‘Voices of Recovery’: Pins and Needles

I measure the 20 years of my adult life by when I weighed what, how I was trying to control my weight, when I smashed up and ate like I was gagging bonkers and what disaster or monumental event was on for me. This fall, looking ahead to my 40th birthday, I saw my life as a crazy zigzag that has landed me at 257 pounds and a closet stuffed with beautiful clothes I couldn’t wear.

In the fall of 2014, “Good Morning, Britain” decided to run a special segment, to be followed up three weeks later, on sugar addicts and a special food plan created them. The concept of sugar addiction had hit the UK the previous summer. I’d tried it for about a week. It made me miserable. I had headaches, terrific cravings, I was stroppy with my sons and co-workers, I was yawning through my days. All of this was enough to convince me I was hooked but it also made me think about how miserable I was at 5’2” and 257 pounds and how much I wanted that to change by next year, when I turn 40. I wrote my 40-year-old self the letter that landed me on the show:

Only I knew the discomfort I would wake up in because of the pins and needles in my arms where I’d laid on them for too long. I knew how ashamed I was at being like that and secretly hated myself for putting myself in that position in the first place. But I was tired and I was in so deep that I couldn’t help myself. I felt alone on many levels.

I was assigned a doctor who kept track of the heart monitor I wore at all times over the three weeks, and a nutritionist who advised me what and how much to eat. I also met a physician who was an expert in food addiction who coached me on the three necessary aspects of weight loss: mind, mouth and muscle. That was the key: I had never done the whole 360 degrees before.

I found that, with the right nutrition, the cravings faded away quickly and I had no headaches at all. I had some insomnia the first week, but now I sleep like a baby and wake up quite sprightly. I feel alive.

It was up to me to create a muscle and mind part of this plan. I started swimming a couple of times a week. With work, two Aspergers teen-aged boys and the cooking I was now doing, I knew sticking to the exercise commitment would be difficult, so I formed a buddy system. Besides swimming together, my buddies and I also walk 5 kilometers in the park. When I started, that took 70 minutes. Yesterday it took 56. I’m starting to jog a little, for about three minutes. I’m super-proud of that. Eventually I want to run fundraiser races.

I’m making progress on the mental part of my program, taking time for myself and saying “no,” or reworking responsibilities. I set limits on when it is time to stop work and I actually do it. And I’m aware of feeling gratitude that people – my mentors in my weight loss, my sons, my exercise buddies who are becoming friends – actually care about me.

“Is it really this easy,” I asked my nutritionist the other day, “or am I going to hit a wall?”

“No,” she reassured me. “This is pretty much it.”

I struggle to drink my eight glasses of water a day, and shopping for a non-white, spicier cuisine was expensive, but if losing 21 pounds in the first month without being hungry or off my trolley is what being in recovery for food addiction is like, I can’t wait for what’s coming.

I especially can’t wait to wear my favorite little red dress hanging on my closet door where I can see it all the time. It didn’t fit a month ago and is now loose in the hips. It will fit beautifully in three or four weeks. Then I’ll have to find someone to go out with for a posh (but nutritious!) dinner to celebrate!

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