fast. That’s what the book said. It will be FAST. Good thing because if I have to spend one more minute in this disgusting body, I’m going to puke. I don’t even want to be seen in public. Hide all the mirrors and stay away from reflective surfaces.

One problem — weight-loss isn’t fast. Sometimes, the less you eat, the slower your metabolism crawls. This is how it is in my world. I am a miracle of natural selection. My ancestors must have survived some serious famine because my body can function and retain weight on unbelievably small amounts of food.

Two weeks into my sugar and starch free world I feel like life is out to get me. “Why is it that I have to restrict myself so much when all these thin people are eating hamburgers and drinking cokes? I haven’t had a soda in over two years. I live on beans and raw vegetables. I haven’t had ice cream in forever. Bacon? What is bacon? Hell, I only eat meat twice a week. Why does the scale still say the same thing?” I’m depressed, discouraged, and bitter.

I go home and eat a pint of Moollenium Crunch because I feel like shit. Then I feel even more like shit for eating the ice cream. Then I hate myself even more. Next thing you know, I feel as if I can’t get up in the morning. Life has lost its luster, and I am having difficulty getting through my normal and necessary routine of working and being a mother.

My biggest fear last year was that if I loved myself and quit judging myself, I’d be a fat, unattractive whale my whole life. For a person who hates themselves, that thought is like being sentenced to an eternity in hell. If you truly love yourself, that may not be such a bad thing.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: a lot of skinny women hate their bodies too. If you are a body/self-hater, being thinner isn’t going to solve the problem. You just go from a miserable big person to a miserable small person. New wardrobe, same problems.

Fat is Not Evil

What’s so wrong with being a big person? There are pros and cons, but is it wrong? Isn’t it true that there are heavy people who are happy, secure and live fulfilled lives? It is. What’s the difference between having a body that is exceptional at conserving energy and being born with a club foot or frizzy hair? All three are considered unattractive by our glamorous society, but only one is considered evil.

Our society demonizes fat cells. If a person’s fat cells are in storage mode, they immediately are considered slovenly, lazy, unmotivated, lacking self-control, less intelligent…you name it. It’s just fat cells in storage mode, conserving energy for future use. It is impossible to know a person’s character traits by the size of their fat cells. There are MANY factors that contribute to the size of a person’s body. MANY. Regardless of the factors, a person’s size is not WHO they are. Period.

Fat limits what you can do physically. Fat can affect your heart health. Fat can contribute high blood pressure. A lot of fat can make you uncomfortable in theater seats and on airplanes. Fat contributes to Type 2 diabetes. Fat can make running while wearing corduroy awkward and noisy. Fat is not evil. Fat, at one time in history, was ATTRACTIVE. Fat is attractive in some cultures TODAY. GASP!

Would it kill you to accept and have compassion on your fat cells today?

If you knew that accepting and having compassion for yourself was the first step — the KEY — to being more fully healthy, free of obsession, and on the track for a fulfilled and satisfied life, could you give yourself a break and just relax?

Why don’t you try it today? See how it feels.

STOP…just stop!

In Being Healthy on March 19, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Enough of the self-hate. It has to end, for us and for our daughters.

My nine-year-old, beautiful, willowy daughter talks about fat. She asks if she’s fat. SHE’s NINE!!! I have obsessed and mourned about my figure in her presence in the past, but no more. I refuse to call my body any negative term in her presence ever again. IT. HAS. TO. STOP!

shutterstock stop sign

Remember the lady with the white buzz cut? STOP the INSANITY!

I blame on the society in which we live today. Our society has gone off the deep end with the obsession of thin and beautiful. We are teaching our young girls to have body image issues from birth. It is sickening. We, as a nation, should be ashamed. Fixing the obesity epidemic starts here.

When did weight trump valuing a person’s intellect, integrity, valor, and sense of duty and right or wrong? When did we begin to place more stock in person’s size than their ability to hold a conversation? I think it happened long before I was born.

The sad, sick joke of it all is that it is impossible to be truly healthy while hating one’s body. Hating your body leads to obsession. The dieting mentality either leads to obsession or is born out of obsession. I can’t decide which came first — the diet, the body-hate, or the obsession. The more I hate my body, the more I obsess about being thin, the more likely I am to mindlessly overeat because I feel depressed and hopeless. Vicious cycle.

I came across an awesome blog, Sophieologie. This is what Sophie has to say, and I can totally relate. This IS me:

For the record: Teenage girls are so goddamn moody because they are always fucking hungry. I guarantee you that every teenage girl’s angst is amplified ~300% because she is 1) miserable because she’s on a diet and hungry 2) miserable because she’s “on a diet” but just ate a cake and feels really guilty and is considering regurgitating it 3) miserable because she’s given up on dieting and resigned herself to being “fat”. And why do we do this to ourselves?

Because we want to be thin and beautiful.

I have lived my life either compulsively eating to stuff down my feelings or obsessively dieting to kill the body I hate. For once, I want to live life without a thought to my body, my size or the food I’m eating. I want to be OKAY inside my own skin and accept myself. I want to be TRULY healthy.

Just think of all the brain power we are wasting continually obsessing about the size of our physical shell. Let’s divert that wasted thought to finding a cure for cancer or ending world hunger…something meaningful.

Real, honest-to-god health starts in the mind. 

Are you aware of that voice in your head? Do you know what I’m talking about? Psychologists call it the pathological critic.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter two of Self-Esteem by Mathew McKay, Ph.D and Patrick Fanning:

The pathological critic is a term coined by psychologist Eugene Sagan to describe the negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. Everyone has a critical inner voice. But people with low self-esteem tend to have a more vicious and vocal pathological critic.

Let me tell you, folks, that voice in my head has been known to be a mean S-O-B. The first step in being truly healthy is to STOP the negative inner dialogue. It’s not just me. I’ve listened to enough THIN women to know they have as much self-hate and negative inner dialogue as I do, maybe more.

STOP. Just STOP.

For a moment, think about a typical southern grandma or mother. Her toddler is about to head for the breakables and she makes that universal “no” sound that’s a mix between a goat and a buzzer. “Nah!” Y’all know what sound I’m talking about. Next time your inner voice starts it up, I want you to stop it with a “Nah!” or a hand clap or a pinch or something to shut it up…mid-sentence.

“Oh, my god! My thighs!…” NAH!

“Is my arm fat jiggling…” STOP!

“Ugghhh! I should NEVER wear these pants…” NAH!

“God, I hope I don’t look that fat…” SHUT UP!

“Look how thin she is! Why can’t I…” SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP!

Have you listened to the song Perfect by P!nk. “Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel like your less than, less than perfect!” Stop judging yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop being so hard on yourself. Show yourself some love and compassion.

You are beautiful and worthy of love RIGHT THIS SECOND…as is!

This is the first step to being truly happy and healthy. Physical health starts with mental health, and obsessing about your weight is not mentally healthy. Don’t get the cart before the horse. Fix this first.

Whitney, girl, you were so right!

In Being Healthy on March 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Okay. So it’s about feelings not food. What does that mean?

It means that  I will diet, lose, regain, repeat over and over to the ends of the earth, unless I learn to deal with my feelings, my emotions.

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, dieting is a miserable practice. I didn’t want to diet again, ever. I wanted to find out how well-adjusted, average sized people eat to maintain a normal, healthy weight. I was curious and frightened to find out what size I would be if it were not for the emotional eating. I actually enjoy healthy foods…on days that I’m happy and stress-free.

We live in these amazing bodies that work like fine-tuned machinery, moving, breathing, walking, talking, thinking. Surely a well-functioning organism such as the human body has a built-in way to maintain the necessary size and weight to survive and thrive, right? Scientists say there are specific hormones that act on our brains and tell us when we are hungry and when we are full and satisfied. There is even some suggestion that cravings are triggered by lack of certain nutrients found in the foods that we crave. What messages do hunger and fullness give us if not to tell us when to eat and when to refrain?

I love me!

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Geneen Roth found that when she tuned into her body while eating and learned to hear the cues of satiation and satisfaction, she became her “normal” healthy weight. She has not dieted since and remains that size. So did Dr. Karen R. Koening. Reading the accounts of these authors’ experiences blew my mind. Could that work for me? Could it be as easy as paying attention?

The idea of giving up dieting scared the crap out of me. I have been dieting since second grade. It is a way of life for me, that battle to be thin that is never quite won. What if I stop dieting and become as big as a whale? Paralyzing fear.

Why?

A way to discover what drives us is to keep asking why until you reach a core belief. (Discovering an irrational core belief and replacing it with a rational belief will transform your life.)

Why are you afraid to stop dieting? Because I’ll get fatter. 

Why are you afraid of getting fatter? Because I hate being fat.

Why do you hate being fat? Because fat people are unlovable.

Ahhh! So you believe that no one will love you if you’re fat!

BINGO!

I HAVE to keep dieting and strive to be thin because no one is going to love me until I am. If I’m at least trying to be thin, it will justify my existence. Somewhere along the way, I was taught that in order to be lovable, I must be thin. Since I have been obsessed with food and my weight since I was eight years old, I learned that lesson pretty early on.

I learned to hate myself. I learned to hate my body.

Before I could go a step farther, I had to learn to love myself. Could I set aside my NEED to be thin RIGHT NOW in order to learn to love myself just the way I am?

That wasn’t going to be easy, but as Whitney said, it is the greatest love of all.

It’s not about the food!

In Being Healthy on March 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Coming to the conclusion that I am a compulsive eater did not happen in a “Eureka!” moment. The idea drifted around in my mind, floating to the surface here and there over the years.

I kept asking why.

There are many aspects to eating disorders, and most don't have anything to do with food.

Most eating disorders have little to do with food.

Why am I ashamed of eating in front of people? Why do I eat foods when I am stressed that I normally would not – and then feel extreme guilt? Why do I feel like I need to hide my food? Why do I sometimes feel like there is never enough to satisfy me, no matter how much I eat? Why do I feel desperate to get the particular food I crave? Why do I wish there were a magic food that I could eat all day long and never feel full? Isn’t feeling full the purpose of eating? What is the purpose of my eating if I hate feeling full?

Why do I not really care about food when I’m happy, rested and relaxed? Why do I forget about food when I’m captivated by something I’m doing?

Is this normal? Is this serious? Is this even about food? Am I crazy?

I read lots of “Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive/Binge Eating” lists. Here’s an example:

Signs of binge eating disorder

Ask yourself the following questions. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you have binge eating disorder.

  • Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
  • Do you think about food all the time?
  • Do you eat in secret?
  • Do you eat until you feel sick?
  • Do you eat to escape from worries, relieve stress, or to comfort yourself?
  • Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
  • Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?

I can remember eating in secret as a kid. I remember the shame I felt about eating. At age eight, I learned that eating is bad. It happened during a well-intended teaching moment by a person who loved me very much. The talk was meant to help me, but the lesson that my kid-brain took from the words has been a battle and a burden for me for 31 years.

I built up the courage to buy a book. I wasn’t ready to admit to having a problem, but I would read about it.

In 2012, I read Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth. I hid the book because I was embarrassed to be seen reading about eating disorders, but I couldn’t put it down. Every page resonated with me. Have you ever had one of those, “Wow! Someone out there is just like me,” moments? It was as if I felt that realization with every paragraph.

I began to understand that compulsive eating has little to do with food. It’s about feelings.

Hello, my name is Alana, and I’m a compulsive eater.

In Being Healthy on March 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Do you know how hard it is to say that? Major respect to AA members. They stand up in front of a room and say a similar phrase face-to-face. Opening oneself up to judgement is excruciating for a perfectionist.

Alcoholics follow the introduction with a statement about how long they’ve been sober. I can’t remember the last time I ate compulsively because I don’t always realize I’m doing it. Learning to identify the compulsion is a slow process. I know it has been a long time since I was completely out of control. Today, I eat for sustenance more often than I eat compulsively.

Most of my compulsive eating is emotional eating, a way to avoid feeling emotions that seem stronger than I can handle. Realizing this truth about myself didn’t happen overnight.

Do I have an eating disorder?

Disordered eating sounds a little better than eating disorder, don’t you think? Eating disorders include both restrictive eating habits and binging. Several years ago, I began to toy with the idea that I “might” have an eating disorder. Knowing the stigma associated with mental health issues, it was a difficult realization to entertain, and even harder one to admit.

For most of my adult life, my mantra has been, “I am NOT my [borderline personality, bipolar] mother.”

The two Alanas. Which is real?

The two Alanas. Which is real?

I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds in my 39 years. When the Doctor Oz book, YOU: on a Diet came out, it revolutionized both my kitchen and my ideas about food. The year following my reading that book, I lost more than 50 pounds and proceeded to keep it off for more than three years. I didn’t starve myself. I didn’t severely restrict my eating. I didn’t count calories. I didn’t exercise excessively. I walked. I played outside with my son, and I chose healthy foods MOST of the time. I chose foods based on the knowledge of what function they served inside my body. I chose foods out of a desire for ultimate health. I moved my body out of a desire to spend time having fun outdoors with my son.

I like to think of this scenario as food choice changes based on knowledge. Sometimes we make food choices because we don’t know any better. Sometimes education is all it takes for a person to make healthy food choices. When there are no emotional and psychological ties to foods, it’s just a matter of realizing the better choice and training one’s body to prefer the better choice. Change your pantry. Change your palate. Achieve a healthy weight.

I did that. Why am I fat again?

Cognitive Dissonance

The psychological term cognitive dissonance describes the state of believing one way and acting another. If a human being holds a belief but acts contrary to that belief, the state of mental anguish that results is called cognitive dissonance.

When my eating habits became contrary to my beliefs surrounding food, I was miserable. My analytic mind wanted answers. Why? Why do I eat these unhealthy foods when I know they make my body feel sick, slow, unhealthy? Why do I eat mindlessly past the point of comfort? Is this normal? Is this an “eating disorder”? Is something making me do that? I feel compelled to eat and keep eating. Is that what compulsive eating is?

“Good Lord, no, Alana. Don’t be so dramatic. You are just a fat, lazy slob who needs to go on a diet. You need to quit eating so much. Back away from the table. If you had willpower, you’d be thin. You are lazy and undisciplined. God, look at that gut. Disgusting.”

You ever get so used to your internal voice that you don’t realize what a mean son-of-a-bitch it is? Who is that talking, anyway? Is everyone’s internal dialogue so hateful? Could this be part of the problem?

In front of me was a congested tangle of thoughts, beliefs, experiences, information like a wad of yarn, useless and disfunctional. As I tried to unravel the mess, I began to question whether this was about food after all. Maybe the solution wasn’t another diet. Maybe the solution wouldn’t be quick and easy.

…to be continued…

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