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Archive for January, 2012

Fourteen days into my healthy eating plan I’m reminded that weight loss is more about facing my inner demons than simply giving up my favourite foods.   I found the courage to step onto the dreaded scales.  Following this ordeal were three days of intense detoxing as I learnt to live again without caffeine, wine and processed food.   The first afternoon after work was the worst.  With a throbbing headache I opened the fridge eagerly reaching for the chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and found my hand shaking in anticipation.   My trembling hand shocked me as I’d never considered that I may actually be dependent on my evening glass of wine.   I reluctantly closed the fridge door.   I am not only fighting the ‘fatty-boom-bah’ war, but a battle with my addictions as well!

So what exactly is an addiction?  Is it only when an addiction leaves you unemployed or homeless that it is an issue?  Or can we live relatively ‘normal’ lives yet still be under the spell of an addiction? I wonder.  The dictionary defines addiction as “A persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance” which may be divided into two categories: substance addiction (such as addiction to alcohol or cigarettes) and process addiction (such as addiction to gambling or shopping).

When I ponder addiction an old boyfriend springs to mind.  He was a nice guy, sensitive, kind and artistic.  Whenever we walked into a party or nightclub I would notice his hand would begin to shake.  I’d grasp his fingers tighter to try to stop them from trembling, as I found it disturbing.   Despite his confident demeanour I knew of his traumatic childhood.  The shaking hand revealed cracks in the facade he had carefully constructed.

We met up again a couple of years later for a drink in the city.  I’d been travelling overseas and had a lot of stories to tell.  I noticed straight away that he was different.  He drove at twice the speed, spoke quickly, dressed sharply and seemed to be overflowing with confidence.   He took my hand and we walked into a bar and I noticed his hand no longer shook.  I wondered what had changed.  It was only later that I discovered he’d found the remedy for his insecurities in recreational drugs.   He seemed to have found a solution for now, but once or twice throughout the evening, I thought I saw the old shadow of uncertainty in his eyes.

We lost touch after that as we were living very different lives.   One day as I was bravely pushing a double pram up a hill in my local shopping centre, his mother walked by.  She stopped to chat and I proudly showed off my two babies.  I asked how my ex was doing and she told me that he was about to be married for the second time, and that he had recovered from ‘his breakdown’.   Immediately I remembered the shaking hands and the lost look in his eye.  So the past had caught up with him after all.

Over the years I’ve watched many people run away from their past and their brokenness.   There are some effective band aids available, like the drugs my old friend used to dull the pain and boost his self-esteem, but a band-aid is never a permanent solution.  It eventually comes off, and by this time the damage is often so much worse.

In the past fortnight I’ve lost 4 kg and have discovered a clarity of mind and a reassuring sense of calm.  I’ve realised how often I was turning to grab a glass of wine or some chocolate when I felt stressed or upset, or a strong coffee to ‘pick me up’ when I felt tired.   Somehow by turning to these little indulgences I was wrapping myself in cotton wool, a comforting layer which was shielding me from the pain which lay beneath.  Particularly after losing Mum, the comfort of these ‘innocent addictions’ shielded me from the depths of my pain.   Unfortunately, this emotional ‘cotton wool layer’ was translating into an ever-expanding physical layer as well.

Of course there is nothing evil about wine, coffee or chocolate.  I’m hoping that when I lose my weight I’ll be able to enjoy them again in moderation.  It just depends where your weaknesses lie.   I have a friend who turns to shopping when she is anxious or sad.   There is nothing wrong with shopping either, but when she comes home with a dozen bags filled with shoes and perfume she doesn’t need and a credit card which has exceeded its limit, something is out of balance.

Without the ‘cotton wool’ comforts, the world looks sharper and clearer.   I can smell the rich floral scent in my garden, see the light filtering softly through the clouds, and I’m noticing how gorgeous my husband looks.  I long to swim in the salty ocean, walk up steep hills until the perspiration drips down my back, and dance, dance, dance, until the sun comes up.

I’m wriggling out of my oppressive comfort layer, and ripping off those grubby old band aids.    I’ve been turning to food rather than to God and my loved ones when I need help.    My addictions seem comfortable and safe, but they are certainly not ‘innocent’.  They dull my senses, steal my health and rob me of the very best that life has to offer.

Here are the 12 steps which have helped many in Alcoholics Anonymous, based on the idea that our healing comes when we admit we are powerless, and rely on God, our Higher Power, to free us so we may discover the joy of life again.  They may be applied to other types of addictions too:-

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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Read any women’s magazine in January and you’ll find an array of diets, bikini bodies and exercise regimes.  I haven’t bought any of them, nor have I been able to face my bathroom scales.  I’ve stuffed my skinny clothes in the back of my wardrobe and I’m regularly reaching for my reliable size 14 comfortable clothes.   I’ve been living in fatty-boom-bah land for quite a while now.

In around an hour my bubble of denial will burst when I visit my Naturopath after a 12 month break.   I walked out of there feeling slim, energetic and hopeful, and I’m walking back in feeling bloated, sluggish and ashamed.  Yet it’s time to return and face the music.  The fat lady is about to sing.

My vacation from the battle of the bulge has been a luxury.  I’ve sipped fine wines, nibbled cheese and eaten dessert.  My visits to the gym have become less frequent and even my walks have dwindled.

I’ve been asking myself how I allowed myself to slip into chubby-land.   It started last Christmas with lots of merriment and socializing.  At first my party dresses were loose and flowing, but gradually the seams became firmer.  February was a month of highs and lows.   After a holiday brimming with restaurant meals and treats, we came home to face the heart-breaking loss of Mum after a long battle with cancer.  Where others stop eating during times of grief, I ate twice as much.   Eating seemed preferable to going mad or dissolving into misery.

Mum was the healthiest woman.  Her days began with an hour of TV aerobics, followed by some serious line dancing and then she went for an evening walk.  She followed a strict diet where pastry, sugar, alcohol or anything vaguely delicious never touched her lips.   She shunned microwaves,  mobile phones and  any additives or food colourings as they ‘give you cancer’.  She died from the most aggressive brain tumour you can get.    I threw up my hands and decided I may as well eat, drink and be merry.

I’ve always been fiercely opposed to the idea of conforming to the herd of women striving to be perfect and valuing themselves by the size of their jeans.  Surely we women have so much more to offer the world than our bodies.   Surely being overweight isn’t the end of the world?  

Yet after one scary brush with cancer, I’ve learnt the value of good health.  If we lose our health, we lose a whole lot of our lives.   After cancer I faced the deterioration of my hip joints and the prospect of no longer being able to walk.  Carrying excess weight isn’t a sensible option for me.  This year I’m planning an overseas trip and I want to do it feeling fit and strong, not waddling around feeling tired and old.  

So I’ll take a deep breath, lift my chin a little higher, stick out my ample chest and head off to face the ‘Moment of Truth’.  Please God don’t let me faint or cry when the scales do their little dance and finally settle on a number.   Today I will make the most difficult step – admitting that I need some help.   Losing weight can be tough.  But often the toughest part is taking that first tentative step.   So here I go…  My first step in the climb over Fatty-Boom-Bah Mountain.

Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything.  Corinthians 6:12

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