December 28, 2011

Falling trees

Last year, as I headed home for the holidays, I was a ball of anxiety. I'd been doing so well with my weight loss - down about 75 or 80 pounds - and had a killer routine of eating well, hitting the gym, and blogging daily. I was nervous about being back in an environment that not only had me apart from my healthy habits, but was the birthplace and breeding ground for the unhealthy habits that made me 23 and 345 pounds.

I made a very detailed plan - running maps, a little notebook for tracking my food, and even a list of the healthiest possible food choices at any of a dozen restaurants my family was likely to eat at. In spite of my good intentions, the allure of Christmastime-only things that my mother cooked (and some pressure from my family) was too much, and I indulged - within reason. I still worked out, still ran, and ate well every day except Christmas eve/day, and was able to return to Chicago and log a loss.

This year, I was oddly not nervous - my family dynamic has changed entirely, and there wasn't supposed to be a big feast. While the holiday itself was scaled back incredibly, the house is still filled with an abundance of a lot of foods that I do not typically eat or even trust myself to keep in the house - namely, refined carbs. Since moving to California and making close observations of my food patterns, I have remarked that eating processed snacks and refined carbs (like bread, crackers, and pasta) tends to trigger me into overdoing it with snacking. Perhaps because I like to get "the most" out of my calories and would rather have an apple or a banana and 25 grapes than 6 Triscuit crackers, or a few ounces of chicken breast and some veggies than a few ounces of pasta - fruits, veggies, and protein just fill me up more, and that feeling of comfortable fullness is important to me - not stuffed, but satisfied. Bread, pasta, cereal, etc., just don't do that for me.

I would like to be able to control my portions with them someday, but I can only reasonably work on one issue at a time. Right now, as a recovering binge/compulsive eater, it's easier for me to abstain and try to get my weight under control. When it comes to carbs, I'm like an addict ... one is too many, a thousand will never be enough.

Resisting trigger foods can be easy when I am on my own - especially when I'm focused on how lucky and how truly blessed I am instead of fixating on short-term problems like job and relationship stresses. But what I hadn't counted on with this trip back was being faced with the reality of my family situation, and all the emotions that came with that. I haven't been on the East Coast since this time last year; all of the changes here happened while I was away. It's been very difficult, and as an emotional eater, I've made my share of bad food decisions - both in terms of quality and quantity. It's a very poor excuse for actions inconsistent with the ones I know I need to be taking in order to obtain my goals. But in the moment, as I feel myself being overwhelmed and my heart being overtaken with anxiety, grief, and all the emotions I don't adequately deal with while living over 3000 miles away, it becomes easier to give in to old habits, to seek the familiar comfort of a carb crash.

I'll be heading back to Chicago tomorrow, and returning to California two days after that, and to be honest, I am not quite sure what to expect when I step back on the scale. I know how I look, how I feel, and how my clothes fit. But the number itself is unknown to me. There's no scale here, and as a daily weigher, that's been another challenge. Terrible pun aside, I need to find a happy balance for me with the scale. When I weigh daily, it can sometimes be discouraging. But when I don't weigh at all, I tend to feel like I am not in control of the situation. It's almost as if I don't trust my body to keep working unless I am constantly checking up on it's progress in this one measurable way. Sort of like "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" - if I eat well and stay active but don't weigh myself daily, will I still lose weight?

What about you? How do you stay in control of binge/compulsive eating urges while dealing with family stress at the holidays? How often do you weigh yourself? Any recovering daily weighers - how did you divorce yourself from the scales, so to speak?