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!

Anorexia and Bulimia

Upcoming ritual holidays – 5/21 full moon: 5/30 Memorial Day: 6/6 D-Day, the invasion of France in WW II (Nazi): 6/19 Fathers’ Day (US and Canada): 6/20 is both a full moon and the summer solstice

Prior posts on eating disorders – 4/10 Eating Disorders (Introduction): 4/20 Over-Eating: 5/10 Ritual Abuse Issues and Eating Disorders.

Let’s get oriented with some definitions:

Anorexia: “lack of appetite.” Modern Latin, from the Greek “anorexia:” the prefix “a,” without, and “orexis,” appetite, desire. First used in the 1590s. Anorexia nervosa was coined by William Gull in 1873 to mean “emaciation as a result of severe emotional disturbance.”
Paraphrased from the Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com

Bulimia: “compulsive overeating usually followed by purging” Modern Latin, from the Greek “boulimia:” “ravenous hunger” (literally “ox-hunger”) from the prefix bou, (from “bous” ox) and “limos” hunger. The word entered English as bulimy in the medical sense in the late 14th century.
Paraphrased from the Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com

Both these words are usually used to denote an eating disorder, but they can also be symptoms of other conditions. Anorexia can be a side effect of chemotherapy or extreme emotional distress. Prader-Willi disease is present at birth and makes children eat uncontrollably because they always feel hungry. Bulimia can be caused by poorly controlled blood sugar in diabetics.

Anorexia
Anorexia is the most dangerous of the eating disorders, with more fatalities than any other psychiatric condition. It is frightening for friends and family – and sometimes doctors and therapists – who feel helpless to do anything for the person with the condition and are panicked that the person may die.

Basically, it is an overwhelming obsession with food coupled with a distorted body image and an intense fear of becoming fat. The person believes they are fat when they actually are seriously underweight or emaciated. This misperception sets off a vicious cycle, increasing the resolve to diet stringently and strengthening the obsession.

Food is often categorized as “good” or “bad” and only very small amounts of “good” foods are allowed. Food may be weighed and charts of calories, grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats logged meticulously. Some people attempt to manage their weight by depriving themselves of nourishment, while others turn to purging or excessive exercise. Either form of anorexia takes over the person’s life.

Anorexia is the most common cause of death among women aged 15 to 24, and affects between 0.5% and 3% of the general population. Men make up about 25% of anorexics. Some studies say that between 5% and 20% of anorexics will die of the condition, sometimes years after they have started eating normally.

Anorexia takes a huge toll on the body. Bone loss can occur after only six months from too much cortisol (the stress hormone), low levels of estrogen, and not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Men experience bone loss from all the same factors, except that they have low testosterone, rather than low estrogen. Bone loss is irreversible without medications.

Heart damage occurs quickly, too. Starving yourself burns not only fat, but muscle tissue, and the heart is a muscle. The heart gets smaller and weaker, and, again, the harm is irreversible. The immune system is weaker, and so you are more apt to get infections, which are harder to fight off because you have a low white cell count.

And then there is lack of menstrual periods, thinning hair, feeling cold and tired, and messed up blood electrolytes.

Any deviation from the self-imposed dietary rules causes anxiety, shame, and guilt. There is also intense shame because of the misperception of being overweight or obese. Feeling fat may lead to wearing clothes that completely cover the body, avoiding social situations, and self-loathing.

Sometimes people can’t tolerate constant starvation and break down and binge. Sometimes binges occur periodically, sometimes anorexia is replaced by bulimia. Both disorders are horrible to live with, narrowing your world and sucking all pleasure out of life.

Bulimia
Bulimia is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by efforts to eliminate the food eaten (vomiting, laxatives, fasting, etc.) This isn’t a now-and-then occurrence, like at Thanksgiving; it takes place on average twice weekly for three months or more.

There are two types of bulimia; purging and non-purging. With the purging kind, the person tries to eliminate all the calories by induced vomiting, laxatives, or enemas. Non-purging bulimics compensate for their binges by fasting or excessive exercise.

The prevalence of bulimia is said to be 2% to 3% of the general population and can be as high as 10% in certain groups, such as college-aged women. It occurs in 2.3% of white women but in only 0.4% of black women – probably because the studies are done on white middle-class women. Males have not been studied as much, but it appears that about a quarter of bulimics are men.

It is relatively easy to keep bulimia a secret. Many people are of normal weight, or even overweight or obese, so an eating disorder never crosses family or friends’ minds. Both binging and purging is done in private, as both are accompanied by intense guilt and shame at losing control. And the longer it goes on, the lower a person’s self-esteem, the greater the feelings of shame, and the more effort is put into keeping it a secret.

Bulimia may be an effort to contain PTSD, anxiety, or clinical depression, and the rate of substance abuse is high, especially of diet pills and stimulants. About 30% of bulimics are also alcoholic, and other forms of self-injury, such as cutting, are often seen.

Like anorexia, the damage bulimia can do is extensive. If ipacac, which is toxic to the heart, is used to induce vomiting, heart failure may result. Vomiting can erode enamel on the teeth, make the salivary glands swell visibly, and make small bleeding tears in the esophagus. About half of bulimics stop menstruating or have irregular periods.

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, alone or with antidepressants, is recommended for treatment of bulimia. If the binging and purging has been going on for a long time or occurs frequently, it is harder to treat and there are more relapses. The Twelve Step program, Over-Eaters Anonymous, welcomes anorexics and bulimics as well as over-eaters – it should really be called Eating Disorders Anonymous.

Finally, the eating disorders bibliography at http://ra-info.org/for-researchers/bibliographies/eating-disorders/ lists resources. The website Something Fishy at http://www.something-fishy.org/ is especially helpful.

Ritual Abuse Issues and Eating Disorders

New Book! Jade Miller’s “Attachment and Dissociation: A Survivor’s Analysis” in e-book form. About intergenerational dysfunctional attachment and Jade’s healing process. (Jade is the author of “Dear Little Ones.”)  http://www.amazon.com/Attachment-Dissociation-Survivors-Jade-Miller-ebook/dp/B01DPX76YQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460054531&sr=1-3&keywords=jade+miller

The eating disorders series started on 4/10, 2016 (Eating disorders and genetics,) and continued on 4/20, 2-16 (Over-eating.) The issues discussed in this section apply to anorexia and bulimia as well as over-eating.

Hard as these conditions are for people who were not abused as children, they are far harder for those of us who had to live through ritual abuse. Genetic factors and social pressure, of course, apply to all in our society.

Parents can set their kids up for eating disorders in lots of different ways. Many parents equate food with love, and since they love their kids, they over-feed them or give them candy and other goodies to make their children feel appreciated. Some cult parents act this way because they love as well as abuse their kids; others because they were raised this way and they continue the tradition without thinking. In any event, these children often grow up turning to childhood comfort foods whenever they are hurting. Which, if you are a ritual abuse survivor, is pretty much all the time.

Abusers also use food as a punishment or torture. Children can be deprived of food for a long time and then made to eat (even force-fed) rich foods, which will make them very sick. Most Satanic cults drink the blood or eat the bodies of sacrifices and often make children eat things which were never meant to be eaten, like excrement. They can also be starved for days because it is easier to program a child who is food-deprived and sleep-deprived.

Many adult survivors buy large amount of food or hoard food in reaction to having been deprived as children. Others are afraid of many foods, especially those that are unfamiliar or that remind them, consciously or unconsciously, of “bad” foods used in rituals, in training, or as torture.

It makes total sense that ritual abuse survivors often cannot eat meat, for example, and may even have trouble seeing others eat meat. Remember, though, that the opposite can occur, and some survivors will eat raw meat. This is a form of “acting out” – re-enacting a part of the repressed ritual, probably in an effort to trigger the memory and gain more information about the past. It’s not uncommon to swing between the two extremes, acting out and total avoidance. Being drawn to food can be the basis for over-eating and being repelled by food can be the basis for anorexia.

Then there is the issue of alters. Different alters may have very different attitudes, beliefs, and needs around food. If one alter wants to stop eating in an effort to disappear entirely and another alter wants to gain more and more weight in an effort to become sexually unattractive there is going to be chaos inside and out. And if one of those alters is out most of the time, the other will be seething in the background trying to figure out how to sabotage the alter in control.

Some therapists do not know a great deal about dissociation. They may believe that the eating disorder must be under control before dealing with the DID. That means that no communication between alters is established and no agreements are made inside before working on the eating disorder. This can easily lead to a battle for control between the survivor and the therapist and between the survivor’s inside people.

Even if therapists are familiar with working with alters, they may be frightened by the severity of the eating disorder, get flustered, and make mistakes. Or they may be working in a setting where they cannot make all their own decisions or where others higher up do not believe in RA, MC, or DID. There are all sorts of problems that can arise in therapy that have nothing to do with the client but which have great impact.

(There is another issue which I almost forgot because it is my issue. Survivors are often prescribed meds which cause weight gain which is very difficult to take off. I had eighty extra pounds thanks to various antidepressants. (With much effort, I have lost sixty of those pounds – hooray!) I can assure you that the meds did not increase my appetite because of the speed with which I gained weight. They wrecked havoc on my metabolism. This doesn’t belong in this post because it isn’t really an eating disorder but I thought I would mention it anyway.)

Next will be a discussion of anorexia and bulimia and then on ways of dealing with the external –  the actual eating disorder – and the internal – the relationships between alters who experienced the parts of the abuse that led to the eating disorder. As always, I could use all the help I can get, so if you have ideas, please be generous and leave a comment.