Monday, November 29, 2010

Fear and Loathing in The Land of Pie

I had some trepidations going into the Thanksgiving holiday.  For many people, Thanksgiving is all about eating and drinking.    I had experienced Thanksgiving three times sober and I knew what to expect, what to do, how to keep myself safe.

This was my first Thanksgiving, though, since the completion of Operation Get Healthy.   I had successfully maintained my sixty pound weight loss by sticking to a healthy diet and exercising moderately.

But I haven't really been tested yet.   Thanksgiving would be my first test.   

I realized recently that I'm still very fearful of food.    I'm fearful of the whole idea that I'm a healthy weight now, actually.   It still doesn't seem real to me yet... like I might wake up one morning and it will all have been a bizarre dream.   

There are a lot of parallels between an unhealthy relationship with food and an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.    In many respects, though, getting sober was more clear cut.   Not easier, but the Do Not Cross line was more obvious to me.  Every drink is a "bad" drink.   I can't even have one.  There is no such thing as moderate drinking for me, but I'm having to learn moderate eating.  It's hard.

Let's take pie, for example.   I love pie.   Thanksgiving is all about pie for me.    I was pondering a pie-less Thanksgiving and feeling sad. 

I really felt like if I ate a slice of pie that I would wake up the next morning right back where I was, sixty pounds heavier.  I know the thought is irrational, but the fear is real.   It's the same fear I have of drinking, but with recovery that fear keeps me sober.   I don't want to live my life fearful of food.

I talked to my Jenny Craig consultant about it, and she emphasized - yet again - that the idea is to live in a world full of good food and be able to make smart choices.   "One moderate slice of pie won't hurt you," she said.   "You need to start to trust yourself again, cultivate a healthy relationship to food.   If you deny yourself everything, it's going to make the cravings louder, and you'll be miserable.   The trick is healthy portions, and no seconds.   Just give that a try."

I have an addict's brain.   If one slice of pie is good, two is better.    I have to learn how to have one slice of pie.

At Thanksgiving I took small helpings of everything.    I wanted more when I was done, but I didn't have more.    When I scraped the kids' half-full plates into the disposal, I thought about how before I would have polished their leftovers off, too.

Pie was served about an hour after dinner.  I had one smallish slice with a dollop of whipped cream.   A voice in my head was screaming to me: this is WRONG!  WRONG!   You're going to FAIL!    And, sure enough, I immediately wanted more.

But getting sober has taught me that just because I want something doesn't mean I have to have it.  

I poured myself a cup of coffee and sipped that instead.   The craving for more pie passed in about three minutes, leaving me feeling satisfied and a little bit proud.  

The real test came for me at my weekly weigh-in.   I don't weigh myself every day, because I'll get obsessive.   So once a week I step on the scale, in order to track how I'm doing on my own.    The scale showed the same number it has been showing for six weeks now - my goal weight.

Thanksgiving dinner and the pie didn't ruin everything.  Of course they didn't.   But I'm having to prove to myself that I can do it - I can make smart choices and stop myself from eating more than I need, and that I don't have to live in full deprivation mode to be successful.

In order to successfully lose the weight, I had to get my faulty thinking out of the way; I was an expert at rationalizing myself into the wrong choice.     Now I'm having to slowly reintroduce my thinking back into the equation, but this time using my powers for good instead of evil.     I can hear my Food Voice talking to me all the time.  Sometimes she's trying to get me to eat more, like a second helping of pie.  Sometimes she's convincing me that if I have one slice of pie I may as well give up, because I've blown it.

I'm learning to acknowledge that she's there, forgive her for having those thoughts, and then ignoring her.   She can babble away all she wants, but it doesn't mean I have to listen.  

In recovery, if I have one drink I would consider it a relapse.   I would start again, from scratch, Day One.

With food it's different, and it has taken me a while to get my mind around that fact that there is no Relapse.   It used to be one of my favorite tricks to play on myself ... I'd diet for a while, then I'd cave and eat cake or cookies, and then that Food Voice would kick in and say, "Well, I guess you've blown it for this week.  Start again Monday."   And that Monday would never come.

There are no "bad" foods, just bad choices.   I want to feel pride from making a good choice, rather than give food the power to make me feel badly.  The best thing about choices?  You learn from each and every one of them, and that is the pathway to freedom from guilt and fear. 


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  3. As a recoveree myself (doesn't recoveree sound more exotic ?) I too have been having food issues. I was skinny as a stick near the end of my booze romance and then started eating like a horse. I've settled down now and realized that it wasn't just my booze mind that was out of whack but my total mind. Working on the total mindshift and listening to your words of wisdom really helps. Thanks yet again. Thank god we have thanksgiving in October - more distance between the two big food fests of the year.

  4. A girl needs 2 TalkNovember 29, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    You know the food addict part? I quit chocolate because I can't do with one piece. No matter what the size of the bar might be, I have needed to have it all. OCD. That's so not right, isn't it? Blah.

    You talk to my heart!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. My addiction is food which I've struggled with for years. I find your Operation Get Healthy posts inspirational.

  6. you are so right Ellie. I had one moderate size plate of food this year and was damn proud. Sugar is my big weakness. I did ok with that but you can believe I was at the gym the next day running it all off.

    I'm proud of you.

  7. All so true, Ellie. I have food issues dating back years. I got that under control, and then the drinking reared its ugly head. Abstinence is easier than moderation. For the past 13 months I have had no booze, and have managed to keep the eating problems at bay. The problems are alike, but as you say there are differences.

    Great job on you weight loss and continued sobriety. You are an inspiration.