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!