It has been seven days when I decided to accept the offer of a “food sponsor” and began the daily process of both logging my food that I have consumed but also handing the results over to someone else. This requires a lot of self-honesty for starters. It also requires a trust in a Higher Power that will guide me and lead me to making the best choices for myself then following through on them.
From the start, since I am also a recovering “people pleaser”, I did not want to get into the mindset of doing this to “please” my food sponsor. This is and always will be for my own benefit. I may have to remind myself this more often during the start of this but this is not for her. She has already gone through her own reporting and subsequent accountability with her own food “sponsor”.
I also had to be careful that I didn’t get overly defensive (another character defect of mine) if she would question some of my choices; i.e., one half of a Kit Kat bar that my husband left out for me. I did feel a few hairs stand up on my arm when I explained my choice but what I was even more “proud” of was that I was honest about making that choice, I took responsibility for it and I also both logged and fit it into my daily calorie range. Although I may not have gotten an A for effort I do feel I would have given myself a B for my own self-governing rules: being scrupulously honest with myself and her, taking ownership of my choice and having made a conscious choice to depart from my food plan.
The first few days the only thought(s) that I had was just doing my best not to “screw up” and fall off the wagon before I ever left the barnyard to “take it on the road”. First of all, in the past I was accustomed to responding to anything that felt like hunger by eating. Armed with a food plan of my choice, the only thought(s) I had was doing my best to follow it and stay on it. Fortunately, I had done this part in the past so I fell into that quickly but what I hadn’t done in the past was “turn it over” to a food sponsor by the end of the day.
The symbolic significance of doing this was that I was acknowledging the kitchen was not open 24/7 but that it was off limits once my food plan had been handed in for that 24 hour period. I had never done this before. Fortunately, spiritually I had come to a place where I really did want to do this for my own integrity. I did not mention to my food sponsor how difficult this was those first several days but it was. Two reasons why I didn’t: 1) I really do not know this woman at all, I just met her within the last month and I didn’t even know anything about her personal weight lose history other than she confided that she was in maintenance and that she had a food sponsor as well that she turned over her daily food plan to and 2) it was “pride”. I simply did not want to admit how I was reeling from chronic insomnia, acute inflammation and now I was also attempting to not turn to food to ease either of those persistent, nagging problems in my life. I did share that I was dealing with these other things but since she doesn’t know my personal history she may not have seen the significance of all that was swirling around me. I’ll get the “awwws” from my sweet hubby, who is also a part time enabler and whom I love anyway because I know he will apologize for being so and who wants both for me to be happy but also will bend the rules in doing so.
I also became aware of something else by the fourth day of eating abstinently. I was really experiencing a lot of tension and I really felt like I was “white knuckling” just to stay on my food plan. I was just so hungry physically. I was averaging 2400+ calories a day before I decided to stay within 1400-1800 calories. In fairness to myself around 600-800 calories were in extra milk and food to buffer my aching stomach when I was taking my pain meds. Still, my body was used to a lot more food. Fortunately, I “hung in there” and by the fourth day it eased up enough where I felt like I could relax some.
Another reason became apparent by the third day of staying on my food plan and why I was also overeating. It was when I decided to cease taking my nighttime sleep aid which I had been taking every night for 12 1/2 years. With no food on my stomach, I literally was doubled over in pain one morning at breakfast. I swore right then and there I could not take any more of this. I was risking serious health problems if I continued. I had freely admitted in the past that I was taking twice as much in half the time recommended with fourth of the effect. I was chasing one problem with yet another. I really was concerned one morning I just might not wake up! I knew that I could die from an overdose. It would have been accidental but I would still be dead.
So, now not only was I physically hungry but I was also going through a chemical withdrawal from these nighttime sleep aids. My legs were jerking so strongly it awoke my husband. I had to sit on the edge of bed and rub them over and over just to calm them down. I also felt nauseous with a blinding headache. I felt like my entire head was in a very tight vice that encircled my back of my head, up through the sides pressing hard above my ears and through my skull. All of this on top of the acute inflammation I was experiencing in my left shoulder that radiated through my upper back and into the base of my neck. Could it get any worse? I wasn’t sure.
Well, by the middle of the fourth day, with only one dosage of strong NSAIDs in my system, I felt relieved that my body seemed to be “quiet”. The pain in my left shoulder was “tolerable”; at least according to m standards (I have built up quite a tolerance of chronic pain), I was only mildly hungry and I was able to sleep 4 hours without interruption. I had come a long way in just a few short days.
Then, something happened last night(day six). I just felt so giddy that I had broke 260 lbs, that I could report my true and accurate weight instead of fudging on it like I had done often in the past(finding the lightest day of the previous week and reporting that for instance when it might have only reflected the one or two really good days in a week of roller coaster eating) that I felt like I “should” go into the kitchen and make myself something to eat “to celebrate”. I had never seen the connection between my feelings and eating (without being physically hungry) so clearly as I did at that moment. I didn’t eat, which I am glad to say, but it was a real “a-ha” moment for me. It made me wonder just what wasn’t “eating” to me. It seems there was a lot of blurring that I simply had not been aware of before.
Finally, in the past, when I had tried to eat abstinently, I had always felt a sense of confusion about what exactly I was trying to do and why so I wasn’t certain that I was actually doing so. I feel so fortunate that I had a real moment of clarity regarding this yesterday. It dawned on me on what is “required” of me in terms of eating abstinently: just follow my BLC food plan. It fits within the OA guidelines: it is well balanced nutritionally if I follow it as it is laid out, it emphasizes healthy food, the calories are within an acceptable range for my age, height and current weight, and it “fosters” eating to live and not living to eat. So, if I accomplish this each day then I am eating abstinently and abstaining from compulsive overeating and building on one more day of recovery. I understand now! It is crystal clear to me.
Another revelation that I had that really “brings this home to/for me” is there is an ending to eating. It doesn’t go on “forever”. This really gets at the core of one of my persistent former eating habits: grazing. I am/was a person who just thought the kitchen was always “open”. It is not any more. Hopefully, those days are behind me but, for now, I realize that I may have to be reminded of this on a daily basis as well as any time when old habits resurface.
By having these guidelines to stay within; i.e., a specific amount of calories within each macro-nutrient category (carbohydrates, fat, protein, fiber, sodium) gives me the structure that I need to practice my daily abstinence. Eating is not something that is a mindless activity to do along with other activities. It is a separate activity which serves a purpose in sustaining my life and it has nothing to do with anything else that my addiction may want to corrupt it with ; such as, feelings of all kinds including excitability or boredom; reoccurring mental state like mild-moderate depression; physical conditions such as pain or fatigue; and a spiritual isolation which can often be experienced as a sense of separation from other people and my Higher Power. All of these “conditions” can be relieved without extra food. It is my responsibility to find the solutions that work for me. No excuses.
Then, another thought surfaced: “Am I really doing this?” This thought was followed by “Can I do this until I get the results that I have so hoped and longed for?” The answer for me is “Yes” as long as I focus on today and not “plan” [which for me amounts to obsessing, worrying and having a lot of free floating anxiety about] but only “prepare” for whatever outcome following my food plan will give me. Now, I “get” what doing the “footwork” means! I follow my food plan. The rest is up to God and how my body responds to the food choices that I make. If I “work” the OA program of recovery from compulsive overeating, binging and yo-yo dieting, then I will not only be “free” from this food addiction that has plagued me for over thirty years, but I will also be a healthier person who will probably weigh less as a result since I will finally be eating only what my body can use as fuel.
As the first week of abstinent eating is coming to end, and although I am still experiencing a sense of wanting to hang onto “whatever” as tightly as I can, I do have moments of feeling a quiet stillness within my heart and soul. When I do, I relax and I don’t hold on as tightly. This is what living free from the obsession of compulsive eating is like. God willing, this is only the beginning of my life without excess food and unwanted extra physical girth. Time will tell.