My fridge is like a drugstore
Thursday, October 18, 2007
To the outside world, I am obviously a person who enjoys her food. I mean, the ass had to come from somewhere, and mine came from copious amounts of fresh baked pastries, cream laced risottos, garlicky shrimp scampis and stacks and stacks of well buttered toast. Food was something that I used to cure my boredom, to calm my stress, to make me forget the things that were depressing me. If I craved something, I ate it. I didn't really think about things like nutrients when I ate; I just thought about how it tasted and how quickly I could get it into my mouth. Really, food was an accessory for me.

But as I told Danyele last weekend (over a shared plate of scrambled eggs), I have recently found myself thinking of food in a totally different way. It's not just fuel to me anymore, it's not just something I eat to savor a taste that I'm craving.

I have come to think of food as medicine. It's probably because I've started doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, which means I'm eating all kinds of organic and unprocessed foods. There's so little room for me to fill with food now that I cannot help but think about everything I eat in terms of how it's going to affect me. I am not a person who likes to take a lot of supplements; as it is I can barely deal with the vitamin regimen I have to follow so I don't want to add in fiber supplements and probiotics and a bunch of other things just to keep my body functioning well. I much prefer to eat high fiber cereal and Greek style yogurt to give my gut what it needs.

The only vitamin/mineral issue I have had so far is an oddly fluctuating potassium level. Do I take my potassium supplement every day? No, because I really only need it on days when I'm doing a lot of outdoor endurance exercise (like say...walking 20 miles a day for 3 days). Instead I make sure to eat some bananas or cantaloupe to make sure I get some potassium from a food source. My HDL levels were also kind of low but instead of taking a fish oil pill, I've added more nuts and avocadoes to my diet so I can increase the amount of monounsaturated fats in my diet (and thus raise my HDL levels). My Kashi GoLean Crunch loads me up on fiber, and my Greek yogurt (high in both protein AND active cultures!) helps keep my insides primed and ready to absorb as much of the other nutrients as they can.

The crazy thing is, it seems to be working. My skin looks fucking AMAZING these days, my eczema hasn't acted up in 8 or 9 weeks, I'm sleeping better and I'm as regular as I could possibly wish to be. Finally, for the first time in my life, I am truly listening to and respecting my body. I am feeding it what it needs rather than stuffing it with what I want, and it's making all the difference in the world.

Tiptoeing towards the middle
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
When I got home from my vacation on Saturday, our whirlwind wedding/tourism extravaganza, I made Kevin go get the scale for me. I was sure that I had gained at least a pound or two on my 10 days away from my usual schedule. After all, I'd missed three days of my vitamins. And I'd eaten a few of the lovely little Polish cookies the bride's aunt had provided for the festivities, not to mention a couple of pierogies AND a couple bites of Chocolate Seduction (the bride's mother's specialty). On top of all that, I hadn't stepped into a gym for at least two weeks so I must not have gotten enough exercise (I conveniently forgot the 5 hours I spent walking around Philadelphia) (oh, and the 5 hours I spent walking around the King of Prussia Mall).

In other words, I totally HAD to have gained some weight. And I wanted to see what the damage was.

Kevin rolled his eyes at me (unlike me, he hadn't forgotten the 5 hours in Philadelphia), but he got the scale down in hopes of calming down The Crazy that rears its head every now and again. And lo and behold...I'd lost 6 pounds.

I told this story at support group last night, and R., our support group leader (who is both a WLS patient AND a behavioral psychiatrist) smiled at me like she'd heard it a million times before. She started talking about how all of us in the group had spent so many years stuck in this cycle of trying and failing to lose weight, of starting and stopping diets and beating ourselves up for it that now we have this whole belief system built around good foods and bad foods that tells us that if we eat bad foods, if we aren't perfect, then we will fail. And then she told us that somehow, we have to learn how to find a balance between obsession with perfection and total diet anarchy.

And as she spoke I realized that the week I'd spent away from home I had not been "bad". What I'd been is what I've always wanted to be: normal. I ate at restaurants with my friends, I indulged in small amounts, and I still kept my focus on protein and water (and even vitamins on occasion). My rearranged insides didn't make me stand out from the crowd or keep me from enjoying myself. Yeah, I tested my limits a little; I didn't dump but I did prove to myself that I am a three-bite girl now when it comes to anything sugary. (Three small bites of the Chocolate Seduction left me feeling buzzed like I had just had a shot of vodka; I cannot imagine how sick I might have gotten with one more bite.)

But I beat myself up despite all that, despite the fact that for once in my life, finally and forever, I was able to stop myself, to limit what I ate even when it was something that would have been a trigger for binging just 6 months ago. It wasn't until I got on that scale and saw that I had lost more weight rather than gained it back that I was able to stop beating myself up. But R. was right; it's all about finding balance. It's all about learning how to let myself just be, learn that it's okay to indulge on occasion without going overboard, that I can be diligent about what I eat without obsessing over every single calorie that goes into my mouth and freaking out when it goes over 800. Because if I don't find that balance, I'm going to spend the rest of my life with food and my weight as the center of my existence. And you know what?

That's not what I signed on for. I spent the first 32 years of my life thinking of food in terms of good and bad, thinking about it all the damn time and letting it be the thing I focused on no matter what I was doing. I had this surgery so that I could finally, FINALLY put that burden down, so that food would no longer be something that consumed my life. And last week, on my vacation, I finally got there. I finally got there and then I beat myself up for it.

I wish I could say that I'll never feel guilty for eating a bite of cake again, but that would be a lie. All I'm saying is that maybe next time, I'll save the guilt for the second bite instead of the first. And then maybe someday I'll be able to realize that two bites is two bites and is not going to mean the end of the world.

One step at a time, that's how to cross this balance beam.