On food. Again. Part 3.

Hey friends.

It's been a while since I have updated on this food journey I am on. I am still seeing both a nutritionist and a therapist, although since my nutritionist specializes in disordered eating, she's sort of like a therapist too. We focus much more on the strategies of ordered eating than we do WHAT actual things I eat. Although there's some of that too.
I want to acknowledge that these appointments (weekly for the nutritionist and every other week for the therapist) are not cheap. In fact, I have a $40 co-pay for each of them. So if you do the math, you can see that our family is dropping about $240/month on this. And I get that not everyone has that kind of money. And the truth is, it's a stretch for us to afford it. But it's working. It's helping. And so it's become a priority for our family that we make sacrifices in other areas so that this can continue.
I am in a place where I am feeling some measure of hope and success and so I wanted to share four things that are working for me. Your mileage may vary.
1.   I started taking a multi-vitamin and a probiotic. I am chronically a tiny bit anemic and having taken a multi-vitamin for the past month or so that has 100% of my daily need for iron seems to be making a big difference in my energy levels. I think the probiotic helps with gut issues too... although limiting dairy has also helped with that. (That is not a food restriction I have, rather, I think that as I age I am becoming more intolerant to dairy. And so it's just a choice I've made. I still eat dairy here and there because sometimes it's worth paying the intestinal price.)
2. I have been using the app Recovery Record to track my food. In the past, logging food has always felt very restrictive. This time it's not. It's a way to track food without tracking calories, grams of fat, carbohydrates, or any of that nonsense. Instead of logging all those details, I just write down what I ate and it also has a place to upload a pic-- which is mostly what I do to remind myself if I don't have time to log it right then in the moment. And here's the best part-- it also gives you prompts to check off different emotions you're feeling. (Amongst other things). So it's helpful to look back and see the correlations between what emotions I am feeling and what food choices I am making. One of the cool things about the app is that it has a place for nutritionists, therapists, etc, to follow along. So I've given permissions to my nutritionist to follow my food log. She looks at it several times per week, and then she can see the patterns I've been experiencing and offer suggestions. It also gives us a starting place each week to discuss strategies in our sessions.
3. I have started taking a physical survey of hunger and fullness at the beginning and end of every meal and snack. (This is also something that can be tracked on Recovery Record). Now that I am a few months in, I am finally starting to really recognize physical hunger and physical fullness as distinct signals my body is giving me rather than solely relying on my emotions/desires as my cues to eat. It has taken a long time to start to feel these things appropriately. I spent so much of my life walking around full that whenever physical hunger started happening to me, it almost made me feel panicked. This was hard for me at the beginning of this. It's hard to stop eating a meal before I feel stuffed because that's just what I have always done. (And even when dieting in the past, I used "free" foods to fill that void). It causes a lot of anxiety to remove a coping strategy. And so a lot my work has been centered around addressing the kinds of things that cause me to feel like I need to eat when I am not hungry. When I discover something, that's usually what we discuss in therapy and work through strategies that are healthier ways for me to deal with emotional issues. It's been absolutely BANANAS to see how much trauma from earlier in my life has resurfaced as I stopped medicating myself with food. But that's another story for another day. Let's just say that it's a huge change to walk around satisfied rather then full. I think I like it.
4. Every kind of food is on the table. There's a place for all of it.   I don't weigh or measure any food. And I have no food restrictions. But what's really bizarre how now, several months into this, my body is learning what foods make it feel the best and my desires are organically starting to be drawn to the food that makes me feel good MOST of the time. (It took some time though). The only food "rules" (and they are not really rules as much as guidelines) I try to follow are these; try to include color in most meals/snacks, and try to include protein in most meals and snacks. That's meant that I've changed around what I am choosing to eat much of the time in order to keep my body physically fueled & satisfied. It's not hard to pack nut bars instead of granola bars, eat hummus as a dip instead of ranch, use avocado instead of cream cheese, etc. It helps me avoid huge swings in blood sugar which tend to make me crazy.
I have not gotten thin. I don't think I've lost any measurable weight yet. (I don't weigh myself very often as that sort of railroads me). But I am also not gaining any weight. I went into all of this having recently packed on 40+ lbs over just a few short months. And while weight loss would be an outcome that I would welcome, there are other outcomes that are more important to me now. Like not binging. (Which, incidentally, I haven't done in weeks.) Like a feeling of being in control and starting to feel good in my body. Increased energy. Using my mental capacity to think about things other than food and the next time I will be able to eat. Increased confidence as I choose to do what's healthy for my body. 
It's empowering to be working on something that has always plagued me in a very grace-filled, holistic way. This is what I needed. You might need something different. But for me, the emotional component was/is so big that I am not able to experience long-term success with the kind of rules that diets have. I've learned that my mind has been poisoned by diet culture for the last 30 years. our whole culture has been poisoned, actually. Believe me, if a diet could help me, it would have by now; I've spent 3 decades trying them all. (Most of them multiple times... what's that saying about the definition of insanity being the trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results???) This is about being good with who I am as a person and the realization that food can't solve my problems unless those problems are related to hunger.  
The latest thing I've done that has made me feel great was making the choice to visit the lovely and talented Libby McGowan for a boudoir photo session-- something I've always wanted to do. Believe me, this was not something that I was comfortable with. There was a big urge for me to lose some weight and THEN do a session. But I made the choice to do it now because I am no longer waiting to be a certain size/weight for my life to begin. I can be a large human and be feminine and pretty and enjoy life. And if other people don't like like it, well, that's a problem with ugliness in them, not ugliness in me.
So without further ado, let me share few of my favorite pictures from that session. I think I am (finally) getting to a place where I can look at these images and notice beauty before I notice size. (PS, I hope you're not weirded out by these-- it's showing no more skin than a bathing suit or a strapless dress!)

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