Author: Ben

24
May
2019

Yet Another ‘Feast’

So, as mentioned I hit the conference buffet hard yesterday at lunch.

I didn’t go to the conference dinner (this was pre planned). But now part of me wishes I did, I was so full from lunch that I deliberated for ages about what to have for dinner and I decided to grab a seafood salad from a nearby sushi place. At the time, I thought that was the right call. However I decided to have some ice cream and a hot chocolate afterwards. Sure, no problem. But that kicked off another few hours of eating cereal, chocolate, chocolate milk, and more ice cream. Faaaaark. Fell asleep on the couch in a carb coma.

Hit breakfast hard this morning too. Normal brekky, plus extra cereal and extra croissants and more coffee. Overfull.

More croissants, some banana bread and lamington and coffees at conference morning tea. Absolutely stuffed. Feel like I won’t need to eat again for days.

When will this end? Surely I don’t fear these foods any more. I hate myself so much right now.

 

Continue reading…

23
May
2019

Fitbit – gone, appetite – still insane

Good news and bad news.

This morning I took the Fitbit off and went back to a watch. The thing had been buzzing at me yesterday multiple times (since I’d been travelling and unable to move much) and I managed to ignore it. So this morning I figured it was time:

This is the longest I’ve gone without wearing one for a couple of years, it normally only comes off to charge or shower. I’m not sure if I’ll ever put it back on again – there might be some value in using it to track sleep – though in practice, what exactly will I do with the data anyway? If I ever do another longer term diet it might be useful to track steps, if I can avoid it becoming compulsive – but I don’t expect to do that for a while, hopefully.

The bad news is, I lost control at the conference buffet at lunchtime today and ate well past the point of fullness. I suppose there’s some consolation in the fact that it was mostly quality food, sandwiches and wraps and quiches and fruit and stuff, with only a smattering of extra small desserts. The anxiety of being in a strange place with strange people, I guess… but I wish I’d extricated myself from the situation. I’ve gained so much weight already, and feel like homeostasis at this size would be good. But that won’t happen if I don’t learn to maintain some control over my appetite and I’ll be cutting again sooner than I want to.

I was really looking forward to a decent takeaway/restaurant meal tonight, but now I’ll have to see how I feel. At least I had a small win last night and enjoyed a burger for tea, and avoided the temptation to get a light supermarket meal. That’s a win of sorts, I guess….

21
May
2019

Exercising in recovery

As noted in my list of symptoms one of my issues is compulsive movement. Mostly, it’s the fact that I wear a Fitbit and enjoy challenging myself to hit 250 steps every hour and 10k steps every day. However, if I can’t hit these targets it often causes anxiety. Even trying to sit still for 90 minutes to watch a movie can be difficult.

However in addition to this, I really like to lift weights. I’ve been doing this since midway through my big dieting phase a few years ago (the thing that started all this!) and it could probably be argued that I’m a bit compulsive about this too. I enjoy training hard, I pretty much never miss a session, and I have been known to use it as punishment (after overeating) or as a reason to eat more (as in hey, if I train, I deserve more food). The last two are problematic, because I don’t deserve punishment for giving into hunger and I certainly don’t need a reason or justification for eating until I am satisfied, that’s just a basic human need whether I’ve lifted weights or not!

I’ve digested so much ED material over the past year or so and much of it seems to suggest that during recovery we should just eat and rest – exercise of any sort is a bad idea. I’ve never quite been able to accept this, to be honest and it’s been a bit of a source of guilt. I know that my walking is definitely a problem, but the lifting, I think in most cases, is generally OK except in the cases I mentioned above – and in fact I think more often than not it is really beneficial for my mental health. I need the time out in my gym, away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life – getting under the bar and lifting some heavy ass weights seems to clear my mind better than almost anything else I’ve tried.

Thankfully, it seems like not all experts think exercise should be completely cut out, and I was pleased to have my own biases confirmed when I read this article by Emily Troscianko  earlier in the week. And this week, I’ve also confirmed to myself that the lifting is really a minor issue (if it is one at all). Due to some work commitments this week I’d planned a lighter week in my lifting, and often times in the past when I’ve tried to deload I’ve found myself just going hard anyway. But this weekend just gone I had two days out of the gym without guilt, have done a couple of light sessions since then, and will be heading interstate for a conference tomorrow (and a couple more gym-free days) with zero guilt as well. I feel like I’ve got some perspective on things.

On the walking front, well there’s progress there as well. I haven’t hit 10k steps quite a few days this week, and I’ve been quite chillaxed about it. It only really took a few days at work in meetings and stuff (which meant I was unavoidably low on activity) to realise that the sky wasn’t going to fall in if I didn’t do it. I just haven’t quite got around to removing the Fitbit yet, but come to think of it, since this conference means hours of sitting inactive in a function room, now is probably a good time to challenge myself so tonight I’ve pulled my old watch out of the drawer and I fully intend to wear it tomorrow instead of the Fitbit.

I still genuinely believe that a ten minute walk after every meal is useful for digestion and overall health (both mental and physical) – I don’t think that’s my ED voice talking, as in my head the post meal walks have nothing to do with weight management (it’s my overall activity levels that do that). I’d also like to make sure I don’t become deskbound all day at work, again just for general health. But it should be quite easy to do those things without relying on external cues to do it – if that means less anxiety (and being better in touch with my body) then that sounds like a win-win to me.

 

18
May
2019

Ice Cream and Biscuits

Another one last night. Ice cream, biscuits, cereal.

This time, I really don’t have a trigger or an excuse. There was some child-related stress (I was single parenting all afternoon/evening) but it really didn’t feel like a big deal at the time. There was some anxiety about working the election today, but not much. I’d eaten really well during the day and in fact really didn’t feel super hungry at mealtimes because I’d been so good about getting my snacks in.

And yet still, after E went to bed and the housework was done, I hit the sweets like there was no tomorrow. Just wanted the chocolate ice cream (it was so delicious) and everything else….. for no particular reason. Maybe a little bit of loneliness, what with my partner being out for the evening. I dunno.

I’m paying for it today. I’ll be working all day and now having to cope with major heartburn and indigestion as well. And I feel pretty hopeless to be honest. I don’t know when or if they’re going to stop, and I’m beginning to think that having an ED is just giving me an excuse to be a pig and deal with my emotions by eating, which is not what I want to do. Gotta use my damn brain.

14
May
2019

My Thoughts on Diet Culture, Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size

This might be a long post.

Some time ago if you’d asked me about the HAES movement, I would have parroted the thoughts of a podcaster I had been listening to at the time. He said something along the lines of the movement condoning (if not glorifying) obesity and that we shouldn’t have obese people on magazine covers because that celebrates and justifies unhealthy lifestyle choices. At the time I agreed fairly strongly. But having now done a lot more research into HAES I think I understand it a little better and feel like at least some of that condemnation might have been misplaced.

For a start, it’s Health at every size – not Healthy. I don’t think too many people associated with the movement would deny the fact that obesity is correlated with all sorts of negative health outcomes, and that in a perfect world nobody would be obese. I think the movement is intended to try and stamp out fat-shaming, and to encourage people to try and develop healthy lifestyle habits, regardless of where they’re starting from. I can’t fault either of these aims.

I guess where I do have an issue with it is telling people that all bodies are different and therefore you should be comfortable at whatever your natural weight is. Sure, all bodies are different – I’m cool with that idea. But if you’re a 5 foot tall woman weighing 100 kilograms is that really your natural weight? Or did you have to work a sedentary job, spend your evenings on the couch, and ignore a whole truckload of hunger and satiety cues over many years to get there? Not judging – I’ve been there (well, except for the woman part) but I’d bet that for most people, these lifestyle factors and overeating can be addressed with a little effort and the ‘natural’ weight you can sustainably maintain is somewhere well south of ‘dying young of a heart attack’ unhealthy. So I think we have to be careful in condoning people’s choices and telling them ‘it’s OK’ to be overweight especially when they are clearly unhappy about it.

On a related note – since I started really trying to fix my issues with food, I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of resources about intuitive eating and most of them are all very down on ‘diet culture’ – suggesting that it’s toxic and that dieting ‘doesn’t work’. Again, I have some sympathy with the viewpoint that slimness (women) or lean muscularity (men) is promoted as the ideal for everyone but we are all different and what is healthy (mentally and physically), sustainable and desirable is likewise going to vary. We would all do better to just focus on being the best version of ourselves that we can be rather than trying to compare ourselves with models and celebrities who have goodness knows what genetic, lifestyle and pharmaceutical advantages helping them to present those perfect bodies to the world on a pedestal. But again, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good aspects of it and that we shouldn’t give people the tools to change their lifestyles and their bodies if that’s what they desire to do.

The fact is – diets DO work – assuming the aim of the diet is to lose weight. Statistics show that the vast majority of dieters do manage to lose significant weight, the problem is that most of them don’t maintain it in the long term. And I would argue that that’s probably because most people choose the wrong approach and treat the diet as a temporary thing, instead of making permanent, sustainable changes. In many cases this is because they were promised the world by some charlatan fitpro or celebrity and after successfully losing that weight they went back to the same old habits that got them overweight in the first place. And so the circle continues….

It’s such a shame that the industry is so full of these people, and they do make diet ‘culture’ a pretty toxic place to spend time. But that said, I have a hard time understanding why so many people get sucked into the rubbish these people are spruiking. The old adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ rings really true to me here, even when I was young and naive I don’t think I ever would have believed that eating that ‘one magic food’ or going on a 2 week juice cleanse would somehow magically make me lose weight and keep it off forever – I was always taught that nothing worth doing in life is ever easy. But yet every day people still get hoodwinked by all sort of scams and I think it comes down to the fact that so many of us are sad and lonely and just want to believe in something, even if it does seem a bit too easy. Unfortunately losing weight really isn’t – and it can be so overwhelming, especially if you have a lot to lose. But it’s like any major project, you just have to get started, and eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Which brings me to my final point, about intuitive eating. I’ve read the book, and I’m attempting to incorporate the principles into my lifestyle, because I believe that being a formerly obese person I need to utilise some sort of strategy to control my food intake and maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life. In my heart I know that if I don’t, then I will continue to overconsume all the calorie dense foods that I love and will end up back where I started, fat and unhappy. However – I don’t necessarily agree with Intuitive Eating in the sense that it’s supposed to be entirely weight neutral and your body weight will settle where it does – I think true intuitive eating will result in a body that maintains a composition without excess fat. Sure, what constitutes ‘excess’ will be different for everyone, but as I said above I think in the vast majority of cases obesity occurs because we ignore the body’s signals and eat the wrong foods for the wrong reasons. I see no reason why most of us shouldn’t be able to maintain a body composition we’re happy with while eating intuitively, although this might also require some emotional deep diving to understand the reasons we eat foods outside of just hunger / needing fuel. And that takes work.

14
May
2019

Another episode of ‘extreme hunger’

So I had another episode last night. I’ve been logging these in a Word document, but now this blog is up, it’s probably a more appropriate place to put them.

My last episode was on Friday the 3rd of May, so it’d been 10 days or so. The trigger for that one was, as usual, a combination of restriction and stress. I had a day off work, had a busy morning running errands with E in tow, and really wanted to go to a cafe or bakery for a nice coffee and a pastry. Unfortunately with her being such a fussy eater, we couldn’t find a shop that had kiss biscuits, and she kicked off in the street so I took her home and missed out on my treat. It was after lunch that day that I went berzerker on cereals and chocolate.

Yesterday was similar. I actually had a pretty good day at work, but was obsessing all day (again) about going to the bakery and getting a coffee and some sort of sweet treat. But I refused to let myself have it, telling myself that I should save my money – which is true – I really can’t afford to be spending ten bucks a day on coffee and pastries! So got through the (short) day without it, had some cereal for afternoon tea, all good. But then I had a couple of blowups with E around dinner time, for various reasons, really wanted a nice dessert, and a second bowl of ice cream turned into half the tub, as well as copious quantities of biscuits, chocolate, coco pops, and a couple of hot chocolates, the final one with a generous spoonful of Nutella in it.

It’s worth noting that this one felt a bit different than most of my others – I didn’t feel anywhere near as manic, or out of control. I really just felt lonely, depressed and wanted sweet food. Taking photos of it for Ate gave me the opportunity to reflect at each plate refill, and I could have stopped, but I didn’t want to.

Needless to say I had another hot, heartburny night’s sleep – and not enough of it, particularly since I’d planned to be up at 5am for an early training session. At least I was well carbed up for it! As I write this, I’m midway through lifting and I feel OK. But needless to say, I’ll be going and getting that latte and croissant today, if I feel like it.

13
May
2019

Progress – Eating ‘Clean’ and Obsessing Over Nutritional Facts

In a related post I outlined how I would obsessively track and weigh all my food in MyFitnessPal to try and keep my calories and individual macronutrients as perfect and evenly spread through the day as I could. The other facet of this that of course I was obsessed with keeping fats down, keeping carbohydrate low (except around times of high activity like training) and keeping protein high, which meant I had to cut out pretty much any ‘junk’ food (most of it wouldn’t fit into my macros anyway) and I spent lots and lots of time looking at the nutrition labels on everything I purchased from the supermarket and everything I ate. This also used to cause a lot of anxiety when eating food prepared by others, both when eating out as well as family occasions, work functions, etc.

Thankfully, since I stopped tracking food in MyFitnessPal this has almost become a thing of the past and I’m now quite capable of buying and/or eating things without looking at the label. The temptation is still there a lot of the time, but mostly I am able to ignore it. Sometimes if I need to look at the packet (for example, I cooked some frozen oven bake vegetables the other night and needed to look at the cooking instructions) and I’m tempted, I’ll just cover them with my fingers so I don’t even accidentally see them. Other times I will look at them just for kicks but I will say to myself that if I am going to look at them that I am not going to let the macros influence my decision, I am eating whatever it is, regardless!

As far as the calorie/macro breakdown of food, I do still have goals of developing a decent physique so I still try to eat good quality foods most of the time, however I try to adhere to the 80/20 rule and allow myself plenty of treats. Not only that, but I am well aware that part of recovering from this thing fully is to teach my brain that no foods are off limits, so I need to regularly eat my fear foods, in order that they can just become ordinary foods again. I learnt the hard way, as I’ve been going through my extreme hunger phase, that any time I am craving something and I choose not to have it, it almost always results in a bigger feast (what I would call a binge) later on. And those episodes of extreme hunger are not fun – I don’t enjoy or savor the food because I am slamming it down so manically, and the digestive after effects last a day or two and impact on my ability to eat meals with my family. Plus psychologically they make me feel like shit – so I’m far better to just eat the fucking food and enjoy it!

And speaking of enjoyment – eating out and those family occasions are so. much. easier. now – I can just go and eat without guilt, mostly. I do still try to make healthy choices – both for my physique goals as well as my feeling of well being, because there are certain foods (mostly very high-fat ones) that will leave me feeling bloated and heartburny even in small quantities. I just have to be careful to make sure I’m restricting those foods for the right reasons and not listening to Dmitry.

 

13
May
2019

Progress – Macro Tracking And Food Weighing

As mentioned in my List of ED symptoms post, for many years I had been obsessively tracking calories/macros using MyFitnessPal, obsessively weighing food wherever possible, and planning my nutrition to a T. Ostensibly this was to ensure that my diet was on point and optimised for whatever my goal was at the time (whether that was fat loss or muscle gain). There were a heap of food rules around this, such as:

  • Making sure overall daily calories weren’t too excessive, so that I could eat a large enough meal at dinner time and before bed to feel at least somewhat satiated
  • Ensuring that every meal contained at least 30g of protein (but not too much!) to ensure maximum muscle protein synthesis
  • Attempting to spread those protein feedings over at least 4-5 meals a day
  • Trying to keep carbs a little higher pre and post training sessions; and keep them lower at other times of the day, particularly on days I knew I’d be more sedentary
  • To keep fats down as low as possible – especially if I knew the family dinner (the one meal I don’t really have complete control over) was going to be higher in fats/calories

I ate like this for three years solid, with only a couple of very short breaks of 1-2 weeks at a time  when the family were away on holidays and it was difficult to sustain. The end result was that I felt constantly hungry, grumpy, exhausted and sore. Even when trying to ‘bulk’ I almost never ate enough, because I was so fearful of gaming fat, so aside from one short period where I was letting Avatar Nutrition set my macros, my metabolism almost never normalised and I was constantly in energy deficit.

If I was forced to eat food I hadn’t prepared, this would cause me great anxiety. Going out for a meal was a nightmare – I’d always want to know where we were going in advance, so that I could spend hours poring over the menu and trying to figure out what to have. And since most restaurants around here don’t publish nutritional information it also meant spending ridiculous amounts of time looking through MyFitnessPal’s database comparing similar meals to try and estimate what the macros would be, and planning the rest of the day’s meals to try and compensate for the restaurant meal inevitably being more calorie dense than usual.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas dinners and work functions and any other occasion where I had to try and wing it. I actively tried to avoid most of these, with a fair amount of success. But when I couldn’t, they were a major mindfuck, and inevitably I either ate nothing, or ate too much (in my head), felt guilty and compensated by going walking for long periods and/or restricting subsequent meals.

This was probably one of the most stressful parts of my eating disorder, and I am so glad to be able to write about it in the past tense. I used to tell myself that I’m a numbers guy, and I enjoy having good data on the foods I’m consuming, but in reality it was a massive life thief (to steal a phrase from Christy Harrison) – I know some people have success with it (and I did too, to begin with) but with my tendencies towards obsessiveness and OCD type behaviours, it wasn’t good for me in the long term.

The story of how I gave it up is straightforward. I started experiencing more and more regular episodes of binge eating (and I tracked those binges in MyFitnessPal as best I could) and I eventually recognised that the obsessive tracking and controlling was probably a contributing factor. So to start with, I stopped tracking carbs and fats and just attempted to track protein. That didn’t help much, so on Feb 1st 2019 after another late night biscuit and cereal rampage I decided just to stop tracking and weighing and just try to eat mindfully in an attempt to stop the binges. It didn’t work, and I still experienced (and gave in to) extreme hunger many times afterwards, but I just never went back to tracking.

I was so proud of my record with tracking that I continued to login to the MyFitnessPal app and website daily to keep my ‘streak’ going (their system tells you how many consecutive days you’ve used it in an effort to encourage consistency). The last time I checked it was at 1200 plus days, but then in mid May 2019 I realised I’d forgotten to do it and I logged in to discover my streak had been reset. I thought this would bother me, but it really didn’t. So I took the opportunity to delete the app from my phone and cancel my premium subscription, and can’t see myself ever going back.

On a related note, in early May I started using another app to track food called ‘Ate‘. This might seem a bit strange, after everything I’ve just written, but the process and purpose is completely different. It is simply a food journal, where I take a photo of the meal and ask myself some questions about the circumstances of the meal as well as how I feel pre and post eating. It encourages mindfulness and has been really helpful in learning how to eat like a human again – after so many years of ‘eating by numbers’ I’d completely lost touch with my body’s hunger and satiety signals. In my efforts to eat ‘clean’ all the time, I’d also largely forgotten which foods that I really enjoyed and didn’t, and which foods made me feel good and bad.

12
May
2019

The voice has a name

Don’t all the best ideas come to us in the bathroom?

In an earlier post today I suggested that I should give my ED voice a name, then as I was drying off after my shower it came to me:

My ED Voice.

M.E.D.V.

Medvedev.

Dmitry.

Its name is Dmitry.

Not a reflection on the man himself, you understand, I know nothing of his politics or character, but now whenever that voice pops into my head telling me things that I don’t need to hear, I can just say ‘shut up Dmitry’. For added effect, I could say it in a terrible Russian accent and/or picture myself punching him in the face.

And then of course, I need to do exactly the opposite of what he’s telling me to do.

 

12
May
2019

A list of my ED symptoms

Below I’ve listed some of the behaviours and signs that I felt were symptomatic of a full blown eating disorder. Over time I’ll try and expand a little more on what I mean by each one, in case a one line summary isn’t clear enough.

I originally started writing this list in August 2018 but never published it. At the time of writing this post (May 2019) it’s nice to be able to look down this list and realise that I’ve made heaps of progress in reducing and in some cases completely eliminating these things from my life. In these cases, I’ll try to create separate posts to explain how I came to fix these issues as time permits.

Update 24th July 2019: I’ve done another review of these symptoms and many of them are gone or greatly reduced. I posted about it here.

  • Overly obsessive about tracking and weighing – even weighing things like salad greens. I am completely free of this now, see my progress post!
  • Overly obsessive about the ‘perfect’ macros. Getting 30ish grams of protein every meal etc. Also gone, see my progress post!
  • Obsessively looking at nutrition labels when shopping. Mostly gone, see my progress post!
  • Anxiety when forced to eat anything without a nutrition label – to the point of avoiding family occasions and eating out, and taking over virtually all the cooking at home. This is totally gone now, and I just don’t care any more – see my progress post!
  • Restricting food all day in order to hoard macros for an evening feast. Progress here – see my progress post!
  • A ‘scarcity mindset’ – going to the supermarket multiple times per week to ensure all the staples are always available to make the ‘perfect’ meal with the right macronutrient breakdown. See https://tabithafarrar.com/2018/05/brain-malnutrition-scarcity-mode/ I’ve made progress here too – see my progress post!
  • Refusal to eat certain types of foods that aren’t ‘healthy’. No chocolate, no regular (high fat/carb) ice cream, very little cheese (or any full fat/high carb dairy), no pastries, very few biscuits/cakes, etc. Good progress – see my progress post!
  • Fear of excess carbohydrate/fat – to the point where I was generally eating under 40g fat per day, and sometimes under 30g. Tried to eat low carb whenever I didn’t feel like I was active enough. Also good progress – see my progress post!
  • Seasoning all my meals like mad to try and make things tasty. Pepper, salt, low calorie sauces like sriracha / Walden Farms, mustard etc. Tick this one off – see my progress post!
  • Microwaving teas and coffees right after making them so that they’re nuclear level hot – to try and make them last longer so I enjoyed them more. Tick this one off too – see my progress post!
  • Very moody especially around meal times if I wasn’t left alone to eat. ‘Bullguarding’ food. Not so much now – see my progress post!
  • Started craving carbs (especially stuff like breakfast cereal and sweet stuff like sugar) really badly particularly after I started on TRT. Would eat some erythritol straight out of the packet every time I made a hot drink. Still love the carbs – but think that’s normal – see my progress post!
  • Compulsions to move. Getting anxious when not hitting at least 250 steps/hr and 10k steps/day – to the point of walking round the room in the middle of meals, or tapping my thigh to get step counts up. Almost gone – see my progress post!
  • Walking after every meal; which is not in and of itself a bad thing (in my opinion) but getting anxious about it when the weather is bad or I’m otherwise unable to go for a walk immediately after eating is disordered. Good progress – now I walk for joy, not because I feel compelled – see my progress post!
  • Over reliance on supplements. Creatine, whey protein, casein protein, vitamin D, BCAAs, Ashwaghanda, ZMA, Pre-Workout, and others at various times. I still take supps but not so many – see my progress post!
  • Over reliance on caffeine especially as an appetite suppressant. Drank a lot of black coffee – which I don’t dislike – but it was one of the causes of major bladder flare ups. Good progress – see my progress post!
  • Obsession with gut health. Started consuming lots of different stuff for this – regularly drinking kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and eating sauerkraut, kimchi and those type of foods. Still there, but I don’t consider this a major concern at this point – see my progress post!
  • Binge eating! Although most ED recovery resources would call this ‘extreme hunger’. This didn’t start until I allowed myself to eat more, and my metabolism improved a bit, then the floodgates opened and things got worse before they improved. They’re still happening, but less frequently now, and I’m logging them to identify triggers.