Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Week 15 Day 107: change, sabotage and control

Things have gone a bit askew in the last couple of weeks. For various reasons I'm back in the world of food - temporarily - and I'm really struggling. It's like everything I learned on LL, everything that made me feel in control, has disappeared in a puff of smoke. I'm slap-bang in the middle of old, bad habits and I'm closing my eyes to it - blocking my ears, going la la la, but every day is a new study in low-level, back-of-the-mind terror and shame, and to be honest I'm sick of it.

So how did it all start? Well, I got ill. I had a migraine that lasted 5 days and didn't respond to any migraine medication or any of my getting-rid-of-migraine tricks. It was utterly miserable. I was in bed all week, in constant pain - often severe - and I think I even forgot to have my packs on some days. Before this, I should mention, I was doing pretty well on LLL (although my water consumptions was a bit low still) despite my adventures in bread and cheese from the last blog post.

Now I've been referred to a specialist in January, and in the meantime my GP asked me to come off LLL for Christmas - then restart in January to see if either approach made a difference, and to keep a headache diary. I talked to my LLC and she said that this was absolutely the right thing to do, and to keep a food log, with these columns:

  1. TIME

And you know what I've done? Neither. No headache diary, no food diary.

It's partly because I felt guilty. I had been toying with (okay, I'd already decided) to go off-diet for a few certain days over Christmas anyway which - when I think about it - is actually an okay decision, but I guess I was feeling guilty about it and then convinced myself that I'd subconsciously engineered this situation so my GP would recommend stopping LL for a while, even though I doubt the diet's got anything to do with my migraines (I had fewer migraines in the first 6 weeks of LL). Although in retrospect I couldn't have. Even I don't dislike myself enough to bring about a 5 day migraine.

And - you see - retrospect! That's something you don't have when you mentally plug your ears and go la la la.

Also, I felt guilty because my LLC told me this:

"Remember that one of the key things that helps when managing your weight is to plan/be organised around what you will be eating/drinking.  However I know you will be fine as you are prepared to think about what you are doing!'

I felt guilty because by the time she told myself I already had gone wrong. It started off well enough - I feared, then thrilled in the novelty of participating in the weekly shop, loading up my trolley with stuff to make nice healthy but tasty protein and veg-rich meals for myself. But you know what offices are like at Christmas - chocolate and Krispy Kremes everywhere. I'd have "just one" here and there, but because my stomach's now so small that would keep me filled up all day, and my lovingly and thoughtfully prepared salad would go to waste in the office fridge. And the next day my opinion of myself would have dropped several notches - and with it my resolve - and I might have more than "just one" - even looking at my salads would make me feel guilty.

I mean, I haven't eaten terribly: I think I've eaten what everyone eats around this time of year: caution flies to the wind and you have a mince pie for breakfast, and pick at things you've baked, skipped meals entirely, eaten more than your fair share of biscuits etc. So I haven't binged in the physical sense: but the mental one, which is worse I think. I've been walking around feeling bloated and heartburny and guilty, and terrified every time I get dressed because I'm convinced I've put the 35lbs back on overnight. And it seems so wrong - so wrong - that my size 10s still fit.

Originally, I was thinking about coming off the diet for these days over Christmas:
  1. My team Christmas drinks
  2. A Christmas drinks/dinner with old friends
  3. Another Christmas party with friends
  4. Christmas Eve to Boxing Day
  5. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
And I thought I'm really going to enjoy these meals or drinks - they'll be treats - so I'll take small bites, chew slowly, really savour the flavour. Originally I thought I'd stay on foodpacks throughout, only "cheating" for these specific meals or drinks: I would come out of ketosis, but at least I'd still have my routine and my calorie count would stay relatively low. Even when my GP asked me to come off LL for a bit, I thought I'd at least eat healthily for the most part, then "cheat" for these special meals or drinks.

But I haven't. I've been cheating throughout. Which makes me depressed because these meals/drinks are no longer special, and they're tainted with guilt. Plus I've not been savouring anything - I've been wolfing it down because I'm scared and guilty and don't want to think about it.

However. I have been to all my Christmas parties and managed to have fun despite the guilt, and the immediate feeling of uncomfortable bloating afterwards. I went to a cocktail party in a SIZE 10 COCKTAIL DRESS half-convinced that I'd be laughed out of the building, but all I got were compliments (I spent the entire night telling everyone how uncomfortable my shoes were; I wasn't comfortable with being attractive, but that's another set of neuroses for another time) and lots and lots of male interest. It was most curious.

So now here we are in Christmas week. Today I'm off to my mother's - I might take some soups with me in case she tries to fatten me up. Tomorrow I have my LLL pop-in: I am PETRIFIED of being weighed, and petrified of feeling like a loser. I think I've put on at least 4lbs so far but I suspect most of that is glycogen, and just the weight of food. But I am going because I want to pick up my packs, and restart either LL or LLL in early January. My journey isn't over - I always told myself that this short break was a bit of an "experiment" with the safety net of restarting LL at the other end. I think I'm just sad and disappointed because the experiment failed somewhat.

But there's still time to salvage it. I'd like to say the novelty of food has worn off, but I doubt it has. However I know that eating that biscuit, or this bit of chocolate, on a day when I'm not planning to, really doesn't make me feel any better. I have a fridge full of healthy tasty food and days and days in which to eat it.

I'm not sure how successful I'm going to be, but I do know that the way I'm going is making me miserable, which is the opposite of the effect I wanted to achieve over Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Week 13: Day 89 ***FOOD TALK***

Today I ate.

I really want to write "I was naughty" or "I cheated" here, but I wasn't and I didn't. I'm not a victim or a child, and I wasn't "disobeying" anyone when I did it. I ate. Normal food. At lunchtime.

I went to lunch with some of my colleagues and I was playing with the idea of having some food. To be completely honest I was also playing with the idea of sticking to the plan - not out of guilt, but because I wasn't sure what I wanted.

When we got to the pub I ended up ordering a Ploughman's - I figured if I wanted to break the diet I could, and if not I could just have the cold meats and salad. In the end I had a couple of pieces of bread, some ham and some blue cheese.

I can honestly say it was through a desire to push the boundaries, to see what would happen, to experiment. Well, it was mostly experimentation - some of it was, well, not peer pressure exactly - no one was trying to force me to do anything - but I suppose part of me wanted to appear "normal" in front of my colleagues. I've been in abstinence for so long - and I'm new - that I do feel a little bit like a freak.

That said, a lot of it was experimentation. I mean, what would happen if I ate some cheese and bread? Would it be AMAZING? Would I explode? Would I put on immediately the 2.5 stone I'd just lost? And - more importantly - could I find my way back to the plan?

Since I've started LLL a week ago everything has gone up the creek a bit. My water consumption has gone way down (I attribute this mainly to the novelty of being able to drink milk in my coffee - something that's actually caused a tummy upset through - hopefully temporary - mild lactose intolerance), one day I forgot to have a pack and one day I forgot to have a meal! At my second LLL meeting yesterday it turned out I'd lost a pound, which I was actually happy with as I wasn't expecting to lose at all.

Anyway, so I had the bread and cheese. And it was nice. It was good quality bread and good quality cheese, and it was nice to eat those things again. But was it AMAZING? No. Actually, I don't know. I ate too fast to really notice. And I think I ate too fast because I wasn't sure of my motivations for eating, so I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. And did I explode? No. I wasn't even ill, despite my apparent lactose intolerance.

And was it worth it? Well, no and yes.

No because I was so concerned about eating that I didn't take the time to appreciate the taste. The whole way through abstinence I thought that when I finally eat again, I will enjoy it - I will taste every morsel that goes into my mouth. I will roll it over my tastebuds savouring the texture, the heat, the sweet and sour and salt of it.

But I didn't do that. And if you're not going to do that - for whatever reason - it's not worth eating something that's going to do you more harm than good. If you're going to eat a cake, make sure it's a cake you really like, and that you enjoy every moment of eating it. Otherwise what's the point?
Yes because I realised that:

Food is just food. It fills you up. It tastes nice or it doesn't taste nice. That's kind of it. Food isn't love, or comfort, or anything. It's just food. And it's not worth damaging yourself over.

And did I come back to the plan? Yes. I did wobble a couple of times. I normally have a third pack at work, but I was stuffed after lunch (unsurprisingly) so I didn't manage it. On the way home I started to get hungry (but LL-hungry, not proper-hungry) but thought about not having another pack because I'd eaten at lunchtime - not to keep my calories down but, I guess, to punish myself for having eaten.

But then I decided that punishing myself - especially with food, or with witholding food - was a thing of the past for me.

Then, when I got home my boyfriend decided to have cheese on toast for dinner and I asked him if he'd make me one, too. I was thinking "well, I ate for lunch so I may as well eat for dinner and restart LLLing tomorrow..."

But then I thought about it, and asked myself why I wanted to do this. It was 50% naughtiness and 50% of that general oh-it's-cold-and-it's-dark-and-it's-Friday feeling. Which, I realised with perfect clarity, wasn't a good enough reason to eat something that wasn't totally good for me. 

I guess I realised it was an emotional decision - and I realised this in the moment, not in a learned "LL" way (if that makes sense). It felt natural to question this; I mean, if I make a drastic emotional decision while in the throes of pre-menstrual hormonal weirdness ("Well she's not my friend anymore, she looked at me funny!") I never allow myself to act on them - purely because they're based on emotion and not reason and evidence.

So why would I eat some cheese on toast when I was trying to do something good for myself, and the cheese on toast might sabotage that?

I thought that with absolute clarity, and it made total sense. So in the end I had a big cup of tea, some fizzy water and flavouring, a food pack (chili con carne flavour! Actually very edible although it looked awful - but it was lovely to have something hot and savoury that wasn't soup) and a peanut bar and I honestly feel totally fulfilled.

If I'd had the cheese on toast I'd probably have wolfed it down like my lunch then sat around trying to feel content but actually disappointed in myself, and angry with myself because I broke my diet then didn't have the grace to feel happy about it. I know that sounds weird. It also sounds exhausting, and I can't believe I've put myself through this cycle of eating the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, then beating myself up over various aspects of it, for so many years!

So essentially I'm glad I ate today, because it showed me how I really feel about food, and that I can come back from it. Going down that slippery slope is totally dependent on my decisions, and I have the power to make the right decisions for me.

I still plan to eat over Christmas - but those are going to be events - those are going to be situations where I sit down and savour what I'm eating and drinking. The whole idea around eating over the holiday is that I enjoy all aspects of it - even the food - and not to do it because I want to feel like "a normal".

And then I'll come back to the plan. It doesn't have to be a massive deal.

I don't know if I knocked myself out of ketosis or not - I don't feel hungry (just having sucrose-coated tablets unwittingly during abstinence caused me to be constantly ravenous) but even if I am out of ketosis I should get back into it in a few days. I can handle it - I've done it before.

It's funny - at my LLL meeting yesterday I was feeling a bit cross because everyone there seems to cheat habitually. All the ladies were talking about how much wine they'd drunk at the weekend, etc., and after having been abstinent for 3 months it really riled me. But here I was, today, eating. I suppose a lot of it was fuelled by the ladies' eating, and seeing whether I would become this "part-time dieter" too if I did it.

But here's the thing. I don't intend to do this diet again. I don't even think of it as a diet so much as a programme to reset my thinking and behaviours around eating. We were all asked to set some end of January goals during the meeting. Here are mine:

1. Walk back to the further station after work 3 times a week.

2. Plan my daily meals a week in advance, and prioritise and give myself enough time the day before each meal to make them.

3. Learn 6 new heallthy and tasty recipes (and a couple of not so healthy ones).

4. Lose 7lbs.

The last one was a bit of an afterthought! I'm really just thinking about how I can improve myself, my self-trust, my independence from food and from others, and from feeling like a victim and a failure. It's almost as though, with all the lessons I'm learning, losing weight is only a by-product. Which, I suppose, is how it should be.

And it's interesting because I can see what I'm doing: LLL has been such a massive change that my inner saboteur has had a field day. She's helped me to "stop noticing" that I'm not drinking enough water. She's told me not to worry when I've had milk and had a stomach ache immediately afterwards. She let me be organised for the first couple of days, but towards the end of the week she kept me busy so I didn't prepare the lunches I'd planned etc., and it all got a bit random and vague and disorganised.

Making my goals, meeting these cheaty women, questioning how successful they're going to be AND doing my own little experiment has helped me to refocus. I only want to lose 7lbs or so. I may actually put on weight over Christmas.

But it made me aware of the dangers of complacency and how, if I'm not careful, my inner saboteur would like nothing better than to undo all the hard work I've completed.

And a final note to anyone on LL or LLL who's thinking about eating normal food: I'm not going to tell you not to. But remember, during your diet you'll have built up carbs and sweets and normal food up in your mind until they're these towering, glorious, mouthwatering treats. But what you'll probably find is that it's just food. It's just bread. It's just cheese. It's just cake.

It's just food. And it's not so fucking delicious that it's worth you breaking your promise to yourself.

Just keep that in mind.