Monthly Archives: February 2009

Writing Group topic: Compulsive overeating as a disease

Well, about the chapter. I had shared with a friend last week that when I read that chapter (I read the book while travelling) I found myself disagreeing with some of it, but I wasn’t quite able to articulate why. Someone has put her finger on it, though – I do have a problem believing that the whole thing is genetic, lying in wait only needing to be activated by my first ever experience of sugar.

My personal experience is that I always ate too much, but I was not a compulsive overeater while young. Besides, as was mentioned, how come there are now more obese people (or people with our disease) than ever before? Are they breeding more? I don’t believe so… for me personally, I believe my disease is made up of two parts. On one hand, yes there is a drug – like alcohol, sugar is a drug when overused; my body is more sensitive to that drug than other people. Just like some can’t have penicillin. However, just because I abstain from that drug (which is the genetic part, arguably), doesn’t mean I’m going to be OK.

When I left Greysheet in May 2006, until I crawled back in October of that year, I never picked up sugars (or grains, or starches). I knew better than to have those – and yet, I found myself in active food addiction again, bingeing and dieting and all the rest on foods that might be Greysheet abstinent if weighed and measured. So I know there is more to it than my physical body’s reaction. I have a mental disorder and I don’t know about blaming genes for that.

I think I still hold the tension between it being a disease and it being a choice. Before I got to the stage I am now, in my early years, I made choices that led me down this path. Like the man in the Big Book who decided at age 30 to not drink until he was retired – I could have made choices; I just fail to believe that my destiny was always going to be oblivion through food – no matter what I did – a genetic “predestination”. Of course, now that I am where I am, I have stepped beyond the threshold of choice and I recognise I have a disease, hence I take my medication no matter what. I don’t fret about it, and I don’t ask “why”. It’s just there and as someone else said, how wonderful a disease that allows one to get better and better!

Anyway, for whatever reason I am as I am… I still don’t eat, NMW.

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Travel in abstinence

I’ve been feeling cranky all week, partly due to jetlag as I just got back from an absolutely wonderful time in the USA and partly due to that time of the month. But whether or not I feel like it in my body, blessings abound! Not least of those is the upcoming Greysheet Roundup in London, which I very much look forward to. I have been to every Roundup since I moved here. This will be number 4. It’s amazing to see the same people year after year, looking radiant, sharing what they have been doing that year as they maintained their abstinence no-matter-what… I can’t wait!

So, my life this year so far (it’s only February, goodness me): I went to Spain for a week, returned to the UK for three weeks, then to the US for the past two weeks. There, I spent one week in VA, half a week in NYC, and half a week in CT. With all that travel, I thought I’d share a few things I have learned.

  • spreading out meals (when going West, I gained 5 hours in the day) is much less painful than it sounds. Perhaps because I had mentally prepared for hunger.
  • it gets really expensive to keep buying drinks. I bought a stainless steel bottle, which is allowed through customs as long as it’s empty (they just object to liquids).
  • when flying, they don’t mind what you take onto the plane in terms of food. HOWEVER, most countries do not want you to bring fresh food, for fears of contamination or something. So, on the way to the States I took my breakfast through customs and ate it before boarding the plane; had lunch with me on the plane; and went through US customs with no fresh food on me. I had dinner with friends that evening. On the way back, I took both dinner and breakfast through security; I ate dinner before boarding, and had breakfast before landing. Again, no fresh food on me. That means I don’t do “hostage meals” in that sense: I always have my scale and money with me.
  • I found out I really like Ruby Tuesday’s, but can’t get a single thing at Paneera (that’s the first time I’ve gone to a restaurant and there was literally NOTHING)
  • Whole Foods do the most amazing buffet and you can tell them exactly how much you want of something – they pre-weigh it, and then I have very little wastage.
  • as I was staying with friends, I ate most of my meals at home rather than at restaurants. If I didn’t have my friends, I would look for a hostel with kitchen facilities.
  • I always fear getting hungry more than it bothers me to actually get hungry. The fear is worse, and daily abstinent experience teaches me that it’s a liar.
  • most food keeps for at least a day without refrigeration. I would often carry my lunch and dinner with me all day, and none of it was “travel food”.
  • I can have the experience of eating wonderful, local, special food – and be abstinent and regret not a single bite of it.
  • There is nothing I can’t do while abstinent. Well, I haven’t tried backpacking.

Writing Group Topic: stick with the winners

So who’s a winner in Greysheet, as I see it? I totally resonate with Dr Paul’s idea that it is those who *live* sober (abstinent). In other words, people who have a life. The way I see abstinence is that it is the foundation on which I get to build my life, but it is by no means the extent of that life. I love the diversity and all the different pursuits of Greysheeters near and far, everyone gets up to… well… *doing* things!

In the food, I was trapped. I may have been doing things, but certainly not to the extent I do now, and even more certainly not with the serenity and sanity that I now take for granted. I look at Greysheeters who pursue demanding careers, travel the world, raise a family… they have a life. That is a winner to me, and that is what I want – hence I stick with those winners.

That old idea of holding life in one hand and food in the other is so important to me. So many things can happen around me – good and bad – and some things I do, some things are done to/near me. None of that affects my food (unless it’s travel, which does affect my food, but I prepare/plan/protect).

It is people like that, who have interests and pursuits and full lives, that I am drawn to. When they reach out to others in a 12th Step, they have something I want and that’s why I listen. These are the people whose bedrock is abstinence – they don’t carry it like a boulder, but they stand on it for solid ground. That is what I like my abstinence to be.

Writing Group Topic: My top 10 reasons to do Greysheet

My top 10:

10. – I’m learning what it feels like to get bored with my clothes because I’ve been wearing them year-in, year-out, for ages.

9. – I get to eat food I love, and every bite, by right, is MINE to have!

8. – I have a food budget and I can stick to it.

7. – I don’t need to join in the workplace conversations over lunch, about the latest diets. My food stays the same, every day.

6. – My food is good for my body and keeps it functioning well. I don’t eat anything I don’t intend to eat (i.e. fillers, preservatives, sodium) – it’s all fresh, not out of boxes and tins.

5. – I can still love my food! Guiltlessly.

4. – Sometimes I don’t think about food at all, in between meals. What a revelation!

3. – I don’t stick out as the fat one amongst my friends.

2. – I like what I see in the mirror!

1. – Peace: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Writing Group Topic: Money & Time

I grew up in a culture where money wasn’t really spoken about: we had neither too little nor a lot. The one thing that was instilled in me from very young is that debt is unacceptable, and I have kept this value all my life… I would never get in debt for anything, except a house/apartment purchase. I paid for my studies by working through, and by getting my father to pay the child support he was supposed to pay – this meant I had to take him to court for it. So I’ve always been quite responsible for my money, even while eating – I’d never get in debt even for the food, no matter how compulsive I was about it. I’d just buy cheaper stuff.

I don’t have a problem with debt or overspending, but I’m certainly an under-earner. I’m aware that I could quite easily make at least 50% more than I do now, by working for profit. But I made my choice to work in non-profit, where the salaries are lower but I know that my work has meaning beyond money. I find it very hard to care about work when it’s just about money, and then I find I don’t do a good job. This is a luxury, of course… my choice. If I chose to work elsewhere, I feel I would trade my happiness & satisfaction for… what? Right now, as it is, I can afford a modest rental (enough to pay for a room in shared accommodation – the fact that I live in a house by myself, paying only what I would pay for a room, is only thanks to God’s provision)… I can afford to run my car… I can afford reasonable food.

I even have some luxuries! The fact that I can afford a flight to go to America for two weeks proves it. Sure, I keep my belt tight, but this means I can afford the big things like that flight, that I want.

This situation is very different to how it was before I moved to Reading, because living in Winchester I was spending a big percentage of my income on commuting… and there came a point where I felt I simply couldn’t go on, that quality of life was missing. It’s much better now.

Writing all this down is actually really interesting. Interesting, because before I wrote it I wasn’t consciously aware that I actually live in economic freedom, in many ways. I just keep a very tight reign on every Pound I spend.

Time… I don’t know what to say about time. I have as much as everyone else… I do manage it, and I do lots of things with it…