Lightbulb: Overeating

December 21, 2010 § 6 Comments

**Please note: I have been intensely aware that my latest blog posts have been extremely…vague…personal…thematically unhappy in general. I’m sorry. I know that it’s not fun to read a person’s blog that is consistently dark and dreary–the more fun blogs are those that can at least elicit a smile or a laugh from the reader. I think, though, that this is indicative of my current head space. I want to go back to the light and happy version of A.Hab., but I need to work through this first. Thanks for understanding and for still reading.**

Last week, I was called a perfectionist (or, rather, she said that she sensed “perfectionist-like tendencies”) by a friend. It wasn’t said in a cruel or judgmental way. Truthfully, she said it in more of a sympathetic, concerned way. I laughed it off initially and just said that yes, in fact I’m a Virgo, and that’s just how we are. But that doesn’t mean that her words didn’t stick and echo many days later. Over these past several days, I’ve been considering in what ways my perfectionism has manifested in my life. These are not in the order of importance. They are just in the order that they sprang to mind.

Academic: I’m working on four projects right now (finishing biography entries for an encyclopedia helmed by one of my professors, writing a dissertation, reading a book and writing its scholarly peer review for a prestigious journal, and lesson-planning a class of texts I’ve never taught before). I have this compulsion to do everything RIGHT. Perfectly right. As in, there is no room for error, no room for improvement, no room for CRITICISM right. The problem there is that I’d rather give up and watch television all day than actually work because the fear of failure is so unbelievably crippling.
Marriage: I want to be the very best wife in the whole world for Robert. Not because I worry about him judging me, but because I judge myself extremely harshly. Has Robert cooked dinner four nights out of this week and I’ve only cooked once? Bad wife. Am I falling behind on my laundry chores? Not dusting regularly? Or vacuuming regularly? Do I ask him to take the puppy out when I just don’t feel like getting up again? Bad wife. Do I forget about his allergies when I make dinner plans? Bad wife. Do I forget to check on how he’s feeling when he’s not well? Bad wife. Do I fall just short of loving him as much as he deserves to be loved? You guessed it. Bad wife.
Career: I know that I should do what I love to do, but what happens when I don’t know what I love? How will people judge me for my indecision? How will they judge me for the choice I ultimately come to? What if I make the wrong choice again and have to change career paths later on? Have I failed because I can’t seem to find myself in love with the career I should be in love with?

But I’m not interested in answering all of those questions right now. Today’s entry is about compulsive overeating.

One of the things that popped into my mind when I was meditating on my perfectionism was my weight.

Most perfectionists are twig-like anorexics, I thought. The phrase you hear over and over again on talk shows is that a perfectionist refused to eat because s/he wanted to exert the only control available: over what is put in the body. I don’t have that problem.

So then I started meditating over it a little bit more. And please know, this is not an attempt to create excuses for myself. Rather, it’s an attempt to explain where the hell I went wrong when I was growing up. I do not come from an obese family. I don’t come from a stick-figure family, either, but it’s not like every member of my family is significantly overweight. (For those who have never seen me, I’m 100 pounds overweight, according to the target BMI for someone my height. Those who have seen me consistently refuse to believe that I have 100 pounds to lose. They’re really sweet friends that I have.) I do not consider 10-15 pounds significantly overweight. 100 pounds? That’s a big ol’ problem. Pun fully intended.

Anyway, so I was trying to figure out how I can be a perfectionist in all other areas of my life…to the point where it’s fairly obvious to those around me…and yet not be a perfectionist with my weight. It didn’t seem to add up. Until I realized something tonight:

If a perfectionist seeks to control everything that goes into her body and her weight, then I am doing a perfect job of gaining weight.

I’ve always been amazing at self-sabotage, but this weight loss thing has always been my specialty in terms of self-sabotage. Sure, I’ll get started on the right foot: gym membership put to good use, personal trainer put to good use, eating habits reworked. I’ll lose weight, start feeling really good about myself and more energetic (maybe even sleep better), and then I’ll decide I’m not doing it well enough…and then it’s a slippery slope back down to where I was before I started attempting to “gain control.”

Turns out I have always had extreme control over myself. It’s just not been put to the best use.

So now, the question is this: now that I’ve figured out my problem, what the hell do I do about it? I mean, I’ve attempted to lose weight ever since I was 16 years old in tenth grade. (Which is ironic because looking back at those pictures, I was adorable. Poor girl had no idea what she looked like. And now? Ugh. It’s a shame, I think.) My point is that I know the ropes quite well. I know how to lose weight. Fewer calories in, more calories out. It matters what kind of sugars you ingest. It matters what kind of calories you ingest. Just because something is labeled as 100 calories does not necessarily make it a good decision. Cardio is the only way to lose belly fat, and strength training is the only way to maintain skin elasticity.

I’ve got all that down pat. I can give amazing advice to those who are seeking health tips. The irony, of course, is that the advice is coming from someone 100 pounds overweight. Such ethos, right? Heh.

So, aside from how to lose weight…what on Earth do I do about the perfection issue? Because I have a really bad feeling that if I can’t tackle that beast, then I’ll never tackle my weight.

Cookie’s sage advice

December 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Offering sage advice, one delicious citrus-flavored calorie at a time.

Sunday night, I ordered delivery from my favorite Chinese restaurant. (Please note: I’m the only one in the house who ate Chinese. My soy-allergic husband ordered from a different restaurant.) On this particular night, I was feeling deeply unhappy and unconfident; after writing a blog that expressed these emotions and diving into my styrofoam box of chicken fried rice, I cracked open my fortune cookie and read the following message:

“Rely on long time friends to give you advice this coming week.”

I stood in the kitchen, stunned and disbelieving (those damn fortunes are so vague, of course they are designed to meet the hopes and expectations of thousands of people)…and yet….

The next morning, on Monday, I visited a long time friend to receive her advice–we hadn’t had the chance to talk to each other in a while, so this conversation was way overdue. She gave me the kind of advice and straight-forward perspective that I needed to hear at the time.

I’m close to making a decision, friends. And the more I consider my decision, the happier, more relieved, and less stressed I feel in general. I think that’s a good sign.

Also, I should point out that my fortune was in the plural. Although at the time I read it, I could only anticipate the advice I’d receive during my coffee meeting with my friend; but looking back a week later, I realize that all of my friends this week have been immeasurably supportive (as you can see in the comment section on the previous post and in other ways, not immediately obvious to readers of the blog). Thanks, all of you, for your support, advice, and love. You cannot know just how very much I’ve relied on those words lately.

Time for a change?

December 12, 2010 § 18 Comments

First, I apologize emphatically for what is about to be an extremely vague post. There’s a part of me that still feels like I have to protect myself, despite all the literature I’ve read that advises otherwise. I’ve simply been groomed to believe (whether erroneously or not) that speaking freely has the potential to destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to build. So, for that, I hope you will forgive me and will understand. If all goes according to my hopes, you should be getting answers in a few weeks.

It all boils down to this: I’ve cried a lot lately.* Like, A LOT. And my tears are consistently to do with asking myself (or being asked by people who care about me), “Are you happy?” Even if my over-protective logical centers reply, “Oh yes, I’m fine,” it’s fairly obvious that my reactive physical centers are revealing a different truth. I am currently grappling with questions of selfishness and practicality. For instance, if something’s wrong, if I’m truly not happy, then is it selfish to seek out happiness? What might I stand to lose by keeping my current trajectory? What do I stand to gain? What do I stand to lose by shifting gears? What do I stand to gain? How will this help or hurt my family? Robert? Will people be disappointed in me? Who? Will I be disappointed in me?

Those last three questions are the most painful. I’m constantly telling others that I don’t care what people think of me. Generally, that’s true. If Joe Schmoe thinks I’m a bit salty in my language or naive or reactive, who cares? I don’t know Joe Schmoe; he’s not important to me. But I do care about the opinions of my friends and family…and immediate authority figures. It matters to me if people’s expectations of me aren’t met; if I fail them somehow. And it matters to me if I don’t meet the goals I originally set for myself. But I’ve been wondering if avoiding disappointment is worth not being happy. And that’s where the selfishness question comes in again.

Every day I have a different approach to these questions. Yesterday, for example, I felt more confident than I seem to feel today. Tomorrow I might feel better. It’s really frustrating to be in this confusing place right now.

Again…I apologize for the vague entry. I know it’s not fair, and it’s certainly not fun to read. I swear in a few weeks I’ll offer more explanation.

*No, I’m not pregnant nor am I PMSing, so minds off my uterus, please. 😉

Lessons “Learned” from the Kitchen Matriarchs

November 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

“Always remember to watch out for steam.”
“Steam is extremely hot, so always be careful around it.”
“Never look directly over a pot when you dump out the water.”
“Be mindful of where your skin is and where the steam is going.”

These are the words that reverberated through my head last night as two of my fingers on my right hand were scalded by a sudden and unexpected blast of steam.

Everything was going fine.   I was making a new-to-us beef stroganoff recipe last night for dinner, and, surprisingly, I had made it all the way to the end of preparation without incident.  The smells were mouth-watering, the sauce actually looked to be the correct consistency and color, and the noodles were as soft as you could possibly want them (without ruining them, of course).  My timer started to beep, so I removed all items from their respective burners, and reset my timer for a couple more minutes to allow the sauce to set properly.  During these couple of minutes, I silently celebrated a successful new meal.  So often when preparing a new-to-me recipe, I bungle it in one major way or another and end up feeling defeated and frustrated.  This time, though, I thought, I have actually succeeded!  Good for me! When my timer for the sauce beeped again, I brought the noodles over to the sink to drain.

The culprit

I had made my noodles in a specially-made pasta pot–one of those pots that has a draining lid so that you don’t have to wash a colander. Everything was going fine. The lid was secure, my face was away from the steam billowing forth, and I was very nearly done. When all of a sudden, a burst of steam issued from the right side. Directly on my fingers.

I probably had a moment when I could have thrown the pot down in the sink to stop from scalding myself. But I didn’t realize exactly what was happening…and I didn’t realize it would keep happening. I did ultimately throw the pot down in the sink, fortunately keeping the noodles safe inside, and immediately doused my fingers in cold running water. I also screeched an obscenity, although I’m not sure which one, and that caught Robert’s attention. Despite my insisting that I was fine, he came running into the kitchen anyway and offered help.

For the rest of the night, my hand rested under a bag of ice and water. When my skin burned from freezing, I removed the bag…only to experience yet again a burning sensation so strong that I could have sworn my fingers were in flames. Robert gave me a couple of pain pills (from when he received second-degree burns at work this summer), and soon I was able to pass out and sleep. I awoke this morning with some tenderness, but I won’t need any more medication or ice.

The worst part of this was the intense feeling of shame and humiliation. All those quotes that began this post? Those are the quotes from my family’s Kitchen Matriarchs–my grandmothers and my mom. They have all, at one time or another in my childhood, told me to watch out for steam. For a little over 29 years, I took heed of their warnings and avoided steam with a kind of caution that can only be described as paranoia. Last night? Last night, I got lazy. And I got burned.

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