My Personal Journey to Overcoming an Eating Disorder
I am a teacher, musician, new mother, and recovered binge eater. I have struggled with my weight and food issues for most of my life. I was at my highest weight, 260 pounds, in 2017. Then I had the gastric sleeve. It changed my life and my relationship with food. I am also partnered with BariatricPal. If you shop there with my referral link, I get a little commission and you get a 15% discount on your first purchase with the code BEYOND15 at checkout.
When I had the gastric sleeve in October 2017, I wanted to lose weight but it wasn’t the numbers that mattered most to me. It was being healthy enough to have a baby that mattered. Then, just over a year ago, I found out I was pregnant. It was a reasonably healthy pregnancy aside from having no energy and needing to keep an eye on my blood pressure. Then my little miracle arrived five weeks early at the end of February.
Until the day I found out I was pregnant, my journey was about losing weight, getting healthy, and improving my relationship with food. Then my journey became about her and what I want for her.
More than anything, I want to set a good example for her. I want to show her that food is not the enemy I once thought it was. I want her to love and take care of herself. I want her to be kind to others.
I’m excited to watch her explore the world and discover new things. What kind of person will she become? Where will her journey take her?
As I lay here trying to quiet my brain and go back to sleep at 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, there are two things swirling around my brain. First is that I need my brain to shut off so I can go to sleep. I’ve got a full day of professional development ahead of me! How on earth am I going to concentrate and process what I imagine will be far too much information on just a few hours sleep? Second, to quote Bilbo Baggins, I feel like butter scraped over too much bread. I feel like there are demands on my time and attention twenty-four hours a day. Like I have to be everywhere and do everything for everyone.
Looking back at those last few sentences, it’s no wonder I can’t sleep! It’s also no wonder I’m craving carby comfort food. The little Bilbo inside my brain is seeking comfort the only way he knows how. Typical hobbit! He thinks food will make it better and since I can’t eat much, thanks to my gastric sleeve, he is making all the noise he can and keeping me awake!
Now the question is how to fix this. How do I bring comfort to my inner Bilbo, without food, so I can get some sleep and be an almost normal, functioning adult?
The answer is setting boundaries. Right now, I will do anything for anyone anytime they ask me. Why? Because I want to be the best. The best daughter. The best sister. The best friend. The best teacher. The best wife. My way of being the best is doing things for others and spending time with them. But here’s the thing, can I be the best anything if I’m trying to be the best everything?
I think setting boundaries begins with knowing when to say no. No, I can’t appear at an event for one job while I’m supposed to be planning lessons and organizing my classroom for another (even though both jobs share office space). No, I can’t answer that call or read that email right now. No, I won’t proofread that assignment the night before it’s due when you’ve had two weeks to get it to me. No, I’m not going to change the way I teach because you think you know better (even though you’ve got no teaching experience and I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade).
And with that, I think it’s time to close my computer and get some sleep. It’s taken me an hour to write this, but getting that off my chest helped and now I’m sleepy. Too bad my alarm is going off in an hour!
A lot of people I know are struggling with depression and anxiety right now. At first, I wondered why then I realized that this is a really rough time of year. It’s cold. We don’t get much daylight and I don’t know about you, but for me, there is kind of a post-holidays blah feeling. I mean, through November and December we have the build-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. After that, it can feel like there isn’t much to look forward to. Any of those is a good explanation, never mind a combination of them. If you normally struggle with depression and anxiety anyway, it’s even worse.
One of the ways a lot of people comfort themselves is with food. Now if, like me, you’re a recovering binge eater and have had weight loss surgery, this is a really bad idea. Calling it a really bad idea is actually understating it. So, the question is how to avoid falling back into a binge eating pattern or how to get out of that pattern if you’re already in it.
Therapy. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a therapist. Yes, you can talk to your friends, family, or someone you trust but as much as they love you they are not professionals. A professional can help you work through your feelings in a healthy way. They can also help you put some good coping mechanisms in place. If you learn one thing from this post I want it to be that a good therapist is worth their weight in gold. Seriously, when mine retires I’ll be screwed.
Wait out the craving. We all have that one food we crave when we need comfort. When the cravings hit me I ask myself one important question. When is the last time I ate? If it’s less than 2 hours ago, I probably do not need to eat. If it’s more than 2 hours ago, I find a healthier substitute for the food I’m craving.
Distraction. If I ate less than 2 hours before the craving hits me, I find a way to distract myself. For me that is usually knitting, jewelry making, crocheting, reading, or writing. Each of those activities require my concentration and I usually forget about the craving once I get started. Writing is the most effective for me because it gives me a chance to get my feelings out of my head and onto some paper. Then I either turn it into a blog post if I think it’ll be helpful to others, keep it there in my journal to reflect on later, or I rip it out of my journal and throw it away.
Substitution. If I do actually need to eat, I find a healthier substitute for the food I’m craving. For me, the craving is usually pizza or something deep fried. Or, if the craving is PMS induced, it’s something sweet and chocolatey. Substitutes for pizza are pretty easy these days! There’s cauliflower crust, which is a great option, or if you want something with more protein to fill you up there is meat crust. There are recipes all over the internet for both, or you can buy them premade! I buy frozen cauliflower crusts and then use my own toppings or I go for Real Good Foods frozen pizzas with a chicken crust. I’m still working on finding substitutes for my favorite fried foods. There’ll be a post later on what I figure out. And for sweets, I make sugar free versions of my favorite things. Or I have a chocolate protein shake with a little powdered peanut butter in there. *poof* Tastes like a peanut butter cup without the guilt or sore tummy after eating a package of peanut butter cups.
Exercise. I used to think that people who told me this were full of crap. But one day a couple of weeks ago I was feeling really anxious and just could not settle myself. After my morning class was over I went to the gym and got on the elliptical for about 25 minutes. By the time I was done I felt a lot better! It gave my body something to do with that fight or flight response, I think. And I burned a couple hundred calories. That certainly didn’t suck.
These are the things that help me the most. What helps you? I’d love to hear from you either in the comments or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes, I’m talking to you. I want you to know that I see you. I see that you’re exhausted, both emotionally and physically. I see that you keep as busy as possible so you don’t have time to think about just how low your self-esteem is or how anxious and stressed you are. This is your reminder that not only is it ok to stop and take a moment for yourself, but it is also necessary.
I’m not talking about going to get an expensive massage or manicure, although those are nice treats if you can afford them. I’m talking about the small things you can do every day. The simple things like drinking a glass of water, drinking coffee or tea out of your favorite mug, getting outside for some fresh air, or listening to your favorite song. I’m talking about taking 5 minutes to jot something down in a journal, or even just a moment to stop and breathe. Maybe having lunch with a friend or co-worker instead of sitting alone in your office or at your desk.
We often ignore these small, simple things because we’re busy running around and doing things for others. And don’t get me wrong, doing things for others is great but it is vital that you take a moment to take care of yourself every day.
Here is my challenge to you for 2019. Do something small for yourself every day. I’ll do the same and post it on my Instagram with the hashtag amomentforme.
Have you ever felt like you’re on one of those hamster wheels? Like no matter how hard and how fast you run you don’t actually get anywhere? That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m stronger both physically and emotionally. I’m certainly healthier than I was this time last year.
My career is what seems to be stuck. I commute nearly an hour each way, work my tail off every day, and still have trouble making ends meet. Quite frankly, it’s starting to make me angry and I don’t do anger very well. Or at least I haven’t in the past. It used to turn straight to anxiety which turned into an insatiable hunger. I’m trying to turn it into something productive now. So, what can I do to make that happen? Here is my list so far:
Acknowledge the anger. This is often the most difficult part for me. I had to learn that anger is not dangerous, even though it feels dangerous sometimes.
Define the reason for the anger. Even though I often think it’s unreasonable to be angry quite the opposite is true. If I’m angry there is a good reason for it whether it’s because I’ve been treated unfairly or something I’ve worked for didn’t work out or I just plain didn’t get what I wanted.
Can I do anything about it? After I define the reason I ask myself this very important question. If the answer is no, I take a walk or pull out a craft project to work on or listen to some calming music. If the answer is yes, I move on to brainstorming solutions. That’s the stage I’m in right now. I usually make a list of possible solutions or free write until a solution presents itself.
How do you handle that stuck feeling? How do you handle emotions like anger? I’m curious!
Sometimes after a long work day, I want nothing more than to sit down and eat food that I don’t have to prepare. Lately, all my work days feel long. So to prevent falling into the take-out trap I spent my Sunday preparing some food ahead of time so that when I’m tired at the end of the day all I have to do is take a container out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave.
I think I’m also going to throw a crustless quiche together for my breakfasts. I usually use 6 eggs, a small package of frozen spinach, and some cheddar cheese. I pop that in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes and it’s all set!
Having these things prepared for the week should help set me up for healthy eating success. What helps set you up for a good week?
As a gastric sleeve post-op making sure I get enough protein is one of my top priorities. How do I do that? I’m glad you asked because I’m dying to share it with you!
Eat protein first. When I put food on my plate I put a protein source and a vegetable, then maybe a whole grain. Even when all three of those things are on my plate I eat the protein first. My protein source is usually chicken, beef, or pork. Once in a while, I have either fish or an egg instead. My snacks are usually string cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese. If I’m on the go and need something it’s usually a protein bar, but more on that later.
A protein shake a day. My go-to premade shake is from Premier Protein. There are 160 calories, 30g of protein, and just 1g of sugar per shake. I enjoy all the flavors, but lately, I’ve been pouring my morning coffee over ice and then adding the caramel flavor. They’re available in a lot of stores, but I tend to buy them on Amazon. Click here to find a good deal on a 12 pack. My go-to powder is Celebrate Protein Shake 20. It’s 90 calories, 20g of protein, and 1g of sugar per serving. I found it on the Bariatric Pal website. You can order it in a 15 serving pouch here.
A protein bar for a snack on the go. I keep a protein bar in my bag no matter where I go. It keeps me out of junk food when I need an afternoon snack. Finding the right protein bar for you can be hard. It took me a while to find one with the right texture and taste. I don’t like bars that are too dense or mealy. My absolute favorite is from BariatricPal, Peanut Butter and Jelly flavor. There are 170 calories, 12g of protein, 16g of carbs, and 8g of sugar per bar. Not bad! You can find them here.
If you’ve been looking for good protein supplements, I hope this helps! These work well for me and they keep me on track with my new, healthy lifestyle.
It’s hard not to feel conflicted today, a day when we’re supposed to celebrate being American and there are so many terrible things happening in this country right now. Families are being separated. People’s rights are at risk of being taken away. The worst thing is that there are many Americans who seem to support it, considering they voted for the people responsible for it all. It’s really hard to feel proud of that. It’s even harder to want to celebrate that. So my suggestion is this: don’t celebrate it. Choose to celebrate something else today. Is there an obstacle you’ve overcome in the past year? A goal you’ve reached? Some burden you’re free of now? And when the celebration is over, find something you can do to make this country a better place no matter how inconsequential that thing may seem to you.
I’m choosing to celebrate my health. My freedom from pain and fatigue. This time last year I could not walk for even 10 minutes without my feet, knees, and back hurting. This year I can walk several miles a day with no pain. I’m choosing to celebrate my newly found confidence. This time last year I couldn’t stand looking at my reflection, never mind having anyone else notice me. This year, let people look! I look in the mirror and say to myself “Damn, I look cute today!” rather than “Ugh, I hate the way I look.”
I will go out into my community today and celebrate the arts. I will eat delicious food without fear that I won’t be able to stop. I will listen to good music and watch fireworks with the man I love. And when the celebration is over I will come home and find a way to use my talents to make this country a better place, even if I can only help one or two people at a time.
What are you choosing to celebrate today? What will you do to make this country, your country, a better place?
Everyone has one of those nights when they don’t think they have enough energy to make dinner. Sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s a part of us that is looking for a reason to order in. Last night was one of those nights in my house. That’s when I usually just pull up Grubhub.com and try to find something that’s mainly protein and veggies, not an easy feat.
Last night, though, I decided to cook anyway. I pulled some boneless pork chops out of the freezer along with a bag of Green Giant riced cauliflower “risotto” medley and whipped up a quick, healthy dinner.
First, I defrosted the pork chops in the microwave. Then I breaded them with panko and parmesan cheese. I tossed them in the oven on 350 for about 30 minutes. While that was in the oven I put a couple tablespoons of olive oil and some minced garlic in a skillet, then added the “risotto” medley. Little by little I added about a cup of vegetable broth. I added some broth and stirred until it was absorbed, then kept repeating that until I used the whole cup and added some parmesan cheese. Here are the results.
It was a healthy dinner that took less time to make that it would have taken to wait for a delivery.
It’s that time of year again! Christmas is a week and a half away. It can be wonderful and magical with lights and cheerful holiday music, planning gifts for loved ones, and some seriously delicious food. It can also be insanely stressful with crowds of people and long lines everywhere. With long lists of people to buy gifts for, busy schedules to manage, and family members you really wish you didn’t have to see. How can such a short period of time be so wonderful and magical one moment then make you want to hide in a blanket fort and not move the next moment?
In the past, I have put so much pressure on myself for everything to be perfect. I needed to have perfect gifts for everyone on my list, a perfectly planned schedule so I could see everyone in my family on Christmas day, the perfect plan to avoid family members I really didn’t want to see, and have the perfect outfit in case someone was taking pictures. So, as you can guess, I hated this time of year.
Now I love it! And here’s why:
I’ve done away with the long list of gifts to buy. It was getting expensive, and honestly, I usually found myself buying something completely meaningless just to have something to give people. In the past couple of years, I’ve started making gifts instead and only for the people closest to me. It’s much more meaningful and much less stressful.
Instead of trying to see everyone in one day, I spread visits out over two or three days. That way, I get to enjoy time with everyone that I want to spend time with. As for the people that I don’t want to see, I don’t see them! When that person is a family member it is hard not to feel guilty but I’m telling you that it’s ok! You are allowed to enjoy your holiday free of guilt and stress.
I forget the word perfect. That’s hard for me because I am a perfectionist. However, I am slowly but surely letting go of the idea that everything must be perfect. It’s not perfect and it won’t be but as long as I’m with the people I love I am happy.
What will you do to make your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable?