Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31st, 2014 What Does It Take?

May 31st, 2014 What Does It Take?

So what is it? When do we reach a point where we stop the slide? It's different for each of us, for sure, but there are similarities--things universal to the struggle.

I reached a point where I was gradually losing everything but weight. My sleep was so messed up.  I was always exhausted and this contributed to losing my ability and desire to care about myself. My weight gain was bringing back health issues I thought I'd experienced the last of, like high blood pressure and severe swelling in my right leg. And I was quickly running out of clothes to wear. My recovery actually started long before the current state of this journey. It was January of this year when I finally came to the conclusion that if I didn't get help for my severe sleep issues, I might not ever be able to correct and recover.

Even after two sleep labs and the installation of a new cpap therapy, the struggle continued. This time it was in ways worse than the all out slide. I was sliding and then getting on track, then sliding again--then getting on track again--and over and over...and over.

In a recent Facebook micro-blog, I tried my best to describe the transition into stopping the slide...

"I've been trying to identify and best articulate the most critical element transforming extreme struggle into harmonious consistency. Having experienced both, it's a fascinating study. Sure, it's a combination of elements, but what is the one, that without, all the others become ineffective? Is it acceptance, where suddenly we embrace instead of reject? That's fine, but how do we get to a place of acceptance? I keep coming back to perspective. Dr. Wayne Dyer says it so perfectly: “When you change the way you look at things, things change.” The perspective we choose is paramount to our success, of course. Sometimes, finding the perspective that engages the gear you're looking for isn't as easy as someone saying, “change your perspective.” In my opinion, we first must identify, one by one—the mind noise and clutter that keeps our perspective in a locked position. It's mental work that's worth the effort. Because if we can get past these things and truly shift our perspective, suddenly what once seemed impossible becomes not only possible, it becomes our new everyday reality, a non-physical transformation where we can finally experience the seemingly elusive, harmonious consistency."

Dave May, A good friend of mine, who's very familiar with me and with the elements of lasting recovery, added this:

"Want. Want is first. If we don't want to change, nothing happens. Belief is second. If we don't believe we can change, nothing happens. Self awareness comes third. If we don't become aware of the inner self, the baggage of the past, the self conscious "facts" we already have in place that are working to defeat us and keep us locked into our old behavior, they will, eventually and assuredly derail any attempt to change and again, nothing happens. Change, you see is a process and there is ALWAYS a most important element. We move from one most important to the next, and sometimes we must move back to the previous most important element, which brings me to one more "most important" element: Faith. If we don't have faith, we are sure to fail. Faith that I CAN change. Faith that the mistake I just made doesn't doom me. Faith that if I get on track, or get back on track, change will come. If we lose faith, none of the other elements will matter, because we won't believe they can work. We, of course could debate the order of these elements or which is the MOST important, but after years of struggle, growth, setbacks and triumphs, I believe that is a pretty good BASE list of the "most critical elements" of transformation. Oh, and let me add one more, lest I forget it and lose all of my progress: HUMILITY. If I ever think "I've got this figured out" I will surely fail. I must remain teachable, and the first element of being teachable is a realization that I do NOT already know all that I need to know. So the list I have shared with you here is Want, Belief, Self Awareness, Faith, Humility. Odd that I should have almost forgotten humility, and then placed it last on the list. As I sit here typing, the thought occurs to me that perhaps HUMILITY should be FIRST. Perhaps that I almost didn't even think of it is the real root of my problem? Without humility NONE of the other elements could exist. I guess I don't know which is first. All I know is there are a LOT of elements to change and they are ALL the most critical. Thank you Sean for starting my day off with a good think. Now I will add a prayer to it, and I should be off to a good start."

When a point of complete and utter desperation is reached, the proverbial "rock bottom," and it's enough to get our attention--and we sincerely want out and to find our way back...then we surrender.

When I emailed Dr. Marty Lerner at Milestones in Recovery in Florida to inquire about the cost of a 30 day stay, my long and drawn out surrender was starting. When the cost prohibited me from remotely entertaining the option, I had to figure out something else and fast.

But there I go again--thinking I could do it on my own, alone--and maybe then I can lose the weight I've gained and nobody outside of the people around me everyday will be the wiser.  

I've "surrendered" before, where I threw my hands up and declared I was powerless over this and needed help. I even wrote a blog post titled "surrender," a long while back. The post included a prayer for recovery and it was powerful to me. I forgot about how I was supposed to help myself, for best results.

So what happened? Relapse happened. But why?? Because I stopped doing the things that were working for me. 

If you're rowing your boat across a large body of water and suddenly you stop rowing, what happens? You come to a stop, occasionally moving with the flow of the currents, you're at the mercy of the currents.  If you stay there long enough , you risk encountering things that could sink your boat. Then, as the buoyancy of the boat is compromised we cry out...why is this happening??? We stopped rowing. We stopped doing what was moving us forward, what was keeping us ahead of the storms.

My greatest struggles came after I disconnected from any semblance of spirituality within my journey, I stopped writing on a regular schedule, I stopped using my Calorie Bank, I stopped reaching out for support, I stopped reading what others were writing, I stopped relating to others, I stopped exercising, I stopped recognizing that emotional eating is supported by the lie that food has magical powers to fix things, I stopped taking care of myself, I stopped everything. I stopped rowing my boat.  Suddenly when the storms came, I had nothing to fall back on--I had sacrificed it all.  I had isolated myself in the middle of nowhere nice. But still--the question...WHY???

The answer?? Because my pride and lack of humility kept me from accepting personal truths about my food addiction. I wanted to be normal, damn it. I just wanted to be a different type of person--you know, the kind who doesn't have food issues and is an intuitive eater and loves to exercise regularly--and maintaining a healthy weight is just something that comes natural...I wanted to be that person. Anything but me.  Why?? Because I didn't like me.  Because no matter what I did, I found a way to consider myself a failure. I filled my head with so many self-abusive thoughts that were untrue--I started believing them. The more weight I'd regain the more disdain I had for myself.  The daily mental beat downs kept me feeling defeated.  I constantly put myself in a down position. And eventually I lost the strength and will to get back up.

That is, until I accepted a change in perspective. I let go of the struggle and basically said--tell me what to do!!  Whatever it is I need to do, I'll do it.

100% of the people I've talked to who have enjoyed years and years (one with almost three decades) of uninterrupted maintenance never stopped rowing their boat. They understood, for people like us, it's something we must do for the rest of our lives. We must always be aware. Always measure and weigh our food, always take extraordinary care by maintaining an exercise schedule. Always navigate restaurants with a keen awareness of what we're ordering and doing. We must always seek support with like minded people. We must always stay connected. And another thing I've noticed about people who do what's needed for recovery--they don't eat sugar. Some even avoid wheat and flour. And they're okay with it all. In fact, they're living fuller and richer lives because of their efforts.

I've reached a point of acceptance and it feels so incredibly good.

I've written more in the last 40 days than in all of 2013 and 2012 combined. I've reconnected with my support system. I've cut out 97% of pure sugar. I've even added elements I didn't use before--like MyFitnessPal and using Twitter as a food and exercise accountability tool. I'm doing the work and it's paying off. My last weigh day showed a 25 pound loss. I haven't binged in more than 40 days and I haven't had the urge to binge either.  And I've had powerful epiphanies in regard to my identity and self worth (read my May 15th post and the one a few days later titled "The Secret To Happiness.")

I'm worth the effort. I'm going to make it. So are you.

Today was another wonderful day. I took time in preparing and enjoying my food. I had an incredible workout at the YMCA and I'm looking forward to my next weigh day on June 11th. I'm feeling smaller. My clothes are loose and people are once again starting to notice the positive changes.

Thank you for reading,


  1. Your honesty, depth, and STRENGTH astonish me. So many of these statements resonate so deeply. The desire to "feel normal"- I know exactly what you mean. Great read.... Just what I needed.

  2. YES. I can relate to "keep rowing." I also relate to the multiple starts and stops. Thanks for this encouragement. Thanks for strength and honesty that I can lean on in my own struggles.

  3. And there it is:

    "The answer?? Because my pride and lack of humility kept me from accepting personal truths about my food addiction. I wanted to be normal, damn it. I just wanted to be a different type of person--you know, the kind who doesn't have food issues and is an intuitive eater and loves to exercise regularly--and maintaining a healthy weight is just something that comes natural...I wanted to be that person."

    I was about 15 pounds from goal. I felt great. Clothes fit. I had energy. I felt like a normal person. I looked like a normal person...just one of the crowd. It was exhilarating to be just another person rather than the fattest one in the room. It was so comforting, so reassuring, so novel to FEEL and LOOK normal.

    All of that feeling/looking normal business went to my head in a most peculiar way. Your statement copied above summed it up perfectly. No amount of believing/deciding that I was that normal person I looked like made it true. I quit dong what I needed to do and the side began.

    Great post, Sean.


  4. Sean, THANK YOU. This was a very powerful post, and I also greatly appreciated the long response to my comment yesterday. Like Deb, that one particular paragraph in this post above hit me smack between the eyes. This is my reality, as well. You (and also Dave) have given me the answers I was looking for. More humility, more reaching out, less pride. I think on some level I knew it all along, but you reinforced it. Isn't it strange how those of us with self-esteem issues can also have pride issues? I think maybe this is because pride causes us to hold ourselves apart from others, not wanting to appear weak or needy. But conversely, whenever someone such as yourself is willing to share humble, honest and sometimes vulnerable feelings, that can be a real sign of strength, I think, and can also draw people to you.

  5. " I wanted to be normal, damn it."

    Oh man, so many of us--me included-- can relate to that!! I've gotten into trouble so very many times because I just "want to be normal". To have the struggle be OVER. I listen to those who seem to have "crossed over" into the Land of No Struggle. And I want to live there, too. So I try it... and fall once again. Sigh. Loved this whole post, Sean. So many things in common for so many of us. Thank you, it was very encouraging to read.

  6. Excellent post Sean! I can definitely relate to all of this especially the part you mentioned ["And another thing I've noticed about people who do what's needed for recovery--they don't eat sugar. Some even avoid wheat and flour"]. From my own experience I would like to add artificial sweeteners being every bit as important, as as in my case, eliminating them first allowed my no sugar transition go very easy and enjoyable. I am so happy and relieved knowing you see and are experiencing the power of nutrition in place of the sugar which I believe will be a key factor in your life long weight maintenance.

    My friend Russell over on spark commented on my spark page not too long ago. ["How are you feeling? Think you can continue doing your plan? I ask because many of us pick a plan that works, but at 4-6 months, they just get tired of their plan "] I responded, with no artificial sweeteners and sugar this weight loss is incomparable to any other I have experienced in my lifetime. It;s been easy, too easy, my taste buds have changed in a great way where my eating habits feel natural, no more cravings, no more hunger issues. It has allowed me to distinguish hunger and thirst like the body intended, eat when I am hungry, drink water when I am thirsty, no hunger issues and no longer thinking about food all the time. Impossible to binge eat anymore, my very worst days are 500-800 over my calorie bank which are few and still weight loss days. I enjoy my new eating habits 5x greater than my previous ones, caused by the simple change of no artificial sweeteners and eliminating 98% of added sugar. My friend Russell responded [" That is why I asked about how easy following your plan is. I read a lot about people having success, and when you ask that question, they say things like " It's hard, but worth it! ". I find that if it is hard, you will quit, and regain the weight. I'm happy to hear this change has become who you are, because that is the only way it becomes permanent.

    Humility, having a clear perspective, being teachable, understanding what makes it most easy, natural state is perhaps the most important. I always have had the wanting, believing and self awareness in place. In my past, successful weight loss was temporary, much to do with it became too hard to difficult, in my case huger issues. All the wanting believing and self awareness would eventually be defeated by what I strongly believe was due to artificial sweeteners and sugar. Call it whatever you want, long term weight loss, I believe the element is as is it hard or easy plan to follow ultimately may be one of most important. What elements need to be in place to make weight loss easy, which elements do we need to eliminate to make it easier to loose weight. In my case the elimination of certain elements(as & sugar) causing a dominal effect are proving to be more important, find my way to permanent weight loss. If each of us can find there own way to be in a state of mind and nutrition where loosing weight is fun and easy then I believe weight loss and maintaining weight is infinity.

    Spark People WEWRTFO

  7. I really great post Sean. I love how you've reached out to so many to connect the dots for yourself and then share to help so many others. I think we definitely have to continue to be open minded about learning because teachers will continue to show up when we need them :) I love that I have seen comments from you everywhere :) I know for myself I do best when I am supporting others too. I've said for a long time that for me putting more things in my life to succeed, makes it almost impossible to fail. But you are right that it's our perspective too and I think staying positive about life and ourselves is so important.


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