White Rabbit

In 2010, I went on a Caribbean cruise with my buddy Dave and his family. I was the solo Canadian among six Brits, and despite being picked on for not enunciating my “t’s”, I had a wonderful time with my friends. It was a time of restoration, exploration, and celebration. Dave and his wife Jo were celebrating their 25th anniversary, and Dave’s mum, Margaret, was celebrating her 80th birthday.

Margaret is your typical English gran – proper and delicate, except when the band started to play! Boy, that woman can cut a rug! She was the first on the dance floor, and the last one off, and if there’s any such thing as a dance-hangover, Margaret had one every morning.

She was the last to join us for breakfast one day, looking a bit rough.  She clearly over did it the night before – it was Disco night on the Lido Deck and she out hustled, bumped, and YMCAed us all, including Juan, the cruise dance instructor, who was in his 20s! I think she broke him.

“Good morning Margaret. How are you feeling?” I asked.  The petite woman didn’t utter a word until she took a sip of her tea, and then said, “White rabbit.”

I cocked my head wondering if I heard her correctly, but no one batted an eye. Then she said it again.  Holy sh*t, was this poor woman having a stroke? Then, one by one, the others at the table followed suit.

“White rabbit.”

“White rabbit.”

“White rabbit.”

What the?!

Margaret went on to explain that uttering “white rabbit” first thing in the morning, on the first of the month, is meant to bring good luck for the rest of the month.  Oooookaaaay… whatever floats your boat. My culture is not without its superstitions, so who am I to judge.

I completely forgot about Margaret’s tradition until I started the blog two years ago, when I decided that the first of the month would be my weigh-in day. Before stepping on the scale, I’d whisper, “white rabbit” under my breath, praying that the weight loss gods would be kind.  For the most part they were, but over the last four months, I dreaded the first of the month, the scale, and that freaking white rabbit, which I’ve been wanting to fricassee ever since!

My post is late because I’ve been procrastinating disclosing this month’s numbers. Last month I got away without reporting my stats because I was on vacation. I secretly hoped that having an extra month would buy me time to get back on track, but my addiction has a grip on me stronger than ever before. Every time I step on the scale I’m shocked at how the needle defies gravity and continues to skyrocket toward the stratosphere of my worst nightmares! How is it humanly possible to gain at this rate? I know, evil elves must be secretly sewing lead into the hem of my jeans while I sleep! But I weigh-in naked, so there goes that theory.

You are either in recovery or relapse if you are an addict. I am not in recovery. I know it, and so does EVERYBODY else.  A fellow in program who hasn’t seen me in a while asked how I was doing. When I said I was struggling, she scanned me from head to toe, focusing on my saddlebags of truth and said, “I can see that”. Ouch! But what am I pissed off at? Her having eyeballs, or me shoveling food down my throat the same way they do to fatten a duck to make foie gras?

Unlike most addictions, I can’t hide mine, so there’s no use putting this off any longer – it’s not like anybody who interacts with me face-to-face can’t see I’m in serious relapse – but I’m embarrassed to reveal just how off the beam I’ve been to those of you who follow me via the blog. It’s equally as embarrassing asking to “borrow” the size 10, 12, and 14 clothes I passed on to my friend since I can’t get into the size 8 clothes in my closet (lucky for me, she’s pregnant and won’t have use for them until after the baby is born!).

They say in program the only way to be successful is to be honest. I have not been honest with my sponsor, my fellows, or myself. I know lying about eating isn’t one of the top ten no-no’s on Moses’ tablets, but when it comes to my mental, emotional, and physical health, I have to be honest, otherwise I can’t get the help I need.

I’m dejected, but not defeated. I hear testimonies of hope from fellows in program who’ve been in longer periods of relapse, and have not only reclaimed their recovery, but are maintaining it, and it all started with being honest. So, here’s the truth of where I am in my illness:

  • I’m currently in its clutches.
  • I’ve been eating in secret until I my hips, butt, and thighs outed me.
  • I’ve eaten to the point of blackout – something I’ve never experience before, proving that addiction is progressive.
  • I have not been living a weighed and measured life. I’m still an all or nothing gal and either jump all in, or don’t even try. When my life is out of balance, so is my eating.
  • I’ve been pissed off at my Higher Power… but I’m coming to see that I’m treating Him like a genie expecting my prayers and wishes to be granted. When they don’t I spite Him, and the rest of the world by eating. It’s an “I’ll show you, I’ll kill me!” sort of dance I’ve been doing with the Almighty.
  • My addiction isn’t just physical, it’s driven my mental and emotional state, especially when I’m not living in the present… my heart has either been wallowing in yesterday’s regret and remorse; or my head is spiraling in tomorrow’s dread and worry. I know I can’t control the past or the future, but I sure have been trying to suppress the feelings they bring up with food.

They say the truth will set you free (and so will letting go of the Doritos). So here I go again, admitting my powerlessness over my drug and the reality of my current state.  *Sigh*

Until the next white rabbit hops along, I wish you all peace and serenity.

To find out how much I gained over the last two months, click here… brace yourself, it’ll be a shocker!

Thank you once again to the talented Nathan C. Younger for his awesome illustrations!

Life Off The Plate

I’m so proud of the women my daughters have become – they’re bright, compassionate, creative, and funny as heck. However, it’s their sense of wonder and curiosity I admire most. My eldest, a seasoned globetrotter, has made a career out of her passion for travel, and my youngest, a self-proclaimed hermit, got out of her shell and taught in South Korea for two years. I have no idea where they got their adventurous spirit from, given that their father never gets off the couch, and I’m the ‘play-it-safe’ mom who won’t touch risk with a ten foot pole.

I love listening to their travel stories, and live vicariously through their photos and postcards that I proudly hang on my fridge. They represent an accomplishment that allows them to say, “been there, done that”. Exploring this great, big, beautiful world has enriched and transformed their lives in so many ways. Sure, I’ve fantasized about taking off from reality and doing my own version of Eat, Pray, Love, but my responsibilities, pocketbook, and germ-a-phobia get in the way of making it happen. Lucky for me, not all journeys require a boarding pass and vats of hand sanitizer.

Two years ago today, at a whopping 253.8 lbs, I took my My Last Before photo and vowed to scour the ends of the earth (okay, Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Area) to find my right-sized body in the hopes of snapping my first ever after photo.

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I took the scenic route during my first year, testing 12 diets in 12 months. I either consulted the diet gurus in person, or followed their protocols as prescribed in their books.  When the experiment ended, I decided to create my own plan, which I dubbed The Best of The Best. Well, that blew up in my face! In two short months, I regained 20 of the 58 lbs it took me a year to lose! I was at risk of regaining all the weight in half the time it took me to lose it! Talk about epic fail! Or was it?

Wrong turns and detours often take us to places we wouldn’t discover otherwise, and it was at that very junction I found my solution – a 12-step program that not only dealt with my problem with the scale, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of food addiction. The program offers an abundant food plan, but it’s the support and structure that continues to transform me from the inside out.  I have no doubt I’ll snap that after photo soon!

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When I started the blog, my hope was to get to 140 lbs…. Well, I’m just a few pounds away from that, so it’s time to tweak that goal to what I now know is attainable for me: 125 lbs.  I am certain that I will not only get there, but maintain it, providing I continue to work the program.  Sooooo, that means the journey continues!!!

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Interestingly, the high point of this journey hasn’t been taking progress photos along the way, but rather what happened in the meantime.

A lot of living and learning has taken place over the past two years. Before embarking on this quest, my primary travel destination was to and from the fridge.  My frequent binge miles only earned me saddlebags and a ton of regret. Somewhere along the way, I stopped living on my plate and discovered a delicious life off it. I now have an insatiable appetite for calorie-free experiences, and as a result, I too can look back and say, “been there, done that!” rather than, “I shoulda, coulda, woulda” which was my mantra before I booked my passage on this wild and crazy ride two years ago.

Best of all, I’ve met wonderful people who have helped me along the way and I’m extremely grateful to those of you who read and support me via the blog – I’m beginning to view my entries as postcards of my journey – I hope you’ve enjoyed receiving them : )

For those of you pondering a similar quest, I encourage you to take action – you don’t have to see your destination to know that it’s there, you just have to take the first step.

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  • Weight –107.4 lbs
  • Chest -10.25 inches
  • Waist -11 inches
  • Hips -18.5 inches
  • Wrist -0.50 inches
  • Forearm -2 inches

A big thank you to Jennifer Wood of JAG True Beauty for taking my ‘Last Before’, my ‘Halfway There’, and ‘Almost There’ photos. Jen, I’m booking you now for my After!

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost last month, click here.

Just For Today

Anniversaries, birthdays, New Year’s day etc., all measure time, and prompt me to pause and reflect on the growth and changes, if any, that have transpired from one year to the next.

Today is the second anniversary of launching the blog – I can’t believe how time has flown by, and yet in the 365 days times 2 that have been lived, loved, learned, and lamented in, subtle changes have occurred that have a very different Mare clicking away at the keyboard.

In my inaugural post titled ‘Before and Before’ I shared a bit of my lifelong struggle with my weight, and how I hoped to undergo a physical transformation, so one day I would add my first ever ‘after’ photo in my album full of befores.

Despite my success on the scale since starting my journey, my struggle continues. However, it’s the way I’ve learned to handle my problem that has changed. Like most, I would have loved an instant solution and results, but taking the scenic route in search of my after these last 2 years has taught me more about who I am and what makes me tick, or in my case, what leads me to the fridge.

Number 1 – I am a food addict. I hate it. I don’t want to be one, but when I accept that fact and put my recovery first, I am successful not only on the scale, but mentally and emotionally as well. By doing so, I have the serenity that comes from accepting the things I cannot change, and finding the courage to change the things I can. The trick is knowing the difference.

Number 2 – I must weigh and measure my life as well as my food. I have a tendency to overextend myself and it eventually leads to burnout. Unfortunately, I lost sight of that knowledge last month and turned to my hardcore drugs of choice – chips and chocolate. My life had become unmanageable in the days leading up to my daughter’s wedding, and I gave in to my go-to stress reliever, instead of reaching out for support. Even happy stress can trigger a break for an addict if they don’t regain balance.

Number 3 – I have to be careful that solitude doesn’t lead to isolation. I’m typing this post up at my sister’s cottage – a place where I come to be reset and rejuvenated. This is the good kind of alone. The dangerous alone is what I did when I lost control just days before the wedding. When the pressure escalated, I isolated and downed the foods that numbed me for decades, instead of reaching out to my community of fellow addicts for help. What scared me about my recent episode was how voracious I went at my drug despite being clean for over 8 months.

Number 4 – As an addict, time means nothing! You can be abstinent for decades and think you’ve got your disease under control, but as they say in the program, “while you’re working on your recovery, your addiction is in the parking lot doing pushups”. Ironically, it was in a parking lot, isolated in my car, that I broke my abstinence. So, while I mark the anniversary of starting this blog, I can recognize how far I’ve come, but I can never forget that the only day that matters in my recovery is today.

Wherever this post meets you today, my hope is that you feel encouraged to take a step toward your own change. It can be found one day at a time.

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The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost last month, click here.

Tick Tock

Time is a funny thing, when you’re a kid, or in pain, or alone, it seems to drag on forever. However, if you’re juggling a full-time job, a part-time job, three twelve-step meetings a week, planning a trip, a bridal shower, AND a wedding like I am, time seems to slip through your fingers like wet soap in the shower!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted sooner, but once I get used to my new schedule I hope to be back to updating the blog regularly once again.  That said, do you know what day it is? It is the first of the month and that means weigh-in time!  But before I get to that, it’s also my daughter’s birthday! She turned 30 today! Where did the time go?! She was my precious little angel face a moment ago, and now she’s this incredibly talented, kind, loving young woman! I love her more than an endless supply of Nutella!

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Speaking of Nutella, guess who hasn’t had any since the epic binge to end all binges two months ago? Moi! Honest to goodness, the Twelve-Step program has been an answer to prayer! Not only is the weight dropping off, but my mental and emotional state around food has never been better.  I heard a saying at one of the meetings last week that really hit home… “You come for the vanity, but you stay for the sanity.”

The structure may be rigid, but it’s really helping. My favourite part of the program is the early morning meditation followed by 30-minutes of quiet time.  It helps me to slow things down and spend time with God (my Higher Power). The practice is teaching me to live ONE DAY AT A TIME, which is keeping me sane with all of life’s demands.  In the past, burying my head in the fridge was my go to for comfort, and I’ve got to say, I like the view out here a lot better!

Look to this day

For my food journals, click here.

For my monthly measure up results, click here.

Giving Thanks For Total Recall

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I spent a lovely holiday weekend with family and friends eating, drinking, and being merry. This was the first gobble-gobble fest that I did not binge, or have a single dessert.

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You’re probably wondering how I managed that when there were sweets a plenty tempting me everywhere I turned, like these lovely homemade pies my daughter baked.

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Easy… I created a new game called, “Total Recall”, which I’ve been playing since I removed refined sugar from my diet in last month’s plan.

Since I don’t want to open the floodgates of my food addiction hell, my shoulder angel coaches me through the sugary temptation my shoulder devil (now bound and gagged), would have otherwise enticed me with. My angelic coach starts by asking if I remember what the treat du jour tastes like. I always do, and then bring to mind the multitude of times I’ve gorged on it in the past. I meditate on that for a moment, and then take a phantom bite in my mind, vividly recalling every detail – the texture, the flavour, and even the high I would get. The beauty of this exercise is that I don’t ingest a single calorie, and there isn’t a trace of the guilt aftertaste that always followed a binge.

I’m pleased to report my sugar-free Thanksgiving wasn’t any less enjoyable – actually, I left the festivities proud of myself knowing I fed my promise to nourish my mind, body, and spirit, and not my addiction, and for that, I am truly thankful.

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For my Week 45 food journal, click here.

Sugar Showdown

Anne Lamott, one of my favourite writers once said, “Trying to reason with an addict is like trying to blow out a light bulb.”   I am that light bulb. Food is my drug, and no matter how many times people tried to reason with me throughout the years, they were wasting their breath. If I needed a fix, there was no stopping me. However, by doing this yearlong experiment (and especially now that I’m testing the 12-Step Food Addict plan), my light bulb is beginning to flicker.

I’ve been off refined sugar for 28 days now, and aside from the first week when I suffered withdrawal symptoms, I haven’t missed it much. Yes, it has been difficult to turn down special treats, like melt in your mouth (and live on your thighs) fudge, or decadent designer Torrone imported from Europe, or scrumptious beignets bathed in salted caramel sauce, but the more I say no, the easier it gets.

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Truth be told, the benefits have been worth giving it up.  I’m sleeping better, I have more energy, I haven’t had a single hot flash in 2 weeks, and best of all, my taste buds have awakened from their Rip Van Winklesque slumber. I can taste the subtleties in food again! I never thought I’d say this, but my sweet tooth is being satisfied with nature’s candy… fruit!

Natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables are healthier, and offer a whole lot of benefits like vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre, whereas refined sugars have no nutritional value, and high consumption can be toxic to our systems.

The World Health Organization recommends we eat no more than 25g of sugar per day. The reality is the average American consumes 126g per day! That’s not a typo my friends.  Even though you’re mindful of your diet, these sugars are added to your food during manufacturing. They inject it in the unlikeliest places, like McDonald’s Hot ‘N Spicy McChicken sandwich with 22g! That’s your daily allotment in one meal.  Or 32g in a bottle of Vitamin Water. WATER!!!

It’s no wonder we’re addicted, sugar is laced in just about every processed food we eat. The sad thing is we parents are our children’s first dealer. How many times have we offered them a ‘treat’ for being good?  What we’ve actually done is produced the next generation of junkies.

Attending 12-Step meetings has opened my eyes to the poison refined sugar really is. Everyone who has given it up has not only lost weight (some over 150 lbs!), but improved their health and quality of life.

I don’t know how long I can resist refined sugar – my hope is forever because (1) there isn’t any nutritional value in it, and (2) it’s the gateway back to my food addiction hell.

The more I learn the bitter truth about the refined sweet stuff, the more I’m ready to fasten my holster, strap on my spurs, and declare a SUGAR SHOWDOWN – eeeeeeha!

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So, whad’ya say partner… want to join my posse and cut down, or eliminate our health’s most wanted bad guy?

To view my Week 43 food journal, click here.

Solo Act

There’s no lovelier place to enjoy the final dog days of summer than up at a cottage. I don’t have one, but my sister does, and she graciously offered it to me so I could have a week of solitude to write.  This isn’t the first occasion I’ve been up here on my own… pretty brave for a gal who used to sleep with a baseball bat next to her bed after her divorce! Each time I come here I get cozy and set up a workstation on the table overlooking the lake.

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Evenings are breathtaking up here.  And at night, it gets pitch dark, with only speckles of light flickering like birthday candles from the cottages across the lake.  However, the real glory is when you look up at the night sky, celestial jewels twinkling as far as the eye can see!

So here I sit, in seclusion, clicking away at the keys, every now and again gazing out the window at the happy cottagers zooming about in their motorboats, or skipping past on their sea-doos. But there is always one sight that intrigues me every time I come up here….  Who lives on that island smack dab in the middle of the lake?

Look at the photo again… you can see it just left of my laptop. Can’t spot it?  How about now as I zoom in from the deck, and again with an aerial view from Google Maps? They say that no man is an island, but clearly, you can buy one.

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You might be asking what this has to do with the food plan I’m following this month. Actually, isolation has everything do with addiction. All the material on 12-Step programs state that ‘addiction is a disease of isolation’, and I can attest to this firsthand.

Whenever one of my triggers sets off a cycle of bingeing, I go into isolation mode, leaving me to self-medicate with the drug of my choice in secret. I back out of social engagements, screen calls, or don’t return them, all so that I can wallow in the shame of my disease. It’s times like these, I wish I had my own island too.

The last thing I want to do is go out and be surrounded by people who I fear are judging the outside me, without knowing what’s happening with inside me. I also fear losing control around certain foods when eating in public.  Once, someone thought they could teach me a lesson in moderation by jabbing my hand with a fork as I reached out for a second helping. I became a hermit after that experience and didn’t come out for 3 months… 15 lbs. heavier.

Then there is the isolation that comes from not attending your 12-Step meetings – a clear sign of a relapse, or at least heading towards one. Members know the signs all too well, after all, they’ve been there, done that. That’s why it’s recommended to get a Sponsor – someone who REALLY knows what you’re going through, and takes a personal interest in your recovery WITHOUT judgement, or jabbing forks.

“Isolation is a process of gradually, eliminating recovery-related actions.”  

Kay Sheppard, From the First Bite, A Complete Guide to Recovery from Food Addiction

But how does one susceptible to retreating to the solitary island of self-abuse, trust not only the process of recovery (in my case, abstinence from flour, wheat, and sugar), but expose one’s innermost wounds and weaknesses to fellow addicts, as well?

Apparently, the first step is a doozy… admitting your powerlessness over your substance of choice, but once you take it, you won’t be alone.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”

Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.

Isolation Piece - Sidebar - Journal

To view my Week 41 food journal, click here.

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