Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tougher than it sounds.

So, the Eating Awareness Training has not been going so well. Over the weekend, I kind of dropped off the wagon with it, and I need to get back on track, because I was really learning a lot about myself with it. Even the dropping off the wagon bit teaches me a lot about myself, such as the fact that I really, really like to eat in front of the television.

The program doesn't say that you can never eat in front of the TV or in your car again, but asks that for the first six weeks that you don't. When I first read this, I thought, Six weeks is nothing. I can do this, no problem. But of course by day four, Saturday, when I was hanging out by myself and had a week's worth of recorded shows to catch up on, I found myself eating on the couch, hunched over my food on the coffee table. And guess what? I found myself craving fast food. And every meal since Saturday morning has been ordered out or eaten in a restaurant.

Of course, we desperately need to go to the grocery store. But that's just the point -- why didn't I do that on Saturday, when I had nothing else to do?

I'm going to go for a walk now, and then when I come back I'm going to shower and go to Trader Joe's. I just can't not.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Remembering how.

I'm going to a new bar that looks wonderful downtown tonight, with some of my closest friends. I'm sure I'll find something to wear, and I'm an expert at festive make-up. But it's been so long since I went anywhere but pubs and dive bars, and to tell you the truth, I'm terrified.

It occurs to me that I believe that the closer a bar is to downtown Seattle, the prettier the people will be. S'true.

I'm having mixed feelings, but I have about an hour to center myself while I get ready. Going for the pretty-punk look, with a purple tiered skirt, some black thing on top (when in doubt), and my chunky boots with corset-laces up the backs.

I just hope my black and white stripey tights still fit.

Eating Awareness Training, by Molly Groger

See that, see how cute that is? Eating Awareness Training has a cute little acronym: EAT!

Anyway, so far I love it. I don't think it's in print anymore, but many used copies are to be had at Amazon. I borrowed this one from my nutritionist, but I may buy myself a copy so I can return it to her.

Molly admonishes the reader to not read ahead in the book, and that's what's going to be hard for me. She says that you should take a week for each chapter -- six in all -- and make sure you really accomplish everything that she tells you. If you get through a week and feel you haven't really made any progress with the first step, then you should not continue to the next week but do the first one over. She says that this will really and truly make it so you never have to diet again.

The first step includes really getting in touch with your body: Feeling each part, and then feeling each part with your hands, and then knowing where you are by looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and then picturing your natural body. She talks a lot about the natural body, instead of the thin body, which is nice. But she also makes a point to say that people's natural bodies are not 100 pounds overweight so to banish that excuse right now.

She also says to practice food amnesia. Forget everything you know about food -- calories, fat, carbs, all of it. Forget what you like and what you don't like. Forget what you've made a "bad" food and what's "good." I have no idea what future weeks will say, but for now everything is game.

This step also involves eating everything, including just bites of food, at a table. Prepare the food, sit at the table, center yourself by breathing deeply, smell the food, think about the way it was prepared, think about how it got to you, and eat it, tasting everything and trying hard to listen to what your body is telling you. For this first step, she doesn't tell you to slow down or anything, because that makes you all tense, but she says just to be aware of it. But she does say to get rid of all distractions -- no TV, radio, reading, anything. Just you and the food.

Writing down food, what time you eat it, and how you feel going into it is also part of this. It's only a part of knowing what you're doing, not using it as a whip to punish yourself with.

Here. There's a list of the things to do that encompasses it all.

Homework for Week 1

  • Look at your body in the mirror at least once a week, without judgments. Know where you are.

  • Visualize your natural body three or four times a day. Know where you are going.

  • Follow the Eating Awareness Techniques. Focus full attention on the eating process.

  • Record your food intake in your notebook without judging yourself. Increase your awareness of "what is."

  • Practice the techniques offered here for one full week before reading further. It is is esential to learn from your own experience, and experience takes time.

  • Have fun rediscovering your body.

The two things I'm finding the most difficult are the part about the food amnesia and the part about not reading ahead. I tend to like to have a plan for my life but she's very adamant about not reading ahead. So I keep reading the chapter over and over, trying to get it in my head. The food amnesia is also hard because of 25 years of messages that I have to sort through and delete. There are more than a few corrupted files in there, too, that just don't seem to want to go.

I suspect, though, that the reason those two parts are hardest for me is because I need to accomplish them the most. I believe that it can't hurt to build my patience, and I wouldn't be surprised if this very thing, waiting a week to read the next chapter, heads off a bit of the problem of instant gratification that is so ingrained in my eating habits. And as for the food amnesia, what a beautiful thing it would be to scrape myself of all those little barnacles of doubt and guilt and self-loathing dressed up as numbers.

As far as what EAT has done for me -- well, I've only been uncomfortably overfull once, and that's when I paid no attention to what I was doing because I was out to eat with a friend. I eat when I'm hungry and don't eat when I'm not. A couple of times at work I've been really quite bored and have gone for a walk instead of eating because I had a chat with my body and it just wasn't hungry. I notice myself eating more slowly, not because I feel like I should, but because that's what I need to do in order to really taste and sense everything that I'm eating.

I am loving it. My next week starts next Wednesday, and I'll talk more about it probably on Friday, after I've had a couple of days to process it and get going on it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

On Not Being Gracious

So, I think I'll write about not being gracious first.

One of the things I like about Sue (my nutritionist) is that we are able to talk about all of the feelings surrounding the eating and she has a great many ways of explaining exactly how I feel. When she said that when we start making changes, we're not always the most gracious about it, it really just hit me. We went on to further discuss it because it opened up a realization in me -- that in the past when I have started making changes to better myself, my history is to assume this strange mantle of defiant entitlement with little regard to those around me.

I think it works with any changes. It works with taking better care of your body, learning to stand up for yourself and asking for what you want, surrounding yourself with what's true to you. With me, I think it gives me this excuse in my subconscious to just run roughshod over everything and everyone.

I've been having some difficulty lately with forgiving a friend and ex-roommate of mine with whom I had a major falling-out about three years ago. It's a long unresolved argument, mostly because neither of us were the sort to argue and had no idea how to swallow pride and come back together to work things out. The problem is that she's still friends, or at least online acquaintances, with many of my close friends -- including my boyfriend.

There are so many ways in which Not Being Gracious applies to my relationship with this woman, and that's why Sue's words were so immediately resonant.

When we had the fight, I was just about at rock-bottom with my drinking. I'd been drinking heavily (at least 5-6 drinks every night; a sober or non-hungover 24 hour stretch was extremely rare) for about three years, ever since I'd broken off my engagement. While the main fight that resulted in my break with my friend/roommate didn't revolve around the drinking, I can't imagine it had been very easy to live with me. After she left, I stopped drinking and started going to AA meetings a few weeks afterward. This part of Not Being Gracious doesn't have directly to do with her, but our fight was one of the main reasons I went to that place.

When I was getting sober, I felt like I deserved special treatment. While the work I was doing to get sober was tough, in retrospect I was a pain. I felt that people should walk on eggshells around me because I was a total mess. At work, I felt that they should work my schedule around the AA meetings that I wanted to go to. I lashed out at a lot of people because all of a sudden I was feeling the pain I'd been numbing for three years. And I felt so much emotional pain, so much that it blurred every interaction with people. I caused drama without knowing it, like when I went to a party and had to leave after 25 minutes because I felt like I was hyperventilating with how much I wanted a drink. I knew that I was just asking for what I needed, but looking back, I think I must have appeared very clumsy.

I've sent a couple of emails to my ex-friend in the last year or so to try to wave the white flag, to admit that I knew it mustn't have been easy to live with me, to tell her that I missed her so much that it hurt sometimes. They went summarily ignored. However, she remains connected online to most of our mutual friends. What set this whole thing off was that she recently added all of them to her Myspace page, which infuriated me. It felt like a slap in the face, because when they added her back, it felt like tacit approval of the way that she treated me oh so long ago.

But the thing is, I'm not sure anyone really knew how terribly hurt I had been. I vented about a few things, but I was hurt much more than I'd let on, because she and I had been great friends before the falling-out, and because there's all this other crap wrapped up in this, abandonment stuff, mainly. I never asked for what I needed with this. I never asked people to understand. And so, when I freaked out about it this week, I fought with my boyfriend, who was somewhat blindsided. (It was during this fight that I exclaimed I would probably be better off alone, which further confused both the matter and my boyfriend.) I was going to vent to my best friend and then realized she had also been added and added back, and so I fired off an email written in a total fit of pique, asking her how she could possibly betray me like this, and would she keep people on her friends list who had walked up to me and punched me in the stomach, and what the hell, really?

We talked about it later, and she told me that to her, online spaces don't really matter all that much, not as much as they obviously do to me. She gave me an explanation and we worked it out, but I made sure to profusely apologize. Going back and reading that email, it was like a stranger had written it. Clumsy, irate, shaky. It's rare that I call people out, and obviously somewhere I felt like I needed to -- but did I call the right person out? Did I do it with language that would have attracted a solution without hurting feelings? No. Ungracious.

I find a lot of entitlement feelings with the food thing, too, and I have to be careful that I'm not crossing other people's boundaries when I talk about things I'm doing and I have to make sure that I'm not trying to make situations revolve around myself. That's a mixture of the asking for what I want and the whole better living through proper diet and exercise thing.

I used to liken this whole situation to a sapling tied to the ground by its top. Imagine cutting the string and the way that the sapling would swing back and forth for a while before finally righting itself. That's how I felt, like I knew that I was wildly out of control with finding my ground, and I didn't want to hurt people but knew that I was. Maybe it's that all I knew was being out of control, and I'd removed the actual intoxicant from the equation and my body just hadn't caught up yet. I certainly know that I transferred a lot of the time I spent drinking into time spent eating; my fast food thing didn't really take off until after I stopped drinking, and in the last three years I've gained 60 pounds.

I'm not sure if this non-graciousness is something that can be avoided. I keep thinking learning to walk and how awkward it is -- falling, running into things, bursting into frustrated tears, being so distractedly fascinated by what's happening with the legs that everything else gets ignored. But perhaps if I can at least give what I know about this to the people closest to me, it might be a little easier to get through. I won't use it as an excuse; it is my full intention to be as mindful as possible, but I want to explain in advance that I'll be a bit wobbly at first, and to take my outbursts with a grain of salt, or at least to confront me with how uncharacteristic of me they are.

As for my friend, I miss her terribly. I sent her another email explaining my hurt that this hasn't resolved, and I haven't gotten anything back, as usual. This might be something I just have to forgive and forget without ever having gotten an explanation for it. And that's hard.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To be covered later...

Want to get these two things out of my head so I can go into them at a later time, when I'm not so tired:

1.) Working with Molly Groger's Eating Awareness Training, having been lent it by my nutritionist. So far, I like it. But it's going to be a lot of patient work, which is not a strength of mine.

2.) My nutritionist (who has this address and may be dropping by -- Hi, Sue!) articulated something that I have known for years but have never been able to properly express (fittingly): That when we start making changes we're not always gracious about it.

Okay, I need sleep, and though I am tempted to write further, I am saving it for another time.