Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Of Grapenuts and t-shirts: Steps Part 2

Of course Grapenuts are a danger signal. Anything processed beyond freezing or being canned in my house is a warning sign that I'm either going to lose my abstinence or have to do some serious cupboard cleaning.

I don't have very much time today so I want to talk about how the near-end result of compulsive eating, my weight, makes my life unmanageable.

Today I weigh one pound more than I did when I began blogging on Amazon a couple of years ago. Two Five One, folks. I'm in a good place to note how physically unmanageable -- or compromised -- my life is because of Grapenuts.

It's warm out. Not hot but a breezy 80 degrees or so. Five years ago I would have walked in the sunlight to keep warm. Now I sweat through my underwear and have to p-e-e-l off my clothes when I get home. My shorts ride up at the crotch and I have to try to find a private moment to tug them into place. My hair is wet after an hour in the dog run. My back and hips ache from walking.

I wanted to find a big tenty dress with pockets to wear when I walk dogs in the afternoon but soon realized I chafe my thighs. This was a real ugly realization. Just like the bad ol' days.

On top of which, I don't get the sizing of things, partly because I'd about rather slit my wrists than go in to the five stores that carry my size and try things on. The 2X sweat shorts and capris I just got also chafe my things because they hang so low in the crotch and I can't cinch them any tighter. The same size in cotton trousers is too small altogether.

I'd have to hunt high and low for those fat lady stores. Five years ago I'd have bought my dog walking "Rat Clothes" at the Gap and Target.

Why did I keep these things that were too big and why didn't I keep things that were slightly too small?

Because I don't trust myself.

Ouch. Talk about unmanageability. If I can't trust myself to control my eating and my size, what can I trust myself to do and be? My food, which my size represents in this blog, is the front line of how little I believe in myself.

I like what I found and ordered more in the same vein. It doesn't take long for me to be bored with my clothes now.

I have to do more laundry because of the sweat and because my body pokes out to soak up grapefruit juice and chicken. I'm lucky to have laundry in the basement of the building -- but it's $1.75 a load for the sweat and stains.

Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to plane travel next week or the [hopefully] silent reaction of my parents.

And the clothing that spans size 6 - 24 takes up ENORMOUS space in my little Cave. Have I mentioned the chaos I live in???

What was once not a big deal now makes think twice -- cleaning the bathtub and the oven, looking under furniture for a missing dog toy, theater seats.

I've been doing a lot of meetings on open-mindedness to God's will lately and my panic over this day diminished a little when I realized I could simply take Henry home, rather than risk having him eat the Bat Cave while I did my afternoon walks.

It was thinking hard about how to keep myself sane (remember Steps One and Two: "We admitted we were powerless over food and our lives had become unmanageable," "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity") in order to bolster my chances of staying abstinent, repeating the word "willingness" to remind me that there might be options, divine or otherwise, I haven't thought of in regards to a difficult day, that made that light bulb go off to take Henry home.

But it's 50 stairs, a total of 100 more stairs for the day. My first instinct was to say, ah fuck it: I'll risk my flip-flops. I was thinking of the airless warm journey up two floors. Willingness, willingness, my mantra went on. And yes, I wiped sweat of my face when I got back outside.

I do not look in mirrors, even from the neck up. I do not look at my shadow. The light burned out in my bathroom and it was only because I need stuff in there -- clothes, hydrogen peroxide, hair brush -- that I changed it. I certainly didn't do it to look at myself.

I'm relieved when I can step off the sidewalk to pick up dog poop -- it's another three inches I don't have to stoop.

It's Day 3. I had a cup of brown rice, 1/3 cup fat-free cottage cheese and a grapefruit for breakfast, a salad with 4 ounces of chicken and a tablespoon of mayonnaise for lunch. I feel clear-headed and energetic.

I'm lucky as hell. At 51 and this weight, I will walk dogs for approximately 200 minutes today, including about 250 stair steps. I came home from 80 minutes of three dogs and set to work cleaning said oven, then got in the shower. I chopped eggplant and onion and am roasting them for dinner now. I will prepare to relocate to another dog's house tomorrow, and in doing so will prepare to go to Arizona. All of these things require energy, strength, willingness and strong knees. I can do them. I couldn't do them 80 or 60 pounds heavier.

But I used to do them a lot more gracefully.

Monday, June 23, 2008


My sponsor has sentenced me to hard labor as I struggle to get off the sugar train.

I have to do a meeting a day (in our cyber age, one can "do" a meeting rather than "go to" a meeting because they're online or on the telephone as well as in church basements) for 30 days.

I have to call one other compulsive eater each day.

I have to read one page of Alcoholics Anonymous each day.

I have to email my sponsor what I'm going to eat each day.

I have to email her a daily inventory each night.

And I have to start over in my step work, which has always been one of my weak points in the Rooms.

The first step of the twelve steps for compulsive eating and food addiction, based on AA's twelve steps, is "We admitted we were powerless over food -- and that our lives had become unmanageable."

The usual approach to working on this pretty grim step is to do a food history. I've done that -- I've published it, for God's sake. She suggested I move on the second step, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," but I observed that the second part of the Step One, "our lives had become unmanageable," is often overlooked.

Taken with the point of Step Two -- the restoration of sanity -- that phrase is particularly important. These Steps are not so much about food as they are about the mental and spiritual balance I lose every time I lapse.

This has to sound cliche, but as I write these statements I understand the direction they can take me in better than I have before.

I want to talk about the last couple of weeks and the weeks coming up.

Daisy and I boarded at two Italian greyhounds' house for ten nights. The first weekend, I was also "boarding" another dog -- that is, hanging out with him as much as possible, tucking him in at night, getting him out first thing in the morning. That weekend I also had another set of IGs to go in and feed, clean up after and love.

I literally needed to be at least three places at once all weekend long. Following that weekend, I agreed to several nights of 9 p.m. walks. I was back-and-forth between the Bat Cave and the IGs. My yogurt was in one apartment, my salad makings in another, nightgown there, clean underwear here. It didn't take long for me to start eating between meals, eating Bad Stuff, and then eating Really Bad Stuff. I had no internet connection at the IGs and couldn't always make the times for online meetings. My bowels cramped from stress; I was exhausted. I didn't get to any live meetings for a week either. I'm now six meeting short of my 30 in 30 days. (In 12 Step parlance, we call such a marathon a "30 in 30" or "60 in 60" or, God help me, a "90 in 90".)

This is the first day I woke up in my own bed since June 15th.

On Thursday, three mornings from now, I start staying at Mad Mally's house -- he's a big crazy black Lab & he has two cats, one of whom I'll need to inject saline into each day. Daisy and I will stay there until July 3rd, when I leave very very early to visit my parents in Arizona for a week.

Yum: a week with my parents in Arizona in July!

Lately, Step One could be reversed -- "My life is unmanageable and I'm using food to get some power". Of course this power is mostly illusionary, although it did quell some of my rebelliousness about being away from home, living in chaos and resentment and self-induced boredom. I can't quite say that eating was unproductive. Rather it was one of what someone recently called "defective habits," a phrase I like a lot.

My life is unmanageable in an infinite number of ways. Play with a dog and I get puncture wounds and a hug sore bruise on my right thumb. Change a light bulb and cut my big toe on the step ladder (talk about ironies). Spend 16 hours a day at another apartment and mine turns into one big dust bunny.

Worse, by sitting in front of TV with pop corn, I didn't pay as much attention, qualitatively, as I could have to the dogs. By debating ice cream as an option all day, my attention was yet further divided.

I wanted OUT of the prison of obligations, even when I wasn't actually in it. Granted, it's hard to work on a novel when one only has an hour at a time to do it, but I played a few too many computer games when I was home and not enough note-taking or cleaning or other tasks that could be done in a short space of time. I'm one of the people who gets to watch TV because it's the Weather Channel or nothing at home, but I was deep into Bridezilla and, oh-my-God, Tori and Dean Inn Love. I wasn't watching the news or something topical that requires time to get the gist of it. I was sucked into what can be digested as fast as cotton candy.

And my reading went unread. Phone calls were not made. Letters were not written. I used food and junk TV to escape not only my resentment, but the alternative ways of spending my time. I chose unmanageability over sanity and usefulness.

My life feels particularly unmanageable in the areas of my career (no word from my editor, no decision made about rounding up letters of recommendation at an online site, my usual reluctance to work on my book), finances (I'm trying to get taxes and my credit debt under control; I want to get medical insurance), my home (winter clothes still waiting for the arrival of storage bags, desks waiting for me to figure out how to organize, a bathroom gray with grit -- although I did one layer of cleaning my oven this morning ;)), stress (it simply comes AT me; I feel like Tippi Hedron in The Birds) -- and my desperation to escape reality.

I need to thin further about how food increases this unmanageable life of mine. I'll keep you posted if you want to read more...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Price We Pay

I've decided I can no longer afford to binge -- eating healthy, weighed and measured food has become prohibitively expensive enough.

I'm just back from the store where I spent $16.06 on a 10-ounce can of generic coffee, a container of Fage yogurt, a small box of Grapenuts and a cauliflower.

A package of Oreos and a pint of Hagen Daz is $9.96.

That's a bag of Beneful for Daisy.

Lots of rain here -- restless dogs who would come back caked in mud if they went to the park. I'm reading Emma and deciding what my next step in my novel is.

Oh, the humanity, she sighs...