November 2007

I haven’t mentioned this elsewhere on my blog, but in February 2006 I was diagnosed as being a Type 2 Diabetic. Diabetics are much more likely than non-diabetics to develop other serious health problems, including heart and kidney disease.

Garden SaladKeeping in mind my health history,  coupled with my addictions to both OVEReat and UNDERexercise, I am today committing (one day at a time) to make the following small (but I think important) changes in what I eat and how much I exercise. These changes are well within the guidelines of my Weight Watchers’ POINTS food plan and directions given me by various physical therapists over the years.

One day at a time, I commit to…

— Stop eating french fries and onion rings.   They have virtually NO nutritional value, regardless of the type of oil in which they are deep-fried. And I surely do NOT need the TON of SALT that fast food restaurants (especially McDonald’s) pour on their french fries!

— Start eating MORE green vegetables,

— Eat a garden salad three or more days per week.

— Start eating/drinking MORE Vitamin C-rich fruits.

— DO physical exercise for at least 15 minutes each day, every day, NO MATTER WHAT!

— Eat fish and white meat MORE often, while eating LESS red meat.

Am I “excited” about making any of these changes? NO WAY!!! I’m just being honest (“Nothing ever changes until it becomes what it is.”) AND am seeking God’s grace to make these changes.

“God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannont change…the courage to change the things I can…and the wisdom to know the difference — even when I do NOT feel like doing these things. In Jesus’ name. Amen!”

And what if I don’t PERFECTLY adhere to my commitment? Then I have another prayer, known as The Serenity Prayer – Part 2, to pray:

“God, grant me patience with the changes that take time, an appreciation for all that I have, a tolerance for those with different struggles and the strength to get up and try again . . . One Day At A Time. In Jesus’ name. Amen!”


Yesterday I bought my lunch at a local Wendy’s (you know, they offer “healthier” side items with their combo meals than just french fries, like most fast food restaurants). Instead of dining in, I opted to go through the drive-through lane.

I ordered a #1 Combo Meal: Single HAMburger w/small Chili and Diet Coke. NOTE: The menu actually reads “Single HAMburger” (“Single” = one hamburger. I’m adding the emphasis on the HAM part of the burger’s name).

Now I Call This “SUPERSIZED”!!!

REALITY CHECK: A CHEESEburger is a HAMburger WITH cheese. A HAMBURGER has NO cheese. Therefore a “HAMburger with cheese” is NOT a HAMburger — it is a CHEESEburger. Savvy? Yet just about every time I order a HAMburger at Wendy’s they ask me if I want CHEESE on it! If I wanted a “HAMburger with cheese” it would NOT be a HAMburger — it would be a CHEESEburger!!! Calgon, take me away!!!

So I ordered a HAMburger, but in the cashier’s frenzied attempt to “suggestive sell” me something MORE than what I ordered, she attempted to charge me for a CHEESEburger with my combo! (Who in their right mind would pay 40 cents for just ONE slice of cheese? Not moi! I can buy a package of cheese with 16 slices for less than $1.75 at my neighborhood Krogers.)

So I confronted the cashier about their mistake and was then charged the proper amount for a Single HAMburger Combo Meal.

However when I opened the wrapper on my sandwich (as I was driving away from Wendy’s) I discovered that I was given a CHEESEburger!!!

In a way, I got a little thrill that I got an overpriced slice of cheese for FREE. But then again, I’m on a food plan and I want my food order to be respected and I don’t want to deal with that suggestive selling crap!

IMHO, suggestive selling is rude — it shows a blatant disregard and disrespect for the customer. It prevents the cashier from listening (really listening) to their customer.

“HAMburger” means HAMburger.  “CHEESEburger” means CHEESEburger.

What part of “HAMburger” don’t they understand!?! They DO understand, they just disrespect me and deceptively try to sell me something that I didn’t order. As a consumer, I deserve BETTER treatment than that.

What part of getting my order RIGHT can’t they handle?!? Isn’t that what they are paid to do?!?

Some of my journal entries deal with the subject of the problem I refer to as “perfectionism”: the unrealistic expectation of PERFECTION from myself. I don’t think that I’m coping a perfectionistic attitude with fast food cashiers who engage in suggestive selling. Suggestive selling is an INTENTIONAL behavior.

When confronted by me, many a fast food cashier over the years has told me that their supervisors insist that they engage in suggestive selling. Some have even been warned by their boss that if they don’t suggestive sell that they will be fired!

So I’m not demanding perfection from fast food cashiers.

I am, without apology, insisting on respect and that the person taking my order “actively listen” to what I’m telling them.

Being a guy who is still overweight (oh just a little), I obviously do NOT need to “supersize” my meal. Rest assured that I wont be mistaken for being anorexic any time soon.

So what did I do with the slice of cheese on my HAMburger? I ate it. <gasp>

Thankfully with Weight Watchers POINTS food plan I have the flexibility (NOTE: perfectionism and flexibility are typically NOT compatible with each other) that allows for errors on the part of those who serve me food. I just counted the Point value of the cheese along with the other items that came with my Combo Meal.

Eating the cheese on my HAMburger did NOT cross the line into “overeating”. I simply ate something I hadn’t pre-planned for, yet was still able to stay within my allowed number of Points for the day.

Prior to Weight Watchers, I probably would have gone into a “(downward) shame and guilt spiral” and would have used the UNexpected piece of cheese as an excuse to OVEReat. Even though eating the cheese would not necessarily been OVEReating.

Dieting fed my perfectionism. Dieting severely limited my choices. Dieting created new excuses to overeat.

Moderate eating, achieved by following a nutritionally-sane food plan, can (thankfully!) undermine my perfectionistic tendencies, increase my choices/options and circumvent the guilt and shame that used to help me discover new excuses for overeating.

Thankfully my recovery is NOT about “dieting”!

Up to this point, my journal entries have mostly dealt with the food addiction side of what I call my “double-sided addiction”.  Along with overeating, I find myself equally addicted to to avoiding physical exercise at all costs.

Food addiction combined with exercise avoidance combines to make for a very UNhealthy lifestyle! Ya’ think!?! 🙂 For me, these two addictions really “feed” into each other (pun intended): the more I overeat, the less I want to exercise…the less I exercise, the less I care about my physical appearance and overall well-being — hence I can easily get to the point where I don’t really care about what (or how much) I’m (over)eating.

Because of my double-sided addiction, I really needed a program like Weight Watchers that addresses BOTH what (and how much) I’m eating and how (and how often/much) I’m moving my body.

Kudos not only to Weight Watchers, but also to Richard Simmons! He is now championing the cause of promoting physical exercise in the schools — along with continuing to promote healthy eating habits starting at an early age! (To this day, Richard’s “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” videos provide me with an enjoyable method to engage in physical exercise.)

Speaking of starting/stopping addiction “at an early age”…At the same time that I was learning to medicate my emotions with excess food, I was developing a fear and loathing of gym class. I detested just about every gym teacher I ever had throughout grade, junior high and high school!

Gym class particpaption also greatly increased my feelings of shame. Being the fattest kid in my class, I could pretty much count on being picked LAST when classmates were instructed to select team members for a particular sport. Nothing like feeling UNwanted and UNwelcome!

As if the pain of being chosen last wasn’t enough to deal with while I was growing up, all I have to do is tune in to The Biggest Loser or some other competition-driven weight loss TV show, to see adults engaging in the same sort of shaming behavior! Nothing against competition per se, but being chosen last for a team ALWAYS hurts. Always.

I share about the emotional pain that gym class caused me NOT to blame it on my pattern of exercise avoidance, but simply to point out that this addiction (like my food addiction) has been with me most of my life. I’m NOT currently enrolled in school, so my abhorance of gym class from school days has NOTHING whatsoever to do with “why” exercise avoidance is one of my “addiction issues” as an adult.

Perfect Abs — So What?!?When it comes to overeating and underexercising, I find that perfectionistic thinking can fuel me to act out with both of these behaviors (Exercise-related perfectionistic thoughts: “If I can’t exercise at the level of an Olympic athelete, why bother?” “If I’m always going to have ‘big hairy fat man’s titties’ instead of a ‘six pack’ to show the world, why care?” — Food-related perfectionistic thoughts: “If I can’t lose at least five-or-more pounds per week, why follow this food plan?” “I only lost two pounds last week?…Where’s the nearest all-you-can-binge buffet?”).

I’m glad that a Weight Watchers’ leader shared the following quote that helps challenge my perfectionistic thinking: “Perfection(ism) leaves no room for growth.” Hopefully even in my most twisted thinking I can realize that I have plenty of room for growth and that my best efforts really are “good enough”.

Now there’s an insight into perfectionisting thinking and behavior: I grew up believing that NOTHING I ever did was “good enough”. So no wonder my best eating behavior and exercise effort usually don’t feel “good enough”. And when another (perfectionistic) addict comes along to question/show disrespect for my “best” effort? The “addict-to-addict shaming, blaming and undermining game” only undermines my best effort (“If my ‘best’ isn’t as good as his best, then why try?”.

One of the tools I use to help challenge my perfectionistic thinking is a quote from a leader in the co-dependency movement: “I’m a human being, NOT a human doing.” The Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley had a cute (but sometimes irritating) affirmation to challenge his perfectionism: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and dog-gone-it, people like me!”

The real issue (always) is: Do I like me? Do I like me enough to respect my best effort? Do I like it enough to have something less than a “six pack” and a body fat percentage greater than most professional atheletes?

Today I don’t follow a “diet” — I follow a “food plan”.

Today I don’t do “exercise” — I do “physical movement”.

“Physical movement” is to “exercise” as “food plan” is to “diet” — e.g., a new name for a behavior that used to cause me a senseless amount of pain. These new behaviors don’t just have a new name, they also comes with a healthier set of rules and boundaries — which less to LESS senseless pain that I used to experience with the old behaviors.

Today, as I follow my food plan, I give myself permission to do a reasonable amount of physical movement each day.

Today I choose to check with professionals to make sure that my perfectionism is NOT driving me to do “too much” exercise for my own good. Pushing myself too hard (with food or exercise) only leads me to experience burn-out and (ultimately) fuels excuses to return to my old addictive behavior(s).

Today walking, lifting two pound weights, working out with Richard Simmons’ videos and doing exercises prescribed for me (in amounts/within limitations prescribed for me) by physical therapists provides me with a moderate, safe and sane approach to physical movement.

In one of my favorite movies, a character quips that addiction is “a three-fold disease: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years!” No doubt for most of us food addicts, the three major winter holiDAZE pose a major challenge to our recovery effort!

Buffets Offer A Special Challenge

Many of us find ourselves surrounded by food this time of the year. All sorts of party and dinner invitations can make the temptation to overeat even more intense than it is the rest of the year.

And what about those “food pushers”! You know the kind of person I’m talking about. They regularly remind us that “different rules apply” to any and all holidays. We MUST overeat, indeed we are EXPECTED to overeat on these days! And if we don’t overeat on holiDAZE, then something MUST be terribly wrong with us.

My recovery journey has taught me that NO food addict “must” overeat on any holiday anymore than any other addict “must” give in to his addiction on these special (and often times very stressful) days. Our addiction takes no time off for holidays and neither should our recovery effort.

Here’s a list of ten reminders that help keep me on track at all-you-can-binge buffets, holiday parties and even when surrounded by even the most obnoxious food pusher(s):

1 — I have the right to say “No.”

2 — With God’s help (and the support of other addicts) I can make my “No.” mean “No.” and be consistent sticking with “No.” Remembering to pray before, duing and after food-centered events helps me connect with God. Having the phone numbers of other addicts on my person helps me connect with other addicts when faced with temptation. Therefore PREPARATION IS ESSENTIAL when placing myself in stressful (let alone tempting) situations.

3 — “No.” is a complete sentence. Therefore I do NOT have to justify, rationalize or otherwise explain my decision to say “No.” to excess amounts of food.

4 — I have the right — without explanation — to remove myself from the immediately proximity of people and places that threaten my recovery. If an explanation is “owed” it can be made LATER (e.g., like when I’m in a better spiritual/emotional space).

5 — Without apology, I believe that I have the right to take care of me, one holiday/one day at a time.

6 — Having a well-balanced, nutritionally-sane food plan makes my recovery effort EASIER: I know what my boundaries are and my boundaries are reasonable.

7 — If I can’t remember how MISERABLE I felt after I had my last food binge, then I probably have at least one more binge ahead of me!

8 — “Insanity is doing the SAME thing over and over while expecting DIFFERENT results.” Therefore what am I prepared to DO (“DO” = action) DIFFERENTLY when presented with circumstances, people and places that have defeated me in the past?

9 — Failling to plan is (subconsciously) planning to fail. What is my plan? Write it down! Share it with another addict!

10 — Holidays last just 24 hours — just like every other day of the year. And I have a God and a program of recovery that works amazingly well when I WORK (“WORK” = action) it, just ONE (HOLI)DAY at a time!

“An addict alone is in a bad neighborhood.” — something I’ve heard over the years at the meetings of Narcotics Anonymous

Repeated efforts by me to be the “Lone Ranger of Recovery” failed miserably. So, as I shared in my introductory entry, I approach my recovery journey with LOTS of support from others. Among those who’s guidance I seek: God, fellow addicts (of all sorts), the collective wisdom of Weight Watchers, my primary care physician, a dietician, a physical therapist and other professionals as needed.

When I think I have “all the answers” then I can expect relapse into active food addiction, which always includes weight re-gain.

When I get resentful toward others (Resentment being the #1 cause for relapse) and don’t want their advice (let alone fellowship) any more, I can count on going into relapse and re-gaining some (or all) of the weight I’ve previously lost.

Together We Can Do What We Could Never Do Alone

Just for today I stay “plugged into” all of the support I can find! The friendship and wisdom of others makes my journey much easier (“Together we can do what we could never do alone!” — an observation from a co-founder of Overeaters Anonymous).

While most of the professionals I deal with are “earth people” (that is, they don’t share my addiction), even they can (and have repeatedly) taught me much about how to eat and exercise sanely, one day at a time.

So when (as I did in my most recent entry) issue a warning about addicts who act as if they are dieticians and/or exercise physiologists when it comes to pontificating to fellow addicts, I wanted to remind myself that I’m NOT MY own health care (let alone any other kind of) professional. Indeed I know just enough about nutrition and exercise to be dangerous (to myself and other addicts). Hopefully this new-found humility will carry over to my work with fellow addicts.

A wise addict once observed that “humility” is NOT the same thing as “humiliation” — humility is merely “the willingness to be equal”. Along with “being equal”, humility also makes it easier for me to be honest, openminded and willing to take directions (even when I don’t feel like taking them).

Before, During OR After?An earlier topic I posted on had to do with just how cruel we food addicts can be to one another. One aspect of the unkindness we are capable of acting out with has to do with how judgmental we food addicts can be about other addict’s food choices. I find it rather ironic that those of us who have been out-of-control with our food intake can be awfully high and mighty — yeah, in a word: “judgmental” — when it comes to rating what and/or how much  other addicts (addicts who self-identify as being “in recovery”) eat.

And you (and I) certainly are NOT judgmental toward other addicts, right? Then tell me about that fellow who is pictured above (the guy wearing the red shirt). Did you assume that he is at his TOP weight ever? Or did you wonder if he had already lost 50, 75, 100 or more pounds? How do you emperically KNOW that he is as overweight as he has ever been? Answer: You can NOT know for sure if you just met someone. Why is it OK to assume the worst about them? Answer: It isn’t.

So to any food addict (not to metion to every exercise avoider as well) who has been negatively judged becuase of recovery effort, please know that you aren’t alone!  I, too, have had to endure nurerous judgmental comments (and hateful glances) over the years — and those words and looks definitely can hurt!

My “recovery puzzle” includes wisdom gleaned from various 12 Step fellowships, including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon. One of my favorite lines from the A.A. Big Book says, “Where alcohol has been involced, we are stragely insane.” And I can solemnly assure you that when it comes to food (and exercise) I too have a well-documented history of being “strangely insane”.

So when I hear a fellow food addict pontificate to me or other addicts about nutrition (let alone exercise) I try to NOT over-react and remember to “consider the source”. Trusting a food addict to be a dietician is about illogical as trusting a pyromaniac to work as a fireman. It just ain’t a smart idea!!!

Could you make “better” food choices than some other addict? Good for you! Did you loose weight faster than another addict did? Whoopie!!!

What’s the point of being a know-it-all with one another? Can’t we all support one another while walking DIFFERENT paths to achieve our recovery? Since when did my mouth get attached to yours? Our own individual results are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! Remember the famous disclaimer: “Your results may vary”. My experience is that our individual results often DO vary from that of another addict!

If you want “competition” go park your butt in front of your TV and watch those weight loss reality series. On the other hand, if you want to be “supportive”, then work your own program of recovery while affirming others for their sincere efforts at recovery.

Being overly critical of fellow addicts is all-too-typical behavior for those who have (and rumor has it that ALL of us addicts have this issue, to one degree or another) chronically low self-esteem. This problem is what 12 Step writer John Bradshaw refers to as “Toxic Shame”. When we who have for so long judged ourselves without mercy, it is all-too-easy to act out this way when we interact with others who share our addiction.

The tendency toward addict-to-addict judgmentalism is why I’ve decided to NOT post a whole lot of truly personal recovery information (e.g., my weight loss, food intake and accoiunting for physical exercise) on Overactive Fork. I don’t need the hateful remarks that come with shame-based addicts projecting their shame on me. NOT that I’ve ever projected ME shame on any other addicts! HA! I only (honestly) wish that were so.

Just for today I wont judge other addict’s attempts at (and results from their) recovery journey. My rate of weight loss (and yours) is God’s business (not mine or yours).

McDonald’s Calls Their FRIED Chicken “Crispy”To save money and time (great reasons, huh?), I too often eat at fast food restaurants. I think that Wendy’s is probably the best in terms of nutritional value for the money, since they allow customers to choose a side item OTHER than French Fries as part of their Combo Meals (combo meal = sandwich, side item and beverage).

McDonald’s refers to their “meal deals” as Value Meals. McDonald’s does not allow substitution(s) for side items — French Fries are a must for the side item. I’m told that despite how delicious they are, French Fries have virtually NO nutritional value. At McDonald’s they also usually come OVER-salted. And did I mention something about their fat content?

Here’s hoping that McDonald’s, Arby’s and all other combo-meal-serving fast food joints will follow Wendy’s lead and allow for something OTHER than French Fries to be selected as a side item. Until that wonderful day when such a choice is offered by McDonald’s, I have (at least) two other complaints about McDonald’s cuisine…

1) Let’s call “fried” food “fried”, OK? Have you noticed that their various chicken sandwiches and Snack Wraps come in two varieties: grilled and crispy.  “Crispy” is THE SAME as “fried”. I challenge McDoanld’s to have the integrity to respect their customers by using the word “fried” — despite all the bad press that word gets these days! (SIDE NOTE: Did you know the reason that Kentucky Fried Chicken shortened it’s name back in the 1990’s to  “KFC”? Because of all the bad press in heart disease that FRIED food was getting! So we can still eat FRIED food, but dare not speak the name “fried” and it makes it all OK? Sounds like spin to moi!)

2) Have you ever ordered one of these “grilled” items (perhaps as a way to reduce your intake of FAT)? If so, you might have noticed like I have that McDonald’s employees LARD IT UP with maynaise!!! What’s the point it having your item “grilled” (to reduce fat) just to turn around and smack MULTIPLE ounces of fat-laden mayonaise on your sandwich or wrap? Kinda’ defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? At least they could offer reduced fat or fat-free mayonaise!

On a more McPositive note…I did (past tense) enjoy partaking of McDonald’s Southwest Salads this past summer. They came with a choice of either “grilled” or “crispy” chicken (That’s FRIED chicken!!!). I’m sad to report that now that fall has arrived, this healthier item is no longer McAvailable. The Southwest Salad has come up missing just in time for the McRib to make a brief return.

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