Monday, 30 November 2009

Day 16: Thoughts on rigidity, chaos and "normal" eating

Another award! This was so kindly given to me by Amazon Runner, Diane at Fit to the Finish, and Katie J. I really feel I don't deserve it as I don't manage to post that often!

There are rules attached to this one:
Each person who receives it must link to the person who gave them the award
They must chose 5 deserving bloggers to pass it on to
They must display the award and link to this post which explains the award
They must add their name to the Mr Linky list on the above link so the originator can keep track of everyone who has received it
They must display the above rules
So many of the people who deserve this award have already been given it, so I have chosen people who to my knowledge have not received it yet. I would like to pass this award on to:
Green Stone Woman who posts at least once a day and is always a good read,
Amy at The not so secret life of a not so super together mom - who has raised many interesting food issues on her blog and written beautifully about her mental state,
Sean at The Daily Diary of a Winning Loser - I admire his determination to post every day whatever, and how does he find so much to say?!
Wendy at New Me: A Fresh Start - I might not always agree with what she says, but it's always interesting and challenging (for me) and highly relevant for anyone dealing with their relationship with food.
Jogging Auburn at Quest for a Mile - her posts are just so beautiful! She hasn't posted for a little while now so I hope she'll start again soon.
All the above are in my bloglist. And I have still not passed on my Best Blog Award! Next time ...
So, about the diet. I have completed day 16 and all is going well so far. I hit my target of walking 4 times last week and have 1 walk under my belt this week, done on Sunday (my diet week running from Sun to Sat). I had a very active day today walking and actually running part of the way to my healer (because I was late!) for 35 mins and then I walked for an hour afterwards. But I don't count it as an official walk unless it's at least 1 1/2 hours continuous walking. My eating has been spot on and despite many times over the past week when I felt very down I haven't even really wanted to "depression eat". I have had occasional bingeing thoughts but have dismissed them quickly from my mind because I know so well how "fantasy bingeing" has a tendency to turn into the real thing. The only thing I am still struggling with is getting to bed on time. It's certainly much better than it was but I have still had a couple of 2.30 bedtimes and one 3am which is obviously way off what it should be. But I'm going to continue trying on that one. I also haven't yet built up my toning exercises. I'll get there!
But overall I'm very happy that my good eating and exercise routine is nailed in place. It feels so much better waking up after a day of clean eating compared to the horror I have felt every morning for the past few months of waking up after another day bingeing. Literally horror. I have of course still felt very depressed and low during the last 2 weeks - because I'm suffering from depression aside from my eating. But I don't feel I'm in chaos anymore because my eating is not chaotic. I don't have that circling, behind the scenes terror about what I'm doing to myself with eating ridiculous amounts of food. I'm not filled with anxiety about being out of control and not knowing how I'm going to stop it. So the difference in my mental state is dramatic. I feel so much calmer.
And I am just so grateful that I'm not really struggling to stick to my healthy eating regime. It is not a battle. If it were a battle then I wouldn't be succeeding. I don't have very much willpower at my disposal as concerns my eating. I do and can force myself into doing the walking. That does require quite a bit of determination - just to get out there due to my agoraphobia, and in the cold windy wet weather. I have willpower there. But I don't believe I have that much with eating.
For me there are two states of being with eating (since I had a breakdown) which are eating in a very repetitive rigid pattern or eating totally chaotically. I seem to have moved from the latter to the former. But I don't know how.
Today I read on Leslie's blog about her desperation to pack in the bingeing that's been plaguing her weight loss efforts for some while now. She asked for suggestions on this and several people have written interesting comments in response. Vickie's suggestion was that Leslie should only eat at home or if out, only eat food she had prepared herself. So to keep complete control over her eating. I had made a similar suggestion to Leslie the day before about nailing a healthy eating pattern in place and not deviating from it except for the coming actual holiday days. What I was meaning was something very similar to what Vickie suggested ie to 100% plan her eating - what to eat and at what times, and stick with it no matter what. But I didn't push the idea because I was worried that what I was suggesting was as much disordered eating as her existing bingeing pattern.
Keeping to a very rigid repetitive structure is the only way that I myself can cope with food, and I'm very aware that this is not "normal". It is the flip side of chaotic eating - total rigidity and routine. It also has many problems associated with it - such as never being able to have any spontaneity, never being able to eat out, the tendency that if I do step out of my pattern I'm in real trouble - I can't handle it at all and may end up bingeing/ compulsive eating for months before I regain control. I wouldn't want anyone else to suffer this of course.
So how can I make such a suggestion? Shouldn't we all be aiming for sane eating? Is it wrong to aim for anything other than that? On the other hand, sanity for me can only be found in sticking to my trusted routine. That is where my safety and sanity exist. And what is normal eating anyway? I saw an obesity surgeon on TV not so long ago and when his team stopped for lunch everyone got out their tupperware boxes and tucked into their sandwiches. He pulled a can of tuna out of his pocket and that was his lunch. His mantra was "Never eat anything beige!" ie no cakes, biscuits, pastry etc. He was very thin of course, but judging by the faces of his colleagues, they all thought he was nuts. I have to say that seeing this man eating a can of tuna for lunch everyday to the derision of colleagues made me feel that my eating wasn't so weird after all. This guy was essentially saying that what we consider to be "normal eating" is the reason why 2/3 of adults in this country are overweight or obese. He was unashamedly abnormal in his eating.
So to come back to Leslie, is rigidity the key? A zero tolerance approach to eating outside of set meals she has prepared herself? I honestly can't say. It would be great to get the weight loss going again, for sure. But what about all the socialising involving food? With buffets one can just abstain, but sit down meals with friends and family? Work socials? Also, how long would it last? This is something that needs a solution for life, not for a few months.
But this is the stuff that everyone who wants to lose weight faces. Saying no when other people are gorging away right in front of you. Saying no to yourself when you want to eat chocolate cake (I'm even frightened to type that food!) Saying no to yourself when you are hungry. In other words, taking control. Generally you only get to have a serious weight problem by being out of control so the only way to rectify it is to be very much in control.
So it's all about finding a type of control over your eating that you can live with. For Sean for example it's about eating all his favourite foods whether healthy or not so healthy. He eats it as long as it's within his calorie budget. For me it is about eating the same food at the same time every day.
Of course control over your eating is only tackling one end of the problem and Lori-Ann made a great comment to Leslie's post about thinking how she would deal with life after she had lost her weight - what would her mission be then? And the anxiety that accompanied these thoughts.
Eating to plan in no way addresses issues such as how you will live your life as a thin person, fear of change in body size or any emotional issues that keep you clinging to your extra poundage. But if it means you can live less chaotically then you might just have the time and space in your mind to address the other issues rather than have your life dominated by bingeing hell.


  1. A thoughtful and interesting post, beautifully expressed, as ever, Bearfriend. Your final paragraph is makes an especially valid point. You are making terrific progress with your diet and exercise. You raise some interesting issues re diet. If a rigid structure is working for you, hey, go with it. I like the little story about the surgeon and his tuna. My mantra is "never eat anything with a label!" When I first cut out grains and sugar people were always trying to change my mind and my choices even seem to antagonize some people. I had to learn to ignore other people. Yes, it's all about taking control and finding a way to do it that suits your particular needs.

  2. This really is a wonderful post Bearfriend. The whole weight loss journey, as people refer to it, isn't just a journey with a definite ending. Of course you can't lose weight for life, but the journey of life continues on even after the weight loss part is done.

    I personally see nothing wrong with restricting certain behaviors for a time, but as you pointed out, that may not be possible for a lifetime. It really comes down to making the choices everyday that are lifebearing for you, and choices that you can live with for a lifetime. Much easier said than done.

    That being said, however, I sense in your writing a peace that wasn't there a few weeks ago. I wish you all the success you deserve.


  3. I think perhaps eating to plan is a good way to start, as you mention its not great for when you get to goal, but tackling one problem at a time is sometimes the best way to go. Everyone copes with their weight loss journey in a different way and what works for one person doesnt necessarily work for another, feeling less chaotic and more peaceful is a plesant way to be and if eating rigidly gives you that peace of mind then I say its a good thing.

  4. Good morning BearFRIEND,

    Obviously the all caps portion of your name is to reflect that I consider you a true friend. I will email you about some of your post, but for now, I want to echo Diane's comment that there is a peace evident in your writing that hasn't always been present, and that is a beautiful thing to witness. I'm really happy for the increasing lightness of your being.

    It puts me in mind of the the age old question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" In this case, I wonder which came first, the new found peace or the clean eating? It's remarkable that you are sixteen days in on this food and exercise plan, and feeling the benefits so clearly. The absence of inner chaos of which you speak is a huge reward - one that is surely evident each day.
    I've known that peace at times, and always it came when I was eating cleanly and sanely. Which came first? Hard to deny the obvious, at least in my own life; and yet I'm increasingly aware of the huge amount of denial at work in me to still want and claim to be "normal" about eating.

    You bring up the whole "normal" issue, which is weird, because I was thinking about it this morning on my way to work, before I read your post. I so want to be normal about food, just like I wanted to be normal about alcohol in my drinking days. I didn't start AA to quit drinking a day at a time; rather I started in hoping that the problems and consequences of my drinking would stop, while I still carried on with drinking as usual. DISCONNECT! Can't happen.

    I realize that I'm lapsing into writing my own post here, which I'll save for my own blog later. But I do love your ponderings about rigidity (a huge buzz word for me that has kept me at arm's length from food recovery strategies) vs sustainable food negotiating over the long haul. I love the dude with the tuna story...and I totally get it. Just as I get your suggestion (and your technique) of eating certain things on a schedule and not straying from it AT ALL. When I've done that, it works. For my brand of food addiction, this seems almost essential for me to at least get started on a path of recovery. Maybe not forever, but in the beginning. I've resisted this tooth and nail, claiming that rigidity is the definition of dysfunction. So what? My eating patterns fall under a pretty dysfunctional category too. OOPS - again I'm writing my own post in your comments! Shut my mouth! (God, another eating behavior metaphor!)

    Your post here is brilliant and thought-provoking. Dead on relevant for me. As always, I'm grateful beyond measure for your presence in blogdom, and in my life.

  5. It's so shitty all this compulsive behaviour, isn't it? :o( I know I seem to have found a 'reason' for my compulsive bingeing and now seem to have some degree of control over it, but what happens if I eat something that I'm not aware will tip me over the edge, or someone prepares me a meal I feel would be rude to refuse a little of? We're visiting my mum a week Saturday and she was going out of her way to make me a veggie shepherd's pie, but I've had to tell her I'm really trying to avoid potatoes because they 'set me off' and make me feel so bad...

    But all that aside, I have compulsive, 'black or white' tendencies in all areas of my life, so being more in control of what I eat will only make me look more 'normal'! lol I'll still be as crazy as ever inside! ;o)

  6. congrats on a nother deserving award... thanks by the way for the shout, I'm kinda a nerd and don't know what I'm supposed to do with that...I've never recieved an award before...yeah I'm a dork

    as for this insightful post..I've been thinking this very thing, food seems to have some kind of hold on me. I plan meals and eat them - then I'm hungry again in like an hour - what's the deal? I know I'm eating enough, but it's like the stress or something makes me want to eat ALL THE TIME!!!!! yeesh, I think I'm gaining, not losing!!!

    ok, sorry to let it all out like that, but it's 10pm here and I just finished my 5th pumpkin choc. chip cookie....

  7. Thank you very much for the award, Bearfriend. It's very kind of you to think I'm deserving of it.

    Control over eating food? I suppose I do it each and every day. I eat the same thing at the same time of day each day. I am as predictable as a well running clock. I know what I'm eating and how many calories there are in it, but most importantly, if I will like it and if it will leave me feeling good afterwards. I need to feel that I've had a satisfying meal that will leave me feeling satiated for a long time. That way I won't snack in between meals. I hate small portions and tiny amounts of food. I try to get the biggest portion out of what I eat that I can. I'm not losing weight right now, but I'm not gaining any either, so there is a status quo. When I get ready to lose the rest of my weight, I will have to decrease the portions, but I will eat the same food at the same time of day each day. I like the routine and the predictability. And being able to say no, because I'm full.

  8. Thank you so much for the award! It really means something to me. I'm terribly busy with work right now, so it may take some time before I have the mental space to respond, but for now, thanks!

    Control. I think we know that`s where we differ. If I had to eat only according to plan, I think I would go stark, raving mad. But that's just the conclusion that I have come to on my journey. If you (or anyone else) need to take another route, I sincerely wish you the best results possible! We're just not all the same.

  9. What a great post and what I find so helpful are the comments here. Totally adds to the conversation. Control what you eat? That's an interesting subject for me. I love variety in my food choices and it gets me into trouble. I was just thinking that maybe I should buy some of those packaged meals for now so I don't have to think so much about what I'm gonna eat, and when I'm going to eat. It's always about the next meal for me.

    If I take the thought out of it, maybe I won't be so consumed with the notion of food. Lots to ponder here on this post.

    Thanks bearfriend and everyone here who has shared.


  10. This was a wonderful post. Very thought provoking and I like where you are in your weigh loss. You seem to be taking it day by day, and allowing yourself some give and take. I love the amount of exercise you are getting it. That is impressive.
    I find I need that plan that is structured and predictable at first. It just helps me stay on track and the way I have it set up now, I don't get hungry. Weird, that I don't get hungry, barely think about food, until it is time to eat. That is a first for me, and I like it.
    Now if I could just do better with the treadmill!

  11. What a wonderful post! Thought provoking as always.
    For me the eating part has been a very long journey. In other words, the exercise part came easier.
    With the food, it was a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. I learned something new at each new attempt and brought that forward with me onto the next level. I also think what works for some will not work for others. If I have any snacky foods in the house that I have a weakness for, then I have to face the fact that I may or may not binge. As I do not live alone, and have others to take into consideration, there is upon occasion foods that I'd rather not have lurking in the house.

    For me it's more of a time limit than anything else though. I have learned to not go into the kitchen once dinner is said and done. Because if I do......chances are I will snack and munch even though I'm not even hungry.
    And I also think that a structured plan, especially in the beginning , is a very good idea. And then trust instinct when you are ready to branch out a little. From the sounds of things, you ARE on the right road, so keep up the great work

    And last, but certainly not least, many thanks for this most recent award! I am truly honored, and somewhat speechless. It might be a few days before I follow through with my obligations, but as soon as I am able I will get to it!


  12. MMhhmm. I relate to the shift of eating behaviors. I am stone cold "perfect" during the day, and if I have troubles they are at night. When I am "perfect" all the time- if there is one, single slip- it is all over. I go back to day nothing, night everything. It does feel good when I am "perfect", but just a few steps away stands my slip.

    Moderation is there waiting for many of us.

  13. I think maybe you may need to start out rigid, and then see how it goes. Your relationship with food will change and it will become less of a crutch and more of a fuel.

    I think it will be possible in time to become less rigid, without becoming chaotic. It has been for me.

    However, although I meant to write about my weight loss, I don't feel like I can even though I exceeded my goal by 7lbs and have maintained it for getting close to a year: I think I believe that if I blog about it I'll admit it's over: it's not. I might not be looking to lose any more, and I might be better with food and able to enjoy it healthily, but it's not over for me. It's a marathon, but now it's literally about staying on the track, not the time or the distance.


    I think with 'holiday' eating you need to decide which days you aren't going to be able to stick to 'the rules'. Like perhaps the office Christmas party, and Christmas Day. You can't just write off December and shovel down mince pies, but you can enjoy the holiday. Good luck and good health.

  14. Congrats on your awards!

    While I may have been a little stricter in the beginning of my weight loss journey (hit 112 pounds down today. yippee), I have always ate like I planned on eating forever. Eat healthy, but if I really want something "bad" then I do it in moderation. Very thought provoking post.

  15. Ack!! I can't believe you didn't email me and tell me you've been on track with the eating and exercise for over 2 weeks!!!!!!!!!! Look at all I've missed!!!!! Well I'm back now and I'm here to cheer you on....I see nothing wrong with a boring, rigid will give you, so proud of you girl...and it feels good to be back! :)

  16. Thank you since your post made me recognize some things I do rigidly as well; just knowing or recognizing the things does not mean I will change, but it is better than being oblivious. I am fearful of doing too much or too little.

    I won't give any advice since I am in very much the same boat. I wish you well. ~Mary

  17. Hi Bearfriend!
    First up, well done you! It sounds like you're doing fantastically well with the eating and walking now! I couldn't walk much on holiday because of the heat, so I'm glad you kept the spirit alive for me! It is great when things all click into place and order comes from the chaos, though I'm sorry to hear that you're still depressed. On the other hand, that makes your achievement even greater!
    I think routine can be very helpful, especially when you're coming out of a bad spell. You know I eat the same things a lot of the time, and I think it is an excellent way to regain control.
    Keep up the good work!
    And thanks so much for the award, I'm really touched that you thought of me! I want to give it back to you because you've been so amazing and supportive every time I have a meltdown again!
    Chrissie XXX


All comments gratefully appreciated!