Food and a meltdown.

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Mile 46 of the North Face Endurance 50 miler last month. All I wanted was oranges. (Wendie Gum, pacer/photographer/orange wrangler.)

Food owned me for 44 years.

Truth?

It still does at times.

It’s at the oddest, most random moments that a titanic wave of emotions about food gets triggered.

I have been actively working on my relationship with food for the last two years.

I want to have peace with food and eating.


 

Right before the Holidays I had a meltdown. It turned out to be a productive emotional meltdown that’s moving me closer to that ‘peaceful’ relationship with food that I’m pursuing.

For me it was a big meltdown because – I don’t really have meltdowns – and this one involved tears and about three days of me feeling emotionally exhausted as I sorted out what had happened.

I learned something really good and positive about myself in the whole process; my coping mechanism this time around was conversation, with just a little bit of hiding/crying thrown in to keep things interesting.

My coping mechanisms was NOT FOOD AND EATING.

Huge win.


So what happened to cause the meltdown?

I have always said I was NOT a secret eater. I am not, at least not in the classic sense of making sure no one sees me physically eating and then hiding any evidence.  (Hiding candy wrappers, burying trash, dumping packaging at the grocery store…)

I’m not a classical secret eater because I would eat anything, unapologetically, in front of people.

But where things get interesting is that I was a version of a secret eater. I was a ‘just don’t let any SINGLE person have a clear picture’ kind of eater…

I’ve been very careful, my whole adult life, to make sure no single person knew my calorie count for the entire day.

Very, years-long, careful. 

I’m a ninja at this crap.

My thinking?  ‘If someone knows the totality of what I’m eating then they will KNOW with absolute certaintity why I am fat.’ Which might have possibly made sense when I weighed 392 pounds.

Now at 168 pounds, 4.8 years in on this epic adventure to change my lifestyle?

This is still my thinking.

You need to throw into this mess that I’m still carb-phobic at times given my background with Type 2 Diabetes. I am NO LONGER T2, but I still think about every bite of food in the form of counting calories, carbs, fat.

I still very much have a hard-wired list of foods that are labeled good/bad that I chronically weigh every food choice against.

Old habits.


 

I now have a roommate. My friend, and business partner, Spencer is my roomie as we work to get our business off the ground and running.

In the time we have been sharing space, I’ve been unconsciously careful to make sure that he didn’t know the full picture of what I was eating each day.  I didn’t realize I was doing this at the time, but looking back; it’s exactly what I was doing.

And I was really good at it.

Then he ‘caught’ me.

Spencer does most of the grocery shopping, we prepare foods to share and we have the same eating habits.

Spencer was showing me some new foods to try for breakfast. At my request.

At the time, I remember I was being a bit squirmy; I needed help finding some food options and variety in my eating choices.  I really was working to lose some of my fears and rules around food. Spencer was willing to help. But the desire to find some food solutions was battling big time with me not wanting Spencer to know what I was actually eating for meals.

I’m not sure how to explain that I specifically requested help with ‘breaking’ my self-imposed food rules/fears, and then at the same time I didn’t want it…

Welcome to my messed-up mind?

So, totally (at least I think he was) unaware of most of this emotional baggage that I’m dragging around the kitchen, Spencer showed me how to build a good, plant-based, protein packed, breakfast bowl.

I was on my own for lunch.  But had packed food from the fridge.

Dinner rolled around.

The meltdown occurred…

He knew what I ate for breakfast. He could easily figure out what I took from home for lunch. Here we were talking about what to eat for dinner. In the grand scheme of trying to hide my total calories consumption for the day; I KNEW Spencer, maybe better than most, could quickly calculate what I had just eaten for the entire day.

Please note… I eat healthy. I’m focused on making sure my running and activity are fueled appropriately. BUT my mind is not healed entirely… (You have probably figured this out by now.)

As I stood in the kitchen with Spencer, all I could feel was that my secretly screwed up relationship with food was no longer safe and secret. That is a SCARY feeling.  Spencer now KNEW what my calories/quality/foods were for the day.

I quietly lost it.

The tears I had been fighting back all day were going to spill over. I don’t cry in front of anyone.

So I did what most healthy adult females would do. I ran upstairs to my room, closed the door and hid. I cried for a bit. I waited for a while hoping he hadn’t noticed anything was amiss and we could just go about business as usual.

Not so much.

He was waiting to talk to me.

‘So we’ve obviously uncovered some painful shit…  You want to talk about it?’

I sat down at the table, with my dinner and choked on it.  I cried.  Felt like I couldn’t even begin to put into words how horribly, terribly vulnerable I felt NOT only because he KNEW what I had eaten for the day; but he wasn’t going to let me just walk away and not talk about it.

Bastard. 

So we talked. Haltingly. He patiently waited me out as I tried to find the words to explain what was happening. I’m grateful that Spencer gave me the gift of generous patience as I was beginning to process 45 years of food issues out loud.  He helped to safely and gently open the flood gates.

I wrote all of this down in a journal. I immediately sought out the solace, advice and comfort of my friends the Gums. We sat in their home and had an honest, tough, problem-solving kind of conversation the night after the breakdown. (They’ve changed their lifestyles and have the type of relationship with food that I’m trying to build.) I am also working with a great therapist.  ALL of this is what I have put into place to figure out how to create and sustain a healthy relationship with food.

I know that this is a key issue I have to continue to work on.

I’m finally done hiding food or my eating habits from anyone.

The best way out is always through. – Robert Frost

 

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Curls. A funny thing happened…

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Passport. 🙂 2003 (Close to 400 pounds, I think…)  and 2013 (close to 200 pounds).

A lot of things happened all at once when I was getting close to getting off of injectable insulin…

I was working hard — single-minded focus kind of hard — to get off of insulin and other meds.  Nothing else mattered.  I wanted off insulin.

I was losing weight. I had discovered walking and weight lifting. My diet was getting cleaned up, stronger, healthier by the day.  All of this was helping me wean off of insulin.

I was experiencing glucose highs/lows like crazy as my body was working frantically to adjust to the diminishing supply that I was injecting daily.  I could FEEL my body working to take over an injection-free life.

It was an amazing time!

It was at this point that I began to realize and understand that I was changing my LIFE, not just sticking it out with a diet. I was finally beginning to own the idea of this being my new lifestyle. 

I was outright trading PRESCRIPTIONS for FOOD/ACTIVITY.


 

This past weekend I was in a conversation with someone I was meeting for the first time. He and I had very similar wild/crazy/uncontrollable hair and we were laughing about it. He was talking about the life-long struggle, I admitted that my curls were fairly new.

Natural, but new…

I shared with him that one of the most noticeable and perhaps panic-inducing moments of getting off of insulin involved my hair…

If you have only known me in the past 3+ years, you might be puzzling over the fact that my hair is decidedly NOT straight.

My wild mop is pretty much a way folks recognize me these days.

So how did I get curly hair?


 

I quit taking injectable insulin in February of 2012, by early June of 2012 my hair was falling out.

Most of it fell out one morning in the shower.

I never thought I was vain about my hair. Still amazing to me how I suddenly became pretty damn connected to my head of hair when it was falling out and I had no idea why…

So get this…

Turns out that insulin, which I was injecting 72 units a day for Type 2 Diabetes, is a hormone.

When you quit taking it; combined with shifting your entire lifestyle to try to get your body to accept that you want your OWN insulin/glucose receptors to kick back in and take back over…?

Well…

Turns out your hormones are just a wee-bit out of whack. Your hormones are not even remotely stable and they’re fighting hard to normalize.

Apparently, shedding hair can be one response to this ‘sudden’ hormonal shift.

Who knew?!!

Here’s how it went down…


 

I went for a run.  I was in the shower washing my hair and went to rinse my hair and looked at my hands…

Huh.

That seems like a lot of hair.

BUT — it’s Spring.  Maybe I’m just shedding hair because it’s getting warm. 

Ran my hands through my hair again to rinse my hair.  The hair was so thick on my hands I could barely see the skin of my hands.

Panic is starting to surface.  But it can’t REALLY be that much hair — right? — maybe I’ve just never really paid attention to how much hair I lose daily… This is probably normal…

Repeat a third time.

Crap. That is a LOT of hair. Is that ALL of my hair?! DO I have any left?

Get out of the shower. Towel dry my hair.  Lots of hair in the towel…

Look in the mirror.

Panic.  Full blown, breath-stealing, hot-tear inducing panic.

I called my Doctor.

Doc… ‘This is a possible side effect to going off of insulin – which you have been on for years. It’s fairly rare.  It’s totally benign. You are fine and healthy.  Your hair will grow back. It might be a little different color or texture as it grows back in.’

Me… ‘Swell.  Uh… WAS SOMEONE GOING TO TELL ME THIS AT SOME POINT AND TIME?!!’…

Doc… *laughter* ‘Bets.  In 20+ years of practicing medicine you are one of two of my patients that have successfully reversed Type 2 and gotten OFF OF insulin.  The other patient was a bald male. *laughter* ‘I didn’t know what to tell you to expect.  It will grow back. Find some cute hats.’

Me… *Digging in my room for a hat.  Any hat. Frantically texting my sister and friends for a phone number for a hair stylist.  ANY hair stylist… *

I went from wavy/straight hair to absurdly CURLY hair almost literally overnight.

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Hannah and I.  My hair was just starting to grow back in, around 4+/- months of consistent grow out at this point . Big earrings and bright lipstick were key distractions while my hair was growing back. 🙂

I have lost a bunch of weight, reversed type 2 diabetes and found running…  And even when I look at pictures from that timeframe and see the weight coming off, or the race pictures where I know I was learning to run…

I am reminded how my hair is probably the one, single thing that best shows the changes and tells the story of my new life. 🙂

 

FIRE! (And shutting up…)

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One of the most generous listeners I know of, my friend Jennifer. 🙂 And one of the first ones to help me get a handle on the goal that was looming in front of me…

I had a conversation the other day that helped me re-ignite a fire…

A fire I had forgotten about.

And it took me screwing up and self-correcting to finally get to the right spot.

Here’s what happened earlier this week…


 

I met with a woman I don’t know very well. She reached out to me because she has just been given a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. She said she felt she had a triple digit amount of weight to lose. She doesn’t know where to start.

She asked me to tell her how I lost weight and reversed Type 2 diabetes. She said she wanted to hear my story.

I was trying to find the right words to help her understand a few things about what I had encountered that I thought might be specifically helpful to her. I was trying to explain that my journey was not linear.  It was not easy, nor over.

The trade offs were life changing in every possible, positive way immaginable.

I explained that I remembered the day I mentally understood that I was trading medicine prescribed in a pill bottle and syringe for MEDICINE in the form of healthy, nutrient dense foods.

I remembered when I finally understood I was trading a lifetime of being lazy, inactive and comfortable for a new lease on life that would make me wildly uncomfortable and have me running in the woods and facing exhilarating fears head on.

I understood I was in the life-long process of building a whole new lifestyle.

I wanted her to understand that with every fiber of my being, I had become willing to trade certain death with Type 2 diabetes for a chance at what I knew could be a life worth living out loud, fiercely and completely each day.


So I’m in this conversation with this woman and I have this intense energy building in my head and chest to try to help her understand ME and my journey…

Yet I can see that I am failing in trying to help her understand that the power to save her own life lies in her own hands… I could see that she was overwhelmed with the task that was stretching out in front of her.

And then it FINALLY registered through my thick skull what it was I was actually seeing, feeling and experiencing with her…

My story, combined with her own journey winding out in front of her were BOTH scaring her.

A lot.

Beyond the tears, the averted eyes and bowed head — there was just fear.   I could see it. She was trying hard to hide it.  But it was too bag, too pervasive, too consuming.

I felt like I had to stop and re-group. For both of us.

I pulled out my best imitation of my ‘Wendie’ breathing techniques.

I stopped.  Mid-sentence, mid-story.  Sat up straight.  Made solid eye contact and then I just took a few deep breaths. 

DEEP, loud, intentional.  That habit has become soothing for me in times of distress.  When my friend Wendie Gum breathes that way — she can calm everyone around her…  She can calm an entire freaking room of people.  I have seen it happen.  For real.

I was trying to steal just a bit of her magic. And hoping it would work to help me figure out how to put this conversation back on the right path.

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Wendie and Bets. 🙂  

And then I did something that’s hard for me to do.

Really hard.

I shut the hell up.

AND I started to listen to the silence.

I had been right to stop talking.

The silence was really, really tense and full.

So I just kept breathing.

I tried to convey to her, simply with my breathing and my eyes, that I could and would wait for her, WITH HER, in the fear and overwhelm.

I would willingly sit there ready to listen and just be with her for as long as she needed me to be there…  I wanted her to know that struggling with emotions and words was safe and OK and warranted and healthy between us.

And then I waited for HER to fill the silence.

And she did.

Eventually.

And I let her talk, cry and grapple for words.

Which is what I should have done from the very beginning…

See, I have a fire burning in my heart and soul.  I want everyone to catch the passion to CHANGE what’s broken in their lives.  And to be fired up.  And to be excited by the challenges in front of them.

I fundamentally understand that it has to be their OWN fire.  I can’t tend it, can’t light it and have no right to even share in the warmth.

This conversation proved to be a perfect reminder for me. Spencer (coach) is always reminding me to respect, trust and work the process.

Well… It turns out that I really needed the reminder to RESPECT THAT PROCESS for others.

It’s NOT my process. Not my fire. Not my opportunity.

It. Is. Theirs.

And it was also a great reminder that I wasn’t always fired up and ready to take on the world. I sat there staring at her and could suddenly remember when I was terrified.  And ashamed.  And overwhelmed.

I could see me sitting across the table.

I remembered when I just wanted someone to listen. And understand. And not judge me. And maybe say something that I’d never heard before that I thought might just be POSSIBLE…

I was there in a similar, fire-less pit for a very long time.  Too long.

And while I wanted someone to light the fire for me…  I really just needed someone to listen and understand.

When that happened? THAT is when things finally caught fire for me.


I really want to be the person I so desperately NEEDED when I started on this journey.

The fire I have is really NOT to tell my story.

The fire I have in my soul is to HELP other people…

This week I was reminded that people don’t need to hear my story, they just need me to care about THEIR story.

Could listening actually ignite a fire?