What do I do if not Eating Compulsively?

Here is a re-print of one my favorite stories from the great writer, Anne Lamott. I think about it A LOT.

When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’

Amen.

That got me thinking about time. Sure, life is short and we really don’t have time to waste obsessed with weight and food.

BUT what if thinking about food and my weight IS how I spend all my time? What then? If I put down the food, what on earth will I do with ALL that time? AND, how will I cope with ALL my problems.

The latter question first – for those of us with addictions, we don’t think that food and alcohol and drugs are our problems. To us, these are our solutions!!! Initially, they really work. They anesthetize all our pain and keep us from having to deal with life.

For normal people, too much food and alcohol are just problems. Many people who eat or drink too much, cut back and they’re fine. Take my mom, she loved to eat and picked up unwatned pounds over the years. My mom even ate emotionally – when she was angry or tired. She didn’t like the extra weight but didn’t do much about it for a long time.

Then, my mom got divorced. She met a man – a younger man. Off mom went to Weight Watchers and off came all that weight. Problem solved. Occasionally, maybe around the holidays, she’d gain a few back . Out would come that Weight Watchers scale and those pounds would fall right off. Once again – problem solved.

But not for me – the real compulsive eater. Not for me the bulimic and anorexic. When I put down the food, the problems come up. For the first four decades of my life, I used constant food to mask and soothe my problems and pain, but of course, THEY’RE ALL STILL THERE.

What i need to do; What i MUST do is face my problems. Get to them, get through them and be rid of them.

That’s what happens through the 12 Step process, and I find my way to freedom. I learn I don’t need food to ease my pain. I can deal!

Back to my first question – what am I going to do with all the time I spent binging and purging and starving and weighing myself an obsessing about food and weight?

That’s what I need to discover. I need to learn how to live life, NOT just pass time in my mental obsession. Frankly, I need to learn how to have a live. Bingeing is NOT a life.

And, I need to realize that I can deal with whatever comes up. I can be bored. I can be uncomfortable. Neither of those two is going to kill me!

No matter what, I can. And will. Be fine.

The Bitter Morass of Self-Pity

My car is in the shop and will cost a lot of money. Once again.

My relationship didn’t work out. I’m 53 and going it alone.

My career stands pretty much nowhere.

But I can’t and don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m so incredibly blessed and lucky. I have a place to live, enough money to live, dear friends, great family, options, my health (maybe not all my teeth, but there truly are consequences of bulimia and cocaine!)

This good attitude is not natural to me. This is not the way I lived the first four decades of my life – not in the least. I believed myself the complete victim. POOR and ME were about the only two words I uttered.

My self-pity lead me to a life of severe eating disorders, alcohol and drugs. That was my problem really; self-pity. If you’d had my life, you’d drink too!!! Right? Wrong.

Food, drugs and alcohol weren’t my problems. They were the solutions I tried to use to fix my problems. But they didn’t work BECAUSE I WAS MY PROBLEM.

The Twelve Steps helped fix the problem – ME.

Food and the Holidays – by Ms. Scrooge

Yesterday, a newer friend was telling me she loves the upcoming holidays – decorating, gifting, family, friends, traditions and of course, cooking and baking!!! She can’t wait – she’s even buying new pots and serving platters and trying exciting new recipes this year.

Then she asked me about my holidays and traditions and plans.

I took a deep breathe. I don’t want to horrify nice normal people but I don’t like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I used to dread them. Now, I just ignore them, as best I can.

Food, food, food, food, food. Cooking and baking and eating and leftovers. Never fun for me.

I don’t have any fond memories of the big food Holidays. My memories exclusively involve starving all day, bingeing all evening, and puking through the night. Lots and lots of self-hatred and misery.

I could not ever ever stay present with conversation or loved ones. My sole focus stayed on the food. I prayed for the day to be over.

These days, I don’t mind wherever I happen to find myself. If I’m with friends, I eat what works for me. I am present and able to enjoy the company. And of course, I truly appreciate that others love this time AND that they include me in their joy.

BUT I don’t in the least look forward to it and like I said, I certainly have no nice memories of Christmas past.

I do like birthdays tho, mine and other people’s – I’m not a complete curmudgeon!!!!

Hunger or Plan?

I’ve covered this before, but still find this question interesting. To eat when hungry or to follow a strict meal plan?

In a way, I kind of do both. I do my best to eat only when my body signals hunger, but when I do eat I stick to foods and amounts that are very comfortable for me.

But if I’m not hungry, I don’t eat and don’t want to eat. Sometimes, I have to eat when I’m not necessarily hungry – a client lunch, a holiday meal, an impromptu meal with the boyfriend’s parents… But otherwise, I just don’t.

I do work with many women who follow a clear food plan that tells them exactly when and how much to eat. And to eat no less and no more.

This works – all the worry about when and what and how much to eat is resolved. And, I have to remember, nearly everyone gets hungrier than I do. I’m a sloth – I probably burn fewer calories than a lawn ornament. -) So, most of the women i know ARE hungry when they eat their prepared meals.

I respect how my sponsees eat, and it works for them. Still, I often have a moment when a woman says that she was so busy and tired and not hungry that she forgot to eat her snack. And she perceives that as bad and a mess-up with her food plan.

My first thought is – but that’s a normal, healthy approach. Normal women who are busy and tired and not hungry would rather just skip the meal and/or go to bed.

However, I do know – we are NOT normal. And whatever works, works. I salute that, embrace and encourage each individual to find and do what’s best for her.

A Day off my Food Plan?

Yesterday was such a long and busy day, and I was tired. Also, I knew I’d be eating a couple of meals on the run and at odd times. One of those meals would be with someone who’s weird about the way I eat – small quantities and only when hungry.

Briefly, I considered bending my ‘rules’ – the very guidelines that keep me sane and comfortable. I must have been really tired, because I can’t remember the last time that thought came to mind.

What would be so bad about taking ‘a day off’ from my way of eating? Why not have a cheeseburger with a friend before a concert, even though I wasn’t slightly hungry and had eaten a late lunch?

Immediately, my mind gave me the answer. I could visualize clearly exactly what would happen. I would consume a burger, and food would consume ME.

AND I wouldn’t pay a minutes attention to the concert I’d been longing to see. I’d be sitting there thinking about how much I’d just eaten, how full I felt, how wrong I’d been to eat it AND I’d then think exclusively about food. What could I eat next? When could I’d eat next? How I’d need to starve tomorrow to make up for the damage.
I could picture the scenario as though it were happening – a lovely night completely annihilated by eating off my perfect plan for me.

The concert tickets were a gift from my friend. They were way way too expensive (amazing seats) and more than she could afford. We were going to see my favorite performer of all time. My friend drove us all the way to Queens and back. And although she had a badly sprained ankle, she gamely walked (limped on a cane) blocks and blocks and blocks from our parking spot to the arena. The concert was beyond wonderful, and I watched and heard every moment with open eyes, an open heart and compete awareness. Heaven!!!!

Now imagine that very same concert if I’d decide to throw my food plan to the wind….

More on Weight Gate

Yes, I’m glad to see Chris Christie go. However, I am so sick and tired and pissed about all the fat jokes that came with his governship and continue to this day.

My usually kind friend, Jim, said the governor should now go join the circus, as a fat Pennywise the clown. That would make him even scarier than the original, right?

The comment made my skin crawl. Why is fat scary? Why is fat funny?

When in doubt, Christie haters could call him a fat fuck and feel relief. Why, when most everything else is off limits, are fat jokes still okay?

I suppose prejudice of any kind is wrong, but especially here. Let’s say I, a Jewish woman, dislike all Neo Nazis as a whole. Well, that at least makes some kind of sense.

But how many legions of fat people tried to slaughter an entire race? What did a fat person ever do to you, Jim?

Food and the Bake Sale

Today, I helped out at a bake sale for a dear friend. The strangest thing happened – surrounded by every kind of home-made cake, brownie, cookie, muffin, cupcake, candy – I had absolutely no desire to eat any of them.

I didn’t have to think about it or push myself away – I just wasn’t interested. At all.

To me, that’s insane – well, actually, a miracle. I’m a woman who regularly ate quarts of ice cream while watching one evening’s television. For starters!

Sugar was my absolute weakness. I could consume more dessert than seemed humanly possibly – I’d shock even myself. There was no stopping me – I’d gorge until barely able to breathe.

When not eating them, I was fantasizing about sugary desserts. As an anorexic in my 30s, I’d keep lists of foods that I dreamt of eating. They were ALL sugar. Pecan pie, hot fudge sundaes, Sara Lee brownies….and on and on.

Today, all day – no interest. I didn’t even want anything.

Why? Well, I can’t quite put my finger on why it works – but the 12 Steps changed me. Most likey, because I gave up and accepted the process.

Why did I give up? I just could no longer live with my face in a trough. I couldn’t spend one more minute in obsession, compulsion, misery and most of all, self-hatred.

I was done. Like the 12 Steps, I highly recommend giving up. It’s incredibly peaceful.

Back in the day, today’s bake sale would have set me back at least 20,000 calories.

Here are some of the excuses I would have used to allow me to binge;

First of all, Saturday is the only morning that I have to myself. It’s my one catching up on a sleep, running errands, calling friends, relaxing morning.

So, having to be somewhere other than my bed early Saturday would have provided a perfect reason to start gorging on the baked goods.

Second, it was really cold outside, and I stood out there for almost 7 hours. I HATE THE COLD. Being cold would ALWAYS have been a perfect and great reason to binge on baked goods.

Third, at times standing outside selling cookies for hours wasn’t scintillating. BOREDOM – the IDEAL reason to binge on baked goods. Come on, that’s a no-brainer, right?

But not today. Today, I was tired, cold and sometimes bored. But I was never, even once, interested in eating dessert.

What I was able to do was focus on the reason I was out there today – to raise money for a very brave woman battling cancer. When tired and cold, I reminded myself why I was selling baked goods and raising funds.

And I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of friends, acquaintances and even strangers. My belief in the good of humanity was re-kindled – not so easy in these troubled times – so I am even more grateful. I left the bake sale truly at peace.

NONE OF THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF I’D SPENT THE DAY BINGEING!