Sunday, July 26, 2009

food, weight, health, and creating positive, effective change

Tonight I felt happy about the state of my life. So I wanted to share that with you, as I often come to this blog to share my troubles, but life is not only full of troubles, of course. I've spent most of this weekend cleaning my apartment. I spent last weekend doing a little too, and a lot the weekend before that. Today I tackled my clothes. I have a lot of clothes. The majority - the huge majority - of them no longer fit me due to my antipsychotic-induced weight gain over the past four years. Yet, I clung to these clothes for emotional reasons. I didn't want to admit to myself that I had been gaining more and more weight over time for so long, or that I might never be a size 4 again in my life. I wanted to keep them for the day when I would be my regular, skinny self again, and be able to put on my favorite things.

This is the problem with the clothes, though. They piled up, and on top of them, I had the newer clothes that actually do fit me. Only, because I am very disorganized in the housekeeping department, I never had found a place for my clothes. So, generally, I've been keeping all the stuff I wear in laundry baskets, and I just pick them up when I want to wear them. I don't fold them, because that takes time, energy, and motivation - things which I lack in the department of housekeeping (not that I am lazy; I am prone to fatigue for physical reasons). I had lived like this for so long that I no longer thought I cared or realized it was having any effects on me. But after some obvious anxiety regarding my messiness became noticeable, I decided something had to be done. Plus, I'm sick of having to hide my bedroom from the apartment's maintenance people and from any visitors I ever have.

I decided, finally, that despite the fact I'm doing well with losing weight, it is unlikely I will fit into my size 4 clothes again any time in the near future. I decided to look through and make myself give up the things I really don't need or particularly feel attached to. I came out of that process with five large garbage bags full of clothes (I did say it was a lot, didn't I?), which I am going to donate to the Salvation Army tomorrow or whenever they're open. I folded and hung up all my clothes I actually wear too! This was tiring, to be honest, as it took several hours to complete, and I'm not finished yet, but I will be tomorrow or soon after.

As I faced those old, skinny-girl clothes, I felt a lot of emotions. Many of the outfits were things I wore during the years I was with my ex-boyfriend, Jim. I recalled the things I was wearing when I first met him. A lot of these outfits were so tiny, I could hardly believed they had ever fit me, as I don't really remember seeing myself be that thin in my life. I realized that the clothes I was wearing when I thought I was "fat" a few years ago, were clothes that would only fit a person who was very thin. So obviously, the old tapes of anorexia in my brain are still running. It is hard to explain what that is like, but basically when you have an eating disorder, I think the thought processes of the disorder can last long after the disorder is under control. So I resented the fact that I had been thinking I was fat long before I actually was overweight. I used to take it for granted that I was going to be thin for my entire life. I didn't know that it would take the course it took, with my body doubling in size due to medications that I will have to take for the rest of my life. This whole area is a troublesome one for my brain and creates a lot of worrying and stress.

However, on the weight-loss front, I am doing well. I have lost 22 pounds so far, and I can notice the difference. I eat 1200 calories a day, every day. I walk 45 minutes almost every day. I go to physical therapy usually once a week, and do the treadmill and other exercises there. I'm thinking of trying a yoga class, but not sure I could manage it, physically. With Fibromyalgia, exercise hurts. I've avoided exercise for that exact reason since I was 19 years old and diagnosed with FMS. I couldn't deal with the pain. I also never felt "energized" by exercise. I always felt like I'd been run over by a truck. Well, I don't know what's happened with my Fibromyalgia over recent years, but it seems to be less severe. That is amazing and wonderful. I get pain, but it's not incapacitating. I lack energy; but I can still exercise and manage it. I'm doing more physically right now than I ever have done in the past 15 years on a regular basis, and I actually enjoy the exercise somewhat. I like knowing that my body is capable of doing more than I thought it could, and that I am capable of changing my body's condition and putting it into better shape.

To follow along with this food/weight/health post, I wanted to tell you about an amazing film I saw tonight in Tampa. It's called Food Inc., and it's provocative, informative, and a real eye-opener. This film could change the world as we know it. I know how odd that may sound, but it is true. If every American had to view this film, we would no longer be eating the way we eat, destroying the earth and our health as we are, and thinking the way we think. The fact is that the food system we have has changed more in the past 50 years - with genetically modified organisms (cloning, and changing the weight and size and shape and intestines of food and animals that are used as food), the way farming is done, the corporate control of farms by Monsanto and the control over what we eat and how it is created by the fast food industry - than it ever changed in the 10,000 years before.

I am already a vegetarian and have been for most of my life, but this film made we want to buy organic, locally grown foods, and possibly become vegan (though I find dealing with the preparation of food to take up too much time when trying to eat dairy-free, as I would have to make tofu items every day). Because of my health problems, including the mental health ones, I've often wondered if I have some food allergies or sensitivities caused by chemicals or corn syrup. And I've often decided "well, there's nothing I can do about that anyway", and tried not to think about the potential consequences of what I was putting into my mouth.

For the past 20 years, I have drank Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, nearly every day, and usually all day long. The corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and sodium in that soda may very well have contributed to my enormous weight gain (along with the antipsychotics). Though my therapist used to hand me articles on the dangers of Nutrasweet and Diet Coke regularly, I never read them. I was totally ADDICTED. I literally usually went through an entire 2-Liter bottle of Diet Coke every day for a long time. I know that sounds odd. But all you have to do is get yourself a Double Big Gulp at 7-11 and right there you have a 2-liter bottle or something close to it, and then I'd drink more on top of that. My entire family would say I needed an IV of Diet Coke in my arm, and when we went out to eat recently and I actually ordered iced tea, instead of my usual fix, they all clapped. The reason I continued to drink the massive amounts of Diet Coke, was that I really believed I NEEDED the Diet Coke to get through the day. Without it, I was tired and sluggish. When I drank it, it revved me up. I thought that it was also safe to drink without gaining weight, because it had no calories. But then I read that studies have shown Diet Coke leads to weight GAIN because of the way it acts on the body, even though it is calorie-free.

I am currently on my way to ridding my life of my Diet Coke addiction. I've been letting myself have a little bit every day to ward off the fatigue and the headaches I get from not having the caffeine in my system. But I'm whittling away at this problem, and I'm going to get to the point where I do not consume it anymore. I want to see how I feel without being hooked on this substance, and I want to know that I'm not trashing my body all day, every day with dangerous chemicals. I want to be more healthy and less focused on a quick energy fix. I don't want to be an addict anymore.

So those are some of the reasons why I am feeling positive right now. I also attended a NAMI consumer council meeting today, and am looking into doing some more activities with NAMI. The other members decided they liked my idea of collecting books and games to donate to the local psychiatric wards, and we are going to move forward with that idea. So, that is a good thing.

It's so easy to turn to this blog when I'm having a down day, and to talk about the symptoms of my illness and how they are affecting me, but I also want to come here when I have something to say that has to do with good goals, creating change, and finding happiness.
Managing a mental illness, like managing any other life problem, requires work. And though I may not be hearing voices or having obviously psychotic thoughts right now, I still have the illness and I still have to find ways to tackle it. More than anything, I would like to help others who have mental illnesses by letting you know what works (and doesn't work) for me.
Thanks for coming by here.


  1. Hey Jen! Mountain Dew was my addiction and I went from that to Caffiene Free Mountain Dew so now I am hooked on that and KNOW how hard it is to quit... :)
    This blog entry motivated me to look at what we are eating and going in a healthier direction...Also very proud of your cleaning spree...I am a "collector" to a negative degree so I def need to work on that and I am trying...great entry!!

    P.S. can I use your NAMI idea at my next meeting? Did you have to ask if they would take these items? What kind of things are you collecting? I can find out at my next presentation on Aug 4th if and what they would take.

  2. Hi Jen,

    I've been cleaning too in preparation for my parents' visit. I've been accomplishing it bit by bit. There's more to do, of course, but I think I'll get most of it done. My mother will be staying with me. I'm putting her in the bedroom downstairs where all the work is being done, but the bedroom is almost finished. It's actually cleaner downstairs.

    I still have a bunch of clothes from when I was slim, but I'm not willing to let them go yet. I just have them hidden away. Normally, I don't put away my clothes either, but lately I have been to make more free space.

    I drink tea and coffee with A LOT of Splenda in it, which I probably shouldn't be doing, but I figure it's better than smoking cigarettes (which I just quit again).

    It's really great to come here and read about you being happy and productive. I'm happy for you.


  3. OMG, I feel the same about the foods we put into our bodies. Some may call it being paranoid, but I think it is good to understand what is in our foods. I have made a switch to organic about two years ago and I will only eat meat/dairy that is raised cage free. Some may criticize me for this but I can't give up meat or dairy. I try to educate others about the harmful effects of preservatives, pesticides and other free radicals we ingest. People worry so much about fat content or calories when they should worry more about cancer causing elements the government has put in our foods. Our foods are loosing nutritional value in order to increase shelf life. I think we should all take a good hard look at what we are consuming. Check out the SLOW FOOD movement. We need to eat like our grandparents or great-grandparents used to. We could learn a lot about patience and even sacrifice from them. Technology has sped up our lives to the point where we don't stop to make a good, wholesome meal from all natural or organic ingredients. Well, those are my thoughts.

  4. I think you're making the right steps. Small changes are important too and I think it's great you have a;ready lost so much weight and are exercising.

    I watch my diet quite strictly and exercise regularly. I'm lucky that my antipsychotic - Seroquel hasn't really made me gain too much weight.

  5. Good on you, for all these positive steps and especially for ridding your life and your closet/bedroom floor of those unwanted clothes. I'm going to look out for that film, I need to reassess my own unhealthy food choices (and my diet coke addiction). You're so inspiring, Jen, thank you!

  6. I want to know that I'm not trashing my body all day, every day with dangerous chemicals. I want to be more healthy and less focused on a quick energy fix. I don't want to be an addict anymore.


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