There Will Be Spreadsheets

Happy new year comrades! Hope your 2011 is off to a cracking start.

Things were rather crapful, healthwise, in the last six weeks of 2010. I was about as mindful as bulldozer! While there was some brilliant bits (good times with friends and family, progress on a groovy new web project) but there were also very messy bits – workplace madness, my 6th major cold of the year and the re-emergence of that old self-destructive streak. I dropped the ball completely and just did not have any interest in looking after myself. I took to hiding in the bath tub with the bubbles a foot high so I could pretend I didn't have a body. Next thing my rubbish bin was jangling with the sound of foil wrappers from chocolate coins and the size 18 dress I reluctantly wore for a summer wedding was now too tight to wear to a party. D'oh.

Strategy I've come out the other side now after a couple of weeks off work and some time to rest and think. I learned so much in 2010 with the shrink visits and mindfulness stuff – many lightbulbs went off. But I wasn't able to translate those lightbulbs into meaningful, lasting changes.

The missing element was a plan. It's not enough to realise you have work to do – you have to figure out how the hell you're going to do it. Otherwise I could see myself muddling on forever, slightly more aware of why I do the things I do, but still bloody doing them!

So it was time for action. I spent Boxing Day mapping out a wee strategy. I thought I'd talk about the lard-related bits of it on here…

Food Diary
Yeah, that old chestnut! But it works for me. When I acknowledge and document what I eat, I'm thoughtful with my choices and more likely to tune into hunger signals. When I don't, I do okay for a while but then I get sloppy with portion sizes, then unhealthy choices creep in, then it's "quick, noone's looking!" mode, then the slide into all-out denial.

All year the shrink tried to get me to fill in a diary and I never stuck with it. I don't know if it was because a) I didn't want her to see how bad my "mistakes" could be (interesting to seek the approval of someone you're paying), or b) I didn't want to acknowledge what I was eating, because it might mean giving up the fleeting diversion of eating rubbish. Maybe both?

I've realised since, that I just have to buckle down and DO IT, but in a way that suits me. Which leads us to…

The Spreadsheet
The food diary is a Google Docs spreadsheet. It's inspired by the paper Food/Mood journal the shrink gave me, but I'm finding it so much easier to update on the computer or phone. One row per day with columns for meals and observations. The document is shared with a good friend who's on a similar path – we have a tab each and check in on the other's progress daily so theres no scope for slacking off. And so on to…

Accountability & Real World Support
Getting help from a professional is great but in many ways it's an expensive way of talking to yourself. You can dump all your woes in the session, walk out of the office and kind of leave it there and not really do anything with it back in the "real world".

I've always been most successful when I'm open about my eating struggles with those closest to me. My recent strategy of trying to fix things myself and pretending all was okay did not work, and was no doubt unconvincing for my loved ones as I slowly inflated before their very eyes.

So I've had some conversations with my nearest and dearest along the lines of, "Well, obviously I've been struggling a wee bit here. This is what I'm planning to do about it. Do you reckon you might like to buddy up on a food diary/go somewhere healthier for lunch/eat at the table instead of on the couch/etc etc etc?". Simple things, low key support, but for someone who has not wanted to acknowledge what was really going on to herself, let alone out loud to others, it was huge step forward. It had been very lonely on Planet Denial.

Planning
I'm back to the good old weekly meal planning. There's a spreadsheet for that too! Healthier meals but not boring, single spear of asparagus and a glass of air diet food. Normal, everyday food but remembering I don't need a mountain of rice and that toast doesn't have to come in pairs. This is becoming less of a drama each day now that I'm getting back to…

Mindfulness
The mindful eating tools and techniques I'd adopted last year were really helpful. I'd just stopped using them! So it's back to things like: tuning in to hunger levels before and during eating, putting my food on a plate and sitting down to eat it, exercising for enjoyment not punishment, etc etc etc.

Committment
I've got a combination of practical and mindful tactics, accountability measures and support. I'm ready to tackle this now. The black dog is back in his kennel! Unlike a year ago, addressing my eating now is not a diversion – the "designated issue" as Martha Beck calls it – because I've worked on the bigger issues.

That's enough baby steps for now, I reckon. Are you still awake?

Disclaimer: My pal Lainey is always bemused when I put disclaimers on my blog but I should show her the emails I get from folks insisting, "you're doing it wrong". So I'm disclaiming that this is the plan of action I have come up with based on what worked in the past combined with what I've learned since about my wily ways. I'm giving it a red hot go (one week down) and will reassess at the end of the month. Yee-ha!

The slobbering hounds

Praise-the-lord Disclaimer: I've got a cold and feeling quite delirious today! Everything seems mildly hilarious for no good reason. But that's not a bad way to feel about the world, is it?

Anyway. I wanted to clarify that I've not gone all Intuitive Eating bonkers. I wouldn't call myself an Intuitive Eater in the way that people might declare, "I'm a Weight Watcher" or "I eat Primal" or "I'm a naked tap dancer". I'm not carrying a card and I'm not a delirious convert shouting to the world I have fouuuund the answer!

All I've done is read a few books and blogs* then experimented with some ideas and techniques. As I have always said on this blog, there is no single answer. There is no hallelujah moment where you find The One way of doing things. All you can do is explore all the wild and wacky options then adopt what works for you, then change it again if it stops working.

I don't see IE as a set of rigid rules that one would accept or reject like a diet – it's more about ideas and guidelines. Some of the IE stuff I've been doing I'll keep doing forever, then other stuff leaves me scratching my head and asking a bazillion "yeah, but" questions.

You also can't take it all too literally. Example: Eat only when you're hungry is a common refrain in the IE stuff I've read. That has worked beautifully in the context of pausing before scarfing into a block of chocolate to to ask myself, "Do I actually want to eat this? Is something else going on here?". But when it comes to a 9.30AM Zumba class, I will eat beforehand even though I'm not hungry. As an experiment I skipped this once, and by 9.45 I was ready to spew on my shoes. Result: I eat a small snack before intense exercise, regardless of hunger. And that's okay, because there is no rule here to break.

The IE experiments are just one part of puzzle. As we head into autumn I'm feeling chirpy and appreciative about life, a much stronger position than this time last year. Lots of simple little changes are working together to keep the slobbering depression hounds in their kennels:

  • Going to bed earlier
  • Getting up earlier
  • Cutting WAAAY back on internet usage
  • Watching less telly
  • Shrink sessions
  • Some CBT exercises
  • Reading novels
  • Getting back into a regular writing habit
  • Meal planning – having food in the cupboards and a list of possible dinners breaks cuts out so much stress and faffery and crappy choices
  • Walking in the woods
  • Seeing new places and doing fun stuff

* will write a post later in the week about specific resources.

I can't remember what else I wanted to say, so I'll wind this up and go blow my nose!

May you all have a rock star week and thank you for all your insightful thoughts and opinions on these posts. Debate away!

Get your sh*t together

Oompa At the hospital café, the patrons were tucking into fluffy white rolls stuffed with bacon, ignoring the greengrocer setting up his optimistic fruit and vegetable stall nearby. I'd been sent up for a chest x-ray due to a revolting cough and high-pitched wheezy breathing that sounded like a herd of Oompa Loompas laughing at a really dirty joke. I'd just spent four sleepless breathless nights on the couch so I had time to pinpoint exactly what it sounded like.

I was x-rayed and sent away in seconds with no dramatic Dr House OMG IT COULD BE LUPUS moments. My doctor gave me some great drugs so the barking has quietened down now. But as always even a brief brush with a hospital left me a wee bit freaked out. Do hospitals freak you out? The smells, the noises, the reminder of all the ways you could malfunction? It makes me think, do not muck around with your health, lady. There are only so many times you can "start over" and expect your body to comply.

. . .

Okay it's five days since I wrote the above and I have no bloody idea where I was going with it. I was a slightly delirious from lack of sleep! I'm cough-free now and just back from a few days visiting my wee sister. Man oh man was it good for the soul. Far away from work and computers; just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Except for the part when the sunshine fried me. But I was taking photos and reading books and chitchatting and eating really delicious foods without doing so to excess… most triumphant.

I'm in the middle of writing a post about this mindful eating malarkey. I'm getting a lot of emails asking wtf is going on as well as emails suggesting that I need try this diet or stay away from that type of food so I want to clear the air and yammer on about what I've been getting up to.

In the meantime here is a picture of a picture that I purchased in April and today finally put in a frame! My next goal is to hang it on the wall before the 2012 Olympics.

Get your sh*t together!  Note the asterisk, so please don't yell at me for swearing.
(from orangebeautiful on etsy)

 

Scott the Strawberry

These past few months have been rather batty. Stuff that is too personal or awkward to write about in real time. Also, stuff that is too personal and bloody tedious to subject you to.

Scott the Strawberry
A healthy eating poster at the local primary school

Basically I took myself off to a shrink. After a year or more of saying I should be able to fix this on my own I thought I'd try talking to an objective person about things.

It was very fruitless to begin with, because I was being very half-arsed about it. There were many conflicting voices:

  • Shame and Fraudulent: I'm wasting her time, I should be able to fix things on my own.
  • Denial: There's nothing wrong with you; harden the f*ck up whinge bag!
  • Hopeless: You've cocked up so badly you're beyond help
  • Blogging Out Loud: telling "hilarious" stories and not being honest about how crappy things were, in case she didn't believe me and/or thought I was pathetic.

It was three expensive months of not much progress and soooooo much denial. I bawled and/or binged and binged and binged after every session. I was tempted to churn out a few of my "I'm doing great now!" blog posts even when I wasn't, because I felt like I should have been doing better.

But slowly, slowly… light bulbs started going off. The energy saving kind that take awhile to warm up, but still, progress.

Recently I got home from work and went to get changed for a workout. I saw my favourite winter coat in the wardrobe and for some reason decided to try it on. It was so tight that I couldn't get it over my shoulders. I looked in the mirror and the bullshit and denial just fell away. I plonked on the bedroom floor and had a cry for twenty minutes.

Then I thought, Righto, ENOUGH. I got up, put on my gym clothes and did a Cathe weights DVD. I started sniffling again halfway through because I couldn't lift as heavy as I used to, but it still felt like a minor triumph over the "you suck, you're doomed!" voice.

"What has changed?" the shrink asked in our next session. What's changed is that I finally accept that I have work to do. I accept that I need to change the way I think and I accept that this takes hard work. I accept I need to communicate properly with my loved ones and not hide or deny problems.

I accept that I need to build a healthy relationship with food that will sustain me for the rest of my life. I had to buy size 18 jeans recently. I want to get back into my 14s but my approach is different now. It can't be about losing weight so I'll fit into a wedding dress, or have an ending for a book, or look acceptable to promote a book, or to live up to the expectations of certain people. It will never stick until deep down, I want to live a healthy life just for me.

I finally see how damaging the language of shoulds, musts and have tos has been. I see how needlessly worrying about what other people think has steered my actions. I see how hiding my problems has made them worse. Man, it's really embarrassing to realise how you've let things go to pot. Even more embarrassing to see how powerful the LA LA LA EVERYTHING'S FINE denial has been.

But I am writing this with a dopey grin on my face because I feel alive and clear-headed and unburdened. I've just spewed this entry straight from the guts today and feel like a complete WANKER for all the psychobabbly dullness but thought an update was overdue. It's been a very insular, delicate, roller coaster process that leaves you feeling very raw and haggard at times, so hopefully you can understand why the blogging has been sparse. I hope you're well and dandy and thank you, as always, for sticking around!

Half deer

Bambi "You've got lovely long eyelashes," I said to Dr G last night, in an attempt at being nice instead of our usual juvenile banter.

"That's because I'm half-deer," he replied.

Last Saturday we went for a walk up East Lomond. It's only half an hour to the top so there was no need for me to whinge! We flopped on the grass and listened to the skylarks chatter and the tourists huff and puff. The hill has a great view of Falkland, one of my favourite Fife villages. The only thing I like about hills, aside from eating sandwiches at the top of them, is how they make you feel like an insignificant speck of dust. Instant perspective!

Two years ago we stashed some boxes in our friend's loft as we were fixing up our flat to sell. We finally picked them up on Sunday then I spent all arvo unpacking boxes and rediscovering old books and notepads and my boarding pass collection that I thought was lost forever. It made me remember for the 757th time lately that I'm passionate about a lot of different things. For a very long time, I've been so lost in writing about the size of my arse and desperately pimping a book about the size of my arse and answering questions about the size of my arse and other people's arses that I'd almost convinced myself I didn't know anything else. Or wanted to do anything else.

Those boarding passes made me remember that wild hunger for adventure that got me on the plane from Australia. The urgent craving for new experiences. That glow in my stomach I felt when I first tottered along Edinburgh's cobbled streets. For all sorts of reasons I'd let my hunger grow dull. I'd stopped thinking about why I came here and what I wanted and got bogged down with what I thought was right and/or would make others happy.

You know how some people stick a photo on the fridge of when they were skinny and aspire to that? Instead of a previous body I'm going after an old feeling. I know a time when I felt like my whole body was quietly buzzing with joy just to be alive and I am working to get back there. Heal the mind and the arse will follow!

What else has been happening? I've been destroying my fingernails in the garden, watching the resident Eating Disorder Pigeons with Dr G, sprouting mung beans and snow peas in a groovy sprouter thingy, reading like a mofo, writing on paper, seeking professional help and stuffing the diary with as many fun things as possible for the summer to come. I also bought a tacky lounge chair for the garden so you can bet it will now pish down with rain for the next twenty weekends 🙂

The Virgin Soufflés

In the last podcast I mentioned I'd been emulating George Costanza and doing The Opposite. In one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes George decided his instincts were crap and decided to say and do the opposite of what he would usually do. It has been a sometimes fun sometimes awful experiment!

One thing I tried was a life coaching session. Life coaching is something I was always cynical and dismissive about but it proved mind-bogglingly helpful. I've been dealing with Deep Stuff these past couple of months so a more practical session felt great.

I was given a wee bit of homework to, "do something that I've wanted to do for a long time but never made the time to do". Of course I had a handy list of full of such things, and decided on lucky 13… Make A SoufflĂ©.

Yeah baby! This would be ultimate metaphor… the rising soufflĂ©! The edible phoenix rising from the ashes!

I settled on this Easy Chocolate SoufflĂ©, as easy and chocolate are two of my favourite words. It was also less OTT than most recipes at 222 calories per serve.  I thought that sounded reasonable for a sweet treat and should prevent too many people sending cranky emails that I was ruining their life with my chocolate talk.

So I separated the eggs and made the base then whisked the whites like a mofo. It was so bloody simple and enjoyable and as always with these little things you put off, I thought… Why did I pissfart around for so long?

Now this is what it was supposed to look like:

Good-souffle
(image used with permission)

And here's what mine looked like:

Souffle-flop

A flat and lifeless FLOP. Two little farts in two little dishes! Let's not go down the metaphor road with these specimens.

Och well. At least they were tasty and I enjoyed the process. I'll attempt again in the future but there is no "OMG must analyse why I FAILED and spend three weeks researching perfect souffle techniques" sense of urgency.

Hmm… I have no deep and meaningful end to this entry for you as it's two weeks since I started writing it and the train of thought has chuffed off into the distance. Basically I'm having fun doing The Opposite and mucking along with life. Any soufflĂ© cooks out there? Any favourite soufflĂ© recipes?

EASY CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ

Serves: 4
Source: RealEpicurean

100g/3.5 oz good quality dark chocolate
50g/1.75 oz golden caster sugar
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
10g/0.3 oz butter

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150°C (300°F)
  2. Rub the inside of four ramekins with butter. Set aside.
  3. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of heating water.  This will allow chocolate to melt without burning; stir it to help the process along.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl. Start off slowly, speeding up once the eggs start to thicken. Now slowly pour in the sugar while continuing to whisk. Stop once the eggs form a glossy, thick mix which forms fairly stiff peaks.
  5. By this time your chocolate should be melted. Take off the heat and mix in the egg yolks, then stir in one spoon of your egg white mix.
  6. Add the chocolate mix into the remaining egg whites. Slowly fold until combined, being careful not to knock out too much air.
  7. Spoon into the ramekins and smooth the edges with your thumb (this helps them rise evenly).
  8. Put the ramekins in the oven for 25 minutes.  Don’t open while they’re cooking or they’ll collapse.

Per souffle: 222.8 calories. Click here to see the nutrition facts.   Souffle-stats

Excuse me, my brain is full

Brain At last I can report that I'm backing up my words with actions, hoo bloody ray! As mentioned month I'm tackling the big issues instead of getting distracted by surface things (e.g. my lard).

Turns out dealing with big issues is really bloody hard. I'm making lots of connections and while there's initial smugness when you figure something out, it's swiftly followed by deflation, like a punch in the guts, as you see how you let these things affect your behaviour and decisions and whatnot over time. I want to curl up under my desk and hide just thinking about it. Urgh.

I've been trying to write an entry for a week but my brain is mush. So I am just going to give up for the moment. In summary: life is really bloody good. I may not be able to string a sentence together but the sun is shining and I'm lucky to have wise and hilarious friends and Mad Men is on tonight. Giddyup!

Mojo Rising

I feel like a bear emerging from my cave after a long winter, rubbing my eyes and trying to adjust to the light. It's only mid-February but it's Spring in my brain. In my day job we plan things months and months in advance (we're already thinking about 2011), so I'm ready for bare legs and buckets of berries, dammit.

For awhile there I was stuck in the skankiest depths of the Big D, when you don't care about anything and just truly soak in it. But I think I've finally turned a little corner these past couple of weeks. It's been about 100 years since I've written a proper entry after all that selling out, but the internet curfew approaches so I'll blast out a few dot points!

  • I'm exercising regularly again. Doing less at the gym and more at home was a brilliant idea. Much less running around.
  • I did a Zumba class! I've been pining for Body Jam since I left Edinburgh five years (!!) ago and while it wasn't quite as zingy as Body Jam, it was ace and I can't wait to go shake my butt again. We danced to Spice Up Your Life! How can you go wrong!?
  • I've maintained my weight for the past month and that feels like a triumph, I tells ya.
  • I know a few people are going to email and say But What About Your Fat. It would be quite easy to throw all my attention into losing 20 pounds. Obsessing over weight would be much easier than tackling the bigger issues. Especially when you're 32 years old and any weight gain causes people to jump to conclusions. Dude I may have been eating for two for awhile there, but not for the usual reasons!

  • But being 32 also means I am too old and curmudgeonly for that dieting crap. I don't want to swing from the extreme of not caring about my body to freaking out about it. I just need to work back up to my healthy habits again, the sane and do-able ones that kept me happily in size 14 jeans for a good long while before it went to pot last year.
  • So as well as working on the big issues I'm working on my health one meal at a time. First I got my breakfasts back on track and now lunch has been reformed! No more cheesy baked potatoes and back to the kickarse salads. Currently on a puy lentil bender!

Dudes I have to insert some cheese here. I feel like I've been on ice for years, stowed away from society in a tube like Mel Gibson in that movie. Except marginally less annoying. Now I'm defrosting and the world has colour again. Friends and family and blogging comrades are lighting things up at every turn. I need to cut down on the Chunky KitKats but overall things are on the up. Thank you for sticking round!

The First Step

I wrote this two weeks ago but got busy with Christmas and forgot to post. Doing a helluva lot better now, but methinks an update is in order! Hope you are all having a happy new year. Rock on 2010!

It's been almost seven weeks since the Ranting Orangutan entry and it almost took that long to finally do something about my depression. I'll just come out and use the Big D word now. Looking back though the archives the other day, this started brewing over two years ago, and if I'd been bold enough to admit it earlier it may not have got so messy.

After the Ranting Orangutan I ran wild with the I Feel Awful theme. My head was like wool and I could not focus on anything. There was lots of weeping and ten pounds worth of mindless eating to add to the ten that had already crept on over the year. There was that smothering hopeless black hole feeling.

I ran away from the work Christmas party. We were getting ready in the loos when the dread and panic swooped over. It was a strange, physical reaction… shaking and nausea and wanting to shrivel into a ball on the bathroom floor. I just could not face going out. It really really really sucks to sob all over your colleagues and not know why.

I nicked off home to the safety of the couch, thinking this isn't me, something's wrong here… but still didn't do anything. Then the whole panic-and-run routine happened again at kickboxing the following week. Bloody hellfire.

I finally went to the doctor on Tuesday, but not before doing five different online Are You Depressed tests to get some empirical evidence. I also took a comprehensive list of all the things I did to try and get better on my own over these past months, so the doctor didn't think I was a slackarse drug fiend.

It was the same old words I wrote about 1999 and 2002 – the feeling like a fraud, the feeling like a failure for not being able to solve things on my own; the almost wishing for a broken limb or a giant, festering wound on my forehead so there was a proper, visible reason for being so bleak. But the doctor was kind and helpful, not the take-the-pills-and-get-outta-here type. She was all about the one-step-a-time, mind and body approach. Groovy.

Why is it so difficult to own up to the Big D? There's the stuff in the paragraph above, and also the not wanting to feel like a pain in the butt to my family. Plus the memory of someone who used the Big D as their crutch, as an excuse for treating people like rubbish. I have an illness so that is why I might be a fuckwit sometimes… I don't ever want to be lumped into that category. But going to the other extreme and pretending there's no problem… that's gotten me bloody nowhere.

I don't want to spend another another year living in slow motion, all detached and fuzzy. I have seen dear friends lose loved ones to incurable illnesses this year… depression is something I can so easily manage, if I just accept it, stop worrying about what people think and get on with the getting better!

So that's what's been happening. Six days later and it already feels less like I'm walking through molasses. It's good to have taken that first step.

Ranting Orangutan follow-up

Hello dear groovers! I just wanted to follow up on Friday's Ranting Orangutan entry. This time I know it's not the blues or a bad day or Seasonal Affective Disorder (unless it's of the quattro stagioni variety!). It's not about houses or hormones or a terrible secret illness. Nor is anyone having a torrid affair, but thank you for the theories and diagnoses! 🙂

Most of all I know it's not about weight or food. They are more like symptoms. Or what Martha Beck calls your designated issue – the go-to surface issue that you distract yourself with when you're trying to skirt around something deeper. I need to stop tinkering around the edges and face things I've buried for many years.

Blogging as therapy is sort of okay when you're 23 and completely anonymous with two readers. But when you're 32 (eep!) with your entire family, boss and landlord aware of your blog, it's not a wise or appropriate tactic. I need to seek proper help and open up to those closest to me.

I want to say a massive thank you for your comments and emails. Not just for the Ranting Orangutan, but all of your words and stories and support over the years. Thanks everyone who has plundered the archives or read that pesky book. I love this blogging lark and the community – the Two Fit Chicks podcast has reignited the love in a huge way and it feels good to be all giddy again!

So I'm not closing up shop on Dietgirl and I'll update on this topic, but I need to be a grown-up here and deal with things in a more quiet and mature way.

Shauna xxox