Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 143 Rigorous honesty

At the OA meeting Monday night, I listened to "How It Works," the opening reading of both OA and AA from the Big Book of AA, for the first time with food as the issue, not alcohol. The words "rigorous honesty" jumped out at me. I have been capable of "grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty" as far as alcohol and drugs goes. But I haven't developed that way of living around food, and I saw that so clearly in my reluctance to keep a food journal for my coach.

It wasn't really that she and I couldn't learn anything from tracking my eating for three more days. Maybe that's true, maybe not. Far more important is that I didn't want to share with her that I am eating a lot of snacks. I'm not in denial about this but I was unwilling to be honest with her.

Although I didn't make this connection to rigorous honesty until Monday night at the meeting, I did intuitively know I needed to do the journal and so I wrote it Monday morning for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and sent it off to Elisabeth immediately after writing it. Being honest with myself and free from shame is what is at stake here: letting go of rationalizations and becoming mindful.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 142 An inquiry into food sanity

Last night I went to my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting in probably a decade. Years ago I went to 90 OA meetings in 90 days. That seemed a good way to give it a real shot at assisting me. But it never clicked with me. I tried a dozen different meetings and it all seemed to be a pale shadow of AA. There wasn't the life and death intensity of AA (no one ever spoke of it anyway although most likely some people felt it) and there was a tremendous amount of talk of relapse, people confessing what they'd eaten, their obsessions with bread or butter. I got the feeling it didn't really work.

Now I suspect that it was my own listening that didn't work. I wasn't ready to be there, to accept that it could work for me. I'm not sure I'm there yet, but last night's meeting was very useful for me. The chair person was celebrating 26 years of abstinence from unhealthy eating (anorexia mostly) and her topic was about being restored to sanity, a key component of the 12 Steps.

People went around the circle and shared insane experiences with food: bulimia and anorexia, of course, and massive overeating, and I could identify when I thought of eating a gallon of ice cream in an evening, or 18 Dove bars in a day, or 6 candy bars over an afternoon. Those extremes were easy to connect with. But I don't do that now.

And there was no talk of normal eating and that's a question I have. What is it? What is it for me? Or are two other questions that got posed last night more to the point:  Is my way of eating livable? Is it sane?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 141 Thoughts from my food plan buddy

My Plan buddy, Lily, offered these thoughts on my recent post about struggling. I thought I'd share them with you.


I wonder about the idea that any type of restriction is dieting. My brother no longer eats sugar or foods with sugar other than daily fruit allotment because now, in his early 60’s, he has diabetes.  Is he dieting?  I don't think so; he says his eating, for the first time in his life (!) feels very different from dieting, and he's a master at dieting, losing lots of weight, keeping it off for a year or two, and then gaining it all back. He says what he’s doing with his food and behavior now feels like listening to 'some other part of myself...the smart part.'  Diet-Head food restriction, on the other hand, for him and for me, is more about getting the HIGH from control and restriction; a kind of a Show-Off-for-the-Ego-thing no matter what else we tell others and ourselves at the time (i.e., getting healthier, stronger...etc).  What we are really doing is gettin' high from losing weight and then gettin' high from eating whatever our addiction wants us to eat when the diet “fails” (the fuck-you part of Diet-Head). 

Rather than think of what I am doing with the changes to my food and behavior as dieting, I think of it as surrendering: surrendering my habits, my food choices, and my behavior with food, to the Spirit of All Things Who Loves Me too. I mean, look what 'restricting' or surrendering alcohol (and our best thinking about That!) has given me/you.  For me, it's okay to think of certain foods, along with the accompanying behaviors around those foods, as a surrendering of a food addiction. Surrendering an Addict-Head-thinking that drives me to eat certain foods and have certain, sad, hopeless behaviors around eating them. So, it's true that I look at my eating behaviors as another form of my drug abuse; I know not everyone does. Maybe it's why choosing not to continue something I've done over and over and over again with food and expecting different results each time, really does feel like sanity to me, not dieting (which feels like insanity!).

Follow your gut, Jill, of course. It's what we need to practice. The walk for me has been to get out of the "good" girl/"bad" girl dichotomy completely:  to thank them for helping me survive and then say goodbye so I can listen to my wise Self, the dharma-middle way, that in-between Wisdom where I have access the Spirit of All Things Who Loves Me too most of the time: to guiding me, and show me in little signs and surprise happenings what change to experiment with next. 

It's a fierce struggle this food addiction thing. I love that you are vulnerable in your blog and let me in to the way you think and struggle and surrender. I LOVE having you as my food buddy and my good friend. 


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 140 A mild case of food grief

I went up to my sister's for an overnight visit. Took along green juice and big salads and we had a delicious dinner of  smoothies and salad on their wonderful patio. Then this morning we met more family at a wonderful restaurant in Hood River, Nora's Table. I've eaten at Nora's since I've been on the plan and knew that I could spend my daily animal protein on eggs and sausage with a safe side dish and that's what I did and the food was delicious.

However, there was a brief but deep longing for the beignets (hot fried doughnuts) that kept my brother-in-law happy until everyone arrived, and the oohing and ahhing over the summer squash fritters with creme fraiche and the cardamom pancakes with a ton of butter and syrup that were pronounced "exquisite" by my table mates looked mighty tempting.

I got plenty to eat, felt very satisfied, but had a nostalgic moment for the old days.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 139 Saying yes when my gut said no

In order to traverse the sticky and yet slippery slopes of changing food habits, I'm having to listen to different parts of myself besides my mouth. This may sound like it follows on the heels of yesterday's post, but it does so rather indirectly. For it was my gut I needed to listen to on Thursday when I talked to my coach instead of my "good girl" persona.

My good girl agreed to do the food journal. She wanted to please the coach and she (the good girl) argued that thinner people keep track of what they eat. But my intuition, my gut, said don't do it. What's she going to tell you? Eat fewer nuts? Know that already. Eat fewer snacks? Know that already. Nothing's really changed since the last food journal entries where I carefully ate moderate portions only while I was doing the journal and then, when that was over, ate the other way.

Thanks is due to my friend Barbara Joy, who pointed out the change in tone from full of life in earlier posts to full of shame in yesterday's. She also pointed out that food restriction is by nature dieting, something I'm determined not to do. So I'm rethinking how I go about this and who's in charge.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 138 Ambushed by the Power of Not Now

Yesterday I promised my health coach I would do a food journal for the next three days. And of course, I still can, but I don't want to. Why? Because I've already eaten too much. I'd agreed to not eat between breakfast and lunch (shouldn't be that hard, should it?) but at 10:45, I was ravenous, or thought I was, and had a snack. Well, more than a snack. Two snacks. And then I had lunch and then I had another snack an hour later.

I can pretty easily acknowledge that some days I'm much hungrier than others and maybe today is one of those days. That happens but I could have made other choices that I would have been happier to share with my coach than what I've eaten (1/2 cup of nuts, 2 date bars). More importantly, I could feel myself succumbing to the Power of Not Now.

I did think about it when I was first hungry. I thought, Self, I'm going to ride through this and see what happens. Okay, Self said back. Let's do it. That lasted 10 minutes and I thought, I'll start the three days tomorrow and Iwent out to the kitchen and ate.

That's just so familiar. I'll stop drinking but not until Monday. I'll eat better but not until the first of the month. I'll watch what I'm spending but not until after the next check statement comes. Not Now is really seductive when you are trying to change a habit.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 137 Plus or minus foods

A discussion yesterday with my Plan buddy, Lily, got me thinking about whether the big change in how I feel is from what I'm eating or what I'm not eating.

What I'm eating that I wasn't before: green juice (freshly juiced greens, cucumbers, apple, parsley, carrots, tomatoes, celery) every day, usually in a smoothie with some fruit; crock pot vegetable soup every day packed with veggies, more cooked and raw veggies or a big salad of raw veggies. Many more berries. Tons more green leafies.

What I'm not eating: cheese, yogurt, milk, butter. Bread, pasta, muffins, scones, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cake, pie, flour tortillas, cereal. Soy in any form: no edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, soy oil. Refined sugars except in incidental quantities.

I eat meat but much, much less. I used to eat animal products three times a day: eggs for breakfast, cold cuts for lunch, meat for dinner. Now I eat 4 oz of meat once a day and not every day. I also don't eat very many processed foods. I do eat a little salad dressing on my salad, I do eat some canned foods: beans, occasional olives, organic canned soups and broth, and occasionally a healthy prepared sauce for soups or stews. I'd estimate though that I've cut out 75% of the processed foods from my diet if not more.

What I think: It isn't one or the other. The combination of shifting away from foods that weren't good for me to foods that are great for me has had a profound effect!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 136 Problems and happiness

At the workshop I attended over the weekend, one of the ideas we discussed was this: Most people believe that if they could solve all their problems, they'd then be happy. In fact, the reverse may be true. If we get happier, we find it easier to solve our problems. And sometimes they just go away. And if they don't, it doesn't matter much because we are already happy.

I think this may well be true with weight loss. Like millions of other women and many men, I've struggled to lose weight so I could be happier. I've lost significant weight several times but I have to admit that although I was proud of myself for the weight loss, I wasn't measurably happier at all, and none of my habits changed and I gained the weight back and then certainly wasn't happy.

Eating this new way has brought me an undeniably huge measure of happiness: energy, cheerfulness, well-being. I've lost some weight, which is great, but that isn't what's making me happy. I'm eating in a way that is making my body happy and that has nothing to do with what I weigh.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 135 Another lovely poem from another great coach


There's a moment
when you know the meal is over,
but you keep eating.
Though you don't want to.
You believe you're broken,
you feel bottomless.

One day you pause,
and with great tenderness
you face that dreaded disruption of habit,
and allow yourself
just this once,
an experiment.

You sit down,
take a deep breath and
you feel.

You take out paper and pen.
And you write:
I feel (your undesired feeling).
yet I want to feel (your desired feeling).
You ask yourself the question,
What would really help me feel (my desired feeling)?

An answer comes.

You walk away,
amazed that after all these years
sanity could be so simple.

Jenna Abernathy is an eating psychology and nutrition coach. She's passionate about inspiring people to love their body, trust their hunger, and honor their real desires.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 134 What I've been experimenting with

  • Fennel stalks in the juice (odd, drinkable, but probably won't do again)
  • Fennel and kohlrabi in sweet potato/carrot stew flavored with Bombay Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe's. (fabulous)
  • Yin Yang carrot "kraut" from Firefly Kitchens in Seattle. Carrots naturally pickled with ginger and sea salt. OMG!
  • Fresh heirloom tomatoes with avocado and basil (dairy-free caprese salad)
  • Frozen organic grapes (pop 6-8 in your juice or smoothie)
  • Rice cake, almond butter, and a sliced nectarine (as good as pie)
  • Raw Revolution's Chocolate Crave bar (a 10!)
  • Two Moms in the Raw's garden herb sea crackers (try with a cherry tomato and a slice of cucumber) Yum!
  • Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (no oil needed for your salad)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 133 Keeping the weight off

Joe Cross is the star of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a guy who's now devoting his time to getting people to eat right, juice, and lose weight. His website,, is full of great information. He has a nutritionist who suggests juices, meals, snacks, and other folks giving some good advice. I very much liked this reminder list:

Top Five Keep-it-off Weight Loss Tips

1.) Stick to your new schedule. 
During your Reboot you were eating and drinking juice or smoothies throughout the day, about 4-6 times.  Keep up this frequent pattern to curb hunger and prevent skipping meals which can lead to overeating later on.

2.) Eat or drink fruits and veggies with each meal. 
This one may seem like a no-brainer after your Reboot but as time goes on being prepared and having fresh produce on hand can take a back burner to hectic schedules, deadlines and carpooling kids to activities.  Keeping up with fruits and veggies takes frequent shopping and prepping so don’t forget to schedule time for this important task.  Starting your day with a fresh juice or smoothie is a perfect way to continue this important healthy habit.  And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day too!

3.) Bring your lunch from home.  
You can take just about any meal and turn it into a more nutrient-dense and lower calorie option when you make it yourself.  Food from most restaurants has a lot more oil, other added fats, extra salt and sugar in much larger portions which can quickly lead to regaining weight lost.  By keeping control over this important mid-day meal you can assure that you’re sticking with your healthy eating goals and in turn keeping your weight from creeping back on.

4.) Accountability is key.  
The National Weight Control Registry cites this behavior as paramount for losing weight and keeping it off for the long term.  Being accountable for what you’re eating and drinking will help keep you on track and let you see your success with healthy choices.  Accountability can take many forms – traditional food journals, numerous apps that track what you eat with just a click or two, or even snapping a photo of your meal before you eat it to create a quick and easy photo library.

5.) Keep your supports on speed dial. 
During your Reboot you may have been supported by friends, family or co-workers.  This next phase of lifestyle change you will want to have help on hand for when it’s tough to stick with your new eating habits.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 132 Commitment to curiosity

One of the most intriguing ideas I've heard lately is that of living your life from a commitment to curiosity. Such a stance creates an opening for many possibilities to occur, a chance to shift from "why me?" to "what's next?" and "what can I make of this?"

I think this direction towards curiosity has been characteristic of my 4+ months on the plan. Most times when I've started a diet, I've had high hopes and expectations of losing weight and a lot of it and fast. I've been willing to suffer briefly to look thinner. But the whole premise of this program for me has been about seeing what can happen, about being curious. Could I feel better? Could I have more energy? Could I sleep better? Could I lose some weight? Could I get off my cholesterol medications? I didn't have expectations that those things would happen, but I was willing to try and to remain curious. Similarly, I didn't anticipate taking up cooking again, but I got curious about how I could fix good food for myself that I would enjoy and not spend a ton of time doing so.

This has worked so well for me that I'm now willing to get curious about some other things. What if I worked half-time and wrote and painted half-time? What if I applied for writer's residencies? What if I investigated grants? What if I took my painting more seriously? I love this approach to things.

What are you curious about?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 131 Another Plan benefit: emotional resilience

The last couple of days I haven't been feeling great. I've had a pain in my head or rather in my scalp, an odd pulsing pain that lasts a few seconds, fades out, and comes back some minutes later. No other symptoms. After a couple of days, I checked in with my friend Susan, a retired nurse. She looked at me and said, "Sounds like shingles."

As you may know, shingles is a recurrence of the chicken pox virus in adulthood. It causes a lot of pain, itching, lesions, and misery. I had the shingles vaccine in 2006 but it's only about 50% effective and in 2010, I had a bout of shingles. It was only mildly miserable (poor sleep from the pulsing pain and some amazing deep itching that scratching wouldn't touch) and I wasn't sick with it. Some people get very ill.

I went to the doctor yesterday afternoon and he acknowledged that it might be shingles as the pain fits the right parameters and he could rule out everything else that was obvious (migraine, tumor, stroke, injury). He prescribed antivirals, which help mitigate the severity of the recurrence and is pretty harmless if I don't have it.

Here's the point of the story: I wasn't freaked out when Susan suggested it might be shingles. I didn't go to a doom-and-gloom place or begin anticipating misery or feel put upon. Oh well, I thought, that's going to be inconvenient and perhaps unpleasant. I watched myself have a calm accepting attitude. No big drama, no self-pity. Just an okay, well, let's see what happens. I think this must be another benefit of the serotonin that I flood my system with in green juice, salads, and a ton of cooked vegetables every day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 130 My coach speaks

I asked my coach, Elisabeth Dunham, to write about the Plan. Enjoy!

Elisabeth writes:

Jill has experienced some astounding results on the plant-based food plan we’ve devised for her. She’s diligent and thoughtful about the program, making it a priority each day. That means she takes time out at the beginning of the week to plan what she’s going to eat, shop for the foods she needs, and then spends time preparing meals that she can eat over the course of a few days. In other words she is committed, though she prefers the term “devoted,” which to me sounds much more inspiring.

I’m happy to say that she’s not alone in getting some dramatic "before and after" results in her blood work since beginning to eat the plant-based way. To date I’ve had seven other clients see similar drops in cholesterol over the course of a few months. And some, like Jill, were in the pre-diabetic range and got themselves out of that category, according to the labs. There were also dramatic drops in blood pressure. And every one of them lost significant amounts of weight, between 20 and 30 pounds. We also saw more energy and better sleep. (You can see the other clients’ results in the sidebar and in the testimonials page on my website at this positive data keeps coming in we also have major studies coming out of esteemed institutions such as Stanford University showing what these clients already know: A plant-based diet really works to reverse heart disease.

We’ve also got popular movies like Forks Over Knives documenting similar results at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, former President Bill Clinton’s highly publicized journey of reversing his own heart disease using the plant-based approach, and Dr. Oz giving much publicity to the diet’s positive impact on various heart patients. But it's hard to go it alone. The average American diet has gotten so off course in terms of promoting health in the body that it takes a lot of support from someone trained in the plant-based approach to turn the ship around. That's why Dr. Oz recently said that health coaches are at the forefront of solving the American health crises. I feel so grateful to be part of this revolution and wake up excited each day to do my job and work with people like Jill.

So what is a plant-based diet? Put simply, it’s a health-promoting vegan or non-vegan diet that emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal products (including dairy and eggs). The idea is to eat a lot of vegetables – cooked or raw – along with fruit, beans and some grains such as brown rice and corn. Seeds and nuts are consumed in smaller amounts due to their cholesterol content because the diet is generally low fat.
As a certified nutrition consultant, I recommend that my non-vegan clients hoping to reverse and prevent heart disease avoid dairy products and keep their consumption of other animal products to less than five percent of their diet. If someone is already a vegan but still has high cholesterol, we steer them away from their over-reliance on nuts and focus them more on beans and healthy grains for their protein. 
Though there’s no doubt in my mind that a well-executed vegan diet is among the healthiest on earth for a lot of people, some of my clients simply don’t want to eat that way and others can’t due to grain and bean intolerances. So we split the difference with a plant-based approach that includes small amounts of meat and we still get great results.
So why does the plant-based approach work so well? Here are just a few of the factors:
It’s low in cholesterol. Because the plant-based diet de-emphasizes or removes animal products and oil as a food source it also vastly reduces or removes most common sources of cholesterol, including butter, cream and other dairy products, eggs, chicken, beef and fish. Small amounts of cholesterol in the diet means lower cholesterol readings at the doctor’s office – and better health!
Plant-based sterols. Small amounts of these substances in the walls of plant cells are found naturally in grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. As they travel through the intestinal tract, they compete with artery-clogging LDL particles and prevent them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Viscous fiber.  Viscous fiber found in oats, barley, bran and brown rice is the sticky variety of soluble fiber, which dissolves readily in liquids. In the body, it acts as a sponge, absorbing cholesterol and carrying it out of the body.
(503) 926-4654

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 129 12-Step wisdom that I use to stay on the Plan

I was talking with my friend Carole yesterday afternoon. She's new to the 12 steps, trying to find her way out of food addiction through OA and a food plan. She had recently read the Big Book and could see how all those discussions and ideas applied to her dilemma, which was great. And I started telling her about some the things I use to stay sober and now to stay on the plan. I thought they might interest some of you as well.

1. Playing out the tape. I learned in the treatment center to play the tape forward in my head. I take a drink and I'm okay but that drink leads to a second and a sixth and then I'm drunk and the next day I say "what the hell" and get drunk again and in two weeks I'm worse off than ever before and I may never get back. I do that now with candy bars or ice cream, play it all the way out until I'm sick, and it stops me cold.

2. Focusing on what I really want, not what I can't have. Focusing on sobriety and the freedom from shame, guilt, misery. Focusing now on feeling great and not on certain foods that I can't eat. I was tempted by a lowfat, low-sugar frozen dessert that has milk at the store today, and then I remembered what I really want and it wasn't that.

3. Prayer: Asking for help in the morning, thanking Spirit at night

4. Staying in close contact with sponsor (health coach) and buddies. Friends in the program have always been a vital part of my sobriety and my Plan buddies are a huge help in this new adventure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 128 The skinny on my skin

Every five or six weeks, I get a facial from a lovely woman at Spa Willamina in Portland's Hollywood district. I got introduced to facials at the tender age of 64 when my college friend Kathleen sent me a check as a gift that was to be used for a facial. One experience with Katy and I was hooked. It's more relaxing to me than a massage and I know it's great for my skin to have a professional look after it periodically.

This is my third facial since I started the plan 128 days ago. At the first one, Katy noticed the weight loss and we talked about that. Last time she said my skin was starting to look better. This time she said the change in my skin was remarkable. Clearer, brighter, softer, smoother, well hydrated, younger. I've noticed it looks better to me but I see the changes day to day and I don't spend that much time close up on my face. She was seeing me after five weeks and way up close.

This is a side effect of the plan I hadn't imagined.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 127 Cravings

On the last night of our writing retreat, Bridget read us poem she'd written about her experience with craving a food she doesn't want to eat anymore. I found it very moving.

Not Hunger

There is a spinning
between my sex
and my throat,
anxious and empty,
a nervous tornado
lacking momentum or focus,
the center a hollow core
echoing a pounding heart.
Perhaps it is fear translated to craving;
Perhaps a willful internal blindness,
avoidance I anchor
with food.
Perhaps it is sunlight
clattering against venetian blinds
seeking entrance
to a cavernous room
I keep trying to fill
with shadows,
sweetness and salt.

Bridget Benton

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 126 Support and strategies

On my writing retreat, I read Brene Brown's Daring Greatly. Although it wasn't what I expected (more of a psychological report on research on attitudes than suggestions for living larger), there were some very good ideas. Here's a quote that I copied into my creative notebook: "None of us is ever able to part with our survival strategies without significant support and the cultivation of replacement strategies."

Although not her intent as far as I know, this is a beautiful description of 12-step programs: significant support and the cultivation of replacement strategies. Having friends willing to be on the food plan on the retreat was immensely helpful. Having the support of my family is wonderful. My friend/neighbor/adopted sister Melanie asked me what restaurant would work for me for her birthday dinner. At our family get together tonight, we had a big salad instead of pizza or cake. Of course, it helps that I am firm in my commitment so some of that significant support is my own. But I'll take it wherever I can find it.

Now I'm working on replacement strategies.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 125 My attraction to nuts

Twenty years ago this post would have been about people. I attracted a lot of very unhealthy people while I was out there drinking. While I wasn't actively seeking the weird and crazy, I had such poor boundaries and such unhealthy vulnerability that a lot of loonies came my way.

Today I was seduced again by nuts, but the eating kind: cashews, almonds, macadamia. Nuts are on my plan. They're a plant-based nutritious source of fat. That's right, fat. So moderation is what is called for. A few nuts, maybe 10, maybe 12. But moderation is a challenge for me some days and today was one of them. So the few nuts became a few more and then became a cup full. I was sated, which was what I was looking for, but that kind of relentless eating isn't my intention anymore.

I ate healthy the rest of the day: a piece of chicken, some veggies, a bowl of veggie soup tonight, but I'm going to have to come to peace with the nuts in my life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 124 Expanding my comfort zone

I've long thought that people either are born with a comfort gene or an adventure gene. My friend Isabelle got the adventure gene. Her idea of travel is minimal money, a little backpack, a country she's never seen before and where she doesn't speak the language. My idea of travel is a writing retreat on Whidbey Island where I've been two dozen times, where the beds are good and the food even better, where I know everyone who is going and they speak my heart language and I get a chance to deepen those friendships. I like to know the rules, know to an extent what's going to happen (like reservations to a good hotel that someone trusted has recommended).

But I'm starting to reconsider this. In order to make long-lasting changes in how I eat, I am going to have to do better with discomfort, specifically the discomfort of cravings and food desires and habits. I want to learn to not run away but sit with that feeling, explore it, see if it passes, see if it changes.

None of this, of course, is original with me. This is one of the major tenets of Buddhism: being with what is. And I'd long seen sitting with discomfort as a necessary evil. But then this week, I read Leo Barbuta's Zen Habits blog on discomfort and I was very intrigued with his idea that when we develop a better relationship with discomfort, our comfort zone enlarges. That makes so much sense to me. And having a larger comfort zone makes all of life easier. A big plus!

Here's a link to Leo's blog:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 123 New clothes and diet mind

I got back today from a 10-day writing retreat. It's beyond casual up there and I took t-shirts and comfy clothes and spent a lot of time in my pajamas. I don't think I looked in a mirror more than a couple of times. But even so, I became very conscious of the fact that my clothes were beyond  baggy. As my buddy Lily said, "They're just hanging off you." I like my clothes loose and airy but this was even beyond that.

In the mail stack on my table were packages from Lands End, Ulla Popken, and Woman Within. For the first time, I had ordered clothes in the next size smaller. I was a bit apprehensive. And Diet Mind started talking to me. "You know you'll just gain it back. These are stupid, wasteful purchases." But I opened the packages and tried the clothes on and they fit. And I was amazed at how much better I looked to me when the clothes fit.

Maybe I will gain it back. Maybe I'll lose more and go down another size. Right now it's just very nice to have some things to wear that look great.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 122 The Binge Lady comes to call

Yesterday, I couldn't get full. I had juice/smoothie, rice cake and peanut butter, a Larabar, cashews, a couple of dates, all before lunch. I ate a modest lunch (salad) but in the early afternoon, I ate a whole package of Trader Joe's dried mango. And then I was done. I stopped thinking about food and ate modestly at dinner.

It only vaguely occurred to me to sit with the discomfort and I quickly went to F--- it and just ate what I wanted. While all the foods are on the plan, quantities of sugar and fat like that are not. But I just couldn't seem to get sated.

Today I feel very different. Smoothie early, a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, a large salad, tea, water. All good. Everything calm again.

My experience was not of craving, not in the way I associate cravings. Although maybe I didn't slow down enough to even figure out what that was. I recognize now that I could have done it differently and maybe next time I will.

Day 121 Creative meals on the plan

I'm in the last days of a long writing retreat on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. Of the 5 of us, 4 are on a version of the Plan and the 5th is happy to eat this way, so we have eating mostly plant-based meals with a little meat. Here are some of the delicious creative ideas that have crossed our plates.

Pork sausages browned with red peppers. Served with zucchini "pasta" (julienned zucchini strips lightly sauteed and served with a marinara sauce to which cooked red lentils had been added). Fabulous!

A black bean and brown rice salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes, and parsley (dressed with lemon juice and a little olive oil). A chicken salad of apple, celery, avocado with lime juice and a little olive oil

Roasted sweet potatoes and chicken sausages with a grain-free tabouli of spinach, chia seeds, lemon juice, parsley.

Roasted veggies with brown rice and a simple peanut sauce.

A crock pot Indian stew with a coleslaw of cabbage, apple, and sunflower seeds

Big bowls of fresh raspberries from the retreat center's garden. Fresh strawberries from the island's farmers market.

We have been eating great!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 120 More on vulnerability

My good friend Barbara Joy emailed me today and said some wise things. We had met for lunch on Saturday and I told her of my new quest to step into vulnerability, something I've avoided as much as possible for as long as I can remember. Somehow stepping into the new food plan and letting go of some od my physical armor is opening up space for me to soften in other ways.

Her words today were about hunger, about the discomfort of hunger, and how that might well be connected to the discomfort of vulnerability. Here's part of what she said: "Maybe hungry = vulnerable, in the sense of needing to trust what one can't control happening in the future.....and then we have to trust in something larger than ourselves. And isn't that disconnection from the source at the root of our addictions anyway...."

I don't have a handle yet on where this might take me in my thinking and understanding of the new life I'm opening up to but I think there's a piece in here for me to consider. What is my relationship with feeling hungry? What is my relationship with discomfort? Both of these make me feel unsafe within myself yet neither is inherently dangerous for me. Something to think about.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 119 Words don't produce results or Walking our talk

If I had a dollar for every weight loss conversation I've had in the last 20 years, I could buy a very expensive car. And while I do believe in the power of words to create our reality, words alone won't do it. Or at least they didn't for me.

AA introduced me to the idea of walking my talk, putting action behind my words. Although it wasn't presented as a form of integrity, it is certainly that. And I began to see that where sobriety was concerned, I had to do more than talk about going to meetings or working the steps or calling my sponsor. I had to actually do those things and not in a half-assed, check-that-off-the-list way. And once I really started to do that and built some continuity around those actions, the promises of the Big Book began to come true.

The integrity doesn't lie in the words, but in the actions that the words imply or describe. And for two decades, I couldn't figure out a way to really start walking towards healthier eating and weight loss. I did take some steps. I dieted a few times, rather half-heartedly, I worked on some of my emotional issues. And a bit more than 3 years ago, I gave up processed sugar and desserts. But I still wasn't willing to go to any lengths, because the "lengths" I could envision were deprivation and misery.

Just as no one ever offered me hope  in the years I was drinking too much, no one offered me a better way of eating. The first doctor I ever saw about my drinking (1976) told me to just drink no more than 2 a day. The first doctor I ever saw about my weight told me to count calories and gave me a maximum number. Neither of those worked.

I now know I had to have the promise of a new freedom and a new happiness before I could take that leap. Now the walking is much easier to do because it's not about how much but what. And I have that happiness.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Day 118 Fat, food, and vulnerability

It didn't take a PhD for me to figure out that I started eating compulsively right after I got sober so that I wouldn't have to deal with my feelings. Being newly sober was terrifying. I felt raw and exposed to a world that I had perceived only dimly through the filter of an alcoholic haze. And once those first painful months passed, I kept on eating so that I wouldn't have to deal with some of the potential emotional complications of  dating and intimacy. Eating a lot of fat and sugar was a sensual substitute for sex and affection and since our cultural ideal is a thin woman, I just removed myself from the playing field pound by pound.

I couldn't stand feeling such vulnerability and I didn't have the courage to face it so I ate and ate and ate. Now I eat differently and food doesn't numb me anymore (veggies just don't have that effect). And while I didn't stop eating high-fat foods so I could feel my feelings, I'm finding myself finally open to learning how to do that. I'm not sure where that journey is going to take me but I've taken the first steps.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 117 Reducing my sense of personal shame

For longer than I care to remember, I've been carrying shame about my addictive behaviors. You might not have figured that out from talking to me because I had a defiant response to my shame. I drink all day, so what? It's none of your business.  I eat a gallon of ice cream in an evening and don't you try to tell me I shouldn't. I'm 100 pounds overweight and while not proud of it, I can give you a million rationalizations for why that's how it is.

It's very curious to me that my shame about my body is lessening much more quickly than the weight loss. By that I mean I'm still fat. I'm 75 pounds overweight. But what's gone is the shame around eating in ways that I knew were unhealthy, in quantities that I knew were unhealthy, and eating foods that I knew were unhealthy. All my defiance, to myself and others, couldn't mask that from me.

Bottom line: I'm taking much better care of myself. I'm eating in a respectful and loving way for my body and my soul. And that is lessening the burden of shame.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 116 Food as a creative activity

I've never been deeply interested in cooking. Never been one to pour over recipe books, watch cooking shows, or take a class in the fine art of chopping. But since I started eating differently and feeling differently, with a different kind of energy and enthusiasm, I've found it intriguing to put food together in new and interesting ways.

Lunch and dinner today at the retreat were my responsibility. Last night I put together a crockpot soup of potatoes, green beans, white beans, celery, turnips, and spring onions with cumin and Italian seasoning. It was very good. I put together all our leftover salads with some fresh lettuce and made a very tasty guacamole with avocado, lime juice, cherry tomatoes, and a scallion finishing salt Lily had brought. That was lunch.

Tonight's holiday dinner was pasture-raised burgers, sweet potato "fries" (thin rounds of sweet potato baked in veggie broth with spring onions, garlic, and prunes), mixed greens (kale and chard from the garden here) steamed with balsamic vinegar, and dessert (fresh raspberries from the garden here, mixed with banana, blueberries, and nectarines). We splurged and ate the fruit with coconut milk and a grain-free granola made here on the island. The colors were beautiful and it was all very tasty and fun.

I liked creating the combinations, going with what sounded good to me, and not worrying about how it might taste. Or rather trusting that with good, fresh ingredients, almost any combination would work.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 115 My friend Kathy's experience with shifting out of food addiction

Some years back Kathy and I were in a group called Women and Food, all women trying to shift their relationship with addiction to certain foods and compulsive eating. I'm so glad she finally got around to writing her story. If you want to connect with her directly, email her at

In 1958, at the age of 11, I went on my first diet and for the next 50 yrs. gained and lost hundreds of pounds. I went on every fad diet there was and then would gain back the weight lost plus more. In addition to the faddish starvation diets, I tried the healthy ways, like OA and WWs, and acupuncture and hypnosis, etc… but still gained back whatever I lost. I also addressed the mental health issues behind my obesity with various counselors, with healing touch therapy, working the 12 steps and other spiritual processes. I thought I had covered it all and when I retired in 2009, decided to let it all go, eat what I wanted and enjoy life! In the summer of 2010, one yr. after retirement, at the age of 63, I hit a new bottom. I went on a cruise and had to be pushed in a wheelchair up the ramp to the ship; I hardly left my room because of my inability to walk very far. I weighed 330 lbs..

A friend had seen a program on Shades of Hope, a treatment center in Texas for eating disorders and recommended I look into it. I searched for something closer to home and less expensive but could only find treatment for anorexia/bulimia, not plain old overeating! Shades of Hope treats all addictions at the same time, including overeating and co-dependency, which I learned was another one of my many issues!

It was a major investment in myself, a huge commitment, and I was full of anxiety and fear of failure when I went to Shades for the 6 day intensive program on October 23, 2010. Our group of 7 people was put on the same basic balanced food plan, whether needing to loose, gain or maintain! The plan was based on national diabetic and heart healthy diets. We met with a nutritionist, wrote down our specific food plan daily, ate 3 meals and 1 snack,  and had to weigh out each serving. It seemed like a lot of work and then it was a lot of food!  We walked together each morning but I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group; got physically sick trying and was given a special dispensation.

Most of our days were spent in group therapy. On the 3rd day, we wrote out on huge sheets of butcher paper a timeline of our life, noting major events every 2 yrs. and the history of our relationship with food. It was very obvious that my overeating started at a very young age in order not to feel emotional pain. It was also obvious that I carried the extra body weight to protect myself from dealing with intimate relationships. But, I felt I had dealt with all of those issues during previous therapy and did not have any more emotional issues to work on. Then on the 5th day, I shared my timeline and the therapists pointed out that I had been carrying my mother’s shame for her sexual behavior all my life and protecting myself from that shame. That was a new concept to me! With the support of my group and the wonderful therapists at Shades I processed that shame giving it back to my mother; it was not mine! It was a huge relief not to have to carry the weight of that shame.

I came home from Shades exhausted but had surrendered my issue with food. I looked at food only as fuel for my healthy body.  I wrote my food plan out every week according to the recommendations of the nutritionist. It was a balanced diet of protein (small portions), a little fat/dairy, some grains, some fruit and lots of vegetables including salad twice a day. No sugar or white grains. I ate 3 meals a day and 1 snack at night according to my written plan. I took my own food with me when I went to friends, potlucks, etc… and for a time even weighed my food in restaurants. I started water aerobics three times a week and went to a few OA meetings, talking to a sponsor daily for awhile. I practiced affirmative prayer stating that “I am Lean, Healthy and Strong” and the weight just fell off. 

I lost 112 lbs. in 1 ½ yrs. and have maintained that for a year. It has been relatively painless, seems like a natural way of life! I accredit that to the emotional work I did at Shades. It was an amazing experience, a life changing week.

I still eat the same healthy foods but do not follow the plan to the letter although I have not had unhealthy sugar for 2 ½ yrs. (no ice-cream, cake, cookies!) and have no cravings. I do 1 ½ hrs. of water exercise 3 times a week and take walks on occasion. I am physically healthy and no longer take anti-depressants. I would like to lose 50 more lbs. but don’t seem to have the drive to do that. It will come I’m sure. I know that it would take sticking strictly to the food plan and increasing my exercise regime. BUT, as I am now, I am whole, healthy and happy! It is a miracle!  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 114 Going on retreat with the Plan

Tonight I arrived at Aldermarsh retreat center with two good friends. We caravaned up from Portland in two cars (we're north of Seattle about an hour) and it was quite a comedy as we loaded up the two cars with all our stuff. We're here for 10 days and that's a pretty long time but it wasn't clothes or books or even the bedding and towels we brought that took up the space. It was the food, for we each brought large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables and that takes up a lot of space.

Of course, there are grocery stores here on the island and, according to a friend of mine who lives up here, somewhat decent organic sections in both of them. But we hate to leave the peace and focus of the retreat once we arrive and so we each had about 6 big bags of food. We laughed about it but when you eat fresh, it's voluminous!

At opening circle, we talked about how lovely it is to be here with people willing to eat this way. Not just for the solidarity and the simplicity of not having to cater to individual likes and dislikes, but also because that mutual commitment to health and well-being spills over into our relationships with each other and that's a lovely thing.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 113 Getting my annual wellness exam

Today I had my annual exam with my doctor, who was as excited as I was with the weight loss (26 pounds to this point) and the big reversal in my lipid panel numbers. Laurie's been my doctor for over a decade and she's gently encouraged me to change what I eat and kept me aware of the diabetic implications of obesity. But she's never bullied me or tried to frighten me or done anything to belittle me in my resistance to change. And I am really grateful for that.

So it was very nice to share my current path with her and get her encouragement to keep it up. We had a talk about cholesterol medication and she agreed that I should stop taking it and retest in a month to see if my body can maintain healthy levels on its own. She also agreed that I could cut my blood pressure medication in half and monitor that. Having her remove hyperlipidemia from my chart felt like a huge victory! Hurray!