Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Happy Hallowe'en from Dr. Frank-N-Furter

I had a very HAPPY HALLOWE'EN, Samhain, New Year, Day of the Dead, All Saints and All Souls Days...whatever you want to call it.

Like every good spook on All Hallow's Eve, I wrote some New Year's resolutions on pieces of paper which I then set alight and dropped into a cauldron.  As the leaves on the trees wither and die, so too should some of my bad habits, right?  And, yes, I still have some of those even after 10 months of healthy eating and exercising.  So with this turn of the year's wheel, I will attempt to bid adieu to some of my more unsavoury quirks.

I have been attending the EatingDisorders Programme provided by the Ministry of Child and Family Development every Thursday for the last few months.  As you know, my relationship with food has been somewhat troubled for many years...suffice it to say that I used to dive into several bags of potato chips, down 2 litres of cola, and gorge on endless combinations of mac n' cheese, ramen noodles, and canned pasta whenever I would get upset, stressed, bored...or feel any strong emotion.  It was not a healthy practice, because after stuffing my face full of junk food, I would feel physically ill, and then the shame and guilt of such a pig out would set in.  But, food and I also liked to
Karl Lagerfeld and his date, the Sweet Transvestite!
celebrate with each other.  Have a great day?  Yes, well, let's order greasy burgers, pizza, Chinese, poutine, whatever...it didn't matter, but let's not forget to get chips and pop from the store...and if we get enough food for 6 people, then we can keep eating the take-away for the next day and a half.  Mmm yummy...and I'll start my diet on Monday.  Good plan!  And, famous last words.  Needless to say, my diet...or rather lifestyle overhaul...didn't start until January 16th of this year, and has been chugging along pretty nicely since.  So why attend the Eating Disorders Programme?  Well, because once a foodaholic, always a foodaholic.  I may be in recovery, but I will always have a tendency to overeat even if it goes against my better judgement.

My GP Dr. Laura Phillips, who is the most supportive, understanding, and comprehensive doctor in the world, turned me onto the eating disorders programme after I discussed an inappropriate new inclination to skip meals, or restrict my food.  Last November and December, I was talking to her about my compulsive binge eating.  There was no better high than losing myself in a junk food orgy...and now, it seems, I'm taking cues from my high school skinny-self who ate very little because of her sweetheart's take on thick thighs.  What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?  I get it, I've done a little transferal thing...why eat less and exercise more when I can adopt another eating disordered behaviour?  Sticking to a healthy well balanced diet that keeps my metabolism going all day, well, that's just too damn normal innit? Far too logical for me, why don't I swap one problem for another?  Haha...at least I'm aware of the situation.  It's a trick or treat kind of a thing.  And, as I've given up treats, it gets a little tricky.

Zombie Suzie...at the gym.  Yes, I worked out in this.
Before attending group sessions, I had a preliminary phone interview with someone about my eating habits.  And, following that, I had a one-on-one hour-long chat with a clinical counsellor.  Both experiences led me to ruminate over the how and why of my eating.  No real problems with food growing up, my parents encouraged healthy meals with the occasional treat, I exercised regularly and took part in sport.  I suppose it was my first real boyfriend who made me question the amount of food that was going in my mouth.  So, I just stopped eating as much...because apparently if you eat less, you are more attractive?  It doesn't really make sense, but that's how I saw it.  It must have been in Grade 12 that I first experimented with restrictive eating.  Skip breakfast, eat a recess snack, have lunch, and dinner if I was with my folks, possibly no dinner if I was with my beau.  And then everyone's happy, right?  Well, apart from me who was kinda hungry.

Then in university, I remember getting ready to go to dinner with my new boyfriend "cute boy from my archaeology class," and I asked him if I could wear the outfit that I had put on.  He looked at me as if I were crazy for asking.  But, I had become accustomed to asking for BF approval.  (And, I swore that I would never let a boy control me like that!  Gah!  I had been conditioned.)  So, later when I asked him what I should eat at the restaurant, he told me anything I wanted, of course.  Really?  Cool!  I'll have steak and lobster...just kidding.  

So how did that lead to binge eating?  Well, in my case when I cast off the shackles of restraint I embraced fairly normal eating again.  And, when I say normal, I mean normal in the sense that I wasn't counting calories and I ate a healthy well rounded diet...with the occasional sweet or savoury goodie thrown in.  I was embracing intuitive eating:  Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full.  Duh!  Then I broke up with that university boyfriend, and I was sad.  So sad and mad at myself for causing the break-up, and irrationally angry with men, boys I should say...so how will I get back at them?  Well, I'll be wickedly clever, sharp witted, and wildly successful at anything I set my mind to...and then, and then they'll think..."Why did I ever break up with her?  She is sooooo fabulous."  Or I could just stew in my dorm room and eat mi goreng before I go to sleep pretty much every night.  Hmmm...what to do, what to do?

Thus began my own personal confederation of food and emotion.  You told me what to eat?  I will take back that power by eating what I like, when I like, and however much I like, thank you very much!  Who has the power now, Bucko?  Oh, and slightly larger thighs.  Awww crap.  My cunning plan has side effects, and appears to be backfiring!  Now add a lack of varsity field hockey to the mix and we've got the freshman 15....except that I was a sophomore, so I doubled it.

This Halloween.  Batman needed  little help, obviously.
And 18 years later, I was almost 300 pounds.  Okay, I may have left out some of the details of how that came to be...but you don't need to know the specifics, you need to know that I started equating food with comfort, pleasure, happiness, solace, and a bunch of other nouns that describe a state of being.  I ate for stress relief, to alleviate emotional pain, and as a way of coping with the ups and downs of life.  I was a totally normal kid (well, to a certain extent) and I gradually turned myself into a food addict who became completely obsessed with eating.

Now, on Thursdays, I go to group meetings and hang with a small number of women all affected by binge eating.  We are lead by 2 or 3 counsellors at a time who cover topics as varied as “using your wise mind,” “dialectical abstinence,” and “primary and secondary emotions”…and something about arrows.  Very fancy stuff...and it seems to be working, or at least I seem to be applying it, not only to my eating, but also every other aspect of my life.  Now I pretty much feel like I’m screwed up in lots of other ways…but at least I’m working on it.  

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