The Scale Monster

I’m really trying to stay away from the scale for awhile. I feel like when I wake up and decide not to weigh myself, my whole day is just so much better, I feel like I’m a good person and that I am worthy of love, I just feel like I’m enough for the world and so I walk through my day more confident and less concerned about how I look and how people perceive me.

When I do weigh myself (and it’s always in the morning) my day usually ends up being a shit show. If I’ve lost weight I’m happy for like 30 seconds, and then the rest of my day is spent obsessing on how much I think I should be able to lose by the next weigh in. I start to think, should I weigh myself tomorrow? How much weight can I lose in a day? Should I eat *insert snack here* or is it too many calories? Will it make me gain weight? Is it too many carbs? Suddenly everything I do I think about in relation to weight loss. Instead of walking around the building to stretch my legs, it’s to get more steps in because that might make me lose more weight. Instead of drinking water because I’m feeling dehydrated, it’s avoiding drinking water because of my fear of water weight, or drinking a bunch instead of eating food so I don’t have to worry about calories. I freak out about gaining the weight back, so I restrict my food which either leads to me feeling faint or drives me right into binge territory and it takes me weeks to get out of the restrict/binge cycle. If I’ve gained weight, I’m instantly depressed and hyper-critical of myself for the rest of the day. Of course I’ve gained weight, because I’m lazy and stupid and ugly and I will never be thin because I’m worthless. I obsess over the things I ate the day before, trying to pinpoint the meal or snack that put me over the edge (knowing full well that’s not how it works). I go to the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror, criticizing all the parts of me I hate, lamenting because I’m not where I think I’m supposed to be weight-wise and wondering if everyone else sees my failure like I do. I basically have a day long internal meltdown, I’m sent into this shame spiral and the only thing I can really think about is how much I suck.

I think the biggest difference between weighing vs. not weighing is that when I stop focusing on the scale, I approach my own health so differently. I’m more relaxed, I’m kinder to myself and I brush off mistakes way better than I do when I’ve weighed myself. I won’t hate myself if I eat my favorite larabar and I won’t drink mug after mug of lax tea or “weight loss tea” (which just makes you pee more) to compensate for eating too much of something. And if I eat too much, I don’t get as upset. I don’t hate myself for being hungry (physically or emotionally/mentally), I just resolve to make a different decision next time. When I get sucked into the number on the scale, I expect myself to be some warped idea of the perfect woman– someone who doesn’t need to eat, someone who has the power to resist temptation and who loses weight effortlessly, whose weight never fluctuates for reasons outside of her control, who is constantly successful. When I stay away from the scale, I get to be a fucking human being in recovery. I get to make mistakes, I get to try and fail, I get to be gentle with myself, and I get to revel in my successes because I can see how far I’ve come. When I’m on the scale I’m just a number. When I’m off the scale, I get to be Ndeya.

What to do when you don’t know how to feed yourself

Last night I was talking to a friend of mine, basically doing a check in about our lives. As per usual these days my check in was largely compromised of my issues around food. I often come to her with my food woes because she has her own personal experience with disordered eating and can relate to my struggles. I was telling her about how I’ve been really struggling with my fear of sugar and carbohydrates, which has led me into a cycle of extreme avoidance and overindulgence is very frustrating. I expressed how I worry that sugar and carbs impede my weight loss and that I just want them to be completely out of my life (an unrealistic and illogical notion, I know). As a result I’ve made it a goal to stay under 25 carbs a day and I had originally intended to make this month No Sugar October, avoiding not just sugary  treats but also anything that has sugar, honey, agave or artificial sweeteners added (although the goal has changed slightly since we had this conversation). From this we got on the subject of moderation which is something that I think a lot of people with eating disorders find really difficult. I can’t speak for everyone who has an eating disorder but I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us (but not all) tend to think in binary terms– good food and bad food, fat and thin, hungry or full, fasting/restricting or bingeing. Of course there are many people who don’t fall into this type of thinking, but I definitely find myself thinking this way a lot, particularly regarding hungry vs full and fasting/restricting vs bingeing. Continue reading

Bariatric Life vs. Recovery

The bariatric team at Kaiser made it clear from the beginning that there are good foods and bad foods, foods that are okay to eat and foods that you should avoid. this is very different from when I was in therapy and we were told that food is neither good nor bad, it’s neutral and all fine in moderation. So you can see how I might struggle with trying to balance these to opposite and mutually exclusive ideas. I find that when I go about trying to stick with the bariatric meal guidelines my day ends up looking really strict, regimented and restrictive. That’s the nature of the plan, and also the nature of the process (I mean, they took out most of my stomach, so it’s obviously a restrictive surgery). However, the plan basically encourages eating disorder behavior. I can only eat 3 meals a day, and those meals are all 3oz (so I’m eating 9oz of food a day, just think about that), I can’t drink anything that is over 20 calories a serving, I eat my meals out of toddler bowls so I can’t over-indulge. If I were a skinny person, this behavior would be bizarre and cause for concern, right? But as a fat person this behavior is not only encouraged by the team, but also celebrated by almost everyone I interact with, whether it’s on instagram, facebook, or in real life.

If I were following this plan while in therapy I would’ve been strongly discouraged, my team would’ve saw it as cause for alarm. So I’m having a really hard time keeping to the baristric diet/lifestyle because I have their voices in the back of my mind, it just feels like giving into behaviors. But on the other hand I really want to stick to the heavy restriction because I think it’s the only way I can lose all the weight. I really don’t know how to just eat like a normal person. The problem (and this is the truly tragic part) is that there is so much pride associated with sustaining life with the least amount of food possible. It’s mind-boggling, being proud of eating only 2 ounces of food instead of three, like that’s some kind of grand accomplishment, like it makes me a better person in some weird twisted way. I have pride in myself when I restrict, and I truly think that people are also proud of me when I restrict, which is why the surgery was so compelling, such an irresistible option for me. It forces me to eat less, encourages me to think small and contained and little just about my food intake but about my body– because eating small means being small, and that is apparently more important to me than I thought. I always knew it was important to some extent to my family– they don’t really care about being thin but they definitely find being fat problematic– and important for society, but I thought that after all these years of therapy and self help books and body positive blogs that I would be somehow above the screwed up idea of fat inferiority. But now I’ve gone and cut out most of my stomach and I give myself a mental gold star when I’m under my calorie goal.

I think this is a problem that the bariatric team at Kaiser certainly didn’t prepare for, a problem that leaves me in a constant cycle of avoidance and overindulgence* of food. The healthy relationship with food I had hoped the surgery would foster has not been realized and I’m honestly not even sure it actually exists. Maybe this life is the one where I am at war with myself (hopefully this war will stay in this life and not cross over into the next).

 

* I can no longer overindulge/binge like I could before surgery but I think it’s important to note that even if it doesn’t have the calories of a binge it has the emotions of a binge and I think that counts for something.

The Only Constant is Change

Things that have changed since I’ve lost weight:

  • I eat less. My stomach can hold about 2, 3 ounces of food at a time. It makes eating out kind of awkward because I order a side or an appetizer and still end up leaving with a doggy bag.
  • The clothes I wore before I lost weight no longer fit– at least not very well. I have a pair of khaki capri pants I bought for my trip to Nola last year and they are now 3 or 4 sizes too big but the fabric is stiff enough that the pants still don’t fall down so I wear them as house pants. A light breeze would leave everyone with a view of my (way too big) underwear.
  • Speaking of clothes– I’m suddenly way into shopping now. I don’t know exactly why, because I shop at the same plus size stores just like before. But I think that the weight loss inspired me to buy new clothes (also, I made a commitment to a no pants lifestyle which meant I needed a new wardrobe).
  • I no longer chew gum. I no longer eat corn (popped, roasted, creamed, on the cob, whatever) or celery. I don’t drink caffeinated beverages or bubbly drinks. All I drink is water and it is depressing. I miss corn so damn much I can’t even really talk about it without getting really bummed out.
  • My digestive system seems so much louder. I can hear/feel my food moving around in my body, leaving my stomach and moving through my intestines. It’s really loud about it. Also gas. And I’m not very regular anymore. Another disappointment.
  • My hair is falling out. This is a side effect of the surgery and I KNEW it was going to happen so I’m not surprised but it’s a bit annoying. I think I’m going to start taking biotin to see if that will help with regrowth– hopefully this won’t be a side effect that lasts forever.
  • I pack all my foods in toddler sized tupperware to keep track of my portions. I get some weird looks at work about it, but no one asks about it which I appreciate.

 

Things that have NOT changed since I’ve lost weight:

  • I’m still depressed
  • I still deal with really bad self esteem and body image, and I have many days where I hate my body. I don’t see much change in how my body looks beyond more sagginess, more excess skin. I don’t find that to be terribly attractive, and I know it’s only going to get worse as I lose more weight.
  • I still have issues with food. I’m not going to diagnose myself with an eating disorder although I have been diagnosed in the past. However, I’m feeling the same feelings and using the same behaviors that I used when I was diagnosed, and I feel pretty out of control. I really wish this issue was simply part of my past but I’m beginning to realize that it’s part of my present and (most likely) my future.
  • I can still eat all the “bad” foods. I’ll feel physically ill, but not enough to learn my lesson. Just enough to make me feel like shit both physically and mentally. When I eat something with a regular amount of sugar I get a headache and feel like I’m going to throw up at any moment. I start to feel shaky and I have to lay down. It’s enough to make me feel regret, but not enough for me to never do it again.
  • I still don’t like people commenting on my body. I didn’t like it 80+ pounds ago, and I don’t like it now. I probably still won’t like it 80+ pounds from now. It’s not cool, stop doing it. There are probably a million cooler things about me than my weight or appearance. My body is not for your consumption. I’m not sure how many different ways I have to say it. JUST STOP.

 

Thoughts On Being Fat

I’m a member of a couple of wls groups on Facebook, I have an Instagram account that’s dedicated to my wls journey (I only follow wls accounts there, so it’s all weight loss pretty much all the time). I spend most of my screen time reading about weight loss stories, looking at before and “after” photos, bombarding my mind with images and narratives around losing weight. Most of the time (I would say probably 99% of the time) people talk about how happy they are being thinner than they were when they were fat. I understand that, I see why people want to put that message out there because there’s this idea that all fat people are (besides lazy and gross) totally miserable because they’re fat. If you’re depressed and fat, it’s not because you have a shitty job, or because you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, or because you’re going  through a rough patch in a relationship. It’s not because you just lost a loved one, or because people treat you like shit (because of aforementioned fatness) or because you’ve suffered trauma of some kind.

It’s because you’re fat, and you know it, and you hate it and hate yourself. So, the solution to that is to be thin. When you get thin, the depression will go away. And sure, some people (probably a small percentage) are depressed specifically about being fat and losing weight helps them feel better. But it’s not a cure all for all your woes. Also, not all fat people are depressed in general or depressed about being fat specifically, and that idea totally oversimplifies depression. I don’t know if you can tell, but the whole thing really grinds my gears. Continue reading

Down the rabbit hole I go

This surgery got me messed up.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I mean, Dr. Z (the evil psychiatrist) told me that because of my eating disorder history (specifically in regards to restricting) I might not be a good candidate for this surgery– for the first 6 months or so it’s basically a medically supervised starvation diet. It takes months to get up to 1200 calories a day. And to be honest, they really encourage eating disordered behavior. At my last preop class, they were talking about how much food we should take in per meal (by the way, snacks are not allowed in this program), and the dietitian said that in the beginning we can eat 1/4 a cup of food at each meal because our stomachs are still healing. After awhile you can eat a 1/2 a cup per meal, but “try to stay at 1/4 a cup for as long as possible so you maximize your weight loss”. Now, maybe it’s just me and my eating disordered brain, but that totally feels like encouragement to starve. In case you are wondering, eating a 1/4 a cup of chicken three times a day (which is what I’m mostly doing these days) is 255 calories. FOR THE WHOLE DAY. And you want me to do that “for as long as possible”? I know it’s probably well intentioned, and the whole point of this surgery is to eat less than you did before so you can lose weight and prevent/decrease your risk for chronic illness, but that is a little extreme, don’t you think? The body can’t handle that kind of diet for too long, I know from experience.  Continue reading

The Spiritual CAN Influence the Mental

Getting back into Shabbat was the best choice for me last week. I know I have yet to fully experience it as a true converted Jew, but even observing it in the small ways I did was not 4274418_origonly meaningful but also something my mind really needed– a time for rest. I made a commitment to go through the blessings, light the candles and bless the food, but also to stay away from my phone for just the night. It was totally worth it.

Right after work I went to the grocery store to buy my dinner (rotisserie chicken– perhaps this week I’ll make my own chicken in the slow cooker?) and get some grape juice since I can’t drink alcohol. Let me just say, it’s so nice being able to get off work at my regular time, be able to stop by the store and still get home before it’s time to light the candles. In fact, I had enough time to get home, prepare the meat for my weekend meals, do some dishes, and get the table set for myself. Of course I loved the ritual of it all, it felt really good to be a part of something bigger and older than myself. I could just imagine all the other people in the world doing the same thing I was doing, saying the same blessings around the same time and it made me feel like I was a part of something really cool. Continue reading