Tag Archives: being aware

Food: The Battle That Never Ends

One of my weekly addictions now, pun intended, is Extreme Makeover: Weight Edition.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A person is ideally supposed to go from morbidly obese to, well, much less.

The most “extreme” episode I’ve seen spent the year with a man named James who began at 651 pounds and lost 313 pounds in 12 months. The first three months, the trainer, Chris Powell, lives with the show’s focus person. After that, the “contestant” is on their own but for the equipment they’ve been left, quarterly check-ins, and emails/phonecalls.

[Spoiler ahead.]

This week’s episode had 9 months invested in one morbidly obese man, who began at 490 pounds, lost 110 in three months, then 21, then gained 60 in the third quarter.

His food addiction came back stronger than ever.

The end of the episode had him checking into rehab 70 pounds below where he started, but 60 pounds over where he was after 4 months — and emotionally broken.

This is something I wish would shut all the cynics up who see weight-loss success on TV and go “Oh, but they had professional help, of course they lost weight.”

You know what? I don’t buy that. It works for a while, sure, but a show like this, it conveys that, left to our own devices, even with all the tools and means at our disposal, failure can find us because we’re our own worst enemies. Every person goes to bed alone in their heads.

Many people regain all their weight back, and even more, when life gets hard, because we’re usually heavy through unhealthy eating addictions that involve masking emotions or failed communications.

Enough About Them, Let’s Talk About Me

I’ve always been food-addicted, but I’m considerably less so in my old age. It’s still a problem. It probably always will be.

That I’m a pretty fucking confident cook sure as hell doesn’t help, but my ability to research and learn the science, well, that does help — a lot. I educate myself from time to time as well. Being a good cook means I take control, and I do so in an often-satisfying way with foods that are ultimately less addictive than fast food and commercial preparations.

Luckily, I somewhat like being active. If I weren’t so goddamned injured so often, I’d be unstoppable, and I’d probably get to keep eating the way I love but would continually lose weight doing it. Fortunately, I eventually battle past my distractions and usually maintain.

That’s me. And I know it’ll be a lifelong struggle. Fortunately, every year I get a little smarter about it, and have done that recently in the face of times that might’ve taken me down a more personally-destructive path in the past.

An Environment Created for Failure

The thing is, food’s an incredible struggle. It’s the hardest addiction in the world to overcome. It’s everywhere. Even skinny people drool over pictures like it’s porn. We even talk about the sexual ways we satisfy our hunger, we have “food orgasms,” we celebrate every holiday around a table, we communicate over tables, we have a national bacon dependency, and now we have sharing apps for cellphones that are all pictures of high-falutin’ drool-inducing food, and everywhere we turn is advertising showing the most sinful burgers and cookies and pastas and pizza (but read this about the dirty tricks photographers use to make that food look so yummy).

In this highly food-pornified world, losing 10 pounds is a massive achievement for some. Losing 313 in a year, no matter who’s helping you, even on a TV show, that’s absolutely mind-boggling — if done through weight and healthy eating, that is.

Add In Being Affected by Life’s Demands…

And putting a few pounds on in any given month or year, well, that’s human. Failing utterly? Also sadly human.

For me of late, I’ve not really been worrying about food, exercise, or whatever. I’m rehabilitating a back injury that scared me more than anything has in years. I had a week in April that was the darkest of my life. All I care about is NOT BEING THAT, and paying my rent. I’m rehabbing, getting my life under control, and that’s all the achievement I require right now.

In saying that, the last 10 months has included enough chaos that all I want to do is get into a routine where being active truly IS my lifestyle, and eating reasonably IS my way. That’s it. I want something I can follow for the rest of my life. I lost 70 pounds in a year doing it that way, I know I can get back to it, too, once my routine’s back.

Anyone who says weight-loss is easy during unemployment isn’t a stress-eater.

During my year of being often under-employed, I had pneumonia followed by a cancer scare that turned into a “dunno what that was, but it ain’t cancer” dealio, followed by blowing out my back. That I only gained eight pounds in two years since my drastic loss is fucking awesome, given my history of overeating for emotional reasons.

It is an addiction, and this has been the hardest year for fighting it. Have I won? No, but if this were a fairytale and the Big Bad Wolf was trying to get into grandma’s house, then I’ve been fighting that fucker back with a big-ass stick. He hasn’t gotten in, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else with my time, either, time-consuming as fighting wolves tends to be, and all.

It Doesn’t Need to Stay That Way: Ebb & Flow

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, as my stress has gone down, as my back injury has finally gotten to a livable place, that my tendency to eat excessively, and too often, has just naturally slowed down, as have my cravings. I’ve not been eating GREAT all the time, but I’ve really not had too much on the average day, either. I also find myself avoiding sweets or feeling compelled for pastries.

The effort now is to simply be more active in my food choices– making more effort in cooking it so I’m not just eating food but, if I overeat, I’m wasting my time and money. Instead of buying bread, the plan now is to make my own for a while instead of buying huge baguettes to indulge in. Every meal needs some kind of veggies with it, preferably more than half the meal being veggies. Using less fat again, I’ve cut back on cheeses, there’s no cheddar in my house (fact: “cheddar” is Canadian for “crack”). I had chocolate during my “girl time” but haven’t felt cravings outside of that.

I don’t care who might think I could’ve done more or I’ve somehow failed myself because I put a little weight back on instead of continually taking it off. I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as “success interrupted.”

What I know about myself today is, I can get through everything that’s happened in the last year (and that short “pneumonia-blah-blah” point there barely skims the surface, as we all know life’s more complicated than big talking points), and gain back only 12% of the weight I’d lost up till 2009, well, that’s not too shabby for an emotional-eating food addict when the odds are better that I should have gained it all back. I kept 88% off, yo!

I’ve been more aware, even in my failings. Now I need greater awareness. Thankfully, it seems to be rising in me, and the stressors seem to be falling.

That’s the ebb-and-flow of life. Like Rocky Balboa says, it’s about getting hit and knocked down, but keepin’ on moving forward.

When I see a man, in life or even a show like that, reduced to tears in his failures, knowing he’s let down his beautiful little girl and wife, checking into rehab and facing all those demons… well, for me, being knocked down but moving forward feels like it’s as good an accomplishment as I need.

We should all remember that. Setbacks are great, if we learn from them and treat them as practice against being defeated in the future. Welcome to life, where we don’t always get it right, but we almost always get a second shot.

Failure photo from Mindthis.ca.
Hand photo from Haley Bell Photography.

My Culture of Disconnect

I don’t want to read the news today.

Or have conversations of consequence with friends.

Or watch TV or movies that require braincells.

I sure as hell don’t want to read.

I want to drift away and disconnect. Be anywhere but here.

Heavy shit’s coming down, again. Dad’s lined up for serious surgery three provinces away. For anyone else, it’d be a major-but-fine surgery. For him, much risk comes with.

I mean, hey, cancer, diabetes, heart disease — which one do you think offers the best chance of surgical complications?

Sometimes, there’s only so much space you’ve got for matters outside the personal realm. Sometimes, thinking about things in the world just gets overwhelming in the face of the struggles you’re wading through on a daily basis.

Sometimes.

I don’t think I’m at that point. Not about this. I’ve been to the sick-dad rodeo one time too many. Sad as I am, weary as I am, I’m pretty much prepared for whatever comes.

I fucking hate that I feel that way. But I do. There’s only so many times you can stand peering over the edge and be terrified.

Sooner or later, you just get to knowing what it’s like, and the fear’s there, but it’s a fear you’ve metabolized now.

Sort of where I am with Dad. I’ve metabolized my terror. Don’t tell my shaking leg or queasy stomach that, but it’s true. I’m a pretty passionate girl. This is Stress-For-a-Loved-One Lite™.

Part of that is just me being older, wiser, more worn, jaded, and exposed. I done been around, man. Heart’s been broken more times than I need to count from life and its woes. That’s just my experience on planet earth.

It takes a lot to break me down, now. I take body blows like a heavyweight champ. With that shock-absorbing tendency comes the ability to not react much anymore.

As an example, the other day, this dude keeps cracking his little one liners at a pub. Eventually he’s all flustered because I’m not laughing at his jokes.

Well, I don’t laugh easily. I’m funny as hell, man, but making me laugh takes something unexpected or just flat-out smart. I’m a student of comedy. I’ve heard it ALL. I smile, or grin. Now and then? A full-on laugh.

But just because I don’t “react” doesn’t mean I’m not dialed in. I’m removed, but I’m listening. I’m probably thinking why your joke failed, where you went wrong with timing, or where I’ve heard a variation of it before, but, you know, I’m listening.

And we’re all sort of doing that these days. Most of us, anyhow. Dialed in but not. Listening but disconnected.

We’re sponges. Taking from society but never giving back. Surfacing.

My life of the last decade has been much like that.

One day, I stopped reading my three or so newspapers daily. Eventually, I fell away from reading books.

What came first, the head injury or my apathy? I don’t know, I don’t even remember anymore.

Things have changed.

Apathy isn’t enough. It’s not a meal that’s filling. Its price is too high. All the things it’s cost me, man…

I feel like a spectator in the intellectual world, and I’m more than that. I’m a smart woman with a unique world-view. I can’t just watch and not contribute.

To be a part of it requires I be of it, that I be immersed in it, be surrounded by it.

So, somewhere inside, I feel like the joke has been on me.

Sure, I’ve survived everything I’ve been through. But for what?

I fell out of touch and love with music. I stopped being clued into the political, cultural, and societal happenings, something I’d been very much in tune with since I had my first newspaper addiction at the age of 9. I stopped seeing movies. I mean, I’m the kind of girl who plans the music in advance for roadtrips — what works with what stretches of highway, what tracks tie into what scenery.

Or, I used to be.

What’s the fucking point in surviving if you’re not gonna thrive as who you are, right?

It’s what happens to a lot of us, I guess. I’ve got pretty good excuses, but they’re still just excuses, and I still feel like a cop-out.

It’s like the themes explored in Fight Club and American Beauty, the disappearing of identity and the cover-up of disconnect by way of commercialism and cluelessness.

We think we’re growing up as we fall away from our youthful passions of music and movies, politics and society, growing jaded and distant.

We’re not. We’re not “growing up”. We’re losing our leisure, thus losing our souls, as Virginia Woolf once wrote.

I want the happy medium between my savvy survivalist self, and the jazzed-up involved youth I was.

Some people I know still balance these things well, and maybe if life hadn’t gotten in the way, I might be the poster-girl for being a plugged-in hipster, too.

But I’m not.

I’m a part of the problem. I’ve joined the throngs of the Great Ignoring.

It’s not cool. It’s selfish. It’s not helping.

The disconnect isn’t working anymore. Not for me. Not for you. Sure as shit not for society.

It’s not really about “movies” and “music” and “news”.

It’s our soul as a society. Who are we if we’re just a bubble-gum-chewing collective dying to swallow the next reality show?

Art, culture, it was my soul, it was who I am. At my core, I’m an invested, impassioned, intelligent person, and living any way but that is antithetical to who I need to be.

My father’s disconnect has him at 350 pounds, with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, while awaiting major surgery. I’m pretty sure “disconnect” is not working for him, either.

I imagine my father would approve of my learning this lesson this week. I’m hoping he survives the week so we can have a talk about that.

Either way, it’s time I suck a little more cultural marrow out of life, because what I got ain’t sustaining much.