The Food Thing – Part 5: Spiralling out of control

The Food Thing has been spiralling out of control for the last couple of months. When I first mentioned it to my therapist, she suggested I keep a food diary. I did that for a few days, but it led to a rather serious meltdown, so I stopped. I just couldn’t cope with my disgustingness staring back at me in black and white every day. Of course, being unable to be “good” and complete my “homework” lead to a whole lot more self-flagellation, but that’s another tale for another time.

I put all that food/diet stuff in the last post in the hope that it would spur me into action, because looking at the food diary, on an average day I was (am) eating something like:

Breakfast:           Rice flakes with soy milk or muesli (doing ok so far)

Rest of the day (in a bizarre lunch-dinner-snack all rolled into one endless graze):

Either a ham and salad sandwich – eaten at about 4pm – and very little else; or… two bread rolls with vegemite and cheese; a meat pie or sausage roll or a big pile of fat from a take away food joint; donuts (usually four, large ones, with icing and sometimes with jam); chocolate (about 250g); perhaps a packet of biscuits … I don’t need to go on. You get the picture.

Some days there are cravings, just as my friend Tampalama described:

“a child who is constantly pulling at your sleeve or tapping you on the shoulder, saying, ‘Hey.  Hey.  Hey.  Look at me.  Pay attention to me.  Hey.  Hey.’” 

The secret pull of the something doughy, the chocolate, the salt or the … whatever.

But some days I go to the supermarket with a list of healthy foods to buy, and come home with a bag full of crap. Most days I’m not even sure how the crap got into the bag, and all the good food got left behind. Sometimes I go to the supermarket and allow myself one treat… but then stop at the bakery on the way home and buy a pile of stuff I had no intention of buying. Often I get home and wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Sometimes I even manage to bring the healthy foods home with me, but they sit in the fridge until they go off, and then I throw them out. I feel so guilty about all that waste. I could feed a small African country on the amount of food I’ve thrown away lately.

I have a strange ritual about supermarkets. There are five different ones within about a 5 to 10 minute drive of my place. I have to go to a different one each time. I’m not entirely sure why, but think it’s possibly because I go most days and if I’m buying crap, I don’t want the check out kid to recognise me from the day before. Silly, huh?

Do I have an eating disorder? May be. Possibly. My therapist doesn’t think so, but I’ll confess I’ve never told her the full truth about my eating. She thinks I’m just being hard on myself or, at worst, merely have a f***ed up relationship with food. She thinks that if I get back to the gym, I’ll start eating properly and start feeling better… which will lead to more eating properly and more feeling better. She might be right, but at the moment I can barely leave the house I’m so repulsed at my appearance, let alone go to the gym!

As my therapy has progressed I’ve started to become more aware of the triggers for the Food Thing. Over and above being generally emotionally wrecked, that is; although these triggers are usually a precursor to emotional wreckage anyway. Things like seeing my father, having a tough therapy session, a stressful day at work. Basically any situation in which I feel I need support (but still don’t know how to get it or how to support or nurture myself).

Perhaps I just hit the nail on the head? Perhaps learning to nurture myself, rather than punishing myself for all of life’s ills will help me get the Food Thing under control again? Perhaps all I need to do is find other ways to nurture myself after these stressful events (and get back to planning my meals a bit more so I’m not tempted to grab something nasty)?

I have a few things I find nurturing, But seriously, these aren’t nearly as satisfying as food after a day with my father, a gruelling therapy session or a whacky day at work.

I confessed to my therapist that I was gaining weight and contemplating ditching the anti-depressants. She wasn’t pleased. When it comes down to it, I think I’d rather be suicidal than fat – how dumb is that?

My therapist suggested I talk to my doctor, so I did. I took a positive step and went to the doc. She was very supportive and seemed to understand that I was freaking out about the Weight Thing. She suggested appetite suppressants but you can’t take those with anti-depressants, so we’re trying a new anti-depressant instead. She was wonderfully encouraging; she said that if this doesn’t work then there’ll be something else we can try. “We’ll find the solution,” she said. So good of her and seriously not the reaction I was expecting. Just doing something makes me feel a little better, but we’ll see how long it lasts.



13 thoughts on “The Food Thing – Part 5: Spiralling out of control

  1. Hello Dear Kerro,

    I’m glad that you talked to your therapist and to your doctor. I hope that they can find the right med that helps while not effecting you negatively about the food thing.

    I wanted to say that it seems as though you are taking the whole responsibility. I think meds have a huge part in this reaction to food, the binging, the overeating, the craving foods that are not as healthy as we need.

    Also I wanted to recommend trying an exercise start-up that you can do at home. Like an exercise bike or an exercise dvd on a topic that you want to do to get you going. I can’t remember for sure if you wrote about this in the recent past, sorry my memory sometimes gets a little wonky about remembering stuff. I want to learn some hula, though that seems far from what I can do right now, but there is a tape at the local library I have been meaning to get to see if I will like it. Is there something that you would like to do? Something fun, that doesn’t seem like exercise? There is also this rather energetic dance style from India that I saw on The Today Show. I have been meaning to look into that dvd as well.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  2. Hi Kerro,

    Here is a link to the dance that I was thinking of. It is called Masala Bhangra dance. The teacher is Sarina Jain. here is her weblink

    And here is a place where her feature on The Today Show is embeded:

    It looks like a lot of fun to me. And very active. What type of exercise do you like to do? I love my bike as I can usually do it any day and not have worse health issues afterward.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  3. I think the fact that you are doing nurturing things is on the right track to healing this problem for you. It’s so hard, I know. Do you try grounding skills when you feel the pull to use eating to deal with things?? Paul.

  4. Hi Kerro,
    This is a bit advicey – sorry about that. I know you will figure it out. Here’s some stuff that’s worked for me, since I have similar issues.

    It’s not the food, it’s the shame. Shame is a tough one, because it encourages us to try and suppress it with things that only make it worse.

    Losing weight is a hard and stressful thing, and I know I’ve only been able to do it when I am feeling really good otherwise. Losing weight and changing huge and entrenched semi-compulsive food patterns in the middle of the first few years of dealing with childhood abuse is setting yourself up for failure, in my not so humble opinion. Best to start with the battles you can win right now.

    Overeating or eating comfort foods helps you regulate your emotions. You don’t have a better way yet, and when you do, I guarantee you it will be way way easier to change your food habits. They might even change on their own.

    I saw a Star Trek (Deep space nine) episode that made a point very well that has to do with our survivor coping habits. The Ferrengi character Quark was talking to another character and telling her that it was against Ferrengi morals (such as they are) to pay more for something than you have to. I think this works for coping mechanisms – what you’re trying to ‘buy’ with the overeating is nurturing, comfort and a deadening of difficult feelings or shame. You’re paying the price for that with your health and overweight. Is the price worth it? So far it has been, so it has been a valuable survival skill for you. Other people may have an easier time changing it, but they’re not coping with childhood abuse at the same time so there’s no point comparing oneself to them. The important thing is can you ‘buy’ that thing you need – nurturing, comfort and relief from difficult emotions – at a cheaper ‘price’? I found some good ideas in a book called “the women’s comfort book” It’s got a little index in it to make it easy to find something self-nurturing when you can’t think of anything.

    The other thing I wanted to say is about shame. What I find helpful to know about shame is that the antidote/opposite of shame is self-love. When you feel shame, try expressing self-love or acting in self love. It seems counterintuitive but it is the only thing I’ve found to work. I’ve programmed myself to automatically say to myself “I love you, [my first name]” whenever I feel shame. When I first started I also hugged a teddy bear whenever I needed to and could get away with it. (this was fashionable among my survivor friends at the time…) Now, 20 years later, my first sign I’m feeling shame most times is that the voice in my head says “I love you”. The other barrier I’ve noticed to self-nurturing is the feeling that someone else should nurture me, and that self-nurturing doesn’t cut it. Well this is often emotionally now it feels, and as adults there’s just no way around it. Nobody is ever going to nurture us as adults to the extent it feels like we need, and that’s probably healthy, even though it feels like a loss. My best tool for that is to see myself as a little child and then calling on my inner momma to look after her. If I work it right I can both nurture myself and ‘be’ the child accepting the nurturing. Seeing it like that seems to help. I now have a pretty robust ‘inner mother’, which is an incredibly helpful thing.

    I also eat for comfort. I’m finding these days that eating lots of protein and a substantial breakfast helps a lot. You could try having some hardboiled eggs around and eating them first and then waiting a couple of minutes before your sugary snack. It might make it possible for you to avoid the sugar/fat food, and if it doesn’t it will at least help avoid a blood sugar spike that will leave you tired and craving more sugar.

    May you find comfort, self-love and self-nurturing.

  5. Hi Kerro,

    One thing that I tried but found very hard to continue doing was to eat something every three hours. It saved me from feeling out of control hunger later in the day. I agree with SDW about eating a good breakfast. Sometimes we think food issues are about us, our self-control, our fault and they can really be about the body’s response to not getting enough food in regularly. Sometimes the body does what works. Mine craves chocolate because it knows that I will break down and eat eventually when craving it. SDW’s comments made me want to add this.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  6. Hey, Kerro –

    Here is what I have learned about myself: I am powerless to stop over-eating, binge eating, living on pure crap for weeks at a time through “just stopping”.

    The only way I have had success (and, admittedly, it has been transient success at best) has been to deal with the stuff underneath the cravings. My eating/exercise/self-care habits improve when my healing advances — and not before.

    So, when the health professionals and other well-meaning givers of advice tell me to “just stop”, I tell them where to stick it (well, at least I think about telling them, LOL).

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  7. I was still thinking about your last entry when I was reading this one, and I do remember that once I figured out the gluten thing in relation to how I was feeling overall, I noticed a reduction in some of the physical cravings. The problem with cravings is that there are different types. There are the cravings that come from eating foods that aren’t good for us (or that we are actually intolerant to and may not know it) and that make us crave more and more, there are cravings that come from that emotional/comfort place, and are also the ones that come from some types of medications, etc. I’m sure there are more, but those are the main ones in my head right now. If it’s possible to reduce or eliminate some of the other types of cravings, I think it makes it easier to deal with what’s left. I think that, otherwise, you won’t know how much progress you are making on the self-nurturing aspects if the physical cravings are still active and getting in the way.

    Of course, that isn’t as easy to do as it is to say, because so often, as you said, the foods that we find comfort in are the same ones that are aggravating the physical cravings.

    I hope I’m not talking in circles here . . . I’m up late. That’s my excuse. lol

    To comment on Kate’s mention of hula, I bought some really great hula exercise DVD’s several months ago. I still haven’t started using them yet, but I did try them to see if I could, and they were fun and I was really glad to see that I could do them even at my poor fitness level. You can definitely feel it working, though.

    I am also very impressed that you talked with your doctor about the meds and very pleased that she “gets” it. That is an excellent quality in a doctor.

    ((Hugs to you))

  8. @ Kate – thank you so much for your kind words, and suggestions. I have managed to get my a$$ to the gym a couple of times over the last few weeks. It’s hard, and I’m embarrassed, but I’m glad I’ve gone. It also helps with the Food Thing as there’s nothing worse than doing exercise on a belly full of cr@p. I’m a big fan of walking, but have to be careful not to do too much of anything too soon, or I end up putting my back out, or stuffing my ankle, etc etc. I’m trying hard this time not to do too much too soon. I used to cycle heaps, and I still like it, but I have these awful thighs that blow up when I ride, which doesn’t help with the Body Image Thing much. It can also be triggering for me as my ex was a cyclist. So… I walk, and I do the “crazy walker” (cross trainer) with a bit of bike thrown in for variety. I’d really love to try some of the classes at the gym, but am daunted by how unfit I am. Thanks again for your love and support.

    @ Paul – Grounding? Grounding? Where have I heard that before? LOL Good idea to try it when the Food Thing takes hold. I hadn’t thought of that. The only time I’ve really used it is when I’m spiralling out of control, flashbacking or wigging out. They say I’m a smart person, but sometimes I wonder, coz it takes me awhile to realise things. Thank you. 🙂

    @ SWD – Thanks for your long message. I’m really glad I’m not alone, and hope that my posts, as hideous as they are, can bring some comfort or support to others. You’re right, of course, that it’s part of shame. Shame drives the eating and the eating drives the shame. It’s a vicious circle. It never occurred to me that part of my weight gain could be due to the healing process, but of course, you’re right. I’m hoping one day that I will be healed enough to deal with all these years of built up toxic emotional trash without doing something awful to myself. You have come so far in your healing journey, thank you so much for sharing with me.

    @ Mmaaggnnaa – thanks for stopping by. My doctor is a big one for “just stop it” so I was really surprised that I got such a positive and supportive reaction from her. I’m glad I did. I’m not sure I could have coped with the other at the moment.

    @ Tamp – My cravings follow a similar pattern. The more junk I eat, the more I crave; and the more healthy food I eat, the less I crave junk and the more I want healthy food. The hard part for me is eating the healthy food for long enough to create this pattern. Otherwise the healthy food is just a fast track to cravings and the unhealthy cycle. Btw, hula sounds like fun!

  9. Hi Kerro,

    Good for you for getting to the gym. I know how hard that is. You did a huge thing by going. Good for you. I can relate as well to the doing too much too soon.

    Covert Bailey the fitness and nutrition expert, who writes the fit or fat books, says start so slow it seems ridiculous to you and sustainable. I think that sustainable part is what gets us all in the end. So hard to keep things going.

    I understand about the biking thing making things worse. It happens to be one of the few things that doesn’t usually make things worse. I have a long list of stuff that almost always makes things worse, usually going to the gym. Good for you for being aware of what doesn’t work in some instances. That is great.

    I wanted to make a comment on grounding and other healthy coping skills. One of the only things that I learned while taking Dialectical Behavior Therapy was that you should practice the grounding and the skills when you are feeling fine. I wasn’t taught that the first time I tried DBT, but they did say it during my second foray into DBT. It made a lot of sense. Now I try to remember to do grounding every day. Sometimes I forget, but it helps me when I am consistent. And again that is hard to do.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  10. I was once told that my food issues are about shame and entitlement – too much shame and no sense of entitlement. About half of the people I work with have food issues of one sort or another, so we’re not alone when facing this stuff.

    Take care…

  11. @ Kate – that’s so smart to do the grounding thing when feeling fine. It makes complete sense. How could we possibly draw on a new skill like this, or any other new skill, when we are freaking out and losing control, if we haven’t had practice at doing it under “normal” circumstances?

    @ Castorgirl – thank you for dropping by and sharing. I completely understand about the shame…if not the entitlement. Hugs to you.

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