Monday, January 28, 2013

I broke up with dieting...because it was making me crazy

What goes around, comes around.

This time about 4 years ago, I weighed 122kg.  I hated myself.  I felt revolting and inadequate, like I didn't have any value.  It was hard to get around, I didn't have much energy, my size was self esteem was minus one thousand.  I felt ugly and unattractive and that I was taking up way too much space. I felt that whenever anyone interacted with me, they'd whisper "you fat cow", under their breath.  I was totally paranoid about my size.

So then, I decided to go to Weight Watchers.  I embraced it with all the control freakery that is in me.  I weighed and measured and counted points. I walked and thought and lived for my weigh in. I set up a reward list for when I lost the weight.  I felt that people were more interested in me as I shrank.  I became an inspiration. A thinspiration.  And I kept it up, for a good year.  In that time, I lost 24 kilos.  I was, if not a shadow of my former self, looking pretty good.  My friends and husband told me how great I looked.  The doors of chain stores were open to me.  I could wear Cotton On, Target,Sportsgirl and I was in a size 14, sometimes size 12.  I was winning at life.

I lived and breathed Weight Watchers, I saw lives changed in those rooms as we shared our worries and our challenges about the week coming.  We heard inspirational stories, we talked about strategies like filling up on vegetables so we wouldn't overeat.  We exercised so that we could eat.  Or, perhaps only I did.

I started working as a WW volunteer, handing out cards and helping.  The next thing you know, I'd asked for, and received, a job as a weigher.  Slight problem.  Although I felt reasonably good about my weight, I was still 12 kilos outside my healthy weight range.  People were coming through the doors at my height, wanting to lose 5kg, weighing less than I did as a weigher.  I felt totally inadequate and that I should be at my goal weight if I wanted to take this shit seriously and become a leader.  Which I totally did. I have a background in amateur theatrics (both on and off stage), and love the thrill of being in front of an audience.

So, because there was no manager in the area at the time, and as the other leader had quit, I got through as a Leader on a technicality.  As long as I was committed to losing weight, I could become a leader.  I had to submit to monthly weigh ins, as I did as a weigher.  No worries, thought I.  I've got this in the bag.  I'm good at losing weight.  Or so I thought.  Until I had to.

My journey had stopped being about me and started being about numbers.  I put a lot into my meetings, and would think about the clients and ways to help them.  It was seductive to think that I had the capacity to help other people with their problems.  Me, who only 4 years prior, had been suffering from crippling Post Natal Depression/Nervous Breakdown.  I was useful.  I had a function, other than mother, which often, I thought I did a pretty bad job.  Sure, I love Alex, but I wanted something for me.

So, a couple of things happened.  I started doing a lot of extra work to get my meetings going.  I had to receive and count stock, and store boxes upon boxes upon boxes of stock in my spare room, and transport it to and from the meetings.  I had to manage staff.  I was really really crap at managing staff. I wanted them to just know what I was thinking and would feel annoyed if they didn't do things the "right" way, but felt unable to tell them, as by then, they were my friends.  Awkward.

I had been struggling with my weight for a while.  At 181cm, my goal weight is between 64-82kgs.  At my lightest with WW, I reached 93kg.  Still a way to go....and so I set about it.  Only, I was a bit sick of counting so much.  I was sick of being organised.  Of weighing and measuring and counting and converting.  My brain was full with so much information about food.  And meetings, and ways to encourage people, the sales targets that I had as a leader, the information talk that I had to give to the new people, and what the product of the week was.  I gained and lost the same 4kg many times.  The leaders meetings that we had every second month became painful, when all my staff were at goal weight, and I wasn't.  Worse still, the very thinnest, prettiest one of them all had decided that she would train as a leader.  I was very supportive of her, but noticed that she had started to bring me up on some of the procedures that I wasn't doing properly.  I should have talked to her about it, but I didn't know how to.  I didnt' want to admit that I was jealous of her and her figure.  She was getting married and I was jealous of that. Marriage is amazing and life changing, but at times it can be a slow plod, especially with young kids.  I knew my husband loved me and that I loved him, but we were far from lovebirds, especially with my brain so full of weight watchers and points.

My son Alex was starting school and I was full of anxiety about him leaving me. He had been bullied at his kinder(preschool) and I was worried that the same thing would happen.  School was not a pleasant place for me, and I couldn't help but project some of my fears onto him.

In short, my brain was too full and too busy.  On top of that, I was a recovering alcoholic who hadn't been to an AA meeting in over a year.  I had a nasty little secret too.  After my sleeping tablets were ceased in 2008, I rediscovered my old friend codeine.  I'd hurt my back and noticed that after I took the tablets, I was much more able to sleep.  I filed that away for future reference. 

In the midst of all this cray cray, mid 2011, I'd developed a horrible sinus infection, with a crippling headache. I started taking aspirin/neurofen based codeine painkillers along with panadol based codeine painkillers.  I only took them 2 at a time, because that's what it said on the packet, but I totally ignored the part where it said "no more than 6 in 24 hours" and "do not take for more than a week at a time", and especially not "WARNING: Codeine is addictive". I was washing the painkillers down with lashings of Diet Coke and Skinny cappuccino, and hating myself for not losing more weight.

I told my coworkers at WW everything.  Warts and all. (oh, except about the painkillers!!) I told them the things that I should have revealed only to other AAs, things about my past and my present and behaviours that I had that were far from healthy.   I didn't really know much about appropriate conversations. 

And so, it all came to a head.  One Saturday morning in January 2012, all the hate and fear and anger that I felt towards my body, for not losing weight, my mind, for obsessing over how fat/thin I was, and how I compared to those around me, all the nasty, black, disgusting thoughts and feelings I had, erupted.  A couple of things happened.  I felt that the Thin and Pretty Leader in Training was disrespecting me.  I felt that she wasn't listening to me.  I felt jealous and horrible and ugly and fat and stupid, and I unleashed all of that on her.  And she fled the room.  The other girl looked at me in horror and said "This changes everything". I was still angry, so justified myself.  Then a trickle of fear crept in.  I went into the bathroom, where Thin and Pretty had fled to....and found her with a nosebleed, weeping in the aftermath of my vicious attack.  I apologised, and we hugged.  We all went out for a rather subdued coffee.  Oh.  And it was her birthday.  Happy birthday - sorry for the verbal abuse, let me pay for your coffee.

Are you surprised to hear that they never spoke to me again?  Are you surprised to hear that I was fired?  They cut me loose and I was angry.  I was embarrassed and ashamed and felt awful.

But, at least I could eat what I wanted now.  Or could I?  I pushed so much crap into my body in the next few days, that I almost immediately put on 3 kilos.  Didn't worry about them too much. As long as I could still fit into my cool clothes, I was golden.

February came around, and I was anxious and twitchy at home.  One of my friends got me a job at a fast food cafe.  This was good news for the bank balance, but very bad news for my food. We were allowed to eat whatever we liked from the Bain Marie....  and so I did.  The habits that I'd picked up over 2 years of WW were still ingrained and I binged on fruit and vegetables, but ate quite a few burgers from the shop, as well as the enormous fatty fries that tasted like heaven.

I joined a gym, because my pants were starting to get tight.  This was April.  My weight had hit 102kg and I was a little worried, because it wasn't coming off like it used to.  I started drinking protein shakes from the gym and still eating crap.  It didn't work.  By the time I quit the cafe, in May, I weighed 105kg and was busting out of my size 16 pants.  I had to go and buy a few size 18s. I couldn't fit into my size 12 or 14 tops any more.  I started to feel paranoid about my size.

In June, I stopped going to the gym, and decided to go back to what had worked for me.  Weight Watchers.  I signed up for three months of online tracking so I could get back to tracking my points.  But something was wrong. I couldn't control myself any more.  I resented having to stop eating.  I kept bingeing.  I even threw up.   The painkiller usage had continued on, with my headaches and backaches a part of everyday life.  I had a hole in my tooth, so sometimes used that as an excuse for buying the daily painkillers.  I started visiting different chemists after a chemist asked me "Have you been to the doctor for this? You've had a lot of painkillers recently!".  I was full of fear, and self-righteous anger.  He had no idea how I suffered! (Yeah, right).

Weight Watchers wasn't working.  I took a couple of kilos off, but they'd keep coming back on.  I started going back to AA meetings, as well as a new fellowship to help with some of my emotional problems.  I quit another temping job, as Alex had got Scarlet Fever.  I wanted to be at home looking after him, but I was resentful at having to give up my life for him. I felt trapped.  Food, and painkillers, were my reward.

In September, I started Tony Ferguson.  I was now up to 107kg, I hadn't been able to lose any weight long term with Weight Watchers.  I decided that I needed a quick loss in time for Christmas, and that this would help me.  It didn't.  I was 107kg in the bathroom at home, but 110kg when I weighed in at TF.  I managed to get back down to 108 on their scales, but as soon as I had a week where I put on weight, I decided that it wasn't working and stopped.  I had a friend who was doing intuitive eating, where you listen to your body and eat whatever you like, as long as you are hungry.

I decided to start doing this, however, I kinda skipped the "as long as you're hungry" part.  I was full of fear about my weight, and my brain was constantly telling me that I was revolting and disgusting.  I stepped on the scales one day and saw 113kg.  Disaster.  I had a friend who was doing Jenny Craig, so I decided to go there.   They were absolutely lovely and talked me through everything.  I started doing all the things that I'd done with WW, and binged on vegetables and fruit.  Even when I wasn't hungry, in case I got hungry.  But for every 500g I lost, I put 600g on.  I was getting bigger and bigger.  When, after a particularly bad weekend, I saw the figure "115kg", I became fearful. 

Over Christmas, I restricted what I ate and took a bag of snow peas with me everywhere.  I hardly ate any chocolate.  I went back to JC and I had put on 300g.

This was the point that I know what? This is just not working for me.  I read a friend's book about intuitive eating, again, and embraced the part about "only when I am hungry".  What good is bingeing on lots and lots of vegetables when you are hungry for a bowl of popcorn?  Why am I fighting my body so much?  So I decided to stop fighting.  I broke up with dieting.  I'd love to tell you that I lost lots and lots of weight, and have the answers to all your questions.  But I don't. I only have my journey.  I have my body and my appetite and I have to honour that.  I have to accept the way that I feel about my body.  At the moment, I am a size 18, and I don't like that.  I feel unacceptable. I saw myself on a video that my husband took today and my first thought was "My goodness, I'm fat!!".  And I accepted that.  I am practicing listening to my body....because when I was a little girl, I was skinny.  Before the emotional minefield that was puberty, I listened to my body. I ran, I walked, I jumped and I ate.  I didn't think about what to eat or when to eat, I just did it.  And I was healthy.  I wish I was smaller, but I have to accept that I don't know what is good or bad for my body.

I'd get so angry before weigh ins, when I'd eaten loads of vegetables and they wouldn't clear out.  I became obsessed with my colon and because of all the codeine had blocked me up, I would take laxatives.  I wouldn't drink or eat before weighing in, and I'd wear the lightest clothes I could find.  It was no way to live long term - I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did.

So, I've broken up with dieting. My weight may not have changed much, but I am still adjusting to the "eat when you're hungry" thing. I still eat a lot when I'm not hungry, but it's getting less. I am practicing being loving and tolerant of myself and I think that when I feel that I am not going to be deprived of eating, that perhaps I will begin to have a regular relationship with food.  I've done it a few times, not eaten til I was hungry, and the food, the food is so much nicer.  So much more delicious on an empty stomach, than force feeding more comfort into a body that is already stuffed with the meal before.

My codeine addiction is quite common, especially among those with addictive personalities.  There's a reason why it says "WARNING: CODEINE IS ADDICTIVE". Cause it blummen well is!  I went to see my doctor to get some help with it, and have been slowly coming off it.  In a week, I will be totally painkiller free.  I realised that I couldn't tell if I was hungry or not if I was constantly fuzzy from painkillers.  I thought I was in genuine pain....turns out the neck pain can be fixed by a hot shower, dencorub or a wheat bag.  The headache - that was a rebound headache from taking too many painkillers - a sign that my body was dependent on them.  I feel clear, happy and free.  I had a lot of fear around giving them up and whether I would be able to sleep or not...and although it hasn't been the best week of sleep that I've ever had in my life, I accept that I am an anxious type of person and I need to do things like writing and exercising and talking to other AA members about my addictive personality, in order to sleep peacefully. 

My mind is emptied of fat, kj, points, propoints, fats, grains, etc etc.  I practice trying to love and accept myself.  I soothe the voice in my head that tells me I am a fat loser and nobody wants to be my friend.  I tell it that I am doing the best that I can and I am worthy.  I have come so far. I know that the damaged, skeptical, addictive part of me still wants the Duromine that another doctor offered me, but the well, sane part of me, just wants me to be me.  I am practicing loving myself back to health.  How can I stay overweight if I eat only when I am hungry?  It is a scary journey, but one that I am sort of excited about being on.

When I'm fully off the codeine, I will be picking another sobriety date.  And instead of thinking that I've lost nearly 10 years of sobriety and being hard on myself, I will see that not drinking, one day at a time, for nearly 10 years, is an achievement....and that this is another phase of my recovery. Instead of thinking that I've lost and then regained 16kg, and that I am a failure, I see that I have learnt a lot through my weight loss journey. I was just as obsessed and crazy at 93kg when I was dieting.  I didn't focus on life - I focused on food.  It was my obsession and all I wanted was to be thinner, because perhaps then I would feel worthwhile. I am no better or worse than anyone who has an addictive nature.  I am no better or worse than anyone who has ever struggled to lose weight and hated themselves because of it.  I'm moving away from judging other people, because it makes me judge myself too, and I don't like that.  I am no better or worse. I'm just me. Becoming Deborah.