Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why a Blog? Am I Totally Crazy?

Well, yes, I guess I am. My friend says she feels a garage sale is like inviting people to look in your underwear drawer & that's how I feel about this blog. It's the equivalent of Wynonna Judd & Kirstie Alley going on Oprah baring their weight loss antics only to either not lose the weight or gaining it all back. How terrifying! So why am I doing this?

Many reasons, really. But here are a few:

1) I started a new weight loss program & am succeeding so far but find that without food, my day is boring and a bit hard to bear. I think focusing on my goal, writing my thoughts as I go through this process and remembering where I've been & where I want to go is going to be a productive use of time.

2) I feel more committed to the process by blogging about it.

3) I've been fascinated by the journey thus far & thought someone might also find some gems in my years of counseling and reading. Let me spend the money & you can reap the benefits.

4) If I can succeed, maybe I can help others as well.

So that's it, really. "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams" - Yeats

"I Want it Now" sings Wendy "Varuca Salt" Place

Yes, I have watched quite a bit of Willy Wonka in my babysitting years. And it seems it bled into my subconscious a bit too much since my Child Wendy was firmly in control. How do I possibly take control back from a 300 lb, 40 year old unruly child?

I began by writing all the things that I used to like to do when I was younger. Swim, ride a bike, be artistic, crochet, play with friends, play piano, and EAT JUNK. Then I looked at the list and asked myself, "Which of these things would still be of interest to you?" and "Which of these things are you allowing yourself to do?" and the only one that I consistently allowed myself is EAT JUNK. I found that I was always telling myself that I didn't have time or energy to do the fun things that I could do to fill my time. No wonder I ate so much junk - it was the only thing that my Parent & Child could agree on.

So I had to begin working on a more adult version of my "fun" and "allowable" activities and I tried to start integrating them into my everyday life. Including singing aloud to songs in the car. Since I was very little my brother would never "allow" me to sing aloud to songs. "I can hear your lips moving", I would hear even if I tried to mouth the words. So I had to overcome the urge to stop myself & I began singing aloud in the car to songs - much to the enjoyment of Emily my daughter. Also, instead of cringing when Kurt would sing aloud, I tried joining in & found it was much more fun (unless of course, it's Norah Jones - that's just sacrilege). Amazing how the little things can add so much enjoyment to your day.

What I still struggled with was the food addiction. Despite the advances I had made, it was still an addiction that I couldn't control most of the time. I was doing better and could make "better" choices but I still "needed" food to help me cope throughout the day.

How to overcome addiction - the age old question . . .

Listening . . .

So now I have the many voices of Wendy to listen to & I have found that I was missing some very important voices that I would need to "Stop the Insanity". Where to begin? I had to first start listening to what was actually being said. And start identifying who was saying it. For a while I actually tried naming them to help sort out what was going on - always the organizer - even in the face of craziness. And then I very consciously began cultivating the Nurturing Parent voice. I had to start by cultivating the Adult voice by taking the judgment away and the "I want" away and try to develop more of "It is what it is". As the Adult Wendy began to come through, I then could move towards, "What would the Nurturer in me want for me?".

I had to visualize someone that I thought of as a nurturing, calm, loving mother and I tried to emulate her. And eventually I did pull out of myself a more calm, non-judgmental, rational Wendy. It's taken many years but I find it interesting when I hear from my friends, "Wendy, what's happened to you? You never would have put up with that in the past." I strive to be gentle with myself & others even though I'm a pretty judgmental person. So I still have the critical voice, but I hear it & then try to temper it with "Yes, but . . ." and then think of something that is more kind. For example, "That person is so unkind & awful. They treat people horribly." "Yes, but look at how hard they work. They give up every weekend to be in volunteer service. We all can be used for what we have to offer & we have to overlook the negative and appreciate the good." One that I like to use is, "They are like onions, as we peel back the layers it's more & more stinky & they make us cry, but it's also one of the more healthy foods. Look at the big picture."

I found it interesting what a strong shift I had made over the past few years. I have always loved the Myers Briggs personality test. It was one of the first things that helped explain me and how I related to others. It also helped me learn how to bridle my tongue a bit more & why not everyone valued my opinions as much as I did. One of the questions is "Which is more valuable - Justice or Mercy?" I had always answered Justice. And when I looked at the test more recently I answer Mercy. Justice is so one-sided, unless you're God making the judgment. But Mercy can be shown every day to everyone around us.

I think one of the experiences in my life that shifted this belief was a friend (we'll call her Jane) that had been partially responsible for the "death" of a young man. She couldn't look at or speak with the mother of this boy because she felt so responsible and guilt ridden. The mother suffers from depression and is known to be a critical and harsh woman. One evening Jane opened the door to find the mother on the other side & Jane burst out in tears. The mother hugged her and told her that she didn't blame her and it wasn't her fault and that she should forgive herself for what had happened. To this day it makes me cry thinking about what an amazing gift she gave to Jane. For all the harshness this mother had shown to some people and for all the judgmental things I have heard spoken about her, I just remember the mercy she showed and she's an example to me of kindness.

I recently read the book (skimmed really - a bit too esoteric for me), "Excuses Begone" by Wayne Dyer and he talks about "Conversing with your subconscious mind" & I have to admit, it made me feel a bit more sane. It really is a step to coming out of strongly entrenched ideas and patterns.

So now I'm more in touch with my many selves and I'm trying to nurture myself, how do I handle this unruly child?

Multiple Personality Disorder - The Many Faces of Wendy

One of the most interesting things that I discovered in my journey to losing weight is that there are many of me. (I once saw a counselor that suggested I try to remember things in my early childhood & I mentioned my concern to my friend Kim "What happens if I develop multiple personality disorder?". She calmed my fears by saying, "Wendy, do you really think you're going to allow anyone else to be in control?" Too funny!!)

But in actuality, I do have conversations in my head where I am in conflict with myself. I mentioned earlier how I would be driving for a frosty while chanting in my head, "I don't want this. . ." I just didn't understand at the time that there was a MUCH stronger voice saying, "I NEED TO HAVE THIS." Once I understood that there was another voice to be heard that was actually controlling many of my actions, I had to take time to get to know the other Wendy. In fact, it was this Wendy that was in control for the past 15 years, since I had gotten sick.

Let me back up a bit - one of my previous counselors had explained the Parent Adult Child model to me & it explained quite a bit of what had been happening. The basics of what I can remember is that we all have at least 3 voices in us - the Parent is our authorative voice. It can be either Nurturing or Critical - for me, I would hear things like, "What's wrong with you?" "Why do you keep doing this?" "Why can't you learn from your mistakes?" "Knock it off!" Then there is the Adult - this voice is like the computer that processes information and circumstances - non-judgmental, rational, logical, and can be very assertive, when tapped into. This is called our "ideal self". And then there is the Child - this voice is unaware, emotional, vulnerable, selfish, and not concerned with the outcome. In me it sounded like, "I deserve this." "I don't care." "Take care of me." "So what?" "I want a treat."

Once I heard about this model it explained so much of what I had been experiencing for so long. In my pre-marriage years my Adult (Critical Adult) had been in control - I was very ambitious, had to finish what I started, tried to take on everything & do everything, was very judgmental with myself and others, I thought of myself as a type A personality. (Do y'all remember her?) But then I got sick & I physically couldn't keep up with that voice. I tried but it was impossible so my child came out in full force. What I didn't realize is that I never developed a Nurturing Adult so the only voice I had to handle "self-care" was my child. So I did what I wanted, when I wanted and didn't do what I didn't want to do. I had a horrible time MAKING myself do anything. Not only did this effect my weight but my house was a disaster, my bills went unpaid, I had a hard time working. Believe me, living with the child in charge is not conducive to a productive grown up life. Looking back, it would have been more fun if I had travelled and bought a boat and chose to be a child in this manner, but instead I ate and slept ALL THE TIME. Not too fun really.

So I had to begin the journey of integrating the Many Faces of Wendy into a productive, softer version of my former self . . .

Preparing Myself

It's been a long road to this place. I feel like I've been preparing for a marathon for the past 4 years, even longer really, more like 8 years now & it's time to run.

A little about what has led up to this point - in 1990 I was about 150 lbs., working out 3 times a week, burning the candle at both ends & about to get engaged to Kurt. I was a size 10/12. I ended up getting the basic cold sore virus & it sent my body into a tail spin that I haven't gotten out of in 19 years. I developed chronic fatigue and gained about 100 lbs. in the first year. Some of the weight gain was the change of lifestyle and the illness & A LOT of it was due to my developing a serious food addiction. I would eat to try to comfort myself every day.

Once I hit 300 lbs. I decided I had better stop gaining weight. This happened probably by 1999. I joined several weight loss programs, tried to create support groups amongst my friends, read several books, went to hospital sponsored educational events and saw many different counselors. I literally felt crazy in how I was behaving towards food. I didn't understand how I could want something so much in my mind & be so unable to control the actions of my body. I would think all the way to Wendy's to buy the frosty "I don't want this. I don't want this. I don't want this." & yet I would drive there, buy it & eat it. I couldn't even begin to understand what was happening. All the counseling and reading began a basic understanding what was happening and then my husband & I decided to have kids.

In 2002 my daughter was born. Thankfully, I dropped the weight that I had gained with her & settled to about 320. Then in 2005 I gave birth to twin boys. Again, I dropped back down to 325 a few months after their birth & have stayed there for 4 years.

The most meaningful and life changing process was done with Ellen Shuman with A Weigh Out Coaching ( in 2006 after the twins were born. Let me back up - I was watching Oprah one day & James Frey was on that had written "A Million Little Pieces" and he talked about addiction and he mentioned food addiction in the sentence. Up until now I had "poo pooed" the idea that there was such a thing as food addiction - but hearing him describe his addiction really made me think that I too suffered from addiction. So I googled food addiction/emotional eating and ended up on Ellen's site & after checking her out, decided to work with her. I was so angry that none of the counselors that I had seen up until now had never mentioned food addiction or even opened up the notion that this existed.

So working with Ellen for about a year 1) helped me understand food addiction/emotional eating 2) helped me through a very difficult bout of post partum depression 3) helped save my marriage. But it didn't help me lose weight - at least not yet. There was still a bunch of internal work to be done. . . .