Losing Sixty-Five Pounds Gradually

You can find information on Candlemas at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/ and Valentine’s Day at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/

I wrote this back in 2007. That’s ten years and a lot of healing ago.

A couple of months ago, my doctor told me that my blood sugars were inching up and recommended I eat lower on the glycemic index. This means eating foods that release their nutrients slowly, rather than flooding the body and causing a quick rise in blood sugar.

Choosing appropriate foods is not rocket science. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit, beans, meat, and fish. Cook only with olive oil. Reduced fat dairy products and mayonnaise. Avoid white rice and flour – brown rice and whole wheat flour is fine. Avoid fried foods and stuff made by huge conglomerates that care about their profits but not their customers’ health.

Intellectually, it’s real easy and I know exactly what to do. On an emotional level, though, it’s a different story. I just don’t understand eating. I don’t get that what I do this minute will have consequences in an hour or a day or a week. Perhaps that’s because my sense of time is so distorted that things don’t seem connected. If I plant a package of morning glory seeds, it doesn’t feel like I will have twenty magnificent morning glory seedlings in a few weeks. It feels like I’ve just wasted $2.19 by burying those little brown thingies.

My favorite comfort foods are all bad for me. Pasta, white bread with butter, donuts, potato chips, Coke. My little parts want all of those at the same meal, and lots of them.

If I get anxious, I tend to eat quickly, thoughtlessly, and therefore over-eat. If I get really upset, I just stop eating entirely. It isn’t a decision: I have no appetite and just can’t wrap my mind around the idea of putting stuff in my mouth and swallowing it. I get all freaked out by the idea that I am hollow inside. Weird, eh?

I know that many people without abuse histories have some of these same attitudes. I also know that many, many abuse survivors have far more severe eating problems than I do, often to the point of being life-threatening. But these things still bug me on a daily basis. My attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around food all feel choppy and fragmented, rather than integrated into a smoothly working process.

I’m also reminded on a daily (minutely?) basis of another result of my abuse, a life-long depression. Back in the days of tricyclics I put on eighty pounds that I have not yet been able to take off. I try to think of my extra weight as a battle scar and to remind myself I won the battle against suicide, for I am still here. Maybe I can win the battle with food, too. Of course I would rather not have battle scars – I would happily settle for a nice medal that I could wear on special occasions.

I’m proud of myself, though, because I don’t throw up my hands and say, “It’s useless. I’ll never change.” I keep on trying, meal after meal, supermarket run after supermarket run. I’m not a fanatic about eating healthily, for life without chocolate is not a happy thought, but I keep moving in that direction. It is paying off, too, because my blood sugars are normal now. I’m happy, for I sure wouldn’t deal well with diabetes.

It may be this way with most parts of healing. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, baby step by baby step. You don’t have to understand completely, you don’t have to completely believe in what you are doing. You just have to decide it’s worth a try and then keep plugging away at it. It’s not dramatic – but it’s doable.

So what was the process like? If I remember right, I didn’t lose very much the first few years. I know for sure I didn’t make a lot of big changes all at once. I just sort of chipped away at it.

The first thing I tackled was potato chips. I told myself I would eat fewer, not that I would never have another potato chip in my life. The less I ate, the less I craved them. Today I have them once or twice a year at somebody else’s house. They are just as delicious as ever, but the next day I have forgotten all about them.

The next project, sugar, was much more ambitious. It’s one thing to eat fewer potato chips but more crispy, salty, yummy tortilla chips. It’s another thing all together to eat less ice cream, fewer donuts, fewer M&M’s, and even, believe it or not, less tomato ketchup. I had to start reading labels seriously, for who knew high fructose corn syrup was added to so many products?

I just found out that loving sugar is not my fault, it is because of some bugs in my digestive system that live on sugar and ask for it. The more I eat, the more they reproduce, and so there are lots more of the little buggers telling my brain to eat sugar. When there are very few of them, their pleas are much fainter and therefore easier to ignore. How smart of my unconscious to decide to work on all products containing sugar, not just one or two!

For several months I would stop concentrating on eating less of things and just add healthy stuff to my meals. After a while I developed a taste for spinach and broccoli. Now I have a salad every single night. My physical therapist says, “Do less of what feels bad and more of what feels good.” I don’t think of pasta and sourdough bread as feeling bad, but I get the idea.

Another thing has helped a great deal. I had my knee replaced and, with less pain, I can move more easily. Comfort foods aren’t as enticing. I started going to the gym and now, after a few years, I really enjoy it. Exercise apparently doesn’t make you lose weight by itself, but it makes you healthier and helps keep the weight off. And since muscle weighs more than fat, I can stay at the same weight but be thinner.

It also makes me more conscious of my body. I am beginning to see how moving one muscle affects another one and this makes me feel less fragmented physically. Somehow, I have gained some idea of how eating works. I now understand that there are, indeed, causes and effects. If I consistently pig out, I will gain weight. If I eat healthy most of the time and only pig out occasionally, I will be fine. What is really neat is that getting in touch with the way eating affects my body has taken no conscious effort. It just happened.

I love looking back and seeing where those baby steps have taken me!

After Christmas 2016

Sorry, I thought I had posted this. I think I was more upset than I thought!

Christmas Day was sort of okay. I wanted to spend it alone, but I had made a foam-board dollhouse room for a seven-year-old, and I wanted to be there for the opening. It was nice: choice of a wood floor or a wall-to-wall carpeted floor, a door that opened, and a window. I included some of the furniture I didn’t treasure: a basic wooden bed, a bureau, a toy chest with some toys, a red wagon, a red bicycle, and a really gaudy folding screen. A starter set, really.

I like making things for people and I like being pretty sure I am giving a present that they will like, not something I think they ought to like. I knew in advance that the payment for this moment of pleasure was sitting around and talking to the adults. I like them all individually, but as a group I found it overwhelming.

When it came time for the opening of presents, the kid was overwhelmed, too, and escaped to a nice quiet room with a television. So I snuck back home.

I had my heart set on having dim sum, and I got that wish. Like most granted wishes, it wasn’t quite perfect. The restaurant I wanted to go to was closed. The one I ended up at had only a few dim sum on the menu and so I couldn’t get anything exotic, but they were good.

All in all, it was fine. Nothing traumatic, no flashbacks, no scenes, no people being mean to each other with a smile on their face. Not nearly as nice as last year, which I spent with my good friend amid the breath-taking beauty of red rocks in Utah. But boy, would I have been thrilled to have had such a pleasant Christmas when I was a child.

The next few days were like normal days; the gym, the pool, tons of email, a nice big Dungeness crab, a little house work. My car amused itself by throwing a fit. All the alarm lights came on at once but it cleared up the moment the car got to the garage. It wouldn’t misbehave for the mechanics and the diagnostics didn’t show anything. I figure it’s either the electrical system or the computer in the car, and either one will be expensive down the road. They assured me it’s safe to drive, but I am a little nervous.

Now New Year’s Eve is coming up. I feel somewhat apprehensive, and I think that is a flashback to a flashback. The original event was icky things that happened on New Year’s Eve. A big cocktail party that lasted until midnight and then, after the last Old Lang Syne was sung, off to a ritual. For years, the flashbacks consisted of a vague feeling that things were not all right.

Then, in 1999, I was filled with terror. I was sure that Satanists around the world would wreck havoc in any and every way they could think of. Bombs, large bombs. Poisoning the water supplies. Messing up the Internet and computer systems so that the electricity, banks, and phones were knocked out. Assassinations. And many more things I could not even imagine.

My therapist reminded me that I had lived through flashbacks before but I could not believe that this was only a flashback. I was convinced that it was a rational fear, given what I knew.

So I went to a big chain liquor store and bought two expensive jars of caviar. One was for New Year’s Eve, which I spend safely at home alone. If I was killed during the night, I wouldn’t be there to mind spending the extra money. And if I lived, I would have it for breakfast. Best breakfast I have ever had.

I bet some of you can relate. And I bet everybody remembers that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Guess they aren’t as powerful as they led me to believe!!!!!!

I Hate Uncertainty

I will probably will write about the post-Christmas period in the next blog. But no promises!

Here are two pages about my personal feelings about Christmas:
 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/christmas-plans/ (The images disappeared — I don’t know why.)

https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/ephemeral-equilibrium-another-christmas/

This page is about the source of winter holiday customs. I wrote about Yule and the winter solstice but a great deal applies to Christmas, too. https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/

Whether it’s personal or on a big scale, uncertainty makes me nervous. I know intellectually that things can change in an instant, any instant, and I will be absolutely unprepared, but I wrap that horrible idea in a cozy blanket of denial. Gets me through the day.

There is massive uncertainty about the direction America will take. I pass on that: nothing much I can do. I will just endeavor to be a decent human being, giving of myself when I can, being as productive as I can. And trying to be more aware, loving, and grateful each day.

On a personal level, I have learned that I can sometimes diminish uncertainty by becoming more informed about whatever it is that is bothering me. Sometimes, not always. Sometimes things just get convoluted.

The Internet is awesome for gathering information! I remember the old days when I had to go to the library. I always ended up surfing the stacks and I spent lots of time sitting on the floor reading books that had nothing to do with whatever I was trying to research. Fond memories – the dusty smell of books, old leather bindings, the joy of coming across a wonderful mis-filed book. But it took up a lot of time, much more than surfing the Internet, even with the distraction of crosswords and cat videos.

I especially hate uncertainty about medical matters. I find that if I have a name for something, I calm right down. But when the doctor doesn’t know or won’t tell me, I am on my own. I can tell the difference from a legitimate website and misinformation or attempts to sell me some magic product that will make me all well again. It’s hard to do, though, because I’m anxious and it is time-consuming.

I’ve just done a good job of avoiding what I thought I wanted to talk about.

Deep breath. Recently I have noticed that I am having trouble with my short-term memory. For example, I put dinner on the table and sit down to eat. But I haven’t brought a fork. So I get up and go to the kitchen to get a fork. But when I am in the kitchen, I have no idea what I came to get. It takes a long moment to come back to me. This can happen a dozen times a day.

I was like that when I first remembered stuff and I was totally overwhelmed. I knew my behavior and the remembering were connected, so I spent exactly zero minutes wondering if I was getting demented. But this time I think it has nothing to do with my RA background. Of course I might be wrong, but it just doesn’t feel the same. Feels more like being stoned. And, of course, I have been reading recently about “mild cognitive difficulties” being a pre-clinical symptom of Alzheimer’s. It apparently shows up about ten years before Alzheimer’s sets in, so I have some time to prepare.

I’ve noticed a couple of other changes. One of the side-effects of the anti-depressant I take, Wellbutrin, is trouble remembering the right word for something. It’s been there for quite a few years but it got a good deal worse about three or four months ago. I stop in the middle of a sentence, frozen because I can’t remember the word or a substitute for it. I can see the object if it is a noun, and I have an idea of what it is I want to express if it’s a verb or adjective, but there are no words associated with the image or idea. If I am writing, I just put XXX where the word should be. By the next day I can fill in the blank.

I know this is aphasia because my mother became progressively more aphasic before she died. It was from TICs — transient ischemic attacks, mini strokes, when the brain is deprived of oxygen for a short time. But her arteries were all clogged up, and mine are clear. So that’s not the explanation.

(Huh. I just thought that this is the linguistic version of not knowing which object I wanted from the kitchen.)

Another problem is that my fine-motor coordination is shot. Can’t thread a needle, even though I can see the thread and the eye of the needle. My typing is horrible because my fingers don’t land where I want them to. It often takes me as long to clean up a sentence as it did to write it. Very annoying, given the amount of writing I do. It’s also embarrassing when I am rushed and miss some mistakes.

I’m not as worried about clumsiness being a sign of early dementia because I have never read anything about it’s being associated with dementia. But who knows? Maybe I just need to do more surfing.

Now that I have put my fears down in writing and told y’all, it’s unlikely I can keep the denial going. Time to get sensible. My first step will be trying to find some self-administered screening tests for cognitive decline. If things don’t look rosy, I will tell my doctor, who is absolutely wonderful. I can’t think further than that.

Thanks, everybody, for listening.