Posted in Uncategorized

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Valarie


Meet Valarie.  She’s the blonde on the left.  Hotcha!  I met Valarie around 1998 in a web forum.  That’s right, I said web forum.  When she first came to my attention, she was living on the East Coast, planning a drastic move out to California.  She was a great writer, and a funny gal, and I enjoyed reading her.  It was several years later before we met in person as part of a large group of pilgrims to Las Vegas.  You can pilgrimage to Las Vegas, can’t you?  I’m not sure either of us remember much of that meeting, and maybe less of our second rendezvous in the same city for a mutual friend’s wedding.

Either way, I’ve kept up with the Viper for all these years through LiveJournal and Facebook, and I have this to say:  Valarie impresses me more as a human being than most people I’ve ever met.  She is fearlessly honest with herself.  She is willing to stand emotionally naked in front of a mirror and look herself in the eye, see what needs to be changed, and then work to change it.  This woman is an inspiration.  Nearly every one of her journal entries (except the ones about Manic Street Preachers–I’m clueless) clues me in to my own needs to reflect or change, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve taken what she’s had to say and shared it with my other girlfriends.

Valarie is a world traveler, a rabid hockey fan, and lover of British television.   She is a shiny, sparkly, shoe loving, DIY queen.  Happily, she has declared her affection for Richard Hammond, so I can safely declare mine for Jeremy Clarkson.  One day, Valarie and I will go to England together and kidnap these fine men and force them to talk cars to us all day long.  What happens after dark…well, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Name: Valarie
Age: 39 (really I can say that without hyperventilating. really)
[Since Valarie answered these questions, she’s has celebrated the first anniversary of the 39th birthday.]
Job Title: Police Dispatcher/911 Operator
Industry: the Po Po


Who are you?

I’m…just me. And though I am a work in progress, for the first time ever I think I’m finally comfortable with who I am. I’m a very solitary private person and I think that’s both good and bad. Somewhere deep within is the Disney-movie-loving girl who believes in happy endings even though there’s also the cynical ‘outer crust’ that says that’s total bs.

Recently I’ve begun to integrate my past with my present and though disconcerting at times, it’s what I need to do and it feels good. It’s time.

Describe your family:

I haven’t spoken to She Who Birthed Me in 20 years. I could write a novel about that but instead of boring everyone with that, I’ll say instead that my friends are my family for the most part. They are amazing and wonderful and I wouldn’t be here where I am today without them.

I have cousins, aunts and uncles on my dad’s side that I talk to but I keep myself distant from them for a variety of reason that I fully don’t understand. I have made more of an effort recently with my cousins via Facebook.

What does the first hour of your day look like?

A good deal of incoherence and bitter mumbling if it’s a work day. Hit snooze – a lot – , stagger up, remember to put the phone in my purse, bathroom, shower, makeup, clothes, grab the Diet Coke out of the fridge and off to work.

If it’s a day off then it’s much more enjoyable. Wake up, turn on TV, slump back into the pillows and watch something while my brain warms up, usually aided by a Diet Coke.

What does the last hour of your day look like?
My day is backwards since I work at night and get home at 7 am. Usually stop at the grocery store, get mail, check mail, eat while watching Clean House or Clean Sweep or both, read, sleep.

What makes you feel successful?

Compliments from my guys at work, getting messages from them saying ‘Thank God you’re here now!’, knowing I did whatever I could to help them out and just being able to know in general that I did my best. Being/getting organized also helps in work and at home.

What brings you joy?

It may sound cliched but the small things – driving home and being able to see an amazing sunrise, having a favorite song come on the radio, being curled up in bed and at the optimum level of comfort and contentment, hearing from friends, drinking an icy Diet Coke, making someone laugh, seeing cute baby pics, hugging warm fat puppies, etc.

Also anything shinysparkly.

What were you like in the first, sixth and twelfth grades?

First: Don’t remember much. Good little girl basically doing what she was told and obeying all the rules.

Sixth: Mostly traumatized. I had skipped 5th grade and switched schools – my first time in a public school. I got braces put on and that was the year that my grandfather died (which turned out to be a lifechanging event). About the best thing I can remember is starting a food fight at lunch to get the attention of a boy I liked. And Mondrian in art class.

Twelfth: A rebel in my own way. I was in prep school and horribly unpopular but I had my own tight little group of friends and we adored each other.

What advice would you give yourself at each of those ages?

First: Relax. Really. Enjoy your childhood even though she didn’t give you much of one.

Sixth: It’ll get better. It’ll take a long time and there will be lots of pain but I will never ever forget you. He loved you and that will never go away.

Twelfth: Stand strong. You’re on the right path and yeah, she’s giving you a hell of a time but you have the love of your friends to give you the support you need. You’re only just beginning to realize your own strength.

Who do you admire?

My nan
various celebs:
Cher
Princess Diana
Ann Richards
Viggo Mortensen
I really can’t list everyone, famous or not, because I think I can find something to admire about so many people depending on what mood I’m in, what I’m doing, what the person has done. I do tend to look at moms a lot and I really admire good moms who truly love and cherish their children.

Posted in Destinee Faith Miller Mystery, guest article

Guest Post: Destinee Faith Miller recaps the Top 5 Finalists of Miss Universe 2013


Valarie thought it would be fun to hear what Destinee Faith Miller had to say about the Miss Universe 2013 pageant, and I agreed.  However, after trying to “interview” her about it, I found myself getting into a truly crazy-making philosophical argument with her about feminism and body image.  You try arguing with an imaginary person you invented out of your own head.  No interview.  Instead, here is a nice little blog entry where Destinee gives you the run down on the Top 5 finalists of the competition, with a bonus look at Miss USA.

Hey, y’all!  I am so excited to be here on The Outside Lane today.  I am your pageant-insider look at the Top 5 finalists of the Miss Universe 2013 pageant.  Miss USA did not make the Top 5, so we’ll be looking at her separately, and considering what took her out of the running.

The Top 10 Finalists.
The Top 10 Finalists.

The last ladies standing were Miss Brazil, Miss Ecuador, Miss Philippines, Miss Spain, and Miss Venezuela.  As you can see, the competition was fierce.  From the swimsuit competition, the ladies go on to evening gown, where they are whittled down to 5, then they hit their marks for interview.  No one knows better than I do how quick an interview question can kill your shot at the crown!  But, a bad evening gown can hurt you, too.

Let’s take a look at the Top 5, with their National Costumes, Evening Gowns, and their Interview answers.  I must apologize for the shoddy quality of the photographs.  Lane does not share my dedication to perfection, and said I was just lucky to have photographs at all.

miss brazilMiss Brazil, here, was your 4th Runner Up.  I thought her National Costume was inspired–maybe inspired by my ideas for the Tiny Miss Proverbs 31 pageant!  While I loved the colors, the chest piece, and the headdress, I felt like the skirt took away from the overall quality.  It wasn’t flattering at all.

Her evening gown was too much like lingere for me.  I did like the sparkles, but the dusky rose color and the fabric looked like Eva Gabor’s favorite negligee.  If you can picture it showing up on Green Acres, you shouldn’t find it on a runway.

Her interview went like this…

Question: What is your opinion in places that do not allow women to vote, or drive cars?

Answer: Good evening everybody! In my opinion, we as women achieved our independence through time. Unfortunately nowadays we still have problems with our independence. But we need to keep our open minds because nowadays we are homemakers, part of a work force. We are capable of everything.

Now, if you ask me, she didn’t answer the question.  What’s she asking us to keep open minds about?  Is she asking us to keep open minds about people who think we can’t drive in our high heels, or vote with our tiny pea brains?  That’s a bad answer.  She should have talked about how God endowed us all with certain unalienable rights, and the right to vote is one of them.  She should have said how women’s voices need to be heard in order for us to have equality and justice in our governments, and how women ought to be able to drive themselves down to the polls so that they can take part in what makes their countries great.  God, country, and a pretty smile–she’d have placed a lot higher if she’d done like that.

4th was about right for her, I think.

miss philippines

 

Miss Philippines placed 3rd.  That girl was stunning!  She had the most beautiful hair, which she wore down straight for most of the competition.  I just loved her hair.  Her National Costume?  Not so much.  It looked like she’d chased a chicken around the yard for a hat, then grabbed one of the bridesmaid dresses out of her old maid aunt’s closet.  It looked two sizes too big, and the color did nothing for her beautiful complexion.

I’d say the same of her evening gown.  It was a lovely, flattering, structured gown and it moved beautifully, but the color was terrible.

Her interview went like this…

Question: What can be done about the lack of jobs for young people starting their career around the world?
Answer: I do believe we should invest in education and that is my primary advocacy. … Education is a primary source and a ticket for better future.

She actually gave a much more detailed answer about education, but I can’t find more than that up there.  I thought she did an excellent job, but she didn’t answer her question either.  What she did do is manage to turn her answer to her primary advocacy and make a passionate cry for funding it.  The problem is, getting more education just means more educated people who don’t have jobs.  They asked her about fixing the job market, and she answered with sending more people to school.

I really expected her to place higher because she was so pretty and poised.  I truly believe a better gown would have gotten her at least to 2nd Runner Up, possibly even to 1st.  I kind of feel like she belonged up there based on her looks and poise, but her boring National Costume and that chartreuse evening gown did her in.

miss ecuador

Miss Ecuador took 2nd Runner Up.  Look at that National Costume!  That’s about as perfect as it gets.  It’s glamorous, it’s sexy, but it isn’t at all trashy–Miss Great Britain is an example of how National Costume can get trashy right quick if you aren’t careful.  Oh, I just love that costume!  I wish so hard she had gone with that royal blue for her evening gown.  That just flattered her complexion so beautifully!

Instead, we get another cast off from Eva Gabor’s boudoir.  I don’t know why girls wear that old lady, seafoam green.  It’s a pretty color, but it has no energy, no zip, and just looks like a day lounging on the chaise with your Bichon and your manservant.  Miss Universe has to have energy.  She’s got a lot to do.

Her interview question went thusly…

Question: What would happen to the world if we could no longer use the internet?
Answer: Tech has disadvantages – we are no longer close with our families. We use the methodology of computers and internet for the positive. It is never too later to start. Let’s start now.

Answers like that make me wonder how many translators have been paid off to ruin a girl’s chances.  That answer was awful.  Not as bad as the terrible answer I gave that one time, but nigh on unintelligible.  That answer really should have dropped her back further in the rankings, at least to 3rd Runner Up.  The fact that it just dinged her to 2nd tells me that if she’d done a better job with her interview, she’d have been serious competition for the crown.

miss spainI do love some fringe.  The judges must have too because here is 1st Runner Up, Miss Spain.  I’ll tell you right here and now, once Miss USA was out of the running, Miss Spain was my pick of the pack–but I knew she wouldn’t win.  She was too sweet looking to win–didn’t have enough edge to her.  I thought she had the prettiest, brightest smile, and she was poised and graceful without looking haughty.  And also, fringe!  I just loved her National Costume.

I loved her evening gown, too.  It looked a lot prettier in motion than it does in the still pictures, but when she was walking it was just divine.  It fit her perfectly and flattered her skin tone better than any other gown in the Top 5.  I loved that pinky-champagne bodice, and you know how I feel about sparkles.  Y’all, I just loved her!  And I think she would have won, too, but…

Her interview question went like this:

Question: What is the most significant thing we can do help elect women to political offices around the world?
Answer: In order to select a good woman, she must posses good qualities in order to do a good job – discipline, knows how to adapt… so she can fulfill her job.

Y’all.  That question is so easy, and I’ll bet you money that Miss Philippines was just mad as a hornet that she didn’t get that one.  THAT is the question you answer with Education!  And you tie that in with that little Malala girl, who got shot for wanting to go to school.  You answer that by saying that there are little girls who are willing to risk their lives, standing up to terrorists for an education so that they can learn and lead the next generation into peace and prosperity, so the most significant thing we can do to help elect women to political offices around the world is educate girls and young women, and offer them opportunities for higher learning, and advocate internships or something like that.   I’d have knocked that one out of the park!  And she should have.  It wouldn’t have mattered if she had, though, because once it was down to those 5, the winner was clear.

miss venezuela

And, I can’t be too mad because Miss Universe 2013, Miss Venzuela, is a showstopper.  You look at her posture, how she holds her shoulders and the tilt of her chin.  That girl is a professional, and that is what confidence looks like.  How could you not give her the crown?  It just looks like it belongs on her head by sheer force of her own confident will.  Are you going to crown sweet little Princess Spain, or the clear Queen of the Universe Venezuela?

Now, her National Costume’s colors horrified me.  She looked like she fell into a vat of My Little Pony cake mix, but that girl can flat wear a hat.  As awful as her colors were, the costume itself fit her like a glove, and she wore the fire out of it.  That would have overpowered a lesser woman.  I do just love how she wears a hat.

When I first looked at her evening gown, I didn’t think much of it, but now I find myself admiring it.  It is white without being bridal, and structured without looking restrictive.  I like how it is sort of space-aged, and how the beading harkens back to the art deco days, and I do love a well executed long sleeve.  I did not like how obvious the modesty panel was, and I hated her shoes.  Those are shoes you’d find in Tishelle Tucker’s closet.

Her interview question went like this…

Question: What is your biggest fear and how do you plan to overcome it?
Answer: We should overcome all our fears and this in turn would make us stronger. As soon as we overcome our fears, we can face any challenge.

I honestly wasn’t sure that she understood the question, and thought she was just lucky that Spain had blown her answer, and Philippines had such an ugly colored dress.  I don’t think she’d have lost the contest either way because she  was just head and shoulders above the competition, but you want your beauty queens of her caliber to win by a landslide, not muddling through an interview question that was actually the easiest of the night.  That was an excellent opportunity for her to showcase her charm and wit–but maybe she doesn’t have any.  I don’t know.  I’d have said, “Why, Judge, my greatest fear is messing up an interview question like this!” Then, I’d have smiled brilliantly and dipped my chin while the audience laughed, and I’d have followed up with a serious face and said, “The only way we can overcome our fears is by powering through to the other side of them.  We cannot allow fear to hinder our progress–that is how the greatest nations in the world have come into prosperity.  We must face our fears and conquer them, so that we can achieve our goals, and find peace and harmony for the world.”  See?  That’s how it’s done.

Grand Finale - Miss Universe 2013You get a really good look at Miss Philippines’ hair here.  Those women are just gloriously beautiful!  The only thing missing was Miss USA, and it about broke my heart when she walked out in her evening gown because I am 100% positive that’s what cost her a spot in the Top 5.

miss usaY’all, as happy as Miss USA’s National Costume made me, and it did!  Her evening gown made me sad.  Look at that poor thing.  The bodice mashed her bustline down so that she looked oddly flat-chested–more like she had pecs than a feminine bosom.  The modestly panel made a weird line across her sternum, and that waistline?  Terrible.  The dress made her look thick and took away all her curves, when only moments earlier her swimsuit made it clear she was a glorious hourglass of All American.

I really wish we’d gotten to hear her interviewed because she did a really good job at the Miss USA pageant.

I was really proud of all the girls, though.  They were beautiful and no one fell down, or forgot her name, or anything crazy like that.

And I’m real happy I had a chance to visit with y’all today.

Buy Lane’s book and learn all about me!  It’s called TIARA TROUBLE, and you’ll love it.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Women Worth Knowing

OMG! EMG!


You will all remember Valarie from her WWK Profile and from her guest blog Everything Must Go (EMG). I was very excited to see that she had started her own blog because she has been a great source of information and inspiration to me. I hope you will visit her her new web digs at ShinySparklyVal. I’m sure you will enjoy her just as much as I do.

Posted in 40 in 52, guest article, Women Worth Knowing

Everything Must Go: Guest Article


Do you remember Valarie? If you haven’t read her Women Worth Knowing profile yet, do that. But don’t let it distract you from the following article she wrote.

Yet here I was on my 39th birthday strapped up to an EKG, fat, lonely and in tears. What had happened to me? I knew I had to go deeper and do more. It wasn’t just about the weight. It was about everything. How did I fix everything? Shouldn’t I just pack it in and accept that I was going to be a fat, miserable person for the rest of my life? I was caught up in my head, thoughts spinning and hope dwindling. I wanted to change but I just couldn’t seem to manage it. A line from my journal from that year reads “I feel like I’m swimming thru glue”.

I know Valarie as an amazing, honest, brave woman, so I asked her to share her adopted life philosophy with us. Always looking to live better, Valarie has faced down some personal demons that are triggers for a lot of women–that are triggers for me. Perfectionism, binge eating, over-spending, clutter. I always look for her posts on LiveJournal and gobble them up because it is a rare post that doesn’t give me some full meal or crumb of knowledge. Eventually, she’s just going to have to write a book. Until then, we’ve got this from her.

Everything Must Go
by Valarie

My 39th birthday started with a bang. I spent the first few hours in the emergency room because I was convinced I was having a heart attack. I was at work and had been experiencing a dull pain in my left arm all night. Of course because I was now 39 and therefore ancient, this meant that I was having a heart attack, not that I’d overdone it with the massive spring cleaning/organizing I’d done the day before. I was 39, overweight and with a grandfather who had died of heart disease. There was no other explanation – I was having a heart attack. I promptly gave myself a panic attack just thinking about it and a caring, calm co-worker drove me to the hospital.

Luckily the EKG showed no evidence of a heart attack and the caring, calm doctor gently suggested it might have been muscle pain from the massive cleaning binge the day before. I left with my very own copy of my birthday EKG and promptly went home and had a good old cry.

Where was I going and what sort of state was I in that I automatically assumed 39 plus arm pain equaled heart attack? I was a mess. I’d been overweight most of my life. It was a fact of life for me. I moved to California 10 years ago to escape my problems. It was a total shock to me to discover that I’d only brought them with me. Yes, I left the bad relationship and the hometown blues behind me but a great many of my issues were in my own head and these traveled those 3000 miles along with me.

Within two years of moving here I had gained over 100 lbs. I’d done Atkins and Weight Watchers and many other diet plans and potions including Xenadrine. I weighed more than I ever had in my life. I was so stunned that life in California wasn’t automatically absolutely perfect that I just ate and ate and ate. It was my way of coping with things and had been for years. I slept and I ate. In between I worked at a job I hated. Sadly, I was still happier than I’d been back east so I didn’t really need to look at me. It was just the weight. If I could get that off, all would be perfect.

Even when I got a job I loved I still ate. 16 hours sleeping followed by eating a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Value Meal and then an entire bag of potato chips was the norm for me on my days off.

I was in therapy and on antidepressants. Both helped so much but I knew deep within my heart that there was more. I wasn’t where I wanted to be physically or emotionally. I realized that I had a binge drinking issue and stopped the vodka. I realized that I had an overspending issue and gradually conquered that. I read the Melody Beattie books on co-dependency religiously (5 years with an alcoholic and addict had left me ragingly codependent).

Yet here I was on my 39th birthday strapped up to an EKG, fat, lonely and in tears. What had happened to me? I knew I had to go deeper and do more. It wasn’t just about the weight. It was about everything. How did I fix everything? Shouldn’t I just pack it in and accept that I was going to be a fat, miserable person for the rest of my life? I was caught up in my head, thoughts spinning and hope dwindling. I wanted to change but I just couldn’t seem to manage it. A line from my journal from that year reads “I feel like I’m swimming thru glue”.

I tried to look at my accomplishments and how far I’d come and that worked at times. But I couldn’t escape from the overwhelming feeling of failure. I floundered for quite a while, wanting so much and feeling unable to achieve it.

Every year, I would go on vacation (usually to follow my favorite band – the Manic Street Preachers – around England) and find myself really motivated to change. I could clear my head of work drama and other drama and really know that I wanted to change. Unfortunately little came of these vacation realizations. Some small changes were made yet my deep dissatisfaction remained.

A few months after my 39th birthday, the band announced their first US tour in 10 years. I’d gone to England 3 times in the last few years to see them but had missed their last tour due to financial issues. I was over the moon that they were touring the US and planned to attend 8 shows with my friend Katie. The excitement of planning that kept me going for a while and then the actual tour itself was amazing. Each show was incredible and I had so much fun dancing and singing and chatting with friends and meeting the band and driving across the east coast and Canada. It was perfect and just what I needed to boost my mood.

One of my favorite Manics’ songs is called Everything Must Go. They played it at every show. It’s a crowd pleaser – very upbeat, lots of shouting. I came home from that tour and wrote in my journal “My life feels too small now.” And I came back to Everything Must Go and realized that was what had to happen. Everything had to go – not just the weight but the old thought patterns, old habits, everything that was holding me back. My 40th birthday would be in a few months and this was my gift to myself.

Everything Must Go:
– the weight
– the health issues
– the lack of self care
– the physical dirt (my apartment was a complete mess)
– the mental dirt
– the outdated ideas
– the self loathing
– the half finished projects
– the sense of not deserving
– the financial mess
– the putting everything else ahead of me
– the lack of following my dreams (writing)
– the self doubt

Everything.

I sat down and came up with achievable one year goals for myself. I made to-do lists. I kept going but I also kept struggling. I took a huge step of giving up a major work project that I loved but which triggered my controlling and codependency and was just making me utterly miserable.

As part of my determination to lose weight, I ordered some diet books from Amazon. Not the traditional ‘do this diet plan’ books but first person accounts from people who’d lost weight and kept it off. The first book to arrive, serendipitously on New Year’s Day, was “Hungry” by Alan Zadoff. I began to read it and found myself getting intensely angry. My head was pounding and I was so enraged that I couldn’t focus on reading. I had to put the book aside and pick it up the next day after I’d had some time to think about things.

Why did I have such a visceral reaction? Because it was me. His story was my story. He binged on food, used it to deal with uncomfortable emotions, hid himself behind tons of extra weight. He was telling my story. He revealed himself to be a food addict. He had an eating disorder – compulsive overeating. This was physical as well as mental. I devoured the book and then just sat in shock. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a freak. I wasn’t just a big fat lazy pig. I had an actual illness.

He suggested making lists of red, yellow and green foods. Red foods were your ‘trigger foods’, the foods that you couldn’t eat without overeating/binging on. Yellow foods were foods that could potentially cause a binge. Green foods were food you could eat and eat normal portions of. Immediately I made my lists. It hurt me to think I that I could not eat these foods that were so beloved to me. No McDonald’s, no cupcakes, no icing straight out of the can, no potato chips. I was addicted to them. I had no chance of a normal relationship with them. I could no more eat a normal portion size of potato chips than I could bench press 200 lbs.

My therapist had mentioned Overeaters Anonymous to me before but I’d immediately dismissed it. I wasn’t ‘one of them’. I wasn’t a ‘big fat pig who couldn’t control their eating’ (my perception of people in OA – and fittingly enough, an accurate description of me as well). I didn’t need meetings with other fat people to help me. I just needed willpower. I was weak and just needed to ‘man up’ and do what needed to be done.

“Hungry” showed me what a lie that was. Willpower had failed me. I wasn’t weak – I had a disease. If I had diabetes, would I think myself weak for having to take insulin? No. This was the same thing. Biological and genetic components combine with personality and emotions and voila, you have a food addict. You have me.

I’d been to 12 step meetings with friends before and I loved them. The sense of unconditional acceptance, the sense of not being alone – I wished I was an addict or alcoholic so I could keep going and feel that love. Now I was to get my wish. I did research on OA and found that I could go to online meetings in a chat room. I went to my first meeting the night after finishing “Hungry”. I took my first step: “Hi, I’m Valarie and I’m a compulsive overeater.” I was blown away by the love and acceptance. Finally I’d found ‘my people’. I wasn’t a Special Snowflake with a problem so unique no one could possibly understand it. I was part of a group and there was hope.

I had a lot to learn. I had to practice abstinence – avoiding my trigger foods. I had to look at trigger behaviors as well as trigger foods. For example, I work graveyards, 6 pm until 6 am. Usually every night around 2 or 3 am, I start getting tired. This means I don’t feel like eating. I just want my bed. This causes my blood sugar to drop which makes me cranky which makes me reach for the easiest, most familiar form of comfort – my trigger foods. I’d not eat after 2 am but then driving home at 6 am I’d stop at Jack In The Box and pig out. To help with this, I have more smaller meals including a snack around 5 am – an apple and a piece of string cheese. This boosts my blood sugar and doesn’t leave me ravenous and craving trigger foods.

I have a food plan – a list of foods that I eat. I take enough food plan food with me to work so that I’m not tempted to order in or go get fast food on my lunch break. I was never big on breakfast. Waking up at 4 pm, I never really felt like eating. Now I get up and have a bowl of Special K. This again helps keep my blood sugar levels even and leaves me much less likely to have cravings for trigger foods. I go grocery shopping only with a list of food plan foods.

To me and other food addicts, eating a trigger food is the same as an addict shooting up. I think of that mental image each time I want to eat about something – I picture myself with a needle in my arm because that’s just what a trigger food is to me.

This has not been all sunshine and roses. My first month was amazing. I was motivated, I was excited, I was doing this! Then real life crept in as it has a habit of doing and I found myself struggling. Now I wasn’t just dealing with the food but was dealing with the emotions underneath it. When I was upset, I never had to feel those feelings – I just ate until they were suppressed. Now I had to face feelings and deal with life without my crutch of food.

How did I do this? One day at a time. Yes, it’s a slogan but it works. Sometimes one minute at a time. I followed the 12 steps. I gave up my self will and surrendered to my Higher Power (HP). Some days this was easy while others I was grim and whiteknuckled, praying just to get thru the next 5 minutes without going out and going to McDonalds. I went to meetings, I joined email groups, I read a ton of literature and books. I re-read “Hungry”, I wrote in my journal, I prayed A LOT.

I spent my 40th birthday at home, reflecting on where I had been and where I wanted to go. After 6 weeks in OA, I was already happier and finally felt I was moving forward. I didn’t have many regrets about turning 40. Sure, I wished I’d learned some of these lessons years ago but on that day, I knew that I liked myself and that I was finally doing what I needed to do and that felt great.

I was not only doing the 12 steps of OA but also CODA – Codependents Anonymous. I knew both were problems and though I regularly read my codependent books, I knew I wasn’t really working the program. The two issues were intertwined and there was really no recovery from one without recovery from the other. As I got better, I knew there was more work that I had to do. It was almost like an archaeological dig – uncovering layer after layer and learning about myself. I’ve really had to ‘work the steps’ and not just give lip service to the process.

Losing weight helped but surprisingly wasn’t as important as I thought it was. I was feeling better overall. My emotions weren’t all over the place. I actually let myself have emotions. Those old thought patterns that I’d listed on my EMG list were changing. I have a twelve step workbook and try to write in it every day. I’m overcoming my resistance to the 4th Step (the long one where you write out your history) and working on it. I’m able to look at things that happen from a different perspective. And I’m happier, which is very weird for me. I have a level of contentment that I never thought I’d have.

I’m 4 months abstinent and have released 30 lbs so far. I have a budget and I stick to it. I pay my bills on time. I’ve completed so many unfinished projects, especially around the house. I have cleaners come in once a month to clean my apartment. I read my recovery books regularly and write in my workbook and journal.

Most importantly, I have bad days, sometimes even bad weeks. But I don’t eat about it. I distract myself, I write about it, I go to a meeting, do whatever I need to in order to get thru it without eating. I even let myself feel my emotions – even the uncomfortable ones. I don’t beat myself up every day. I still do beat myself up from time to time – my inner perfectionist is fighting hard to stay and not go away – but I can recover and again, I don’t eat over it, drink over it or overspend over it. It is not easy but I want this for myself. Finally I figured out what I need to do and I’m doing it.

I finally added in exercise last month. I add in things gradually as time passes. I try new foods, change up the food plan, increase my walking pace and time – but all at a reasonable achievable level. I was nearly completely sedentary so to expect myself to walk for hours on end at a high rate of speed was just ridiculous. I remembered what I used to be able to do when I was going to the gym regularly and had to throw that vision of myself out for now. This is where I am now and so this is where I have to focus.

My inner perfectionist fights this – “You should be able to change it all now once and forever! You’re a big fat slob!” etc., but I’m getting much better at shutting her up and taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, one minute at a time.

I’ve just reviewed my one year goals and adjusted them. My desired weight loss for that time period wasn’t realistic. Now it is, based on the rate I’ve been losing weight. I’m getting much better at getting out of my own way. I surrender all of my issues to my Higher Power every day and it works. Some days this is harder than others, but I still do it.

I’m gradually getting back in touch with my spirituality. I’d let that lapse a few years ago. Why would I need that when I was running the world? Once I realized that my attempts to control the world weren’t working and got into OA, I was able to also realize that I needed help. For now, I’m content to call that help my Higher Power and I love that in OA you can conceptualize your HP exactly as you need him/her/it to be. I realize that I am a spiritual being and I need that to be an important part of my life, not just in an ‘Oh God, please make me thin!’ kind of way. Developing that relationship with HP is now something I do every day, just like eating food plan food, getting on the treadmill and writing in my journal.

Epilogue:

I just had my worst week ever since I started EMG. Major work drama happened that pushed my buttons and I let myself get sucked in instead of focusing and maintaining my distance. I was unexpectedly stabbed in the back and I was utterly miserable. I had one day where I thought I was literally going insane. Trying to deal with emotions – primarily a lot of pain and anger – without the food to numb them was nearly unbearable. I could taste the food, feel the beloved numbness and wanted them so badly. I knew I could easily stop at the store and purchase my numbness in just a few quick minutes.

But I kept picturing that needle in my arm. Yes, I had a long way to go. Yes, I was discouraged because during the previous two weeks, I had hit a plateau and not lost any weight. Yes, that inner perfectionist came roaring back with diatribes on what a failure I was and how I should just give up because I’d never succeed at anything. I could do what I wanted – OA members would be supportive of a ‘relapse’, so would my friends. No one would criticize me – except for me.

I didn’t go for the food. I wanted to more than I have ever wanted anything in a long time. I didn’t go for vodka or shopping either. I don’t know how I got thru. I cried a lot and felt those damned emotions that I hated and didn’t want. I prayed a lot thru the tears. I sobbed out my surrender to HP, I yelled it out thru the pain and I made it a silent mantra. Forget about one day at a time; I was getting thru one second at a time by the skin of my teeth.

I got thru. Not on my own but with the grace and guidance of my HP. I fought tooth and nail but eventually surrendered and gave up my attempts to control the universe. I stuck to my food plan and didn’t binge or eat trigger foods. I kept up with my exercise and even added in walking on my lunch break at work three days in a row.

I did sleep a lot. Sleep has been my go-to stress reliever since I was a child. But this time even that was still different. I didn’t call off work sick and spend days in bed ignoring anything and everything while I wallowed in victim mode. I just slept a few more hours on my days off. I still worked out, still ate my food plan and still read my books and wrote in my journal. I got thru it. It was ugly and painful and nowhere near that perfectionism my inner voice wanted but I got thru it. I learned the lesson and instead of wallowing in pain and self-pity, I’m moving forward one step at a time.

This week I noticed some overdraft charges on my bank account. This means I need to take a closer look at my finances and how to better manage them. This makes me frustrated. But, another day, another step, another lesson. I’m in a much better position than I was 5 months ago and in 5 months from now I’ll be in still a better position. 42.

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