Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is This How Normal People Breath?

This is the question I woke my husband up at 1 a.m. to ask him. Yes, I do crazy things like that and yes for the most part he tolerates the crazy questions. He is amazingly patient with me when I am acting a bit crazy (as he puts it).



Remember how I was struggling really badly with anxiety and panic attacks when I first quit smoking a year ago? (You can read it about here, here, here and here.) It was bad. I had been struggling with anxiety for awhile, I recognize that now that I am a non smoker before I always blamed it on cigarette withdrawals. The thing about anxiety is it is so hard to explain it to people who don't have it. Just picture that every stressful event basically triggers your fight or flight response, so instead of being able to calmly decipher between serious threats vs. smaller threats, you take every threat (even something like we ran out of milk.. not that I drink milk) as a big deal, a really big deal. Eventually all this stimulating your fight or flight response for small things, adds up and you overflow. Which results in a panic attack. It isn't scientific, but hell, that is how I basically see it.


(Source)

I struggled with those panic attacks for 6 months. I was having sometimes 2 panic attacks a night. I was afraid of eating. I was either constantly starving myself afraid to eat or suffering from sleep deprivation because I kept waking up in panic mode. I felt the worst I had ever felt in my life (and that is saying something because PCOS has knocked me on my ass one too many times as well) and I was in a constant state of fear. I hated leaving the house. I hated eating. I was missing work. I was falling apart and unraveling at the seams. A panic attack is fierce. It can leave you shaky, convinced you are dying and wondering when the next one will hit. But it took me 6 months, several doctor appointments, a new prescription and a whole bunch of relaxation techniques taught to me by yoga, but eventually I settled into having anxiety but not panic attacks. I never really thought about it, I had assumed I was feeling better due to hard work on my part but when I started taking the Propranolol, I did start to feel a lot better.

Propranolol is a beta blocker. I have had issues with high blood pressure (thank you genetics and PCOS) for a long time and I didn't want an anti-anxiety drug because the LAST time I took one of those I had some interesting side effects (think insomnia, weird thoughts and itching from head to toe). It also helps with irregular heart rate (thank you PCOS again for those beautiful heart palpitations) and also helps calm down my fight or flight responses. Which thanks to my anxiety were on super super sensitive alert mode ALL.THE.TIME. It was a great compromise between my doctor and I, she was lowering my blood pressure and I was getting a non anxiety drug to help with my anxiety. Win win.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I ran out. Now normally I am on top of refilling my prescriptions like a responsible adult buuuuuuut I have been super busy and I kept forgetting and I kept procrastinating and the pharmacy is never open when I am ready to pick it up and and and [insert another great excuse here]. I honestly didn't think anything of it. I really didn't put much thought into the fact that again I was getting heart palpitations, that I was struggling to breath, that my intercostal muscles (those lovely muscles between your ribs) were sore and that I was having anxiety creep up on me again. I yawned nearly constantly not because I needed to but to prove I could take deep breaths. The thing about anxiety is, it is always there once you have it and I wasn't looking at the smaller warning signs. I could feel the small symptoms first, crankiness, snappish, not wanting to hang out with anyone, wanting to read in bed all night, poor sleeping habits again. Don't get me wrong, I can always feel it rolling and burning under the surface. Like a volcano. But also like a volcano, if I don't let pressure off in some way, it will erupt. And it did. Monday night. I found myself sitting straight up in bed at 2 a.m., woke up out of a dead sleep, convinced I wasn't breathing correctly.

I tried to lay down. I thought, "I will go back to bed" and that is the LAST rational thought I had for about 25 minutes. Panic attacks are not rational. Not at all. I kept breathing (because it is an automatic response) but it felt forced, it felt shallow, my heart was racing, I was dizzy, I was light headed, my stomach hurt, I felt so panicked. I ended up doing what I had always done before, crawled into a hot shower and hummed to myself. Now that might sound crazy but I hum because it reminds me that I am breathing, see you can't sing or hum if you aren't breathing and that calms me down eventually. I ended up letting the water run cold. Eventually the husband came in and sat down with me, rubbing my back and then convinced me to head back to bed. I was done with the panic attack but the fear of waking up like that again was strong. The next day, my very worried husband went and got my subscription filled for my propranolol.














Last night was my second night back on them. I have been seriously stressed at work and home. Lot's going on. So sleeping hasn't been a great place for me and one of the problems with panic attacks is, you are always looking for the next one. So I took my pills, settled into bed and woke myself up at 1 a.m. Why? Well because I was breathing normal. What?? I know, bear with me. I had gotten so used to not breathing normally, as in having it feel forced and using my chest to breath, that I didn't recognize deep diaphragm breathing. The only reason I knew I was doing it was because I had succeeded in doing it in yoga a few times. For once I wasn't thinking about breathing or struggling to breath. It was happening all on its own. Wait, DOES THIS REALLY HAPPEN TO NORMAL PEOPLE?? I also couldn't feel my heart beat. Since the anxiety I have always been hyper aware that I could hear and feel my heart beat loudly. And suddenly I couldn't anymore. I was scared. Like really scared. Since I wasn't anxious (actually I felt pretty relaxed), I had a little bit of a mental panic attack. Which resulted in waking my husband up at 1 a.m. After I Googled suddenly relaxed breathing and why can't I hear my heartbeat anymore, of course, duh.

You know what he did? He laughed at me. Yep. My own husband laughed at me, at 1 a.m. Then he showed me how he breaths and wow, he was breathing how I was breathing. Turns out normal people don't think about breathing, they don't force themselves to take in deep chest breaths to prove that they are breathing, they don't have a constant weight on their chest and they don't hear their heartbeat (unless you are exercising or freaked out of course). Turns out those are signs of anxiety and possibly other issues. Hence the intercostal muscle aches I had been experiencing. So when did feeling good get to making me feel so anxious? Did I really get THAT accustomed to struggling? Was I really freaking out over being relaxed?

It took me a bit to fall asleep but eventually I did. And guess what, I woke up this morning. I am still breathing. I can feel a bit of my old chest breathing sneaking back in now that I am working and stressed a bit, but for the most part I feel fine. I feel relaxed. I don't feel out of control or crazy anxious. It will take some getting used to. I am used to being tense. Even if it was just for those few weeks I ran out of my prescription. But at least I can feel my sanity returning again, something I really relish and love. I can feel my smile and reasonableness and the want to have lunch with my coworkers again returning. Even if this morning I had to promise to not wake up the husband when I was feeling good and only to wake him up for true emergencies, you know like midnight snack runs or when I remember something I need him to do tomorrow.



Do you have anxiety?









Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Motivation

I have been struggling lately. Struggling with turning 30 in 4 days. Struggling with how to eat. Struggling with the scale. Struggling with exercise. I have been feeling so overwhelmed and unmotivated. It is so easy during these moments of being overwhelmed and frustrated and stressed out, to slip back into comforting old habits or simply to not pencil in any time for healthy habits. I have been getting to bed later and later each night. Running off of fumes and pure exhaustion each day. I have been slacking on workouts, bored with everything presented in front of me.

There is a guy who lives down the street from me. I don't know his name. I don't know where he lives. I have never met him. But I have seen him a few evenings every week for the last year going by my house at the same time. With his jeans on and a jersey, he runs. He started off walking and eventually started alternating walking with running. Slowly over the weeks and months I watched him start to run more. I always wondered why he didn't have workout clothes on. I always wondered if the jeans chaffed. I don't think I ever would have noticed him if I hadn't been training to run as well. Through the glimpses I saw him as he would run/walk by my house, I watched as he ran more often. I watched as he lost weight. I watched as he put on workout clothes and stopped running in his jeans (thank gosh because I was thinking about offering him some of my husbands). I hadn't seen him for a bit. We had a really hot summer this year and no one wanted to be outside at 5 p.m. or maybe I had stopped noticing because I was no longer running myself. But last night, I saw him again as I was letting Bella Rue out, jeans on, jersey on, walking. I am not sure if he took time off or just wanted to take a walk around the block but I wanted to tell him I admired him. I wanted to tell him that I had seen him when he first started and that I was in aw of his determination. But I just smiled because well mostly I didn't want to come off as the psycho stalking neighborhood lady with the mini dachshund that barks at everyone and everything (the dog not me).

Seeing him reminded me of where I could be as well if I had stuck to my running program. Towards the beginning of this year, I started training for The Color Run. I went out 3 days a week and alternated walking with running. Most days the hardest step was putting on my shoes. I ran the same path every time. I was gauging my improvement in distance vs. minutes. I hated counting down minutes. It messed with my brain somehow. So I took the dogs with me and ran the same path. I walked the first set of tracks as a warm up. Crossed the busy street and made my way down the steep hill. Once at the bottom, the dogs got released and I would start my first run interval. I would run as hard as I could, keeping a pace that worked with my breathing. I had quit smoking and my lungs actually felt good. As I was able to run closer to the group of trees, it became my mission to be able to run to those trees eventually non stop. I reached that goal. The next stretch of tracks was busier with other dogs and people walking. It was harder to do my intervals mostly due to embarrassment at being the fat girl running but I did them anyways. My legs and lower back sometimes started hurting around this area. I would ignore the pain, marking my goals by land marks, that tree, that cement thing, that flower. Each time I reached it, I felt great. I started reaching the goals and convincing myself to continue to run to the next landmark without stopping. On hot days it was hard, on cooler days I felt I could take on the world. Eventually I would make my way back to the middle area and that hill would loom up ahead of me. I made it my goal to run up it every single run and I did. It was my last oomph before walking back home for my cool down. In my head I was a runner. In my head I could see myself accomplishing my goal of running 3.1 miles in August for my Color Run.



Then things happened. A heat wave and another heat wave. My allergies kicked my butt as the hottest and driest year came around. It became very unpleasant to run outside. The Color Run became a hassle as people got weird.  I started stress eating again. Stressful events kept happening that weren't entirely in my control but I chose to let them derail me instead of choosing to continue to run.Then the Color Run came and went.



I walked the entire way. I had a lot of fun but I felt like a failure the entire time. I had wanted to run so bad. I had worked so hard for it. I was disappointed and angry. I still am.

Recently I have been walking again. The weather has cooled FINALLY and I am happy to get a little bit of time out in the cool fall evenings. As I have been walking I have been thinking about run training and how much I did enjoy it. I have been thinking about the Color Run and how much one day I would really love to run those 3.1 miles. Training to run that 5k meant more to me than just becoming a runner. It meant having a goal every time I wanted to stop mid run. It meant that the improvements were a big deal for me. I wasn't worried about how much I weighed, I was more worried about focusing on that goal. It was a great way to clear my head. I felt good. I felt amazing. I felt accomplished each time I did a walk/run. With all that in mind, I started planning and pulling out my beginners 5k plans again, I keep asking myself, how do I want to start off my 30th year? With more disappointment or with a goal in mind?


I picked out a plan and luckily it starts with walking. Which is what I have been doing lately. I can also do walking during my vacation as much as possible, so that when I get back I am ready to start on week 2. I love the fall and winter anyways. I love the cold weather and crisp evenings around my neighborhood. It is the perfect time for me to start my goal up again. Will I succeed this time? Only time will tell but I am ready to start again either way. For me it isn't about failing or succeeding anymore, it is about what keeps me motivated. What makes me feel good and want to continue to workout. That is my ultimate goal.


How did you begin running?



















Monday, October 13, 2014

My Next 30 Years

Fast approaching is my 30th birthday. By fast, I mean literally next Saturday. That day I will be officially saying good bye to my 20's and hello to my 30's. I have been preparing for this since I turned 29 but for some reason it is still a little shocking to realize that I am no longer a 20 something. Holy crap!



For the last few months I have been really reflecting on my 20's. There were some really great things that happened in my 20's, I got married, I got a college degree, I got all my amazing animals, I was made a godmother, I landed an amazing job, I quit smoking, I moved from my small hometown to the big city, I watched my mother get married and I started a retirement plan. I got to be an Auntie to two amazing kids and watch them grow. I got to make some awesome memories with the people that I love. I have a whole wall full of pictures from my 20's of memories made.

I would say in my 29th year I really came into myself. I learned what kind of person I wanted to be and I started working towards that. I worked on calming down and being a little more gentle. I learned how to place myself in others shoes. I learned what battles to fight and which one's to walk away from. I learned that silence is sometimes golden but it should never be used as a punishment. I learned patience. I learned to settle into being uncomfortable because without being uncomfortable, you wouldn't have change. I learned a lot about being a good friend and a good wife. I learned to listen to those around me and respond less. I learned to love with all my heart. I learned a lot about respect. I learned when to say I was sorry and to forgive people of their mistakes. These were all tough lessons but in the end they were necessary for me to learn.

Did I lose all the weight I set out to? No. But that doesn't mean my chance has gone. I did learn about my emotional eating problem and I am well on the road to recovering from it. Did I accomplish every goal I wanted to in my 20's? No. But the thing about goals is, you can always keep working on them till you do accomplish them. Was I able to overcome my infertility to have kids? No. But I also learned that part of me is really alright with having kids later in life, I feel I would make a better mother now than I EVER would have in my 20's. After much reflection I realized something, I am really starting to feel okay with how my 20's turned out. They were messy and chaotic and heartbreaking and sometimes downright crazy but in the end I came out a lot stronger for those hard times. I learned how to survive.

When my husband turned 30 last year, we took him out to the woods and camped the weekend away. He wanted to be in nature, without any technology and no reminders it was his 30th birthday. I sort of understood that feeling but for my 30th I had a different idea of disappearing I wanted to do. Six months ago, I started planning my first big real vacation that required traveling since I moved out on my own.  After years of college and working my butt off to establish a career I absolutely love, I am burned out and I think I pretty much earned something bigger than a weekend away on my big 3-0 birthday. So I I booked 4 days in a junior suite aboard a ship heading to Ensenada Mexico. I booked my flight to get to where the cruise port is. I have bought luggage. I even bought adorable luggage tags. I have been obsessively planning this trip for over 6 months AND now it is FINALLY less than a week away. I spent this last weekend packing what I could off my packing list app on my Kindle and trying to get as many details taken care of as I possible can.


I have to tell you, I am not sure which is more stressful, planning a vacation or getting ready to go on vacation at work. No wait, I know the answer to that, BOTH. I unfortunately will be spending this whole week preparing my attorneys at work to be without me for a week and at home I will be taking care of ALL those last minute details plus preparing my animals to be without us for a week. But in one week, I will be on board a cruise ship, sipping something and not waking up to an alarm blaring at 6 a.m. I. Can't. Wait.













So instead of dwelling on turning 30, I am going to celebrate it. I am going to enjoy my week away from being responsible. I am going to turn 30 in style and with a big smile on my face. After all, birthdays should always be fun, no matter the age!



How did you celebrate your 30th?























Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fat Shaming


Do you think fat shaming works?


(Source)

This is a question that has been rolling around my brain for a couple weeks now. I have been watching a show called Ruby. It is actually a really fun show to watch, though sometimes my husband cringes when she starts getting excited (think high pitch southern drawl). When she talks to her physical doctor or even some of the people who are supporting her through this journey, I hear a lot of what feels like fat shaming to me. I am not talking about the medical advice or even the scary health risks talks. No, I am talking about the conversations they have with her about this is just what she has to do because she is obese (for example them getting to eat junk around her and she had to stick to her healthy eating, pissed me off that they were "allowed" because they were skinnier) and the snickering they show that total strangers do while she walks by. The worst was where they showed a man openly and loudly talking about how disgusting she was. This is all fat shaming to me and I have a hard time with it.

"It's encouraging that we, as a society, are getting less and less tolerant of abusive behaviors, from domestic violence to discrimination against gays and lesbians to racial and ethnic slurs. Bullying is finally being recognized for the deeply destructive force it is. Seemingly, progress is being made toward a world where, legally and socially, it's understood that all people have a right to be respected. Except, perhaps, those who are overweight. Sadly there are still many people who make fun of, shame or otherwise mistreat others who weigh more than they do. Somehow, discrimination against people who are obese remains socially acceptable. But it shouldn't be -- it's hurtful and, more to the point, quite harmful." (Source)

Do you not think obese people have not already shamed themselves? That they haven't seen what eating junk food and not exercising has done for them? Do you think they want to be humiliated by not being able to fit in one airline seat or afraid to sit in certain chairs? I can tell you as an obese woman myself, most of us have already shamed ourselves enough. So why do professionals, strangers and even good meaning family/friends still fat shame?

I follow a lot of weight loss bloggers. I love success stories and I love to see what they are capable of doing now that they lost the weight. I love tips on what to eat and what exercises they are doing. It really helps me feel inspired. What doesn't inspire me is telling me how disgusting and how horrible you looked as a bigger person. That just makes me want to click that un-follow button. I can understand saying that you didn't feel comfortable or confident or even you felt bad in your own skin. But did you really just become beautiful the minute you lost the weight? No, you were probably always beautiful, just heavier. Why make people who are at the beginning of their journey hate themselves as well by spreading this ugly rumor that if you are bigger you are uglier? I also follow bloggers in the middle of their journey that have told horror stories of people driving by them while they are out exercising and making fun of them for being fat. Total strangers. What pops into your head while you are driving down the road and see a bigger person exercising that says, "let's make fun of that person trying to get healthy and lose weight." I can't believe how cruel people can still be to obese people.

It is hard enough being obese in this world. We have to fight for clothes that don't look like something our grandparents would wear (as well as pay out the nose for these fashionable clothes) and if you are pushing in the morbidly obese sometimes long dresses are all you can wear. It has gotten a little easier to be fashionable as a bigger woman but trust me when I was growing up, skirts and overalls were my thing due to never finding anything else in my size, I use to cry in dressing rooms as a teen. As an obese woman I worry about things that normal sized people probably take for granted, sitting in lawn chairs (those things have a weight limit), fitting into airplane seats (I have never had a problem, but I still worry), not fitting into a wet suit so I can snorkel on my vacation (the top size in women's is a size 14 and the suits for men have a 3x but it still runs super small) and if I can get into a kayak in Mexico because of the weight limit. So don't think for a second that we don't feel shame or embarrassment or that most of us are making a choice to be this big. Sometimes it runs deeper than just get up, move your ass, put down the ice cream and lose the freaking weight.

"In a recent study, a group of obese women were asked to keep a daily journal recording instances where others made them feel bad about themselves. It was all too common for women in the study to report experiencing insults and humiliations every day. Imagine -- every day. They were shamed by strangers as well as colleagues, friends, family members and loved ones." (source)

Some of us who are obese are really struggling with real problems. I have been fat shamed myself. I spent most of my teens years absolutely hating and trying to hide my body because I was fat shamed. Did you know the PCOS causes weight gain? I didn't either till recently. I started gaining huge amounts of weight when I started my period at age 13. I watched my pant size go from an 8 to a 14 in what felt like one year. I learned later on in life that as a woman with PCOS I am insulin resistant.

"Women with PCOS have what is called insulin resistance. This means that cells in the body are resistant to the effect of a normal level of insulin. More insulin is then produced to keep the blood sugar normal." (Source) 


I take medication for it but the only way to truly lose weight for me is to cut out most of my carbohydrates. I have to be very strict on what I eat most days. On top of this I also battle an emotional eating problem. I use food to help myself deal with stress. I fight for every pound I lose and it is super easy for me to gain those pounds back. So again, tell me how I just need to move my body and quit eating ice cream??

I am not the only story of obesity, there are many different stories and faces. For some people it is just purely that they don't eat healthy because they never learned or have never taken the time to learn. Some people have health complications like me. Some people find that once the weight stacks on it is really hard to do the things you need to in order to lose weight. Some people have emotional reasons for why they gained weight. The list really can go on. There is no one shoe fits all.

Now I do believe people should be healthy and I worry about the obesity epidemic. I do. I am an obese person who is worried about obesity but only because I am worried about the health implications. I spend a lot of time worrying about heart issues and health complications from my own weight. I work really hard to do what I can each day to fight all these things. But I can tell you this, fat shaming never helped me do crap. I am always horrified when I see the things people are capable of saying and how much they are capable of hurting each other with words alone. I can tell you this, FAT SHAMING DOESN'T WORK, so stop doing it. Seriously. There are plenty of ways to help the bigger people in your life get healthy without making them feel like crap.

"Weight bias has been documented not only among the general public but also among health professionals, and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight. Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment," Wardle added in a university news release." (Source)


So maybe instead of snickering or making fun of obese people or using shame to scare someone you love into losing weight, we should try a little empathy, a little bit of kindness, a little bit of respect and talking to them instead. Imagine being over 300 pounds and needing to get THAT much weight off. If you have never tried it, you can't imagine the extreme amount of strength it truly takes to even take the first step. If you only have snide hurtful comments to make, don't say them. Offer to go on a walking date. Offer to try a new healthy recipe with them. Tell them that you are worried about them. Express how much you love them. Support them. Listen to them when they are having a really rough day. Join a gym with them and go work out so they don't feel self conscious. Don't get angry when they back track a bit. This is a huge change for most obese people. I know it has been a tough and downright frustrating journey for me so far. But it has been the love, the kindness and the encouragement from the people around me that push me to fight another day over any kind of fat shaming or making me feel bad about my body. And above all, remember you have your own faults and things you are self conscious about, how would you like it if someone shamed you?


(Source)


To be honest, I know that skinny people get shamed as well. We are a society who make judgments on bodies like it is no ones business. I am just an obese woman, so I am more able to talk about fat shaming than I am skinny shaming. But I feel the exact same way about it. Don't shame anyone for what they look like. And if you are that person shaming yourself in your own head, stop it. I have been there, done that and still do most days. Work on being a little more positive with yourself. Take your mistakes and bad moments with a little more forgiveness. Take it a day at a time. Don't feel embarrassed to talk about it, lean on others and to seek professional help if you need to. This is a tough journey but shouldn't feel bad about doing it, we should feel good about each step of it.

How do you feel about fat shaming?














Friday, October 3, 2014

Addiction




Recently the above video was brought to my attention and I have to tell you, I cried when I heard what she had to say. As someone who has loved addicts, I agreed with her 100%. We need to change the way we talk about addiction and how we treat addicts that are recovering.

"Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors." (Source)

There is a lot of hurt that comes with being in an addicts life. I have dealt with addicts very close to me. I have loved addicts (still do love them). I have seen the devastation they have caused. I have been heart broken by addicts. I have been angry at addicts. I have cursed them for being addicted. I have even stopped talking to addicts because their addiction was interfering with my life. Addiction is such a strange thing to try to understand if you aren't an addict or if you are an addict but in denial yourself. I love the addicts in my life, even through their addiction and some part of me has always understood that they are not their addictions. They are human beings underneath the drinking and drugs. They are still people that I have shared a bond with or loved or am related too. But I won't tell their stories because they aren't mine to tell. I only have my own story of addiction to tell. My story of addiction is slightly different than probably your average addiction story. It doesn't involve meth or alcohol or crack. It involves something you probably wouldn't think of as a drug.

I quit smoking a year ago. I started smoking in order to keep my weight down. I felt it was the only way to keep myself from eating. I remember many times not having enough money for cigarettes because smoking was a very expensive habit, so I would sell things in the house, anything to amount to even a cheap nasty pack of cigarettes. I dug for change and emptied out penny jars. I even borrowed money to buy cigarettes. I remember the day I woke up and realized what smoking was doing to me. How it was aggravating my PCOS and how it was costing me tons of money a month. So I quit. Many times I quit. Till it finally stuck a year ago that I no longer needed the cigarettes. I went through 6 months of battling severe anxiety and panic attacks before I was able to feel half way normal again. It was a tough addiction to face and overcome, some days I still feel that urge, that feeling that I am missing cigarettes and that they gave me some comfort. But in the end, I know I made the right decision!

"Food addiction is, quite simply, being addicted to junk food in the same way as drug addicts are addicted to drugs. It involves the same areas in the brain, the same neurotransmitters and many of the symptoms are identical." (Source)

I have used food to deal with tough emotions since I was a child. When I was feeling sad or hurt or frustrated, I ate. I didn't just eat though, I ate every piece of junk food food I could find in the house. Even when my stomach was full and uncomfortable, I would continue to eat, it was like I couldn't stop till every piece of junk food was gone. The minute I knew there were cookies or candy or junk food in the house I would think about it endlessly till I just had to go eat some, often times I would finish the whole bag before realizing what I was doing. When I started high school and got the freedom to have lunch out, I would beg my friends to treat me to bagels and sandwiches and chips and soda out in the town or I would beg my parents for money to buy this stuff and eventually I started my first job at a fast food franchise. I was allowed one free meal a day during my shift and I made that meal count. Once I got my license I spent most of my paychecks on food and cigarettes. I spent a huge chunk of time binge eating and then only allowing myself one meal a day for long periods of time so I wouldn't gain huge amounts of weight.

I can remember digging candy out of the trash can that my mother threw away. I can remember eating so much raw Top Ramen one day that I puked for what seemed like hours. I can remember sneaking food in my car and hiding the evidence before I got home. I can remember eating two dinners because I didn't tell my mom or husband that I had already ate. I can think of many times I lied and even stole to feed my habit. I have sold things, I have spent my last $10 on fast food when we needed it for gas, I have made huge sacrifices just to feed that voice in my head that tells me to eat more and more and more till I feel sick.

I sat down and recently did the math on how much I have spent on food monthly. Now I am not talking about grocery shopping for healthy food. I am talking about how much money I have spent monthly, just me, on eating out. I almost fell over when I realized that I was spending close to $355-$500 on eating fast food, at the cafe downstairs at my work and the 7/11 down the street. This is just what I was spending, this wasn't what I had asked my husband to pick up for me or bring home with his own paychecks. There were many times I remember my husband taking the time in our hectic mornings to make me a healthy lunch. Most of the time I would buy lunch anyways and throw away the healthy lunch he packed me so he wouldn't know I was eating out. I wasted all that healthy food just so he wouldn't know I wasn't eating what he gave me. The guilt was tremendous but I couldn't stop.

There were many times I have had interventions. I remember when the doctor told me I was 300 pounds and started listing off all the health complications this could cause. I went home crying. I remember talking to another doctor about my PCOS symptoms being so out of control and him telling me I had to lose weight to gain control over them. I remember being told I was anemic because of my PCOS which was extra aggravated because of my weight. I remember being placed on high blood pressure medication. I remember being told I probably would never get pregnant if I couldn't get my weight down. I remember being tested for high cholesterol as a teenager. I remember long talks with my mother and husband regarding what to do, how to deal with all of this. I remember seeing the numbers 3-3-0 flash across my scale.

There have been some interesting studies done on lab rats involving food addiction:

"We then warned the rats as they were eating—by flashing a light—that they would receive a nasty foot shock. Rats eating the bland chow would quickly stop and scramble away, but time and again the obese rats continued to devour the rich food, ignoring the warning they had been trained to fear. Their hedonic desire overruled their basic sense of self-preservation." (Source)

I have been disgraced by some people I love because of my food addiction. They just can't understand what about food controls me so much. They can't understand why I can't lose the weight. They have called me lazy and fat. They have given unhelpful advice. They have caused me to hate my body and who I am. I have felt guilty for their frustration. I have felt belittled and hurt so many times for having this addiction, for letting food control me so much. But there have been times I too have belittled or judged someone I loved for their addiction to drugs or alcohol, wondering how they could do that to themselves? Why couldn't they stop? As I have gotten older though, I have started to understand it a little more and have come to realize how far a little kindness/empathy can go with an addict.

Maybe this is why I can understand where the addicts in my life are coming from. I knew I would never touch drugs after seeing drugs wreak someone I love very much's life. I never had the desire to fix my problems with alcohol. But I have felt the pull, the desire, the craving for oblivion through food. I have spent many nights wondering why I couldn't just eat to survive like other people. I have spent many days wondering why I needed that food, why I needed to feel the oblivion that food provides for me and why I couldn't just stop eating the junk food. I have many times vowed to just eat healthy and not touch any junk food, I have succeeded for a month or a week or even a day but at some point the pull of my addiction becomes very strong, so strong it can be nearly impossible to ignore.

“[With] alcoholism, drug addiction, nicotine addiction … [y]ou could live the rest of your life and not drink alcohol, take drugs or smoke nicotine,” she said, whereas food is everywhere, and you have to eat." (Source)

But when thinking of addiction I am always left with one question, is one addiction worse than the others? It is addiction and either way addiction is hard to break. It means giving up a security blanket or coping mechanism that you have used to cover up the hurt pieces of you. Breaking that addiction means having to heal those broken pieces of you instead of ignoring them or blocking them out. It means feeling all that pain and shame. Sometimes it means anger. Sometimes it means facing the loss of people, time, years, stuff you can't get back. It means an onslaught of emotions that you have been avoiding for a very long time. Physically going through withdrawals isn't easy either.  I have never had to withdraw from drugs or alcohol but I have seen it and I know that it hurts physically like nothing you can imagine. I have felt withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking and even quitting junk food brings its own pain, but they probably don't even compare.

I think one of the first steps in healing for me has been talking. Finally opening my mouth and telling the people I love that I have a problem. It made them more aware of the signs to look for and my husband has become really good at gently telling me when I am starting to binge eat junk food. It also helped me release the idea that this addiction I have was a dirty little secret I needed to keep. Doing that released a lot of negative stigma around this disease and helped me start taking small steps in the right direction. I still sometimes have a hard time talking about it on really bad days but it is getting easier to look at. It has helped me start implicating healthy food choices into my life and releasing some of the control food has had over me for so long. Which feels really good.

We all have coping mechanisms for the hurt we feel inside. Some are healthier than others. I believe we need to talk about addictions and release the negative talk. We need to not define people by their addictions but by their heart, ability to love and who they are as a person. A little bit of kindness shown to someone who is an addict can go a very long way. Shaming them doesn't. In the video she talks about the program she co-created and I love the idea of it. Using physical training to beat addiction, to grow stronger, to find ways to feel good in your skin and build a support system around them. That is why I shared this video and that is why I shared my story. I would never compare my food addiction to that of a drug addiction or alcohol because I know they are very different. But I do know what it is like to love an addict and to be an addict and to feel shamed and defined by an addiction.