Someone who used to read this blog back as early as 2005 left a comment on a post I wrote on Babble about Finding A Skin That Fits (I’d love it if you read that piece, and then came back from the rest of this post!), pointing out my frequent forays into weight loss attempts, and asked what’s different this time. I believe her comment was meant kindly, although it mixes in my head a bit with all the anonymous trollish people out there telling me, “You’ve failed before, you’ll fail again, because you will never actually change.” Which is obviously wildly supportive and helpful, thanks!
But it’s made me think about what’s different this time, if anything. Has enough changed to let me stay on this path and reach my goal and then stay there? The answer, I think, is yes.
First of all, on the immediate front, my mother is healthy again. After watching her struggle for more than three years, she’s on a mad path to health (did you know she goes to the gym with me several times a week?), and barring disaster, we aren’t likely to face another debilitating illness situation for a few years (my mom is, after all, only 64, and across the board healthy). My attempts to lose weight in these last three years were stymied by the stress of dealing with her illnesses (not saying it’s her fault – at all – but the combination of time, stress, and comfort eating made weight loss impossible).
On a far more global front, for the first time in my life I have acknowledged and treated my mental health issues. I’ve never attempted weight loss while on this group of drugs, a group that has allowed me to avoid wild mood swings that have always been part of my life. My therapist refuses to label me as Bipolar 2, but her partner had no such hesitation, and it’s clear that I need a combination of both antidepressants and mood stabilizers to avoid both mild mania, crushing lows, and mixed behavior. For many years I used chemical elements that weren’t the right fit to treat these issues: first alcohol, then drugs, then food. I’ve been on this particular regiment now for about eighteen months, and it’s been a pleasant change. While I still have mild issues with PMS, it’s NOTHING like it used to get. Thank the gods.
Another big change, of course, is the lifting of the chronic migraines. Last week when Philly was trapped in a low pressure system for about ten days the headaches returned a bit (mild compared to how they used to be, though) and I found myself marveling that I’d managed to do a goddamned thing the entire eight years I fought the migraines (if you remember, they started when I was pregnant with the boys). I also know, now, that exercising can fight off the headaches about 80% of the time and I can avoid taking medication (and, therefore, avoid the risk of rebound).
Another issue I’ve struggled with in the past when it came to weight loss and exercise is obsessive behavior. When I was about two years sober I began going to a nutritionist and a recovery program for weight issues, and instead of finding healing and a healthier relationship with food I ended up with incredible rigidity. I weighed and measured everything and broke down if a spec of white flour touched my meal (I wasn’t eating sugar or white flour). Yes, I lost the weight, but I was utterly miserable. If I went to a party and there was a cake in the room, I couldn’t relax and enjoy the time with friends; instead, my entire being was focused on the damned cake and how badly I wanted it and how hard I was going to have to fight myself to not eat it. That wasn’t sanity.
I’m not sure if it’s the medication or just maturing a bit in recovery, but I don’t feel like that anymore. I don’t eat wheat now because I know it generally makes me feel bloated and gassy and tired, but I don’t crucify myself if I have some, nor do I forbid it. If I want some damn cake, I eat a small piece and that’s that.
Lastly, I have bulimic tendencies. Before sobriety, I was a typical eat-til-stuffed-then-vomit bulimic, but I had my last episode of that at about five months sober. However, I’ve struggled with the exercise end of bulimia, where I exercise madly just so I can eat more. My workouts would grow and grow until I was spending 3-4 hours at the gym each time I went; again, it was obsessive and unhealthy. This time, while I’ve increased the intensity and tone of my workouts as I’ve gotten into better shape, I’ve felt no urge to add time to the workout – even WITH the tool I’m using to track food (My Fitness Pal) giving me more calories to eat when I exercise. The reason this was a problem (it doesn’t seem like extra exercise would be a problem, does it?) is that, eventually, I hit a wall where I’ve pushed it too hard and I don’t want to go – or I find life events that mean I can only go for an hour and that doesn’t feel “worth it.” Eventually, the cycle ends and I’m sitting on the couch. Right now, I don’t see that happening, and I plan to stay aware. Because an hour is always worth it.
This has been an interesting thing to think about, so thanks anonymous commenter and former reader for asking the question. It’s definitely something to keep in mind.
EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to mention this! The other big change, compared to the last seven years or so, is that I’ve let go of the idea of intuitive eating as a way to lose weight. I’ve gone back to the old standard – calorie counting – and have recognized that I need to moderate portions if I want to be successful. Doh! Very important change.
I also have to share this note Tori wrote yesterday. In case I ever think I’m doing parenting wrong, I’m going to look at this.