Sunday, September 19, 2010

Head and body--reaching a detente?

One of the things I hear over and over is that weight loss surgery is on your body--not your head, and if you don't take care of the issues that made you overweight in the first place you will not be successful in the long term.  So I'm really trying to examine what it is that drove me to overeat.

The answer very frequently comes down to avoiding negative feelings. 

I was diagnosed as Bipolar type 2 in 2001 (yes, it's different than regular Bipolar or Manic Depression as it is mostly on the depressive side, with an occasional side of hyper and, for me, anxiety).  I consider myself lucky, as it is pretty mild--to the point that only my very closest friends knew that I had issues.  I was REALLY good at hiding it at work and to casual friends.  I developed a whole set of coping skills that consisted of me hiding whatever emotional state I was in.

Turns out, that's not a great idea.  1.  It means you are a lot harder to diagnose, and less likely to get the problem addressed.  2.  It means that your state of life requires hiding who you really are, and how you really feel, which becomes a huge hit to your self-esteem.  3.  It means that you have to find a way to cope with the dichotomy.  For me, it was food.  I regulated my emotions with lots of carbs (found out later that carbs boost serotonin as well as your fat cells), with sugar, and with fat.  All of those things, in mass quantities (which I also hid from the world, for a long time anyway), are really effective in blocking out your feelings.  Temporarily.  But they tend to rear their ugly heads eventually--in the form of 350 pounds.

I knew that after surgery I would have a lot of emotional work to do, and that I would have a hard time letting go of the food.  There have been times that I had a whole meal of just bread.  There have been times that I overate to the point that I thought I would die from the pain.  To me, these are the limits that I knew I would have to test, and that I need to learn from--quickly. 

And for the most part, I have.  I get a "cheat meal" each week, and then I go back to high protein, low carb and lower fat foods the rest of the time.   That means that when I get into emotional trouble now, I don't have my default coping mechanism of stuffing my feelings down by stuffing down food.  Angry, sad, lonely happens to everyone, but it feels to me like I get them stronger.  Not only because I have a tendency to intense feelings, but because when you don't express them they build up and get out of control.

The funny thing is that I've figured out that the best way to express and work out these negative feelings is body-based.  I always thought that the depression, bad feelings, and loneliness were thoughts and feelings in my head and the only way to get them out was to use my head (agonizing about everything) or my belly (filling it up until I was numbed by the serotonin).  I try to do pilates, meditation, and body movement to get rid of and deal with stress better.  I make myself "play dates" to keep from being too lonely.  I take deep breaths whenever I can.  I take a bubble bath, or clean out my closet of clothes that don't fit. 

All of them lean to the physical realm.  And I'm finding that  a lot of these things can help regulate those uncomfortable feelings.  I'll admit that it's not as easy and fast as pizza, and that there are times I forget, and that it's really hard.  I'm hoping to eventually come to a truce between my head, my heart and my body.  Right now, they are all in talks (see how political I am?).  There are occasional outbursts, but it doesn't seem to be a full-out war anymore--it's more of a Switzerland-type state of neutrality.

Honestly I don't think that I will ever win the war, but if a detente is enough to bring the Cold War up to a comfortable room-temperature, I'll take it.

So it seems like there


  1. Oh my goodness I relate so much to this post. All the emotional things, I could have written it! (well, I'm not that good of writer but you know what I mean lol)
    You really are sorting out WHY you do things and WHY certain behaviors happen, and that is great. You are also taking steps to do healthier things when times come up that would have led you to eat in the past, and that's AWESOME.
    I think that is the best thing anyone can do for themselves, whether they are obese or not, had surgery or didn't. things don't change unless we figure out why/how they got that way to begin with.
    And that's exactly what you are doing. That's how I know you are going to succeed. You ARE going to win this battle!

    You are going to get to the weight you want to be! Then comes the whole new battle of maintaining it, but you'll already have all the mental weapons to do it in place! You will have the advantage! By really getting to the root of it all, you already do! You are doing SOO great.

    I hope you are as proud of yourself for all the mental work as you are the physical! You are truly inspiring :)

  2. I think the WHY is way more influential than the HOW.

    You are an amazing woman...and I echo TinaM's comment of how proud you should be of yourself and how far you've come.

    And I'm looking forward to our play date!! :)