Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chapter 4 Exercises

Chapter 4 in Anne Katherine's "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" is titled "The Great Escape". It talks about fight or flight syndrome and how food may become an escape, particularly for female children, who are often taught to be nice and helpful and not openly fight or express anger that male children can usually get out through rougher play, sports, etc.

The author uses psychologist Abraham Maslow's famous "Hierarchy of Needs" to illustrate why some folks make the choices they do in their lives. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is as follows, starting with the most important needs at the top of the list:

1. Body needs--air, food, water, temperature
2. Safety and protection from harm
3. Status, approval, love, acceptance, belonging
4. Competence, adequacy, security, self-esteem
5. Curiosity, to know and understand
6. Order, structure, system
7. Self-actualization, exploration, newness, values, artistic expression, self-fulfillment, meaning

Katherine goes on to say that when we see our most basic needs ranked in this way, we can see the courage and support that are necessary to swap a visceral need for a more abstract one, concluding that generally, we have to substitute something that feels similarly fulfilling in order to affect change.

At the end of the chapter, she writes: "even though experimental results aren't yet clear enough to explain exactly what happens in our bodies step by step, enough is known to conclude the following:

--We overeaters have bodies that are chemically delicate.
--Our bodies respond to subtle deficits in minerals, vitamins, light, energy, and needs.
--We are probably eating to correct deficits, but what we eat is not making the correction.
--Eating is an effort to self-medicate. Eating is caused by biological pressure."


Assignment 4.1

Here is the second part of the disease inventory that began in Chapter 2 on page 46. This part is designed to help you become more conscious of the direct and indirect messages you received as a child about food, eating, and weight. Your awarenesses will become more clear by first writing them down then sharing them with another person or group of people.

Identifying the Message

As a small child, you were taught about food and eating with words (what your parents told you), actions (what your parents showed you), and consequences (how your parents rewarded or punished you). Write down what you were taught as a small child:

--What did your parents say about food, sugar, eating, and weight (yours and theirs)?

--What were meals like—warm times of sharing, love, and laughter? Were you tense, pressured, fearful? Were you captive while being disciplined?
--Were meals regular, predictable, and healthy, nutritionally balanced, haphazard, sporadic, at no fixed time, late and unappetizing because you had to “wait for father”, of questionable nutritional value?
--How was food a part of family celebrations, both daily traditions and holidays, celebrations, and weekends?
--Where and when did you learn about nutritional balance, nutritional content, cooking?
--What mixed messages did you receive as a child? For example, “Eat! It will make you healthy!” “That girl, I keep letting out her clothes!”
--What was the family’s attitude toward appearances? Were appearances important no matter what was happening? Was it more important for the house to be neat for the neighbors than for you to be attended to?

--What were the rewards or punishments for eating the way your family did, or for not eating the way they did?
--How were you rewarded or punished for the way you looked, the way you ate, the way you were the same, the way you were different from the rest of the family?
--Think about your childhood. In what ways did you suffer from the addictiveness or compulsiveness of others? Take plenty of time for this part of your inventory. Be as detailed as you like. Write about the experiences you went through as a result of the disease in others.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Want to Save Your Life

This is the name of a new show on Women's Entertainment Television. I just watched the first two episodes and thought it was pretty cool. The host/doctor has struggled with his own weight and health in the past. He comes into the subject's life and shows them how to shop, how to exercise, and helps them get to the root of their issues. He then follows up several months later to show the progress they are making with their lifestyle changes.

It is really nice to see a show like this that actually is helping people. Surgery does not seem to be a factor at all in these cases, which is neither here nor there. What I really appreciate is that there is education happening, light-bulb moments for the subjects, and real-life progress. No magic bullets, no illusions about how easy or quick this all is, because it isn't. No drill sergeants or getting voted off the freakin' island. No laughing and pointing.

I tend to be somewhat cynical about "women's entertainment" channels. (Lifetime's "television for women" tagline always annoyed me: what women? Not most of the ones I know. Maybe some women, but not all women. Just like all men don't feel the need to watch "Trucks!" on the Spike network.) Lifetime's original movie titles follow this format: "I Hate My Husband: The Jane Doe Story". I do like that they rerun old sitcoms I like, such as "Golden Girls" (btw, RIP, Bea Arthur, you were fantastic) and "Will and Grace". I like some of their true crime shows and the occasional random documentary. I have to say that I like Women's Entertainment TV more than Oxygen or Lifetime at this point. ("The Bad Girls Club" on Oxygen just doesn't do it for me, but at least Oxygen does air a fair amount of figure skating coverage. No one else does these days.)

I hope this show doesn't get cancelled.


1. What are your current obsessions?
Crystal Light Focus. Advil. The "Adventureland" soundtrack.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Anything cotton, loose, and comfy.

3. What's for dinner?
Leftover sloppy Joes. I had a dream about sloppy Joes, which I hadn't had in about ten years, and a coupon--a lethal combination. They were okay, but didn't taste as good as the dream.

4. Last thing you bought?

5. What are you listening to?
The computer hum, my neck pop, cars going by

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
I'd want to be Athena. Does Wonder Woman count? I look like the Venus of Willendorf (ancient statue of a fertility goddess).

7. Favorite holiday spots?
The Oregon Coast, a cruise ship with a balcony room, Red Caboose Getaway

8. Reading right now?
I just finished "Grunge is Dead" last night. I'm working through Natalie Goldberg's "Old Friend From Far Away". "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" in my group/class.

9. 4 words to describe yourself.

10. Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate, "Divorce Court", one-hit wonders.

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
My fabulous friends. Margaret Cho. Christopher Guest movies.

12. Planning to travel to next?
Can't afford it, willfully not thinking about it. I'm signing us up for every sweepstakes to win a trip I can find.

13. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Seriously? The Ghirardelli chocolate squares I shouldn't have had yesterday.

14. When did you last get tipsy?
Last summer.

15. Care to share some wisdom?
Life is too short to expend emotional energy on those who only drain yours. Concurrently: to thine own self be true.

16. Nicest thing anyone’s ever said to you?
There are a few: your friendship is the greatest gift of my life. You have the most beautiful heart I've ever known. You are my chosen sister. You are my soul mate. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. We don't throw people away. All of these came from different sources--so I'm a very lucky person.

17. If you could have just one more conversation with a person from your past, who would it be? Jeff. I miss him so much.

18. Do your friends tend to be male or female?
At this point in my life, it's an equal balance. Women get cooler as they get older. :)

19. What is in your car’s trunk? Reusable grocery bags and a case of water.

I'd like to tell you that there are various fucktard parts in there but alas, it's just my reusable grocery bags

20. What was the last CD that you purchased? The "Adventureland" soundtrack

21. What is your favorite movie and why? I really love "American Beauty" and "Ghost World". So much truth, humor, tragedy, great acting, etc. "Airplane!" and "Soapdish" can always, ALWAYS make me laugh. "Walk the Line" and "Good Night and Good Luck" are both incredible fact-based films.

22. If you could wake up with a new talent tomorrow, what would it be? Being able to work for The Man with a smile and not have to shower afterward.

23. What is your favorite day of the week and why? the weekend, because it's chill.

24. What are you wearing when you feel you’re at your best? Makeup and earrings, comfortable clothes that I feel good in.

25. When was the last time you cried? Last week.

26. What items (if any) do you get embarrassed to purchase? None. I was always the one my friends sent in to buy their condoms and pregnancy tests when we were "underage"...I didn't care.

27) If you could have the ability to solve problems quickly and easily or the ability to know without a doubt every time a person told a lie, which ability would you want and why? Probably the problems one. I have good lying radar.

28) Do you nap a lot? Yes, because I'm not a good sleeper.

29) If you were given a free house that was full furnished, where in the world would you like it to be? Cannon Beach, OR

30) Name three things that you could not live without.
Loved ones

31) What would you like in your hands right now?

32) What would you change or eliminate about yourself?
How much I love chocolate

33) As a child, what type of career did you want?
A writer

34) What’s your favorite book from the past year?
There are too many! I'm a speedy, prolific reader.

35)Is there a comfort food from your childhood that you still enjoy?
Cooked chocolate pudding with the skin on it. Haven't had it in YEARS.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 106

According to my painstaking record-keeping efforts in the food journal, Day 106 was today. I notice as time goes on and I get sicker and sicker of writing down everydamnthing I eat and its nutritional content, my writing gets sloppier and sloppier in the food journal. I can't wait to set it on fire and dance wildly around it with reckless abandon.

There are many handy websites where I get my nutritional info for the food journal; most major restaurant chains have nutrition information for their food online, and there are all kinds of nifty sites, like nutritiondata.com, where you can look up the nutritional content of just about anything--fruit, whatever. I had to laugh--tonight we had sloppy Joes, and I had to take apart the ingredients and log them all. When I looked up ground beef, the number of choices was insane. Knowing the lean percentage of the meat was far from enough--was the cow grass-fed? (Did its stall in the barn have north-south exposure? Did it poop rainbows?)

My ankle is giving me a really bad time. It now pops when I move it at all, hurts all the time, and if I do something as simple as walk around a grocery store, I basically have to ice and elevate it afterward. I'm taking more ibuprofen than I would like. I'm probably going to have to bite the bullet and go have it X-rayed, but I've been waiting for this surgery to happen to see if weight loss would help it. We really cannot afford any additional medical bills. In terms of working out, I have been sticking to strength training and tai chi--better than nothing, I reckon.

Mr. Salted was on vacation the past two weeks--"use it or lose it"--so we've mostly been hanging out at home after our little bed and breakfast stay. We went and saw "Adventureland", which we both loved, especially me, I think. It was set in 1987, so it was our era, and the soundtrack was FANTASTIC. I downloaded it on Itunes and had most of the missing songs in my collection already. It made me wax nostalgic for my college-radio DJing days--my personal life wasn't at its peak back then, but the music was great! I (amazingly) avoided working for a carnival, but I had almost every other crappy job known to man. McDonalds, Godfather's Pizza, music store, pet store, convenience stores, movie theater, nanny, you name it. My favorite jobs were always work-study jobs in college; I got to work in several libraries, which I loved. I also enjoyed bookstore jobs and had a couple of those over the years. If the economy continues in this vein after I've had and recovered from this surgery, I may end up back in retail--God forbid. A bookstore is about the only retail job I can see myself doing.

I'm still looking into the whole Tech Writing Certificate thing, though I'm definitely more productive when Mr. Salted isn't home all day with me. I'd love to be in a room all day pushing paper, researching, writing, or what have you. I'd love to be writing. Writing writing writing. I'd love to be able to say: I write full-time; I'm a novelist; I'm a writer--and have it be true.

Tomorrow is Monday, so I need to get on my support group stuff, since it meets Tuesdays. The last round of exercises was extremely overwhelming for me, and I haven't wanted to look at it again since.

I also tried a few days without sugar, just using artificial sweeteners (sugar-free Jello, Crystal Light, etc.). It was not the most fun I've ever had, and I was jonesing the whole time. I finally broke down and had a few Ghirardelli squares. We are trying to finish up the food that is going to be eradicated--a lot of white pasta and the like. Mr. Salted has agreed not to have cookies in the house.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


So Chapter 3 of "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine is about deprivation. Hoo boy!

"Assignment 3.2

For the next twenty-four hours, notice yourself. Notice your needs, reactions to others, and messages to yourself. The goal here is for you to become more conscious of your patterns by keeping a log of your feelings and reactions.

Do you have a tendency to take care of others, listen rather than talk about yourself, talk rather than listen, rescue, protect others, or protect yourself? Do you find yourself feeling put upon, used, taken advantage of? Do you feel overwhelmed, small, not enough? Do you feel urges to run and hide, to crawl into a corner away from people? Do you feel confused and torn in two? All of these patterns, deep-rooted though they are, can be altered. Very likely, they will stand between you and what you really want from life. But first you must become more conscious of what they are. To achieve such consciousness, record your responses to people."

This was my response:

8:00 AM, 4/20/09. Begin drinking Crystal Light to avoid eating sugar.

Mr. Salted is home since he is on vacation. I clean the floors and he helps. He makes dinner and I have gone all day without sugar without a problem.

2:45 AM, 4/21/09. I wake up in a panic, CRAVING sugar. My brain is screaming. Eat a granola bar and a Fiber One bar, which unfortunately do have sugar. Dreading completing the genogram assignment.

5:45 AM, 4/21/09. First Jello snack of the day. I blog for awhile about Chapter 2 and the genogram assignment. Even blogging about it exhausts me. I watch some TV under a blanket for a couple of hours and worry about it. John gives me a hug and a kiss.

12:30 PM—2:55 PM, 4/21/09. Since I started working on the genogram, I have had three 100-calorie packs, a Jello pudding snack, and a Jello snack. I spend a couple more hours under a blanket watching TV; I feel totally overwhelmed even after I get done with the genogram. Especially after, really, because looking at it makes me feel ooky. I don’t want to leave the house, much less go to group tonight. Mr. Salted goes to the post office and also to the store to get me more Jello snacks and the 100-calorie packs that have Splenda instead of sugar, at my request. I am panicked that a sugar detox has been discussed by the group already and I wasn’t there (it was mentioned in an email from the facilitator)--panicked at the thought of it, period. I know I have to do it because of the gastric bypass surgery, but am freaking out. Mr. Salted gives me a hug and a kiss on the forehead where the cat scratched me. He is a mensch.

4:20 PM, 4/21/09. Feeling a bit calmer after having some downtime in a nice quiet room. Glad Mr. Salted is so supportive. REALLY want chocolate. Dreading group. Feeling bad for dreading group. Very, very tempted to skip group, but I paid cash on the barrelhead for it, so I know damn well that I will drag my carcass there. Mr. Salted says he understands and will still love me if I don’t go, which is nice. I still don’t want to go.

Edit, 9:49 PM, 4/21/09--Went to group. Unloaded. Got support. Am glad I went to group. Full of amazing, kind women. Made me remember I am one as well.

Sample Completed Genogram


Anne Katherine's "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" theorizes that food addicts may have been born with problems if their parents had alcohol or sugar sensitivity, depression, perfectionism, or other compulsive behavior. If a food addict was born with insufficient serotonin levels, when they hurt, they hurt badly, and sugar and carbohydrates may have brought some relief. Since people repeat whatever behavior they think is working to relieve pain, whether it is eating, drinking alcohol, or drugs, the problem goes from self-medication to physical addiction. Katherine points out, "The physical addiction is one giant part of the problem, but the problem has other parts too. Recovery comes about when we pay attention to all of the parts together."

The next assignment is to do a genogram, which is sort of a combined flow chart/family tree. It is under assignment 2.1 on page 47 of the book.

"What evidence is there that you inherited the susceptibility to this addiction? Trace the origin of your disease in your ancestors and role models. Make a genealogy chart of as many ancestors as you or other family members can remember. Next to each name, use the symbols listed below to indicate their involvement in addictive or compulsive behavior. Be alert to clues that point to skeletons in the closet, such as "He had a small drinking problem," "He died of liver disease," "She had lung cancer," or "He was pretty heavy."

Circle: Female
Square: Male
Dotted line: Death
Slashed line: Divorce
FA: Food addict
A: Alcoholic
D: Drugs
S: Compulsive sex
$: Compulsive spending/shopping
CW: Compulsive work behavior
G: Compulsive gambler
N: Nicotine
CO: Codependent or caretaker
R: Rigid
VR: Very religious
I: Chronically ill
Dp: Depressed
Db: Diabetic
ED: Eating disorder

The image above illustrates some standard genogram symbols.

Brain chemistry and food addiction

Chapter 2 of "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine deals with the brain chemistry involved in food addiction--neurotransmitters, synapses, serotonin, etc.

Some key points:

"Addiction results when the use of a substance alters the body in such a way that the absence of the substance causes pain...Evidence is mounting that folks who get addicted to certain substances do so because of a chemical function that the substance mimics or, if malfunctioning, seems to temporarily improve, but with negative/addictive side effects."

"(The brain chemical) serotonin promotes relaxation, peacefulness, relief from pain, and a decrease in anxiety. (The brain chemical) endorphin gives relief from pain and a sensation of pleasure. Both serotonin- and endorphin-releasing nerves are highly concentrated in the part of the brain that regulates eating, sleeping, drinking, and sex." Katherine goes on to say that insufficient serotonin levels are a likely cause of more acute feelings of stress and pain, and that when refined carbohydrates are ingested (sugar, pasta, alcohol, white bread), serotonin is released, relieving stress and pain. She also points out that it is suspected that those with insufficient serotonin levels may have a malfunction in the feedback loop that tells them when to stop eating these serotonin level-raising foods.

"For some people, eating sweets, starches, and/or fats cause the release of endorphins; thus, for these people, eating certain foods relieves discomfort and feels good." She goes on to say that certain endorphins also stimulate eating; if eating sugar makes you feel good, you will want to eat more sugar. She also discusses other brain chemicals that come into play and explains how various processes work in the brain to relay messages.

Katherine continues that food addiction and alcohol addiction are thought to be chemically related because there has been a proven genetic component. Food addicts are often at higher risk to become alcoholic. Addiction results from tampering with brain chemistry, whether the substance is drugs, alcohol, food, or something else. I highlighted this passage: "If you have a disorder in your serotonin functioning, you will experience metabolically caused cravings. You aren't morally weak or undisciplined; your body is screaming to you, "Eat! Eat!" I'm paraphrasing here, but she goes on to say that chemically caused eating is a physical abnormality like diabetes, and measures can be taken by the food addict to treat it.

Rest and relaxation

I've been gone a few days...Mr. Salted and I went away for our anniversary to our favorite bed and breakfast for three nights and had a lovely, relaxing time. I also went to the Museum of Glass with an old friend of mine and that was really cool. Here is one picture from the Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass...there are a few others are on my Flickr site, which is linked from my profile here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chapter 1 exercises

"Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine, MA

"Assignment 1.1, Self-Acceptance, p. 13

(1)List the ways you have abused yourself, physically with extreme weight control measures, and emotionally with negative self-messages, because of your problem with food."

My abridged response:

Bulimia—starving, bingeing, purging, laxative and diuretic abuse
Putting myself down, making myself the butt of a joke before anyone else can
Refusal to try to look good--what’s the point?
Feeling like I have to outdress everyone or be overdressed to make up for my weight (mostly at work or social events)
Self-induced isolation almost to the point of agoraphobia at times
Refusal to exercise or try certain things because I fear I will be ridiculed
Told myself/felt like I was/am: ugly, fat, worthless, damaged goods, ruined, poisonous, monstrous, don’t deserve to live, smelly, disgusting, repulsive, weak, awkward, clumsy, untouchable, undesirable, unfeminine, dirty, a bad person
(A friend told me once she thought I had body dysmorphic disorder because my inner default setting always goes straight to “ugly” during any time of vulnerability, particularly when I am ill and/or down.)


"Assignment 1.4, The Truth About Consequences p. 20

(I'm paraphrasing) List "incentives" used by others or yourself to get you to lose weight.

My abridged response:

(Note: my God, they are such bullshit!)

(a) Acceptance from boys/men: “I would go out with you/you could get any guy you wanted if you lost weight”, I heard from about the age of 12 until about age 25. Which is not only untrue, but wrong on about 5,036 levels.

(b) Acceptance and love from my family of origin, who made it clear I was never good enough because of my weight. (After a lot of distance from them and a considerable amount of therapy, I figured out *nothing* would have ever garnered their approval, which was ultimately a relief.)

(c) In my own mind, on some level, I have felt I could never be fully happy or successful without losing weight. There may be some truth to this when it comes to a career, as I know there are jobs I have not been hired for as a result of my looks. (Now that I’m older and wiser, I think: would I really want that kind of job anyway? And I'm 40, so my age is now going to be a factor as well.)

(d) Doctors would get off my back. The stories I can tell about things doctors have said to me would curl anyone’s hair.

Did any of these "incentives" work? NO!

The group facilitator posed a couple of questions for us to journal on and consider for further discussion. These are my abridged responses:

How much of your self-worth depends on the outward appearance of your body?

I think when I was younger and still struggling actively with bulimia that this was much worse for me than it is now. Ageism is certainly alive and well in our culture, but getting older takes a lot of the pressure off, too. I didn’t expect to look like society’s ideal of a gorgeous 19-year-old at 39, but at 19, I felt extremely less than because I didn't come anywhere near meeting those ideals—-I think on some level, in my warped mind, I thought that because I was young, I was also supposed to be beautiful (by society’s standards). I knew from a very young age that I was never going to be able to trade on my looks anyway, so I spent more energy on my brain and my personality--a better investment, IMHO--but in an ideal world, girls and women would be able to enjoy all aspects of their being.

The older I get, the less I care about how I look on the outside. Some of that has to do with acceptance by my spouse, and some self-acceptance comes with age and (I hope) wisdom. I have never liked my body, but I learned to grudgingly accept it and at least not continue to punish it for its many perceived failures, because I am grateful that I have mobility, sight, vision, etc. I also became much more concerned with health than appearance as I got older because I had several very immediate health problems that were much more of a concern. They have rendered any worries about my appearance extremely trivial!

I was alone by choice for four years between my divorce and remarriage and during that time hit my heaviest weight, which was 296 pounds. I did binge occasionally during that time period, but also swam laps regularly and used a treadmill at home. I was well aware that my weight made me less “valuable” in the dating market. When I chose to dip my foot in again, my approach was to look online very selectively and just lay it all out on the table--so that if a prospective mate had an issue, I wouldn't waste my time or energy. My husband now is the only man that was worth the trouble, and I am happy to say he is a fantastic individual and we celebrate our second anniversary tomorrow. :)

I like myself better as a human being than I ever have in my life. I still (grudgingly) accept my body, but feel very uncomfortable physically. I do think I would feel better about myself if I was thinner, simply because I would feel better in my body.

In what ways have you or others treated you as an object, rather than the deep and complex being that you are?

I don’t remember not feeling like an object. I was always aware that I did not measure up to who my mother had been in any way, shape, or form, and I felt that I was a pale facsimile of her. My father was not consistently involved in my life, but was enough of a presence that I knew I was legally his property until I was 18 years old; he was obsessed with how I looked. He was also abusive and inappropriate. I was a high academic achiever and an all-around good person, but I felt that “thin and pretty” was always the carrot being dangled and the ultimate condition of the family's extremely conditional love, particularly his.

I have had men and boys treat me like an object (as most women do) my entire life. Getting older, again, this is less of an issue, but the world is not nice to fat people of any age, and I think that has been well-documented by myself and many others. People have yelled at me out of cars, mooed, looked pointedly in my grocery cart, and made rude comments. Even children have felt this was acceptable to do at times. People have made rude comments toward my husband. I have had a really hard time with medical professionals because they look at the number on the scale--or the body shape—and just stop listening. I once had a doctor castigate me about my weight when I was seeing him for a broken ankle that had not even been set yet. I have had doctors bitch at me about my weight when I was in for strep throat.

The ways I have treated myself as an object were included in the first exercise...


So, four days after my appointment, my ankle still hurts. I had to stay off it pretty much completely for a couple of days, elevate, ice, and push the ibuprofen 24-7. It feels like it may be the Achilles as it affects the area around the back of the ankle as well. I emailed my exercise physiologist and told him I didn't think this was normal and that I was going to focus on strength training, tai chi, and when I felt up to it, shorter walks or aerobic DVD moments. I'm also going to check into pool schedules around the area. I know I need to do more to lose more weight more quickly but I also have to be for real. Frankly, the ankle situation is one of the reasons I decided to get this surgery in the first place. It will be a lot easier to work out after some of the weight is off, and some weight is going to come off post-op regardless. Even if the exercise I do isn't always cardio, it builds up strength and improves circulation so it's better than nothing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I bought my first papaya the other day, and ate half of it at lunch today. Let's just say that I was unimpressed with my overall papaya experience.

I like mangoes, and I know I've had things that had papaya in them and liked the taste. Papayas are expensive--I believe I paid $2.99 a pound--but I was trying to switch it up a bit in the fruit department. Little did I know.

I cut into that bad boy and what do you know, it was full of seeds! The skin isn't edible because it's hard and thick. By the time I trimmed the skin off and eliminated the core, there was barely any fruit left, and let's just be frank--it tasted like ass.

Sometimes I feel like I just woke up an alien life form on this planet and don't quite know how I got here (or survived this long here). People are probably reading this thinking, "How did you get to 40 years old without ever eating a papaya?" What can I say? Life is odd.


Exercise physiologist appointment was today. It kicked my butt. I walked on the treadmill 30 minutes and did a bunch of strength training. I kept telling him how stuff hurts and how much my balance stinks, and he got to witness one of my graceless unplanned lurches for himself. My ankles are cracking and feel like they're going to give out from under me. I say it's naptime.

Edit, a couple of hours later: I feel like I blew out my stupid ankle again. I'm cancelling my plans for tomorrow and staying off it so I can actually enjoy our anniversary getaway next week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I am *really* glad I joined the support group. I liked the therapist, I liked the other women (no men joined), I liked the vibe, and I feel that I can learn a lot from everyone and do some valuable, necessary therapeutic work. I felt like I didn't stop talking the whole time; I was just so glad to be with people that spoke my language, so to speak, that I couldn't shut up. The dread I was feeling was totally unfounded, but that is something I do--worry too much ahead of time, and let's face it, anything that has to do with a group of people is a total crapshoot. We actually touched on previous group experiences, and many of them were negative in nature. It seemed to really correspond on the specific mix of personalities, size of the group, etc.

One thing that is going to be interesting for me is that this group includes people who have already had bariatric surgery as well as those who have not--about a 50/50 split, actually. I am especially looking forward to the insights of those who have already had a procedure, but continued to struggle with their weight. I am so afraid of "blowing it" myself due to not having my mind right. I think the importance of getting the mind healthy during before, during, and after this process absolutely cannot be overstated--and in my opinion, it is far too often overlooked, not only by medical professionals, but by people who gauge a woman's worth by her dress size.

The book the group is using is called "Anatomy of a Food Addiction: The Brain Chemistry of Overeating, An Effective Program to Overcome Compulsive Eating" by Anne Katherine, M. A. It is in its third edition and originally came out in 1991. It is a very interactive book that has many writing exercises, self-assessments, etc. I already like it because I feel it has a real-world, comprehensive approach. It classifies food as an addiction and serves to help find the roots of the addiction so that the behavior can then be modified.

The therapist talked a bit about food serving as a painkiller or sedative, how it is thought to be linked to the opioid receptors in the brain, boosting serotonin levels, and having a calming, soothing effect on those who use food in an addictive way. The genesis cannot be known for certain, but there is speculation that some people are just genetically more sensitive, having predisposition to addiction, depression, etc. In many cases, a food addiction begins as an attempt at self-care, usually quite early in life. The therapist posed the question: "If food is the bandage, what is the wound underneath?" The goal is essentially to determine what our individual wound or wounds are, also touching on what will take the place of food, so that we do not replace it with another self-destructive, addictive behavior.

I know this is going to be difficult, but I feel more hopeful than I have in a long time. I already know I am my own worst enemy (as are most people). I also know how hard I am willing to work and how far I have already come working through and against incredible obstacles. I am so lucky to have support and love in my life--leagues more than I have ever had. I know that without it, I would not even be attempting this journey.

Next week is my second wedding anniversary, and we are going away for a couple of days. When we come back, we plan to submit applications for private student loan funding, in the event we can qualify for some as a couple and I can pursue further education in the fall. I'm crossing my fingers!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Light bulb

I'm thinking a little bit more about my nutritionist appointment yesterday. I was telling her how discouraged I was feeling and how hard it was to stick to a regimented diet plan as I have in the past. There was one period of time when I lost almost fifty pounds; this would have been around ten years ago. I managed to give up sweets for several months, with one exception: I kept a pint of Ben and Jerry's in my freezer and would allow myself one heaping tablespoon of it every day. "What's different between then and now?" she asked.

Let's review. I was then trying to lose weight and also to have a baby; I wanted to be a healthy mom and have a healthy child or children. I had just finished a Bachelor's degree in college at almost 29 years old--something I never, ever thought I would be able to do. I was madly in love with my former husband. I (foolishly) thought, "This is it! I am finally on my way to living the whole dream: the happy-family, successful-career, finally-got-it-right-after-going-through-the-fire, worked-my-ass-off-for-every-last-bloody-shred-of-it dream!" I was ten years younger. I was ten years less tired.

And then BOOM! I had a cancer scare. I got diagnosed with PCOS, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. I went on fertility drugs, which led to an ectopic pregnancy and several miscarriages. My best friend of 25 years died unexpectedly, and my divorce came out of left field--both completely blindsided me. Within a year of my divorce, I had to have a complete hysterectomy. All of these things happened in a two-year period of time. I was 32 years old.

What's different between then and now? I am trying to imagine what it would take for me to volunteer to lose one more thing I love.


Now, waking up this morning, I'm a bit freaked out at the thought of this food addiction support group. I voluntarily signed up to do what? I seem to get overwhelmed so easily sometimes--even as I go through the motions of doing what I should, making a positive choice. At least I still keep trying to make them...I give myself props for that.

Mr. Salted said he was proud of me. Even the ex-Mr. Salted, still one of my dearest friends/family members, said he was proud of me. (As a side note, I am fortunate to have the best friends in the world, bar none.) The word "proud", when directed toward me by others, twangs sad/wistful strings in me, as it was not a word I heard in my earlier life. I learned over time to be proud of myself, and found that was ultimately the most important. Still, it is always, always nice to hear from others whose opinions matter to me.

As I mentioned previously, I made a lot of progress in a group structured like this in the past. The focus of that group was childhood sexual abuse, and as one might imagine, it got pretty heavy at times. It was all women, facilitated by two female therapists. I was 23 years old at the time, the youngest group member by at least twelve to fifteen years. I was told often how lucky I was to be doing that work young, before I had kids and so I could break the cycle. (I didn't feel too terribly lucky, but I got the jist; however, I made several very conscious and deliberate choices to clear the space in my life to do that work, including a two-year period of celibacy and sobriety--neither of which are easy choices to make stick in your early 20s.) One participant seemed to just hate every last milligram of my guts; I thought, then and now, that my age had a lot to do with it. A couple of other women seemed to relate to me more as one of their own children; I think my shared experiences led to insights into their own children's choices, current reality, etc., because estrangement was a common factor. The woman that disliked me so strongly had recently fled an abusive partner and was living in a shelter; she actually dropped out of the group due to hospitalization. I was far more concerned for her well-being than reactive to her hostility, which likely made her hate me that much more. All these years later, I can still remember all their faces, all their stories, but not all of their names. We did a lot of therapeutic exercises in that group using writing and drawing; I was able to make great progress as a result, progress I had been unable to make with traditional individual talk therapy on its own.

I look back on that time to who I was trying to become--if not always who I actually was, because frankly, those memories are often quite cringeworthy--and I do feel proud of that extremely lost and very young person. There seemed to be so much oppressive darkness within me, and I just kept trying--sometimes faintly, always doggedly--to believe that it would somehow, someday, be at least partially replaced with light. I worked a full-time job, took a full load of college classes, and just kept getting out of bed in the morning. (I believe it was Woody Allen who once said, "88% of life is just showing up." That was me.) I didn't have antidepressants or even health insurance. All things considered, I was freakin' amazing.

As a dear friend of mine with a similar past history once said to me: "We're not crack whores. We win."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 86, Part Two: This Time, It's Personal

Phone appointment this morning with regular doctor went well. She is upping my Seroquel (sleep med) to 75 mg with optional 5 mg Ambien chaser if I wake up and can't go back to sleep during the night.

"Has it changed your mood?" she wanted to know.

"To what?" I answered. No, my mood pretty much stays at half-mast, Doc; I just want to sleep. I am having one of those puffy-eyed, flat-affect kind of days as it is. We debated about eventually changing the Lexapro, but when she consulted my chart notes she discovered I have already tried every freakin' antidepressant that was ever so much as a glimmer in Eli Lilly or GlaxoSmithKline's eye.

We talked about the sleep apnea, and she wants me to see the specialty dentist to get the mouth guard made ASAP. I have to see if I can get it covered first; they are not cheap. If I have to have another sleep study, I will straight-up plotz. She is willing to write me authorization letters for everything. I heart my doctor.

(A side note/update about Fun With Insurance Coverage--insurance still has not settled on my psych eval charges. They continue to debate back and forth with the provider's office as of 11:30 this morning. The date of service was January 16.)


Next up: the nutritionist.

I weigh in. I have gained a couple of pounds. I am two pounds less than I was on the first appointment. This is not a shock. I am rather grateful I didn't gain more.

We procceed to Talk Seriously about What I Think Happened. What I think happened is as follows: I am not feeling motivated, I am sick of the BS, I have a hitch in my gitalong, I am discouraged. I have gone out to eat and I wanted a cocktail. I have gone out to eat and split dessert with Mr. Salted. I have gone out to eat and felt like crying because I'm not going to be able to enjoy food as I once did. I have eaten chocolate because it remains the most reliable source of pleasure on the planet. So sue me. I am still writing every blessed thing I eat down (give or take a Hershey's Kiss here and there), complete with calorie counts and protein content. I am exercising roughly half the time. I am not a complete and total screw-up; if it was Pass/Fail, I'd get a Pass. (I think. If I smiled a lot. Probably.)

I tell her I'm looking into getting counseling authorized by insurance and--DA DA DUM!!!!! turns out the wellness center is hosting a support group. It isn't free, but the cost isn't outrageous. It starts tomorrow night, goes until June 3. The flyers says, "help break the cycle of food addiction and emotional eating." It's facilitated by a nutritionist/counselor and there will be no more than eight members, which sounds like a good size. Support, therapy, reading, assignments, etc. I bit the bullet and took the money out of the tax-return/pipe-dream-of-further-education fund, which is flying out of the bank to pay this bill and that anyway. I really need to talk to some other people who are dealing with the same stuff; I think it could really benefit me. (Since I coughed up the actual cash, I know that I will not run screaming into the night; once I part with any money, to run screaming ceases to be my way. My way is, "I will get everything out of this that I possibly can, dammit.") I participated in a similar group fifteen years ago, and although it was not about food issues, it was extremely helpful. The book they are going to use in this group is called "Anatomy of a Food Addiction". It discusses brain chemistry and other contributing factors.

I have never talked about my food issues in a group of people I didn't know. I barely talk about them with people I do know. I wonder if I will be the fattest (SHALLOW!), and I wonder if there will be any men there. (It would be really interesting to talk to an acknowledged male food addict.)

I am feeling some (inevitable) dread, but also that this is a positive step in the right direction.

Day 86

Just over the halfway mark on the six-month journey of insurance documentation BS. I see the nutritionist today and have a phone appointment with my regular doc about my sleeping pill status. I'm going to see if she will help get me some counseling authorized, too. (It, like everything else, has to be "medically necessary" to be covered.) Really, really, REALLY sick of this entire process at the moment.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fight or flight

Lately, I feel like I've been moving through a swamp made of honey or something like it. I just feel out of it, out of step with the world. I have all these weird dreams (I should really start writing them down) and sleep in fits and starts. Often I'll fall back asleep after Mr. Salted goes to work, and it's really deep sleep where I dream and dream and dream and I wake up and say, "WTF was THAT?"

Today I was vacuuming the kitchen with the handheld vacuum and trying to empty the filter--it's bagless--and I was getting it everywhere and getting more and more pissed off. Vacuuming pisses me off anyway, and I was making a bigger mess. Mr. Salted appeared behind me out of nowhere. He knows not to come up behind me suddenly, and I don't think he had, but for some reason I didn't register he was there at all and I just screamed bloody murder, scared us both, and was purely honest-to-God terrified. It was a total fight-or-flight moment worse than any I've had in a while, and I totally snapped at him and had to go lie down and calm myself. I've been drained ever since. I apologized for snapping but still feel amoeba-sized. G*d#$% PTSD.

"Sunshine Cleaning"

Mr. Salted and I went to see "Sunshine Cleaning" last night--had a nice dinner-and-movie date.

I adored this movie. I like Amy Adams more in every movie I see her in. Some of the more commercial stuff she's done isn't as much my cup of tea, but we all have to pay the rent and in movies I feel "eh" about, she's been a consistent standout. Emily Blunt was fantastic. The whole cast was amazing. They all felt real and believable and everything wasn't tied up with a ribbon bow at the end. There was comedy, but mostly drama. It wouldn't be a movie for everyone, but movies I like the most never are. :o)

The two main characters had lost their mother young, and naturally I could relate to that part. Important people are gone but not forgotten, and sometimes you will hang onto whatever small mementos you have to feel close to them again. I was grateful to see that illustrated beautifully in this film. I don't remember my mother, only having been two when she died, but she was still my mother. I think about her often, always have, and I don't think there's anything weird about it; I believe on some level she has always been with me. It isn't the same as having a mother, but at least it's something.

I liked a lot of the dialogue too. At one point a man the main character is seeing tells her, "That wasn't the way it was" and she responds, "How was it?" People always want to tell you the way it was as if it was the same for everyone. Pshaw.

The theater hooked onto a mall--onto a really snooty mall. We felt underdressed. It was like everyone was going to the prom, even if they were in their 40s. You could tell it was the place to meet and greet for the happenin' younger folk. I remembered (unpleasantly) having to shop at that very mall as a teenager with my thin, pretty stepsister. I just wanted to go to the Sanrio store, as I haven't been to one in years. (They had "Angry Little Girls" merchandise, and I love that book. I bought it for a friend recently.) I liked the Sanrio store, anyway, but Mr. Salted and I were both happy to make our escape.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ho hum

I feel like I have had nothing to say lately. I do other writing that I don't put on this blog--or I try to. I have been working on a memoir for quite some time in fits and starts. Once in a while I crank out a poem. It seems like I spend a lot more time on pictures than I do on writing--new ones I take, scanning old ones, and messing with them all in Photoshop, putting them on Flickr, etc. Recently I worked on a whole passel of old family photos for a friend--it is amazing how much they can be improved in Photoshop, dust removed, color corrected, etc. I have considered photo restoration as a side business, but am not sure how viable an option that is.

I have not been very diligent about researching school funding options, either--I am just feeling incredibly discouraged. This is day 83 of the damn food journal, so I am still not quite halfway through the dreaded Six Months of Diet and Exercise.

One of my best girlfriends came down and visited a couple of days ago. She is one of those people who reminds me who I am as well as who I should be and want to be, so seeing her is always wonderful. She is great for perspective, and we also laugh like fools the majority of the time we are together. She keeps telling me that this may just be a period of time when I work on my health; my husband tells me the same thing. But I have this sense of urgency, the need to have an overall game plan tempered with the knowledge I'm not getting any younger and sprinkled with guilt that I'm not bringing in any income.

I have reconnected with old friends on Facebook in recent months and have actually met up with two, neither of whom I had seen in 20 years. That has been great for my current perspective, too. The way I am remembered by others from the long-ago past is always a trip. I have heard repeatedly how people thought I seemed to have it all together during the most desperate part of my life, which would have been my late teens through early to mid-20s. I don't think I was that good an actress, because I'm not really capable of that caliber of acting! I think people were immersed in their own stuff (as they should have been) and that illusion is everything. It is so freeing to realize that everyone isn't/wasn't staring at you--they are too busy worrying about whether everyone is staring at them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My review of "Love Sick" by Sue William Silverman

I saw Sue William Silverman interviewed on a TV documentary and picked up this book and also her first memoir...am so glad I did on both counts. Since "Love Sick" is framed by Silverman's stint in rehab, it is very different from the first book, both in structure and feel--"Because I Remember Terror..." has a much more removed tone looking back at childhood horrors with a keen observational eye; "Love Sick" also possesses the keen eye but feels much more immediate as the author processes her rehab experience as it unfolds. "Love Sick" illustrates how very universal the nature of addiction is and will speak to anyone who has struggled with addiction of any stripe. If someone in Lifetime's demographic picks up this book and gets some help who may not have otherwise, then selling the film rights was worth it...we all have to pay the rent. The Lifetime movie does not render this book invaluable or Silverman's experience any less valid.

About Me

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other words...life.
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