I Confess!

I want to make a public confession that I have weighed a few times over the last two months.  The first entry I posted here is all about scales being evil.  I actually wrote that several months ago.  I still believe it, but I want to be honest about where I am in this process.

It started when I decided to do a Whole30 back in August.  The plan suggests that you weigh in at the beginning and at the end as well as take pictures and measurements.  I didn’t do the measurements or pics, but I capitulated on the weighing.  I’m not really sure why.  I think a lot of it had to do with some group mentality.  I was doing it with my husband, a couple friends of mine and also a community of people on the web who were starting on August 1st.  I pictured getting to the end and there being lots celebrating and virtual high-fives going around.   I didn’t want to miss out on anything.  Alcoholic, much?

I weighed in on August 1st and immediately regretted it.  I had lost weight since the last time I remembered weighing, and I think it triggered a reward feedback loop.  I wanted to weigh the next day and the next.  I resisted.  I think I said that I wasn’t going to weigh in at the end, but I did.  Again I lost weight, and again that made me want to weigh more.  It bums me out because despite everything I have learned and put into practice recently, the neural pathway of weight loss = good girl still exists.  I weighed once last week and once this week, and just need to stop.  The scale isn’t moving, and I actually don’t think I really care.  What am I hoping to get by stepping on?  I PR’d all over the place at Crossfit last week, so I know I’m getting fitter.

My husband refuses to get rid of the scale.  I know if I tucked it away, he’d go hunting for it immediately.  And really, his relationship with the scale is none of my business.  I must remember that no weight on that scale will ever make me feel as good as not needing the scale to assign a number value to my worth.

My Inner Kanye

I think something that happens with food cravings for me is this feeling that I have only a short window to get the food I want.  I often crave sweets at night.  There have been nights where I could barely drag myself into bed, but managed to stuff in some chocolate on the way.  That part of myself that desperately wants a treat sees the opportunity to strike when my normal defenses are down.   “I’m not going to have the chance to indulge tomorrow when she’s back in charge, so make a mad grab and take everything you can!”

But what if I had permission to have that “treat” food whenever I wanted as long as I  answer one simple question first?  My therapist made the suggestion that when a craving comes up, I pause and say to myself, “Okay, I will get you what you want, but first tell me how you’re feeling.”  Usually if I’m having an intense craving, I’m in full flight from my feelings.  No jewel thief wants to encounter the guard as they’re sneaking out the back door.  But in this situation the guard is giving me permission to walk out the front door with all the jewels I can carry, provided I just take a moment and think about what I’m doing.

Having now practiced this process, I can tell you that it works.  For one, it deflates the urgency of the situation.  There’s always some kind of panicked feeling that accompanies that kind of eating for me. Now I’m allowed to have whatever I want, whenever I want, so what is the rush?  The other thing that this does is make the whole thing a lot less fun.  It takes away the deviant/defiant aspect of the behavior.  I’m no longer getting something I shouldn’t have, so there is no opportunity to revel in my victory.

But most of all this interrupts the habit of eating over my feelings.  To me the most awesome interruption ever was when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech on the VMA’s.  Hence, the Inner Kanye.  “Yo, I know you want those cookies and Imma let you finish the whole bag…


I had the great fortune of seeing Brené Brown give a lecture last night.  If you haven’t seen her TED talk on vulnerability, drop everything you’re doing and watch it now.  I watched that talk for the first time in the first week of my sobriety.

One of the things I took away from last night is an understanding of why the steps work.  She talks a lot about how to live wholeheartedly.  People who live wholeheartedly have:

  • a strong sense of worthiness and belonging
  • the courage to be imperfect
  • compassion for themselves as well as others
  • the ability to connect deeply with others, which requires being authentic and real
  • vulnerability, an openness to what life offers without expecting a guarantee

For those of us born without the manual, 12-step programs are the blueprint of how to get these.  I didn’t know how to connect with anyone, so how could I ever feel like I belonged?  I spent a good deal of my life trying to be perfect, and as a result judged myself and others mercilessly.  If I’m trying to be perfect, I’m not being honest.  And vulnerability, well I was incapable of being vulnerable because I always had a laundry list of expectations.

My husband came with me to the lecture, and we both left inspired to be more vulnerable.  Nevertheless, we got in a fight about sex last night.  I think at the crux of it is that we both have an expectation, and are afraid to give unless we are able to get what we want.  We’re both alcoholics.  There is a sex inventory for a reason.  There is a fair amount of wreckage for us in this department.  I feel used, he feels rejected and there we are desperately trying to coerce, bully, shame each other into fulfilling expectations.  It’s painful.

Arguments exhaust me.  We were in bed talking ourselves into a black hole of misery, and I was quickly losing consciousness.  So, I decided to act instead.  It’s weird because writing this is bringing up some shame for me.  It shouldn’t be a big deal to have sex with your husband.  But it is.  I guess I just reached the point where I saw that the thinking wasn’t working.  The program has taught me that the only remedy for thinking is acting.  I set my agenda, my desire to be right, my need to be understood and my past hurts aside and attempted to make him feel loved.

That’s vulnerability.  To give of yourself without knowing what you’ll get back.  Before I’m going to be vulnerable, I have the feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin.  Usually that discomfort is what sends me into action.  I think previously I just drank and ate it away.  Now that I am sober and trying to avoid numbing out with food, I’m unable to sit in that discomfort for long.  I just can’t do it.  So I act, and things get better.  I’ve also found it to be true that the worse I’m feeling beforehand, the bigger the payoff is on the other side.  My goal is to keep trying to lean into those feelings and experiences.  I want to walk through and come out stronger, so that one day I can help someone else do the same.

The Soup Saboteur

In group we have been working on our inner dialogues surrounding food.  These conversations go on in our minds constantly, usually without us even being aware of them.  For the purpose of this exercise, our therapist has named these the “Inner Child,” “Inner Parent,” and the “Saboteur.”  Previously we’ve used “Ego,” and some other names, but these names have been particularly helpful to me this week.

I try to be mindful of the way I talk to my son.  When he’s upset, I try to validate the feeling and gently nudge him into talking it through to the other side.  It’s not usually like that when I talk to myself.  I actually spend a lot of time telling myself that my feelings are stupid.  Picturing a child inside me with real feelings is so helpful because I can then acknowledge her and be her advocate against all that self-doubt and self-hate.

This week we were challenged to write down one of these inner dialogues.  I’m going to share mine with you because although I initially found the whole thing kind of silly, I felt it had so much value when it was done.  It started off this morning when I had the idea that I might like some soup for breakfast.  Saboteur is “S” and Inner Parent is “P.” Here’s how it went:

S: No one eats soup for breakfast.  That’s stupid.
IP: There are no rules about what I can eat and when.  I can have soup if that’s what I want.
S:  I guess, but that’s weird.
IP: It’s not weird, it’s actually kind of fun! Plus there is no one here to see you eating soup for breakfast.
S:  Well it’s too much of a pain in the butt to make anyway.  You don’t have time.
IP:  But everything is ready to go, I just have to throw some stuff in a pot.
S: No really, it’s too much work.  You should just have some toast with jelly.
IP:  It’s just a little bit of work, which is worth it if it means I get exactly what I want.  Plus if I make a soup with all good ingredients, I can have a breakfast that makes me feel really satisfied instead of something that won’t be nourishing and give me energy for the day.
S: Well, if you’re sure that soup is really what you want, but I’m not convinced that you’re sure.
IP: Well, the thought of soup must have come from somewhere.  Maybe it was the inner child and we should take the chance and find out.  C’mon, it’s just one breakfast.  It will be okay.
S: Ok fine.

I made the soup.  It was delicious, but what was most exciting about this exercise was the thought that the idea of soup came from the inner child.  And how weird is it that there is part of me that cannot trust that I know what I want to eat for breakfast?    I see that this is a really misguided attempt at self-protection.  There is a fear that acquiescing to my own desires and/or feelings will negatively affect others and I’ll pay in shame.  I picked up that message somewhere along the way, but I now have the awareness that allows me to begin to change it.

This little exercise really showed me how the aspects of me might work in harmony.  It’s a very peaceful feeling.  I think I’ll have soup for lunch, too.

Diet Fail

You will fail when you go on a diet for weight loss purposes.  This is because if you are dieting to lose weight, you inherently believe there is something wrong with you.  Your self-esteem is compromised, you feel unworthy of x, y, z because of your weight.  This creates an interesting paradox where eventually the going gets tough, the cravings kick in, you’re feeling deprived, your brain will say, “What’s the point anyway?”  Since your self-worth is already low, there’s no incentive to continue.  So you eat.

Feel bad, eat cookies.

These won't fix me.This morning I had a playdate planned for my son.  We’re leaving for NY in 2 days and I haven’t started packing, so deciding to go in the first place was questionable, but I did it because I didn’t want the kids to be cooped up for the whole day while I do laundry.  I should have known that I was a little off today.  I was doing some obsessing about my wardrobe and the way my stomach looked in the shorts I was wearing and the fact that my boobs have shrunk and whether or not this makes me look pregnant and blah blah blah.  But I scooped everyone up, got in the car, got to the general area where I knew the place to be, went to take out my phone to get the exact address and did not have my phone.

What happened next was an abnormal reaction to a normal occurrence.  People make minor mistakes like this all the time, but for me, it doesn’t feel minor.  It feels like I am a fucking idiot.  I wasn’t able to find the place, so I drove home with my son crying the whole way.  Intellectually I’m thinking, “Well, he has to learn disappointment.”  Emotionally I did not want to be the source of that disappointment.  In my mind I start formulating the text to my friend to let her know what happened and realize that I am worried that she won’t believe me.  What can I say to make her know I’m not lying?  Mostly I have a mantra of sorts floating around my mind, “Wow, that was really stupid.”

And then I want to eat.  What I picture is a bag of Oreos.  I am 16 days into the Whole30 program and at this moment, blowing it over a bag of Oreos really seems like it might be a good idea.  Then I think, “If only I were just doing the Paleo thing and not Whole30, I could at least tear into some dark chocolate. Maybe I should get an Italian sub for lunch.  And I could make some chocolate chip cookies instead.”   It goes on…

What I really want is to hoard a crap-ton of food, close the blinds and have a party for one.  I want everything to disappear.  I want no responsibilities.  No children, no husband, no house to maintain, no goals to be working towards.  Just me, the food, the TV and the internet.  And here is where I have to be careful, because right after this, I want some wine.

That’s how I know I’m sick.  I know this means it’s time for contrary action, but I don’t want to reach out.  I want to be alone.  I force myself to call my sponsor, but she can’t talk.  This all seems so ridiculous that I can’t bear taking it to someone else right now.  So I’m sitting here writing it out until I can get over myself and pick up the freaking phone.

And in writing this out, imagining someone reading this and relating, I get some strength because I want to do this for you.  I don’t want to lie down and let this crap take me over.  I want to get up and fight it just to show you it can be done.  It’s hard and it sucks, but we can do it.  We just can’t do it alone.