Author: Ben

08
Apr
2021

Made It

Back from 4 days travelling interstate with the family. This trip was much anticipated (having been postponed twice already due to COVID) and we definitely made the most of it. It was a nice break and we had quite a bit of fun, but it’s good to be home.

I had two blowups at the kid. Only one of them was really a hangry moment, trying to make breakfast this morning. But after 4 days of constant stress due to crowds in a strange city, tiredness from constant sightseeing and general stress from anti COVID measures and being away from home and all the rest…. I forgive myself. We are only human.

But this blog is mostly about food and my issues with it, so the news on that front is…. interesting on a couple of fronts.

Despite being in a big city and surrounded by cafes and restaurants, and eating out a lot (including pizza and burgers other ‘fun’ foods), there really wasn’t a lot of anxiety. I just tried to eat intuitively, (ie whatever I felt like, but to hunger signals) and prioritise protein. Never really felt like I was about to lose control, so it’s been quite a while now.

We did stay in self contained accommodation so I brought sachets of protein oats and yoghurt and things to make sure I started off each day with a good breakfast – that probably helped. We also walked miles and miles on a couple of days, so I knew I’d be burning plenty of calories, plus the hotel also had a reasonably well equipped gym and I got a couple of early morning lifting sessions in. Those two things made me a little less anxious about getting a bit looser with food, it’s a holiday after all.

I’ll weigh in tomorrow morning, if I’ve gained a little weight I won’t care, but I would be very surprised if I have – realistically I’m expecting to be a little lighter. Trying to be zen about it – weight is not the thing that defines me. And honestly, I am probably in the best shape of my life right now. I’ve put on a couple of kilos of muscle this year.

The other interesting thing is that I met up with a family member up there, someone who I didn’t even know existed until a few years ago. I think we’d talked about it once before, but she reminded me again that she’s been struggling with disordered eating since she was a child. It just shows how much of a role genetics also play in whether someone is likely to suffer from this issue. To be fair – I think she had a much different upbringing than me, and her issues may be more deep rooted in childhood trauma than mine, but there are some real similarities there as well. Of course, me being me, I had a few words to say on the subject…. but hopefully it was a positive conversation and helped give her some comfort and strength.

For me, the upshot of that conversation was that it (again) put things in perspective. I get frustrated and feel like a failure when I lose control of my eating, and I get tired of my life revolving around food, but the reality is – it’s only been about 4 years now since I was really deep in a bad place of undiagnosed anorexia and orthorexia. 3 years ago I had a BMI of 19 and was so underfed and exhausted and miserable that I was close to taking my own life. Yet here I am now, probably 90% healed, eating Easter eggs and pizza almost like a normal person.

In the day to day hustle of life, it feels like this has been going on forever. But progress just takes consistency and patience, and hopefully when I’ll be able to look back on this as just a blip in a very long life. And for anyone else battling this rotten disease, I wish them the very best of success as well – it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

30
Mar
2021

Putting Food on a Pedal Stool

Good Morning!

No, the title isn’t a mistake. It’s an IT Crowd reference, and if you don’t get it, well… I’m not sure if we can be friends any more but if you watch this maybe I’ll reconsider. Anyway… to the point of my post.

My wife has a commitment on Monday nights which means she gets home and has a late dinner on her own. She walked in last night, said ‘I’m hungry’, looked in the freezer, pulled out a tub of leftovers and immediately said ‘that’ll do’, before proceeding to microwave it and eat. My reaction, internally, was to realise how very far away I still am from being recovered because I still can’t imagine myself doing that.

When I need to decide what to eat, my brain is just a maelstrom of thoughts and feelings.

  • How hungry am I right now – do I need something with volume to feel satisfied?
  • How much protein have I eaten today?
  • How much fat have I eaten today?
  • How many carbs have I eaten today?
  • How much ‘junk’ have I eaten today?
  • How much fruit have I eaten today?
  • What have my activity levels been like, and what will they be after this meal – how many carbs should I have?
  • How much of x is left, and when will we be buying more?
  • How much x have I already eaten today? (I try not to eat the same carb source more than once a day, or the same type of meat at lunch and dinner, etc etc)
  • What needs to be used? What is the use by date of x?
  • What do I feel like? What have I been craving?

I can easily stand in front of the pantry/fridge for some minutes if I let myself. And heck, sometimes I can make a decision and then rethink it again too. I am getting better at blocking out a lot of the unnecessary ones from the list above and trying to let the last one be the overriding factor, but it’s honestly sometimes hard to know what I ‘feel’ like.

Why is this so, and how do I get better at this?

One reason I think it’s so is because back when I was at my sickest, life was so utterly devoid of any meaning or happiness that meal times were the highlight of my day – the thought of food became so all consuming that it felt like almost my only source of pleasure – hence the title. And honestly – although I’m bigger, stronger, and far less hung up on eating perfectly and being slim these days, I still really struggle to have fun with anything except lifting weights and preparing/eating food. Spontaneous laughter just doesn’t happen all that often, work is pretty unfulfilling, and I don’t have a lot of other hobbies (although I am working on it), so yeah… life still often feels like a bit of a slog, and meals do still have a bit of a special place in my mind. When I’m on my own I enjoy shutting out the world and watching videos while eating, and with breakfast and dinner at home I really like the chance to sit and converse with the family because we just don’t get enough opportunities to do that especially during the week – between work and school and extra curricular activities, we really don’t get to spend as much quality time together as I’d like.

The other issue is practice. I pack my lunches for work in advance, and most of our evening meals are decided in advance too. Breakfast is a dilemma pretty regularly, but it’s not the worst because I really only have 3-4 options I regularly eat so I’m not spoiled for choice; also I typically walk the dog before breakfast so that gives me a long time to think about it! Dinner times are where it’s most difficult – I typically have 1 or 2 nights a week where it’s entirely up to me, and now that I let myself eat most things, I feel overwhelmed by choice. A lot of the time that means I end up going back to ‘safe’ options.

Writing this is really just a reminder to myself that it’s something I need to keep working on. Next week we are heading interstate for a few days – we’re staying in a self contained apartment, so we can buy normal groceries, but no doubt we’ll also eat out a lot. This should be a really good opportunity to broaden my horizons a little bit and get less neurotic. Food doesn’t have to be perfect.

As a footnote – our six year old is a really fussy eater. The other day after a particularly difficult dinner trying to get her to at least taste some pumpkin from her plate, I tried to explain to her that not every meal is going to be something she loves – and sometimes you just have to eat what’s put in front of you even if you don’t particularly like it, because you are hungry and need food or because it’d be rude to refuse a meal someone has prepared, etc etc. And as I was saying it, I was thinking how gosh darn hypocritical I felt. I still try to make every meal something that I’ll really enjoy, because even now I still regularly feel like I need to restrain myself from eating everything I want to eat, otherwise I’ll blow up like a balloon. It’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but I am so desperately tired of that nagging feeling in the back of my mind.

Hope this helps someone.

25
Mar
2021

Wow.

Has it really been that long since I posted anything here?

I haven’t had a binge since mid January. Been going quite well. Life is OK.

11
Aug
2020

Spoke too soon

Well, I shouldn’t have made that last post. That was a Thursday… Sunday night was F1 night – it was officially the end of my cut, and I was all alone in the kitchen. You can guess what happened….

On the upside, I think aside from about 4 or 5 cookies, most of what I ate was decent quality food. Lots of protein (yoghurt, skim milk, whey protein, a protein ice cream) and carbs (dry breakfast cereal, fruit) – mostly ‘normal’ food and not treats.

It’s now over a week later and despite some relatively weak urges, I’ve managed to eat pretty sensibly. I started working with a new coach for my lifting, and he wants to get an idea of my weight change over time, so I’ve been hopping on the scales. and right now it seems like I’m maintaining, not gaining or losing. I’ve been using the strategy of eating when I need to eat, but trying to choose healthier options like fruit and stuff if I feel the need to snack and I think that’s been satisfying the sweet cravings without turning me into a raving carb junkie looking to mainline sugar.

So far, at least, there is some balance in my eating. It doesn’t stop me overthinking things a lot, but it’s progress.

Oh, and we’ve got new pantry doors being made, so the old doors are back up. The food is out of sight….

This popped up in my feed the other day, and as usual Abel is on the money with this advice, I think:

30
Jul
2020

Signs of Progress

Phew – another overdue update. A few things have happened in the past little while, so I figured it might be time to share some stuff.

First – about six weeks or so, I decided to try and lose some weight. My binging hadn’t stopped (although the episodes had become even less frequent and severe) so I’m not fully healed and I know it probably wasn’t the best idea. But honestly… I had let my body fat get a bit out of control, I was struggling with my clothes fitting and didn’t like how I looked in the mirror. Not only that, but I really wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was eating – it’s great to have unconditional permission to eat, but there needs to be some balance and variety and I’d tipped the scales way too far towards sugary treats whenever I wanted them, and it had become a habit that I needed to break.

So six weeks ago I stepped on the scales for the first time in over 3 months. The number I saw didn’t scare me, but it certainly confirmed that I was way past where I felt healthy and happy, so I cut calories pretty aggressively with the aim of dropping a fair bit of fat in 4 weeks or so prior to my birthday. My intention was to then do another fat loss phase a bit closer to summer so I can look decent for the warmer months – who doesn’t want that beach body, huh?

Now I’ve got to say, I spent a lot of time very hungry in those first few weeks, but I was never tempted to binge – I think it was nice to have a goal again, instead of just drifting. The diet has gone pretty well, and I dropped enough weight that I am now reasonably comfortable with my physique (and am a very similar weight to what I was exactly 12 months ago at my last birthday).

What was even more pleasant was how generally stable my moods have stayed, despite dealing with work and kids and all the usual life stresses that come our way. And here I am now, starting to increase calories again, knowing that this is the danger zone for me in that the more I tend to eat, the more I tend to WANT to eat – but so far, things are tracking OK. And this week, there’s been some huge signs of progress:

  • On the weekend, my wife took me out to dinner to one of our favourite restaurants for my birthday. I was still dieting at this point, but was planning on just having a couple of courses and skipping dessert. In the end, I did share a dessert with my wife and not only was it bloody delicious, it was absolutely no big deal. No guilt, no problem, no dramas. Life went on.
  • The vinyl wrap is peeling off our kitchen pantry doors and we’ve had to remove them to get them fixed or replaced. This means our our pantry is open to the world – all the chocolate, biscuits and cereals are staring me in the face. Our kitchen/dining/lounge is open plan, so I can’t really avoid it unless I stay out of the living area, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be bothering me so far and I haven’t had any major urges to go carb crazy. Maybe I’m well fed enough?
  • I’ve been back on the skim milk since I started the diet, but in my wife’s Monday shopping trip she accidentally bought me a bottle of full cream. I shrugged my shoulders and went with it, where before I may have freaked out a little. The worst thing? In my next trip to the shops I intended to grab another bottle of skim myself, but did exactly the same thing and grabbed the wrong bottle. We had four and a half bottles of full cream milk in the fridge last night, but you know what? I’m drinking it anyway – hell, it tastes better, I was only back on the skim temporarily anyway, but it just forced me to go back to full cream earlier.
  • Probably the biggest one of all was yesterday. As I mentioned, it was my birthday on the weekend, and at my workplace (like many others) we usually bring morning tea for our work colleagues to celebrate the day. I said to a few of my workmates that since I was dieting I’d do my morning tea in a couple of weeks so that I could enjoy it with everyone, but god bless ’em, a few of them banded together and put on a joint morning tea anyway for myself and another colleague who’d also just had a birthday. My first instinct was to be pissed off, but for once I realised that it was a really nice gesture (they even made a ‘healthy’ option with me in mind) and decided that I’d try and be grateful for it. So I did indeed eat some cake and sweet treats and enjoyed the moment, and for the first time in a loooong time I walked away without feeling the urgent desire to go and eat several more helpings of super rich dessert food. I ate my normal lunch and dinner, and didn’t feel guilty, and it felt like a real step in the right direction.

So that’s a little bit of what’s been happening recently. I feel as if maybe, just maybe, all that time I spent eating and getting my body fat up did definitely help to regulate my feelings around food and that I’m getting much better at dealing with negative emotions without heading to the fridge. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel…..

 

 

20
May
2020

Overdue Updates

Has it really been that long since I posted? I’ve been meaning to post an update for anyone in internetland who still reads this. Obviously lots has happened since my last post – I’ll attempt to be succinct.

I started lifting again a couple of weeks after my throat surgery. Sadly, the weeks of nothing but soft food didn’t cure my binging. I lasted about a week before my first episode of manic eating, and a day later I got smashed by some unknown ailment that caused debilitating joint pain for multiple days. Cause still unknown – the doctor thought it may’ve been a virus but nothing showed up in my bloodwork and some strong anti-inflammatories sorted it. So after another week off, I got back into the gym and I’ve been training pretty much continuously ever since.

Not long after that, the pandemic really started to get taken seriously here in Australia. Work got crazy, things got stressful, and I’ve been up and down like a yo-yo ever since – it was really difficult to control my stress with everything going on, and of course I feel back into old habits of using food to cope. Spending more time at home with a cupboard full of food didn’t help either. But at least I still have a job.

Now, it seems like life is normalising a little and although the fallout from this pandemic is gonna be with us for a long time yet I definitely don’t feel as on edge as I was a month or two ago.  Food wise, I’ve had two or three high anxiety moments in the past six weeks where my inner Cookie Monster has taken over, but they’ve been pretty well spread out. And there have certainly been times where I’ve managed to beat the urge in various ways, where before I would’ve just given in.

I still feel pretty fat, but with a shirt on I (apparently) look like I lift. So I got that goin’ for me. I have no idea what I weigh, and haven’t stepped on the scale in a couple of months. I’ve certainly had a nagging desire to start cutting, but it’s just coming into winter here so I figure why not just keep enjoying all the food, and if I still feel like this once the cooler weather ends, I’ll still have time to lean out a bit before summer. IF I feel ready for it.

It does feel rather strange, after all the fasting and black coffees I used to drink, to now. I haven’t skipped a meal in months, I’m putting brown sugar or honey on my porridge at breakfast, and not being scared to eat cake or a biscuit if I want it. We’ve been eating takeaway at least once a week to try and support local restaurants to stay open during this pandemic, and in probably my biggest breakthrough this year, I’ve actually stopped buying skim milk. I realised how bloody unsatisfying it was both in my coffees and on my breakfast – so it’s full cream all the way right now – occasionally I even buy non-homogenised to get that extra creamy goodness.

So yeah… that’s me. I’m still alive (although there have been times I’ve wondered what value I offer). Still fighting the good fight. Let’s hope things continue to improve.

26
Feb
2020

Surgery Recovery

So my last post might’ve sounded like it was all rainbows and butterflies but now it’s 9 days post-surgery and my perspective has changed a bit.

The main challenge (and the one I was expecting) was the direct consequences of the surgery – I’ve been in constant pain, was off my head on opioids for the first week, struggling to get any quality sleep, and as a result of the throat pain I’ve had to modify my diet significantly and eat mainly soft foods. None of this was really unexpected, although I probably underestimated the extent and the duration of impact. It’s been a challenging ten days or so for sure, and it’s not finished yet.

There’s a secondary problem though. Eating/swallowing genuinely hurts – so it’s been a struggle to force meals down. I’ve actually burst into tears a couple of times during dinner (soup!) if that gives any indication. So I have a genuine physiological reason for undereating right now. But while I’m not really having any difficulty eating zooper doopers or custard or ice cream from a mental standpoint, I still am finding myself having fairly small serves and stopping a long way from the point of satisfaction. Sometimes it’s because I am just sick of my throat hurting, but there have definitely been times when it’s from a fear of eating ‘too much’ -because I’m far less active than usual (and not lifting) and secretly hope to drop fat during this period, and also the (maybe legitimate) fear that if I overeat and make myself sick that would probably be disastrous for the stitches in my throat…

But restriction is restriction. I actually felt woozy and weak this afternoon after walking the dog, as if I’d been dieting for weeks. I managed to eat a tiny bit of ice cream and have a nap but still feel like it wasn’t enough.

This really does suck and I can’t wait to be able to eat normally again. It’s just too much for my poor brain to deal with right now.

18
Feb
2020

Blessings in disguise

Well, I’ve managed 2 weeks without a skipped meal or a binge, and got into a pretty good routine.

Then yesterday I went to hospital for some surgery. This was the second time I’d been in to have the operation (I mentioned it in this post) and this time it went more to plan. I had a UPPP done, which should help (or hopefully cure) my snoring and mild sleep apnea. It meant an overnight stay in hospital, and I came home this morning with a very sore throat and scripts for strong pain killers and anti-bleeding medication.

I’ll document my recovery on my less private blog, but wanted to post here about how it’s impacting on my relationship with food.

On the negative side, there is a part of my brain that is quietly hopeful I’ll lose a little weight during the recovery process. A combination of extremely painful swallowing and opioids means my appetite is genuinely very low. I’m having to force myself to eat because I know that I need calories to heal – and I’m also scared I’ll lose muscle mass since I can’t lift weights for a week or two either. I don’t want to feel like I’m restricting/dieting because I’m scared of the consequences later but it’s not easy when every swallow is painful.

On the positive side, I’m really limited to soft foods for the next week or so until the pain subsides a bit, so a lot of the foods I normally eat are out of the question. This means I’m forced to step out of my comfort zone and try some stuff I wouldn’t normally eat – so I’ve bought chocolate custard (which was YUM) and rice puddings and soups and some very special looking ice cream and will probably go out hunting for other treats once I get through that lot. And also… it’s a couple of weeks where I can totally switch off from work, catch up on some Netflix and truly relax a bit. I need to avoid lifting weights too, and although I mentioned it in the negative column, a break from the gym is scary but very much overdue. I’ve been training pretty hard for a lot of years without any extended break and the little injury niggles have built up over time, so hopefully I’ll come back a lot fresher and pain free.

So I guess I’ve got mixed feelings right now, I can’t wait to feel better but will enjoy the time out anyway. And hopefully, the end result will improve my quality of life (and prevent a snoring related divorce!) which would be a win for the whole household, really.

Be kind to yourselves!

15
Feb
2020

I am blessed.

So I was thinking about something last night….

I’ve been listening to a lot of Christy Harrison’s podcast lately (and reading her book) and hearing a lot of talk about how families and medical professionals and even eating disorder treatment centres inadvertently feed eating disorders by making fat phobic comments, encouraging people to diet, and just generally being unsupportive or misunderstanding how to deal with someone who’s trying to recover from a restrictive eating disorder, particularly if they’re not showing obvious signs of poor health (ie they’re not the stereotypically emaciated anorexia sufferer).

It got me thinking – there have been times in the last few years when I have lamented (to myself) what I’ve felt was a lack of support from my wife. At no point that I recall has she ever really said that she appreciates my efforts to be healthier and set an example for our daughter, at no point has she ever expressed any feelings one way or the other about the changes to my body, nor has she ever encouraged me in any way that I can think of. At times this has felt like a bit of a kick in the guts, because my wife and daughter are a big part of the reason that I started and continue to go through this process of getting stronger and healthier.

But over the past year or so since I have really started to focus more on dealing with my relationship with food and finding a greater sense of balance between weight training sessions and family life, I’ve begun to realise that actually, she’s probably been more supportive than I think. I mean, there’s the obvious, big financial thing that she allowed us to refinance so I could build my home gym. But in more subtle ways, she’s actually been extremely supportive without actually making a big deal of it.

When I was at my worst, she (almost) never complained about my compulsively weighing and measuring foods, my making ‘special’ low calorie meals for myself, my fasting, my lack of desire to go out and eat at restaurants. The only thing we ever had conflict about was my moods and constant anger, which to be fair, was well deserved.

Conversely, at no point in any of my episodes of extreme hunger has she ever got in my way and attempted to make me stop. She has sat there quietly on the couch watching me eat multiple desserts without so much as a raised eyebrow.

At no point in any of this has she made any comments about my body – positive or negative. It’s clear to me that my body is not the reason she married me – and even after gaining a lot of weight back I’m still not as big as I was back when we first met.

The reason this hit home last night is I suggested we go out for dinner, I’d been keen to go to a cafe that does a special burger night on Friday nights. Now in all honesty, she said that she didn’t feel like a burger, and we did spend an hour or so discussing whether we’d go there or somewhere else, but in the end we couldn’t come up with an option that pleased everyone so I got my way. I’ve expressed in the past that I think it’s really important for me to eat the things I feel like eating and not restrict in any way so perhaps this was her way of humouring me. So despite her wish to eat something else, she took one for the team without complaining. We ate burgers (which were mediocre, but that’s OK!) and then went somewhere else for ice cream afterwards and she let me indulge my wish for some less than ‘clean’ food.

I had some minor voices in the back of my head afterwards encouraging me to go off the deep end and eat a ton more, but honestly, they were pretty easy to ignore because I ate plenty. Some hot chocolate when we got home and I was as full as a goog.

It got me thinking, if that was me and I didn’t feel like a burger, how would I react? I think I’d probably put my foot down and refuse to go unless there was an option I’d eat. At least that would’ve been the case a while ago, I’m not sure now.

Anyway, my point being that she does support me in these ways and I am very lucky to be married to someone who doesn’t have her own issues with food or body image and is willing to let me eat and drink whatever I like (within reason) and let my body be whatever size it needs to be. And I’m grateful for that. And on a related note, I really do need to be more disciplined about incorporating some sort of ‘gratefulness’ practice in my life.

In other news – I’m almost 2 weeks since my last episode of uncontrolled eating – I haven’t skipped a single meal in that time, I’ve enjoyed quite a few treats (even some unplanned, like a couple of work morning teas) and feel like I’ve been as close to fully unrestricted in my eating as I’ve ever been. Long may it continue.

 

 

 

 

 

10
Feb
2020

Who do you want to be?

I might’ve said this elsewhere, but my struggles with disordered eating started after a bit of a mid-life course change in early 2016, where I decided I wanted to stop being obese and get fit and healthy. It wasn’t just for my own benefit (although let’s be honest, what guy doesn’t want to look good with his shirt off?) but also to set an example for my young child and be the best parent I can for as long as I can.

On reflection, over the past couple of years especially, there have been times where I’ve thought that life was so much easier before all this started, where I didn’t particularly care about my size and weight (indeed, I was oblivious) and ate whatever I felt like in a carefree way. Has all the pain and effort been worth it? What would I do differently?

The answer I came up with was that unequivocally, yes, it’s been worth it, even though I still have issues to work through. The only thing I would probably do differently is to take a more moderate approach and not immerse myself so deeply in the fitness and diet culture that I forget the real reason why I started doing this.

Having said that, I still want to change my body and have a decent physique, although I think my expectations are more realistic now than when I started. And unlike many in the HAES/anti-diet movement, I still believe that this is an attainable goal that’s worth striving for, so long as it’s done the right way, with the right attitude.

The trouble is, becoming the best physical version of yourself is no different than becoming the best intellectual and emotional version of yourself – it requires hard work, sacrifice and trade offs, and those trade offs need to be worth the effort. It’s also very easy to forget, as I did, that our physical selves are not a reflection of the person we are inside – and if we want to leave a legacy for our families and friends to remember us by, we’ll do that by the actions we take, not by the way we look.

This caused me to ponder – who DO I want to be? What sort of man, what sort of parent, and how do I want people to remember me? In many ways, it’s the direct opposite of the person I am when I’m restricting.

During periods of restriction I have been:

  • Tired and sore all the darn time
  • Very grumpy and quick to anger – regularly arguing and being short with people
  • Unfocussed at work, and not very productive – not good for my career prospects!
  • Unable to eat out with family without great anxiety
  • Avoidant of any social occasion that might involve food, or even disrupt my meal schedule a little bit
  • Generally not a very nice person to be around, and not a particularly good husband or parent

It’s only over the past six months or so as I’ve become more and more well-fed that I’ve started to realise I’d far prefer to be:

  • Someone who is fit and strong and cares about their health
  • A good provider for my family, who is supportive of our shared goals
  • The strong, silent type – calm in a crisis. Firm, without needing to raise my voice
  • Competent, analytical; not in a rush
  • Empathetic and always capable of showing love, but serious when needed
  • An example for my daughter of how a man should live and treat others

Notice that ‘having visible abs’ isn’t on that list? That doesn’t mean I don’t want it. It just means that I’ve shuffled it down the priority list to where if I can achieve it without turning into a monster then perhaps I’ll try one day. But right now, I’ll settle for just being strong and healthy and a decent guy. Because my family and my own wellness are far more important – and because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am enough.