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Progress Report

Two weeks ago I wrote a rather despondent post bemoaning my relationship with food.  As always, shining the light on my fears and troubles diminishes them.  The comments I received turned my negativity around almost instantaneously, and the support from my “in person” friends was the icing on the cake (the cake, of course, being gluten-free, sugar-free, and calorie-free).   I came to find out, once again, that I am indeed not alone in my troubling thoughts, and that, sharing the load truly lessens the burden.

One friend and I, who both have a trip booked for roughly the same time frame, have concocted a plan:  let’s grab some of the most effective tools from the recovery toolbox with which I have been blessed, and put them to work in constructing a healthier lifestyle.  Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Goal:  Take the next six weeks, and make small, incremental changes to our current diet and fitness lifestyle, and see if we can’t feel and look better in time for our trips.

Okay, so there’s the big picture goal, how will the next 6 weeks play out?  One of the biggest “tricks” to my success in recovery, especially in the early days, was that I had a to-do list of four things, and only four things, that I needed to accomplish in any given day, and if I went to bed having accomplished them, the day was a success.  I’ve written about this ad nauseam, no need to revisit the specifics.  So what I hope to do is use the same blueprint for improving my health.  I took a long, hard look (cringing A LOT) at all my bad habits, and I concluded that, to start, I could commit to 4 things each and every day, and I was (am) hopeful that in time, I can add/modify/eliminate as needed to continue on a positive path.  But for now, forget everything else, and commit to the following:

1.  Eliminate the 4 worst foods in my current diet that lead to binge eating (again using the number because it worked so effectively in the past for me)

2.  Commit to replacement foods that are healthier than existing foods

3.  20 minutes of dedicated physical activity

4.  Communication/progress reports each evening (She has her own four, and reciprocates with her own progress reports)

That is it.  Here’s what I am NOT going to do:  beat myself up over anything else that I do or don’t do during a given day… if I go to bed having accomplished those four things, that day is a success.

Saturday, February 22nd was our start date; today is March 6, roughly 2 weeks in.  How is it going?

Week one had its emotional ups and downs, but I successfully completed the week as laid out above.  Each day I would wake up, absolutely convinced that I would not, could not, make it through the day without giving in to one temptation or another (sound familiar, friends in recovery?).  Each night that I made it through, the exhilaration was palpable.

A surprising tool from recovery came in very handy during the first week.  Each time I refrained from eating something, or chose something healthy, a pessimistic voice in my head would taunt me, “Big deal… you made it through this one, tiny hurdle?  Do you REALLY think you are going to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE doing this?”

Here’s the surprise answer I had at the ready, and it comes directly from all the lessons learned through recovery:  “Who cares about the rest of your life?  Can you make it through the rest of this day?”

And would you believe that response was as calming, as soothing, and as positive, as when I used it in the early days of sobriety?  So that was a really fun bonus.  And the voice has since quieted down, it’s almost inaudible!

Other positives:  the exercise thing, having committed to it effectively about 6 months ago but have since lapsed, was like riding a bike, in that making it a part of my daily life became routine fairly quickly.  Without getting too far ahead of myself, I do find myself pushing myself a bit further, here and there, and I suspect that as time goes on I will continue to do so.

The regular “checking in” process has loads of benefits, the main one being accountability.  There were several days that I turned away from one bad choice or another for the simple reason that I did not want to report I ate it.

Another huge milestone for me:  sharing about the foods that tempt me.  In the past, I would have been as secretive about this information as I was with every part of my active addiction.  I attach shame to eating certain foods, and thus do it privately, and fail to disclose it to anyone.  In order to have this communication with my friend be meaningful, I had to get real about the temptations in my life.  Unsurprisingly, my revelations did not raise an eyebrow, and since that time I’ve opened up with more people about it, getting similar results.

I did not recognize this shift until a few days ago.  I am a Catholic, and Lent is currently underway.  In preparation for this religious event, I was contemplating what I would sacrifice, and decided that it would be one of the foods on my list above… Lent would simply give me a few added weeks of abstinence.  However, tradition would have it that on “Fat Tuesday,” you celebrate with one last hoorah, and so I made the decision that I would break one of my four commitments.  I communicated this to my friend, in advance, explaining what I was going to do, and how I intend to not let it derail me permanently (as has so often happened in the past).  I finished explaining it in email, and when I sat back to review, I realized what an amazing accomplishment that was for me… that kind of unreserved honesty, as far as eating habits are concerned, is a first for me, and it felt really good to see the progress as it’s happening.

Last but not least, I am experiencing tangible results:  my clothes feel a tad looser, the numbers on the scale are down, 10 pounds the first week!  I am actually going to talk a little more about that, but it will have to wait for another post, since this one is running too long as it is!  Finally, my mood overall is more positive and optimistic.

All great stuff, and I will post again in two weeks on this subject and let you know where I’m at!

Today’s Miracle:

Having good news of any kind to report is a miracle!

Honesty, Hypocrisy & Me

I am a hypocrite.

Countless times, I have had the conversation with my children, the conversation that follows a mistake made by them, a bad decision, a poor judgment.  The main point of the conversation is simple:  a mistake has been made, crying and bemoaning the mistake only makes a bad situation worse.  You can’t un-ring the bell.  What you can do is learn from it, and do your best not to repeat it.

Countless times, I engaged in the behaviors associated with active addiction.  At a certain point in time, I became consciously aware that my behavior was wrong on every level, but I repeated the mistake, time and again.  I tried to correct the mistake, and fell down more times than I can count.  In my heart of hearts, though, I had an unshakeable belief that there was a solution.  For a long time, I was unclear on what that solution was, but deep in my heart I knew it was there.  And, by the grace of God, it became clear to me just two short years ago, and I have thanked Him for it every day since that time.

Here is where the admission of hypocrisy begins.  For the past two days, I have been soul-searching in a way I haven’t soul searched in a long time.  It started innocently enough:  my husband and I have planned a trip to celebrate a milestone birthday for him, and a milestone anniversary for us, both taking place this year.  The trip is set for six weeks from now, and will take place on an island, something to anticipate, given the miles of snow I see outside my window currently.  But of course this leads me to the conclusion that I need to get myself in gear, both in terms of diet and exercise, both disciplines that have been abandoned for quite some time now.

The simple “what can I do to improve myself in 6 weeks” has morphed into such an abyss of despair and hand-wringing anxiety, I knew I needed to write about it.  For the first 24 hours, I was sure I would NOT write about it:  nobody wants to hear me blather on yet again about jumping back into the healthy lifestyle ring, it is not original, or interesting, or relevant.

And yet…

The feelings that rose within me as I attempted to complete the task with which I challenged myself, simply come up with a plan to improve my lifestyle in 6 weeks, the feelings were so similar to those I experienced in early recovery, that I figured I must flesh them out with my blogging friends.

At the heart of all those feeling, the single, most gut-wrenching emotion I experienced, was one of despair, and the voice of despair was so clear it was as if a person was standing alongside of me saying the words out loud,

“There is no way you will ever make this work.  You have tried and failed at this endeavor your whole life; there is no hope to turn it around.”

I am sure many of you reading this will relate to those words, anyone familiar with addiction has felt the despair that comes with repeatedly trying and failing.

And it is in admitting this despair that I am also confessing my hypocrisy.  I can (and have) preached to all those around me, that tomorrow is a new day, that it is not about how many times you fall that counts, but how many times you get back up, but in my heart I make an exception, and the exception is me, and healthy eating.  I’ve done lots of great things in my life, have many accomplishments of which I am proud, and believe myself capable of almost anything I set my mind to… except this.

So I’m a hypocrite, because I simply don’t practice what I preach.  I am a terminally unique individual when it comes to eating.

And I guess this is why I needed to write about it, because I am rolling my eyes even as I type those last lines.

This is why blogging about the garbage rolling around in the brain helps so much.  Because, as God as my witness, I was crying earlier this very day, as I realized this is how I have been thinking.

So now that I’ve gotten the self-pity out of my system, and I have exposed my deepest fears to the light of day, I guess it’s time to take some action.

A wise person suggested to me that I treat this problem in a similar way that I did my recovery.  In recovery, I made sure I did 4 things every day to count that day as a success.  Four was an easy to do list, easy to remember, and easy with which to commit.

So for now, I am working on my daily 4 list as it relates to this form of recovery.  I have identified the 4 food items that pose the greatest danger to me, and it is my goal to eliminate them.  To do that, I am committing to simple daily actions, all designed to eliminate the addictive food items.  There is still much work to be done, in terms of coming up with an eating routine that is healthy and sustainable, but for now I will consider this a great start, certainly leaps and bounds beyond anything I have done in recent memory.

The list is somewhat generic, and I have no doubt will need to be tweaked in the days that follow, but in writing about it, I am giving myself some accountability.  I will work on it, daily, make the necessary adjustments, but I am clear on my one, ultimate goal:  to reset my relationship with myself, to work towards creating a healthy mindset when it comes to treating my body.  I’ve gotten the mind-altering substances out of my system, now it’s time to start putting something healthy and life-affirming back into it.  It feels as daunting a task as making sobriety a reality, but at least I have some tools to help me:

  • One Day at a Time
  • Sharing the burden of my negative feelings
  • Allowing others to help me
  • And, most important,turning it over to a power greater than myself

Because, if He can get me sober, He can do anything!

I will let you know how it goes…

Today’s Miracle:

Having the courage to hit “publish” on this post

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