Saturday, March 27, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance

I drove to Ogden the other day with a CD of Ricky Martin blaring in the car.  I had forgotten how much I loved to dance.  I could not sit still and I found myself pining for a talented dance partner (there is something sexy about a man who can dance :) ) and a healthier body so I could make it through more than one cha-cha without collapsing.  (This did not stop me from shakin' my bootie in the car, however.)  I realized how much I missed dancing.  It is just so much fun.  It brings me joy.  But it's one of several things that I have given up because of the fat.  I have spent the last several years "accepting" and forgetting the fact that dancing could not be a part of my life.  I can't keep up and what man in his right mind would want to dance with me anyway?  Right?  Well, I've had Dance Awakening.

When I was little I took jazz, tap, and ballet lessons.  By the 6th grade I quit formal lessons because I decided that chubby girls have no business dancing.  I never told anyone that was my reason, but that was my reason.  At home my sisters and mom taught me to Jitter Bug to "Bandstand" and the "Happy Days" theme song.  And I think I learned a little Waltz and maybe Polka at home too. 

I danced a lot in college, learning how to country swing and of course the ballroom stuff.  I sort of tricked this guy I liked into taking country swing with me.  He had mentioned in an earlier conversation that he would like to learn and so when the classes started I made him come with me.  Oh my heck...so much fun.  I had pulled muscles and was stiff and bruised, but I loved every minute.  We two-stepped to "Love Can Build a Bridge" (The Judds) once and it became our song. (He had no idea of course).  I immediately bought the cassette tape.  I had never been a country music fan, but for the duration of our "love affair" I adored it.  I remember dancing with this other cowboy once that was really good.  We were swinging so fast and I was spinning so much and when he told me I was a great dancer, I was in love.  We never saw each other again.  *Heavy sigh*

I started going to physical therapy a couple weeks ago for some conditioning so I will be able to move and eventually exercise more.  This Hispanic woman is often there so I asked her if she knew the steps for Samba or other Latin dances.  She said she needed music so I grabbed Ricky Martin out of my car and she showed us all how to Salsa.  Even the physical therapist was dancing.  It was so much fun and hilarious.  I can't do much, but I loved it.  It will be something I'll do more of at home to get some cardio in my life. 

So, I'm off to dream of men in tights...hehe just kidding.  Maybe men in tuxes or wranglers or those bell bottom Latin dancing pants...or whatever, just so they are dancing with me. ;)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You're Gonna Have to Face it, You're Addicted to Food, Part 2

This last year, since I returned from the eating disorders treatment center, has been quite a ride.  It took me a few months to recover emotionally from what felt like a good beating.  I felt so raw.  And to make things worse I was rapidly gaining weight.  Weight gain has slowed down but I have gained close to 100 lbs in the last year.  The year before I had experienced success in the weight loss department and even though the arrangement brought out some dishonesty, it showed me the reality of just how crazy my relationship with food was.  Part of me went into treatment thinking that it would reinforce me and support me so I could continue to be successful.  I had so much hope riding on this.  It backfired.  I don't know what it was--wrong time or place, too long or not long enough, or was it that my expectations were too high?  Oh the shame, the disappointment of it all!  I was embarrassed at my failure.

I was reading through a book, "Changing for Good," recently.  It's the result of many studies on successful self-changers and it outlines several steps that successful changers go through, action being only one.  Acknowledging you have a problem, preparing, acting and maintaining are some of the steps.  Most people relapse several times before they are able to change for good.  And most relapse because of unanticipated, unusual stress that they are unprepared for.   In those situations, it is common and easy to resort to familiar ways of coping.    I long understood what my "original" stresses were in childhood and then later in my mid 20s that sent me on the road to adult morbid obesity, but for the first time the thought occurred to me that this "treatment" had also been an unanticipated, severe stress that I was unprepared for.  "Maybe I'm not a total loser", I thought, "eating my way to a piano case casket, for no good reason."  I realized that while my reaction was not inevitable, it was not surprising either. I am not saying that I don't have choices, I am just saying that faced with the disappointment and the mental beating I took, I intensified my use of food to cope with it all.  It's the coping mechanism I know best, the one that has been ingrained in me most of my life.  I have to remember that food is what I know.  It's so hard to develop and use more healthy ways to cope.

Discovering the reasons for my year long binge has helped me to let go of some of the embarrassment and shame and to forgive myself a little.  Now that I realize why, I can learn from it.  I can figure out what I could have done differently and do better next time life gives me a concussion.  For example,  I know that I made the mistake of keeping much of my experience and pain under wraps.  I need to learn to trust people more and take the risk of opening up.  I need to learn to get my emotions out in other ways too...like being assertive, beating my bed with my pillow, crying my eyes out or....blogging.  Food does not fill my emotional emptiness or numb my pain for very long, but friends and many other activities can.  Understanding this gives me hope that I will succeed.

I've also spent the last year working with some people who have expertise in eating disorders.  We've been working on all different facets and angles.  I'm just having a hard time doing.  I'm having a hard time letting go.  I'm having a hard time with the thought of dealing with life without using food.  Food is tricky.  How do you keep a substance in your life that is killing you so you can live?  Where is the balance?  It's a fine line learning to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional needs.  It's complicated.  And then depression makes it difficult to find the motivation or hope to change.  I live under some dark clouds more than I would like, sometimes I work really hard to outrun the storm.  But thankfully, the sun still comes out at times and I can really enjoy life.  Forgive me, but I suddenly want to break into song..."The sun'll come out, tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun... tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you're only a day away."

And with that, I bid you adieu.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You're Gonna Have to Face it, You're Addicted to Food, Part 1

It's been one year this month since I spent 30 days in an eating disorders treatment center.  (These days they treat compulsive overeating, binge eating, and many other eating disorders, along with the better known ones of anorexia and bulimia.)  Anniversaries often prompt some reflection and this case is no exception. I've been thinking about why I went, what happened when I got there, and what has transpired since.

I had spent the year before using somewhat drastic measures to get control of my eating.  The plan was that I would enlist someone to keep my food and my checkbook.  She would go grocery shopping with me, monitor what I used my money for and give me a days worth of food each day.  It wasn't fool proof, but the first little while I was losing weight.  I had a lot of support and I was excited to be successful.  Eventually, however, I found more and more ways to cheat the system, weight loss slowed, and I began to do things I never thought I would to get my binge food.  I took advantage of those who trusted me and borrowed money under the guise of urgent purchases (gas, tampons, etc) and bought bags of Reece's and ice cream instead.  I told my therapist that I had ice cream in my freezer and we agreed that I had to get rid of it.  When I got home, I found myself sobbing hysterically as I plopped spoonfuls of ice cream in the toilet and flushed.  It felt like someone had died.  When I didn't have money, and the cravings were bad, I would loiter in candy aisles pondering how I could get chocolate in my pockets and get out of the store without getting caught.  Once I actually had a bag of chocolate in my purse, but after 10 minutes of roaming around the store, I was deterred by the fear of embarrassment when I, the obese woman, got caught stealing bags of candy.  I also raided the cupboards, fridges, and drawers of unsuspecting friends.

I ate food out of the trash.  It wasn't all that unusual for me to throw some goodies away in an effort to stop eating, only to dig them out later.  One day I came home with a Reece's.  I was in the driveway and after much trepidation I decided to be strong and I opened up the package and dropped the exposed peanut butter cups into the outside, dirty garbage.  I figured I wouldn't go back this time because...well...that would be too disgusting.  I was having a difficult night and by midnight I had had it.  I jumped out of bed and went out to the driveway.  I decided that if the cups had landed right side up, I could eat them.  Except for years of garbage slime, they were the only things in the can.  I opened the lid and was joyous to find that one was right side up.  I tried to reach it but it was too deep and the harder I tried the more wobbly the garbage can got.  Finally the wheels took over and it fell on it's side...with me still in it, only my flailing legs were visible.  I wondered if any neighbors had noticed. I imagine if I had seen such a sight, it would have been quite entertaining.  But I didn't care much, I was on a mission.  So, I crawled further in the can and grabbed my Reece's.  I then scooted out onto the cement driveway, got up, went back inside, sat on my couch and ate it.  I reflected on what I had just done and I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.  I mean, who does that?

The food arrangement was making me realize just how attached I was to food.  I still hesitate to use the word addicted, but from what I knew of addictions, I was behaving similarly.  I was lying, deceiving, stealing, and eating out of the garbage can in order to get my fix.  The cravings were terrible.  "What's next?" I mused, "Trading 'favors' for a Hershey?"  I was shocked at my dishonesty when it came to acquiring comfort food.  And I was stunned at just how strong my desire was to squelch my feelings with cake.  It felt horrible.  I was scared.  I thought I had to do something drastic.  I had to go to a treatment center.

So I went.  To say that it was hard would be an understatement.  First of all, it was difficult to explain to people why I was going.  I remember joking that I was going to fat camp or saying that I needed a better relationship with food or saying that I was leaving for some self improvement.  Some were supportive, some were not.  I felt stupid trying to explain.

My time there was insane.  It was an inpatient facility and except for a daily walk, we were locked in.  In addition to feeling incarcerated, they poked and prodded and dug up things long buried which was emotionally exhausting.  I wasn't expecting such intensity.  Then came what I thought was my last day, as my insurance was maxed out.  I spent my "last night" in a hotel with other patients who were doing a partial day program.  I had stepped into a chaotic, stressful, tense situation that they were going through and trying to deal with everything that had come up in the past 3 weeks, I just couldn't do it anymore.  I was completely overwhelmed.  I'll just say here that I did some things that caused concern at the hospital and the next day I was back inpatient until they felt I was stable.

The next 9 days were filled with the additional anxiety of money and wondering what work must be thinking of me.  After all, I had downplayed my reasons for going and I imagined that they were probably pissed that I was taking more time off for my "education" or my "self-improvement".  To say the least, I felt foolish trying to explain why the hospital was keeping me.  What am I supposed to say?  "I'm nuts.  I am unstable at the moment.  I literally want to die and the doctors are readmitting me."  Awkward!  On day 9, I had enough and I checked myself out AMA (against medical advice).

I came away with a mixed bag.  I did get an education, worked through some things, and I laughed and cried with some new friends that I will never forget.  I also came home depressed, angry, and in disarray.  I felt like I had been hit by an emotional truck and left for dead.  I went back to life in a bit of a daze, and was left pondering if I had done the right thing.

(To be continued)