Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Peace with food

One of the biggest gifts of the Bright Line Eating program is the profound peace that comes from eating this way. When I'm embroiled in my addiction to sugar, the relief I get from the cravings when I eat are short-lived and then there are soon more cravings and it becomes a perpetual cycle of anxiety. I also get consumed with worry about my health and with guilt and shame about my inability to do what I know is best and to take good care of myself.

Now I have a structure that works for me. I write down each night what I'm going to eat for the three meals the next day. I look at my calendar and plan the time for each of those meals. Then I eat them and I live my life in-between. I get hungry between meals sometimes but I don't eat until my next meal. I've been doing this now for 2.5 months and it is so much simpler than eating all day and worrying about it. I don't worry about food now. May I have the courage and strength to just do this from now on.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living in sufficiency Part 1

In the Dave Ellis money program that I participated in the past two years, the key idea was to stop living in scarcity and move as firmly as possibly into living in sufficiency. Scarcity is a cultural underpinning in our society: never enough time, never enough money, never enough stuff. We consume time and money and stuff as if this will somehow save us from worry, from anxiety, from fear. It doesn't though, and most of us consume more instead of looking in a different direction for comfort and soothing.

I don't have, as far as I can tell, a shopping addiction. But since I stopped eating compulsively in mid-October, my desire to buy stuff has increased. Fortunately, this whetted appetite for stuff came at a time when I had a long dry spell in my paid work as an editor. With not much coming in, I needed to scale way back on what was going out. So my impulse didn't result in a lot of purchases and that helped me see what was going on. 

There were a few things I needed and I bought them. But I sat through the ready response, the instant impluse to react to news of a new great book or something appealing in a catalog. I just let them pass. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was not. But I kept telling myself, "You already have enough."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Clearing psychic space or eliminating the shoulds

A couple of friends and I meet once a month in a group we call Soul Strippers. Sometimes we do art together and chat. Sometimes we have very profound conversations. This past Saturday we had one of those conversations.

It started with the Dave Ellis exercise I mentioned a couple of posts back, sorting out what worked in 2015 and what didn't. Out of sharing our lists, we got to talking about incompletions that felt like obligations, like "shoulds."

Shoulds live in the land of not happening. "I should exercise" is not happening as exercise. That would be "I am exercising." "I should stop watching so much TV." This also is not happening. That would be "I'm watching less TV."

So we looked at our lists of what didn't work last year and separated out the efforts we made that didn't come to completion (I tried to sell my book and didn't) and those that never got to effort (I should market my books). We could celebrate the former and contemplate the latter. Do I want to carry the same shoulds into 2016? What will be different? What will move me to action when I haven't been in action before?

Our group agreed to inquire about this over the next month and come back and report our findings. What shoulds are hanging out in your psychic space? 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Evie, Josie, and the return of equilibrium to my household

The kitten Josie is coming up on three and a half months with us. She seems quite at home here. She wants to wrestle with Sammy and occasionally she can get Frannie to chase her or vice versa. Even Evie is hissing at her less.

And Evie is making progress too. The cold, wet weather has been really helpful in my attempts to get her to come inside at least some of the time and most of the nights.

I'll have to admit I've played the hunger card. I asked my neighbor and good friend Melanie to stop feeding Evie out on her front porch. Evie was very upset with this and read Melanie the riot act for about two weeks but she did start coming up to eat on our porch instead. And then I stopped putting food outside at all. At first it would take her a full five minutes to get up the courage to come in and eat. But she did and now she comes several times a day to eat and be petted. She wants back out very quickly but that's okay and almost every night she comes about 9:30 and I let her in and she eats and stays in until the morning. Forming habits in the brain and body are slow work.

I'm just hoping that she is getting so used to this that when my catsitter is here, Evie will follow the same routine.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Completing 2015

Last week, I watched a great online class with one of my favorite teachers, Dave Ellis, as part of his Falling Awake series. He asked us to make a list of all the things that had worked for us in 2015 and all the things that hadn't. A list of things to celebrate and a list of things to contemplate.

The celebrations were easy:  Wrote 300 poems, closing in on the first draft of a new novel, took some needed time off, adopted a new kitten, found the food plan, new close friends, among quite a few others.

The contemplations were more difficult: the novel I didn't sell, the extra weight I gained in the spring and summer when I gave up trying to make moderation work for me, the money I didn't make when work dried up, the ideas, hopes, projects that never went anywhere.

He had a visual analogy that was powerful for me. He hosts these webinars from his office and behind him are shelves that are usually full of photos and momentos. But for this class, he had cleared them completely. Now, he said, he was considering what to put on those shelves for 2016. Did he want to carry any of his celebrations forward? Likewise did he want to carry any of the incompletions or failures from 2015 forward with him, did he want to release them or renew his efforts with them?

I found this a very interesting way to look at wrapping up one year and contemplating the next. Most of the things that didn't work for me aren't worth hanging on to. What incompletions can you let go of?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My results from 9 weeks of eating the Bright Line way

Nine weeks ago today, I started a boot camp program from Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson and Bright Line Eating. If you've read my blog for a while, you know this isn't my first weight loss rodeo. When I got sober in 1989, it was a relief to learn that candy and sweets of all sorts were not only condoned in recovery, they were encouraged and so I set off in a great addiction substitution: giving up alcohol and embracing sweets. I didn't know that I was already a sugar addict and processed flour addict.

Bright Line Eating addresses the addict's issues with food because Thompson is herself a recovering alcoholic and drug addict as well as a sugar and flour addict. She speaks with authority because she speaks from experience. This was very appealing to me. And her background in the 12 steps meant we have some of the same language and philosophy.

So here are my results after 63 days:

  1. I have abstained totally from sugar and other sweeteners, both artificial and natural.
  2. I have abstained totally from all flours and processed grains. 
  3. I have not had a single, solitary snack. Instead, I have eaten three meals a day and nothing in-between. 
I have given up sugar several times before but always in the guise of treats. This program removes all sweeteners. I have been gluten-free before but never abstinent from all flours including corn meal and nut flours. Before this program, I can't remember the last day that I was snack-free.

I have lost 35.6 pounds and 21 inches. I have eaten three healthy meals that include a crapton of vegetables. I have weighed and measured my food. I have written down the night before what I am going to eat the next day.

Can I live like this forever? I don't know. Can I do it today? Yes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Scale by Helen Mort (I love this poem)


By Helen Mort
My weight is
four whippets,

two Chinese gymnasts,
half a shot-putter.

It can be measured
in bags of sugar, jam jars,

enough feathers for sixty pillows,
or a flock of dead birds

but some days it’s more
than the house, the span

of Blair Athol Road.
I’m the Crooked Spire

warping itself,
doubled up over town.

I measure myself against
the sky in its winter coat,

peat traces in water, air
locked in the radiators at night,

against my own held breath,
or your unfinished sentences,

your hand on my back
like a passenger

touching the dashboard
when a driver brakes,

as if they could slow things down.
I measure myself against

love — heavier, lighter
than both of us.

Source: Poetry (December 2015).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why I'm not holding my annual holiday openhouse this year

It's the first Sunday of December and for many of the last 40 years, I've held a holiday open house from 2-5 pm on this day. In most of the first of those decades, I was a graduate student and an active alcoholic and I made mulled wine and whiskeyed eggnog from scratch and invited people to bring their favorite Christmas cookies. I delighted the students in the classes I taught by bringing the leftover cookies to class. I continued to do that until the homemade cookies stopped coming and people brought storebought cookies and cakes and candy. Then I widened the food request to any kind of finger foods.

The first couple of years I was sober, I didn't hold the openhouse. I was afraid people would expect the mulled wine and the eggnog and I wasn't going to make it. But after I got more solid in my sobriety, I made mulled apple cider and started holding the open house again. Because of the huge influx of sugary foods that came, I eventually declared the event sugar-free and the food got much more interesting.

Since I've been in Portland, I've held this event most years. It's always been a delight whether 20 people show up or 60 do. But this year, I'm more food-free than ever (although people think it sounds restricted). I've found an eating plan that really works for me because it addresses the issues of food and sugar addiction, which are an unfortunate part of my journey. I don't eat sugar or other sweeteners, I don't eat flour or processed foods, and I don't eat between meals. I am solid in my commitment to this and yet not yet solid in my habits. So the idea of having a lot of food in my house that I don't eat and a lot of people in my house eating those foods at non-meal time seems not the best idea to me.

At the holidays, we often throw all caution to the wind where food is concerned and I appreciate the generosity and hospitality that a groaning board implies but this year, I'm committed elsewhere.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Celebrating the return of my neck

Sometimes when you're on a weight loss plan, it's the little things that mean the most. After all, a few ounces down on the scale isn't a lot to celebrate when you've got a fair amount to lose. Other consequences of the big efforts you make to change your eating and a multitude of subsequent habits can be far more rewarding.

Here are some of those rewards;

5. The occasional swelling in my feet and ankles has completely disappeared. I thought that was an age problem. Apparently not so.
4. Back and hip issues are much reduced. Maybe they aren't age-related eitehr.
3. Stamina is steadily improving.
2. There's been an almost a total reduction in anxiety.
1. I have a neck again that is considerably slimmer than my head. I had not paid any attention to its disappearance some years back but its reappearance has been a real delight.