We were celebrating. Everyone was gathered at the restaurant in good spirits, drinks and food ordered, conversations circulating and plenty of laughter frequently breaking out. I was at the end of the table looking over the menu, checking my calorie budget and deciding on what would become my dinner. I already decided water-no ice, with lemon and lime, would be my drink choice. After I ordered the 7oz sirloin with double asparagus, the question came from a friend across the table.
"Do you ever cheat?"
"I haven't in almost sixteen months."
First of all, let me make it very clear--this isn't a boast. This is simply a fact. Further--let me stress how incredibly surprised I am that I can honestly say that.
How in the world could I do an about-face, a 180--a total turnaround from where I found myself sixteen months ago? The answer isn't a simple sentence or source. It's a bunch of things working together on several different levels. Spiritual, emotional and mental work, and different levels of support--from group support to one on one support, to the accountability measures put into place to help guide me along--keeping my awareness level high and my routine consistent.
This turnaround from relapse/regain wasn't a simple declaration of "starting tomorrow things will be different." I tried that approach several times without a shred of success. I wasn't creating an action plan and then, when things remained the same the next day, I'd sit around feeling hopeless and doomed. It was like throwing the same thing against a wall and hoping it would somehow stick this time. It didn't, several times.
I needed an action plan. Once an action plan was created, that's when things started changing dramatically.
The list was long: Return to writing this blog daily, as the name suggests. Weigh and measure my food as much and as often as possible. Log every single thing in MyFitnessPal. Tweet a picture, description and calorie count of every bite, every day. Make sure what I do eat, I enjoy, 100%. Commit to a regular exercise plan. Re-commit to giving and receiving more support via group and one on one interactions. Abstain from refined sugar. And treat all of these elements with an importance level in the highest, most non-negotiable way.
Honestly, the list felt a little over-whelming, at first. The very first thing I did was try to figure out reasons why it wasn't possible for me to do this thing. I remember one session with Life Coach Gerri, that mirrored almost word for word what was asked by my therapist at the time. I was talking about how I was way too busy to return to daily blog posts. Gerri immediately challenged me with some good questions: When you experienced so much success before--and you were blogging daily, were you not just as busy? Very true. Good point. I was just as busy. And she didn't stop at making a good point: So, what you were doing was working well until you stopped doing it, right? Well, when you put it that way, but...
I kept throwing out objections and Gerri kept persisting with questions designed to challenge me into changing my perspective. Suddenly I stopped coming up with reasons why I couldn't do it and I started coming up with ideas and solutions proving I could.
Besides, I thought you said that writing brings you immense joy. Why would you stop something that not only contributes in positive ways to your success--but does it at the same time it's bringing immense joy into your life? Damn it. She's good.
Okay, okay--from this moment forward, I'm blogging every day. That was over 450 days ago. I haven't missed one since. Sure, occasionally time constraints require a short one--and sometimes a "tweets only" one...but it's done, each and every night. And it's made a profound difference.
The MFP and Tweets really bothered me, mainly because I knew that if I committed 100%, the only way it would work is if I applied a very strict code of honesty. The first time I eat something without logging and tweeting it--it's all over. I knew that going in--and it seemed extreme and beyond necessary to tweet everything. Turns out, it's helped me in monumental ways. The Tweets inspire me to eat well. I eat much better now than I ever did before. The Tweets and MFP logging have encouraged me to slow down and enjoy the process of planning, preparing and enjoying my food. I make the time to take good care--and in this care, I'm honoring my commitments.
In my book, Transformation Road, I wrote about my philosophy on cheat days or cheat meals--or cheating, period. If what I'm doing is so restrictive and against the grain of what I can do for the rest of my life, then perhaps I need to change what I'm doing. For me to accept a "cheat day," suggests that what I'm doing the rest of the time is just a means to an end. If I'm constantly looking forward to the day when I can cut loose--then I might want to inspect the daily restraints. This isn't about defining restrictions, it's about refining solutions--making this something enjoyable, doable--workable, delicious--satisfying...and if we can make it all that, then why would we feel the need to deviate into old behaviors for a day or a meal? If what I'm doing is a temporary means to an end--and I'm forcing myself to do something unnatural to me and what I like--then I'm setting myself up for a monumental problem down the line.
The abstinence from refined sugar has made a profound impact bio-chemically--effectively turning off the "binge switch" and ushering in a peace and calm I never knew. But as I've discussed before--it doesn't stop the other side of things--the deeply ingrained pattern of seeking comfort with food in times of extreme emotion and high stress. I've had three very close calls in the last fifteen plus months--one of those three happened recently, on Wednesday July 15th. Each time, reaching out for support--texting it or talking it out, has made a HUGE difference. It's not as easy as simply agreeing that excess food doesn't fix anything--or that food isn't a therapist. It doesn't matter how long or how much success we're experiencing, I've learned that unless I reach out for support, I'm perfectly capable of talking myself into the comfort food dynamic.
Do I ever cheat?
Why would I want to cheat myself out of the tremendous blessings this road brings? I don't, so I won't.
My success isn't a guarantee. I'm not entitled. It's not automatic. If I stop doing the things I'm doing, I'll quickly fall hard.
This here thing, is a daily practice--a one day at a time practice of uniquely crafted fundamental elements. I just want one more day feeling as good as I feel when I'm honoring my commitment and maintaining the integrity of my plan. I'd like a whole bunch of one more days .
If this were a blog about sobriety and abstinence from alcohol, would the "Do you ever cheat?" question even come up? Likely not. This is why it's crucial for me to treat my continued recovery from food addiction with the same reverence as someone in successful recovery from other things.
Today took some planning. I had a location broadcast this morning, immediately followed by a wedding reception where I was providing the music and announcements. I navigated my food well and I made it important to get what I needed, when I needed it. Hauling around the sound equipment and moving it from where it's stored and into a truck--then into the venue--then load out and back into the place it's stored--especially solo--is all the exercise and strength training I needed for one day.
After being told today that my face looks too thin and I've lost too much weight, I started snapping and analyzing selfies. Even though I promised myself I wouldn't let the comment bother me in the slightest. After careful consideration, I've determined that person was wrong. I haven't lost too much or look too thin. Geez, why do otherwise well meaning people say things like that? I think it's sometimes meant as a compliment by someone unfamiliar with the struggle and life of a formally morbidly obese person.
And I'm feeling slightly silly tonight. This selfie facial expression-collection was fun.
My Tweets Today:
Saturday morning dark roast with half & half (2 tblspns) and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 40 cal X 2cups= 80 cal. pic.twitter.com/oTvB4UFDG1— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
Avocado omelet w/3 egg whites & 1 whole egg, 117g avocado, salt and pepper. 215g golden delicious apple. 426 cal. pic.twitter.com/P6ucDddKVH— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
8.75oz fresh pineapple & 21g whole natural almonds. 248 cal. pic.twitter.com/T5JNyeF7Zd— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
5oz thinly sliced roast beef, string cheese, medium black plum. 262 cal. pic.twitter.com/mvupxUtuPL— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
A few things...okay, several, actually... pic.twitter.com/THTE0YBMaK— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
Hold everything!!! A whole sack of peaches for 5 bucks? Uh... Yeah, this too... pic.twitter.com/BDVhv5uCz3— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
I've worked today...treating myself to a dark roast pour over w/half & half (approx. 2tblspns) & cinnamon. 40 cal. pic.twitter.com/hPc1P3Yvu5— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 25, 2015
Fajita chick (4oz) & zucchini tacos w/lght sr crm (1.5 tblspn) & lettuce. 1/2 srv bluecorn chps w/78g avocado. 488cal pic.twitter.com/jJG2Zg8EGs— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 26, 2015
Their cup. My dark roast. W/half & half (2tblspns), sprinkle of cinnamon & a few drops of pure almond extract. 40 cal pic.twitter.com/OizTgUe6bE— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 26, 2015
Red pear (6.5oz), fresh pineapple (3.5oz), medium black plums (2), fresh peach (86g). #lastfoodofday 251 cal. pic.twitter.com/MtFIbkbPfa— Sean Anderson (@SeanAAnderson) July 26, 2015
Thank you for reading and your continued support,