My husband and I have a new favorite TV show: CBS’ Elementary. For those of you who haven’t watched it or heard of it, it’s a Sherlock Holmes series set in modern-day New York. If you aren’t very familiar with Sherlock Holmes, although he’s a genius with amazing observation skills, he’s also had issues with drugs in the past. In Elementary, he’s been sober for about a year, but he still struggles with triggers sometimes. In fact, in the finale last week, one of my favorite quotes was (paraphrasing): “I may presently be sober, but I’ll always be an addict.”
These words struck me and became memorable because I am an addict, too. Not a drug addict, thankfully, and I know it sounds silly when there are so many bigger/serious problems one can have, but it’s true: I’m addicted to food.
I have never been officially diagnosed with anything, but I suspect that I could have in the past been diagnosed with a binge/purge disorder (where I would eat anything I want then fast for one-three or more days). Of course, every time I did this I was convinced that the fasting would be a line in the sand that helped me to cross over to eating healthfully from then on, but it never did; I always broke the fast by bingeing again. Most likely I could have been diagnosed with a binge disorder (without the purging) because there are times when I’ll eat and eat and eat even after I’m full just to numb myself or make myself feel better.
Yes, I’m an emotional eater, too. *sigh*
But here’s the thing: unlike Shana and Maisey, who have both written about their past struggles and how they’ve overcome them and who are both SUCH an encouragement to me, I’m not there yet. I struggle every day. I think about food ALL the time; it obsesses me.
You may have seen on this blog or on Facebook if you follow me that I’ve been trying to adopt a plant-based vegan lifestyle for over a year. I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives in January 2012, and it changed a lot of my views on health. (I have since become more sensitive to animal cruelty, but the truth is that health was the main motivation was for me.)
I stopped eating meat in February 2012. I stopped drinking cow’s milk in April 2012. Over Memorial Day weekend in 2012, I binged and went on a free fall until August. For a little less than a month in August-September 2012, I convinced my husband to try to go all-out and be 100% plant-based. It didn’t last, as you can see from the time period above. I have to admit, I wanted the support and encouragement of having the entire family on this journey with me. Not having that happen was really a bummer, and I kind of gave up for a while. Along with other family issues and my mother-in-law’s illness turning for the worst, I took all the comfort from food that I could. I would eat some healthy things, but it wasn’t a commitment. Yes, I felt bad physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as a result of my choices. But in the moment of using food to fill those empty spaces, it didn’t matter.
Finally, things started looking up earlier this year. I made the commitment FOR MYSELF, no matter if anyone joined me or not, to become a plant-based vegan beginning on March 6, 2013. I was convinced that THIS WAS IT. No more quitting, starting over, falling off the wagon, etc. If I indulged, at least it would be in plant-based foods that I made at home.
The most important thing to me was that, even though I still thought about food all the time, I was thinking about HEALTHY food, cooking HEALTHY food, influencing my family to eat HEALTHY food, eating food that was good for me 99% of the time (those indulgences I mentioned above? I didn’t really want them anymore). I didn’t count calories; I ate as much as I wanted until I was no longer hungry. I didn’t deprive myself, but neither did I overeat, either. My body was getting all the nutrients it needed, and I’d never been happier. Honestly. It was such a high for me, especially also because I started going to the gym and was becoming fitter and stronger in that way, too. I was so proud of myself for doing GOOD things for me, for starting to become the person I’ve always wanted to be. And, to be honest, 99% of the recipes I made were delicious!
Then, at my 24 week pregnancy appointment at the end of April (I hadn’t gone to a regular appointment in March, because I had an anatomy ultrasound instead), the nurse practitioner noticed I’d lost 20 pounds since my 16 week appointment. I FELT AWESOME going into the appointment…afterward, not so much. It wasn’t that she didn’t approve of a plant-based diet or that she wasn’t happy that I’d lost weight; it was that I’d lost so much weight in so short a time.
After a couple of days, I had a phone call with a dietician about eating more calories and how to implement that in my daily eating.
At first, I was resistant. I’d been keeping a food journal, and I knew that I was eating enough of a variety of food to get every nutrient I needed—even protein. As I mentioned above, I was in no way depriving myself. When I was hungry, I ate; when I was satisfied, I stopped. It’s funny that for the first time in my life, I was happy with myself when it came to food, eating the healthiest I’ve ever eaten, and I was basically being told to start overeating. The baby was doing fine; he was actually measuring ahead. This had been the easiest pregnancy for me yet; compared to the previous two, my aches and pains were minimal.
Yet, because of those two conversations, I started doubting myself. I started overeating and indulging in plant-based desserts more often. I gained weight, but I became unhappy because I felt like I was falling into the same patterns I had all my life. I stopped going to the gym.
Then, right before Mother’s Day, I became sick. Not vomiting or anything, but seriously all-I-want-to-do-is-sleep-and-sit-on-the-couch sick. This lasted for almost two weeks, and I didn’t want to cook at all. It started out small, but soon I had completely stopped being plant-based and gone all the way to eating meat and cheese and really, really bad-for-you processed and fast foods. Why, you ask? Because I wanted to feel better. Because I didn’t care about my body because I had tried really hard and had been told what I was doing was wrong.
As a result, I’ve gained almost 10 pounds in the last two weeks.
Hello. My name is Elise, and I am a food addict.
Admittedly, some of that is baby weight, but you and I and my doctor all know that 99% of it is just crappy food weight.
So, where do I go from here? I definitely don’t want to continue like this. I HATE this. Even though it feels good in the moment and I can convince myself in the moment that I’ll start eating right again tomorrow, I’ve been down that road before, and it makes me miserable in all aspects of my life.
I’m writing this on Thursday, although you’re reading it on Friday, but tonight we’re traveling to Houston for my mother-in-law’s memorial service. In June we’ll be traveling to North Caroline for the first real vacation we’ve had in 10 years (also our 10th anniversary!). I know it’s not going to be easy to try and find plant-based options on these trips. Everyone around me will be eating whatever the heck they want: typical vacation food.
Then, I’m due in August, although I have a feeling the baby will come a week or two early. There’s not that much time from when we get back from our vacation to the due date. Why try to be healthy again? Why not just start again after I have the baby?
Guys, I’m so SICK of this pattern. I’m so SICK of using non-healthy food as self-medication. I’m so SICK of giving up control of my body and my health for that short-lived rush of “treating” myself, when it actually makes me feel even worse.
So, here’s my promise to you. This morning (yesterday now), I had cereal w/nondairy milk for breakfast (of course WonderGirl wanted some, too ;). You are my accountability. When I go home for lunch, when I eat dinner at the airport tonight, when I’m gone to Texas this weekend, I’m going to be eating healthy, plant-based foods. I’m not going to take the easy way out. I’m not going to doubt myself. I will undoubtedly lose some weight when I weigh in at my next doctor’s appointment because I’ll be eating healthy again, but I’ll happily do as much as I can to make sure this baby inside me is growing as he’s supposed to and getting nutrients from living food instead of nothing from dead, processed food.
I will not doubt myself again. Aside from a number on the scale that freaked out my doctor’s office, my body was happy and healthier than ever before. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I had never felt better.
So, as I end with this promise, here is my acknowledgement as to what this post is about (in case you were wondering). I know I’m not the only one out there with these issues. You may not decide to embrace a plant-based lifestyle, but you may be struggling with trying to eat healthier and taking control of your body and your life.
There may be ups and downs, but if you keep getting up, if you keep trying, those down periods will get shorter or shorter. We may be food addicts, but we have the power to choose whether to be “sober” or not. Others may not understand the constant struggle we face, and so we might try to trivialize it to ourselves, but you and I both know how important this is to all aspects of our lives. Forgive yourself when you fail, but don’t give up that hope and commitment, either.
Here on PBK, we try to focus on the truth that you should love yourself just the way you are. I’m not trying to undermine that truth with this post. For me, from past experience of making both bad choices and good choices, I know the only way I CAN love myself, the way I show love to myself, is by treating myself right.
So here it goes.
Next week, Part II of Loving Myself and how we influence our children with our choices, from my personal point-of view.
I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (2, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 9 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com