Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Change is A-Brewin Ms. Geneen Roth

Hi Geneen,

No, we've never met. But yes, I love you! I'm guessing this isn't the first time a stranger has told you that!

About a month ago my therapist recommended I purchase your book, When Food is Love, and journal whatever came to mind as I read it. She said there was no hurry to read it, that it might take me weeks to get through depending on how much journaling was triggered. It worked out well because my son was in Brazil with my ex-husband at the time and my work schedule was light, so I hunkered down in my bed and read, wrote, got mad, got sad and cried until I started to feel some relief from it all. Since then I've picked up, Feeding the Hungry Heart, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair, and Why Weight? and these days seem to go everywhere with one of your books and my journal.

Only once before have I kept a journal. My mom bought it for me when I was 12 and encouraged me to use it. So I did. But only when I was mad at my parents or when I liked a boy. And then she read it. And cried. So I never kept one again, just in case. But I have found that I love having this new, adult journal because painful feelings no longer have to grow in me, I can just let them out on paper as soon as they bug me and then they lose their power.

Funny Side-note: One day I was writing in said journal while reading your book and going potty. (As I mentioned, I go everywhere with the two.) When I was done I set them down on the side of the vanity and went on my merry way. Awhile later my fiance came in to shower and accidentally dropped the journal in the toilet. He brought the wet book to me, his face filled with guilt and fear was enough of a confession. "Was there anything in the toilet?" I accusingly questioned. Thankfully he answered, "No." I didn't see the humor in it at the time and declared, "I need a nap!" then huffed off to bed. But later on, the thought of how scared of me he probably was when it dropped in made me giggle uncontrollably! And as my therapist pointed out, "It is fitting because that journal is full of all the shit you're trying to get rid of. It belongs in the toilet!"

In any case, I am writing for two reasons. The first is to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences with such an open heart. The second is to tell you a funny experience I had while trying to incorporate the guidelines you suggest in your books.

So, for the first order of business: THANK YOU! Until I was introduced to you I always said the only eating disorder from which I suffered was from knowing way too much about food. My parents put my skinny butt on my first official diet (Diet Center) when I was about 8. (I look at my 8-year old son and think, "I couldn't have made him suck down hot water with lemon if I tried.) Ever since it has been one diet to the next. Whatever it was (counting fat and calories, eliminating sugar & gluten, focusing on green leafy vegetables, eating carbs and protein separately, etc) I knew all the rules and would follow them with perfection until I couldn't anymore. (Sound familiar?!)

I remember going to a celebrity nutritionist when I lived in Los Angeles in hopes of maintaining my post Phen/Fen body since the FDA had recently banned it from the marketplace. (What's a hole in the heart matter when you're thin!?) Plus, I'd gained about 10 pounds and my parents went nuts and were, once again, willing to pay any price for me to "fix" me. (Mind you I was 26 and already married at this point.) In any case, I religiously followed his crazy rules for six months. Then one day in December when I went in for my weekly check-up (where he'd look into my eyes and analyze my saliva in order to determine progress - huh?) I mentioned how hard it was not to cheat during the holiday season because there were treats everywhere I looked. He said, "You can cheat."

I replied with shock, "I can?"

"Sure, Cameron Diaz cheats all the time. She loves beer and pizza."

I left his office thinking, "Then hell yeah I'm gonna cheat!" Images of all the goodies I'd been missing came into my head. The idea of a day free of air popped popcorn - that at one point felt like decadence - seemed so enticing. The next thing I knew I was filling myself with green and red holiday wrapped Hershey Kisses. I'm not even sure if I liked them at the time, but I know I don't now. And that was that. I got pregnant a few months later, gained close to 100 pounds and really have never lost the weight. I just couldn't go on a diet again.

Which leads right back to my self-diagnosed eating disorder of Knowing Too Much. I'd open the cupboard or fridge and stare, literally not being able to choose something to eat due to all the conflicting philosophies I'd learned over the years banging up against one another in my head. I got in a habit of not eating until 3 and then, because I'd been so "disciplined" all day I'd splurge on whatever was easy, carb-loaded and close by. Obviously that didn't work out well for me.

Last year a wonderful nutritionist, Jennifer Adler of Realize Health, started to get me on the right track with regards to this dilemma. She explained that if I ate SOMETHING! ANYTHING! throughout the day (aka known as Avoid Starving Self) my blood sugar wouldn't drop so drastically and I wouldn't feel the need to binge in the afternoon. Around the same time my sweet endocrinologist, Matthew Davies, in an attempt to balance my glycemic index, said I don't care what you choose, just make sure to eat a carb and a protein for every meal. He then asked me to name a carb and a protein. You should have seen my twisted face as I tried to answer his EASY question. "Well, rice is a carb, but I know I shouldn't eat white rice because it turns to sugar in my body so I guess Kashi rice is . . . "

"Did I tell you to choose a fancy rice?" he bellowed. Well, maybe he didn't bellow, but he was kinda shocked and frustrated with how hard I was making it. "If you want white rice, then eat white rice."

Yet, my story still plows through some more sugar and gluten free days, a fast here and there, confusion, guilt and feelings of failure and even MORE WEIGHT GAIN until my therapist introduced me to you.

It takes some faith to trust in your process, but what you suggest and explain make so much sense. Especially when I watch my son's eating patterns. Guess what! He only eats when he's hungry! Huh? What? Why would he do that? And when he has a tantrum (some bigger, some smaller) he simply lets the anger, frustration or sadness out. Interesting approach!

With my November wedding approaching I admit I get a little anxious about suddenly experimenting with donuts, Pringles, Doritos, cookies, CHEESE, chocolate milk, etc! But more often than not I'm drawn to meals like arugula with tomatoes and olive oil or my famous roasted chicken and broccoli so I'm sure it'll all work out. Take yesterday as an example. For lunch we ate grilled steak, fresh corn, baked potatoes and a yummy salad. For dinner, on the flip side, my son and I sorted out a brand-new box of Lucky Charms into piles of "yum-yums" (marshmallows) and "yuck-yucks" (regular cereal) and ate only the yum-yums with no milk. We had so much fun analyzing the cereal situation and it was such a luxury to eat a handful of those delectable marshmallows at one time! (By the way, if you're ever in contact with General Mills please tell them we suggest a Pot of Charms which consists of only yum-yums, because no one really wants the yuck-yucks, right? Except maybe my nephew. Apparently he's just a yuck-yuck kinda guy.)

So, again, thank you from the bottom of my calmer, less conflicted heart. In just one month, because of your books, I am such a happier person.

Now, onto the funny story.

Last week after getting my haircut in downtown Seattle I was walking to pick up my car at the valet where I'd parked. I had only a few minutes to get over to another appointment but I was starving! I tell myself that you'd want me to eat just exactly what I want, but what to choose? It needed to be quick because I didn't have much time so I opted for an apple fritter (!) from the Nordstrom coffee cart. (I made a conscious choice not to get a latte though because I wasn't in the mood. Cool!) I can't say apple fritter choices come easily, but I'm getting better at it. I continued on my way to my car, holding the fritter in the little white baggy the barrista'd put it in, thinking about how hungry I was and how good the fritt would taste when I finally ate it ALONE. IN MY CAR. Ooh. I hadn't even realized I was a closet eater until this moment. Suddenly it occurred to me that I really only eat comfortably in front of my son and fiance but otherwise edit. (Maybe because so many of my friends and family have a habit of saying some variation of, "Did anyone notice that I chose not to order the bagel with my breakfast?" when we go out to eat. Even though I've always answered, "No, but I did take notice of what I ordered," I learned that many assume that others watch what they eat, leading me to believe they also watch what I eat. This makes the fat girl in me feel judged and uncomfortable.)

"OK, Jen," I tell myself as I wait for my car to be brought around. "I know it is a challenge but you've got to try to eat this fritter in public." I'm grossly aware of the strangers around me (4 valet clustered together, immersed in conversation. Two guys and a girl, smoking cigarettes ((Oops, look at me judging them!)) while waiting for their car. People walking in and out of the mall.) and amazingly, for some self-absorbed reason, I figure they actually care about me and my fritter. Still, I timidly pull the fritter out of the bag and pull off a sweet piece of crispy, fried goodness and take a bite. I tuck the fritter back into its baggy while I chew. "OK. Good girl. You did it! That wasn't so bad, right?"

And then thud. All eyes, including mine, turn to see what the loud noise was. And on the ground, surrounding my adorably clad feet, lay frosty bits of apple fritter because the little white baggy the flippin barrista had chosen to package my momentous meal had NO BOTTOM! Seriously?! Couldn't my first Eating Out in Public Party have gone off a little more discreetly? Are you wondering what I did? Can you guess?

With faked calm and indifference, I picked up the biggest chunk of the damn fritter still in tact, stuck it into the trick baggy, got into my car, drove off and ate it (in private, dammit) anyway. I was HUNGRY!

My fiance and I rolled with laughter as I told him the story. "Atta girl!" he shouted! Then he continuously re-enacted the scene with my character reaching guiltily down each time for the fritter while saying, "5 second rule! 5 second rule!"

Well, I will stop now! I wish you all the very, very best. You are an angel right here on earth, helping more people everyday than you probably even realize.

Best Wishes,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi : )
You are shopping on line or in-store? which usually do you prefer? truly wondering lol.. i prefer in-store because i don't really like waiting for it to arrive!