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Category — Addiction & Recovery

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time…

My binge addiction is like a teenager who parties when the parents are away for the weekend. You know how it goes, the parents leave and say, “Now, don’t have a bunch of people over and absolutely NO PARTIES.” And the teenager says, “I know. I won’t. Gosh, don’t you trust me?”

So, the parents leave (thinking they’ll have to learn to trust their teenager eventually) and the kid is thinking, “OMG, I thought they’d NEVER leave. Now, let me send a Facebook Group Invitation to all 1500 of my closest friends…”

What happens while the parents are away is not pretty and definitely does not fall under the heading of “good, clean fun.”

Nope, when the parents return (early, usually) they are met with a scene straight out of Animal House: There are pizza boxes strewn everywhere, Doritos crunched into the carpet, and those red plastic “SOLO” cups with stale beer on every piece of furniture in sight. There are bottles of flat Coke, empty chip bags and paper plates with orange grease spots on them.


One thing is certain: The parents were not at home when the eating orgy ensued, and they DEFINITELY did not get to ‘enjoy’ the festivities…BUT, THEY WILL HAVE TO CLEAN UP AFTER IT.

I know, I know…fellow parents are out there saying, “Oh no. I’M not cleaning ANYTHING up. My KID is gonna to do THAT.” But, we all know that the kid is passed out on the futon in the den, and besides, he’ll deny everything, blame everyone, and do a lousy job of putting things back in order.

But, that’s not all: That antique that’s been in the family for generations? Broken. And the couch cushions? Torn. The carpet? Stained. Nothing is going to be the way it was…but it has to be returned to some semblance of order.

So, why am I telling you about a “party-while-the-parents-are-away” weekend? Because my stubbornly recalcitrant binge addiction is a lot like that teenager: IT WANTS TO PARTY EVEN THOUGH I TELL IT NOT TO.

Guess who gets to “come home” to home to the carnage?

Guess who gets to stumble across chalk outlines (where the box of Zingers WAS), clean Oreo cookie crumbs off the counter, and tear down the yellow police tape blocking the refrigerator door?

You guessed it: ME.

Bingeing gets the party and I get the hangover.

My Party-Girl-Binger wants me to believe we’ve had good times – BUT WE HAVEN’T AND THE PARTY IS OVER. The bingeing teenager is officially GROUNDED, and it’s time for the adult to hire a “house sitter” (more like a therapist, trained in addiction and recovery), clear out the pantry, and get back to an OA meeting.

Can anyone else relate?

August 23, 2011   3 Comments

It’s Your Choice

We hear it all the time: Life is about choices.

In my case, perhaps the biggest CHOICE of my life was the one I made when I CHOSE to have gastric bypass surgery in 2007. At the time, I didn’t really know that I was choosing more than just surgery or weight loss; I was choosing a complete and total lifestyle change, as well as emotional upheaval that would expose a food addiction and require intensive therapy.

I can already hear you asking, “Okay, so if you knew then what you know now, would you still make the same CHOICE to have surgery?”

  • Absolutely
  • Unequivocally
  • Certifiably
  • 100% YES

“Even if you KNEW it was going to be this hard?”

(See above answers and add exclamation points)

So, I CHOSE to enter the Bariatric After Life™, and then I CHOSE to start a blog…and then I CHOSE to start a Youtube Channel (remember Gastric Bypass Barbie?) and then I CHOSE to start a Facebook page. Of course, since I’m “all about excess,” I also chose to attend Obesity Related conferences around the country and become a motivational speaker. All of those things are commitments that take time…time (it might and HAS been argued) that I really don’t have.

But I am PASSIONATE about my Bariatric After Life, and I am PASSIONATE to help others thrive and ACCEPT the CHOICE they also made when they had surgery. Interestingly…I don’t view my commitment to inspire, motivate and educate others as a choice at all. At least, not a choice *I* made. No. I feel that the choice was made for me…on some deep level that is super hard to explain (so I won’t even try, LOL).

Alright, so recapping, I made a choice to have surgery, and then I (did or didn’t) CHOOSE to share my Bariatric After Life with the world. Got it.

But, then I CHOSE to return to graduate school.

Oh boy…Now, there’s a choice I’m still questioning. But that is not exactly the reason for my post today.

Since I CHOSE all of these things, I have NO RIGHT to complain to anyone about the time that they take. I am not entitled to lament that I “have no life” and don’t get to “relax and enjoy my weekends with MexiKen.” It is not okay for me to snipe and whine about how “tough my life is,” or how “nobody understands.”

You know what? It’s not anyone else’s job to understand, tolerate, or indulge the choices I make. While it IS super important for my family to support me, even they can’t entirely grasp the true meaning (or wisdom?) of my choices…but they love me, and do their very best to be patient while I CHOOSE to chain myself to my computer — LOL.

So, the point is, I hear a lot of complaints from a lot of people — the very same people who claim that life is about choices — and it’s withering.

You know what? Life IS about choices, but it’s YOUR choice to live with those choices; it is not my responsibility to make you feel better about your burdens, because you know what? I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell myself: If you don’t like the choices you made, change what you can and accept the rest.

Does this sound harsh and uncompassionate? It shouldn’t. It SHOULD sound like someone who supports anyone who lives up to their own promises.

If you CHOSE to have weight loss surgery, then you CHOSE to live with all of the consequences. Anything that you add to that super-teeny-bariatric-sized plate is up to you, and if you find you’ve piled too much on it, then it might be time to take some off. But, please…don’t tell me how miserable you are about what’s on thta plate; scoop some off and enjoy what’s left.

Life IS a choice. So is a positive attitude. I CHOOSE both…even on those days when life has piled a bunch of lemons on my plate.

CHOOSE LIFE, people.

I now return you to the celebration of your BARIATRIC AFTER LIFE!

June 27, 2011   6 Comments

I’m a Survivor

I was talking to my good friend, Frank Surace, this morning about how I have experienced a very definite “shift” in my thinking — away from that of a “BARIATRIC PATIENT,” and to an “ALMOST- NORMAL PERSON.” He stopped me right there and said, “Oh, I have a name for that. You’re a Survivor. A Bariatric Survivor. Not a Bariatric Patient.” The lightbulb came on instantly! “You’re absolutely RIGHT!” I said.

And…he was.

I don’t know why I’d never thought of it that way, but it really explains my feelings so completely and so accurately that I had to share.

Let me back up just a titch. Last night, I went to my support group meeting (I haven’t been able to go due to my extensive travel schedule, so this was a real treat). I had the opportunity to address the room about the importance of support and advocacy, and took a poll to see how many people were online (not many), how many participated in online support groups (fewer) and how many attended outside bariatric events, like Obesity Help Conferences, WLSFA M&Gs, or other local get-togethers (ZERO) That’s right — NO ONE in the room did anything outside of…well…that room. It was frustrating and sad, because I realized how vital this component has been to my overall success as a post-op.

I am absolutely CONVINCED that I would not be where I am today in my Bariatric After Life™ were it not for the support of my successful bariatric buddies. I would not be living in recovery (today) were it not for the support of my fellow recovering addicts. You’ve heard it a million times: If you want to be a winner, hang with the winners. Well, it’s true. I spend my days plugged into the community. I read about the state of obesity in the nation; I read about new surgery techniques; I connect with fellow WLS people, help those who are struggling, and celebrate those who are succeeding. It is my passion and I see it as being part of my living and breathing self. Ironically, as immersed as I am in the industry, I don’t define myself as a bariatric person, even though I had bariatric surgery.

How do I reconcile this? Hint: Remember the title of this blog? I’M A SURVIVOR.

Think about people who have cancer. In the beginning, they typically undergo intensive therapy, like chemo, radiation, and surgery. They live and breathe cancer treatment. They read up on the latest techniques and remedies, and their entire lives are devoted to reaching remission. It’s very similar in the early months after bariatric surgery. Everything is about the “treatment”…“Am I doing this right? Am I eating enough? I am eating too much?”

Eventually, for many cancer patients, the cancer goes into remission (goal), and they are free to live their lives – as long as they continue to monitor their condition (just like us), have annual bloodwork done (just like us); and make healthy choices that will not contribute to a relapse (or regain, just like us).

The best way to be a cancer survivor is to not live in FEAR of relapse.
The best way to be a bariatric survivor is to not live in FEAR of regain.

Like learning to drive a stick-shift. In the beginning, you’re ultra-focused on everything…timing…smooth shifting…which gear am I in…Oh no, I stalled! But, soon enough, you begin to do it without thinking. Not to say that you don’t remain MINDFUL of your driving; you just don’t THINK about every shift. It’s the same with a bariatric person: I don’t THINK about every bite, but I am MINDFUL of my eating.

You know, as MexiKen and I sat at support group last night, we were both struck by the fact that I am no longer living in a constant state of panic; I’m no longer struggling to “get it just right.” I know myself and my limitations; I know what I’m capable of accomplishing and I’m living my life on life’s terms. It is so liberating to know that I have successfully made the transition…at least for today. (If I’ve learned ANYTHING, it’s never to take a single thing for granted! I must work hard at maintenance every day!)

I am a batriatric survivor. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, anymore than a cancer survivor does, but I know that I am healthy and happy today. I have been given a second chance at life. I don’t intend to waste it by worrying about what’s around the next bend.

Are you worried about relapse, or are you living the life of a survivor? If you AREN’T there yet, do you believe you ever WILL be? Feel free to share your thoughts.

May 27, 2011   10 Comments

It has nothing to do with food, but it’s all about the food.

At some point in our Bariatric After Life™, we learn that our goal is to stop being defined by our surgery and start living life. And yet, we can never forget that we had surgery, because we don’t want to return to our old habits. I’ll admit, this concept has really tripped me up, because I spend my days reading, writing and talking about bariatrics!

How, on earth, do I stop thinking about food, when all I think about is food? Throw in a food addiction and, by all rights, I should have a barrel of monkeys on my hands. Only…I don’t.

How can that be?

Well, in the past few months, I’ve had the strangest feeling wash over me. It’s something akin to “normalcy” – or, as normal as a surgically-altered person can be – and then, not quite normal at all. If I had to define it for you, I believe I would call it: PEACE. Yes, that is it. I am at PEACE within my body. The warring factions have laid down their weapons of mass disruption, and I am now living life on life’s terms. Not to confuse PEACE, with PERFECTION, or CALMNESS — because neither of those things comes even remotely close.

To be clear, what I am feeling is a reunification or reassociation with my SELF. I have been torn apart for so long, I’d forgotten what it was like to actually BE ME — if I ever really knew at all.

Thanks to therapy and the support of good friends, I now know what it’s like (at least as far as anyone can determine) to be ME: It’s crazy, fast-paced, gung-ho, exciting, outrageous, magical, frustrating, disconcerting, energizing, exhausting, invigorating, maddening, brilliant, radical, awesome, mellow, unlimited, liberating, compassionate, honest and everything in between. It’s like a zoo and a circus and a day at Disneyland, all rolled into one.

For the first time in – probably EVER – I am at home in my own skin, and I like the way it feels. I know what makes me happy, and I know what frustrates me. I know what triggers a binge, and I know what recovery feels like. I know what being fit does for my emotions, and I know what being sick does to my heart. I am in touch with myself and…I like me.

Guess what? I am not really about food at all. At least not today. Or yesterday. Maybe I will be tomorrow, I don’t know. One thing I do know is, I am hard-pressed to find someone who is not struggling to maintain (or lose) their weight (whether they’ve had surgery or not); I am hard-pressed to find someone who does not think they *could* workout at least one more day a week (whether they have had surgery or not), and I am hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t wish they hadn’t eaten a certain food today (whether they have had surgery or not). So, you see…I’m really NOT that different from anybody else, and yet…I am.

How? I surround myself by like-minded, successful post-ops. I get filled up daily by reading inspirational blogs, hearing from my Facebook and Twitter friends, and just chatting it up with healthy, balanced folks. Like me 😉 I remain a staunch advocate for the disease of obesity, and I speak to whoever will listen.

If you were to take away one thing from this message, it would be this: The further away from my surgery, the more normal I feel. It’s like swimming away from the shore. I can’t touch the bottom with my toes anymore, but I’m not freaking out; I’m actually wondering what’s beyond that next wave. I never thought that could happen….

Have you ever experienced this?

May 26, 2011   7 Comments


As a recovering people-pleasing/perfectionistic/control freak, I can tell you that some of the hardest things to come to terms with in my Bariatric After Life™ have involved what other people think of me. Or, rather, what I ASSUME other’s think about me, because, you see, I can’t really KNOW what they think of me unless they tell me. Of course, there are plenty who DO tell me what they think of me, and that’s the next hardest thing I’ve had to deal with.

To cope, since I can’t “eat” about it anymore, I’ve learned the fine art of “self-talk.” You know, that thing you do when you are trying to dig down deep and find courage you hope you have (but aren’t really sure you do have, until you find it?) Unfortunately, much of my self-talk hasn’t really worked, and I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, I thought I was doing all of the things I was supposed to do. You know, the stuff that everybody always told me when I was a kid:

  • “Ignore them and they’ll go away.”
  • “Don’t worry about what they think; they don’t even KNOW you.”
  • “Why do you care what they think, anyway?”
  • “You can’t please everybody, all of the time.”

It was like a mantra for me…I repeated those lines over and over, yet they somehow rang…hollow.

What was I doing wrong, I wondered?

Fortunately, thanks to some amazing counseling (therapy rocks), I have acquired powerful tools for dealing with things that used to hurt me. Over the course of time, I’ve learned about the technique of reparenting my inner child. (Can I get an “oooooohhhhhh” and an “ahhhhhhhhhh” for that deep statement?)

Now, this is NOT a bunch of psychoanalytical hogwash, and it’s not about blaming your parents. (Leave that for your therapist tell you). This is about giving yourself what you need NOW that people who loved you didn’t understand how to give THEN.

When I was a child, I knew that my parents loved me, but they unknowingly dropped the ball in their management of certain, key events in my life. They did the best they could – the adult Cari knows this – but ultimately, the message that little Cari got was that she was bad and wrong, and, though she believed the other person was wrong, she ended up thinking that she probably deserved the hurtful words or actions. She learned that it was okay to ASSUME the worst and be hurt.

Uh-oh. Little Cari was parented to mitigate and rationalize, but adult Cari has learned to validate and show compassion. Here’s how that looks: When someone says something mean, the parent (grown-up Cari) says, “I know that hurts. I can imagine how much your heart hurts right now. I’m sorry this is happening to you…” That is loving and understanding parenting.

This is not the same as: “Ignore it and it’ll go away.”

You see, the admonition to “ignore” something really put the onus on ME (little Cari). It made it seem like it was MY problem. Like I needed to do something about it…but couldn’t. Talk about frustrating! For a people-pleasing/perfectionistic/control freak, the inability to change a perception was incredibly painful.

So…I ate.
And then I ate some more.
And then I ate even more.
Until I ballooned to 320 pounds.

But, that’s not where the story ends. This morning, I put “2 and 2” together, and this is what I came up with: I had a negative exchange at the office. Actually, it wasn’t an exchange, as that would imply that it went both ways. It was actually a one-way deal, but anyway, I found myself doing the self-talk to work through it.

I told myself: “I don’t care what they think. It doesn’t matter what they say. Who really CARES what they are doing?” But, like so much of the other self-talk, it missed the mark, and I didn’t feel any better.

The good news is I figured out that it’s not that I shouldn’t care, it’s that I shouldn’t believe I can control what others mayor may not think of me. It is not my job to try to control others’ perceptions, and it’s foolish to even believe that I can. Take heart because, what I can do, is reparent little Cari like this:

“I’m so sad for you; it hurts when someone says something like that. Remember that it not your job to try to control what they think or say because you don’t really know what’s in their mind, and you can’t control it anyway.”

Say this: I DON’T CONTROL what you think.
Not this: I DON’T CARE what you think.

That is the message for today: If you perceive that someone is being mean to you, just remind yourself that you have no business thinking you can control what they think, feel or say about you, and you really don’t know for sure, anyway.

Then, move on.

There is great power in that wisdom, and it keeps the problem squarely on their shoulders.

Happy re-parenting and may the hurt little child in each of us get the love he or she needs so we can stop feeding them cookies to try to feel better 😉


Originally published on Bariatric Eating.

May 19, 2011   4 Comments

How Does Recovery Feel?

I know what recovery from obesity feels like. I have been there before…for 30, glorious days; I am there again (currently on day 6). The reason I’m talking about it is because I want you to know that it IS POSSIBLE and it CAN HAPPEN. Not that I’m gonna race down the road, proclaiming that I am “CURED” from my disease — because that’s simply not true. Nor, will I pay a skywriter to trace the announcement that I will never binge again.

The truth of the matter is:

  • TODAY, I am living in recovery.
  • TODAY, I know what peace feels like.
  • TODAY, I know that it is possible.
  • TODAY, I know that tomorrow holds no promises.

I must live life on life’s terms. It sounds so much kinder when I hear it that way.

If you are struggling with an addiction, and fear that you can’t conquer it –don’t believe the lie; You can conquer it, and if you are willing to do the work…you will.

Mine is a message of hope. It comes from someone who — at least for today — is living in recovery. I make no promises, but I will tell you that the feeling is glorious.

Never give up!


May 17, 2011   No Comments

NAWLS Retreat: Day 2 & 3

So, you’re planning a WLS retreat. How hard could *that* be? Seriously?

All you need is:

  • (1) Gorgeous beach house (preferably, in Virginia Beach)
  • Lots of bedrooms, even more beds, and fewer bathrooms
  • (2) Keurig Coffee Makers
  • Several baskets of Keurig K-Cups (coffee and tea, please)
  • A vast array of chemical sweetening agents
  • Some creamer crap
  • A super long dinner table with a ton of chairs. Don’t worry, we’re all smaller now, so we don’t mind cramming together.
  • (2) Kitchens
  • (3) Dishwashers
  • (2) Refrigerators
  • Healthy food (homemade, please — nothing processed)
  • Comfy seating + throw blankets
  • Peacock feathers (don’t ask)
  • (1) Great leader (Katie Jay)
  • (1) Great support person (Julie)
  • (15) WLS Women

Did I leave anything out?

One more: Fresh towels (1 for hair, 1 for body, 2 for face, 1 for hot tub). That one is for ShannonWatts because she brought towels for me so I wouldn’t have to schlep wet ones in the Purple People Eater.

Simple, right?

Wait a minute…that last item (before the towels, I mean): 15 WOMEN? Are you freaking’ KIDDING ME? You want to bring 15 WOMEN (let alone, women dealing with body images, food addiction, life after weight loss surgery, regain, and life) together and let them eat, sleep and LIVE under one roof for 3 days???

Just between you and me and the tree, this does NOT sound like a formula for success, even if there ARE Keurig coffee machines. I mean, what do women typically DO when they are thrown together?

  • Gossip
  • Complain
  • Deny
  • Blame
  • Cry
  • Hug
  • Eat
  • Repeat

I can tell you that at least 4 of those things happened, but NOT the ones you’d imagine. Intrigued?

Let me get to it:

I dove out of bed at 6 AM. I gently navigated the ladder at the foot of my bunk bed so as to avoid stubbing my toe on the crib and The Purple People Eater (my suitcase) on the floor. It was still dark, but ShannonWatts (I type her name together like that because I like the way it sounds: ShannonWatts) had already showered, and I was strugging into my clothes. The goal for the morning? A Walk on the Beach. Sounds easy enough. Heck, I LIVE by the beach. I know how to walk on the beach. Wait a minute…shoes? No shoes? Flip flops? Barefoot??? Oh gosh…when did this get so complicated? (Yawn). Remember, my body is still on West Coast time, so it’s about 3:45 in the morning.

I quickly decide to abandon my shoes and we head down to the water’s edge for a lovely stroll to the nearest pier. It is simply DELIGHTFUL I’m exhaling now just thinking about the magic, the beauty, the peacefulness…the men whistling at us from their balcony, inviting us in for “breakfast”…true story.

Okay, so we walk for about 45 minutes, then head back for a lovely breakfast of…something. Gosh. Why can’t I remember this? Oh well, let me just say I was able to eat it (miracles never cease), AND, Linda Garner (and assistant Julie) outdid themselves with the flavor and presentation. Oh yeah! I remember: Something about Chef Dave’s Oatmeal!!!

We had delightful conversation, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my new friends. My favorite part so far? I feel comfortable with a bandana on my head and no makeup on my face. Completely at home. I love this.

Next: Time to (officially) begin the retreat. Without giving away the farm, I will just tell you this: The weekend was devoted to the deep exploration of Katie Jay’s very own WLS Stages of Transformation. If you are UNFAMILIAR with these stages, she has a little booklet you can get, but she also references them regularly in her Small Bites Newsletter and on her website. Needless to say, they are powerful, accurate, and unbelievably helpful.

But…how did I FEEL at the retreat? I’ll be honest: I am the most guarded open person you’ll ever meet. I have NO problem sharing my deepest, darkest thoughts, but if you ask me to make a funny face, I will duck and seek the nearest place to run and hide. That means that activities where I am required to let my hair down (so to speak), do not come naturally to me, and my “fight or flight” response generally kicks in. Having said that, Katie was very clear through the entire weekend, that she hoped we would all be open to the experiences (“emotional desserts”) because we might find that we particularly enjoy something we might not otherwise have braved. She also understood that we would most likely NOT like everything — but it was worth a try. She was right. I didn’t like *absolutely everything* — BUT — because I opened myself to the fullness of the experiences, I liked MUCH, MUCH more than I would have, if I’d not participated.

Needless to say, some of the experiences (which caused my eyebrows to raise…together, because I can’t raise just one) turned out to be such fun and so liberating that I am incorporating them into my day job at the office. Seriously.

I’ll simply say “buzz” and “peacock feathers” and my fellow retreaters will know exactly what I’m talking about 😉

Speaking of “RETREATERS” — When I was preparing for this trip, I had a TON of things to do…I was simply overwhelmed by the mountain of responsibilities and couldn’t imagine how I’d ever be able to get away in good conscience. And then I thought about the word: RETREAT. What does it mean? If you’re doing battle (which I am. Daily. With myself, my job, my life and my weight), it means that you fall back, regroup, re-strategize, re-arm, re-energize, and plan your next attack. It doesn’t mean you flee or run away — it means you live to fight another day. So, my fellow retreaters and I “fell back” to Virginia Beach so we could reimagine our post-op lives as victors, rather than viewing food as the enemy and ourselves as casualties.

There’s really no way I can tell you much more about my experience at the retreat, for a number of very good reasons:

  1. They are my experiences, which are different from others.
  2. I want you to go experience one of Katie’s retreats for yourself
  3. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I don’t want to give it all away
  4. Katie took great pains to create the content and it’s a secret — LOL

Having said that, here’s what I CAN tell you:

  1. The retreat came at the perfect time. Even though I had registered about 7 months ago, and had gone through phases where I thought I “no longer needed it,” as it turned out, the timing could not have been any better. I was at the very end of my emotional rope and needed help.
  2. I can relax and forget about work and woes for a few days
  3. I actually CAN do the hula hoop
  4. There IS such a thing as too much coffee
  5. I ventured into areas I wouldn’t have before and emerged happier, stronger and smarter for the choice
  6. It is possible for 15 women to be together under one roof and not kill each other
  7. I can laugh. Anytime.
  8. I can cry. Anytime.
  9. I can run on the beach, as long as ShannonWatts is humming the tune to Chariots of Fire <<watch video and you will understand, and we both understand that our regular pace is the same as the slo-mo pace in the movie…
  10. We all hurt, we all help, and we can all find health

Since my return, people have been asking me:

  • “Did you have a good time?” (Heck, yes.)
  • “How was it?” (Amazing.)
  • “Should I go, too?” (Book now for the next one.)
  • “Would you go again?” (Duh.)

I’ll end there, because anything else I could say would just dilute the experience.

See ya’ll at the next retreat!!!

May 6, 2011   4 Comments

Shame on Me.

For those of you old enough to remember the Andy Griffith Show, you might remember that Andy never really got mad at Opie for doing something wrong; he simply said he was “disappointed” in him. Being the sensitive soul that Opie was, this indictment was enough to get him to repent and sin no more.

Now, believe me when I say, as a parent of an..um…er…*independent* daughter, dropping the “disappointment” card had ZERO impact (apparently, she wasn’t as easy as Opie ;-)) The fact that *I* was *disappointed* (gasp!) made about as much of an impression as saying the sky was blue (which is to say: none). But, I’ll consider it a bullet-dodged that she wasn’t swayed by my woefully ineffective “disappointment” technique because, in speaking with my favorite Psychologist, (who had to hear me continually say that I was “disappointed” in this or “disappointed” in that), I learned that disappointment is actually just another word for shame.


Oh my goodness! I would NEVER want to convey to my daughter that I was ashamed of her…so why would I think it was okay to tell myself that?

Needless to say, painful revelations are not always accepted on the first go-around and, true to form, when she first said it, I rejected it out of hand. I was very firm about it: No, no, and no. Disappointment DOES NOT equal shame. What do I have to be ashamed of? No. I am just…disappointed.

And then, I quietly thought about it.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Guess what? Disappointment DOES equal shame (Ouch!) When I was saying I was disappointed in something someone had done to me, I was really saying two things:

  1. That I was ashamed of THEM, and
  2. I was ashamed of MYSELF (a fact that really surprised me).

I can’t go into specifics here, but let me just say that, my misbelief that I was being kind, forgiving, or grown-up about certain things by labeling them as a “disappointment” couldn’t have been more misguided. This sort of thinking actually stunted my progress, and I didn’t even realize it!

Fortunately (or unfortunately), the instant I recognized the disappointment for what it was, the floodgates opened for me:

  • I thought I was disappointed that I’d HAD to treat my obesity through weight loss surgery.
  • I was actually ashamed that I’d treated my obesity through weight loss surgery, because I was ashamed that I was obese!
  • I thought I was disappointed that I was left with a shrinkly belly and jiggly thighs.
  • I was actually ashamed of my distorted and misshapen body because I’d “allowed my weight to get so far out of hand.”
  • I thought I was disappointed that I let people walk all over me for so many years.
  • I was actually ashamed of myself for allowing people to take advantage of me, and ashamed of THEM for doing it in the first place!

Lest you worry that I am beating myself up, you need to understand that this revelation was one of the healthiest things that could have ever happened!  By deluding myself into thinking that that I was “merely” disappointed, I was really telling myself that there was nothing I could do to change my circumstances. I was saying that I had no power. I was saying that it just *was* – and how could I control *that*?

Ahhhh…but, by calling a spade a spade, (as much as it hurt to do so,) I reclaimed my power. I can now DO something about the thoughts and feelings that I had allowed to misinform my behaviors! I can no longer entertain “stinkin’ thinkin'”..the “woe is me…poor me…what a disappointment…” sorta thinking. I must now face the reality of my situation head on…and fix it!

You know what? There is NO ROOM FOR SHAME in recovery of any sort. None.

Here’s the amazing thing! I had struggled and struggled with recovery from my food addiction, without really understanding why. That is, until I uncovered the hidden shame that was masquerading in plain sight as “disappointment.” No wonder I was confused…

Thanks to my wonderful mentor (and friend), I have learned what healthy thinking looks like:

  • I have a disease called obesity. There is nothing to be ashamed of…but I can’t ignore it and hope it will go away. I chose to have bariatric surgery to treat my condition, but I choose to live an active, balanced, happy lifestyle to manage it. I do not have to be ashamed of that.
  • I also have a lot of loose skin — but I have a lot LESS, thanks to reconstructive surgery. I fixed what I couldn’t live with and must now live with what I’m NOT going to fix. There is no shame in shrinkles. There is only a reminder of how far I’ve come. When I see my jiggles, I can accept them as a part of myself, but not something about which I am ashamed or disappointed.
  • And the part about standing up for myself? It’s all true. I let it happen. I didn’t believe in myself. I shake my head in sadness now, just typing the words. But, you know what? I can replace my sadness with a knowing smile, because I can see how far I’ve come; I am stronger every day, and I know my worth. By remembering where I came from, I can fully appreciate where I am now.

Bottom line? I deceived myself for years by mislabeling “shame” as disappointment. That made it something that I believed was neutral and uncontrollable. But, those days are over — and so is the shame.

As Maya Angelou said: “We did the best we could with what we knew, when we knew better, we did better.”

I know now that I did the best I could then. But since I now know what I know, to repeat the ignorant mistakes of what I knew then…would be foolish.

April 13, 2011   7 Comments

Jabberwocky and the Frumious Binger-snatch


Jabberwock by John Tenniel

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

I don’t know why, but Jabberwocky (that verse, at least) came to mind when I got on the scale and saw that I had gained about 3 pounds since choosing recovery for binge eating addiction. It’s funny, I’ve watched it happen a dozen times (to others); they quit smoking and pack on 20 or 30 pounds. But, never dreamt it could happen to ME. How could I GAIN weight by NOT BINGEING?

I guess you could say that I was snatched by the claws of the FRUMIOUS BINGER-SNATCH. I listened to my head and not my stomach and now my pants are paying the price. I didn’t fool myself, or anything. I was completely aware of my behavior. I was, basically grazing on healthy foods — pseudo-healthy carbs. – that were really just simplex carbs, wrapped up in a package of healthy protein. In my defense, I was freaking HUNGRY! I did manage to drink more fluids than perhaps ever since my surgery, and I DID limit my caffeine intake to two cups per day – and have not deviated from that – not even once – but in lieu of those things, I added a bag of Revival Soy Chips (usually the decadent Oh My! Apple Pie flavor for “dessert”), and I had BOTH quiche AND beans in the same SITTING. Oh, and I had my Body Tech Pro pudding in the evening, even though I didn’t need it.

The Bariatric After Life™ can be a minefield sometimes, and we all misstep. Fortunately, I didn’t do any permanent damage (to myself or my psyche), but I did learn (or rather, relearn) a valuable lesson: Too much of a good thing is not good.

So, what am I going to do about it? I could say really negative things and call myself a failure (or worse) but 3 pounds and a snug waistband aren’t worthy of that sort of talk. Actually, NOTHING is worthy of that kinda talk. I know what needs fixing, and I’m fixing it. For me, that looks like three days on a liquid/puree program. This is not punishment; I have found that doing this resets the carbo-clock and helps me to feel more balanced.

On an upbeat note: I am still sober after 19 days. I don’t remember ever going this long without giving in to a cookie (or five) –  and believe me, I WANTED a cookie…or cake…or something gooey.  I battled that demon and won, so I sure as heck can beat the simple carb monster. It’s all about homeostasis; finding balance and harmony; listening for the answers and making the changes.

Hey, this sounds a lot like what’s happened to my eyes since turning 40: Just like I have to hold everything farther away so I can see it more clearly, I had to take a step back to get a better focus on the future.

•  •  •

By the way, Jabberwocky is found in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.

February 13, 2011   4 Comments

I need compassion – not understanding

MexiKen doesn’t understand what it feels like to be addicted. At least, he doesn’t *think* he does. He’s one of the lucky ones who is able to turn a negative behavior on and off at will. Substances have no power over him, unless he chooses to allow them to. This is how he explains it, anyway.

You can imagine my frustration over the course of the last…oh…22 years.

  • He doesn’t understand my fibromyalgia, because nothing “shows” on the outside, so what could possibly be wrong?
  • He doesn’t understand my food addiction, because he doesn’t feel the compulsion or obsession I feel around food.
  • He doesn’t understand chemical depression, because he can just talk himself out of it and do what needs to be done.
  • He used to think it was all in my head, and I almost believed him.

I remember after my precious baby girl was born (oh, so many years ago). I was a basket case. I had severe postpartum depression – almost psychosis. I felt like I was losing my mind, I beat myself up for my weakness, I criticized myself for being such a rotten mother and wife. I began to see how a woman could be pushed to the edge of insanity and do crazy things to her children. No one was really talking about it, so I figured I was crazy. I certainly wasn’t going to harm my baby, but I understood how someone could get to that point. I was out of control and scared. MexiKen will tell you that he didn’t understand my problem because his own mother had 12 children and never seemed to miss a beat with the birth of each one. We used to joke that she could give birth in the kitchen, then finish the mole and heat the tortillas before anyone would even notice the new addition.

I, on the other hand, was broken. I was not normal. I wanted to die. I hid in the closet while my daughter cried her lungs out in her car seat on the bed. It is a horrible memory, but I no longer feel the shame of it.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy for MexiKen. It was a bone of contention for many, many years in our marriage because he viewed me as weak. He thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough, or that I was seriously deranged to feel that way about my own flesh and blood. He wondered why I wasn’t more like his mother?

It was only after many, many years that he was finally able to “forgive” me for my behavior. That’s really what it came down to; Forgiveness. Though, I know that I wasn’t in control of my behavior, I did apologize to him for the pain my untreated condition caused for the entire family.

After all that, you’d think I’d blame him for his inability to understand the complexities of my damaged psyche, but I don’t. Mostly because *I* struggle to understand the complexities of my damaged psyche…

I don’t blame him for NOT knowing how to show me compassion. Neither one of us knew how to do that.

Which is why education is so important for everyone in the family. As with weight loss surgery, people don’t automatically *get* why we choose to have it. They think you should just eat “as if” you have had the surgery, but not have the surgery. They think you are a cheater, or that you will be cured, or whatever “excuse” you want to plug into the criticism. They think you are weak and lazy and are seriously flawed.

The point is, for someone who does not have a food addiction or weight problem, it is virtually impossible to comprehend the torture of someone who DOES.

I guess it’s like trying to explain menstrual cramps to a guy.

Girl: “Well, it hurts *here* and I only feel better if I lay on my side…with a heating pad. And my back hurts, but you can’t really massage the pain away. And I just feel irritable and sad.”

Guy: “Is it like getting kicked ‘down there’?”

Girl: “Well, since I don’t know what that feels like, because I don’t have *those* parts, it might be like how it feels when you fall on the crossbar on your bike.”

Guy: “Yeah, it’s probably close to that; It’ll pass in a few minutes. What’s your problem again?”

Which is pretty much the same dialogue me and MexiKen had all the time about my “issues.”

AGAIN, I don’t blame HIM for not understanding, because you can only truly empathize with someone if you’ve actually EXPERIENCED what they are going through. Fortunately, I learned that I really just needed support – not understanding. So, a few years ago, I started helping him help me. I’d say, “Hey, you don’t need to understand *why* this is the case, but I have a problem with “X”, and if I see them, I go crazy and eat uncontrollably. I am NOT telling you that YOU can’t have them, but would you mind hiding them from me? Could you put them somewhere you can get to them, but I won’t find them?”

He agreed, but it didn’t keep him from getting that puzzled, “I don’t get it” look on his face. The good news is, he did learn that hiding stuff was a good way to support me (as I’d asked). But that little technique only lasted so long before an addict like me went “looking…”

Ultimately, I had to deal with my addiction, not find ways to make it more acceptable! I had to stop looking for the “WHY” of it all, and just work on the “HOW” — as in, “How will I put an end to this destruction I’m allowing?”

Easy (or not so easy, depending upon how you look at it.) I just had to STOP bingeing. Of course, that’s where those 12-Steps come into the picture, and they are NOT easy, but they ARE possible.

Here’s what I have learned: In the final analysis, even if no one else has ever suffered with my addiction, it is still valid. Even if no one else understands my condition…my frailties, they can still show me compassion.

I could be addicted to mint dental floss but, as long as someone takes a moment to be human and say, “Hmm, I don’t understand this fixation with dental floss, and I don’t have a problem with it, but I see that you do, and I see that you are working to overcome the addiction, so I will support you however I can.”

Perhaps that is the message of this posting. Even if no one else suffers from my particular brand of binge-eating disorder, I do, and I know the tremendous toll it has taken on my soul. That is why, I have asked MexiKen to support me in my endeavor to choose recovery. (This does not include hiding food, by the way.) He will tell you that he doesn’t get it – but he will also say that he understands that I am suffering and doesn’t want me to hurt anymore. That’s big progress for both of us.

Gone are the days of suffering alone. Gone are the moments where I feel crazy and scared. I have my rock — even if he doesn’t know why he is supposed to stand completely still so I can grab onto him when the current gets too rough (LOL) – He does it, with a warm and generous heart (and a good sense of humor). He still has to stop himself from making critical, offhanded remarks, but I understand…because I know how hard he is trying. Hey, sometimes I’d have a hard time being married to me.

Here’s the bottom line: Find your peace and run to it. Never let anyone tell you you don’t deserve it, because you do. It is possible to find compassion — even in strangers.

(7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

By the way…Today is Day 11 of My Recovery 🙂 (In case you were wondering!)

February 8, 2011   8 Comments