Day 8: Pins & Needles

Being good yesterday paid off – I was back at 161.6 lbs this morning. In an earnest attempt to keep going in the right direction, I was very good today, as well. This part is so hard for me, since eating is closely tied to my emotional state, and today I was so tightly wound. I desperately wanted to dive into a wedge of brie and a baguette, or maybe an oyster poboy and tater tots – something rich and so filling that I’d be too stuffed to think. Sometimes there are feelings that can only be drowned out with food. I wonder what will happen when and if I’m able to break that cycle. I’ve never managed to break it through habit, alone. I just tamp it down and stick to my daily calories, and only let the monster out to play every couple of weeks or so – one big meal, then it’s back in the cage. Treats here and there don’t work. I’ve never been able to understand how someone could be more happy eating one cookie than an entire bag. I don’t DO moderation, I just can’t. So sooner or later I always crack. It’s just a matter of how. I’m happy that I’ve been able to map out a way to not fall so far, so it’s easier to get back up and start over. It’s still easy to be angry at myself for my weakness, but I keep reminding myself that I’m human, and guilt is a stressor that leads to, well, you guessed it.

Last time I seriously fell off the wagon, I was going to McDonald’s every afternoon after work and picking up two Super Sized Big Mac meals, one with Sprite, one with Diet Coke, just to keep the lady at the window from knowing that I was going to eat both of them. That was a couple years ago, when I lived in Chicago and hated my job so much that I often thought of throwing myself down the stairs in my three-story walk up. If I were to binge here, it would be Popeye’s. It’s right down the street. I often go in to get a three wing combo with a side of red beans and a large side of mashed potatoes & gravy. I guess if I were on a mission to destroy my feelings, I’d get three combos and three sides of mashed potatoes. Don’t worry – I haven’t. I don’t think I ever will. But you never know what you’re capable of until you’re walking out of Popeye’s with a giant bag of fried chicken, right? That’s one of the reasons that I keep trying my best to go veg. There’s nothing that I crave that isn’t an animal product. If I can successfully concentrate on animal cruelty when an animal product crosses my path, I know I’ll never overeat again.

What’s funny is that I know a lot of people who self-medicate with food, but no one ever talks about it. When we hear stories of people with eating disorders, there’s always this “Wow! Imagine that – poor thing…” Meanwhile, we’re getting fatter for a reason, and I’m pretty sure stupidity is only a small part of the problem. How many of us hate our lives? Or love things about our lives, but find the whole picture to be too stressful to contemplate without a bag of cookies and a soft drink in hand? I learned to stuff myself early on, in second grade or so. That’s about when the bullying started. I made myself feel better with snacks, and it didn’t help that no one told me “no” at home when I wanted to eat an entire bag of chips by myself. My dad often did the same, so he just bought more bags of chips so we wouldn’t run out. Luckily, by the time I hit high school I was so busy that I didn’t have time to eat anymore. That and running track made me skinny – though no one had ever taught me that energy and food are related, so I was a terrible athlete. So tired all the time, and no one could really tell me why. Ridiculous, looking back on that stupidity.

In college I was introduced to the concept of a dining hall where I was allowed to visit three times a day and eat as much as I wanted. I lived on frozen yogurt and pasta for the first year of school. After freshman year was up and I decided to move off campus and fend for myself, I quickly slimmed down again. My diet for the next three years was mostly ramen and beer, but during my senior year in school I discovered the secret formula – Diet Coke, Cheetos, Campbell’s Chunky Clam Chowder, and some form of chocolate bar, all eaten in the same sitting. I started to “treat” myself about once a week on that, and didn’t stop until I moved in with The Man in 2008. It was never about actually being hungry. Right now, as I type, I’m having an honest-to-goodness hunger pang that will have to wait until morning to be assuaged. But for most of my life I’ve been beyond full. Dangerously overfed.

I dunno, I’m typing in circles. But like many of my posts, this is written as a way to empty out my brain. It needs it. If I could suction all of the pointless crap out to make room for better, brighter ideas, I believe I would.

Today I went to my fourth acupuncture treatment in as many weeks. Each time before the treatment starts, the acupuncturist asks how I’m feeling, and what’s going on in my life. Today I told her I was wound up, stressed, anxious. She asked where I was holding that energy in my body, and until she asked, I had no idea that it all resided in one place. However, I stopped to think about it and sure enough, everything was in my throat. Once I gave it a second’s thought, I could feel the strain stuffing my throat like cotton gauze, making it hard to breathe and swallow. Maybe that’s what I’m doing when I eat. I’m stuffing food down the same way you’d use a drain snake to clean out a stopped-up drain pipe. But it’s not working. It never has. I need a new approach.

The acupuncturist suggested that maybe there were other ways to approach this feeling. Of course there was acupuncture, itself, but maybe expressing the stress could solve some of the problem. I think that what she really wanted to say, but was too nice to, was that I should be talking it out instead of holding it in. Of course it’s always better to get that energy outside of yourself, kick it around, mold it into a better shape. I’m doing some of that here. Soon, one way or the other, I’ll be at a point where I can say and do more. Not now, though.

Now I’ve just got to concentrate on being good to myself…and staying away from Popeye’s.

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