The 4th: Celebrating Freedom

Ahhh….the 4th of July. THE American Holiday. Being a history teacher I MUST do my civic duty and remind/inform you all that we did NOT infact gain our independence on this day way back in 1776…our independence came after that long hard fight known as the American Revolutionary War that ended on September 3, 1783. And really…officially we did not become an independent nation until the Congress of the Confederation (the title of the American government at the time) ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14th of 1784. So really…We SHOULD be celebrating in January. But who BBQ’s in January? (Shutup Hawaii…)

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The theme of this post is FREEDOM; how I am learning and trying to gain some freedom from my food addiction and food issues and what freedom from shame has felt and looked like for me. My understanding of what freedom from my addiction looks like has changed. I was once hopeful that I could be done with it forever and I now know that is not true. So freedom to me will feel like I am not a slave to food, that I can and do make the right choice every time and that it is OK if the right choice in that moment is Doritos and s’mores. Freedom is not being ashamed of my past, of who I am, and how I deal with life. Freedom is being proud and aware of who I am at every moment and stage of life.  I promise I will get there…for short story long see below 🙂

I have always enjoyed this holiday-the 4th- for a few reasons. It usually means that we will be at our place on Hood Canal with my parents, sister, grandparents, my uncles, aunts, and cousins. It means a big fireworks display at Hoodsport that we can enjoy from our decks…snake and flower fireworks with my cousins… Cousins Council meetings by the fire (lots of business to attend to)…crabbing and oyster gathering…pier jumping and hot tubbing…sunburns and s’mores. And it really is a good time to reflect on all that it means to be American. The rights and privileges that go along with that birth certificate or passport are rare in the world today. Not that I am 100% happy with all our policies and politicians but it sure beats living in North Korea. It also means food…LOTS of food. Steaks, burgers, shrimp, oysters, mom’s Flag cake, macaroni salad, grandma’s Congo Squares, beers and grandpa’s Gin and Tonics with extra lime. I have come to understand that what I most enjoy about this holiday and other holidays is the food. This is first and foremost for any holiday in my life. In the beginning of this journey this was a huge source of shame; it was shameful that my greatest source of holiday happiness was not in the people or happenings that went with the holiday but with food being prepared and served. It was upsetting and unsettling to finally understand and acknowledge this understanding of my relationship between holidays, food, and happiness. I have accepted this about myself and am working hard to put food not first but among all of the other awesome things that happen on these holidays. It is no longer shameful because I have learned that sometimes it is ok. Every time my grandma makes her mothers coleslaw I think of great grandma. Every time I have a beer I think of my great grandpa who used to let my sister and I have “just a little sip” every time we visited. Smells and textures will trigger memories and that is just the way the human brain is wired. I don’t ever want to lose those connections. I have learned that I do not have to HAVE a beer to remember my great grandpa- just seeing one will bring back wonderful memories. And this is the case will all food related emotional triggers. I don’t want every holiday or every vacation to be about food and I know that by just become AWARE of the food connection to these life events I have been able to shift the focus from food to people or gratitude or the feeling of the holiday and that has been a huge shift for me.

Shannon, the manager of 30/10 on Tacoma was the first person who forced me to confront this side of myself and let me tell you it was BRUTAL. When contemplating signing up for 30/10 I shared with her- over the phone- that I was worried about staying on plan over the summer holidays and my upcoming Alaskan vacation. She asked me one simple question:”Are you going to Alaska to eat?” Me, being raised in a proper home, promptly told her to go to hell and slammed the phone down. Bitch. Who does she think she is? Ok ok ok…that didn’t really happen. This is what really happened: she asked me that question…I stopped breathing and talking for about 10 seconds because she had asked the ONE question that I was afraid someone would ask me and expect an answer to…she checked to see if I was still on the phone…in my HEAD I told her to fuck off and go to hell and sit and spin…I then told her I was still on the phone and that NO I was not going to Alaska to eat but to see my family…but there would be food up there that I could only eat in Alaska and how was I supposed to say NO to that food? Her response to that was “Really? Only in Alaska huh?”. BITCH. FLYING BIATCH ON A STICK. She is one COLD BLOODED biatch…coldest I have ever met. She was so cold she iced me OVER THE PHONE! Who does that? Shannon does. And she did that for a reason. If you are thinking about doing 30/10 you have already tried everything and she knows that. She also didn’t have time to play nice or pussy foot around. She knew what she was doing. She could spot my bullshit over the phone. She then told me that maybe I was not ready for 30/10 and that was ok…she asked me to call her when I was ready to go to Alaska NOT for the food and hung up. WHAT THE HELL. Cold bloooooded.

I knew that if I committed to 30/10 I was going to have to deal with that question and deal with it often. Was I going on vacation and looking forward to holidays because of the food I would encounter? Did I really not care about the people or the traditions or the things that I did over the holidays or on vacation? What the hell is wrong with me? So…I shared the conversation I had with Shannon with my parents to check to see if I really was that crazy. My parents asked me what my favorite part about Christmas was? Without thinking I said “Dinner” (My mom makes a traditional Bavarian meal…mouth watering). Leavenworth trip? “1st Peppermint Mocha of the season”. 4th of July? “S’mores”. What do you remember about your birthday? “The homemade cherry pie you made for me”. Oh shit…all of my goddamn freaking memories are food. That was the FIRST thing that popped into my head every time. Sure I remember other stuff but food was the first thing to be recalled from my memory every time. So yeah…that seems a bit “off”. I knew that if I did 30/10 I was also going to have to do something for my head game because clearly my connection between food and memories had something to do with my fatness. My shame level at this point was at the highest it had ever been and now not only did I know something was seriously wrong but my parents did too. Not that they already didn’t know that something was wrong but it’s one thing to know privately…now it was publicly known and that brings the shame to a whole NEW level. I can only compare it to thinking that you are going through your day fully clothed only to realize at the end of the day you have been naked the whole time…that you have been hanging out there the whole day for everyone to see and you are the dumbass who didn’t know it. NIGHTMARE.

So now that everyone knew I had no place to hide…physically OR mentally. I could no longer shove my food issues into that deep dark place inside of me because the lights had been turned on and I and everyone else had seen it…my addition. Freaking ugly ass thing…lurking around inside me all those years. It had lived in darkness for so long that exposure to light made it retreat to the darkest of recesses of me. I had been using food to cope with life and unhappiness and doubt and shame and feelings of not being good enough for so many years I had no idea how to deal with these feelings without it. But I was tired…SO TIRED of living this way. I had a choice. Continue to use food to get through life and die young or break through the shame wall and learn to live life without using food as a life support ring. I sought out a therapist who specializes in addictions and have been seeing him now for a year. Best decision of my life because he has helped me understand I am not crazy. Here are my big takeaways from him:

  • Humans and food…cannot separate them. It’s OK to have food and memories intermingle, but you want other things to also intermingle with those memories. Focus on the other stuff and not the food.
  • Addiction can be stunted and overgrown with hard work, deep breaths, and awareness of the patterns and cycles that trigger the behavior.
  • I am smart and capable. I am not an idiot.
  • My toolbox is filled with lots of great tools to help me get through some of life’s toughest moments. I had NO tools for dealing with life without food. Thank goodness there is a store that specializes in those tools…it’s called David, and my support group, and my brain!

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I have chosen the later but had no idea how freaking HARD this journey would be and still don’t have a crystal clear picture of how to live life without my food life ring. I HAVE learned some things along that way and feel confident that I am not the only one who has come to these conclusions or am the only human on this planet who could benefit from these findings. So THIS 4th of July I hope that you too can start your own journey to food freedom…to body freedom. Or I hope that some of my tools can become your tools to help ease your struggle and keep you going in your journey. 

April’s Tools of FREEDOM!

  • Answer the HARD questions.
    • The hard questions from others and those hard questions you are asking yourself. And be honest in your response. It’s time to stop bullshitting yourself and others. When life is on the line, no one likes a bullshitter.
  • Don’t keep your shame hidden.
    • Everyone ALREADY knows you have a problem/issue/addition/unhealthy relationship with food! Your fat! You can’t hide fat. Sure…some people DO treat you differently but those are people who don’t know or care about you. The ones who do care and love you just don’t know how to talk to you about it because they KNOW it’s shameful to you!  It’s a catch-22 because they are probably the ones who are BEST equipped to help you. Don’t be mad at them…TALK with them about your struggle and ask them to join your fight. 
    • Shame is ONLY powerful when hidden. As soon as you expose shame to the “light” it loses it’s powerful grip. Start talking! 
  • The shame is self-created, self-inflicted.
    • Yep…you own your shame 100%. Good news here…you can give that shame away! See above bullet. 🙂
  • Live in the PRESENT, not the past…not the future. 
    • I am SO guilty of this one. Your past is your past. Let that shit go. There is not a freaking thing you can do about all those times you binged or drank way too much or went on a vacation to just eat food.  And you future is a figment of your imagination. POOF. Pure fairy dust. What will happen to you if you think in the future you will lose 50 pounds by a certain date and that date comes and goes and you only lost 49? You will be pissed and start your shame cycle all over again. Live in today. Every time your mind wanders to your past or to your future, smack yourself back to REALITY and reality is now. 
      • Take a deep breath, ask yourself “Why am I upset?” or “Why am I hungry?”How about “What is really bothering me?” or my new favorite “What am I thankful for RIGHT now?”
      • Asking these question will bring you back to the PRESENT!
  • When overwhelmed, be THANKFUL.
    • When your brain starts telling you that you are fat/ugly/need some Milk Duds/pizza/Red Robin take a big breath and ask yourself, “What am I thankful for?” or  “What am I grateful for?” Force your brain to think of what you already have, not what you don’t have.
    • For bonus points, make those grateful thoughts known and public! Thank that person or that animal or that chair or book or flower. They will appreciate your gratitude. And if it’s a person they will ask you what brought on such a showcase of love? Then refer to bullet #1.
  • WRITE IT DOWN!
    • If it goes in your pie hole, write it down.
      • And then take your food tracker into 30/10 and let them know that well…Red Robin was apparently on plan this week. Then refer to bullet #1.
    • Struggling? Write it down.
    • Hate life? Write it down.
    • OWN IT. 
  • Identity and Learn
    • Get to the bottom of your food issues. Figure out why you do what you do and why you have such a crappy relationship with food. Then Google the shit out of that and find some books to buy and read and absorb and devour. LEARN why you are the way that you are and get some tools in your toolbox to deal with it! 
    • I recently came across these two articles that I found awesome and inspiring 🙂
    • My latest read in progress: (This book idea came from a podcast I recently listened to!)

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My plan over the 4th is to stick closely to 30/10 plan. I am not paying at the moment but am VERY motivated to continue to release weight. I will bring my 30/10 breakfasts and snacks and chips and my salad stuff and microwave veggies and eat those throughout the week. I will bring my tracker and write everything down. I will bring and practice yoga daily. I will focus my attention to the events and festivities, not the food and drinks. I will read and journal and reflect. And I will be proud of every food decision I make next week.

I hope you all have an awesome weekend that is fun, safe, and reflective.

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6 thoughts on “The 4th: Celebrating Freedom

  1. I just read this today and appreciate all your good tips and especially your honesty! So glad we’ve connected on this journey!

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  2. April, great post! I am on my back to the USA right now. I must say, food connections are very normal for me. My sister asked me to bring her food from Lebanon and she was sad I was continuing my trip in Italy because the stuff would have spoiled so I get it. Keep up the good work. I’m off to God’s land today.

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