Hey, all! Hope you are having a fulfilling holiday season. As 2018 wraps up, I thought I’d do the same with a reflective piece, then I’m spending the rest of the day working on my newest teen novel, a contemporary (realistic) fiction story.
2018: The Physical/Emotional/Mental Stuff–and isn’t it all that, pretty much???
My physical/mental/emotional transformation actually began before 2018 started, and if I had to trace a seed that was planted, it was when I co-wrote a book called Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD. The book came out on 12/14/2018, but I began writing it with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko in summer of 2016. One of the storylines in it is of a woman named Felicia, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse/sexual assault, who has coped with her pain through Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I’ll let you read the book to get Felicia’s full story, but suffice it to say that I came to realize how much I’d relapsed as I wrote Felicia’s experience of BED, her trepidation about being honest about it: her revelation–real, honest, authentic exposure of how she was using food as a drug, and experience of Dr. Matt (the character based on Dr. Jaremko) recommending Leora Fulvio’s book, Reclaiming Youself From Binge Eating Disorder, (which I read along with Felicia), I had to face harsh truths that I’d been lying to myself again, because it felt so awful and shameful to admit it: I had slipped, fallen, slid, and now actively wallowed in a puddle of my binge foods on my back, like a tortoise trying to right itself on its shell.
I have body dysmorphia, so what I see in the mirror is not necessarily reflective of reality, so I didn’t realize how big I had gotten until I saw pics of myself.
When I was in eating disorder relapse, what I saw in the mirror depended on how much shame I was feeling about how I ate the day before. (I know, I know…. they call it mental illness for a reason, mmkay? That’s one area of my life I am no more ashamed of than if I had some other disease like epilepsy or something like that. Nothing to be ashamed of.)
I won’t rewrite my entire post, When I Made Up My Mind, that started this journey, but you can go read it if you want.
I had gastric sleeve surgery on my 52nd birthday in early March, but I began in October 2017 to eat the way I learned I would need to eat after I had the sleeve, which is an emphasis on “protein & produce.” The 2 “P’s.” That’s the key. Other “keys” I learned in the education program prior to having the surgery included: 10 & 10– which means– at every meal, try to get at least 10 grams of protein and LESS than 10 grams of sugar. Other “number-y” tools include: 30 & 30: don’t drink anything 30 minutes prior to or after eating (although I’m not a really good adherent on this one–but I try, I try!), and:
64: minimum # ounces of fluid intake per day ( I usually get much more than that; more like 140 or so).
80: minimum # of protein grams per day (I usually get over 100, which is good, because it helps with not losing as much hair as one otherwise might. Rapid weight loss means you lose strands of hair at a greater rate than you normally would. I have really fine hair anyway but I think the hair loss is slowing to normal now. For awhile it was, “Holy cow!”–but still nothing like other people have had. Plus I take a biotin supplement every day.)
Some surgeons recommend a certain # of carbs per day, but mine does not.
Which brings us to another slew of numbers– what I take every day so I do not become malnourished:
3: Three calcium supplements per day (chewable, with Vitamin D)….
2: Two chewable multivitamins per day….
1: One meltable B12 supplement per day
1: One meltable Biotin.
I’m always asked how many calories I eat per day. At the beginning, most people can’t get in more than 400 calories a day, then it’s about 700, and now I take in between 1000-1200 calories a day. From what I understand, the very low count at the start is in part due to the swelling of the stomach, which is only 15% of what it once was. It’s now the shape of a skinny banana. Some people fear “stretching their pouch” and I’ve read conflicting things about this– but if one follows the rules and pays attention to “full signals,” it’s supposed to keep its small size. (No carbonation allowed– I actually gave up Diet Coke, y’all! My last Diet Coke was 12/23/2017– and I was so addicted to it that I guess I remember that date like an alcoholic remembers giving up booze… I also have not had caffeine since January 2018. Giving up tea was NOT easy but I drink a lot of Crystal Light Green Tea which is caffeine free.)
On a day where I eat more, it might be like 1280 calories a day–and that would be a day when I work out plus clean my whole house or do a lot of other physical stuff. The breakdown between protein/carbs/fat percentages usually works out to about 40 protein/30 carbs/30 fat, but it can vary and some days the carb intake is a little higher, but that’s unusual.
I track my daily food, liquid, & exercise on an app called Baritastic. I don’t worry about liquid intake tracking being precise like I did at the start, though, because I drink water throughout the day and am careful to stay hydrated.
I work out 6 days a week, starting out with 15-17 minutes on an elliptical (I try to go up on the resistance by 1 point per week, because I am working on strengthening my hip muscles to help support a partially torn tendon I have–the pain from that was also a motivator for losing weight because I realized I was in so much pain when I walked that I was waddling). Then I move to the stationery recumbent bike for 45 minutes (that’s my writing time, too– I have a “surf shelf” that attaches to the dashboard of the bike that I strap my laptop onto.) I take Sundays off, usually don’t get out of my pajamas, and write all day as much as possible, anything I want to write (including blog posts like this one), but usually I work on my current manuscript. I LOVE SUNDAYS!!!
When I’m working (I am a teacher), I get up to work out at 4 A.M. Mon-Fri. so I have time to feed our menagerie & give them their medications, drink a protein shake (I take all my meds/vitamins with it, because I take meds for stuff unrelated to being a bariatric patient), and generally wake up enough to get started on the elliptical no later than 5:10 A.M.
There are days I do not want to exercise, but usually I wake up looking forward to the “me” time–the “writing time”–because it touches a part of my soul that nothing else does. It’s very, very satisfying to know that I’ve made progress on my manuscript + done something positive for my hip recovery + started out my day by activating endorphins that help me cope with a stressful job.
All this work–this tracking, exercising, food choices, mindfulness, and perseverance are paying off. I’ve lost 92 pounds at this writing, gone from a size 18 to a 5, gone down one shoe size, and I no longer limp/waddle, I don’t have sleep apnea anymore, I work out daily (well…6 days a week) to become stronger and stronger, and, most important of all–even more than all those other things: when I wake up in the morning, I don’t immediately feel self-hatred because of the way I treated myself the day before. For me, being free of self-loathing is worth maintaining eating disorder recovery, and it is a daily–sometimes by the hour or minute–deliberate choice of being sane, rather than falling into the pit of relapse.
2018: A hella-rough year, especially the fall months
If I was still using food as a drug, Fall 2018 would have made me gain an enormous amount of weight. I’m so glad I had a lot of practice at learning to cope with my feelings without “eating over them,” prior to the crap I had to deal with in recent months. I won’t go into it more than that, mostly because the people responsible for it are unworthy of space on my page.
Instead of retreating into food, however, I chose other ways to cope like working on my manuscript, beginning to formulate post-teaching-career plans as a developmental and copy editor for authors and publishing companies (I am already signed up for editorial freelancing classes through the end of the school year), and also laying the groundwork for beginning a tutoring/test prep business, including beginning to plan for a place to do it by having an office in my husband’s shop. So, I guess I have coped by maintaining recovery from my eating disorder and being productive and proactive with life choices.
BUT: 2018: A hella-cool year, especially the fall months
My most recent published book, co-written with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD, released in December 2018, and the reviews for it are nothing short of gratifying. Matt has done a great job in interviews on top-10 podcasts; the professional endorsements we’ve received are strongly positive, and readers are receiving the message(s) we meant to convey when we wrote the book. SO. COOL!!!!
2018: More deeply in love with my husband than ever
My husband is an immeasurable blessing, my best friend, fountain of unconditional love and support, and amazing partner and father to our children. We’ve been together for 38 years and he is my soulmate.
2018: Ch-ch-changes and growing and evolving children–and always, always, ALWAYS, fierce love for each other
This year saw one daughter meeting her love, another daughter beginning the process of figuring out who she is and what she wants for herself and in a love, and another daughter seeking adventure through travel for her job.
As I write this, one daughter and her love are rising from a night of sleep after driving from our house in Texas to Ohio, as they head to her love’s family’s holiday gathering; another daughter hit the road 4 hours ago, to head back to North Carolina, and another daughter in Colorado but due home to Texas for a late Christmas with us in 11 days (I’m counting….) before she heads off to Reno for the next assignment.
But no matter how far apart we are, we have a connection of unconditional love and support that time and space cannot weaken. We have each other’s backs fiercely, and that means when someone treats one of us badly, that person done effed up with all of us.
Example: I am incredibly thankful that I can send my husband & kids a group text about one of the craptastic things that happened to me the past few months, and I get answers that include, “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that…” to “OMG! That is such a violation of [censored so as to not reveal details]!” to “I wish I was closer ’cause I’d key [redacted]’s car….” to “What a —-.” (Censored).
At the same time, we tell each other the truth and address problems when they come up. I value that authenticity so much.
2018 and beyond: A note for Americans
Our country needs every citizen to take note of what’s going on and fight for what America is meant to be: a democracy, not an autocracy, with results of an election determined by the voters, not a foreign country.
Please be informed and aware of what’s going on in America. Please go beyond partisan news sources to learn more about what you’re reading on Facebook, seeing on cable news channels, and hearing from family and friends. Verify stuff before you share it on Facebook. If you google something you read and you cannot find it on scholarly/non-partisan news sites in addition to the site it came from, please think twice before sharing it. Here’s a resource that you could find helpful.