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!

Wrestling With Addiction

Hello strangers, it’s been a while. I apologize for that, but I’ve been knee-deep in the murky waters of the Binge Bayou, wrestling the cunning and ferocious predator that is my food addiction. In truth, I instigated the event by assuming I was immune to attacks given I managed to ward them off for an entire year while conducting my experiment.

Shortly after 12 in 12 ended, I trod perilously close to temptation’s edge, provoking the creature within.  I was cocky all of December and January, gobbling a bite of this, and a taste of that.  Despite gaining 7 lbs. in 2 months, I paraded around convinced I could remedy that whenever I wanted. As I marched about, my addiction snaked closer waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Foolishly, I forgot I wasn’t the only one with a bite.

Immediately after my weigh-in on February 1st, I found myself face-to-face with my foe.  I was convinced my addiction wouldn’t dare cross the line, but looking back, how could it not when I taunted it with the most intoxicating bait of all – a savoury blend of my insecurities, guilt, shame, and loneliness. We’ve been in a battle ever since.

I hit my rock bottom Super Bowl weekend.  I went on a food bender like never before.  Addicts isolate in order to drown in their substance of choice, however this time, my solitude sent me straight into a vat of food… Oreos, chips, Nutella, I even had a beer and soju, and I don’t even enjoy alcohol! As I devoured everything in sight, my addiction was devouring me.

It was a bloodbath. By the end of it, I gained an additional 12 lbs. – that’s a total weight gain of 17 lbs. in three months. Impressive in the worst possible way, wouldn’t you say? Sadly, that’s not unusual for me given my history with my weight fluctuations – hence, never being able to achieve an after shot.

Processed with MOLDIV

It’s all a haze now, but I do recall it scared the bejeebers out of me.  It wasn’t the volume of food that I consumed that frightened me. Nor was it that I wasn’t able to stop. What terrified me most, is that I didn’t want to stop.

That last binge started the morning of Saturday, February 6th, and ended on Monday, February 8th at 6:45 PM.  Why 6:45 PM? The Twelve-Step meeting for food addiction started at 7:00 PM, otherwise I would have kept on going.  The only way to stop myself and get the creature off me was to call in the big guns.

When I tested the plan last September, the group would not disclose their official food plan unless I committed to the program beyond the 30 day experiment.  However, they gave me the basics: abstain from flour, wheat, and sugar, and attend regular meetings.  By doing just that, I managed to lose 5.9 lbs that month. Now, committed to the plan, I have a sponsor who acts like a parole officer, ensuring that I don’t get close to the edge again.

Ironically, their plan is similar to The Best Of The Best, the program I designed for myself following my yearlong experiment.  However, this program requires daily check-ins.  I feel stupid doing so… I mean it’s food for heaven’s sake, not crack. I don’t know what I hate more, being an food addict, or admitting to myself that I am one.

This is not how I wanted to live my life. I hoped against all hope that 12 in 12 would cure me of my compulsion to binge, and that one day I’d be able eat these foods in moderation, but I’ve proven I’m not capable of that. For me, one bite leads to 37.

Along with reporting and committing my food to my sponsor, I must do a morning reading and meditation. One of the most sobering quotes I read recently stated, it’s not the second drink (in my case cookie), or the tenth that does the damage. It’s the first.

I have to surrender the idea I can ever eat addictive foods ever again – especially sugar. I felt fantastic when I was off it for 2 months during the experiment, but it didn’t take long to overtake me when I started again.

There’s a type of insanity that comes with any addiction. When I’m in this state, I find I have what I dub ‘split brain’ – half of my brain keeps me in the present so I can function, and the other half is wondering when, and how, I’m going to get my next fix. These last few weeks have been so debilitating that I could not string a sentence together for the blog to save my life. Every time I tried to put pen to paper, I felt like a hypocrite and the words crumbled along with my spirit. I can’t live like this. I have to ask myself, do I want the junk food, or do I want to be sane.

Surrendering to this program, and committing my food to a sponsor on a daily basis, minimizes the crazy making and allows me the space to identify my triggers and learn how to manage them.

This latest experience has taught me that falling is easy, getting up is hard. Thankfully, if you muster the courage to ask for help, there are support groups to help you get up.

For my weekly 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.

Processed with Moldiv

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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Thank you 🙂

12 In 12 Does 12 And 12

It’s no secret I have a love/hate relationship with food. I loooooove sweet, salty, and fat laden treats, and when I partake (okay, okay, when I scarf them down by the paw-full) I hate myself for not exercising any restraint.  Some days I can control myself, but on others I’m like the Energizer Bunny – I keep going and going and going until I wind up in a food coma.

About a decade ago, I experienced extremely stressful circumstances I couldn’t get out of. For a year-and-a-half, I continually stifled my mental and emotional anguish with food, and before I knew it I gained 70 lbs. Only my inner circle knew what I was going through, while others saw the happy Mare I wanted them to see. I painted on a smile when I left the house every morning, and when I returned at the end of the day, I was a wreck. I could barely get the key in the door for the jitters. The only thing that quelled my pain was food.  I would binge anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 calories worth of food in less than an hour. Some days I stood in front of the fridge, coat still on, purse hanging from my arm as I wolfed down my edible painkillers.

I had hit my rock bottom and I knew if I didn’t get help soon, I’d die of a heart attack. I reached out for help, but encountered roadblock after roadblock. As a last resort, I called the hospital to see if they had an eating disorder program.  They did, but they only catered to bulimics and anorexics, because binge eaters, as I was told, were “too hard to treat”. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe the medical community would allow some of us to drown.

One day, after a long, cold winter, I came out of hibernation and bumped into a neighbour I hadn’t seen in months.  Her shock over what I had done to myself was obvious. I expected her to say, “What the hell happened to you?”, but she didn’t.  Instead, she invited me to join her at a 12-Step meeting for food addicts she was going to that evening.  I had heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but I never thought anybody could be addicted to food. I began to cry. She thought she had offended me, but she didn’t…. She was an answer to prayer.  That night I skipped my binge and went to my first meeting.

I was very moved by the vulnerability of the small group of people, who by the way, came in all shapes and sizes, like my petite neighbour. Looking back, I’m surprised my head didn’t fall off for all the nodding I did that night. I recognized myself in everyone’s story. I had found my tribe.

They believe individuals who suffer from the disease of food addiction get physical cravings to certain addictive substances, primarily flour, wheat, and sugar, and the only relief is through abstinence from all foods that contain these ingredients.

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Abstain from flour, wheat, and sugar?! You might as well ask me to cut my right arm off. Abstain means, goodbye, arrivederci, adieu, hasta la vista baby, NOT “until we meet again next Christmas, my beloved panettone”.  NOT, “we got a date next Halloween, candy corn”. It means parting ways FOREVER like a character in a Shakespearean play dying a painful, agonizing death from a dagger thrust in their heart.  Oh well, I figured it was better than dying with a fork jabbed in mine, so I gave it a go.

I followed the program faithfully for the first three months.  Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought. But like any brand new shiny experience that piques my interest, the novelty eventually wore off and I ended up doing what I do best when it comes to dieting – I gave up.

Years went by and I lost and gained on other plans. Then three years ago, I sought out the group only to find out they had disbanded.  I located a similar group and joined them for a while. (I was vegetarian at the time, so it made following their “guide to clean abstinence” challenging as meat is a staple in the program.) Eventually I stopped going there too, not because I found it difficult to follow as a herbivore, but because I resented being there. I didn’t want to label myself as an addict, even though I answered ‘yes’ to every question on the self-assessment tool. I just wanted to be someone who had a problem with moderation.  All I needed was to find the magic pill to fix the all-or-nothing part of me.

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It wasn’t until recently that the medical community began acknowledging the addictive qualities of these foods as well. MRIs have shown that eating high-sugar foods light up the same parts of the brain that are triggered by cocaine or heroin use. In another study, well-fed rats continually crossed an electrified floor to get Froot Loops.  However, these same rats, when hungry would not risk crossing the electrified floor for regular food pellets. Some days I identify with those rats, but I’ve got to focus on the ills associated with sugar in our diet, like decreased immune function, increased risk of diabetes, and how sugar feeds cancer cells.

Addiction is serious, and I don’t want to diminish the good work these groups do by ranking their success according to what I achieve on the scale in just one month. Weight loss is not their focus, recovery is.

“Weight loss is not a goal of this program, but it is a reasonable expectation. Weight gain is a symptom of the disease, and weight loss is a symptom of recovery.”

–Kay Sheppard, Food Addiction; The Body Knows

For the sake of my 12 in 12 experiment, I will follow the protocol, abstain from these addictive ingredients, and begin to work the Steps, which I expect will raise issues that my addiction has wanted me to suppress for over three decades.

You cannot work through the 12-Steps in 30 days; it has to be ongoing. Most importantly, I will respect the anonymity of the various meetings I attend, and will not disclose anything discussed. You can get a sense of how the program works by reading the AA Big Book, and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (12 and 12), the only approved literature for all recovery from addiction programs.

The wonderful thing about 12-Step groups is that they offer support to every suffering addict who desires recovery – there’s no “they’re too hard to treat” here! They know what you’re going through, and they walk alongside you because they are on the same journey… and you’ve gotta love a group that starts and ends every meeting with a prayer!

God,

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Grant me patience with the changes that take time,

An appreciation of all that I have and am,

A tolerance for those with different struggles,

And the strength to get up and try again,

One day at a time.

To learn more about the plan I’ll be following for Month 10, click here.

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost last month when I tested The Hormone Diet, click here.