I had an appointment with my nutritionist yesterday, and because I couldn’t do it on my own, she helped me come up with a list of every good thing I have done since our last visit. It wasn’t an assignment, no break in the conversation or set aside period of time where I had to write. Let’s just go over the month, she said, and if anything comes up you can write it down while we chat.
It’s the sort of self reflection I loathe and avoid, but that’s the beauty in having an absence of options.
I walked every day; I took care of my family when they were sick; I ate breakfast every day; I ate sitting down, by myself, without reading, three times; I went to bed before midnight quite a few times and slept more than 6 hours several nights in a row. And so on, and so on.
I told her this was all fine and dandy, very Kumbaya, but I wanted a diet. In fact, I needed a diet. I told her I felt like a buoy at sea, directionless without the force of something at my back. She said no, absolutely not, too bad-so sad, out of the question. No.
This must be how Nico feels every time he asks me if he can play Space Angry Birds on my phone.
When questioned, I pointed out what to me seemed obvious. I wanted a diet to control the weight piling on me pound by pound. There are days I feel smothered by flesh, like I’m wearing a shirt one size too small and it keeps riding up. I’m convinced that when not completed ignored, everyone is staring at me with a mixture of disapproval, mild disgust, and pity. It’s a such a shame; she has such a pretty face.
Then other days a guy or two will give me an appreciative side-eye and I’ll feel pretty. The days I feel like that are few and far between, especially now that all I wear are those darn compression running pants, but a diet would fix all that–fix everything–once I find the perfect diet.
I didn’t say any of that because despite my exceptional arguing skills, I couldn’t even make myself believe that one.
Besides, she asked me how much I thought gained the last 6 months and I was busy deciding whether I was going to bolster my argument and tell the truth (but be ashamed) or lower the number and save face (but weaken my argument for a diet). I decided to lie and say I gained 5 pounds. I thought it was closer to 7, maybe 8 pounds since I couldn’t remember what I weighed in August.
I asked her for my starting weight and watched her flip slowly through my chart. She didn’t want to give me my weight, that much I could tell, but whether it was because she knew I was planning to lie or because she was afraid of how I was going to respond, I didn’t know.
She told me my weight and looked at me.
I looked back at her and said, Oh.
She asked me if I gained as much as I thought.
No, I said. I lost two pounds.
Imagine that, she said.
I thought I gained 7 pounds, maybe 8, I said.
Because you have distorted thinking, she said.
I thought about the last few months and how I felt every ounce, how my clothes felt different, how my eating felt out of control, how I felt out of control, how I pulled my shirt out compulsively because I feel it was plastered to my belly (still do). I thought about how I know many people think I’m crazy to abandon dieting–that’s it’s an excuse to be lazy and gluttonous.
You know, she said, that’s two pounds in six months. If you are disappointed, you have to realize a fast weight loss isn’t something you can have–not if you want to live life without an eating disorder. Mindful eating produces slow change, it’s as simple as that.
I sat there thinking.
So, she prompted, you lost two pounds when you thought you gained 8 pounds. What do you think about that?
I tried to put into words what those two pounds meant to me, someone who has been on a diet of one kind or another since she was nine years old. Someone who was quite awesome at dieting until only a handful of years ago. To know I had fried zucchini and ice cream and vegetables and protein and carbohydrates and grains and enough water to float a ship just the way I wanted it and the world didn’t end.
Instead I looked up at her and smiled.
Well, I said. Ho-ly shit.
I wasn’t entirely on my game when I wrote today’s post. I forgot to include the name of my nutritionist, something a few of you asked me to share. Of course! I didn’t include her name in my post on Wednesday because I didn’t yet have her permission, but now that I do I can tell you I see Diane Keddy, MS, RD, FAED in Newport Beach. I found her a couple of years ago after a marathon Google search for a nutritionist who specialized in treatment of eating disorders. I’m very happy with her except when she refuses to be manipulated or believe my lies. Then I think she sucks. She’s not cheap (treatment of eating disorders never is) and she makes you do unreasonable things like giving up diets and eating regularly. You’ve been warned.
Eating Mindfully is a book Diane likes. Every time I ask her for a book she feels best represents how people should eat, she recommends this book. I’ve picked it up a dozen times in the store, but have yet worked up the courage to bring it to the register. It’s small and simple and looks a little woo-woo. I’m going to try to read it this month, and I’m thinking I’ll update on how things are going for me–if you are interested–every 1-3 months. I say 1-3 months, but I’m secretly hoping it won’t turn into 10.
I haven’t written in detail about my issues with food and weight in 10 months. Ten months is a long time. I would have bet 4 months had gone by since that post, maybe six, but not ten. I haven’t written because I don’t have anything good to report, no success story. I suppose that’s inaccurate.
In August I started seeing a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. It sucks. It’s expensive. I hate it. I’m glad I’m going. I’ve gained weight since I started seeing her, and she claims everything will be fine. I’m pretty freaking stressed about it until I see her and she talks me down from the ledge. I leave feeling confident until a day or two later when I’m back to thinking about dieting, my weight, how I wish I was thinner/younger/prettier. Every now and then I realize I look fine, that in ten years I’ll look back and think I looked great. Every now and then I’ll read an inspiring piece on body image or see someone my size who is beautiful and confident and I’ll think I can do this. I can be a great role model for my sons and nieces. But that’s only every now and then. Most of the time I avoid cameras and mirrors.
Over a year ago I wrote out my Life List and included a desire to eat vegan for four months and sugar-free/flour-free for one year. For a while I even toyed with the idea of doing both at the same time. I’ve proven how incredibly awesome I am at deciding on a goal and then attacking it with the ferocity of a dog with a bone. (Dry humor.) I knew I could do it once I committed. The problem was, I couldn’t commit.
After that post and before August I consumed so much diet coke (appetite suppressant of choice) and iced coffee that it is a miracle my kidneys didn’t disintegrate like battery acid. I spent little time eating anything substantial; I mainly grazed. I spent even less time sleeping; I mainly read. I didn’t lose a pound.
At my first appointment I told my nutritionist that I needed help, and she agreed. I have a list of things I’m supposed to do. Eat, for starters. Eat meals–at least 3 every day plus snacks. Eat sitting down without distractions. I’ve been able to manage the formers but not the latter. I hate sitting down to eat. I like to eat standing up in the kitchen reading a book. “Of course you do,” she said. “You know exactly what to do to best remove yourself from the experience of eating food.” She’s right. I hate eating. Interestingly enough, I also hate when she’s right.
But even eating and eating regularly and being present while eating regularly is easier than her biggest demand. No more dieting. No more dieting, no more reading about dieting, no more researching various diets, no more thinking, trying, or jumping from diet to diet. No more dieting. Fine, except I have been on a diet since I was 9 years old. She should have asked me to hit Daryl Dixon with a cupid’s arrow. Somehow that seems easier…and infinitely more pleasant.
I told her I didn’t like her idea because I would gain weight. She agreed that I probably would. (WHAT?!) She then went on to say that over time, once I figured out that I wasn’t stocking up before the next diet hit, I would drift back down to my normal weight. When I pointed out the obvious, that my normal weight is nowhere near where I want to be, she told me we’d work on that when I was ready. I said I thought I was pretty damn ready. She said, “Oh, you’re far from ready. If you lose weight before you’re ready, you’ll just gain it back.”
Again with the rightness. If I didn’t like her so much, I would really dislike her.
This is why my 365: Body, Mind, Spirit seems so easy from the outside. There is no need to marvel at my fortitude or say what I’m doing is inspiring. The truth is I’m in hell! Walking every day is nothing compared to this…this joyful misery. I am happy to finally eat things like ice cream (all the time) and fried zucchini (twice) and at the same miserable that I am eating things like ice cream and fried zucchini. At my last appointment she asked me how things were going. I wailed about the fried zucchini. I didn’t want to tell her about it, but I hate lying so I confessed. I was ashamed and told her I didn’t think I was cut out for this non-dieting business.
She made three observations. One, not a day goes by now where I don’t eat breakfast. It is always healthy. In fact, I eat three meals a day, plus snacks. Two, normal eaters will indulge in two orders of friend zucchini over the course of 7 months. They might even have one order per month, though I remain skeptical. Three, in her almost 30 years of practice, I am one of the most self-critical perfectionists she has ever treated.
Five minutes later she couldn’t decide which was worse: that I didn’t see myself as that bad a perfectionist, or that I was perversely happy to be the best at perfectionism. It’s true, I have been blind to the improvements I’ve made. I’m really trying to be better about that, hence the “Mind” component of my 365 project. It’s hard. So, so hard.
“Focus on your progress,” she says. “Progress, not perfection!”
If I hear or type that phrase one more time I’m going to…I don’t know. Scream. Pull my hair out. Maybe focus on my progress. I deleted my diet related goals from my life list, and that’s progress.
One last thing:
Image sources: You know how the internet is. I’m searching for proper attribution and I will update as I find it. In the meantime, know that the images are Marilyn Monroe, Naomi Shimada, Tess Munster, Denise Bidot, Jada Sezer, Laura Wells, and Victoria Manas.
My mother will often toss around the Spanish word empacho after a big meal. It’s a romanticized way to describe indigestion that can kill you if you don’t drown yourself in herbal teas (te digestivo). Empacho can’t really kill you. I know this because, folks, me empache.
I didn’t, really, but I thought I did. One egg, two ounces of ham, and one roll for breakfast was all my stomach needed on Sunday to become really, really angry. Christian Bale angry.
I drank my weight in tea and followed the directions on the Mylanta bottle precisely. I was in the middle of making Summer Harm’s banana bread when I decided this was more than romantic indigestion. I tried unsuccessfully all morning and afternoon to find a doctor who could see me, to no avail. My entire city was suffering from empacho.
So, for the first time in my life–not counting preterm labor with Nicholas–I went to the urgent care. The man triaged ahead of me had a similar complaint, but he lasted two weeks before deciding to see a doctor. I gave him a once over and decided he must have had two eggs, four ounces of ham, and two rolls. I gave the woman crawling out of the bathroom holding her stomach a once over and, after watching her gingerly sit down in the wheelchair, decided she either ate the entire ham, turkey, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie or her appendix was about to burst out of her stomach like a fully gestated alien.
Sidenote: her husband had the most inane grin on his face the entire time. The woman was in excruciating pain and there he was, politician-smile firmly in place. The poor woman was trying to get into her wheelchair without upsetting the alien while he stood beaming at her purse strap like a boy on a first date. I wanted to tell him to go drink some chamomile tea, relax, and put on his game face. Now is not the time to showcase your wide range of crazy.
They ushered me back quickly, and the short of it is I have gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. I rarely drink or take ibuprofen, so they believe it was caused by stress and ham.
“Ham?! I had two ounces, and that’s actually the first time I’ve tried had baked ham.”
“Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Zantac twice per day, Mylanta three times per day, and a bland diet. By Saturday I should feel better. I was still muttering about the injustice of gastritis over 2 ounces of ham when the nurse came in to take my blood pressure. As we waited for the machine to take my reading he listened to me sympathetically and flipped through my chart.
“Well,” he said, “you are about to turn forty. This sort of thing happens as you get older.”
I couldn’t work up the nerve to enter my own comment section until after the boys were in bed last night. Truth be told, not only was I overwhelmed (thank you for being so gentle with me in that post), I was suffering from caffeine and chemical withdrawals. I dozed for a couple of hours in the afternoon once I admitted that my headache and bad mood were going nowhere and doing no one any favors. In short, I was a horrible, nasty, viper of a mom yesterday. Not even a pretty view out the front window could cheer me up. I put myself in time out.
Once I finally had the courage to concentrate on your comments, I found some great resources and recommendations. I’m putting them all together in this post so it’s easier for us to check out. It goes without saying that I would love for you to share in the comments any more sites, books, or articles related to emotional eating. Strange the way life works, by the way. Last week I was working on a post on emotional eating experts to follow on twitter. I never got around to it, but I think that would be a nice addition to this list, too.
Word of Wisdom is a wonderful blog written by a retired engineer with a medical background. I used to read it when he first started blogging (his daughter runs an incredible blog of her own). I don’t know why I stopped reading, but it’s back on the reader again.
The Happiness Project is one every one has at least heard of, probably because of the book of the same name. Lisa mentioned that Rubin makes an interesting distinction between two personality types: abstainers and moderators. The personality distinction would go a long way in explaining why intuitive eating doesn’t work for everyone.
Another Lisa (Lisa in Seattle) recommended The Fat Nutritionist. I read the post she linked to on emotional eating while Mikey and Nico were at swim camp. I went over her blog with more attention to detail last night, and was thrilled to see she cites Ellyn Satter as a personal hero. That’s all I needed to read. In all the research I did on childhood eating disorders this year, Satter is a name that came up again and again as an expert in the field.
I love Geneen Roth, so I was happy to see at least one person recommend her books.
“We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes.”
I love her writing voice, I love what she says, and I love that she still screws up and then writes about it. (She fell victim to Bernie Madoff.) Despite that, I haven’t had luck with her eating plans. But, if I’m being honest, I’ve never really followed them or gave them a shot! Sitting down to eat, eating slowly, allowing yourself to have ice-cream for dinner…all of it like the ramblings of an insane person. Katherine found one of her books in college (Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating, which was retitled Breaking Free From Emotional Eating and is listed below) and believes it changed her life and her relationship with food.
This is How | Augusten Burroughs
Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies, and Fat | Hillel Schwartz
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of America’s Insatiable Appetite | David Kessler, MD
The Happiness Project | Gretchen Rubin
Breaking Free From Emotional Eating | Geneen Roth
Update: Man, my head is still pounding and it’s now the next morning (I wrote this last night). I had to edit this post for 32 grammatical errors in the first sentence alone. I would close with something clever, but I don’t have it in me. Again, please share any great resources in the comments.