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.

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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.

Out On A Limb

When I was a teen, I plastered my room with posters of my heartthrobs.  The Bee Gees greeted me every morning with their pearly whites and flowing manes, Gino Vannelli peered into my soul with his smoldering brown eyes, and Erik Estrada was the sexy Latino hottie that rounded out my hunk collection.

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What can I say, I used to like them hairy and wearing just enough spandex to leave nothing to the imagination. However, it was another poster depicting an equally furry 70s icon that garnered the coveted spot over my bed… Meet Baby.

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Right now, I feel like Baby as January just about did me in! It started and ended with a funeral; there was a confirmation; a family dilemma to deal with; a three-day departmental event to plan and execute; my daughter’s engagement, and the frenzied joy that comes with planning a long-distance wedding.  Whew! I feel like I packed a year’s worth of living in 31 days, and regrettably, I consumed a year’s worth of calories to get me through it.

I’m embarrassed to report that I didn’t lose any of the weight I gained over the holidays.  Actually, I added 1.5 lbs more to my cellulite collection. I didn’t keep a food journal over the last few weeks, not because I was too busy, but I grazed day and night, and would have given myself carpal tunnel if I jotted down every morsel I ingested.

It’s no mystery how I gained it, I just don’t know why I continue to do this to myself. Last year’s experiment proved I am quite capable of sticking to a diet – 12 in succession, in fact – so why do I find myself in this familiar, perilous situation where one more bite could be my downfall?

Regardless of all the valuable lessons I learned while testing 12 in 12, I seem to have reactivated my default setting of eat first, deal with the consequences later. Food continues to be how I reward, punish, medicate, pacify, and numb myself.

Just writing this post, I’ve paced back and forth to the fridge half-a-dozen times.  I don’t know what I expect to find in there as I don’t keep junk food in the house anymore. However, when I set foot outside these four-walls, anything goes. Sometime, the calories find me, like when I went to book the venue for my daughter’s wedding last week, and the sales rep offered me a double-chocolate chip cookie as we toured the site. I ate it knowing full well it would not get me any closer to rocking a stunning mother-of-the-bride dress. Or I’m the culprit, like when I arranged the catering for my departmental meetings and ordered enough sugary treats to give everyone diabetes.

I’m not saying I didn’t eat healthy – actually, I prepared several nutritious meals over the last 2 weeks, but I peppered my days with everything the surgeon-general warns you about.

So here I am, holding on for my dear diet life yet again. I have one of two choices: succumb to my binges and come crashing down, or hang in there until I regain my focus and get myself to solid ground.

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For January’s 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.

Much Obliged

When life is peachy, sticking to the diets on my 12 in 12 journey has been a piece of [fat-free] cake. If it’s not, I’m drawn to the fridge like Winnie-the-Pooh is to honey. This week, life was especially tough, and before I knew it, I was swan-diving head first into a reservoir of fat, salt, and sugar laden foods.

Nathan, my daughter’s common-law partner, got into a serious biking accident on Thursday, breaking his right shoulder, and left wrist. He’s scheduled for surgery on Tuesday and has been told he cannot use both his hands for the next two months.

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That’s hard news for anyone to take, but Nathan makes his living as a barista at Starbucks, and as an illustrator (he’s the talented artist behind all the artwork on my blog, including the awesome banner!), so his hands are his money makers. The same day as Nathan’s accident, we got word that my cousin’s 30 year-old son died in his sleep – the cause is still unknown.

While I know binging won’t change anything, I found myself jonesing for an edible hit… chocolate, chips, cookies, heck I would have eaten mayonnaise straight out of the jar if I had any in the house! Food is my go-to drug – I don’t stop eating until whatever is eating me is buried under an avalanche of calories. I used to eat until the physical pain of a full stomach hurt more than the emotional pain I was feeling.

Since I don’t keep junk food in the house anymore, I made a pit stop at the grocery store after driving Chantal and Nathan home from Emerg. I grabbed a large bag of chips and nommed my way through half the bag before I came up for air. But something was different… they weren’t hitting the spot like they used to. I rolled up the bag, put it in the pantry, and went to bed. I tossed and turned for over an hour. I couldn’t stop thinking about Chantal and Nathan. I couldn’t stop thinking about my cousin living every parent’s worst nightmare. And I couldn’t stop thinking about those freaking chips in the pantry. I got out of bed and head to the kitchen. I got the chips and contemplated what it would really cost me if I ate them. After a few moment of playing the staring game with the bag, I dumped the chips in the trash and poured Comet over them just in case. Victory? Nope.

Then on Saturday, my mom and I went to visit the kids and dropped off a meal and a few groceries. Poor sweeties – Nathan, double-slinged was doped up on painkillers. Chantal, was running herself ragged, doing all the household chores and playing nursemaid. On my way home, I got that familiar urge. This time my drug of choice was a pint of Häagen-Dazs. I needed to shoot 20 CCs of the creamy, icy goodness into me STAT. Again, I got half way through, stopped, and eventually poured dishwashing liquid on the remainder.

I thought about my foiled binge attempts and wondered why I couldn’t ‘finish the job.’ Then I realized it was YOUR presence that helped me stop. If I succumbed to a full on binge, I would have to record it in my food journal, and therefore, I wouldn’t be honouring my commitment to the experiment, and to those of you following my blog. Victory? Nope… Awareness, and that’s just as good as a victory!

A few months ago, I heard Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, speak at The Art of Leadership for Women event in Toronto. She talked about the tendencies that influence our habits and claimed we fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
  2. Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense
  3. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
  4. Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

I am a textbook obliger – I keep my promises to other, but not always to myself, so thank you for obliging this obliger! You’ve made an honest woman of me – I’ve been tempted to go back to my cheatin’ ways, but being accountable to you has kept me on the straight and narrow. You’ve saved me from countless empty calories and hours of agonising self-flagellation.   My unhealthy habit has become my unhealthy coping mechanism, but the good news is there are strategies in place once you’re ready to deal with them.

For my Week 32 food journal, click here.

When Life Hands You Strawberries

Pass the calamine… I’ve got the seven month itch. I’ve never stuck to a diet this long, except for the one I did post-breakup years ago. It was easier then – I wasn’t doing it for myself. This time I am, and in all honesty, I often struggle with keeping a promise to myself.

It’s effortless staying on track when everything comes up roses, but when life gets tough, or I feel that I don’t have control, I get into a funk. When that happens, I usually bury my face in the fridge and don’t come out until I’m in a sugar induced stupor. I haven’t been able to do that since starting 12 in 12… well, not to the Olympic caliber I was used to before starting the experiment. Now I only permit myself the occasional ‘controlled mini-binge’ when I feel this way – but sadly, I just get a quarter of the buzz with the same amount of post-binge guilt.

The wonderful thing about this experiment is that I’m identifying my triggers earlier and learning ways to curb the damage. It’s imperative that I do something constructive, before I start getting destructive!

One technique to get out of Funkytown earlier is to ‘fake it till you make it’, so this weekend I hiked up my plus-sized faux Lulu’s, ran a comb through my Italian fro, and set out in search of a calorie-free buzz, which I found in a strawberry patch out in the country. I shared a fun-filled day with my daughter, sister and nieces. We laughed and ate strawberries and sampled fudge (okay, okay, not so calorie-free).

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Then we turned these ruby gems into spreadable joy.

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I’m hopeful that being creative and spending time with people I love will snap me out of the doldrums and give me the motivation and willpower to stay the course.

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To view my Week 30 food journal, click here.

The Odyssey of the Dieting MAREiner

Captain’s Log – HMS Mare, the 21st day of March, in the year of our Lord 2015: I’m starting to drift. I’m several months into my voyage and I don’t see land anymore – there is nothing before me, and nothing behind. Water, water every where.

I cast off at 253.8 poundatitude on December 1st, 2014, and set sail for the distant land located at 140 poundatitude. I knew full well I would encounter choppy waters when I shoved off all those months ago. I’ve attempted this crossing before, but failed to reach the sunny shores of the size 12 utopia I have been assured exists.

My compass indicates I’m veering off course by a few degrees. If I don’t make adjustments soon, I will drift endlessly, or worse yet, get marooned on the desolate island of Failed Attempts yet again.

The waters have been still for one moon cycle. I need a breeze to propel me forward, but the wind slumbers. This ancient MAREiner is forced to row-row-row her diet boat alone, and I am growing weary. Being mindful of every morsel is exhausting, and my motivation is waning. I need to rest, to sleep, perchance to dream of crispy potato chips, soft gooey caramel, and mouth-watering pie a la mode.

Captain’s Log – HMS Mare, the 25th day of March, in the year of our Lord 2015: I hear voices. Beautiful. Haunting. Am I hallucinating? No, I’ve heard them before.

The seductive Sirens surface from the great abyss and soothe me with their bewitching song. They feel neglected and need to be fed. I am their vessel. Their names: One-Bite and It’s-Okay.

This sultry duo have their routine down pat: one tempts, the other pacifies. They’re intoxicating and before I know it, I’ve had one bite of a cookie, but it’s okay because I’ve been good for so long. Then they offer me chocolate covered candied ginger, acceptable for my blood type diet, so it’s okay to have one bite. They propose one bite more, and then another… but it’s okay because a few bites do not a binge make.

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Artwork: Nathan C. Younger (c) Searching For My After

My solitude welcomes their company and condones their lies. This happens for a few days. A week. Going on two. One-Bite doesn’t look as attractive now, but it’s okay, she still looks better than me.

In my sugar induced stupor, I look at my food journal and immediately feel ashamed. As soon as I do, One-Bite and It’s-Okay distract me with popcorn, biscotti, and skinny vanilla lattes. The aroma is enchanting and envelopes me – I swoon and fall under its spell. I notice an albatross circling above me before I fall into a food triggered guilt coma.

When I awake, the temptresses are gone, but I am not alone. They left me with a ravenous companion called, Shame. We must learn to coexist on this journey. I adjust our course and navigate towards the infinite horizon.

Captain’s Log – HMS Mare, the 30th day of March, in the year of our Lord 2015: A single sunbeam pierces through the clouds and dances on the water. Both Shame and I are mesmerized by its buoyant optimism. A whisper of hope is ushered on the awakened breeze and reinvigorates me.

Misery loves company, and madness calls it forth.

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

For Week 17 food journal, click here.