Step 2…insane in the membrane


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“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

I will divide the next posts into two sections:  Sanity and Higher Power.

Sanity: noun; the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health.

When I think of sanity or the lack thereof, I often look it as two extremes, the “normal” and the “crazies.”  This is dualist thinking at its worst.  I have areas of my life where I am normal to the point of being boring.  I have some eccentricities, the spice of life.  And I have some areas where I am downright dysfunctional.

One of the areas in which I am dysfunctional and/or insane is around the area off food and nutrition.  Normal eating I would characterize as eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, on occasion indulging on some delicious but not necessarily nutritious food.

That is not how I typically ate.  My typical eating pattern was skipping breakfast, but drinking 4-6 cups of coffee with hundreds of calories of powdered creamer in each cup.  For lunch, I would go out to eat and have a full restaurant meal or fast food.  I would liberally snack on treats and vending machine foods in the afternoon.  When I got home, I ate dinner.  Dinner was more-or-less an appetizer for the rest of the evenings eating.  I would watch 3-4 hours of TV and graze the whole time.  Weekends, I would eat out many times and binge on cookies, cake or ice cream.  I was never hungry.  I never allowed enough time to lapse between eating to ever develop hunger.

In addition to these awful eating habits, I would with some regularity have problems sleeping.  I would go downstairs and binge.  I was fully aware of what I was doing.  I consciously thought this is bad for my body, but I would continue eating anyway.  Whole packages of snacks and cookies would be devoured right before going to bed.

Consciously knowing what I was doing was wrong and bad for me and yet doing it anyway is my definition of insanity.  The fact that I was fully aware of what I was doing, didn’t want to do it and doing it anyway made me realize that I was beyond helping myself.  I need a power greater than myself to stop.

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One of the important components of recovery for OA is having a sponsor. This has been a bit of a struggle for me. In general the ratio of OA participants is 1:15 males to females. In a typical large meeting there are only one or two other men. I find this surprising given that obesity seems to be pretty equally distributed across the sexes. At any given meeting, there are at least 3 or 4 women that are willing to sponsor. But I have not been successful of finding another male sponsor.

This means I am accountable only to myself. To be successful long term, I will have to address this issue. But for now, the journey is a solitary one.

By Ben Posted in Life

Step 1


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“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable”

Surprisingly, it took me a bit to fully embrace this statement.  Anyone on the street looking at me would instantly recognize me as having food issues.  Unlike some other addictions, overeating (sans bulimia) shows quite readily on the body.  In my case, the mid-section.  But in my head, I compared my addiction to alcohol or drug problems.  If I missed a meal, I did not go into the DTs.  My life had not totally spun out of control.  I still have a job and I manage my relationships fairly well.

But is any of that true?

Yes, I could restrict my calories for a day or two.  But there was always the corresponding pendulum swing back the other way and I would over eat.  Have I dieted?  Yes.  But can I stick to it on my own?  No.  Do I have cravings in the absence of sweet or salty foods?  Yes.  Do I have the power to change?  History would say no.

My life does not appear to be unmanageable in the “rock bottom” sense of the phrase.  But there has been a steady decline in the activities and social situations I was comfortable in.  I did not play with my son the way many fathers do.  And my health IS completely out of control.  I have high blood pressure.  I eat bad food.  My cholesterol is high.  I am at high risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.  I am clinically depressed.  I don’t sleep well.

So yeah, I manage to make it to work most days.  But am I really managing my life?  Am I in control?

Clearly, I am not.  The casual observer is right.  My myopic self-image is wrong.

My name is Ben and I am a compulsive overeater.

My name is…


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…and I am a compulsive overeater.

I decide that my diet is not the issue.  The core issue is that no matter what I eat (healthy or otherwise), I eat too much.  The reason I eat too much goes way beyond mere hunger.  Just restricting my intake may work for a while.  But if I do not get at the reason for the behavior, history will repeat itself.  I will be right back where I started.

So I started attending Overeaters Anonymous or just OA.  While it was a bit uncomfortable at first, attending a 12 step meeting.  I very quickly realized that this was the prescription I needed.  Every time someone opens their mouth to speak, I find myself saying, “Yep, that’s me.”

I have been attending meetings for a little over a month now.  I have the basic gist of the program.  Now I have to journey through the 12 steps*.

*I find the word step to be a bit of a misnomer.  From what I have observed, you never completely finish a step.  The minute you check off all 12 “steps” you are not done.  If you stop working the program, you are likely to slip up.  I prefer the work cycles.  One cycle leads to the next, but each cycle continues throughout recovery.

Now What?


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So I am overweight, now what?

Weight for me has been two vastly different stories. For the first half of my life, it was no issue at all. I ate what I wanted with little or no thought given to my daily intake. My sophomore year in college, I went away to school in California. At the time, I was considered underweight. I was at roughly half my highest weight. Very quickly I began to pack on the pounds. But because I was so thin, it was of no concern. As I gained weight, I actually looked better. My childish features faded and my appearance became more masculine.

It was during this period, I first began to notice my weight. I did not have a scale in the dorms, but I could see the change in my appearance and clothing size. For the first time in my life, I took notice with mild concern that I needed to ease up on my food intake. So I ate more salads and cut back on soda.

Walla, problem solved.

Every time I gained a bit too much, I eased back a bit until I was back at my target weight.
But it became a bit more difficult when I got married. I had to add exercise to the regimen. And each time I gained, I lost a bit less. Gain 10, lose 8. And we were off to the races.

When I was about 30, I went on my first real diet. I joined Weight Watchers. And because I was still exercising, the pounds rolled off quickly. But I could never lose those last 10 lbs. I yo-yo’d back and forth. But I was still just overweight. And I was not too concerned.

At age 33, my stress went through the roof, my sleep patterns were radically altered, I stopped working out and I began using food to comfort my unease. In a little over a decade, I packed on an additional 80 pounds. I tried and failed to regain control. I tried cutting back. I tried to exercise. I tried to get more sleep. I tried dieting. I got a surgical Lap Band. And then I just gave up.

I was and am convinced that dieting does not work. Evolution is working against me. The less I eat, the more I crave. The more I lose, the more I gain.

Getting out of this morose required a shock to the system. It happened a little over a month ago. I was having bronchitis and I needed to see my Dr. When the technician weighed me in, I had crossed a threshold. My doctor sat me down and told me that something needed to change.

New Direction


I have two blogs: One devoted to my experience as a VACTERL parent and one devoted to life in general. It is this blog, the one that is devoted to life in general, that I wish to take in a new direction.

But first, a word on why I write. I don’t consider myself a typical blogger. I don’t write purely for the joy of writing. As can be seen by my frequent breaks, I do not feel the need to constantly write. Writing for me is about clarifying my own thoughts. There is something about the writing process that makes me confront my beliefs and helps to focus them. My positions change over time and I use writing as a tool to explore my personal evolution.

It is because I am making a fundamental change in lifestyle that I feel the need to pick up the “pen” and write again.

I am overweight.

Not just overweight, obese.

At my highest, my BMI was 37.7. One month into my recovery, my BMI is 36. In order to be considered merely overweight, my BMI would have to be 29. That is roughly 56 lbs. less than my current weight. To be considered healthy, I would need a BMI of no more than 24 or a total loss of 96 lbs.

That is all I am going to say about numbers for now, because numbers obscure the real problem. The problem cannot be measured by a scale, though this is a useful tool. The problem is I have lost all control over part of my life. No simple change is going to lead to a course correction. I can no longer tweak some habit and return to health. I am not merely off the path, I am deep in the wilderness with no path in sight.

So this is the beginning. This is where I start.

Discouragement

Network Marketing


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When I was about 25, my boss invited me to a breakfast with “local business leaders.”  I was kind of honored.  I thought he might be sponsoring me for the Rotary or Elks club.  Everyone was dressed in business attire.  We arrived a few minutes late, but the guy who was speaking was very inspirational.  I was trying to figure out what “club” this was.  But since I was late, I put that question aside.  I figured I missed the introduction. 

The next guy got up and was equally dynamic.  He was talking about how he had made a substantial fortune using something called “network marketing.”  That was the first time I had heard that term.  I was intrigued.  He was drawing diagrams with concentric circles.  When he got the last circle, he used the dreaded word…Amway!

But my boss assured me that Amway was an outdated concept.  This was not that pyramid scheme my parents had warned me about.  This was a new paradigm.  I bit.  I should have run.  My parents told me it was a waste of money.  But I knew better…  

…Six months later, I moved.  I did not leave any forwarding information. 

It was in fact: a pyramid scheme.

But I am nothing if not naïve.  Fast forward twenty years later.  I was burned out on religion.  I was twisting and torturing my mind to hold on to my faith, but failing miserably.  Then a friend came along and started talking to me about the “nones.”  People who were spiritual but not religious.  Really?  Go on…

And so it began.  My 2 year attempt to re-brand my Christian faith into a new paradigm.  But wait you say, “Isn’t that the same ‘Ole Time Religion’?” 

Why no!…

…No, this is completely different…

…The clergy are not the drivers…

…This is about people…

Until…

…until its not.  At the end of the day, it is still about putting butts in the seats.  It is not about building up people.  It is about drawing a crowd and getting their money.  And if you do anything that threatens the bottom line, you will be tossed aside like a bad penny.

It is my own fault.  I let the parasites in.  I believed the hype. 

It stung like hell, but I think I am getting back to some sense of normalcy. 

Next post….12 steps to free your mind.


There are people who by their very presence make you want to want to be a better person.  There are others who make you feel small and insignificant.  Engage with the former and flee the latter.

By Ben Posted in Life