I’d like to use this post to demonstrate some of my problem solving. It’s something that i can use as good evidence that i’ve learned and changed as a result of all the personal, inner work i’ve done. It shows that what i’m doing is working.

Alcohol is high calorie, and they’re empty ones at that (“empty,” meaning having little or no nutritional value). When i’m on a bender, the calories i consume come primarily from that source. Outside of that, because i’m often incapable of cooking, i eat junk and fast food. My family still has to eat, so my husband will grab some takeaway after work. I used to refuse most of it, but recently, as i’ve been listening to my body and allowing myself to feel physical sensations, i’m hungry more often, and more intensely. That includes when i’m switched and/or binge-drinking. Add in my history, which includes a lifetime of serious food/eating/body image issues, and you’ve got weight gain. These last 2 go-rounds have cost me.
<insertughslashsighslashwhimperhere>

When i sobered up and detoxed this last time, i finally noticed that the pounds had been creeping back on. I’m not sure how many, because i don’t weigh myself, but experience plus the way my clothes fit gives me a decent idea. I go with general ball-parking to avoid obsession, which is always a possibility when i’m dealing with food. It was my anaesthesia of choice before weight loss surgery and mania turned my attention to alcohol.
I knew the first thing to do was ask myself, Why am i eating compulsively again?

I have a notion that it has to do with this work of reestablishing my brain-body connection. I would be given food as a reward and have it withheld as a punishment. I would be starved simply out of neglect. I would be abused by being forced to eat burned, frozen, or spoiled food. My mother modeled sick eating behaviours, and eventually ate her way up to what i’d estimate to be around 650-700lbs. I’ve written about all of this at length and in great detail before, so i’ll leave it at that. I reiterate to make this point: my system is full of hungry children, and my body hosts memories of starving.

There are things that my system particularly craves, like meat, junk food, and fast food. These were things that my mother never went without, but were regularly denied me. She’d eat them in front of me, but more often, she’d wait until i was in bed. I had a nose and i wasn’t stupid, so i knew what was happening. Probably my system’s favourite thing is a sandwich. I think it’s because i almost never had a lunch for school. She wouldn’t make me one, and there was regularly nothing to make a proper lunch with, so i went without. And i had to watch all the other children with their neat little, nutritionally sound lunches packed by their moms, or see them with enough money in their pockets to go buy something to eat. Some days, it was nothing short of torture.

Now, after a hard switch, especially if it’s more than a few hours, they eat, and they hide and hoard food, too. Once i’m back in the face, i might open a drawer or pull back my bed pillow, and find some food stashed there. They hide food because they’re afraid of starving, and they particularly want to hoard the foods that i was denied as a child. This has happened my whole life, and was a source of fear and shame. Before my MPD/DID diagnosis, i couldn’t understand what was going on; i would find the food, throw it out, and dissociate from what happened immediately. Once i had the information that i was multiple and was losing time and could filter my memories through that, it became obvious what was going on. Over the last 6+mos or so, the behaviour has reemerged and escalated, and i’ve been finding food everywhere. My family also informs me (because i want to know) that my parts will cook a big batch of meat and consume it, from steak to SPAM. My system and my body both, remember my history with food.

It can take awhile for me to mark a weight loss or gain. I see myself a certain way and it’s like my mind locks on that version. I think it’s so i don’t have to connect to what i’m seeing in the mirror, i.e. it affords me some distance and facilitates dissociation. It’s like having the same profile pic for 6mos and then i realise i don’t look like that anymore, say, i’ve changed my hair colour or gotten new glasses. These last months i’ve been working on being kinder to my body –the things i say in my brain about my body can be vicious– trying to be more appreciative of how well it has served me over my lifetime, despite all it’s been through. I chase every acid statement with a realistic one, e.g. You’re in your 50s and were morbidly obese for many years – cut yourself a break. What i’m trying to get around to is, i’m more aware of my body than ever before, and this time around it only took around 10lbs for me to notice i was gaining, instead of my usual 30, 40, 50. (I use “usual” lightly though, as i’ve never been much of a yo-yoer when it comes to weight gain. I’d go slowly and steadily up. The only time i lost weight quickly was after weight loss surgery. I got down to a healthy size only twice before that: once in junior high, and the other time when i was 27. I had a bit to lose yet both of those times, but i’d get scared and eat my way back up.)

But here i am, noticing, and more quickly. That’s because of therapy and a firm commitment to mindfulness and being more present and conscious of my surroundings and situation in the moment. And now that i have noticed and i’m in problem-solving mode, an awesome thing happens.
Without much effort or angst – i get to solving the problem.

I’ve tried most diets and programs and methods. I know how my body responds to food and i know how my brain reacts to particular foods and consuming behaviours, like overeating and secret eating and over consumption of foods i was denied and/or manipulated with as a child… I’m saying i’ve got this, and i know it. I’ve amassed a rather large hill’s worth of good information on nutrition and physiology. I won’t be sharing specifics – i’m of the (very likely) heavily biased opinion that these issues are complicated AF and full of nuance and can trigger obsession and self-hatred in many. This blog is never gonna be a how-to, it’s only here to offer hope that you might suss out and survive your own path, as i have mine.
So yeah, after all this time, energy, and effort spent on figuring out this aspect of my life – i knew exactly what to do. So i’ve just gotten at it.

I’m 2wks out from my last fall. I don’t know when, or even if there’ll be another.
The day i got back at it, and for days after, i wrestled with all the thoughts and feels that come along with weight gain, and not being where i want to be with my physical body. I can look at myself with what i call “fat eyes”. My vision is not accurate, my eyes send the information it gathers to my brain, and my brain (a brilliant wonder of an organ that is my blessing and my curse, and my sometimes unwilling but always hardworking partner in healing what can be, and duct-taping, gluing, or stapling the rest) paints it with a fresh coat of old issues from a sticky old can, the label thick with layers of dried spills. The colour echoes its subtleties, like breath on a steamed up mirror, and i hear their faded and fading admonishments.
But i’m not convicted of any crime anymore. The charges don’t stick and the mirror clears up and i see myself clearly.

I don’t buy the hopelessness anymore. The fear that i’ve carried all my life is falling away, and as it does, so my need for protection, both figurative and literal, melts off my body – as long as i keep moving forward and allowing it to happen. I will acknowledge the fear of being smaller and more societally attractive as it happens, in real time, and see it for what it is, which is NOT ABOUT ME, nor is it the place at which i handle my lifelong battle with self hatred. One foot in front of the other, on the road with my dogs, on the treadmill with a podcast in my ears, in the kitchen preparing a meal, in front of the mirror, deciding what to wear and what colours to paint on my face. See what’s in front of me, acknowledge what i’m dealing with, and make healthy choices based in the now.

I’m not that adolescent girl anymore, the one who cried herself to sleep at night, while begging god to let her wake up the next morning slim and shapely. I’m no longer completely disgusted by my body, and i don’t view it as my enemy. I don’t feel trapped and claustraphobic inside my own skin. I’ve let go of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations regarding what i can achieve with a healthy weight and fitness level.

I know why i put on weight. It’s understandable and i know what to do. I’m no longer interested in diets and programs, and i give every new guru that comes along a wide berth. I’m invested in long term, sustainable change. I’ve stumbled many times, and i keep getting back up, and faster than last time too, thank me very much. This is my path, this is the process. I notice that i’ve tripped on something, i figure out what it is, and i handle it. I know myself so well at this point that i can usually avoid the complete devastation that used to come with each new bit of knowledge or insight. Ten pounds is progress, man. Ten pounds ain’t nothin’.

I’m settling back into healthy routines that i’ve slowly and carefully established over years of therapy and self-exploration, through an accumulation of experience and education. Two weeks in and, while i’m a bit impatient to see results, i can hang on without white-knuckling, because i know results are forthcoming. I’ve been 2wks in the face, with a minimum of sliding around and no switching at all. I’m babystepping my way back to a higher level of functionality. My mood is still low, but as with my weight gain, i know what it’s about and i know what to do. Stay the course. Keep on truckin’. Hang in there.

I hope you’re able to do the same.

Peace and Love,
~H~

IMAGE: Alexander Kaunas

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