Setting Goals Each Week

Hi all. I have normally been posting each day, but figured I would give myself a break over the weekend. I also gave myself a break from walking. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t want to take a break from walking, but it Fen kept telling me to rest so I finally did.. and I felt much better come Monday morning.

I’ve decided to set myself some goals and every few weeks I may add to it. I don’t want to overwhelm myself, so I am going to set very small goals. I will primarily focus on the fitness routine each week and setting goals for that, but will also add some goals here and there for other parts of my life, namely food.

I am going to try a new fitness routine and see how it works for me. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will go for my 3-3.5 mile loop and will walk most of it. Each week I will try to run a portion of it, a very small portion to start with, and will gradually increase the distance so that I start walking less and running more. I have sustained back and knee issues in the past and don’t want to try and advance too quickly. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I will be doing an hour of yoga instead. Each day of the week I walk the dog 2-3 times per day, so that still gets me up and moving, but on Sundays I will take a break from everything.

Fen and I talked briefly about eventually buying a gym membership. I want to get into cycling and maybe some weight lifting after time, but that can all happen down the road. I am not too concerned about it right now.

Yesterday morning I walked with Fen to work and back, covering 3.5 miles, and running about 0.25 miles. Now.. I recognize that running 0.25 miles is nothing for some, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me. Last week I was able to run about a neighborhood block before I felt exhausted. Today it was much further. So this week I will be sticking with that running distance and next week I will push it a little further.

As for a dietary goal, this week I have challenged myself to drink about 6-7 glasses of water a day. I think for my height and body weight I should be consuming closer to 7 glasses, but I would be happy with 6 to start off with. I think on average I only drink about 4-5 which is clearly not enough. To help me accomplish this I will be using a tracker that is built into my FitBit app on my phone. I failed miserably at this yesterday, only clocking about the same 4-5 glasses, but plan to improve on it today.

I am not sure how long it will take me to start drinking 6-7 glasses of water each day without having to remind myself, and I do not plan to put any pressure on myself to complete this goal in the next week.

It’s all about baby steps. Little tiny steps in the right direction. And for the first time in a long time I think my health and fitness are definitely moving in the right direction 🙂

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Stereotypes (and Misunderstandings) of Eating Disorders

The last week or so I have spent some time thinking about some of the stereotypes and perhaps misunderstandings that surround eating disorders. I think part of these thoughts have arisen from my own issues in admitting to others that I have an eating disorder.

First, let me say that it’s extremely weird to say that out loud, or even in my own head. It’s weird to think that I have an eating disorder, or to even type it here. Although I have never been officially diagnosed, nor have I ever sought diagnosis, I do exhibit all predefined symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder except for purging. Regardless, whether I have a clinical diagnosis or not, I do know from my own patterned behavior that my eating is disordered.

I remember the first time I thought to myself, “I might actually have an eating disorder”, I paused in reflection, only to look in the mirror and think to myself how absurd that sounds because I am not underweight, I am overweight. I suppose I always assumed that having an eating disorder meant you were malnourished and underweight, but I recognize now that isn’t always the case. In fact, in recent years a variety of different eating disorders have been newly recognized, to include Orthorexia and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID.

This long-held assumption made it difficult for me to tell others about my issues and extremely difficult for me to even admit it publicly, through this blog, because I figured no one would believe me or take me seriously.

In talking to others about my experience and eating disorders in general, I also started to realize that some people tend to forget that even though it is an eating disorder it is still associated with mental health. In my case, food has become an addiction and a vice. I am addicted to it, because I use it to make me feel better about different things in my life. I am also addicted (in a different way, I think… and that will have to be addressed in a separate post) to certain foods, namely those high in sugar.

Addiction to food is a tricky thing. If one is addicted to cigarettes, the ultimate goal is to quit smoking them. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, the ultimate goal is to quit using those substances. We can’t quit eating food though. It is a necessity. And I often find myself wishing I didn’t have to eat or think about or deal with food, because it would make things so much easier to manage. So instead of quitting the substance I am addicted to, I instead will have to find a way to live with it in some capacity that is healthy and not damaging to me.. and that is what I need to figure out how to do.

Knowing When I’m Hungry or Full

First, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day. I hope you all enjoyed your day, whether single, dating, or married. I definitely enjoyed mine!

I’ve noticed in the last month that I often have a difficult time noticing when I am truly hungry or truly full. I don’t think that my stomach is incapable of sending the right signals to my brain, nor do I think my brain is incapable of receiving those signals. Instead, I think over time I have lost the ability to be mindful of these signals. My stomach may send a signal to my brain telling me to stop eating because I have had enough, and my brain will register it, but consciously I have forgotten how to listen. The same applies to hunger. Under normal circumstances when I am in a period of stability, I am able to clearly recognize when I am hungry or full and I act accordingly. These days, I have to stop what I am doing and actually think about how my stomach feels, whether it feels empty or full, whether I am craving a specific type of food or whether I am truly hungry and would eat anything edible, etc.

I feel kind of silly admitting that I have forgotten how to listen to myself. I honestly don’t know when this occurred. I don’t think it was something that occurred overnight, but rather something that I transitioned into over a period of time. It’s also disheartening when I think about it, because I shouldn’t be in a state of existence where I am so disconnected from my own body. I have everything I need to overcome this, but somehow along the way the pieces have become disjointed and I have lost my ability to reconnect them.

The idea of being able to listen to my body, to know when I am truly hungry or full without assuming I am or having to stop and really think about it, reminds me of the idea of being mindful. I think in my case mindful eating is of extreme importance and will continue to be of importance as I focus on my eating disorder and my road to recovery, however it shouldn’t stop there. Eventually I would like to extend it to other areas of my life.. but that’s a topic for another time and another post.

A Little Bit About Me and Binge Eating..

Hmm. First post, ever. I figured I would use it to talk a little bit about my binge eating habits. Most people think binge eating is the same as overeating, but it’s not. I do have a habit of overeating during my meals. I usually will eat more than would be necessary to satiate me, but I usually do this because I enjoy the taste of the food and do not wish to stop. Binge eating, however, is more of a compulsion for me. When I binge eat, I select foods that I normally do enjoy, but I feel compelled to keep consuming them, in large quantities, until I am so full that I am uncomfortable. I often think of this as trying to “fill a void” within. Sometimes I will catch myself in the act and force myself to put the food away and go watch TV instead or maybe just go to sleep. I find that if I try to switch to a different, non-food related activity, I will still think obsessively about the food I was consuming. Recently, I thought about eating more dessert after I had already eaten some after dinner one night. Not wanting to give in, I finally laid down and fell asleep, only to wake up throughout the night. Waking up every hour or two is normal for me (I have problems sleeping), but what I noticed was different about that night is each time I woke up I would be thinking about the dessert I forced myself to stop eating. It’s incredibly frustrating. There is such a strong psychological component associated with this and I honestly have no idea where to begin to work through it.

I have memories of binge eating as early as five or six years old. I really don’t know what triggered those episodes then. When I think about my childhood and what I might have been experiencing at the time, I suspect it might be linked to stress at school from bullying and perhaps low self-esteem. Regardless, I have memories of eating a huge plate at dinner, and then snacking ALL NIGHT long. My parents would notice me snacking and warn me to slow down or pick one snack and stick with it. Instead, I would eat some candy, and then switch to potato chips, and then scarf down some corn nuts, then perhaps some M&Ms, cheese snacks, popcorn, bubble gum, etc. In the end I usually wound up with an upset stomach or worse – I would vomit it all up by the end of the night. I recall as I ate and ate I never felt truly SATISFIED. Which is disturbing to me, because I was so young at the time.

I slowly (somehow, I don’t know how) worked my way out of this, only to fall back into it as a pre-teen. My sister picked up on it then and started talking to me about it. I remember she never made me feel ashamed about it, she just explained that it wasn’t healthy for me and that there were things I could do to cope.. like drink extra water, or if I really must have another snack, snack on fruit and vegetables.. not junk food. She also taught me the importance of listening to your body and being able to recognize when it’s hungry or full. Again, with time and struggle, I was able to regain control.

After that time in my life I didn’t really binge eat as much, at least not enough to warrant a binge-eating diagnosis. I still overate at meals sometimes, but was pretty good about eating right and not overconsuming food. Sometimes throughout my college years I would eat in response to stress or depression, ESPECIALLY when I would study for exams. I also discovered I have a massive sweet tooth and often found it difficult to cut back on the sugar!

During the summer of either 2007 or 2008 (I just can’t remember for some reason) I made the decision to give up eating meat. I did this slowly, first only consuming fish and eggs, and eventually letting those go as well. It was something I had thought about since I was about 12 and something I a) wasn’t entirely sure about and b) knew I would never be allowed to do until I was 18 either. I was scared of living without meat (I mean.. honestly, what would I eat? Lettuce?!), but was even MORE disgusted (for both taste/textural reasons and ethical reasons) at the thought of continuing to eat it. So I gave it up.

Over time I slowly transitioned into a vegan diet without even realizing it, because of my progressive inability to digest lactose. Me and dairy are not best friends. I am not severely lactose intolerant. I can still eat cheese and some (small amounts) of ice cream, but things like yogurt and milk will make me sick for days. I would say by about 2010 I was fully vegan and did not find it difficult at all to maintain. By that point in my life I was doing pretty good. I was finishing my degree, had plans for the future, and felt I had finally grown into myself and understood what I wanted out of life.

Then in 2011 my father died, rather unexpectedly. On paper, he died from heart failure. But the heart failure arose from complications brought on by stage three small-cell lung cancer. He died October 20th and had been diagnosed in late July. I didn’t know about it until August that year. I was in grad school at the time. The stress of school, teaching, and watching him die was enough to drive my anxiety beyond my breaking point. I began to use food to compensate for the stress and I ate ALL THE TIME. This point in my life marks the worse period of overeating and binge eating that I have ever experienced… and I am still in the middle of it.

Throughout my early twenties I gained about 30 extra lbs. I suspect part of this is from all the muscle I put on from hiking and field work. Since my father’s death though, I have put on an additional 60-70lbs of weight and am still struggling to get it off.

And so here I am.. present day. It’s now 2015 and I still don’t have much of an idea of how to stop my habits. I suspect that most of my struggle is psychological.. and so I have to start there. But the reality is I am not getting younger and the more I continue to abuse my body with food, the closer I bring myself to obesity-related diseases, such as heart diesease and.. diabetes.. which is extremely common on my Dad’s side of the family – ironically, the same side of the family I take after the most.