Avoiding the Slippery Slope While Up to my Elbows in Butter (RECIPES INCLUDED!)

It’s been a long time between posts–I had gotten to where I felt like, “I’ve got this now; I live my life with my new routine and I don’t need a blog to stay on the straight and narrow any more”–and I’ve (more than once) considered deleting this site all together– but this past week reminded me that I want and need to have this accountability, even if it’s just waiting in the wings and even if I’m the only one who reads it. I had to push myself to write today, even, although “blog post” has been on my To-Do list since writing through stuff is how I process it. I am committed to honesty and authenticity because that’s the only way I stay as steady and grounded as I am able to be as long as I do what I think of as my “basics”: eating in a way that manages my eating disorder, working out, writing daily, and keeping my priorities straight. I don’t blog daily; I am at work on my sixth book, a YA contemporary (realistic fiction) novel.


Eating disorders are diseases and of course they’re a mental thing, right? Well, the struggle between what my ED was telling me to do over the past few days and what my mind knows I HAVE to do to maintain what could be considered “sobriety” or “abstinence” has been Herculean in nature. It’s been a challenge to keep my feet on the ground instead of climbing that ladder to hurl headfirst onto the Slippery Slope into relapse. Holidays are hard for people without EDs to manage their lives in a steady way–overindulgence seems to be a foundation of celebrating, right?– but the struggle for me was REAL over the past week of Thanksgiving prep, Thanksgiving itself, and the continued presence of such yummy fare in my house. I probably seemed weird to my family: “Are you gonna eat more of those or should I freeze them for when the other kids come home at Christmas?” And, one of my “to-do” items for today is to figure out meals for this coming week. I have to have a plan or I get wobbly. (I say “wobbly” to mean, feeling shaky about being able to maintain healthy eating patterns, instead of feeling grounded and okay.)

It’s so weird– I stopped eating my binge foods (sugary sweets, breads, cereal, pasta, butter, etc.) a year ago in October when I began prep for sleeve surgery– and I don’t remember for sure, but I’m nearly positive I didn’t indulge in any of those things in Nov/Dec of 2017, but this year, Thanksgiving was challenging. Maybe last year, everything was so new and my resolve was SO POWERFUL that I wasn’t tempted. That, plus I knew that I couldn’t regain even ONE OUNCE from the day of my weigh in, Mid-October 2017, or my insurance would not cover the surgery.

That easy resolve was absent this year. Honey, I was tempted. But I didn’t trip, slip, slide, or plunge headfirst into a vat of gravy (even though the gravy was really good… I’m told.)


Below, I’m sharing the bariatric-friendly recipes I used this year–all except one were well-received and complimented on by my family (and I didn’t like the one that was judged “yuck,” either…) If you want to see the recipes, scroll to the purple section of this post and I’ll give you the links. These foods were prepped in addition to the non-bariatric recipes (see next section) I made for my family. I did not feel deprived at all.


If you WANT to see the non-bariatric-friendly recipes I prepared for my family, click this link to go to this (hidden) page. The password is “cook”– just the 4 letters, non-capitalized, no quotation marks. I’m sharing it this way to avoid triggering anybody who might be wobbly right now. If you’re not so wobbly at this time AND you, like me, are the chief cook and bottle-washer for your family at the holidays regardless of how you might need to eat for ED recovery, these recipes all received resounding approval from my family. Unlike me, my family does not have a hard time walking away from holiday foods like these, no matter how good they taste. Dare to dream, right? LOL.


I know from being a member of a few bariatric surgery support groups on Facebook that a lot of people who are sleeved still have a spoonful of each delectable dish. (Hell, y’all, there’s people on there a week out of surgery asking on the forum how soon they can have a chicken nugget! I always think, “You had 85% of your stomach removed and you still want to eat that shit?” But I digress…)
I saw many pics of dinner plates that resembled the numbers on a clock, (sweet potatoes at 3 o’clock, mashed ‘taters at 6, etc.)–but I knew–that is, I KNOW–I can’t be one of those one “spoonful people.” I’ve done that countless times throughout my life, the most significant being the loss of 100 pounds around 2004-2005, and the steady regain of most of it because I told myself I can eat like other people do–and I used a utensil more like a shovel than a standard silverware spoon, mmkay?  I lie to myself, and down I go on the Slope. The damned thing must be really long because last time I fell down it, I was sliding for like… seven YEARS????
Remember how the name of this website is “The Biggest Liar”? That’s the voice in my head that says things like, “Just eat in moderation…You can eat like other people…Do you want to be deprived?…Your head hurts, honey. Eat & you’ll feel SO MUCH BETTER.”

The gastric sleeve–which is usually referred to as a “tool” by people who prep patients for bariatric surgery and by patients themselves–does not permit me to do that kind of pig-out eating any more (Pause here to praise Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, and Dr. Preeti Malladi, my surgeon…) That’s the “tool” part of it. The surgeon leaves a skinny-banana shaped stomach that holds about 3-4 ounces at a time. Besides the mechanical aspects of the “tool,” people who have not eaten sugar & fat in great quantities for a long time are liable to experience “dumping syndrome.” I used to experience mild “dumping” when I binge-ate, even before I was sleeved, so I have no doubt I’d experience it again, on a much more severe scale now. I once fainted in a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant after having nothing but glazed donuts for breakfast. Hit my head on a planter on the way down. I was a teen at the time.

Throughout my life, holidays were studies in conflict: anticipation of treats associated with my mom decorating our house for Christmas–like, coming home from school, and our house was magical. Same thing with my grandmother’s house, on an even larger scale. Every room, even the bathrooms, were decorated. I do something like that myself; in fact, my youngest daughter and I decorated for Christmas on Friday. I love doing this and creating that “specialness” for my family.
When I was a child, the longing I felt for the time of year when our house became magical was so strong it was sometimes painful… and so much of it was wrapped up in food, which I gorged myself on so that it was painful or sickening. SO. WEIRD. I can remember going to my grandmother’s extra bedroom, undoing my pants, and laying on my side on the bed and just waiting for the food to go down enough that I could breathe deeply–only to return to the exact same food (I’m thinking an overflowing Thanksgiving plate here)–and repeat the whole cycle again and again.

When I grew up and had my own home, I did the same thing, but not just on holidays. I once burped peanut butter for days and days and days because I kept eating these these brownie-type foods that were made with peanut butter. My stomach was on fire but I kept eating them. They were a type of cookie my mom made all the time when I was quite young.
When I was a stay-at-home mom and we had one income for our family, we frequently scraped to get by and when we had more month than money left, I often made the heaviest, richest, most sugar-laden stuff: scads and scads of cookies, of which I would eat the majority of–and my kids would eat alongside me. I’d make it then immediately need it to be GONE, because I couldn’t stop eating it when it was there, and, I’ll be honest, it’s a little like that for me and the types of Thanksgiving food that’s here right now. I make it because it is a tradition and I love providing for my family. I don’t mind doing it, and I think it’s fine to celebrate and have meals that are festive. I just have a mental disorder that makes me see this stuff as something other than the ingredients it’s made of, and I know I’m not alone in that. After all, the sense of smell is the strongest associated with memory, right?
As a young wife & mom, I’d panic feeling that I needed to provide for my kids– “Okay, we don’t have enough money right now but we have all THIS. I can make cookies out of this and this and this–” and no matter if they were good or not, I ate them anyway, and, as a consequence, I also taught my children how to numb themselves with food. I modeled disordered eating for them, to my great shame. I try not to beat myself up, but it’s awfl when I see my child struggling and I know she learned it from me. When I modeled those behaviors, I was still “broken” myself at the time–I hadn’t entered recovery for CSA–and I constantly soothed myself with the kinds of foods I ate in my house growing up. It is one of my greatest regrets as a parent: saddling my children with disordered eating by modeling it–as well as constant dieting and an obsession with losing weight, because I would binge-starve-binge-starve-binge-starve… put notes on the refrigerator and images of what I wanted to look like, hoping I could reach some unrealistic ideal, and setting my kids up with a fucked-up image of what it is to be a healthy person. God, I regret that so much. If you’re doing that to your kids, PLEASE. STOP. NOW. Get some counseling NOW. Please. Don’t wait until you have a melt down like I did.

The whole thing with the way I binge on holiday foods (if I climb those stairs to the slope and plunge headfirst down it) is soooo connected to that being a happy time when I was a child. I know it’s that way. I felt close to my mom when we were baking together and making fudge and… I’ll put it this way: I used to decorate my dollhouse for Christmas when things were especially awful at my house. I craved that “light”, secure feeling of knowing what to expect every year. The sounds, smells, traditions–including food–that are part of the holidays (to me) were like white noise that drowned out the other stuff in my head, like waiting for better days to get here. I’d play Christmas music in July or August (it drove my stepfather absolutely up the wall, ha ha ha.)

So I have this history with disordered eating that always looked(s)/(will look) like a version of this: “I’m not going to eat any more because all that butter and sugar made me absolutely ill, but damned if I won’t go right back to the same foods the next time I felt the tiniest hunger pang. ‘Wheeeeee! I get to eat again!'”

When I was at a family gathering a couple weeks ago, I tried to explain why I refused the offer of tasting some kind of sugarplum-type dessert as, “I haven’t had sugar like that in over a year, and I don’t want to start now…it’s a Slippery Slope.” And I don’t know if the people at the table got it–they’re “normal”, you know the type, LOL–they can eat that stuff without it carrying all kinds of memories and baggage and cravings–(don’t those types make you sick? LOL)–but it doesn’t matter if they get it or not.

Thanksgiving afternoon, I sighed heavily, slid onto a chair at our kitchen table, and told my daughters something like, “This is hard, and…it’s not…it’s not BAD; it’s just DIFFERENT and Thanksgiving feels different to me because I’m not reaching for that roll or planning to eat those tarts, and it’s like my mind doesn’t GET it.”

So instead of focusing on that, I focused on eating the way I know I have to eat to stay “okay,” and we hung out and played cards. I even learned a new game!


Bariatric-Friendly Stuff I Cooked for Thanksgiving:

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast-This recipe calls for 2 turkey breast halves, but I got one full breast & cooked it in a Reynold’s Oven Bag. I also salted/oiled the breast the day before I roasted it, then put on the herb rub while the oven preheated. It was so moist & delicious! We didn’t cook a whole turkey and the amount of meat we had was perfect for us. My daughter made a Waldorf-type salad with it on Friday, too. (It was about a 9 pound breast–poor turkey, walking around with THAT on her front! LOL Tell y’all what: the turkey breast is the only way I’m cooking the bird from now on, even if I have a bigger crowd & need 2 of them. So little waste!)

Roasted Cauliflower–this was a hit with everybody.

Roasted Mixed Vegetables (I used a Hidden Valley Italian Seasoning packet in place of using the various herbs the recipe calls for.) –also highly complimented.

Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash (my daughter used sugar-free pancake syrup in place of the maple syrup)–my kids liked this, too.

Artichoke Parmesan Spread (this was the YUCK item. Y’all, even the raccoons wouldn’t touch it. The recipe must be wrong or something–too much lemon!!! I get that the artichokes make it tangy as well as the plain Greek yogurt, but the lemon was overpowering and it was NASTY.


Note: for those of you who feel it’s not the holidays without a dessert of some kind, there are lots of recipes like “Pumpkin Fluff” and some people recommend making a pumpkin pie (leaving the crust out of the recipe), but I’ve binged on Pumpkin Fluff in the past as well as pumpkin pie and the Weight Watchers recipe I used to make with just canned pumpkin and cake mix (yes, that’s a thing)– I mean, I ate the whole 13 x 9 cake over a matter of hours, so I was pretty sure I would be triggered by that behavior of eating it, sleeve-be-damned.
Remember the Slippery Slope: I’m avoiding that thing like it’s covered in razor wire. So, I had my standard dessert instead: 1/2 cup of Light & Fit Vanilla Greek Yogurt + 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I sprinkle it with Truvia and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Sometimes that’s still too much for me to eat, though. One of my daughters thought it seemed gross and asked me where I came up with it. I have no idea. It’s something I ate when on the soft food part of the WLS recovery but I know I used to eat it back in Ye Olde Dieting Days, too. I think it’s pretty good and it’s healthy, too.

ALSO: here’s the link to a free PDF of a book, The Ultimate WLS Thanksgiving: Bariatric Surgery. Check it out!


Last but not least… I’m adjusting to being “tiny.”

Last time I weighed any where near 120 pounds was when I was in 6th grade, and we had to go in to the nurse’s office to have our height & weight checked. I’ll never forget it because I was in shock. I was 5’3″ tall– at that time, I towered over other girls, but that’s the last year I grew vertically– and I weighed 116 pounds. Nobody else was in the triple digits and I remember feeling shame when the girls were comparing their weights. I felt like Shrek.
Man, I wish I could go back to that girl–that “me”–and wrap my arm around her. I’d say, “Honey, YOU are not your weight. YOU are amazing and strong and beautiful as you are, right now. You are going through so much and the fact you don’t curl up in a corner and just rock back and forth is astounding.” If that girl were one of my children, I’d move Heaven and Earth to help her.
But nobody like that was around back then–or if they were, I wasn’t talking– so instead I felt awkward and anxious and self-conscious. I had so much horrible stuff going on at home at night that I couldn’t tell a soul about and it just…it was EVERYTHING. Colored everything about my perception of myself. I have compared the shame one feels at being sexually abused to being like if someone dumped a 5 gallon bucket of paint labeled “Shame” over a victim day after day, hour after hour. It never went away. If I started to feel “normal” for even a second, I’d just have to remember what was true and what was happening.
What does this have to do with being tiny?
I’m a little self-conscious. When I went through prep classes for sleeve surgery, we were told that one could expect to lose 40-70% of the excess weight. I remember thinking, “Screw that; if I’m going to go through this, I’m going to meet my goal and lose ALL OF IT.”
Last time I weighed, I was 121 pounds. I’ve lost 84 pounds now. I’m wearing small tops & size 5 pants–and even those are loose in the legs. I’m not whining or complaining–I promise, I’m not. I’ve worked really, really hard to be successful with this surgery, and I’m stubborn and determined enough that when I make up my mind to do something–and if it’s something that I have control over it being achievable or not; I’m not at the mercy of other people’s whims or anything–it’s pretty much a given that I can do it. I earned a 4 year college degree in 3 years, graduated with a 4.0 when I got my M.Ed.; and I’ve been successful with breaking into publishing and having stuff I’ve written published. Now, that’s at people’s whims, but finishing a book? That’s all Beth-powered. So I know I can do what I need to do when I want something, and I want(ed) to be as healthy as I can and be as strong as possible so I can overcome an injury I sustained in a fall that did some serious damage that I’m still dealing with on a daily basis. That’s what part of my workout is: strength building with weight-bearing exercises.
I track what I eat faithfully– the food log helps me make sure I’m meeting my needs AND reassures me that I’ve eaten enough on days the “head hunger” is strong (like on Thanksgiving)– and I am also working out an hour a day, six days a week. This isn’t happening by magic, and I like what I see, pretty much–and I love having more energy and becoming stronger every day. I just get a lot of comments from people who don’t see me every day, and sometimes it’s kind of startling because what I do is just my life at this point and most days (except unusual days like Thanksgiving), I don’t think about losing weight any more. I think my body will find a natural place and stop at it based on the number of calories I consistently take in and put out.
When I feel ready, I will put a side-by-side comparison for you (and me) to see. This is so much not about looks, though–it’s about being in ED recovery for me–that I’m not ready to make it about comparisons.
Later, y’all!

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Where the Pie Had to Go, and How the Holidays Went

Like most people at this point in the holiday season, I barely know what day it is.

Overall, I did okay throughout the holiday “eatings.” I did make 2 pies: cherry & pecan. Next year, I won’t make pecan, or, if I do, I won’t make a great big deep dish one, because apparently, I am the main consumer of pecan pie. I mean…I KNEW I ate an entire pecan pie in one sitting when I was in high school, but since I haven’t been paying much attention the past few years (is 5 a “few”?), I guess I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I ate more pecan pie than others did. At any rate, this Christmas, I did have 2 small pieces and snack on it a little here and there, but I avoided bingeing.
When Daniel (the cherry pie connoisseur) informed me that he eats “maybe” one slice of pecan pie a year, and the other partakers of pie weren’t fans of the this pecan pie recipe’s caramelesque filling (oh my GOD it was so good), I realized that I was the main one who had eyes for it.
You can see by the picture above how I handled the temptation: I checked with the people around me to see if they wanted any more pie, got a negative response, and I spirited that sucker right out of my house. I dumped squirrel feed around it and accented the whole thing with an old dinner roll. Somebody, somewhere, MUST see this as either some kind of Rorschach test, or a work of art…
I would have expected the raccoons to make quick work of it, but perhaps they are likewise not fans of the caramelesque filling… wanna know what’s sad? Shortly after putting that pie plate out under my bird feeder, I had the urge to run out and grab one more bite before the woodland critters had a go at it.
Otherwise, I didn’t do as well as I planned to over the holidays–I had set this expectation of myself to maintain my “usual” eating routine I’ve developed–but in retrospect, I think that was unrealistic, because it’s NOT the usual “anything” when I’m cooking for a crowd and making stuff I usually don’t, i.e. a full-blown turkey dinner. I did make some “Hungry Girl” holiday recipes, but even those were so similar to the stuffing & sweet potatoes I ate as a child that the behaviors still wanted to kick in and pig out.

Imagine my relief when I realized that when I weigh in with my nutritionist on Tuesday, the weight does not have to be LESS than I weighed last time; it just has to be AT or LESS THAN my weight on the day I weighed in the first time on 10/18/17. This actually worked as kind of a double-edged sword, though, because I felt some leeway to eat a little more of the stuff I don’t usually eat. All in all, though, I could have done much worse than I did. Perfection is impossible, and it’s okay that I wasn’t perfect.



The Return of the Awful Migraine

As if the holidays weren’t enough of a temptation to lose the progress I’ve made (more importantly than losing roughly 15 pounds, I do not want to return to bingeing behaviors), one of my biggest eating triggers is back in just the last 48 hours: super-painful migraines. The Botox I receive for migraines is rapidly wearing off, as it does at the end of 12 weeks, and because of either gross incompetence on the part of the specialty pharmacy, or gross incompetence on the part of my neurologist’s office staff, or both, I will not be receiving my next Botox dose on January 2nd, which is the soonest I can receive it according to my insurance. I don’t want to go into it much more than that because it makes me so incredibly angry that I did my part to order the medication and someone, at one of those offices, is lying about why the medication won’t be there on the date it was scheduled to be there. I’m going to call them on Tuesday and try to find out who is lying. If I have to insist on speaking to the doctor, I’ll do so, and if I don’t get a satisfactory answer, I’ll be switching neurologists because getting this medication coordinated should not be a stressful event every 12 weeks.
I wish the Botox didn’t work as well as it did, because it would not be a big deal if I can’t get in at the right time to receive injections, but it does. It gives me my life back and creates the possibility that I can work out without triggering an exertion migraine. Those are really bad.


What’s Up Next:

I’m having my pre-op bloodwork done on Tuesday, meeting with the nutritionist for the 3rd consultation & weigh in, then I’m done with everything except the last nutritionist appointment on 2/6. After that, I will see my surgeon and they will submit all my paperwork.

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When Sugar is Love…or at least it feels like it…

It’s me! I’ve been MIA from updating/accountability by writing at least once a week here–which is the purpose of this blog. Reminder, if you’re new here: the reason the blog is called “The Biggest Liar” is that my eating disorder IS “The Biggest Liar.” And I don’t even care if anyone else reads this thing, because it’s making myself accountable that is making a difference.


Amazingly…

I’ve eaten this stuff for dinner more times than I’d like to admit. I ate an entire container of it once when my husband was out of town.
Two bags? A box with 2 bags? I say to you, “Hold my iced tea and I will show you how quickly I can scarf down 2 bags of this stuff.”

The good news is, I’m NOT coming to you from beneath a vat of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream (although I’m fairly sure Halo is the devil and I could easily fall into that trap if I allowed myself to do it…), and I’m also not poking my nose up for a gasp of air from inside a washing-machine-sized box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

This stuff reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry & Elaine believed they could not gain weight because the frozen yogurt they were eating was fat free. This Halo is dangerous for me because, well, yeah, I know I’ll regain weight and I can’t regain ANY weight, AND because of the emotional baggage I have with ice cream type stuff.

I’m hanging in, even though the holidays are in full-swing.

I haven’t updated, but it’s not because I’m curled up in a food coma in the corner, in too much pain to move. It’s because between my day job (finishing the semester and all that entails with grading grading grading,) and becoming a family with 2 Nigerian Dwarf Goats but not having time to prepare for them properly (i.e. building a fence to separate them from my dogs), plus prepping my house for family to come home for Christmas, I have not had time to update here. And that’s not okay, because with every day that has passed without me kind of checking in with myself by writing here, my anxiety has been ramping up and I’ve been wondering if I could make it another day without a binge.

I’ll be completely honest: I’M AMAZED that I haven’t slipped and fallen into any of my “drugs of choice.” Refusing to do so has caused me to really become aware of automatic nature of The Biggest Liar, and the years-long deliberate indifference to the truth that caused me to regain roughly 75 pounds of the 100 I lost around 2004-2005.

So, this will be a long one. It’s been rolling around in my mind for a while. There’s a little navel gazing goin’ on here, but I’m writing this for me, not you. (No offense, ha ha ha.) I’m working through a book, Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating, by Leora Fulvio, and part of it is writing one’s history with food.
NOTE: It has taken me a good three days to write this blog post. I want to say so much and say it in just the right way. What you are reading is heavily revised…
At this moment, I am sitting outside a McDonald’s, using their Wi-Fi, because my Internet at home SUCKS SO MUCH right now! And I want to finish this and have it uploaded prior to diving headfirst into cleaning my house and de-goating one daughter’s bathroom….and training goats to go into another daughter’s bathroom…more on that later…


Why It’s Important to Remember Why It’s Important Not to Forget
If I allow The Biggest Liar to run the show, it sends me careening into the numbed out, zombie behavior of consuming my trigger foods, which are sugar & processed carbs. I went through treatment & recovery many years ago, and The Biggest Liar (TBL) and I were not on speaking terms for a long time. I had, essentially, “blocked” TBL as if saying, “Talk to the hand.” I had control of my eating disorder–I told myself that–and, like any addiction left unattended to, I fell into complacency.
Then, slowly, insidiously, TBL began whispering in my ear…when I had to stop running, became very depressed, and went through consecutive summers of foot surgeries; when I had other surgeries that kept me from working out for weeks at a time…and, most of all, when the headaches I’ve had for years exploded into full-blown, “you-can-look-at-my-face-and-tell-I’ve-got-one” debilitating migraines, I ignored the person I’d become and relapsed into a person who uses food as a drug.
I listened to The Biggest Liar.
You can go back & read “When I Made Up My Mind” to know what changed, to figure out how I got to here.
With my resurrected commitment to living without bingeing has come a heightened awareness of just how automatically TBL-thoughts spring to the forefront of my mind when I’m triggered by stress, sadness, rejection, and anxiety.
And, y’all, rejection and anxiety are the collective Big Kahuna of emotions that trigger those thoughts.  People who know me now and perceive me as a really strong, tough-minded person have no idea how vulnerable I am to feeling abandoned, rejected, or as if I am under threat. I have a hard time shaking that stuff off. Takes lots of self-talk & remembering lessons learned in therapy long ago to get through it.


Teach Your Children Well / Their Father’s Hell / Did Slowly Go By
I can connect the foods that act like jet fuel for my eating disorder. When I was a child, I was alone a lot, and many times, I was alone even with other people. My relationship with my bio dad was non-existent for the most part, but my keenest memories of him when he and my mom were still married were of being maybe 4 years old, us sitting at the dinner table, me forgetting sometimes to chew with my mouth closed, and him yelling,  “Pig! You’re a pig!”–and it’s like I have muscle memory of that feeling–and I can still remember the realization of shame associated with eating. It’s like I’m there, inside that 4 year old’s mind, going from laughing and a feeling of belonging—kind of excited, actually, that my dad was with us again–to lowering my eyes to the table and being enveloped by that hollowed out, empty space in my center as whatever was there before was replaced with shame and self-hatred. His angry face is scalded into my brain. I was self-conscious and aware of being watched and criticized by this man I barely knew; this man who, anytime he was at home with us, seethed with resentment and anger. He wasn’t around very often, and when he was, his presence was irregular and punctuated with my mother being grief-stricken and inside herself. And, although we have a different relationship now, my brother’s favorite thing to call me when we were children was “Pig.”

A bit of trivia: I was so unfamiliar with what my father looked like that when I was itty bitty, I used to stare at a Robert Goulet album cover and tell myself, “I think he looks like that.”


Specific Foods and My Emotional Connection to Them

Bread and butter with sugar on it: I’d get home from kindergarten, which was like Hell on Earth for me because I had such huge separation anxiety about being away from my mother. When I got home, she’d feed me bread-butter-& sugar sandwiches for lunch as I watched Cartoon Carnival after the noon news on Channel 11. I was so freaked out by changes at home that when my mom started kind of pushing me out on my own more–using a car pool and not always taking me or picking me up–that if my school went on a field trip, I had to ride in the teacher’s car (I went to a private kindergarten). I didn’t know how to make friends and I did not relate well to other kids since I’d only been with my mom.When I first started kindergarten, I even locked myself in my parent’s bathroom and refused to go out to the car pool lady when she came to pick me up. After my mom took the doorknob off and got in, I was dragged, screaming, out to the car and shoved in. For years, my mom joked at what I looked like with my face pressed against the car window.
Not long after that, I began first grade, and my mom went to work because she and my dad finally divorced.  My brother and I walked home from school every day–we lived like a block away–and I wore our house key on a piece of yarn around my neck. I was adjusting to her not being home when we got home from school.
To this day, if I start eating bread-butter & sugar, it is a gateway to a binge. Just thinking about doing it, I feel the memory of spacing out.

Ice Cream and Approximations of Ice Cream, i.e. Halo, and other Creamy Sweets such as Pudding and Pie…
I was maybe 6 years old. I know I was in first grade. My brother and I left school for the day and as we exited the back gate of the fence surrounding the playground–our exit to our neighborhood–we were met by a lady my mom knew. The lady’s name was Pat R.; she was one of my mom’s good friends, but I also knew her name well because I heard my mom talk about Pat’s husband drinking every night at a bar that was by a big drive-in-movie screen. I had absorbed the information that he was scary, and he beat her.  Pat met us at the back gate and told us that our mother was gone and that we were staying with her.
Mind. Blown.

Anyway, Mom was gone, and my brother and I were never told where she went. She was not even talked about. She never called. I can remember having a feeling of hope every night that she would call, and she never did.
And every night when Pat’s husband came home, I was frozen in fear, sitting at the end of a sofa bed in the living room. I had no connection to these people, my brother and I were not close, and I was the only one of us freaking out, at least outwardly.  The only other person I was attached to, my grandmother, was not contacting us, either.
My brother seemed to be having a great time with Pat’s son, Lee, who was one of his best friends, but I was scared shitless, not only because my mom was gone, but I had my head full of negative impressions of Pat’s husband, who I knew only by what my mom told me of him.
We lived in Richardson, Texas, a suburb a little northeast of Dallas–really, there’s not even a separation of them anymore–and there was this drive-in-theater off Central Expressway. I think it was called The Gemini(?) and there was this shack of a bar in the shadows of the drive-in. Every time we’d go by, or at least it seemed to me, Mom repeatedly pointed it out and told us that that bar was where Pat’s husband spent every night before he’d go home and beat her. Oh, and that Bonnie and Clyde hid out there, back in the day. So I had a pretty good negative impression of what it must be like at Pat’s house, (and a little gossip about a possible connection to famous Texas criminals of the 1920s…)

My brother and I were left with Pat, and we were never told where our mother had gone, or when she’d be back, and when she returned, she refused to tell us. Years later, after I was married, I learned that my mother left us like that because her father was believed to have had a heart attack in San Antonio, and he was with another woman. He was still married to my grandmother, and to keep her from finding out, my mom left us with these people to be by his side.
That incident created within me a fear of not seeing my mom again. I carried that fear within me until I entered recovery and for a long time afterward, too.
When I fear loss of relationships, or loss of security for any number of reasons, my urge to binge is like a tsunami of panic.

Soooo, how does this fit into the whole ice cream thing?
The only food I could eat that whole time was ice cream. It was orange sherbet, actually, but the ice cream thing stuck in my head and became my go-to-food when I was too upset to even consider anything I’d have to chew. Who knows?

Maybe I’d discovered that I was able to eat ice cream in a way that was acceptable to my father; maybe my steaming turd of a sperm donor; maybe a man in his mid-20s did not deem it worthy of bellowing insults at a 4 year old from across the table, if she didn’t have to chew.
Jesus, but that man hated me, and I knew it from the time I could comprehend his body language. He left Mom the first time when I was 3 days old, came home intermittently (when his girlfriends and he broke up), and told me when I was older that he left because “he just didn’t want to be there.” His pattern of coming around stayed true into my adulthood: he only seemed interested in being my father when it was convenient to him. We have no relationship at all now, and that is fine with me. When he dies, I have no interest in attending his funeral. He is not my father.

So there was a set pattern with Bio Dad, and Mom was also setting up a pattern of protecting and choosing men over her children, damn the fall out.

I’m in my early 50s, yet that hollowed-out empty feeling in the center of “me” is just as overpowering today as it was back then. It’s the same feeling I get when I feel rejected, abandoned, or sad. I think that’s the feeling I’m trying to fill up with the same kind of stuff I turned to as a little one.

Vanilla Sandwich Cookies A.K.A. Vanilla Oreos A.K.A. Vanilla Duplex Cookies A.K.A. The Bricks in a Misguided Attempt to Build a Wall (of Fat) Between Me and the World

After I began being sexually abused at age 8, getting home from school was a trigger–the anxiety when I got home had to do with not knowing what was going to happen next. My mom bought huge packages of the off-brand vanilla sandwich cookies, and I gorged on them.
I still carry this trigger in my nearly 52-year-old brain. It’s the same feeling I sometimes have when I’m on my way home from school even now–this untargeted, undefined dread–and I talk myself through it and tell myself it’s just my anxiety disorder talking. For a long time, I did not do more than just think, i.e. follow it up with action, such as distracting myself instead of acting on the urge. I started mapping out my binge on the way home. After enough doing that, I stopped trying to argue with TBL. I willfully ignored what I had learned to about my eating disorder and what I need to do to live with it in a way that it does not destroy me.

Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing, Millionaire Fudge, “Noël” cookies, Crumb-topped Coffee Cake, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Crescent Rolls…

The holidays used to be, and to some extent, still are, a hard time for me because of the loss of connection to my mom. It’s a period ripe for numbing out with food that makes me feel some sort of connection to her and/or that dulls the ghosts of abandonment past. It’s like… my family was so fucked up in so many ways, but one thing that was consistent was Christmas traditions.
Decorating the house–more than the tree–putting up decor throughout the house–was one of them. I do that for my children, too.
But cooking–just like every other American family that embraces the “food” aspect of the holidays–man, that was the centerpiece of everything. Every one of the foods listed in the subtitle above represent a connection to my mother. These were our traditional holiday sweets, and the sweets were all that mattered to me. I spent time with my mom making these and when I think about Christmas food to prep when my kids come home, these are all on my mind.
Especially.
Cut-out.
Sugar.
Cookies.
With Buttercream icing.
I can fool myself into thinking that these are a requirement for celebrating the holidays, and that if I do not make them, I am somehow not creating the climate and experiences my kids deserve. (I know, it’s fucked up thinking. I have told you from the outset that Binge Eating Disorder is a Mind Fuck, and it is, and ever it will be.)
When my kids were little, I made cut out sugar cookies with them, and we used to have an all day cookie decorating celebration at my mom’s. That is, I know, a memory they carry with them. The cookie day at my mom’s was an annual tradition that might even still be going on if things hadn’t changed.
But they HAD TO CHANGE.

But I can’t keep up the baking tradition, and I don’t think my kids really care, but I sometimes feel as if I am failing at Christmas because I’ve had to let go of so much they grew up with.
I didn’t bake when I was in recovery/therapy, then I fell into making cookies again for the last several years–told myself I could handle it–I wouldn’t eat any–but that was, of course, a LIE, and I always made so many that it was guaranteed I’d have plenty to binge on. I was AMAZED at how naturally/automatically I fell back into a behavior after not doing it for several years.
The cookies were also a problem for my daughters–talk about teaching your children well– and they even grew to resent me for having all this stuff around that they realize is a problem for them, too. Making those cookies is not okay. They are toxic to me because the trigger binges, and they make problems for others, too.

This year, I am not making any of those sweet foods. I am making one or two recipes from the Hungry Girl site but I will not make 6 dozen of anything, and none of what I make will be cookies. Or fudge. Or coffee cake. Or rolls. There are a couple of pie recipes I’ll check out, but I’m not even sure about that. Making my grocery list and having a plan in place is on my to-do list for today, when I finish this blog post & leave this McDonald’s parking lot and it’s FABULOUSLY FAST WI-FI.

Given what I know about my mom and the events beginning in December, 2004, when our relationship shattered and I experienced the darkest days of my entire life, then her subsequent amputation of not only me but my husband and children as well, I’m sure it’s hard for anyone to understand how deeply I still miss the way she created holidays for us, and the amazing grandma she was to my kids.
But I do. I miss it, even though it’s nothing but a ghost now. And I think about her, and I wonder if she still decorates her house, and I miss the feeling, the illusion, that…I’m not sure how to say it except, the illusion that I was loved the way I love my own children, in spite of all the history suggesting that I was not at all loved that way.
I love my children with a ferocity that I was not loved.

I think it’s a monumental step to recognize that every Christmas since I relapsed, I have been trying to recreate the feeling of being loved, and the way I was close to my mom was tied to memories of creating food and eating it.
From the bread-butter-&sugar sandwiches to sitting on the counter and her handing me the beaters to lick when she was making icing, sugar was and is inextricably linked to feelings of love and soothing.

And it was a lie.

Subtitle to Subtitle: Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing were Weights Anchoring Me to My Memories of Christmases Past
Nothing to add. It’s all been said.


Other Updates…

The Sleep Apnea Olympics
I met with the doctor for my follow up. I have moderately severe sleep apnea; the biggest problem detected by the home sleep study was that my oxygen level dropped too low. I have my C-Pap machine now– I call it my “snorkel.” I have used it 2 nights now, and both mornings, I have awakened with NO HEADACHE. I have been waking with headaches for YEARS. I have gone to work with headaches for YEARS. I’m also no longer snoring, gasping, or choking for air.
I’m so encouraged by my headaches already decreasing–apparently caused by lack of oxygen to my brain during the night–that I am starting to try to lower my Gabapentin dose–it’s the med I take 3x a day to prevent migraines from starting. It has a side effect of making me feel draggy, so between the problems with my sleep and taking a medication that causes fatigue, my frequent exhaustion is understandable.
I have hope bubbles percolating that I will eventually have a life that does not include so much headache pain. My next Botox for migraines is on Jan. 2.

Goat Rancher
So, my husband was given a Nigerian Dwarf Goat for Christmas. Goats can’t be alone and be happy, and we would never have an animal without providing it the best life we can give it, so Daniel went back to the guy who his friends bought the goat from, and bought the sister. So now we have Onslow (AKA “The Gift”) and his sister, Daisy. These names may be familiar to anyone who watches Keeping Up Appearances on PBS. Onslo and Daisy are the brother-in-law & sister-in-law of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounce it Bouquet!), and they are essentially white trash. They spend a lot of time in bed watching TV and they go to bed whenever they please, including the daytime. Thus, when Daniel and I are exhausted and find ourselves in bed on a Saturday afternoon, snoozing & watching TV, we joke that we are Onslow and Daisy. The names were his idea.
Daisy the goat is believed to be pregnant– but Onslow, her brother, is NOT the daddy. When Daniel bought her, she was in a pen with another female goat & a male. The good news: female goats can only get pregnant once a year. The bad news: Onslow the goat is so well-endowed–like, ridiculously well-endowed–that attempts to “band” him to neuter him were unsuccessful because the tool & band cannot fit over his well-endowed self. Thus, it looks like we’ll be setting him up with a vet to be castrated.
All of this has come about in the past 10 days or so. Our dogs are a threat to the goats. We did not have a separating fence built when the goats came home, although we have an adequate shelter for Onslow and Daisy- a dog house constructed with an iron frame, metal roof, and Hardie-board (siding made of concrete), hay, and a heat lamp. But the fence, that would permit us to simplify life so much, is not up yet to separate the goats from our dogs. Thus, until the ground dries up and Daniel’s work schedule permits, we are having to switch out goats & dogs whenever the dogs want to go out.

Side note: The goats are now trained to come into the house by being called, AND, they go immediately into my daughter’s bathroom.

Side-side note: This morning, they discovered that they have the ability to jump up onto the toilet AND the sink.

Side-side-side note: Next time, guys, a gift certificate to Chilis or something like that will be an adequate expression of your appreciation and affection for Daniel…the goats are adorable and we know this will work out, but…maybe a little heads-up instead of having the auto parts guy deliver the goat with an order?
Well, they were originally going to give Daniel a goat OR a pig, so thanks for choosing the former.

Next Nutritionist Appointment & Weigh-In
January 2nd, I have my next weigh in, consultation with the nutritionist, and lab work done. I’m supposed to be giving up my one and only daily Diet Coke by then, and also working on not drinking anything 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after I eat, in order to be prepared for the changes coming in March.

 

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