Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Am I an addict?

So, the other day I came across this link that a friend had shared in a Facebook group. I don't expect anyone out there in blogland to read through it but to summarise very briefly, the author of this e-book has been a smoker and a drug addict and also what he terms a food addict (but of course, addicted to the sorts of foods which are unhealthy and make us gain weight i.e. pizza, chips, cakes, etc). His belief, what he feels is true in his case, is that his addiction to junk food is just the same as his addiction to methamphetamines was. Due to this, he made the decision to treat his addiction the same way an alcoholic would alcohol, a drug addict would drugs, a smoker would cigarettes, meaning he would never eat what he terms junk food (primarily sugar, but also bread) again. Ever. His rationale was that he thinks that for drug addicts and alcoholics and smokers, there's no such thing as moderation. You have one cigarette and then you want to have 10 packets and smoke all the time again. You have one drink and suddenly you've drunk 10 bottles of wine. You have one biscuit, he says, and it won't, it can't be enough - you'll want to have the whole packet. Not only that, eating even one piece of sugary food will trigger off huge cravings where much of your day will revolve around craving that food because it's a chemical dependency.

You know, I agreed with the majority of the e-book. I read it in one sitting on Sunday night and it struck so many chords with me. But there were two major issues I had with it. The first - OK, I'll admit this - I don't actually think I COULD make the decision to never, ever eat sugar again. I don't know that I believe his rationale that "moderation is impossible". Well, put it this way, it would be a huge struggle for me, especially if I also had to give up bread/grains. I think I could do it for a period of time but then I'd be so bored with what I was eating in the meantime. Unless I totally lost all taste for it and found everything sickly, which is possible, I think I'd be very bored very quickly, chiefly with having to obsess over every mouthful I ate. To me, this is counterintuitive to where I'd rather be, which is NOT thinking about food unless I'm hungry and my body requires fuel.

But the main issue I've got with the e-book from my own personal viewpoint, after having thought about it, is that I would argue that when I have the urge to binge, the craving is as much psychological as it is physical. Actually, I would say it's far more psychological. If I really consider how my cravings work, they don't FEEL physical in the slightest. They feel emotional. They can start when I'm bored, when I am sad, when I am angry. They do sometimes lead to me eating until I'm painfully full and feel sick, true, just like he says in the book, BUT I don't keep eating because my body insists on it. I do it because I'm hurting and at the time I really dislike myself and I feel I'm worthless, so feeling sick seems like what I deserve. I do it because I figure if I eat enough and feel sick enough, whatever problem I'm grappling with will at least go away for a while because I'll have to deal with the physical sickness. I think the best way to describe it is by likening it to people who self-harm or cut themselves. Some probably don't understand why they do it - I actually think I do. They would far rather feel physical pain from their wounds than emotional pain, and they feel there's no way out of that, no solution. Perhaps it's because the e-book is written by a man, but there is NO mention of any of this stuff. He really only states that sugary food is addictive because it programs us to always want more of it by rewarding pleasure centres in our brain. I'm sure what he is saying is true because there is sound science behind it. What I'm arguing with is that I don't believe my consumption of unhealthy foods has much to do with physical addiction at all. When I feel like I need a "fix", as a drug addict would crave heroin or whatever, I DO feel very strongly that I need to eat unhealthy food but what puts the desire there is sadness, anger, depression, whatever.

I'm thinking if I were to share this blog post with people who agree with this fellow's theory, they would think I was copping out because I didn't want to do the hard yards and face my problem. Well, you know, it doesn't matter what anything thinks except me. When last I saw V (counsellor) she said I need to simplify things, sometimes to a level of, "Is this helpful? If so, do it. If not, don't." I know in my heart of hearts that choosing that way of life is not for me. I'm certainly going to watch my sugar intake for sure and eat more cleanly and healthily, but swear off it all for life? It's not happening. I actually still believe moderation IS possible. And just quietly, I would really like to prove it.

One more thing: this is one of the best artistic impressions of addiction that I've seen.

Peace out... xx

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Honouring your feelings

I'm having a bad day today. It doesn't really matter why because that's not the point of my post. I might write about the whys and wherefores of it all elsewhere (but it is boy-related - doesn't seem to matter what age you are because they are always problematic :( ).

No, the reason I was moved to put fingers to keys was that when the sad feelings first hit me, of course I naturally felt like going straight for the chocolate/cake/biscuits/chips/unhealthy, unnecessary food. But it occurred to me that the main reason I shouldn't do this is because the only thing that would achieve is squashing the feelings down temporarily. After which time I'd have to eat more and squash them back down again. And so on we'd go around and around. And none of this would do anything to actually make me feel any better in the long term. Quite the opposite, in fact.

It occurs to me that when we do this, eat to suppress our emotions, we're basically telling ourselves that what we are feeling is not valid. It's not important enough to actually let ourselves experience it. It's something to be shoved to one side and put in a corner and ignored. Is it any wonder that the strategy basically never works! Sure, I don't feel great right now. I'm teary and uncomfortable and very mixed-up about things. But if I don't learn to stop stepping all over my emotions, I'll never deal with anything. In fact, I actually believe that what I'm feeling today traces back to other events three years ago. I didn't deal with THAT stuff then and so now, what has happened today has pushed buttons which have connected back to that other undealt-with stuff. So in a way, I'm not surprised I feel so yuck in my mind so often. I probably have spent most of my life running away from things I'm SUPPOSED to feel. I know one thing's for sure - it doesn't work. Not at all.

So today, I'm writing this as a reminder. I am NOT going to handle this by disappearing into a huge vat of ice-cream. I'm going to just experience this horrible wash of sadness and yucky negativity. I don't care if it's hard - it's necessary. Otherwise I may still be having these revelations when I'm 70 but still be in the same mindset. Enough is enough.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Me and Felicity!

Hello, out there in blogland. I'd like you to meet my new constant companion, Felicity Fitbit. Apparently everyone names theirs so I thought I had better too. I do have a habit of naming inanimate objects, though, so I was always going to be on board with that idea. ;)

In the past I have had a Polar heart rate monitor but I haven't worn it for quite some time and I'm not doing enough exercise to really worry about it at the moment. Not only that, I'm at a size/weight where, really, ANY exercise/movement I do is going to be helpful. This is why I decided to get a Fitbit as it is more of an overall health tool rather than a "how many calories did I burn" tool. You can do things like monitor blood pressure and do graphs/charts (something my doctor likes me to do since I have my own home BP machine) and sugar if you're diabetic. At its simplest it is a very sophisticated pedometer but it does a lot more. It can even be worn when you sleep so that you can keep track of how much rest you are getting, since that is another very important part of overall health. I have only had my Fitbit for a day but already I am feeling much more aware of how active I am as compared to how much more active I need to be.

Another cool thing about Fitbit is that it integrates with My Fitness Pal, which I'm also using, and if you have done enough activity it will take that into account with your calorie burn for the day. For example, today, taking into account my extra movement, a "credit" of 126 calories (so far) is showing up on My Fitness Pal. I don't know if I'll need or want to eat them, but it's nice to know that I'm using my body the way it's meant to be used i.e. I am moving!

What is sobering, though, is that I would count today as one of my more active days generally speaking and even then I haven't even got halfway to 10,000 steps which is considered the minimum we should be doing for good health! If I'd been at work sitting on my butt instead of walking around the shops and around the house doing washing and stuff, I reckon I'd be flat out cracking 2,000! It certainly makes you realise why you need to find a way to incorporate a walk into your day, or several walks, preferably.

So now that Felicity Fitbit has come into my life, one of my four week projects is definitely going to be to move more and I think that's going to have to mean actually going for proper walks. I just don't have the sort of job where I need to walk at all and unless I go out and pound the pavement, or even just do one of the Leslie Sansone walks on the DVD, it just ain't gonna happen - I won't make it to 10,000 steps. Ever!

Anyway, by the end of the day I might make it to 5,000 and I don't think that's a bad effort for one day. I do have to work tomorrow but there is plenty of time before that to clock up some steps. I'm going to the Hyperdome tomorrow for a family thing and it's an opportunity to park as far away as I can just to increase the incidental exercise. As you might have guessed, I'm quite excited by my new fitness tool.

Till next time...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The month of calorie tracking/money saving

Hello to all out there in blogland. I have been a little busy with the music side of my life lately and now that things have settled down, I felt it was about time I wrote another blog entry. It'll have to be a quick one because it's 2am, give or take a few minutes, and I should be getting to sleep.

My news is that after the choir concert on 20th July, I had one of the many light bulb moments in my life. I had SUCH a good time that day and it was an exhilarating thing to be a part of. But it was also mind-bogglingly exhausting and I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit the reason why. Yes, it would be exhausting anyway because of the nature of what it was, but give a 46-year-old body an extra however many kilos to lug around all day as well as doing all the other stuff and it's no small wonder why it barely scrapes through the day. So it inspired me in a good way - to once again work on what the blog title says, building a better version of me.

I seem to do OK with pretty short-term goals in blocks of four weeks, so that's going to be my measuring stick. Each block of four weeks I'm going to have a particular project or projects in mind and for the whole of the time, my goal is to do as much of that activity as I can and all my projects will be related to health/self-esteem/general life improvement.

The goals for the first block of weeks are the dreaded calorie counting (ugh!) and generally reducing the amount of extra food I buy i.e. do a shop and use what I've bought and that's it, thereby helping me save more money for a holiday and other expenses. So far, thanks to a fantastic little application on my phone called My Fitness Pal, the calorie counting is proving easy peasy! I really grew to hate doing it in the bad old days of Calorie King, having to log onto a desktop computer and go through all that rigmarole. Now, due to the wonders of smartphones, it's SO easy. And I don't even care about getting things exactly right. It's more just to keep myself honest and feed my body better as part of self-nurturing. I've got a very doable calorie amount to work with at the moment (one of the extremely few upsides to being this size, I suppose) and I'm not having problems sticking to it. And it's not a surprise that because the food side of things is going well, the money side is going pretty well too. That is so not a coincidence. The trouble is, I really get into major denial about that fact but it doesn't make it any less true.

As for what I'll do next month, I don't know. I may go for another month of the same or I might do something different But there will be a project!

Till next time, hasta la vista, baby!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Shopping sucks sometimes

There are times in life when you just wish you could wave a magic wand and instantly change something in your life. I had one of those days today. I wanted that wand to make me a size that's in all clothing shops.

In a little over two weeks I have a performance I have to be in with the choir. I need clothes, specific clothes for certain bits of the concert. The main things I needed to get today were a long black skirt and 3/4 sleeve top or a long black dress. I went to every possible shop I could think of to find these things, and I had absolutely no joy. Not only that, every item of clothing I tried on just looked dreadful. Nothing like a look at all your wobbly bits in dressing room mirrors to give the old self-esteem a healthy wallop. :( I know I am supposed to accept and love myself where I am now. I'm trying, I really am. But in situations like this, it's not easy. Right now I'm feeling just awful about myself. I intensely dislike how I look at times. I'm very tired and grumpy, too. I'm not sure if this is part of the depressive illness, which seems to have reared its ugly head lately. But I feel huge and uncomfortable and blahhhhhh and at the same time I am filled with inertia and fear. Quite the dilemma, and one with which I am all too familiar.

I'm going to write something now and I plan to revisit it in the future. Right now I feel so very uncomfortable in my skin. People like Craig Harper are always talking about being prepared to get uncomfortable. I think what I am facing is a choice between two different sorts of uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable feeling yuck and horrible in your own skin and feeling every single item of clothing you try on looks appalling and you look like a beached whale in it. It is also uncomfortable not eating food that you think is going to make you feel less "blahhhh" when you are having a bad day. The choice is mine. Do it or don't do it. It's that simple.

PS No offence to whales - they are really beautiful creatures. But they are meant to be that big and I'm not!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Are you there, blog? It's me, Debbie...

Well, I haven't written in this blog for a LONG time and I swore I wasn't going to do this again. I checked - the first entry I wrote in this blog said it, actually. I said I was sick of starting blogs whilst feeling motivated and good and then stopping them when things got tough. But I seem to have done this exact thing again - oops. Well, never mind. I've realised again what I've been doing and I want to write stuff again. I know I find it therapeutic and it still makes interesting (and revealing) reading when you go back over stuff. However, I have changed the title. It was called "Deb's Last Chance Saloon" but thinking back now, that does seem very negative and final so now it's called Building a Better Me, because that's what I'm trying to do. I am a work in progress. I hope to always be that.

Now, what I do in this process may or may not involve weight loss and if it does, great, but that's not the point of the exercise. I'm actually doing it to try and repair my self-worth above all else. I think my missing link ALL along in weight loss (or lack thereof) has been self-worth. I've only ever been able to succeed at weight loss to any degree, in the past, by building myself up into a big ball of hatred and anger against myself, against the world, against my mother and grandmother who possibly had a fair bit to do with shaping me into the person I am now. This lasts a certain amount of time and then it burns out. Once that happens, I'm left feeling confused and wondering why I am doing what I am doing. And it's no good telling myself that losing weight is for my health and longevity. When you feel like you're a piece of primordial slime, are you really going to care if you kick the bucket earlier than you should have? Why should you bother trying to save the life of a person you often despise? And I probably haven't really been conscious of this thought process at times I have failed. I've just gone back to the "default setting" of believing my failure was entirely due to my being weak and pathetic and unable to control my demons. Which, of course, is incredibly unhelpful and does nothing to promote resilience or any desire to hang in there and keep working, chipping away at things.

So for now, my first project was to write a new entry and change the blog title to something more suitable. Job done.

Until next time, here is a hopeful picture...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This walk was brought to you by...

So, today I went for a walk around the block. In broad terms, the walk was two stages of about 2.3km each. I walked to the pharmacy at my local shopping centre (which IS definitely only walking distance away, not that I've ever done it since I've been here), and then I stopped for a bit of a rest and then I walked back home. In doing so I have done a big block, essentially. The block going to the pharmacy is mostly downhill with a small bit of uphill right at the start and towards the middle. The walk home is much harder in that the very last part of it is a climb uphill. Wouldn't be anything to a size 8 person weighing 50kg but to me, well, I felt a bit like that poor elephant in the picture! But the point is, it's done.

And why did I decide to do it today of all days? Interestingly enough, it's not because I saw a picture of a superfit athlete or read about the latest diet endorsed by the Kardashian family (which...blah!). No, it was because I read an article in the QWeekend magazine from last weekend. It was about a man who is in his early 30s. I wish I could link to the story but since I can't seem to find it online, I'll sum it up. In his late teens and early 20s this man had, through determination and knocking on doors and putting himself out there, landed an apprenticeship at a top Sydney North Shore restaurant. He was apparently one of the most promising young chefs in the country, on his way to the top. And then one night, he wrapped his car around a pole (no drink, drugs or wet roads involved - just one of those things) and just like that, his life changed forever and was reduced to him lying in bed all day with about the most severe form of quadriplegia that you can have, only really able to move his head from side to side, entirely dependent on carers for every aspect of his life. Not only that, I don't know much about being quadriplegic but apparently even though you can't move, you can still feel quite severe pain.

And you might ask, did this inspire me because this guy is being brave and putting on a face of strength against the enormous odds which confront him? No. Far from it. In fact, he isn't handling what's happened to him well at all. He gets very angry at life and at people and he does ask a lot "why me" and he laments what has been taken away from him. But who of us could honestly say we wouldn't react like that to such a situation? I can just about guarantee I'd be just as bad as he is and I think in a way he has every right to feel that way.

However, what it made me see was that I bet that guy would give anything to be in the sort of pain I am in when I go for a walk. I bet he wishes he could have a sore knee, a sore back, have difficulty doing physical things as I currently do. The thing is, there is nothing he can do about it. But me? I have the power to do anything I want to. I have the choice - he doesn't. I can choose to just get out there and do things to improve my situation (because if nothing changes, nothing changes, of course) or I can just lie around wishing things would change. News flash to self - they won't. Wishing I was fit and wishing I was thinner is not going to bring a genie in a bottle along to cast a spell on me and make it so.

So, in a roundabout way, what I'm trying to say is I've decided I'm going to make more effort and push past the unpleasantness and pain and difficulty which currently is how exercise is for me. The only way to change that is to do it as often as I can manage.