First past the post

The first blog post is the worst. It’s always full of overly long introductions and promises of regular posts.

Let’s be rebels and just pffffft all that, shall we?

On Sunday, I joined OA HOW. I’m also a member of EDA and AA.

OA stands for overeaters Anonymous. EDA stands for Eating Disorders Anonymous. AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Sometimes, my drunk and disorderly inner 23 yr old cringes at all the support I require to live a normal life; but then I remember how lost I was before I asked for help, I also remember how far I’ve come and how far I’d like to go. And then I think: this is better.

So joining OA should have come easily. Only it didn’t. I fought long and hard to avoid it. I resisted OA’s idea of abstinence because well, intellectually it didn’t seem right.

In EDA, we’re taught to rely on mindfulness or intuitive eating and base recovery around that. In EDA, attendance at meetings is recovery. There are no good or bad foods. No diet mentality, no restriction and no purging. But even if you continue to engage in those behaviours, attending means you’re still in recovery. The goal, in EDA, is to be able to be at peace around food, love your body and eat when your hungry and stop when you’re full.

So elegantly simple. It is such a kind, respectful and gentle model of recovery.

And it kinda seems like a “duh” moment, because isn’t that how normies approach food? Isn’t it obvious that’s the way one should recover?

Intellectually, EDA’s philosophy was certainly how I wanted to approach food.

But after two long years in EDA, I found myself back in the same place I was over a decade ago: steeped in acceptance, but rapidly gaining weight.

I am sober in AA. And I can look myself in the mirror and feel really fucking great about that sobriety. But the same doesn’t translate with food.

Even with two years, plus the seven from before, I am bingeing, gaining and even though I read all of Geneen Roth books, plus ALL the others, I am still overeating.

Why? Because I eat like I drink. There’s no off switch. The food or booze hits my system, and even though I promised myself I wouldn’t do it, I keep going. Because for me, there is never enough of a addictive substance for me. I am filling a deep seated emotional need, battling genetics, probably battling a food/sugar allergy and habit.

And so I am war with myself.And even though I practice what I preach in EDA, I’m ill engaging in the vigour spirit.

A situation that echoes my past a little too closely. Years ago, years before I started to drink addictive,y, I worked at an eating disorder clinic. It preached the same philosophy as EDA. Which is why I read all the books ever written, until 2000, about eating disorders, because it was part of my job.

I tried sooooo damn hard to live in that solution. Meanwhile I got bigger and bigger and felt more and more confused. How could I love thy self at any size, but continue to hurt myself with food. And why couldn’t I just STOP by doing the most obvious thing in the world. Eat when hungry. Stop when full.

What’s more, in the seven years I worked at the clinic, I never saw anyone with compulsive eating issues lose weight. I saw folks with anorexia and bulimia recover and their weight normalize. But never overeaters.

And yet, I’m still drawn to that gentle, mindful kind of recovery. So I went back at it, by joining EDA.

This is NOT about knocking EDA. I still love EDA.

But it is not working for me.

Like alcohol, certain foods trigger binges. Carbs and sugar do that for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can binge on anything. But something switches off when I abstain from sugar and refined carbs. Maybe it’s chemical. Maybe it’s not. But I have to find out if OA’s philosophy works for me.

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Questions/reading 5, 6, 7….

5. Read Chapter 2 in the Big Book (There is a Solution). Discuss and reflect on how at the very least, the disease has diminished tour life. (I seem to recall typing this one out before…??? But this email has Question 4 as the subject, so I am assuming it is an answer to that, hence I just gave you #5.

6. Read Chapter 3 in the AA Big Book (More About Alcoholism).

7. Discuss the following ideas:
a) The deception of others is nearly always rooted in the deception of ourselves.
b) How does this relate to your eating history>
c) What have we done in the past due to compulsive overeating that reaffirms this idea?

5. Yeah, I kinda approached this one in the past, but it’s always good to come at this stuff a few times so it sticks :-). Compulsive overeating (COE) has diminished my life by letting me stay back. I didn’t just make safe choices, I made no choices and was grateful, much too grateful, to accept some crumbs here and there. COE reinforced the idea that I had little value – in fact it seemed to offer proof. At my heaviest I was the stereotypical fat person and as much as I chafed against that and as much as it hurt, because I didn’t like myself at all, a part of me saw my diminished life as ‘just desserts’. I was afraid to try for anything. The few things I did try for back fired (joining the volley ball team, trying to win a reading competition, learning chess or an instrument, etc). Again, I am not blaming my parents, but, we just didn’t discuss or model setting goals or making life choices or considering options etc. All of that was completely unknown and I didn’t learn about that until much later. I’m sure coming from a stable childhood would have helped a lot in not needing to continue feeling diminished. At the core, that’s the thing…. When I hear ‘diminished’ I think ‘shame’. For most of my life I felt diminished and shameful and there was nothing as good as food and being compulsive about my eating and then being fat – to continue to provide me with proof that I was undeserving of good things in life.

6. Done.

7 (a,b,c) Deception. Ha! So true. My longest standing relationship in life is with my husband, we’ve been married since I was 19. Even when I weighed 300+ lbs he didn’t think I had a problem and when I was drinking daily, he didn’t think I had a problem then, either. He was under that illusion because I didn’t want to think I had a problem, so I telegraphed that to him (he’s also co-dependent and hopelessly male {aka unobservant}, so….) and he believed it. Mostly though, the only person I was fooling was myself. The truth is, you can be a functioning alcoholic and hide it pretty well, family members in the home will know, but other people? No. COE is totally different. You wear your disease. I wear my disease. I never assume everyone who is large is a COE. But, past a certain size, yes, I think they either have an underlying health problem or they COE. For a long time I was enraged by sizism, especially of course at my biggest, since I had more skin in the game. I bristled and felt sick when I heard about the treatment of fat people. I still think it’s wrong. But I see now that part of the reason I was so passionate is because I was in denial about being as big as I was. Even now, I forget that I am 20 lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight and when I look in the mirror I’m shocked at the larger woman staring back. My self concept is me at my lowest – but I am also unwilling and unable to do the things I did then to maintain a lower weight. At some point, because I was running daily, lifting weight and had very small portions thanks to the lapband, losing weight was effortless. So I could drink or eat badly now and then, and it didn’t matter. Life was grand. Then we got pregnant with the twins…. And then we lost them. And then a switch went off in my head and I forgot that I only ate badly or drank heavily on occasion, somehow my brain thought I could eat badly and drink heavily all the time and because of the lap band i’d be immune. Then I couldn’t run or workout as much, cause I felt like shit from the hangovers. And I was cycling on and off steroids and hormones. Binge drinking between miscarriages and IVF cycles. And my denial got deeper and more ingrained. It became really confusing to figure out the truth from my ‘story’. I convinced myself of so many things.

The worst part was that I switched my priorities around and presto change-o in a couple of years I went from taking back my life and keeping my compulsive relationship with food in check, etc etc and right back on the path to being 325 lbs! Like, what the fuck? It happened right in front of me. Actually, it didn’t ‘happen’ I engineered it. It sounds trite, which is why I couldn’t explore it while we were going through all the miscarriages, but I guess all of that confirmed, once again, that I am no good, not worthy of love and happiness and that for me, everything has to be the hard, painful way. So I guess, unconsciously, I figured if that was the deal, that my life is gonna suck and I’m always going to be last in line, left behind and treated like shit, I may as well fill the void with food and oh, let’s drink, too.

Self Discipline. Discuss it.

I love this question.

I grew up in a family with no real rules. Or rather sometimes we had them, sometimes we didn’t. It depended on my mothers mental health at any given moment. We didn’t have to brush our teeth, we’d have lice infestations that lasted a year. I never did homework and I barely attended school. But then sometimes she’d swing the other way. All or nothing.

So as I grew up I had no rituals of self care or self discipline and I don’t think I even knew it was a thing!

It wasn’t too much of a problem as a kid, but as I got older, yes. Then I started to see that something was wrong. I didn’t know what, there were too many things to pinpoint.

The gulf grew bigger every year so that even though I was the same age as my peers i started to slip behind in terms life experiences that would ready me for adulthood. I didn’t play sports, we were latch key kids so I skipped school and then we were alone until 11 at night. We were very socially isolated. I honestly didn’t know what normal was.

By the time I was 20, other people around me were acting like 20 year olds while I had the emotional life skills of a 10 year old. I didn’t get up on time, make my bed, brush my teeth etc. Anything I did in that way was for going out – a show you put on for the outside world. Like just eating one sandwich in public, just for show! At home, in private? Try a sandwich, tons of Pepsi, chips and a slice of cheese.

By 30 I was just hitting 20. And fuck, that’s when I really saw how far behind I was. I started listening to small cues in conversations, like I’d hear someone casually mention making their bed before they took their shower, before work. And I thought: holy shit you’re supposed to make your bed? By this point, I was desperate to become more normal. I knew I had a problem. So I felt like a detective listening, trying out all these new normal things, just trying to figure out what self-discipline is, because by this time I knew that it had been an essential but lacking part of my life. Another thing I struggled with that’s related is short-term versus long-term gratification.

All of this is not to be down on my parents. I spent many years angry at them. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I think that they were in the same boat. They just didn’t know any better. And in fact, they were sicker than I am, there was less help back then, so in a lot of ways I’m lucky, and I try to remember that when I compare how I should’ve grown up, with how I did.

In my 30s was when I made the most games at learning self-discipline. Especially my early 30s. It was crazy because I was learning all the stuff that other people took for granted. And I couldn’t go around most situations saying, ‘hey, this is crazy I’m learning all this new stuff, I’m overwhelmed!’ because I was so embarrassed to be so far behind everyone else.

Things really took a turn for the better when I decided to have my lap band surgery. It was the first time I made a major financial decision on my own, for myself. I have some regrets about the surgery now, but at the same time I really do credit for helping me grow into The adult I could’ve been all along. It was like a surgical nudge into that final part of being an adult and learning self-discipline. I had to eat according to a very strict plan, or suffer the consequences in terms of vomiting and nausea. As I lost more weight, I had more energy for every day responsibilities that I have been leaving to my husband for YEARS. I walked the dogs every day, I cleaned up the garden beds, I mowed the lawn, I clean the house, I painted the fence, heck, I built the fence!, I started running, a regular exercise program. I started buying the car insurance, getting house repairs arranged, dogs to the vet. Stuff I’d been leaving to him. I found a lot of freedom and peace in having daily responsibilities that I fulfilled. For the first time in my life, I felt like a fully functioning adult.

Even though I’ve gained about 45 pounds from my lowest weight back, I still enjoy self-discipline. Of course sometimes it feels like a burden, but I have enough awareness after living without it for so long, to know that actually it’s not a burden, it’s a freedom. Now that I am 45 pounds heavier from my lowest weight, and about 22 pounds higher than my prepregnancy weight, I worry about slipping back into that physically, emotionally and mentally checked out version of myself when I was too tired to be a fully functioning partner.

Currently, I put most of my energy into the baby, and at night, I feel a little shitty at times that I’m so zonked that I leave the house work to my husband Jarrett. Not always. But I do remember when I weighed less I had more energy, and I miss that.

I don’t want to be slowed down from life anymore then I have to be. I can accept things like injuries, colds flu’s etc to slow me down, but, to be a less then 100% present partner or parent, because I don’t have the energy because I over eat, that seems really unacceptable to me!

The weird thing I should add, and I don’t know quite where it fits it in, is that I’m also type A! My type a tendencies didn’t really come out until my 20s, except for work. And unfortunately, my type a tendencies are totally out of whack with work. I will work for 15 hours straight, without stopping to ask myself is this even necessary? My priorities are out of whack, and so is the energy I put towards them. I was pretty burnt out before I went on maternity leave, and it is something that I am working on very hard. It’s why I extended my maternity leave, And I will be looking for another job before I go back to work that is less intense. I work in politics, even choosing something like that just goes to show I like drama and intensity a little too much. And that I basically chose a job with a workplace that is a version of my childhood, giant grandiose egos, chaos, and constant fake emergencies and drama.

Back to that all or nothing thinking… I’ve always lived my life to extremes. At work I am the epitome of self-discipline but by the time I get home I am so drained, I can’t fully participate in my own life, more so when I was much heavier, but even after I lost weight, I started slowly putting my energy into work, ignoring myself and my needs, and that’s when I started re-gaining the weight after surgery. It was also when we started IVF, and started losing pregnancies. Typing this out now, reinforces that yeah, I totally went back to my old coping mechanisms of see sawing between extremes to deal with the miscarriages, and it was easy, in a sense, because I only had a relatively small amount of abstinent time*,and no support network.

* the lapband diet is similar to OA how so I kind of think of it as abstinence since for four years I didn’t eat my triggers or eat compulsively and it spurred a lot of growth.

Critical and progressive nature of the disease, the importance of not pushing

Question 3: (for today) Reread Step 1. Discuss and effect upon the following ideas found in Step 1: a) Critical nature of our disease. b) Progressive nature of our disease. c) The need not to push someone until they are ready.

Critical nature of our disease – this is an odd one because critical can mean critical condition – a state of emergency or very important… I’m gonna go with the emergency vibe….

I see COE (compulsive over eating) as a slow and silent killer. As a culture we don’t like fatness – and we seem to base our dislike on aesthetics. But I wonder sometimes if it’s because that kind of reckless abandon and self destructiveness is actually what makes us more uncomfortable as humans? Not really the aesthetics. And we because we tend to shame the things that make us uncomfortable ‘fat’ people, or at least I did, exist in the margins. COE diminishes us. I personally think we lose our voice and our agency. Our relationships have a huge blind spot in them. I just saw the dr Oz show where these twin sisters weighed 600 lbs each. They didn’t leave the house, and their family just sort of fed them, regardless of how emotionally uncomfortable it would be to be around two people that checked out who can’t fully participate in life. Obviously that’s an extreme. But I related to them and I’m sure their disease started like mine – slowly, then it became a habit, then it was normal and then it made them angry to even think of giving up the precious. I started off thinking I had a healthy appetite. And then I checked out from my body. I only lived from the neck up. I remember being so defensive about my weight. I could not deal with it being brought up. It was so progressive that sometimes it was a secret even to me. I was in denial and so was everyone else. And/or they were afraid of hurting me.

As I know from alcoholism, it does no good to push someone before they’re ready. The denial is too thick. They haven’t hit their bottom and everyone’s bottom is different. Plus if they’re anything like me, and I’ve noticed this in other overeaters, there’s a huge rebellious streak. I feel comfortable painting us with that brush 😉. I wonder sometimes if it’s because we have years of trapped rage and unexpressed emotion. Certainly so for me. So when someone tries to tell me what to do, my first thought is “fuck you” and my second thought is “smile and nod so they’ll go away”. Which is pretty much what I did until I admitted I had a problem and I was powerless over it.

Question Two

I am fully and completely powerless over food and it has made my life painfully unmanageable. Internally and externally. Internally I feel like an oddball – why can’t I just get this right? It’s not that hard! Eat when hungry, stop when full. But no, there’s a pit inside me that aches. It wants more of everything. One is not enough. Two is not enough. There is never enough. I try to be kind to myself. I try to eat intuitively, mindfully, etc. But something clicks off and even though I am a smart, good person, I go into auto pilot with food. More, more, more. The emotional unmanageability touches on my personal relationships – manipulating my husband to get me food in the past, being afraid to ever speak up for my needs/self (they’d all jeer at the 325 lb person!), living in CONSTANT shame. It also impacted my personal relationships in that I played most of my youth far too safe. I didn’t socialize much, date or explore like I wanted. I was afraid of the world and of people. being around people exhausted me (still does!). 
Externally I am sure it cost me professional opportunities because whoooo boy, the minute I lost the weight I was promoted in a hot minute and quickly climbed the ladder at work. Nothing but my appearance had changed. Inside I was pissed – I still felt as vulnerable as I did at 325 lbs and it burned me up that just because I could wear a size 10 now I was ‘good enough’? It confirmed my worst fears that I’d been discounted as a person due to my size, though discounting myself was par for the course. It also became umanageable in terms of health: very large breasts made proper spinal alignment impossible and caused headaches, plantar fascitiis, skin issues, insomnia, etc.
If you look up compulsive eater in the dictionary you may find my picture 🙂 I am textbook and have known for many, many years. Compulsive eating is my primary addiction and has been since 7 or so, maybe earlier? I merely replaced eating with alcohol when my lapband made me unable to eat compulsively and that landed me in AA in just four short years! After I started bingeing and drinking due to the loss and stress of IVF and pregnancy loss (not an excuse but I didn’t have tools or support to help, so I turned to coping mechanisms and ate past my band’s effectiveness) I gained back some of the weight I’d lost and then, I got sober. That’s no coincidence. I knew alcohol would destroy my life more quickly than food what with the more immediate physical and emotional impacts, and because I wanted children, and, didn’t want them growing up in a dysfunctional home like mine, I got help. 
I live and act and make decisions as a sober or abstinent person. I am honest, I take my own inventory, I work the steps, I do service work, I’m real with myself. Except where food is concerned. I still binge/restrict wildly and I feel as long as I’m doing that, there are pockets of me hidden from myself and I know there are real impacts from my compulsive eating. It holds me back emotionally, it brings shame and that shame colours my perceptions of myself and the world. Plus, I am of an age where the physical impacts of carrying extra weight and yo-yoing are really dangerous. Both my parents died young from their drug/alcoholism and both were compulsive eaters and very obese when they died. It was a trifecta of mental illness, addictions and poverty. I refuse to leave my son too early (if I can help it) and I refuse to leave him with a giant, tangled emotional debt caused by my self destructive impulses – mainly compulsive eating. I also think I am strong enough now to do this work for myself. I’m excited.

OA History

I saw my mother, also a binge eater, first binge when I was 7 or so. We had cheese and crackers and then we all shared a container of cool whip. She kept berating herself, for eating it. I remember thinking it was weird but I was also fascinated. I felt a lot of free floating shame due to sexual abuse as a child, so in a weird way, her behaviour made sense. It gave my shame a pinpoint.
Soon after I had my first binge. I was supposed to meet a freind to roller skate, she didn’t come and my mother had driven off. I assumed my freind didn’t come on purpose as a prank. So I walked home and bought a dozen donuts and ate them all. I was 8.
I then started binge eating sporadically but by 13 it was ingrained. At 15 I went to a boarding school and breakfast had all the foods I’d never been allowed. I binged every morning.
A counsellor tried to help but I hated any conversation about my weight and shut her down.
In my late 20s I was over 300lbs. Drs usually didn’t say much but I could feel the judgement. In fact I could feel the judgement from others all the time, it was exactly how I felt about myself. 
I didn’t diet though. As a feminist I didn’t believe in dieting and I thought the emphasis on food and weight was a way to keep women locked in a trap of appearance.
Then I found the cedric centre. It appealed to my leftist, feminist, etc leanings. I wanted to believe I could cure my relationship with food by being mindful and kinder to myself.
It didn’t work. I gained and gained and gained.
I got up to my known high of 324. I ended my working relationship with Michelle on a bad note. I was fed up. I wa embarrassed of making my husband buy my binge foods – manipulating and arm twisting him to do it. I was sick of having weird skin rashes. I was sick of being shocked every time I looked in the mirror. My body hurt. 
A year later I went on my first diet and got down to 250. I then gained back up to 275. At age 33 I decided to have lapband surgery. I couldn’t afford surgery in Canada, so I went to Mexico. 
I was very successful and essentially I ate the oa diet. Until I slowly started replacing the lost food with alcohol. I’d gone from 325 lbs to 175 in five years, the last 100 being the most significant and I didn’t know how to deal with the attention. Suddenly I was considered attractive – capable, smart. Men flirted and women treated me as if I was slightly better than them; more so based on their size. The bigger they were, the more deferent to me. I was shocked. Had I done that? Yes, I had. 
Then my husband and I tried to have a child. One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight was to have children. 
We couldn’t. 
Or rather we couldn’t stay pregnant. Over five years we lost 6 babies and did IVF – taking hormones and steroids. The grief and meds, but mostly the grief, lead me to start binge eating again, in addition to drinking between treatments. 
I went from 175 to 200 lbs. I joined AA in 2015. EDA right after (eating disorders anonymous).
Then I finally got pregnant. I gained 20 lbs, an additional 20 lbs, 2 weeks before he was born (just fluid I think). 
After baby I’ve settled between 214-223. I’m currently 222. Declan is a year old. I’m bingeing/yoyoing more than ever. I don’t like it. I’m tired of this roller coaster.
Before I found alcohol I was what would be considered abstinent. It was the clearest I’d ever been mentally. After I lost my ‘abstinence’ I was afraid to go back to that way if eating because I still felt so much grief and anger after losing so many pregnancies. I felt I needed something, especially if alcohol wasn’t an option. I was scared of giving up sugar etc because it meant feeling all of it – nowhere to hide. I was tired of hurting. I felt I deserved to eat.
I no longer feel that way. I’ve done a lot of emotional/personal work. I’m far from perfect. Very far. But I now feel ready to tackle the food because I’m also really tired of being a 40 year old woman who fights with herself every night after binges