From Compulsive to Intuitive Eating – and more

For years, a good friend, Tina, in 12 Step food recovery has been a huge proponent of abstinent eating – no sugar, no processed foods, and a very set food plan which includes weighing and measuring all portions. Stalwart, solid – pure and simple. Tina has been considered a true leader in this field.

She was, and still is, also a huge proponent of the 12 Steps process which allows us freedom from compulsion and obsession.

Over time,however, Tina has changed her thinking about food and begun the path to intuitive eating – eating when hungry and stopping when full. Not one single food is off limits and there’s no weighing or measuring of everything.

This is a new challenge for Tina, but it also seems to be somewhat of a challenge for so many who followed her very solid lead on food abstinence over the years.

If Tina no longer defines herself as a compulsive eater, what does that mean for them? Should they start eating sugar again? Can they? Do they need to re-define themselves and ocmpletly shift their approach to food -the problem that once owned their lives, body and soul?

It’s a tough one for them – most of us compulsive eating folks would dearly love to eat like normal people. I, myself, continue, absolutely, to know that I am a compulsive eater. Never a doubt – not since birth. Left to my own devices, I do not eat like a normal person. But that’s me. I continue to eat in the way that honors my truth and have no interest in a food free-for-all. For me, that would lead nowhere good.

I tell those in doubt to do the same – honor what is true for you – and work with them to find and discover and solidify that truth and then to move on and live life.

There is one particular issue that really seems to bother my friends in food recovery. Tina has gained a fair amount of weight. Weight gain is scary for those who lost many pounds. And if we are able to maintain that loss AND live free of compulsion through a certain method, perhaps we don’t want that method called into question.

I’ve heard from a number of people who are really troubled by the 30 or so pounds Tina’s put on since her shift. They assume she’s in relapse. Why else would she have gained the weight? And will she continue to gain?

What, I wonder, would the reaction be if Tina had shifted her eating and maintained her light weight?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I support Tina in her choice – it’s her body, mind and spirit. I hope she continues to know peace.

And I don’t know where Tina’s natural body want to settle. Every body is different. I certainly don’t believe that every body needs or wants to be thin. She says she’s feeling strong and healthy. I can’t imagine much better than that.

So, I don’t worry about Tina’s path. I am clear about my own and encourage each person to follow hers.

May we all know peace!

Dating and Body Image and finally, Self-Esteem

This dating is exhausting – and not just sorting through strangers. What about the meeting them? All the work that goes into pulling a 54 year old together to meet a new guy…

I really hope I find someone and relax. Putting your best face forward can wear a gal out. Applying make-up well (not too much but enough to be flattering); blowing out hair (I promise you – men prefer straight hair. Don’t even try to argue with me); picking the right clothes (not too sexy, but still appealing)and right shoes (I’m lost here – I never wear heels, so this one is tough – flattering AND flat)

And yeah, what about the body? I’m not athletic, so don’t have muscle. (Remember the last guy who told me I was a few short abs classes away from a great body?) That didn’t exactly calm my worries.

It’s weird to be still dating at 54. The boobs sag even further, the abs flab, the face is wrinkled. I don’t mind my face and body on a daily basis, but when putting it out there…

So yeah again, what about the body and my food/body stuff. Certainly, I’ve clamped down on food since starting at the restaurant. I just can’t be as free as I wanted to be – nibbling and snacking are the luxury of naturally normal eaters. No one who knows me would say that that’s me!

But yes, I have been pretty strict with myself, not wanting to get lumps and bumps before meeting new guys. And, I want to fit into particular clothes that are ‘date’ appropriate.

BUT, the truth is, tho, that all of the above is just who I am. For my ninth birthday, I wanted hot rollers and make-up and nothing’s changed since then. In high school, the welts on my neck really WERE from the curling iron, not hickeys.

As a kid, I poured over every fashion magazine looking for new options in hair and make-up and clothes. It’s just me, dating or not.

And I, Melissa, prefer my hair straight. So, I wouldn’t go on a first date with it natural and frizzy. But I wouldn’t visit a women’s college like that either!

Re; the body. Who am I kidding? I am most comfortable with it at it’s current weight, and I’d feel the same way around a guy or my grandmother.

The real hard part about dating, of course, is does he like me and my soul? It’s way easier to worry about mascara than if I, myself, am lovable.


Plenty of Fish

Two good friends met their lovely husbands online – men so nice that even my friend’s kids adore them AND their kids. Both friends urged me to keep on trying a little longer.

So, I went on Plenty of Fish and, initially, it freaked me out. Within the first hour, I had over 60 messages! And the messages kept coming. Where to begin? What to do? Who are all these men?

The freakiest/creepiest part is that some of the messages proved pretty… freaky and creepy. I posted one picture of me pumpkin picking – who knew pumpkins were so suggestive? One guy flat out texted that he needed sex.

And evidently, there are also scammers, whatever that is? And how do you know who they are?

Many of the men wanted to set up a meeting instantly – “hey gorgeous, I live in your area, let’s grab a drink tonight.”

Question – does any woman reply ‘sure’ to that question? Question – how did my friends meet their nice husbands?

Wow, I thought, dating sure has changed. Where did all these creeps come from? Remember back in the day when you met a guy at a party, through friends, at a wedding….?

Oh wait, I just remembered all the guys I used to date, and all the guys who suddenly disappeared, were dating lots of others, just wanted sex…I remember one guy I went out with after chatting with him over a period of weeks at the library (the library!) He told me he could actually understand date rape – he, himself, found it hard to resist.

Sure there were good ones among them, but you still had to kiss an awful lot of frogs.

I guess dating (and men) hasn’t really changed, after all.

I always hated dating. Guess that hasn’t changed either!

Me and Anne Lamott, Dating Online

As I’ve been dating online, I’ve thought about an article I read years ago, written by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott about her own experiences on She wrote it in 2013, when she was 60. At the time, I was 49 and in a relationship. I made the same assumptions she did – that if I were going to date again it would be the same as when I was younger – plenty of single, liberal, kind and funny guys to meet.

I have to admit, I now find the article a little depressing. Anne Lamott is a wildly successful and brilliant writer; she’s cool and funny and fascinating and good. If she has trouble dating, what about me? However, like the great Anne Lamott, I remain hopeful. Here are some snippets from the article…

“Heroes come in all circumstances and ages. The prophet tells us, “Your old will have visions; your young will dream dreams.” Elderly women in a retirement community in Mill Valley protested the war in Iraq on a busy thoroughfare with placards every Friday for years. A man I know of 22, halfway to a medical degree, is pursuing ballet dreams in New York City. Some people my age — extreme middle-age — train for marathons, or paddle down the Amazon, skydive, or adopt. They publish for the first time.

Me? I may have done the most heroic thing of all. I went on for a year.”

“I had experienced varying degrees of loneliness since my guy and I split up. After our breakup, I had just assumed there would be a bunch of kind, brilliant, liberal, funny guys my age to choose from. There always had been before. Surely my friends would set me up with their single friends, and besides, I am out in the public a lot doing events at bookstores and political gatherings, the ideal breeding ground for my type of guy. But I hadn’t met anyone.

People don’t know single guys my age who are looking for single women my age. A 60-year-old man does not fantasize about a 60-year-old woman. A 70-year-old man might. And an 80-year-old — ooh-la-la.

Almost everyone wonderful that my friends know is in a relationship, or gay, or cuckoo.”

The rest of the article talks about her actual year on Match, where she did not, after many many dates, find a relationship. If you want to read more, it’s at

Dating; Lessons Learned

It’s been a tiring week – work, life, stuff, menopause, but there are a few things I’ve learned and noticed – mostly about the dreaded dating.

The first – I actually did go on eharmony very briefly about 12 years ago, when I was about 42. I got tons of responses – so many guys wanted to connect. Most contacted me, but anyone I reached out to, reached right back to me. At the time, I was still connected to an ex-boyfriend and nothing became of it, but I thought there were tons of guys for me to meet, if I’d wanted to. Heck, I think I was on it for only 3 weeks or something.

Fast forward to me now, at 54. I went on eharmony and got fairly little response. A couple of guys who tried to contact me looked truly scary. A few guys were in their early 30s and mentioned liking older women. Uh – no thanks. But generally…not much interest.

So, I decided to take the reins and reach out to guys I found interesting. Silence. One or two – the least interesting and the very oldest – eventually got back to me, but very few and again – the truly least interesting.

Okay. So, that’s where it’s at? Am I aging out of dating? (Maybe not the worst thing in the world?) Maybe.

The second revelation – I was out to dinner with a guy I’d kind of dated at one point, but he’s totally anti-relationship, anti-commitment. So, even though I’d once liked him in ‘that’ way, I decided to see him as simply friend material.

Anyway, we went out for Japanese food. When our meals came, mine proved too hot to eat for a while. He dug into to his and kept eating away. (He’s an athletic type who’s always hungry. When he eats, he focuses solely on the food – meals tend to be conversation-free until he’s full. He eats a lot and very quickly.)

After my food finally cooled, it turned out to actually be burnt and inedible. By this time, my friend was pretty much done, and I didn’t know what to do.

I had eaten about a half a bite, which had burned my tongue and the roof of my mouth. When our server stopped by early on, her English wasn’t strong, and I didn’t know what to say or do. I hate to send food back. I was hoping it would cool down and taste okay. My friend was just staring at his plate, eating away. So, I did nothing. And when the bill came, I paid for the meal I really didn’t touch.

But, while I didn’t take any action, what I DID do was seethe. Why didn’t my friend seem to care? Why didn’t he notice I had eaten nothing? How could he just keep eating his food silently, while I sat motionless and also silent? Why didn’t he step up and say something to the waitress? Why didn’t he offer me some of his meal?

Why? Why? Why? The real question – why did I just sit there, just feeling sorry for myself. I’m a grown woman – my friend isn’t responsible for me. Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I ask for something else? Why did I pay for something inedible?

Once again, I am my own problem. As always.

Don’t We all Just Want to be Heard?

Off I went, bravely I must say, on another date. This guy, while very nice, seemed perhaps to suffer from untreated bi-polar disorder? As he went on and on about his conspiracy theories – apparently there’s one big corporation running the world…etc., I listened and nodded. He told me that everyone looks at him likes he’s crazy when he shares his beliefs.

I looked at him and just listened. What do I know, anyway – at this point, who knows what the heck’s going on with our world? His guess is as good as mine or even, perhaps, Rachel Maddow’s. (kidding. but still)

As he spoke, I was reminded of the movie A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe – a brilliant professor with paranoid schizophrenia writing wild equations all over chalkboards while losing touch with reality.

But again, I can not judge. What my date believed is his reality. I think it made him feel safe that I didn’t argue or call him him out or seem appalled.

After all, I think all of us just want to be heard. When I work at the restaurant and customers are angry with how their meat is cooked or that they can’t use 20 coupons for one meal or that the salad bar no longer includes cauliflower, I often just listen. When I asked one woman what I could do to make her happy, she said, “Really, I just want to be heard.” I still bought her dessert, but she left with a smile.

And in the case of the restaurant, or most places, it’s really not about the cauliflower, is it? It’s about everything in life that’s disappointing or unfulfilling or…not validated.

So, I’m happy to validate and to understand with compassion. After all, that’s how I want to be treated.

On another note, last night’s date – like so many men before him – said to me, “I just can’t understand how someone as great as you can still be single!”

Anyone want to validate me on that?

The Perils of Online Dating

So, I went on eharmony and connected with a guy, who seemed great. We talked and texted and when we met up, I really liked him. And was really, really, uh, really attracted to him. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed dressing up and going out and holding hands and flirting. The last few guys I dated were total cold fish who seemed horrified by touch. This guys showed lovely affection.

However, there were warning signs along the way – all of which I chose to ignore, because the dating felt too great.

So, I let go that he pretty clearly seemed not to be over his ex-girlfriend. And he’ll be seeing a lot of her soon for her work, which troubles him – as he’s not really over her.

I skipped our political differences – he was really that cute. And affectionate. And attentive. (I know, I know – all of you happily married readers are having heart attacks. Overlooking politics in this day and age!!!. Try being single for 54 years and we’ll talk. Yeah, yeah, I know – in all honesty, it couldn’t have worked.)

It got a little harder when he said liked smoking – a substance that’s more easily bought in Colorado. But again, I let it go. On the second date, he smoked a little. On our third date, I wondered if the waitress could smell it. During our fourth and last date, he lit up all night in my apartment. Still, I told myself – to each his own.

Yes, yes, there were humongous warning signs, but wait until you hear the actual deal breaker.

We got a little more intimate and in the middle of our playfulness he said, “you know, you’re only a few 30 minute abs classes away from a great body.”

DONE. No, no, no. I’ve worked way too hard and way too long to accept this old body of mine. It’s just fine. In fact, my last few boyfriends loved my body and constantly told me to leave myself alone and stop picking on it.

I think that’s one of the problems of ‘dating up’ looks-wise. My online date was way better looking for a man than I am for a woman. And HE works out a lot and is pretty proud of his abs.

I’m not giving up, tho. There is someone out there for me – an available, liberal, clean and sober hand-holder 🙂

Weight Gain in Recovery – Relapse?

A friend in long-time 12 Step compulsive eating recovery has put on a fair amount of weight. This friend, Elizabeth, is known for the strength and solidity of her recovery and serves as a role-model and guide for many, many women and men.

Her reocvery has always been spiritual and action-based, and also includes not eating sugar or processed foods of any kind. Apparently, pictures of cakes and candy are showing up on her Facebook page . And some folks have reached out to me, worrying that Elizabeth has relapsed – because of her weight gain and Facebook.

Of course, none of us knows if she has or hasn’t. Elizabeth hasn’t reached out to me, which she normally does if troubled. And there’s nothing I can do unless she does.

I can’t rush to any conclusions, just because there’s dessert on her Facebook page. Besides, If I believed everything I saw on Facebook….

But the real question, I tell everyone who’s called, is – how does this effect you? Usually, they start by saying they really care about Elizabeth, but when we delve deeper they say things like, “it makes me feel unsafe – if She can relapse, I can too.”

Of course, I respond, that’s not true at all. As long as I know my own truth about food and honor it AND as long as I spend my time growing spiritually and doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m fine. I’m sad for anyone who experiences the pain of relapse, but I don’t worry about it for myself.

Of course, there are lots of explanations for Elizabeth’s weight gain and Facebook pictures, including that it all means nothing OR that she has in fact had a slip. Don’t know and won’t know, unless she tells me.

I was having this conversation with a recovery friend who knows Elizabeth. He agreed that we don’t know anything. However, we discussed that Elizabeth had entered recovery at nearly 300 pounds, which she’d maintained for many years. Through the 12 Steps, she lost a great deal of weight and got very thin. Perhaps, being so thin just wasn’t natural. She’s in her late 50s, she’s tall and active – maybe she’s just not meant to be small. Maybe she kept herself unnaturally thin for some years and her current size is actually healthier for her.

“She probably wasn’t mean to be as thin as she kept herself.” My friend agreed and then he paused and added, “like you, Melissa.”

I didn’t need to pause. I just said, “you’re right. I do keep myself thinner than I’m meant to be.”

What that means and what to do is a whole other question.