Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Difference between Cookie and Cookies

So I haven't blogged about this yet, but I'm on a weight loss mission.  I signed up for a weight-loss challenge last year, but that was kinda silly because I was nursing Atticus like crazy and it is never a good idea to diet whilst nursing full-time.  I'm hesitant to blog about weight loss because I actually have a lot to say on the topic and it is a bit overwhelming.  Way at the bottom of my blog is a weight loss ticker and that's pretty much all I've done publicly. 

I have a lot to say.  About why I'm fat.  The weight I have loss.  The weight I gained back.  Eating Disorders.  How weight has impacted my love life, my parenting, and other areas of my life.  Until I get up the gumption to write it all down, I thought I'd start with baby steps.

I'm going to write about cookie.  That isn't a typo.  I meant cookie.  One of the reasons I'm fat is because of cookies.  Cakes.  Breads.  Slices of pizza.  Not a cookie, cake, bread, or a slice of pizza.  I'm fat because I ate too much really good food.

Here's something you may or may not know about me.  In 2003, while battling depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from sexual violence, I was hospitalized in a mental health facility.  Given my intense fear of men and frequent flashbacks I was placed in a wing of the hospital for women.  That area of the hospital happened to specialized in eating disorders.  So there I was, at that time over 350 pounds, sitting around with 60 pound women; some of the women were in wheelchairs, some about to be whisked to the hospital for feeding tubes, a couple with kidney failure, and more than a few with esophageal erosion and other health problems.

What I learned from these women suffering from anorexia and bulimia was that we were the same in so many ways.  They all thought they looked like me.  They had some of the same issues -- secrecy eating, low self-esteem, cutting and other modes of self-harm.  And yes, all the food issues.  As one of girl remarked to me, "Amanda, you're just like me, you're just all binge and no purge." 

Tuesday's was Challenge Day.  We were all ushered into a private dining area.  The same dining area where we recorded what we ate and how we felt at each meal.  A tiny, wee slice of cake was placed in front of each of use.  The anorexic girls who didn't want to eat and the bulimic girls who wanted to eat tons only to throw it back up had to take one bite.  ONE BITE.  I can recall several of the girls weeping.  This awful piece of cake would kill them.  That one bite would make them fat, disgusting, ugly, ill.....

My challenge was to take one bite. ONE BITE.  Slowly.  Not wolfing it down.  But I wanted all of the slice.  And everyone else could give me the unwanted slices.  Cake was good.  Cake made me feel happy, calm, loved, satisfied, fulfilled.  I needed cake.  So. much. cake.  I took one bite and the cake was carried away.  I cried.  I cried because I realized those many many many bites of cake would make me fat, disgusting, ugly, ill.....

I had the same problem as many of the other women at the facility.  I had disordered eating.  Not a single one of us could easily have cake as a reasonable part of our lives; an occasional treat in a realistic portion size.

Part of my disordered eating is that I identity my eating as being "good" and "bad".  When I'm good I'm very very good.  I eat rabbit food and exercise and think about calories constantly.  When I'm bad I'll eat a sack of cheeseburgers and a half-gallon of ice cream.  Both types of thinking are extreme and certainly not normal.

That being said, I've realized that I've slipped back into celebrating with a dozen cookies, rather than enjoying one cookie.  I'll bake a batch and have one out of the oven, one with lunch, one for snack, one after dinner, one before bed..... Back in December I even promised myself a cookie every time the baby woke up in the middle of the night (I had three cookies between 10pm and 6am that night). 

My goal is to lose weight, but my ultimate goal is to relearn my healthy eating habits.  Eat when hungry. Quit when full. Healthful exercise.  Reasonable portions. 

Tuesday night I baked a batch of cookies.  I wanted something chocolaty. I much rather indulge in a homemade something rather than a store bought something.  I baked Martha Stewart's Surprise Cookies.  I omitted the frosting.  I made sure I did an hour of exercise that day instead of 30 minutes.  The cookies came out of the oven. 

I had one cookie.  Slowly.  With a small glass of fat-free milk.  I was full and perfectly satisfied.  I enjoyed that one cookie so much more knowing that I was eating reasonably.

Hooray, for cookie!


christina said...

Amanda I think that this such a REAL and HONEST post and totally appreciate your courage in opening up with your weight loss journey. Overweightness and obesity is as much a disorder as anorexia and bulimia. All has to do with retraining one's brain and relationship with food.

Amanda said...

I know exactly what you mean in all of this post. I'm sure you've heard of binge disorders and compulsive overeating disorders. I had/have the latter, developed in all the years when nothing I did caused me to gain or lose, and my body gained or lost at random moments because of the infection. When you have no control, you develop a very emotional relationship with food. I used to eat entire boxes of granola bars in my closet so no one could see me, or I'd eat until I made myself sick, though I never purged. I would eat to attack myself when I was frustrated or angry, or to give myself a reason to explain the sudden weight gain I had no control of, or any number of other reasons. In the last year, I've worked really hard on controlling the emotional aspects of eating, and I've been fairly successful, though I still have trouble when I'm frustrated or angry. I still have a tendency to throw up my hands, yell F-this, and attack myself with food until I feel completely sick. It's been worse the last 4 months or so as my weight loss has slowed down so drastically (which is really frustrating when you're doing everything you can). Thank you for talking about this.

Andi said...

It's hard. It just is. I know exactly what you mean and I've often related my emotions about food to those of an addict.

I'm right there with you. This has to be the year I do things differently and re-learn these habits.

Giggly said...

Opening up and being honest is the first step to a healthy start, to a healthy relationship with yourself and food. I've been on both sides, from unhealthily thin to obese.
I am still learning on my weight loss journey. It's been 9 months since I started a new mind set and healthy habits. Some days are harder than others, especially with an entire background and surrounding extended family with health issues and unhealthy habits.
Some days I cry during workouts, Some days I quietly celebrate new- found muscle tone. Some days I feel like giving up and eating a full rack of ribs and dozen cookies, and some days I realize how far I've come.

Hooray! For enjoying reasonable amounts of delicious food and getting through a decent amount of activity each day. XOXOX

Anonymous said...

Hi Amanda: Good for you! That's hard stuff. I live alone and am overweight, but losing it (again). I cope by not buying what I don't plan to immediately eat. I can't imagine having cookies and snack foods around the house that I didn't eat too much of. So, I buy one cookie. But it would probably be better if I could have a bag of cookies in the house and just eat... I'm not really sure how much, let's say not the whole bag in a week (I don't think I'm a real binge eater, more like someone who regularly eats too much and it adds up). Very hard to relearn good habits - good for you! Ruby

Susan in TX said...

Yay for cookie! You are such an inspiration to us all.

Lindsey Sparks said...

Thanks for sharing Amanda! This really helped me think about my own relationship with food. I've gained a lot of weight the last few years (and have lost about half of it), although I've stayed mostly in the "healthy" weight category. I thought that meant I was fine, but I gained 40 pounds (and I'm a short girl) in just a few years from emotional eating. I was frustrated at work and let that be my excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I would eat fast food for lunch, "sneak" a candy bar in the afternoon, have Hostess cupcake after work, have pizza or something equally bad for dinner, then have a bowl of ice cream. When my husband worked retail, I would get excited over eating a whole frozen pizza and more snacks when he worked lately and wouldn't notice. Ugh. I would tell myself I deserved it because I had a bad day, but that only made things worse in the long run. And I was still skinnier than a lot of people, so I'd say it was okay. Now I'm having to try to relearn proper eating habits, get healthier and lower my cholesterol. I'm trying to replace stress eating with reading a favorite book, taking a bath, writing, or other things that relieve stress because I'm still so tempted to reach for food when I'm upset! I needed a reminder to be more aware of my eating, so thanks for posting!

o said...

This post has me teary - I completely get it, and I know the achievement when you have just the one coolie - the victory of it, how it symbolises ordered eating instead of disordered.

A few years back I had that problem, all binge, no purge. God knows how, but I dieted and lost so much I went to underweight very fast. Now, for the past few months, I'm back to where I was - all binge, no purge, and no order. No one knows how terrifying it is unless they've been through it, and I'm glad you spoke out so others like me know they're not alone. I hope I get to the "one cookie" stage. It's so awful, this. So awful.

Cassandra said...

This is probably one of the best posts I've ever read and I can relate to it completely.
All my life I've been a little chubby, not dramatically overweight, but always a little heavier than other girls.

Last spring I decided to do something about it and...exaggerated. My eating was normal before, a little bit too fatty, but I had normal eating habits. Then for some months I would count every calory, eat like a bird and work out like an athlete. I knew some anorexic girls and I spent more and more time with them, although I didn't want to become like them, I just wanted to copy their habits, not their illness in order to lose weight. I really thought I could handle this, but I played with the fire and burned myself.

I would not go as far as saying I was anorexic, although I lost more than ten pounds within a month, but since then my eating has been disordered. When I noticed that my experiment didn't work and I was becoming more and more not like the anorexic girls but one of them, I decided to "fix myself" by eating unbelievable amounts of junk food, and since then I am in the same state as you.

I admire you for the cookie, I admire you so much. I wish I had your strength.

Thomas at My Porch said...

I need to get some eating issues under control as well. I have not been very healthy about it in recent years and John's risk for cardiac troubles is exacerbated greatly by our eating and lack of exercise. My problem is that I love volume. It is never enough for me to take one bite, one cookie, or even one piece of whatever. Sure I like the taste of sweets, but I also want a lot of it all at once. I will eat it until I am sick. I can eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting without batting an eye. And baking is so much fun. And discovering great food when we travel is so fun...argh. It really does require a mind shift. I hope I am up to it.

April said...

I love this post - so honest and really resonates with me as well. Many of us have fought these battles. Thanks for your courage in sharing - I hope you will keep on (as you're comfortable).