Jun 30, 2015

Sugar Addiction and Binge Eating - 1 Month Check In

So this isn't exactly a fitness post, but Alyssa kindly gave me the thumbs up to link up to Training for Tuesday anyway.  Here's the background, if you missed it, but basically about a month ago I decided to cut out a huge amount of the sugars and refined grain I consume pretty much daily.

It feels like it's been so much longer than a month.  I thought, "I should write an update.  It's probably been a month and a half or so."  Nope, just one.

It's a good thing though.  It feels like I've been doing it longer, not because it's still hard or I'm suffering, but because I've settled in and it all feels fairly normal.  I still want to eat terrible things fairly frequently, but my, "I should eat ___" is pretty quickly followed by, "No, you're not even hungry" or "No, go eat something with nutritional value instead."  And when I do break down and indulge in my unhealthy craving, I eat 1 cookie instead of 5.

I've actually taken it a step further.  I always used to get annoyed by those people who ask, "Will anyone split a ___ with me?"  Those same people are the ones who eat part of something and put the rest back in the fridge or pantry.  But you know... it's smart!  It's so much better to indulge yourself occasionally than to completely deprive yourself for days until you break down and splurge.  And it's even better if those indulgences are small and low impact (with all my leg issues, the phrase "low impact" is getting a lot of use these days).

So yes, I've become one of "those people."  I split things.  I don't order dessert and then ask for a bite of someone else's.  I cut a half, or a quarter, off of something, wrap it back up and put it away again.

It keeps me from hating life, while staying on a healthy path.

One thing that's been interesting is that I never feel like I've succeeded.  Each day is a series of battles, and inevitably there are one or two that I lose.  But even when those losses are fairly harmless - a granola bar, or a "peanut butter cup" made of cocoa powder, greek yogurt, and peanut butter - I still feel like I gave in.

I'm constantly giving in.  And I think a huge, crucial part of this process has been learning that that's ok.  I don't need to have regimented snacks and a list of strict rules to follow.  It's ok if I go over my daily allotted calories and it's ok if I don't track everything perfectly.  Those things don't signal the end of the plan, the ruination of all my hopes and goals.  Those things are a part of the path to a healthier life that isn't completely miserable.

Sometimes I do still feel sorry for myself.  Last week when I was contemplating possible stress fracture-hood, and being mopey, Roommate offered to make cookies.  I said, "No.  It's just another thing I can't eat" as a wave of self pity washed over me.

But that was just one melodramatic day, and generally it's not been a problem.  The week before that he did make cookies.  I had 1 and a half during the course of the week, enjoyed them immensely, and wasn't too discontented that I couldn't have more.

I do think it's important to not seek out sweets or any kind of food when I'm unhappy.  That's been one of my triggers in the past for binge eating.  So that would have been a better reason to turn down the cookie offer.  That's been tough, because when you're stressed or unhappy is when willpower is the weakest.

I've given in to most of my triggers at least once.  I've eaten in bed.  I've eaten when I was unhappy instead of hungry.  I've eaten because I felt like I "deserved it" during a rough day.  BUT, and this is huge for me, I HAVE NOT BINGED for well over a month.

Binge eating has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes that meant finishing off a tub of ice cream, and sometimes it meant going to the grocery store and buying utility sized bags of candy and eating until my body actively rejected any more sugar.  Even in the last couple years when I've dramatically improved my day-to-day eating habits, and increased my exercise, I'd still partake.  Usually 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes more.  I never felt guilty about it.  I enjoyed it and it was what I liked to do.  My "one indulgence."

And I miss it.  I'll admit that openly.  But after finally admitting to myself that it was fueling my sugar addiction, and was, in and of itself, an unhealthy behavior, I've found the willpower to quit.

It's strange, because I'm so ridiculously proud of myself, but since I never really openly discussed my binge habits with anyone, it's hard to explain why it's such a victory.  I think they assume I'm exaggerating.  "Oh, we all do that."  Maybe we do.  I guess I have no way of knowing, because if everyone else is like me, it's a habit they indulge in solitude with all evidence well hidden.

So a month without my habit is a month of unexplored territory.  This is all new to me, and while it's not particularly enjoyable in and of itself, I think it's like exercise.  The enjoyment isn't necessarily the activity itself, it's the pride you take in yourself for completing it, and the gradual improvements to the rest of your life.

Those improvements have been easy to see in some areas and harder to discern in others.  Exercise is much more obvious and all-encompassing.  I'm stronger, I can run farther, my muscles are more defined, I have more energy, and on and on.  I'm still figuring out how dietary changes will affect me in the long run.  I am losing weight.  It's been a pretty steady pound each week after an initial plummet.

But I don't want to be tied to the scale.  I don't want to start counting pounds and defining success in terms of weight lost or gained.

So I'm trying to find other successes to celebrate and other goals to shoot for.  Blood pressure is one.  A month ago it was the highest it's ever been, and now it's back down to my usual.  I'm hoping to drive it all the way down into the healthy range.

There's plenty of things this dietary change will help me NOT do.  I will not develop Diabetes.  I will (hopefully) not continue to get cavities.  But I'm pretty stumped on things it IS doing.  So I'm hoping some of you will have insights for me.

Any ideas for positive improvements I could track other than weight?  What health successes have you had lately?  Have you ever tried to change your dietary habits?

Linking up with Alyssa and Tracy


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  1. Non-scale victories are one of my favorite things to talk about with respect to health, fitness and whole wellness. The scale can only tell you so much. That number really should come with an asterisk that describes time of day, water retention, where in your cycle you are, etc. but it doesn't. It also doesn't differentiate fat lost and muscle gained. It's an unreliable tool. But your ability to regulate your cravings? Totally reliable. Ability to eat one cookie—LET yourself eat one cookie, rather than binge on 15 and feel awful about yourself afterwards? Totally reliable measurement. It sounds like you're doing really well and are on the right track to making this sustainable, healthy, smart lifestyle restructure. It's all about your frame of mind. You got this! Keep up the great work.

  2. One month of sticking to anything is tough, but especially so when it involves drastically changing your daily habits. I know what you mean about not being sure how to judge what it IS doing. I get that with with running sometimes. Like I know it makes healthier overall and keeps me from developing certain problems, but what is it actually DOING for me? I could definitely stand to make some dietary changes but I'm too scared to try, so hats off to you!

  3. haha i hate those people but only because i'm a fatty and i don't want to share. but kudos to you for sticking to it. we've talked about binging before so i really understand and i am super happy for you. i hope i get to where you are one day!

  4. I find it hard to talk about sometimes, but I have also had experience with binge eating. I was having a really stressful time in my life and it was also my one thing that I half looked forward to, even though I was gonna regret it later. Now, I also do the indulge in pieces thing. Especially on the weekend, I will avoid having a food baby by eating half the main course of whatever I get when we go out and saving it for later...sometimes.

  5. Track your measurements. Sometimes you'll lose inches but not weight. And really, to me, that's more motivating because it's actual proof that I'm "slimming" down.

  6. I weigh myself every morning. I was on a roll losing weight and now I am stuck.


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