Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No such thing as normal - Bulimia revisted

I've had some genuine success in my weight loss efforts in the last few years and am now a healthy weight.  I get quite the compliments, have the gorgeous wardrobe, ecstatic husband.  As far as most people can tell, I have hit 'normal'.

Thing is, it's all a lie.  There is nothing normal about anything having to do with my weight. If you didn't already know it, I'm a bulimic (I have blogged about it before - so really, it shouldn't be a surprise.)  I was diagnosed in 1988, and as time have proven, this nasty monster has haunted me my entire life.

Just to clarify, for education sake only - there are two types of bulimia (that I know of).  Mine is the 'non-purging' type - not because I didn't want to, but my body is just not built that way.  So, what exactly does that mean? Basically, I live in extremes.  Generally, it's always too much or too little.  I can eat so much so fast it would take your breath away.... Thousands of calories in a matter of minutes.  Conversely, I can go without food for days and not even feel it. I've lost 50 pounds in 5 weeks, literally.  More than a few times, actually.  Exercise is another tipping point.  I can and have exercised myself into some very impressive injuries.

So, why am I saying .... anything?  Because I can honestly say that hiding it all for all of those years definitely made it worse. After all, hiding it is part of the game.  Hiding from bosses, hiding from family, I have even become adept at hiding it from myself. 

Two years ago I decided I was done with the starvation and closet eating insanity.  I took Section 89 from my church's scriptures called "The Doctrine and Covenants", which is fondly referred to as "The Word of Wisdom", which provides amazingly inspired guidelines to healthy eating (and living).  I broke the verses down, listing what it contained in columns (I LOVE columns.)  I then wrote out my steps, which were:

1.  Eat fresh as much as possible.  If not fresh, frozen - NEVER canned
2.  Red meat rarely
3.  Fish every week
4.  Vegetarian meals at least 3 - 4 times a week
5.  Very VERY little milk (because I can't handle milk anymore....)
6.  2 - 3 quarts of water/day
7.  No soda
8.  No fake sweetners - and as much natural sugars like honey or raw sugar as possible.
9.  Juices only as a treat once in a while
10. Nuts are a great protein, olive, grapeseed and coconut oil are a great substitute to butter
11. Write every bite down (Ron calls it using my obsess need for organization for good rather than evil...) and have a goal for calories consumed everyday - not too much and not too little.
12. Work with my health care provider (regular appointments, complete honesty, follow her instructions)
13. Share the experience with Ron - This is actually the hardest one - because his opinion is the only one that I personally care about and I know that if I tell him I've had a bad day, he will be disappointed and worried. But that is the price I have to pay to earn his trust AND mine.
  
I guess I've done fairly well...but there have definitely been some stumbles and things could change on a dime. This summer was really hard.  It started with the trip to Peru.  Honestly, I generally behaved myself - I turned down a lot of items not on my list - but when you're being feed from someone else's menu, and working long hours, those fresh pastries at the corner bakery really call to ya.  I don't think I over ate, but the change in food added a few pounds before the month was over.  When I came back, I wasn't really counting calories and it did not take long before I was eating more than I should.  By the time I made it to Idaho for August, I was back to making excuses.  Some of my eating rules were easy to keep (still loved the vegetables!) and some things - like frozen yogurt, the cupcake bakery and anything chocolate......were not.  It took less than 3 months to gain 20 pounds.  It's taken many months to correct it.

The worst problem is that I have abused myself for so many years that my body will gain weight with even the smallest increase in calories while it takes a herculean effort of patience and balance to lose weight appropriately.  

Proof again, I will never be able to depend on being over this.   

Here's (finally) the point I'm trying to get to.  I don't think I'm any different than anyone else.  We all have our foibles and weaknesses and trials.  I have literally lived with this monster since I was around 12 when I went on an orange diet in my attempt to be beautiful and desirable like my sister, Ruthmarie.  It is honestly ALL I ATE. I'm not kidding when I say that my skin literally turned orange. Thus started the evil yoyo of overindulgence and denial.

Was it caused by my my own weaknesses (I mean, even as a little kid, eating was my favorite activity) or outside influences (there were TWO incidences where boys trying to pick up my sister told her to 'dump the fat kid' and come with them)?  

Honestly, my answer is 'what does it matter'?  I don't believe in blaming others.  I think that's one of the major things wrong in our society now a days.  Not that I think we should walk around whipping ourselves in submissive repentance - but we have the opportunity to rise above the quicksand or to let it bury us.

I've had people tell me that they do not believe there is any such thing as eating disorders.  Okay, sure - if that makes you feel more comfortable.  I am quite confident that there most definitely is - and the reason that it has reached epidemic proportions is because our society places such a ridiculous emphasis on body size and image while trying to sell us junk science to support it.  

So, here is how it starts.  A young girl (or boy) decides that they don't measure up.  At that very moment, their mind will declare war on their body.  Their body, in turn begins to recognize that they are literally under attack and begins their fight to survive.  From then on out, one part of you is winning and one is losing, and believe me, neither situation is a positive.  Once you start the war, life will NEVER be the same.  The fact that you begin this war while still a child and unable to recognize the lifelong consequences is especially harsh.

If you are a parent with a child that has a weight problem, I can't give you the magic formula, to help them but I believe it includes family activities, alternatives to electronic escapism, positive attention, open communication that includes LISTENING and a good example.

Those are the do's. Here are some don'ts:  Don't deny one child the same food other kids can have (I promise, they WILL notice.)  Don't use food as a reward (for good OR bad behavior). Don't ask things like "are you sure you need that second helping?"  Don't threaten.  Don't freak out or in anyway make this about YOU.  Don't overemphasize.  Don't make excuses. Don't lecture.  Don't deny there is a problem.  Don't think that raising your child on healthy food will mean that they will make those choices once they walk out the door (my daughter use to take those beautiful lunches I made every morning and toss them in the garbage can the minute she hit school).  ..... and for heavens sake, don't be naive'.

It seems like a lot, doesn't it?  But really, it all boils down to showing your child by example how to handle stress and challenges and discussing those choices with them so that they can model appropriate behavior.  I'll use a quick example.  If you daughter says "Oh Mom, I'm getting soooooo fat!".  Instead of saying "no you're not!  Don't say things like that", how about trying "honey, I'm not sure I see that, but tell me why you feel that way" and then try to listen to where those feelings' are coming from, which is really the core issue anyway.  If your child does need to lose weight because they are at an unhealthy weight (and NOT because they simply don't fit size 3 pants anymore), talk to them about how you can help support them in a healthy way.  Gently guide them into answering the question of what IS a healthy approach and how you can best support them.

It is especially important to keep an eye on the following warning signs:


  • anxiety, depression, perfectionism, or being highly self-critical
  • excessive or compulsive exercising
  • intense fear of becoming fat
  • menstruation that becomes infrequent or stops
  • rapid weight loss, which the person may try to conceal with loose clothing
  • strange eating habits, such as avoiding meals, eating in secret, monitoring every bite of food, eating only certain foods in small amounts, or eating large amounts of food 
  • The disappearance of food (lots of wrappers may appear in the garbage) - usually sweet or salty, entire boxes of cereal, cookies, etc.
  • unusual interest in food

So, it's a longggggggggggg post.  But it helps me to write these things down.  Today was not a good day for me food wise and that hasn't happened in a long time.  Its scary and overwhelming at times, and I struggle so hard to find 'normal'.....or at least as close to normal as I can get   If you've made it through to this point - congratulations, and thanks for listening.