A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Claiming that all people are whatever body size they are for the exact same reason is a logical fallacy – humans are far too complex and diverse both mentally and physical for that to be the case.

In the range of human sizes, there are some people who are biologically hard wired to be thin (ie. the ones like my husband who eat and eat without thought and never put on weight) and others who are hard wired to be fat (those who do everything possible to reduce body size without any substantial results).  I personally fall into neither of those categories.

There are undoubtedly a myriad other reasons at work as well behind why people are whatever size and shape they are – some within their control, some not.

However, I was utterly thunderstruck by a series of articles I was reading recently about obesity as a symptom of an underlying mental health problem.  The thing these articles pointed out that had honestly never occurred to me before, was the following:

If a person begins to lose dangerous amounts of weight intentionally and to the point where their life is threatened, we classify their problem as a mental health issue.  We attempt to intervene, we try to care for them and save them.  They may be hospitalized and they are treated for their disorder with compassion and hopefully as much dignity as possible.  There are countless articles and public health advertisements correctly encouraging them and their families to seek help before it’s too late.  They are not considered to be at fault for what has gone wrong with them.

If a person begins to gain dangerous amounts of weight intentionally and to the point where their life is threatened, we classify their problem as a personality flaw.  They are called gluttonous, weak willed and lazy.  We guilt them, publicly shame them, and offer no mental health related assistance of any type.  They are expected to solve the problem on their own or pay large amounts of money to get someone to help them.  Perhaps they’re offered surgery.  Perhaps they’re offered a spot on a reality television program so that the rest of society can derive entertainment value from their suffering.  There are countless articles and public health announcements berating them for being such a horrible drain on everyone else’s insurance costs.  They are completely considered to be at fault for what has gone wrong with them.

How have I never even noticed this before?

Why is this okay..?!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mentally Unhealthy Food Culture

I have spent the past ten months mostly depriving myself of food that my brain perceives as “bad”.  These are items I feel I do not deserve to eat because I have been (and still am) obese.  Things like desserts offered after dinner at my parent’s house or cakes, cookies, and doughnuts constantly on offer at work.  I’ve also avoided bringing certain types of foods into my home which count as dangerous in my mind because I know I have difficulty not seeking them out and consuming all the available supply of them if I can do so without being discovered.

I adore chocolate, but I have been having my husband hide it from me in our home and only bring me a single, controlled serving when I ask for one.  When I discover fast food leftovers that the guys leave in the fridge I’ve been guilty of angrily stuffing them down the garbage disposal and then yelling at my family for leaving pitfalls in my path.

There’s no delicate way to put this: that kind of behavior is seriously messed up.

All of this is evidence that I have a very disordered and mentally unhealthy relationship with food.  Its importance is completely out of proportion in my life.  I’ve come to realize that treating food like an addiction and an enemy isn’t a sustainable way to live a healthy and balanced lifetime at the weight that I desire.

I have a co-worker who usually keeps several small servings of chocolate in her desk.  She forgets about them for weeks, and then when she feels like it will eat a bite – perhaps a single Hershey’s kiss for example – and leave the rest for later.  I have told this co-worker on many occasions that I cannot do what she does because I’m a food addict and I’m helpless to do anything but obsess over and consume all available quantities of chocolate in my possession relentlessly until it’s all gone.

The problem with this is that I’ll never be anything other than a helpless food addict if I don’t start working to develop the same normal, natural relationship to foods (including treat items) that my co-worker has.  So as of this month I’ve started practicing some behavior modification.

For right now, I’ve added two baby steps to my daily routines:

The first is that I purchased a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread (something I’ve been known in the past to dig into with a spoon and eat and eat and eat until I’ve made myself sick) and put it in my desk at work.  For breakfast, I dip out a single tablespoon serving and enjoy it on my toast.  By having it at work I’m not tempted to pull out the jar when I’m home alone so I’m getting practice eating a sensible portion of it in a place where I feel safe.  I’m teaching my stomach (and more importantly my brain) that a single serving is satisfying, enjoyable, and enough.

The second thing is that I’ve begun to have dessert again while in social situations.  When I’m at a family dinner I obtain a sensibly sized portion of the treat I most want (like two or three bites of brownie for example) and slowly enjoy it.  Again, since I’m not alone I’m not in danger of my addiction behavior kicking in and can safely practice getting used to being satisfied with a very small serving of high calorie / high sugar / high fat treat.

At the same time, the only responsible party in either of these situations is me.  I am not foisting responsibility for what I eat onto any other person.

I cannot live the rest of my life saying, “NO – NEVER” to these foods and I cannot continue to hide behind the lie that it’s easier to have nothing than to enjoy a correctly sized, small portion.  Avoiding certain foods entirely out of fear is not moderate, mentally healthy eating behavior.  Complete and strict abstinence will result in continued obsession over what I cannot have, then anger, resentment, eventual breakdown, and finally binging.  Putting the responsibility onto someone else is simply unfair – not to mention an unsustainable practice since nobody can watch over another human being all the time.

Instead I need to re-teach myself to hold all foods in their proper place: enjoyable, but not that big a deal.  I need to learn that not having a huge portion or all available servings of a treat doesn’t make the small taste I did have any less valuable or enjoyable.

Someday I want to be in a place where I can be comfortable having any type of food in my house because it’s just food, it’s not a mistake or an addiction substance or a problem in any way.  I want to get to a place where my body and mind are used to what proper proportion looks and feels like, instead of an incorrect chemical process kicking in and driving me relentlessly to binge.  If I’m going to make a change that lasts for life, I have to practice.

Over and over again these past ten months I’ve had co-workers, family and friends sigh at me and say, “You’re so good” or, “you’re being so good!”  Or conversely as they pick up a plate of cake they say, “I’m being so bad!”  This is heartbreaking.  Food is not good or bad, it has no moral value whatsoever.  The fact that we say these things (and I have been the worst offender of all – even if mostly in my own mind) is evidence that our society has gone completely off the rails with regards to how we eat.  There is nothing good or bad in any way about food, nor do food choices ever define anyone’s worth or virtue.

The fact that it’s been so beaten into us to self-flagellate mentally and often verbally over something so simple as enjoying a piece of cake is another sad side effect of our cultural obsession with health and thinness as a defining factor in the value of a human being.  It has the exact opposite effect as what is intended: instead of guilting and shaming us all into acceptably thin bodies, it creates people such as me who relentlessly obsess over the “bad” food until we wind up eating an entire jar of chocolate hazelnut spread in one sitting and then have to spend years working off the stored energy and mentally retraining ourselves NOT to do so again.

I can’t speak for other countries, but I know that America’s food and fitness obsessed culture is a very, very mentally unhealthy place to be.

A single petit four of average size contains about 100 calories.  This is an appropriate size and calorie content for enjoying dessert.  Also, it's really pretty!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Vegetarian Gaffe

Yesterday at a county fair my friends and I encountered one of those food trucks you might see featured on Food TV, specializing in a good deal more than just burgers and fries.  A bit overpriced, but since the opportunity presented itself, we decided to sample their pork parfait (barbeque pork topped with collard greens, mashed potatoes, cheese, and Applewood smoked bacon as garnish) and buffalo chicken nachos (thick, hand cut and freshly fried tortilla chips coated in shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, blue and nacho cheese, celery salt, cilantro).  As you can guess – the food was worth the indulgence.  And splitting things between friends is definitely the way to enjoy such treats without them driving my calorie count for the day too far over the line.

As we were in line debating what to order and my friend asked me what I wanted, my response was, “anything on the menu but the vegetarian selection.  I see no reason to eat at a food truck like this if you’re not going to have the pork.”

At which point the vegetarian standing in line in front of me turned and (chuckling) said that she was the vegetarian ordering that one menu item.

Embarrassing, yes – but she was very nice and laughed it off, as did my friend and I.

It occurred to me that to a casual observer, this would probably look like a moment to indulge in judging the meat eater (me) for their poor lifestyle choices.  The vegetarian I was speaking to was tiny, slim and fit, and standing next to her I’m sure I looked… more than a bit well marbled.  Seventy three pounds down I’m still no lightweight in size, I’ve got some road left to travel yet.

I learned a great phrase from a fellow weight-loss blogger last week: “Your body, your science experiment.”  It really resonated with me because for the past five years that’s exactly what I’ve been doing: trying out different experiments on myself to try and figure out what combination of factors (both physical and with regards to what I could live with mentally) might result in my desired goal of weight loss.

One of the things I tried and failed at rather miserably, was being a vegetarian.  Although this is a tactic that works very well for some, it was not the right choice for me.  As a vegetarian I was hungry constantly, and unable to get the lean animal proteins that satisfied hunger and kept me feeling full for a long time, I was constantly turning to my favorite carbohydrate instead: bread.

I’m not gluten free either, but bread and pasta are substances I do measure carefully and limit due to their high caloric value.  Without meat, I ate far too many flour based foods and went relentlessly over my calorie goals.  The times when I was trying to eat vegetarian were invariably the times when I would wind up binging on entire sleeves of crackers at once.  And a sleeve of saltines contains almost 1,000 calories in one go.

With meat in my diet, I binge less, have more energy, and am more satisfied for longer periods of time.  Vegetarianism is a fantastic choice for some, but while seeking a way of eating that can sustain me for a lifetime at my desired health level, it is not the right choice for me.  One more self-science experiment I tried and checked off the list on my way to finding the road I was looking for.

The food truck in question - tasty!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Status Report: 2 lbs. lost, 72 lbs. total

So I had to adjust my daily calorie goal.

I use the Daily Plate to track my nutrition, and I’ve had my account set up so that it steers me toward losing 2 lbs. per week assuming I stick to the calorie guidelines it provides.  This was giving me a daily calorie goal to aim for of 1,010 calories.

I have no idea why it took me this long to realize that me trying to consume barely more than a thousand calories per day is a very bad idea.

For one thing, it’s just not possible for me.  Unless I’m sick with a cold or the flu I simply do not have the emotional fortitude to be that hungry and deprived all day long.  The end result of this is that I was failing, every single day, to meet my goal.  This was demoralizing.

On top of that, assuming I were capable of hitting such a small number, I don’t think it’s actually healthy for a 5’7” adult female of large Scottish build to eat such a small amount of calories each day.  I don’t know if the Plate’s calculating algorithm is off or what, but everything I’ve ever read has strongly stated that the bare minimum for any average adult female should be no lower than 1,200 calories.

So I re-adjusted my settings to have it guide me toward a 1 & ½ pound loss per week instead, and that gave me a new daily calorie total of 1,330 per day.  Still pretty low, but at least somewhat within my grasp as doable.

In other news, I’m three pounds away from my next set of progress photos.  Looking forward to that!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Shame of Hunger

Something that a regular reader of this blog may notice is that I talk about being hungry a lot.

I do this because for most of my life admitting to being hungry, or having any bodily functions for that matter, was a source of shame for me.  Somehow it got drilled into me that girls were supposed to be lithe, ethereal creatures who live on light and air and who never feel such base things as hunger, need to use a bathroom, or get sweaty.  To this day I become distinctly uncomfortable if anyone knows when I’m having my period.

I would listen in envy as other girls talked about forgetting to eat (this has, to date, never happened to me) or watch as they picked birdlike at food with little apparent interest in it.  This, I thought, is how girls should be.  Not like me, constantly starving and prone to considering my next meal, or even the next serving before the last bite had even been finished.  I was wrong, screwed up somehow, more like a big, sweaty monster or a voracious animal.  I was unkempt, unclean, base and constantly greedy for food – as though I were more pig than human.

I don’t know exactly where this extremely messed up self-image came from.  Maybe it was television, maybe magazines, maybe just growing up in the 80’s and watching most of the girls in my school compete to stay under 100 pounds on the scale (a body weight I would have to have been dying to achieve).  I know now that it’s insane to feel shame of any sort about the biological functions that keep us alive.  They are normal, natural, and quite healthy.  I am legitimately hungrier than my body needs me to be to achieve my personal ideal body weight – but since I didn’t choose that or do anything to deserve it, it should be no more shameful than being a chronic allergy sufferer or having flat feet.

Still, the shame is lodged deep within my psyche.  It persists.

My friend’s young daughter reminds me in some ways of myself at her age.  She struggles with feeling hungry all the time; although for all I know at her age while she’s rapidly growing taller it’s not really a bad trait to have.  Where she differs from me is in a total lack of shame about being hungry or anything that her body naturally does.  I watch her in both awe and admiration being bold and unembarrassed about anything and everything.  Granted, this trait on occasion can cause some face-palming on her mother’s part as some things really are more polite to do in private (like farts for instance).  But I cannot remember ever being so wild, free and unapologetic about my body as this little girl is.  I fear it will go away in time, I fear that eventually this world will beat into her the same innate shame about bodily functions that I had.  As time passes she’s already starting to show concern about what the numbers on the scale say (and she’s not yet ten years old), but she’s still doing far better than I was at her age, so I have hope.

As for me, I keep on telling everyone that yes – I am hungry.  I’m hungry a lot.  Despite the shame that still causes me I will no longer pretend I’m some kind of aether sprite with no nutritional requirements or bodily functions.  I am a human, a mammal, and I live in a body with needs that require tending.  I am not the only one that suffers in exasperation with feeling inappropriately hungry all the danged time.  The more I come to grips with that, the more I set aside the shame and admit it to the world, the more I can hopefully give others like me the courage to stop pretending too.

Hunger-shame is part of what causes me to eat in secret, and eating in secret is addiction behavior that also leads to binge eating episodes.  If it’s ever going to stop, if I ever want to have a truly healthy relationship with food, I’ve got to come to grips with myself as a member of the human race once and for all.

Cool? Yes. Realistic body image for me to aspire to? Not so much.