Declaration of Hostilities

So last night descended into another binge (sorry, Julie Ramage but I didn’t see your very helpful advice until after the event, so didn’t document it).  It was pretty nasty.

Nonetheless, I got on the scales this morning and discovered I am now 3lbs heavier than when I began trying to lose weight.

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The weird thing is, I wasn’t angry with myself.  I felt sorry for myself, like a friend stood next to myself wanting to give comfort.

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I think that’s really positive.

It was though a real lightbulb moment. It made me really take seriously how much trouble I’m in.

I think I have two problems – sugar addiction and binge eating disorder.  I think they’ve happened through a complex blend of physical and psychological factors – physically, I think my gut is over-run with sugar-loving microbes (see my post Guts, Ice Cream & Love) and the only possible response to that is

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I’m gonna torch the little b*stards.  We’re talking a scorched earth policy here.  I refuse to feed them their candy anymore and if they start complaining, the bear gets busy until every last little one is a charred cinder.  One day, when all this is long behind me and it’s safe, I’ll let 85% dark chocolate and fruit back into my life.  But that’s it.  No more sugar, ever.

As to the psychological, writing my post yesterday Poisons & Plan B really brought home to me, in a real face-palm moment, that the seeds of my binge eating were sown in my childhood.  Sometimes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and categorically refusing to let a child have the edible jewels that other children routinely enjoy makes them glitter all the more brilliantly.

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As Middle Aged Warrior pointed out to me, society really skews our relationship with food, endowing it with qualities of celebration, love and approval.  From childhood, we are rewarded with food.

reward

As to the binge eating, I replied to a comment by Julie Ramage yesterday and it really made me think – she asked how I felt when I was bingeing.  I replied that, amongst other things, it was great to be feeding unfettered whatever it was inside me that was so hungry.

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And that’s a question I really need to answer.  What is it inside me that is so hungry?

I think also that once again, I was taken in by the flirtatious winking of a celebrity diet.  Every modern woman is surrounded and serenaded by the host of celebrity diets that prop up this billion dollar industry, and which flaunt their charms to us to seduce us;  like sirens luring us close with their soft song, secretly smiling when we break ourselves on their rocks, because that means their billion dollar industry still stands safe, because we’ll need it to fix us even more badly now.

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I had given alot of thought to my dietary life, behaviours and experiences, and put together a plan that covered as wide a range of foods as possible – because I knew I had a propensity to binge, which had lain dormant for a decade but which I sensed was reawakening.  I reckoned that if I fed myself a very wide range of foods the sense of deprivation wouldn’t be sufficient to properly awaken the Bingemonster, and he might decide to just roll over and go back to sleep.   However, I found myself distracted by the shiny promise of surefire weight loss (see my post Elle Macpherson made me do it, Miss) rather than trusting in my own wisdom about my own body.  I sleepwalked into the worst thing for a binger – a diet that discourages a whole family of foods (pretty much all animal products).  Exactly what I had been intending to avoid.  So I’m abandoning my Alkaline Experiment, and going back to the diet I’d worked out for myself:  Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end).

How prescient of me that bracketed subtitle was.

I’m going to arm myself with as many psychological weapons as I can while I’m unravelling the strands of my sugar addiction & disordered eating.  The first new addition to my arsenal will be watching the TED talk Julie Ramage very helpfully recommended to me, Judson Brewer’s  A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit  because that might just be the Kalashnikov I’ve needed.

Lock ‘n’ load, Ladies, lock ‘n’ load.

 

 

Poisons & Plan B

I’ve long noticed that everybody has their poison, their thing that will kill them if they don’t keep it in check – be it alcohol, nicotine, drugs or food.  I’ve never known anyone who doesn’t – except, curiously, my father.  He gave up smoking 40 a day the first time of trying, cold turkey.  I’ve rarely seen him drink, the idea of him on drugs is like Donald Trump doing Modern Dance and he was an astonishingly healthy eater way before there was such a thing.

I was born in 1964 and throughout my childhood we were not allowed fizzy drinks, chips, white bread or sugar.  WTF?  I grew up in the UK into the 1970s.  Those things were the national diet!  Believe me, I felt it keenly.  Occasionally when he was absent, my mother would bring a sliced white loaf home and we five children would each squirrel away a few slices.  I used to hide mine under my pillow and steal mouthfuls of bliss over the next couple of days.  The only exception to the no-junk rule were birthdays, Easter and Christmas;   and I looked forward far more to the opening of the solitary tin of Quality Street than to my present.  To this day, Christmas to me is a tin of Quality Street.

It might or might not be that being forbidden these foods is the reason why all his children have become overeaters;  except for me, who didn’t struggle with my weight – until now that is.

It is almost certainly the reason that I have never had a filling;  but I don’t think the consolation of never having had a filling is sufficient prize to make up for a childhood devoid of  pleasure.

My Dad would always keep a packet of digestive biscuits in the cupboard and we knew never, ever to touch them.  For his birthday, we were allowed to buy him a bar of dark chocolate, which it would take him a fortnight or so to consume in disinterested squares.

A few years ago I commented in passing that he didn’t have a sweet tooth.  He erupted, not with anger but with feeling.  He had a terrible sweet tooth.  That’s why he never touched sugar, except to allow himself 2 digestive biscuits every day;   and what’s more, he savoured every square of that delicious dark chocolate to make it last as long as possible.  He didn’t start with the sugar because he knew if he did, he’d never stop.

So it turns out that even my father has his poison.

My mother was a huge overeater, and consequently obese, though not morbidly.  She was on a permanent diet but never lost a pound.  She would deprive herself and then binge.  Sound familiar?  She was addicted particularly to sugar, and consistent with her genetic inheritance (her family is riddled with Type 2 Diabetes) she developed the T2D that killed her at the age of 64.  She didn’t really drink and she never smoked a cigarette in her life.  Her poison was food.

My eldest brother was killed by his alcoholism.  He was quite ludicrously beloved by the Gods, 6.2″ tall with blue-grey eyes and sunkissed blonde hair.  He fufilled his ambition of being a navy pilot (he flew jets off aircraft carriers) by coming top of his intake at training college in 3 out of 4 areas, and so at his passing out was invited to sit at the top table with Princess Anne.  He was married to a beautiful solicitor.  And then he began drinking.  Fifteen years later he died alone, single, unemployed in a council flat and it was a few weeks before anyone realised.  Alcohol was his poison.

It broke my heart in a way that it will never unbreak, and I have been teetotal ever since.  If I’m being honest though, I was never a big drinker and it was no particular hardship to walk away from alcohol.  That was not my poison.

Despite being a student in Manchester from 1984 – 1987 (UK readers will remember that as Madchester, which makes what I’m about to say all the more astonishing) I never touched drugs.  I had absolutely no interest in them, not then, not now, not never.  I moved in the same circles as people whose names you’d know and drugs were all around me.  I was offered them continually and continually refused them.  I just didn’t want to know.   Drugs were simply not my poison either.

And yet from a very young age, I fell in love with nicotine and – except for when I was pregnant – smoked heavily and continuously.  I’ll be honest.  I loved smoking.  I loved every mouthful of every cigarette.  Never was a cigarette smoked unloved.  I loved the ritual, the taste, the sensation, the action.  But, recognising that I’d had a good run with my beloved tobacco but it couldn’t last for ever, I gave up cigarettes for an ecigarette 3 years ago with minimal discomfort and actually came to prefer it.  It was, it turned out, not the delivery vehicle that was important to me;  I didn’t care how I got my nicotine, so long as I got it.  Nicotine was my poison.

However, when I injured my jaw joint and trigeminal nerve last year, taking in nicotine caused the nerve to jolt and send my scalp and facial muscles into spasm;  which was both painful and frightening.  It was as if someone had applied a very powerful hoover to my head and was trying to suck my face off.  Under the circumstances, giving up nicotine was not so hard.

I am now realising though that while nicotine was my poison of choice, I always had a back up plan, a Plan B.  Another available poison.  Another way to kill myself.

Food.

 

Putting Myself Into Special Measures

In the UK, when a school is found to be continuously failing, it is put into Special Measures.

I am putting myself into Special Measures.  I simply don’t know what to do anymore.  I’ve woken feeling sick and self-loathing from yet another binge.  I don’t know why I am bingeing so badly, so continuously.  There are many factors in my life right now I could attribute it to, but I think it’s something deeper.

Anyway, I have drawn up a 2 week meal plan and my Special Measures dictate that I will eat what is on the plan and nothing else.  I must not – yes, must not – deviate from it.  Clearly, there is nothing with sugar or wheat on it, just healthy meals I love.  The plan is that not having to think about food, because it’s all laid out for me, will allow me to stop obsessing about food and get on with my life;  and that when the urge to binge or eat those trigger foods comes, I’ll say to myself

untitled-1_0 ‘You cannot eat it because it’s not on the plan’.

Of course, I’m sure I will often rebel against myself, but I intend to suppress rebellion with draconian measures if need be.  I do not want to have to turn myself into an Academy (little joke only UK readers will get there).

But joking aside, this really can’t go on.  I cannot go on feeling this sick, this defeated, this hopeless, this trapped, this horrible.

I’ll post every day as to how I’m getting on, and frankly I’ll welcome all the support I can get.

The Sunshine Blogger Award – Paying It Forward

So as I’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the endlessly warm, witty and wise Middle Aged Warrior (thank you, thank you, thank you!), I now need to nominate 11 other bloggers who, to accept the award, need to answer my 11 questions, and then nominate 11 other bloggers who must answer their questions.

So my 11 nominated blogs are –

Dr Perry’s Make It Ultra – I’m not a great fan of inspirational quotes or endless positivity.  Sometimes life just sucks and you can stick your lemons where no light ever shines.  However, Dr Perry’s brand of inspirational I love because it works in real life, not in Unicorn land.  And his articles on psychology are similarly grounded.

Mliae’s lifexperimentblog is a wonderfully warm, random and engaging blog I look forward to new posts from because they always contain something I want to hear.

Fatgirlonalongwalk is where I go when I want to be astonished.  This is real life inspirational.  When I’m being a pussy and need to be reminded to just get over it, Fatgirl (and I love that she’s reclaimed the word) effortlessly pulls me up by my bootlaces.  The only word that will do to describe this blog is ‘gutsy’.  Go girl.

Lipstick, but sad because her tagline is “I put on my lipstick no matter what my mood and do my best!” and that is all any of us can do.  She talks bravely and with brutal honesty about mental illness and the world needs more of that.

If I’m looking for great recipe ideas, I go to Cooking without limits – but before I can read the recipes I have to spend a few minutes gazing at the site itself.  It truly is a thing of beauty.

The Molecular Biologist takes science and makes it understandable to us, and that is one invaluable service.

Waking Up On The Wrong Side of 50 because I did that too and it’s a whole new world on this side – and it’s good to know that no one else has a guidebook either, but we’re gonna make it anyway because we’re women and women do tough.

Paleo Marine because when I’m flagging and I need a little military-style discipline, I turn here for some frank, tough but fair talking.

Talking about menopause because she wants to stop the silence around menopause, and quite right too.  I have never understand the weirdness around menopause that demands silence so as not to make people uncomfortable.  WTF?  That’s like being weird about the fact fingernails grow.  Get over it!

Samantha Nieves first caught my attention by blogging a post entitled “Postcards from the Wilderness of Loneliness”.  Anyone who will speak honestly about how it is to be human has my attention.  You don’t have to be religious to feel warmed by the kindness and insight Samantha brings.

Abbie Q – and then she flew because I just love how that tagline rhymes.  Her site is a mixture of food and thoughts and humour and advice;  and as a personal trainer she actually knows a thing or two I would like to.

So, those are my nominations.  And here are the 11 questions they need to answer in order to accept the award –

  1. How do you cope with disappointment?
  2. Do you believe in an afterlife?
  3. What is your number one blogging tip?
  4. Which book changed your life and why?
  5. Which film would you have liked to be in and why?
  6. What food do you love waaaay more than it loves you?
  7. Cat or dog and why?
  8. Mountain climbing or caving and why?
  9. How does your online persona differ from your real life persona?
  10. Who is your surprising celebrity crush?
  11. Who were you in high school?

I’m looking forward to reading your answers, and thanks for the entertainment, insight and inspiration you’ve already given me!

The Sunshine Blogger Award

The very lovely and wonderful Middle Aged Warrior has nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award – so thank you MAW for making me positively blush with pleasure!

As required before I can accept it, here are my answers to your 11 Questions –

1. If you’ve learned anything as you’ve got older, what have you learned? That everyone else is so busy thinking how rubbish they are, they’ve no energy left over to think about how rubbish I am.  All that wasted worrying what people thought of me!

And what I’d like to say to all the young women, my own daughter included, is that if a man (or substitute “woman” and “she” as appropriate) wants you, he will find you.  Ask, but don’t beg.  The man who makes you cry isn’t worth your tears, the man who is worth your tears won’t make you cry.

And finally, that money is not for buying things, it’s value is in giving you power in situations you find yourself in and in making you safe – something you only learn when you really have none.

2. Why do you blog and what got you started? I started because I had got trapped in a deprivation-binge cycle and couldn’t shift the weight that’d caused me to gain;   and I thought a blog would help me to drag myself out of this ditch.  And it has.  But I continue blogging because I just love writing and I love reading and I love connecting.  I’m astonished that I can just dip my toe into the world of blogging and find a dazzling array of people, of women, of misfits and bloggers too cool for words in it, and I can access their thoughts with a touch of my fingers.  Astounding.

3. What’s your confidence boosting go-to outfit? A Scarf.  I have always loved scarves, ever since I first saw Bob Dylan’s nonchalantly-slung-over-one-shoulder specimen on the front cover of Blonde on Blonde.  I probably need a walk-in-wardrobe just to display all my scarves for choosing.  When I go to Europe, I always come back with more and exhausted with all that sighing over the effortlessly cool scarves casually and winningly knotted around flawless necks.

4. What’s the best comment you’ve ever received on your blog? That you had nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award!

5. What makes you laugh? Dark, dark humour.  Teenagers.  Strangely, my ex-husband.  And I actually mean that as a compliment.

6. What’s the last thing to happen that made you lose your temper? Wow.  I genuinely can’t actually remember the last time I lost my temper.  It’s all that working in a high school and cultivating Professional Patience!

7. Write a line of poetry you can remember off by heart – no googling! And aye, in the very temple of delight, veil’d Melancholy has her sovereign shrine.   (I think that’s how Keats punctuated it!  I can still remember that from A Levels!)

8. What song ALWAYS gets you on the dance floor?  None.  I never, ever dance. And that’s a true story.

9. If you had an unexpected relative or friend turn up to Christmas and you had to find them a present – what would you give them? A scarf.  I always have a few around I haven’t worn yet, and some that would even suit a man.

10. What’s your guilty pleasure? Boston, More Than A Feeling / Deep Purple, Black Knight / AC/DC, Whole Lotta Rosie.

11. Tell me a joke…

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Interrupting Sheep

Interrupting sh….

Baaaaa.

 

I will now think about my 11 nominees and the 11 questions I’d like them to answer.

Thanks again, MAW!

Guts, Ice Cream & Love

Guts are, I’ve noticed, the upcoming Heroes of weight loss.  The theory is that your microbiome (the mixture of bacteria in your intestines) can massively affect your physical and even your mental health;  and also prevent or encourage weight loss.  Essentially in the field of your intestines (think of yourself as a farmer and your beneficial bacteria to be your crops, and your disruptive bacteria to be your weeds), you want to be cultivating beneficial bacteria and eliminating disruptive bacteria.

Apparently, amongst other things, your intestinal bacteria will even affect how many calories you take from certain foods.  If you have unwittingly cultivated sugar-loving bacteria, they will hassle you to feed them sugar, draw – as they are designed to do – maximum calories from it and so flourish. They will then scream ever more loudly for sugar, you will be ever more inclined to give it to them, they will grow ever more powerful and take over ever more of your intestinal wall.  It’s a bit like a superhero movie with you as the Batfarmer trying to defeat the Sugarjoker.

Think about that.  So two people eat a doughnut and one person takes 450 calories from it and the other 350 calories.  How unfair is that?

Anyway, there’s alot more to be learned and understood about guts and how they affect us, so as an intrepid nutritional explorer I’ve been reading Eve Kalinik’s ‘Be Good To Your Gut’, which is mercifully free of Gloopish silliness and full of good sense.

She sets out a Weed, Seed and Feed programme – the Weed phase eliminates the disruptive bacteria and gives your gut a well-earned rest;  the Seed phase feeds your intestines with the kinds of bacteria you want in there and the Feed phase provides them with what they need to flourish to triumph over the disruptive bacteria.

So I’m adding her wisdom to my alkaline, low glycemic, time-restricted eating diet.  I’m also adding ice cream.

Now here’s a thing.  I don’t particularly like ice cream.  There have been times in my life it has been a pleasant garnish to a warm apple pie, but it really isn’t something that calls to me.  I can’t remember the last time I ate it and I have never bought any for myself.  However, I recently watched on Channel 4 an episode of How To Lose Weight Well in which a woman pleasurably lost almost 3 stone on the Ice Cream Diet.  The idea of the Ice Cream Diet is that a daily scoop of ice cream is a compulsory part of your 1500 calories per day.  This will apparently help banish cravings and feelings of deprivation, enabling you to stick to it for the long haul.

Because binge eating is something I struggle with I thought, what if I used that technique to break the deprivation-binge-deprivation cycle I’m stuck in?  So I’ve started adding a small compulsory treat to my daily diet and, actually, I think it is helping keep the Bingemonster at bay.

Or it could be that writing my post on here The Hell of Binge Eating made a difference. Maybe writing about my shame and sense of defeat so nakedly drew the venom from the Bingemonster’s fangs.

But whichever it is, I’m feeling all warm ‘n’ slushy so I just wanted to say – thank you everybody!

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The Hell of Binge Eating

There have been times in my life when I seem to have conquered the demon of Binge Eating.  I’ve eaten normally and moderately for years at a time.  I think I’ve licked it and those dark days are behind me.  And then, quietly at first but with increasing vigour, it reawakes, like the Kraken – and that’s an apt metaphor, because it is a monster.  A raging, furious, insatiable, driven monster.

I’m an intelligent, self-disciplined woman.  I gave up alcohol over a decade ago, and haven’t touched a drop since.  I gave up smoking three years ago and moved to an e-cigarette, which I gave up six months ago.  At the same time I gave up caffeine.  And trust me, no one at the time would have recognised me without a mug  of steaming, darkest black coffee in my hand – and now I don’t even drink decaffeinated tea because of the trace of caffeine in it.  I can exert tremendous willpower when I have to.

I’m aware at the moment that the monster is back and so I’ve put in place various tools and strategies for when he starts his pursuit again, to deflect and then defeat him.  I am prepared.

 

Only the tools and strategies I’m supposed to turn to when the monster wakes don’t so much as not work as fail to exist.  Something happens in my brain and there is simply nothing else but the rage to eat – afterwards I remember my tools and strategies and kick myself for not having turned to them.  But the truth is, the monster has so overwhelmed my brain that I don’t even remember I had any tools or strategies.

And so I go out in the rain and dark to my local Spar, and I come home with a big bag of Milky Buttons and 3 big bags of Maltesers.  The cinema-sized ones.  And I sit and I eat one after the other without pausing.

I don’t feel sick.  I don’t feel full.  What I do feel like is eating more.  I then raid the kitchen and eat anything that will satisfy my urge and I eat it – bread, frozen cherries, cereal, nuts, biscuits.  Then I raid my slightly-concerned 18 year old’s stash for anything resembling sugar or wheat.  Only when everything that fits the bill has been eaten do I stop.  My monster believes in a scorched earth policy.

I don’t sleep well that night because of all the sugar, and the next day I wake and I remember and I groan.  I’ve done it again.  My belly is distended and unhappy.  My whole body feels wretched, toxified, ill.  I’ll have to drag myself around all day, with a stinking food hangover, just waiting for that night when I can get back to bed and sleep it off and feel a bit human again the next day.  That’s all bad – but what’s worse is the self-loathing.  The shame.  That I’ve let myself down – and everyone around me – again.  I am worthless. I am greedy.  I am undisciplined.  I have no self-control.  I wear my shame visibly in the wobble of my thighs.  I know I can’t currently fit into 90% of my wardrobe and I hope I don’t bump into anyone I know outside of immediate family because I don’t want to see their surprised eyebrows when they clock me.  When they see that perenially-slim A has got fat.

That thing in your stomach that says “I’m full now, stop eating’ – I don’t have that.  I have no idea how I can ingest so much in one sitting.  Thousands of calories.  And when I get into that place I can do it every night for a week, a month, three months.

All I can do is try to understand this monster, the better to know how to finally defeat it, once and for all.