Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
Some days, it’s not the food but the fools that send me into a downward spiral.
As of this writing, I’ve been dieting/exercising for a little over 100 days and have lost a little over 40 pounds. The first week wasn’t too bad once I got over the initial adjustment. I’ve been down this road countless times before so I knew what to expect: hunger pangs, being more obsessed with food than usual, immediate feelings of wanting to give up as soon as a craving craned its neck in my direction. But I didn’t give in and all was well.
And then the second week happened and I hit my first wall. Yeah, that soon. You’d think the longer you do something, the easier it would get. But that’s not the case with Bran Bran. Things always seem to just get harder and more difficult the longer I’m involved in it. Either way, I pushed through and the next couple of months was pretty easy.
But over the past several days, things have gotten harder again. I’ve been craving food more than usual and I can’t seem to get satisfied when I do eat. It didn’t help that I took a 4 day vacation a couple of weeks ago. I just sat around the house and ate food. I didn’t binge but I ate more than I wanted to.
I thought I’d keep myself busy. I’ve got plenty of movies to watch and books to read and I wanted to catch up on some writing but every time I tried to invest in a cheesy slasher film on Netflix, the kitchen would come a-callin’. And most of the time, when I get it in my mind that I want to eat, I can’t concentrate on anything else until I do.
I’m also extremely stressed out. Both my jobs suck and my parents have been getting on my nerves and all the horrible things happening in the world have all gotten to me. I’m always worried about the next massive bout of destruction, whether it be man-made or from mother nature. I’m lonely and hungry and bored and lethargic. And all I want to do is forget about everything and eat. But I can’t.
My last defense mechanism is food and that’s gone so I’m just a raw nerve, constantly hurting and yearning for something that I usually pushed down with pizza.
But I can see my ribs again. So there’s that.
I’m an emotional eater. We all know that. And I’m an emotional person. Well, mostly I’m just an irritated person. So it’s easy for me to eat. It’s natural. It’s comforting. And there are days when I literally feel compelled to eat. Even when I’m not hungry. Even when my stomach hurts. Even when I’ve finished a meal or had a large snack. I want more. I always want more.
People are starting to notice the weight loss. Co-workers are saying my face looks slimmer, that my torso isn’t as rotund as it once was. And these are all nice compliments to hear. And then I had one co-worker tell me not to get too skinny. And it’s just crazy to me that people feel they can comment on my weight and dictate my size. I’m not reshaping my body for anyone but my self. Again, I like the compliments but I’m not fueled by them. And I’m not gonna stop just because someone tells me not to get too skinny.
And it’s hard to talk about food with others because no one seems to understand. It’s not about laziness or just “really liking junk food.” It’s so much deeper than a deep fried doughnut. Sometimes food feels like my last attachment to reality, the only thing that can ground me when I feel like going off the deep end. And that’s not something you can easily bring up to someone when discussing casual dieting. Someone’s just looking for a way to make kale taste good and I’m over here expounding upon my unwavering sadness and need to self-medicate with marzipan.
And because people don’t get it, they think they’re helping out by telling me I should have a cheat day. But because I’ve struggled with my weight for about 20 years now, I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I can’t just have a cheat day. You can’t give an alcoholic just one drink. I can’t just have one slice of cake.
Or people tell me to drink water before a meal or have a handful of nuts when I feel hungry. I’ve never been satisfied by a handful of anything. And I end up getting irritated with people because I’ve seen and done and heard it all. They can’t tell me anything new or effective and I know they’re just trying to help so I feel like an ass and a hypocrite. I’m sure I’ve tossed out those same tidbits to other dieters in the past.
At this point, only a handful of Xanax could probably help me now.
I’m constantly annoyed. The people I work with are honestly batshit and I have to put up with it every day. It really puts a strain on me because I’m also batshit so I can’t keep it together for me and them. It’s too exhausting. And I have many unresolved relationships that I can’t seem to sort out because I keep getting ghosted and I don’t know what’s so wrong with me to warrant that kind of exit. It hurts so much sometimes.
And food always used to soften the blow. When I got irritated at work, I stopped by McDonalds on my way home. When I felt like the last connection with a friend snap, I served myself spaghetti and it all went away. You can chart my depression by my pant size. The sadness has always been there but there have been times I’ve been able to suppress it. It’s in the moments that it becomes unbearable that I become a glutton again.
When you see me gain weight, that’s when you know I’m really suffering.
You’ve heard it before: depression comes in waves or cycles. You see people smile and laugh and tell jokes and you wonder how they could ever be depressed. It doesn’t seem like them. But that’s the tricky part about depression. It’s not always all-consuming. You can have decent days while you’re deteriorating.
Depression circles around you. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the symptoms alleviate themselves and you realize you can get out of bed. And you get this false sense that you can actually endure this. And that’s when it strikes again, just when you’ve become stable or complacent. It slaps you right in the face to remind you that you’re not in control, that it decides when you can be happy and face the world again. And if it wants, it can send you straight back to bed or straight into the arms of an addiction, something to numb the overarching sadness, the void that envelops you, the completion of becoming blank.
I work with a handful of nuts and I’m told to eat a handful of nuts. But food is not the solution. I know that. But what is the solution? I’ve tried different things. I’ve tried it through art and writing and meditation. Nothing has ever worked the way food does. So am I supposed to just continue to suffer or settle for a “healthier” but ineffective alternate form of therapy?
It’s hard to make a compromise when it comes to your physical health. It’s even harder when you’re mental health is also in jeopardy.
There’s always an instinct to eat. But it’s not predatory. It’s compensatory.
Food is my comfort, confidant, and companion. Any time things get tough, it’s the first thing I think about. And things are always tough.
I’ve gained quite a bit of weight again. Since getting this new job, I sit on my butt for 8 hours a day. And since my depression has gotten worse, all I want to do is eat to not think about how detrimental every day is. If I fill up my stomach, there won’t be any room for misery, right?
Yeaaaaah. It doesn’t work like that at all. But it doesn’t keep me from trying my darndest.
My pants are getting harder to button and the skin on the side of my stomach is irritated from consistently rubbing up against my too-tight-t-shirts. And this discomfort is directing me right to the Doritos. It’s all I can think about most days.
“Will lunch time ever get here fast enough?”
“What will I have for dinner?”
“If I go to bed early, I can have breakfast sooner.”
“Well, the next meal isn’t for about an hour or two. I can’t hold out that long! Let me have a snack.”
And I eat and while I’m eating, nothing can touch me. There is nothing wrong in the world and I am at peace. It’s that fragile, ephemeral contentment that creates the cravings, that evokes an addiction to that peace. Between feeling bad and feeling better, I’m going to choose to feel better. If I have to eat to get to that point, I will eat. And if I have to be physically uncomfortable to balance out my brain, it’s something I can accept.
Until I actually am physically uncomfortable. Then that brings me back around to feeling bad about myself again. It’s a seesaw of wanting and withdrawals, of addictions and adipose tissue.
Nothing has ever made me feel better than food. When I go out to dinner with someone, I’m more excited about the cuisine than the company. When I get fast food at the end of the week, it’s my favorite thing ever. It’s a treat for making it through another crappy week. My excitement is embarrassing. When the fast food employee hands me that brown paper bag and the scents fill my nose, I’m in heaven. I’m actually happy. And it’s just really sick that empty calories and liters of grease can make me feel something no one ever has.
There’s never been a pill or person, prayer or position that has brought me that kind of peace.
It’s an obsession. It’s a constant calorie count, a war between my stomach and my sensitivities. It’s the back and forth between food and feelings, of losing weight and gaining it right back, of feeling frustrated with the world and ultimately, with myself, because I cannot control my compulsions. I push down the guilt until it bubbles up in an overwhelming sense of self-hatred. And what better way to get rid of that hatred than to eat?
Thinking about food all the time is exhausting. And I just know if I didn’t have food taking up the entirety of my mind, I could focus on other things. My head is trapped, strapped down by the schedule of eating, planning meals and waiting to taste happiness again.
Santa should have stuffed my stocking with Gas-X for X-mas.
I know a lot of people overeat during the holidays. It’s a given. But as someone who has struggled with my weight and overeating in general, it’s safe to say that I took it too far.
It all started in late September/October when all the Halloween candle started arriving on the store shelves. Again, as I fell into another depression, I turned to food. I was losing more hours at work and going through some relationship struggles and candy was there for comfort. I fell into a dark whole of dark chocolate truffles and couldn’t find a way out.
There’s the logical part of me that knows what I’m doing is terrible for me, that the temporary comfort isn’t worth the time and effort it will take to take off the pounds once again. I know how destructive this behavior is. I know how terrible it is for my body. To a small degree, I’m abusing myself. But the numbing effect is so powerful that it overrides that logical part of me. I don’t care because I can make up for it later. I can fix this. I won’t let it get out of control. And sometimes I don’t let it get out of control. But sometimes I do.
My new job has created a lot of stress and has taken up a lot of my time so I haven’t had as many opportunities to work out (lame excuse, I know!). And I’m still at my retail job on the weekend and retail during the holidays is always a nightmare. And I’ve been working 6-7 days a week and I’m tired and I’ve been having frequent headaches and it’s taken its toll on me. It’s just easier to block it all out with a block of cheese.
But this month, I stood back and realized I was taking the “normal holiday eating” to an extreme. So many cakes and cookies and greasy fried entrees. So many bowls bloated with peppermint bark. So many candy dishes stashed around the house and at the office and in my face all the time. Temptation around every corner. And I’m a weak guy.
I’m pretty ashamed of myself because I know better. Again, this isn’t normal holiday bingeing. This is a hardcore relapse of relish and cool ranch Doritos. And I really have no excuse. Life never matches up with your plans. In fact, it often feels like Life will make sure it disrupts your dreams as much as possible. But you just have to find a way to pounce over the pitfalls and persevere. I’m having a lot of trouble with that last part, especially with all the leftovers in the fridge.
I know I’ll get it together. This isn’t my first time spiraling out of control. Once the new year gets here and I get comfortable with my job and find some balance, I’ll get my eating under control. At least, I really, really hope so.
I studied the menu carefully. My eyes darted all over the brochure to take in all the options. My pupils dilated. My mouth salivated. Half-chubbed, I began to narrow down my options. Orange chicken or General Tso’s? Spring or egg roll? Wonton soup or egg drop soup? Heck, let’s have it all!
I sat in the break room at work with a fellow employee. She was an older lady with pancake makeup and helmet hair. She perused the local newspaper and munched on dollar store potato chips.
I asked her if she had been and she said she hadn’t but that her son had and he enjoyed it. I told her I wasn’t sure what to get and she told me to get a little of everything. While that was the plan, I jokingly told her I didn’t need all that food.
“Yeah, it does look like you’ve gained some weight.” While I knew she wasn’t being rude, it did hurt a bit. But she wasn’t wrong. I have gained a good bit of weight back since losing 50lbs last year.
“Well, I have food problems,” I told her.
“We all do,” she said as she sat there with her eyeliner weighing more than she did. I was worried to look directly at her out of fear that the breath from my words might blow her over. The lady is skinny is what I’m trying to say. Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have food issues. But hers certainly aren’t as apparent as mine.
Despite her innocent yet paper cut-like comment, I did end up getting a sample of several things. And as I took the bags (plural!!) of food out of the restaurant, I was both giddy and a little sad that I had been looking forward to this moment all week. I wasn’t excited over seeing an old friend or catching up with a new acquaintance. I didn’t even ask anyone to eat the food with me. I wanted to go home and eat it all by myself.
And so I did.
The food was pretty good. There was a lot so I had enough to last me two meals. And it also gave me an upset stomach both times.
I don’t have this problem when I’m dieting. I eat greasy fried foods and always end up with angry bowels and a broken heart. And yet I keep falling into this cycle of pleasing and punishing myself. Pizza today and involuntary purging tomorrow! You’d think the threat of wicked hot sting ring would be enough to keep me away from the waffle fries. It’s not.
I don’t understand how I can do so well and suddenly completely lose all focus and drive. I wonder if it’s because I try too hard to do well. I count every calorie, record every exercise and then push myself to do better each time. Eat a little less, move a little more, and completely obsess over it. That leads to burnout which leads to burritos. My weight loss program has not been designed for longevity.
It’s really about balance. I know that. Eat well most of the time. Have a cheat day every once in a while. Go hard with the workouts and maybe have an occasional easy day. It’s not about deprivation but diversity. It’s about changing it up, having a slice of pizza when I really want it and then walking an extra mile or two the next time I hit my walking trail. It’s about skipping a workout but then having to skip dessert. It’s about checks and balances. It’s about enjoying good (bad) food responsibly.
But how do I find that balance? When I’m in my hardcore diet mode, it’s hard for me to have a cheat day because I think I’m ruining all my progress. Logically, I know I’m not. But I suppose my body/food issues are not logical. Maybe the answers cannot be found in logic. Or maybe logic is the answer to my lunacy.
What’s it gonna take to simmer down and lay off the Lays? Do I need to meditate, get my chakras aligned, or practice some positivity? How can I get in the right frame of mind to reward myself without reprimanding myself? How can I take the tension out of calisthenics? It seems I know what I need to do. And it’s really easy to sit down and write out a plan that is healthy in a physical and emotional sense. But it all falls apart when I try to put it into practice. Its when the irrational fears take over. It’s when I become this unforgiving tyrant. I can’t make any mistakes. I can’t flub up. I can’t work out hard enough. And even if I’m losing weight, it’s not a healthy attitude.
I know what I need to do. And I know how I need to think and treat myself. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. In my history of histrionics and shrinking hemlines, mental health has never looked good on my menu. But with my constant stop-and-start shrinking, it might be worth taking a second glance.
I don’t have to tell you that losing weight was a part of my new year’s resolutions. Not because it’s always everyone’s but because of my own life-long struggle with stretched skin and a bulbous belly.
I did well last year. Lost 50lbs. And then Halloween hit. And I’d done so well that I told myself I could have some Halloween candy. Well, that some turned into a ton. And I never stopped eating. Halloween turned into Thanksgiving turned into Christmas turned into the new year turned into an relapse of need and self-medication.
I love routine. But when my routine gets rerouted, it gives me anxiety and I always turn to food when I’m anxious. My mom has been taking my grandmother to one doctor’s appointment to another, from one surgery to another, losing another section of her face each time. Mom’s had to take off work, which has messed up her schedule, which has messed up mine. And then my cat passed away and everything felt very wrong and out of whack.
I don’t mean to say that I’m angry about any of these events, that it’s my grandmother’s fault for getting cancer or my cat’s fault for dying and they all made me move toward the meringue. I don’t mean to sound selfish about it, like how dare these people and these circumstances throw me off my diet. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying that all these disturbances to my routine have left me feeling off the rails. But that’s life. It’ll always find a way to throw you off course. The problem is when you try to get back on but get distracted by your own addictions.
Although my balanced eating took a nosedive near the end of the year, I will say I mostly kept up with my exercising. I continued with my fitness DVDs and even found pleasure from walking outside. And when Daylight Saving Time happened, it was dark by the time I made it home from work so that cut out the walking. I still had my fitness DVDs but they had started to grow stale. And I started to grow lazy.
It’s hard to work up the motivation, to keep going despite the sore bones and bruised resolve. But it’s easy to give up, to stop, to grow complacent in lethargy. And this happens to me every single time. I push toward progress and almost sprint across the finish line but I intentionally break my knee cap instead, fall into the dirt and make no effort to get back up.
I self-sabotage but I don’t know why. All I know is that eating feels better than anything in the world. It’s easy to say that because I haven’t experienced many good things. Eating blocks out those interruptions to my rut, mutes the pain in my head, and dulls the ache in my heart. Food replaces the missing friendships, the accomplishments that haven’t been achieved, the love I should feel for myself.
It’s hard to take the cure for any disease and throw it right into the trash. But that’s what I feel like I’m doing when I refuse food. I know that by denying calories, I’m actually curtailing the cancer but it feels as if I’m letting go of the only thing that can save me. And this isn’t dramatics. This is genuinely how I feel. Food just makes everything better. But that’s only in my perceptions. Food actually doesn’t make anything better for me. Nothing gets resolved. I only feel bloated on top of the bad feeling of having failed once again.
I’ve already written that, for me, weight loss always feels like a light switch. I know how to lose weight. More calories burned than consumed. Diets are easy. Exercise is fine. But it’s the mental hurdles that trip me up every time. It’s these simple concepts that sit in the dark, waiting for that light to turn on so they can jump up and be ready for action. The problem is I just have no control over that light switch. My hands are tied.
I wake up and it’s turned on and I’m motivated and I lose the weight easily. It’s certainly no fun. It’s hard to say no to snacks but I do it and it works. And it does get easier. But then some days I wake up and the light switch has been turned off and I can’t be bothered to move a muscle much less make it through a half hour of aerobics.
I’ve gained about 20 pounds of the 50 that I’d lost. My fat pants are still too big for me but my thin pants are starting to tighten again. You’d think that would be a sign for me to cut back on the biscuits. But not so much. I still eat them. I ignore the consequences. I don’t care because the biscuit is better than anything else I can imagine, even fitting into my thing pants. It’s instant gratification, a shot of Novocaine to my nerves. Ah, it feels so good to chew and swallow and sink into the soft place in my head that produces pleasure once I’ve reached maximum sugar consumption.
I’ll lose the weight again. It’s a fight that will never end. And I’m partly in control. Once that switch turns on once again, I can take it from there. I just don’t know when that’s going to happen. Maybe when I find a sense of routine again, when I can feel stable. Unfortunately, life doesn’t hand out stability. I guess it’s up to us to make our own, to absorb life’s inconsistencies instead of pushing against them and to think of them as opportunities instead of obstacles.
I’m starting to understand that, at least for me, life isn’t going to be easy. It’s not necessarily because of the outside world but because of my internal malfunctions. And no one seems to understand that and that’s okay. Everyone has their own boxed up battles. I’ve just gotta sack up and learn to fight through my own, to punch through the hunger pangs, to kick down the cravings that only cut instead of comfort, to find some kind of balance that will open a path to me taking care of myself. And a part of finding that balance is just forging it myself. I’m going to have to put in the work. And I will. I’ve done it numerous times before. I’ve still got another round left in me.
I’ve got a problem, y’all.
I’ve been reminiscing about last month a lot lately. I have another blog post queued up for later on an October/Halloween subject. But right now, I want to talk about another fascinating facet of Halloween. And that’s all the candy.
I’ve said many times that I’d rather skip the entree and go straight to desert. I have a sweet tooth. I love sweets. I crave sweets all the time. And when I do have a meal, I always have to follow it up with something sweet. If I don’t, I have a mini freak out in my mind. The meal feels unfinished. It’s like getting to the end of a serial killer flick and shutting off the movie with only five minutes left, thus never finding out who the murderer in the mask is.
Since I’ve been dieting this year, I have cut back on a lot of sweets. And it paid off. I lost 50 pounds. And it hurt not to eat candy bars and brownies. Every day was a struggle. The thoughts of sugar and molasses never left my mind. But I pushed through and made it through each day without devouring a cheese danish. But when I woke up the next morning, the struggle slid back in again.
Eventually, I was able to control my cravings to the point where the madness had dulled into an uncomfortable yet controllable nagging. And things went well for a while.
And then October came along. And I was inundated with candy.
I weighed myself this morning. 45 pounds down since January. I’m happy with the results but I’m still pretty miserable because I just want pizza.
I know you’re thinking I should just get a pizza and satisfy those cravings. Well, it’s just not that easy. I’m not new to this whole weight loss game. This will be my third time losing a major amount of weight. I know what works and what doesn’t. And what doesn’t work for me is having cheat days. This is for two reasons: I am a binge eater and one pizza will lead to me cleaning out the nearest Dominos. Also, I am so paranoid about undoing all my progress that I feel I will gain back all 45 pounds from that one pizza. Yes, I know that’s completely illogical. I am aware. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
So, I just don’t eat the pizza and the cravings come and go. The problem is they keep coming back.
And really, I don’t think I’d be happy with just one pizza. I’d want a pizza every week. Because food makes me happy. Or at least it numbs me enough to at least not be as depressed.
And that’s just the truth of the matter. Nothing in my life brings me joy. I have bottomed out happiness wise. Every day is painful. Every day is another reluctant choice to get up and go to work and exist when really I would rather just sleep all day and only wake up to have some ice cream or a chicken sandwich.
I look back on food with fond memories, like it’s a long lost lover. On the occasions when I got a weekend off from work, I made plans to end my Friday shift and start the weekend with a pizza or Japanese takeout and I was so excited to end the work week with some good food. I also got excited when Mom brought back fast food home when she got off work or when she wouldn’t feel like cooking and she’d say, “Hey, why don’t we order something?”
And now the weekend comes and there’s no pizza or Japanese takeout and I feel like something is missing in my life, as absurd as that sounds. The weekend isn’t as fun anymore.
I wish I could be that jazzed about juicing but the reality of the situation is I equate comfort with butter and sugar, grease and breading. Lard equals love. And there’s no way around it and there’s no changing the past. It’s ingrained in me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to rewire my head or if I’m too far gone to properly function without fried chicken, which I also miss. I haven’t had it all year. And I live in the South. It’s been tough.
And it will never get easier. I’ll get lighter but the desire for bread dough will always weigh me down.