Author: Ben

UPPP Surgery – Recovery Day 4

Last night felt like I actually had close to proper sleep for the first time since the operation, instead of drifting in and out of painful semi-consciousness all night. At least, as close to proper sleep as is possible when sleeping in a recliner.

I didn’t take an Endone before lights out and had no trouble getting off to sleep for a few hours – but I did wake up at 3am in a reasonable amount of pain. So I took one, grabbed a Zooper Dooper out of the freezer and watched another episode of Bojack. By the time that was done I had no trouble going straight back to sleep through til 6:30am – so that was nice.

In another pleasing sign, even though I woke up sore, I held off on taking any pills for a bit and discovered that the pain settled down quite quickly after a few flushes and spits with water and diluted mouthwash. So I didn’t take any Endone this morning, just Targen and Panadol.

Since the operation I’ve really had no appetite to speak of, and I’ve really only been eating because I know I need the fuel. However this morning my stomach was actually rumbling for some breakfast for the first time all week. So that’s probably a decent sign that I’m on the mend as well – it’s just a shame that it’s still so painful to swallow, even forcing down my scrambled eggs and smoothie was difficult.

Unfortunately the day kinda went to poo after that. I fell asleep again after breakfast and woke up very sore. Walked up to the shops in the afternoon to buy more soup, and decided to try lying down in bed afterwards to see if that’s tolerable now – spoiler alert, it’s not. Woke up feeling horrible, took some pain pills, and then stupidly decided to try and eat a tin of pepper steak soup for dinner. That was not a good choice… it was more peppery than I’d expected and I couldn’t eat much of it. It made me so uncomfortable I actually burst into tears mid meal and had to go and have a shower. The constant pain and poor sleep is really starting to wear me down.

Anyway, after cleaning up from tea the drugs were kicking in again and the evening wasn’t too bad. I’ve decided that I’m going to have to just keep taking the painkillers pre-emptively and not go without – I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone and I’m struggling to be a sane parent and husband when it’s really hurting. Also, I think too much time prone on the couch is probably just causing me to get more phlegmy and painful – I need to move around more, it seems to help.

UPPP Surgery – Recovery Day 3

Today wasn’t a great start to the day. Our five year old woke up on the wrong side of the bed, the dog didn’t want to eat his breakfast, and maybe it’s nocebo because of those things but by jingo my throat was fucking sore when I woke up. Gargling salt water didn’t help much, so I had a shower and decided I absolutely was going to take both Targin and Endone this morning. After that I really wasn’t feeling motivated to cook eggs, and in the end it took me about 45 minutes to force down a green smoothie plus a small tub of yoghurt and frozen blueberries.

By the time I’d done that I was feeling a bit woozy from the drugs and wasn’t keen to walk the dog so I had a nap instead.

Things did seem to get better from there, though. After waking up, I did take the dog for a walk after all and it was a glorious sunny day, so that helped lift my spirits a little.

Had scrambled eggs and yoghurt for lunch, and soup followed by rice pudding for dinner, but it’s still a battle to swallow even soft foods and liquids. The pain really doesn’t seem to have improved much, I’ve been gargling salty water and eating icy poles but nothing really gives much immediate relief. It comes and goes through the day, which I theorise is mostly to do with the timing of drugs. I’ve been taking the Targen (the slow release oxycodone) first thing in the morning and at dinner time, and today I took an Endone first thing in the morning and one mid afternoon. Right now (post dinner) I feel reasonably comfortable and I think that’s because the Targen has kicked in on top of the second Endone. My script is for up to three Endone per day so I figure this way I can take one more before bed if I feel like I need it…..

Anyway – another day almost done – let’s hope things start to improve from here because I’ve had enough of this already. I miss proper food, sleeping in my own bed, and the gym. Tomorrow I might try and walk a little more or find some other way to get off the couch, just to keep my mind off things. It can’t hurt.

UPPP Surgery – Recovery Day 2

Last night was pretty yukky sleep wise, but probably not as bad as the night in hospital immediately post surgery. I got a little sleep, interspersed with Netflix. Started the day with a shower, Targen and Endone, then scrambled eggs and yoghurt. Winning.

I was all alone today as the wife took the dog to work with her, and it also rained pretty solidly all day. That seemed like a perfect excuse to stay glued to the couch, alternating between Netflixing and internetting on the iPad and attempting to sleep. Pain wise, mid morning I would’ve said it was about the same as yesterday – extremely uncomfortable but not agonising. But when I woke up from a nap at about 2:30pm it seemed to hit critical mass and really felt awful – probably the worst it’s been since the surgery.

At that point I took some paracetamol and started gargling with salty water. I also forced myself to eat some soup and rice pudding, and an icy pole after that. That all seemed to help a little, but the rest of the afternoon still wasn’t pleasant. Took another Targen before dinner (sausages and potato salad, and I really had to choke them down). After doing the dishes and having a shower the drugs seemed to kick in, it’s now 10:45pm and it doesn’t feel too sore right now.

I hope that today was the worst of the pain – although I did have a conversation on Facebook with another person who’d had a UPPP. He said that it’ll really start to hurt again once the scab comes off, so I might have that to look forward to in a few days time!

Although I’ve been taking the Targen twice a day, I have a really addictive personality and I’m trying to save the Endone for when they’re really needed. It was good to get through the day on just the one, and I might even skip it tomorrow morning. Also, I’m already a bit sick of being cooped up in the house, so I’m planning on getting out to take the dog for a walk and get some sun at the very least. I was pretty miserable today – hopefully tomorrow will be better.

UPPP Surgery – Recovery Day 1

To be honest, there isn’t a massive amount to report about today. When the nurses checked on me this morning my vital signs were all fine, so they gave me some more drugs and the all clear to head home.

They offered me breakfast but it turned out to be toast and corn flakes, two of the worst possible foods to try and force down a sore swollen throat, so I gave them a miss. At least there were a few tinned peaches which were pretty easy to eat.

I had a flying visit from the surgeon who reassured me that the pain would get a lot worse over the next few days before it got better, so that gave me something to look forward to! Then they wrote me some scripts and medical certificates and let me loose into the sunshine. My dear wife and taxi driver had parked a few blocks away and I’ve gotta say, after being cooped up in hospital it felt good to go for a stroll in the sun. The downside was, I walked past a few coffee shops on the way and realised I’m really going to miss hot coffee and pastries over the next week or two.

We got the scripts filled on the way home (the pharmacist had to get ‘the good stuff’ from the safe out the back) and I grabbed some more soft food (soups, chocolate custard and rice pudding!) for sustenance at the same time. After that it was a pretty uneventful day.

I cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast and as far as ‘foods to eat after a UPPP’ they’d have to rate pretty highly. After that I dozed on the couch most of the day – there has been some minor bleeding from my throat but I don’t believe it’s anything abnormal. My normally insatiable appetite has been pretty much non existent, and I’m not sure if its caused by the painkillers or the fact that swallowing is so painful. Either way, I nuked a small tub of chicken soup at about 2:30pm, did some more dozing, and hung out with the kidlet when she came home from school. Ate a little baked potato (mashed) for tea and chocolate custard for dessert. Protein ice cream and a hot chocolate to round out the day, while I blogged and the wife caught up with Phryne Fisher.

Calorie wise, the last two days feel like they’ve been really low, and so has protein. Part of me is hoping/wanting to take advantage of the low appetite to drop a little fat but the other part knows I need to eat enough to heal up! So I’ve got this weird dichotomy going on – I need to force myself to eat, but not be silly about it seeing as I’m not very active and can’t train. My poor disordered brain is just muddling through at the moment.

Now I’m ensconced on the couch, ready to try and pass the night away upright in my recliner. Hopefully I’ll get at least some quality sleep.

UPPP Surgery – The Big Day

Being that the surgery is done under general anaesthetic, I wasn’t allowed to eat anything from midnight the night before the surgery – and I wasn’t even allowed to drink water from an hour before my scheduled admission time at 11am. So on the day of the surgery, I headed into the hospital to be admitted. Lots of paperwork, confirming my name and date of birth multiple times, then into a bed to wait for my turn at surgery.

The first time around I was there until after 4pm before they sent me home, and as you can imagine by that point I was pretty famished! Thankfully this time around there were no unforeseen delays and I was in a gown by about 12:30 and being wheeled towards the operating theatre by about 1:30. A bit of a chat to the friendly anaesthetist, a cannula in my arm, and into the theatre we went. Part of me was a bit disappointed I had to move myself from the rolling bed onto the operating table – it wasn’t like the hospital dramas on TV where they pick the patients up to move them. The anaesthetist put an oxygen mask on me, got me to take some deep breaths, and then fired some Fentanyl into the drip – the next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery a few hours later.

The first thing I noticed was the pain, or lack of it – after lots of reading about this operation in the lead up, I was expecting to be in agony but it was really not too bad. Turns out I’d had local anaesthetic injected into my throat while I was under, and that would take a while to wear off. The second thing was that I didn’t feel sick at all – last time I had surgery under a general anaesthetic I felt awfully nauseous in recovery, and I had serious concerns about that this time because vomiting after a throat operation didn’t sound like a pleasant experience at all! But I needn’t have worried, they may have given me an antiemetic just to be sure.

After they monitored me for a while they wheeled me into a ward for the night, dosed me up with some painkillers and offered me some food. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but after not eating all day I knew I could use the calories, and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to eat a plateful of (soft) food and a bowl of custard for dessert without too much discomfort.

The nurse gave me some medication intravenously to reduce the bleeding (I had a couple more infusions of that during the night and the next morning) and then it was time to settle in for the night with Netflix and a jug of ice chips to suck on. And honestly, for the first few hours it wasn’t too bad at all – I was pretty comfortable, stayed hydrated and well entertained by Bojack Horseman. But eventually I started to struggle to stay awake and decided to try and get some sleep, which is where the fun starts. I couldn’t really sleep properly while sitting upright because the bed was a little short for my long legs, so I laid the bed flat and tried to sleep that way, which was a fatal mistake. I snored like mad, my throat got very dry and painful, and by 4am I was frustrated and exhausted. Luckily at that point the nurse stuck her head in and offered me some more pain relief which I gratefully accepted – a good thing she did, as my neighbours on the ward were probably ready to smother me to stop the horrendous snorting noises I was making. But the Endone kicked in so from then on I lay upright, browsed Facebook and dozed until the lights came on. It was only the next day when I read a US hospital’s recommendations to NOT lie down to sleep in the first few days after surgery, I wish I’d read that sooner.

At one of my toilet visits during the night, I risked a look in my mouth. It wasn’t a pretty picture – the back of my throat was black with blood and stitches and I had a bunch of black blood blisters and fun stuff on my tongue as well.

Blessings in disguise

Well, I’ve managed 2 weeks without a skipped meal or a binge, and got into a pretty good routine.

Then yesterday I went to hospital for some surgery. This was the second time I’d been in to have the operation (I mentioned it in this post) and this time it went more to plan. I had a UPPP done, which should help (or hopefully cure) my snoring and mild sleep apnea. It meant an overnight stay in hospital, and I came home this morning with a very sore throat and scripts for strong pain killers and anti-bleeding medication.

I’ll document my recovery on my less private blog, but wanted to post here about how it’s impacting on my relationship with food.

On the negative side, there is a part of my brain that is quietly hopeful I’ll lose a little weight during the recovery process. A combination of extremely painful swallowing and opioids means my appetite is genuinely very low. I’m having to force myself to eat because I know that I need calories to heal – and I’m also scared I’ll lose muscle mass since I can’t lift weights for a week or two either. I don’t want to feel like I’m restricting/dieting because I’m scared of the consequences later but it’s not easy when every swallow is painful.

On the positive side, I’m really limited to soft foods for the next week or so until the pain subsides a bit, so a lot of the foods I normally eat are out of the question. This means I’m forced to step out of my comfort zone and try some stuff I wouldn’t normally eat – so I’ve bought chocolate custard (which was YUM) and rice puddings and soups and some very special looking ice cream and will probably go out hunting for other treats once I get through that lot. And also… it’s a couple of weeks where I can totally switch off from work, catch up on some Netflix and truly relax a bit. I need to avoid lifting weights too, and although I mentioned it in the negative column, a break from the gym is scary but very much overdue. I’ve been training pretty hard for a lot of years without any extended break and the little injury niggles have built up over time, so hopefully I’ll come back a lot fresher and pain free.

So I guess I’ve got mixed feelings right now, I can’t wait to feel better but will enjoy the time out anyway. And hopefully, the end result will improve my quality of life (and prevent a snoring related divorce!) which would be a win for the whole household, really.

Be kind to yourselves!

UPPP Surgery – The Background

I had a UPPP performed yesterday so I thought it might be interesting to document the process and my recovery.

For some background, my wife complained about my snoring enough that I went to my GP last year and got a referral for a sleep study. I had that done in-home (which was an experience in itself) and the results came back that I had mild sleep apnea, although when I’m in REM sleep or sleeping on my back the number of nightly AHI events tipped into the moderate range. I tried a mandibular splint, which seemed to help but was a nuisance and gave me a sore jaw.

After further consultation with my GP he suggested I see an ENT specialist to discuss surgical options as he felt that my throat anatomy could possibly be the cause. The specialist ultimately agreed that with my enlarged uvula and narrowed palate that I was a good candidate for a UPPP, although she couldn’t guarantee it would completely fix the issue. My research (read: googling) seems to suggest that it probably has a 60-70% chance of significantly improving the situation, so although I’d initially planned on paying out of pocket (I don’t have private health insurance) I chose to get it done in the public system. The specialist put me on the waiting list and I was booked in for the surgery about seven months later. Unfortunately on the first scheduled date, there was some sort of delay with a surgery prior to mine and I was sent home to await a rescheduled date. Thankfully the new date was only a couple of weeks later and yesterday was d-day for my uvula.

I am blessed.

So I was thinking about something last night….

I’ve been listening to a lot of Christy Harrison’s podcast lately (and reading her book) and hearing a lot of talk about how families and medical professionals and even eating disorder treatment centres inadvertently feed eating disorders by making fat phobic comments, encouraging people to diet, and just generally being unsupportive or misunderstanding how to deal with someone who’s trying to recover from a restrictive eating disorder, particularly if they’re not showing obvious signs of poor health (ie they’re not the stereotypically emaciated anorexia sufferer).

It got me thinking – there have been times in the last few years when I have lamented (to myself) what I’ve felt was a lack of support from my wife. At no point that I recall has she ever really said that she appreciates my efforts to be healthier and set an example for our daughter, at no point has she ever expressed any feelings one way or the other about the changes to my body, nor has she ever encouraged me in any way that I can think of. At times this has felt like a bit of a kick in the guts, because my wife and daughter are a big part of the reason that I started and continue to go through this process of getting stronger and healthier.

But over the past year or so since I have really started to focus more on dealing with my relationship with food and finding a greater sense of balance between weight training sessions and family life, I’ve begun to realise that actually, she’s probably been more supportive than I think. I mean, there’s the obvious, big financial thing that she allowed us to refinance so I could build my home gym. But in more subtle ways, she’s actually been extremely supportive without actually making a big deal of it.

When I was at my worst, she (almost) never complained about my compulsively weighing and measuring foods, my making ‘special’ low calorie meals for myself, my fasting, my lack of desire to go out and eat at restaurants. The only thing we ever had conflict about was my moods and constant anger, which to be fair, was well deserved.

Conversely, at no point in any of my episodes of extreme hunger has she ever got in my way and attempted to make me stop. She has sat there quietly on the couch watching me eat multiple desserts without so much as a raised eyebrow.

At no point in any of this has she made any comments about my body – positive or negative. It’s clear to me that my body is not the reason she married me – and even after gaining a lot of weight back I’m still not as big as I was back when we first met.

The reason this hit home last night is I suggested we go out for dinner, I’d been keen to go to a cafe that does a special burger night on Friday nights. Now in all honesty, she said that she didn’t feel like a burger, and we did spend an hour or so discussing whether we’d go there or somewhere else, but in the end we couldn’t come up with an option that pleased everyone so I got my way. I’ve expressed in the past that I think it’s really important for me to eat the things I feel like eating and not restrict in any way so perhaps this was her way of humouring me. So despite her wish to eat something else, she took one for the team without complaining. We ate burgers (which were mediocre, but that’s OK!) and then went somewhere else for ice cream afterwards and she let me indulge my wish for some less than ‘clean’ food.

I had some minor voices in the back of my head afterwards encouraging me to go off the deep end and eat a ton more, but honestly, they were pretty easy to ignore because I ate plenty. Some hot chocolate when we got home and I was as full as a goog.

It got me thinking, if that was me and I didn’t feel like a burger, how would I react? I think I’d probably put my foot down and refuse to go unless there was an option I’d eat. At least that would’ve been the case a while ago, I’m not sure now.

Anyway, my point being that she does support me in these ways and I am very lucky to be married to someone who doesn’t have her own issues with food or body image and is willing to let me eat and drink whatever I like (within reason) and let my body be whatever size it needs to be. And I’m grateful for that. And on a related note, I really do need to be more disciplined about incorporating some sort of ‘gratefulness’ practice in my life.

In other news – I’m almost 2 weeks since my last episode of uncontrolled eating – I haven’t skipped a single meal in that time, I’ve enjoyed quite a few treats (even some unplanned, like a couple of work morning teas) and feel like I’ve been as close to fully unrestricted in my eating as I’ve ever been. Long may it continue.






Who do you want to be?

I might’ve said this elsewhere, but my struggles with disordered eating started after a bit of a mid-life course change in early 2016, where I decided I wanted to stop being obese and get fit and healthy. It wasn’t just for my own benefit (although let’s be honest, what guy doesn’t want to look good with his shirt off?) but also to set an example for my young child and be the best parent I can for as long as I can.

On reflection, over the past couple of years especially, there have been times where I’ve thought that life was so much easier before all this started, where I didn’t particularly care about my size and weight (indeed, I was oblivious) and ate whatever I felt like in a carefree way. Has all the pain and effort been worth it? What would I do differently?

The answer I came up with was that unequivocally, yes, it’s been worth it, even though I still have issues to work through. The only thing I would probably do differently is to take a more moderate approach and not immerse myself so deeply in the fitness and diet culture that I forget the real reason why I started doing this.

Having said that, I still want to change my body and have a decent physique, although I think my expectations are more realistic now than when I started. And unlike many in the HAES/anti-diet movement, I still believe that this is an attainable goal that’s worth striving for, so long as it’s done the right way, with the right attitude.

The trouble is, becoming the best physical version of yourself is no different than becoming the best intellectual and emotional version of yourself – it requires hard work, sacrifice and trade offs, and those trade offs need to be worth the effort. It’s also very easy to forget, as I did, that our physical selves are not a reflection of the person we are inside – and if we want to leave a legacy for our families and friends to remember us by, we’ll do that by the actions we take, not by the way we look.

This caused me to ponder – who DO I want to be? What sort of man, what sort of parent, and how do I want people to remember me? In many ways, it’s the direct opposite of the person I am when I’m restricting.

During periods of restriction I have been:

  • Tired and sore all the darn time
  • Very grumpy and quick to anger – regularly arguing and being short with people
  • Unfocussed at work, and not very productive – not good for my career prospects!
  • Unable to eat out with family without great anxiety
  • Avoidant of any social occasion that might involve food, or even disrupt my meal schedule a little bit
  • Generally not a very nice person to be around, and not a particularly good husband or parent

It’s only over the past six months or so as I’ve become more and more well-fed that I’ve started to realise I’d far prefer to be:

  • Someone who is fit and strong and cares about their health
  • A good provider for my family, who is supportive of our shared goals
  • The strong, silent type – calm in a crisis. Firm, without needing to raise my voice
  • Competent, analytical; not in a rush
  • Empathetic and always capable of showing love, but serious when needed
  • An example for my daughter of how a man should live and treat others

Notice that ‘having visible abs’ isn’t on that list? That doesn’t mean I don’t want it. It just means that I’ve shuffled it down the priority list to where if I can achieve it without turning into a monster then perhaps I’ll try one day. But right now, I’ll settle for just being strong and healthy and a decent guy. Because my family and my own wellness are far more important – and because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am enough.

I ate the pizza

It must have been two or three years since I’ve eaten proper takeaway pizza, and at that point I was only able to eat a couple of slices, skipped the garlic bread, ate a heap of green salad with it, and was thoroughly anxious about the amount of calories and fat involved. Ever since then when the family’s had pizza I’ve either made my own low calorie version or dodged it altogether.

But I broke the drought on Friday night, because that’s what I felt like. Ate pizza and sides til I was satisfied (but not stuffed… there were slices left) and didn’t feel guilt.

Did some grocery shopping on Saturday and felt like taking home something sweet, kinda tossing up between a danish or a donut. I think most donuts are overrated, honestly – but I  ended up buying a Black Forest donut because there was a Donut King nearby. I ate it with my post lunch coffee, and once again, it felt like a letdown – it was ok, but it didn’t have me moaning in ecstasy or anything.

In the past, when I’ve eaten really high calorie food like this it’s often triggered the ‘more, more, more!!!!’ urge – especially if the food itself is a bit less of a treat than I’ve built it up to be like the donut was. But I’m taking it as a good sign that this time round, it was fine. Don’t get me wrong – I was tempted to reach for the nearest chocolate bar, but I was able to check in with my body and think about how I actually felt and honestly – I was satisfied. There will be more opportunities to eat.

I’ve stolen so many phrases from others lately. But stuff I’m using a lot is

  • Food is just food
  • Food doesn’t have to be perfect
  • This isn’t your last opportunity to eat!
  • Once it’s in, it’s in
  • Opposite actions

The last one is really powerful. I often struggle with indecision around what to eat, and based on a question on Facebook the other day, I’m not the only one. What I’m trying to do now when I get this way, is to choose the option that is the highest calorie, or that I’m the most scared of. The other day, I was tempted to and could’ve easily chosen a small cinnamon or iced donut to save calories but I said no, get the gourmet filled one because that’s what was most scary. It really wasn’t so bad, and next time it will be even easier.


I forgot to mention in my prior post – the book that I happened to be reading in the park for a bit of self soothing yesterday? It was Christy Harrison’s book – Anti-Diet 

I’m not a long way in – but I am really enjoying it so far. I’m not sure if this is helping to rid myself of the obsession with food! But it’s a good read nonetheless.

Been a long time

I haven’t posted for a while, basically because it’s just been the same old struggles. There’s been a few short runs of what feels like ‘normality’, but mostly it just feels like I’m making the same mistakes over and over again. I get depressed, and I binge. I tell myself I need to just eat normally and get into a routine for a while and not worry about weight loss. Then one of two things happens – I get depressed and I binge again, or I get cocky and start trying to do stupid shit and restrict food because I feel fat, and ultimately I end up giving up and binging anyway. As an example – I decided to do a bit of an aggressive diet leading up to Christmas, and for about 3 weeks I restricted calories heavily and lost a few kilos. The intention was always to eat at maintenance through Christmas, what with family meals and stuff it is not really practical to diet then and besides, those are times for enjoying ourselves, right? And even with the obligatory work BBQ and family lunch on Christmas Day, I seemed to be tracking pretty well until just after Christmas I absolutely lost the plot and had some fairly severe episodes of uncontrolled binging. I think that was about as low as I have ever felt since this whole thing started, and at times I was seriously considering my future in this world – not good.

The other day I went through my training log to try and figure out exactly when these episodes started. It looks like it was as early as July 2018. That means I’ve been going through this crap for 18 months now. When I’m in the middle of an episode that timeframe makes me feel absolutely despondent and hopeless, like there’s no end in sight. Right now, I am on my 5th day binge free and while I’m able to look at the situation objectively I feel pretty positive about the progress I’ve made and the fact that there is a future for me that doesn’t involve obsessions with food. So that’s something.

So anyway, much has happened, but I’d like to talk about my latest episode. I was scheduled to go into hospital for some minor surgery last Friday. This meant fasting from the night before – unambiguously not my choice, but medically necessary before going under general anaesthesia. I was originally supposed to be in hospital at 7am, but they pushed it back to 11 so by the time I got there I’d already been fasting for 14 hours and wasn’t even allowed to drink water from 10am.

Well, they admitted me and (an hour or so later) put me in a hospital bed with a drip in my arm, and kept me there for the rest of the day, constantly telling me my turn for surgery would be coming soon, until at 4pm they pulled the rug out from under me and said sorry – we’ve run out of time to perform your procedure today, you’ll have to go home and wait to be rescheduled for another date.

Although I had always known this was a possibility, I didn’t think it would happen at this late stage and it threw all our plans into disarray. My wife had another commitment so couldn’t take me home, I ended up walking a couple of kilometres to meet her and pickup house keys before I could Uber home and find something to eat. Of course, I felt like I deserved a decent meal after that, so I made some burgers and chips, and that kicked off an epic weekend of eating everything in sight that didn’t end til Sunday night. Sure – I let this happen. This was a lapse in willpower on my part. But that willpower wouldn’t have been required if I hadn’t been forced to go without food for so long, I don’t think – and then the added disappointment of losing the 2 weeks off work to recuperate, which I’d been really, really looking forward to just compounded things. But that’s life.

Anyway – I came back to work this week and have had a reasonable week. I’ve aimed for three meals and three snacks a day, haven’t skipped any meals, have partaken in two work morning teas when they were unexpectedly offered, and been moderate without restricting – I think. So once again, we try to keep the ‘sensible’ eating going and learn how ‘normal’ people eat and think about food.

Some random thoughts and things that have happened in the past few days that seem to me like more progress:

  • I am getting better at recognising thoughts and moods that trigger these destructive behaviours – and remembering the mantra that MegsyRecovery often cites – ‘opposite actions’! Yesterday, there was cake at work for morning tea but I was tempted to just ignore it – I decided that it was there and I wanted some, but only had a couple of small pieces with my coffee and left some for everyone else!
  • Despite that, I was really feeling quite delicate by lunchtime – absolutely jonesing for food, wanting to eat everything in sight, and very stressed – for no good reason, really. I had only packed quite a small lunch (a salad and a wrap with some meat, and some strawberries) and didn’t think it had enough protein. But instead of going ballistic at the bakery or the takeaway, I bought a tub of cottage cheese and added that, plus a couple of leftover sausage rolls from the fridge. That was a decent lunch, and I felt pretty full afterwards but my brain was still going haywire for something else to eat. So I went for a walk, sat in the park and read a book on my phone for 10 minutes. That was pretty effective in terms of self-soothing.
  • Last night was chicken schnitzel night at home. I usually turn my wife’s into a parmagiana but sometimes don’t do mine, and if they’re unequal sizes I’ll often give myself the smaller one even if I’m ravenous. Well last night one was significantly bigger than the other, and my brain was screaming at me to take the small one and eat it plain, especially after cake and sausage rolls during the day! But no… ‘opposite actions’! I parma’d them both and ate the big one. Heck I even ate one of my daughter’s chicken nuggets to try and encourage her to eat her dinner without fuss. No guilt.
  • We’re having pizza for tea tonight. That would have filled me with fear once, and even as recently as a few months ago I would have just made my own low calorie substitute, on a wrap, with limited cheese. But screw that. The women of the house are having frozen pizza singles but honestly, and it’s not just my fear of processed foods talking, they are just not that nice. I’m either going to buy a decent fresh pizza, or make my own (on a proper pizza base, with proper toppings) and make sure I enjoy the freaking thing. No low calorie substitutes – just food that tastes good but hopefully is also somewhat nutritious. I’m worth it.
  • This last thought brings me to something that I battle with – planning my next item of food before even finishing the one I’m eating. Like I’ll be in the middle of a meal, and I’ll be thinking ‘after this I’m gonna have x… and after that maybe even x….’ and just continuing to think about food like that all day. So not only am I thinking about meals in the times I’m not eating, I’m thinking about food in the middle of my meal! It’s just insane. But I am definitely getting better at recognising when this happens, and using CBT (well actually, ACT therapy is where I read about it) techniques to defuse them and move on. Typically my go-to thought here is the ‘thanks, mind’ technique. So during meals I’ll say to myself ‘thanks, mind, for trying to make sure that I’m not going to starve, but there is plenty of food and I can see how I feel after this and decide if I actually do want something else’. Between meals, it’ll be more like ‘thanks, mind, for trying to make sure I don’t go hungry, but there is plenty of food and I can eat whatever I feel like having when the time comes, so there is no need to worry about that right now’. It does seem to be working in terms of letting those thoughts dissipate and not become totally all consuming to the point where they’re distracting me from stuff that does actually require my attention.

So that’s the story of my week. I hope anyone reading this is having a good one and being kind to themselves. You too, are worth it.

Boring life update, but little wins

Well, last week was pretty torrid, to say the least. I let work and family stress get the better of me, didn’t eat enough, and had 4 days of totally out of control gluttony, including the two I mentioned in my most recent post.

On a more positive note, I had a good weekend. Saturday I was on parental duties by myself all day, which is often a major source of stress and triggers, but I managed to hold it together even with our five year old having an absolute meltdown during dinner. Sunday was also a good day, including dinner at the in laws (where I didn’t skip dessert, despite Dmitri’s anxiety over pikelets with Nutella and ice cream). To cap it off, there was an F1 Grand Prix that night at the rather inconvenient start time of 12:10am. Being the last race of the season I wanted to stay up and watch it live but being alone in the lounge room late at night can be a really dangerous place for my appetite to be, so I almost took the weak option and recorded it to watch in the morning. However I decided to stay up and watch it live anyway, on the basis that I can’t avoid being alone in the kitchen for the rest of my life! So that’s what happened… and while I did enjoy my normal pre-bed snack and a couple of decaf coffees, there was no urge to raid the pantry, so that was alright. Shame it was an utterly boring race.

Speaking of decaf, I’ve been off caffeine almost completely for over two weeks now. I say ‘almost’ because I’ve enjoyed the odd kombucha and have just reintroduced Pepsi Max, but I’m still off the caffeinated coffee and energy drinks. Honestly, I don’t think my sleep is any better but it is possible my moods have been a little more stable, though it’s hard to be sure. Anyway, I never intended it to be permanent but I’m not sure when I’ll reintroduce coffee, although I miss it especially at 5am before a lifting session.

I’m trying to celebrate all of the above as little wins.

Now that my boring life update is done, the real thing that prompted me to write this is that my wife has a family photo on her bedside table that we had taken professionally just over 12 months ago. Looking at it now, I’m struck by how slim I was and how drawn my face looks (even though by then I’d gained some weight from my lowest point). I remember the day well – it was a Sunday afternoon, and I’d trained legs that morning, so when I discovered that the venue for the photo shoot involved a bit of a walk out into a piece of quiet bushland I was not well pleased! I was tired and sore and couldn’t wait to get it over with, so the fact that we all look so happy is a credit to the photographer’s skills. We got some nice photos from that day.

This Sunday just gone, we took our annual family Christmas photo – my daughter, wife, dog and me in front of the Christmas tree. I’m a lot bigger now, obviously, and not overly happy with my body composition (again). But I look healthier and the photo looks much more natural and it wasn’t that much of a chore (I guess being taken in our lounge room also helps). Yes, last week was shit, but life is generally easier; I’m more productive at work, I’m eating a much wider variety of foods with less anxiety and indecision (though a lot still exists). Although I’m still often snappish and cranky I think I’m generally easier to be around and a better husband and parent than I was.

So I guess that’s progress, although it’s nowhere near as fast as I’d like it. And it reminds me so clearly that it’s so important to focus on all those other things in life that matter. My self worth is not determined by how my body looks or how perfect my diet is or how much I can lift. It’s far more important that I’m a good parent and husband and provider and employee. When I die, nobody is gonna remember me for how thin or fat I was. They’ll remember me for the way I treated people and the things that I did.


Back on the recovery train

So, seems I still haven’t learnt. I had a fairly big binge and was feeling pretty down after my last post. Had a decent week or two, then two solid days of eating my face off last week. I guess after 6 or 8 weeks of no issues, I got complacent.

Back on the wagon again now, trying to stamp out restriction wherever I see it and eat 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. Back to basics.

Living, not surviving.

I’ve been quiet because, well, I haven’t had much to report.

No binges since my last post. That makes more than 5 weeks now, and I was feeling confident enough to actually attempt a conservative diet. I’ve been making an actual effort to drop a little body fat over the past couple of weeks, and things seem to have been going well. I’ve stayed off the scales, but judging by the fit of my clothes and appearances in the mirror, I’ve leaned out a little bit.

This past week was interesting, because it was my daughter’s 5th birthday. This meant I had to contend with a restaurant meal one evening, and an extended family barbecue last night which included birthday cake. I won’t lie and say there was no anxiety about these, but whereas in the past those feelings might’ve taken over my mind for many hours, I just tried to accept that what happened happened, and enjoy the time together.

The restaurant meal was kinda fun, although I did actually compensate by skipping lunch. Bad, maybe, but I was cooped up in a meeting all day struggling to stay awake and not that hungry anyway. I made up for it by filling up on loaded potato skins, panookie and chocolate ice cream. The barbecue was fine – not my favourite meal, since there were no lean protein sources, but I had a burger and a small piece of chocolate cake and loaded up on the salad.

This is where I’m at right now. Food is just food. I can control my body weight and appearance by eating mindfully, but no foods are off the table and flexibility is key. I don’t expect to eat this way for more than another couple of weeks, as I’m not trying to get shredded, just take off a little fluff – but I’m not unhappy with how I look or how things are going right now.

On Updates, and Tracking, And Relapses

Three quick thoughts.

As I write this, it’s Friday afternoon, and this Sunday (2 days away) will make 3 whole weeks since my last episode of binge eating, or extreme hunger, or whatever terminology you use.

Considering I had a 2 week break before the last one, that’d be one binge in 5 weeks, which would be far and away the best period I’ve ever had since this whole shenanigans started. I am getting really, really confident in my routine and my progress, BUT….

Old habits are creeping in. I am still scared of gaining weight, so in trying to ‘not binge’ I’m tending to fill myself up on salads and other calorie sparse foods, eat low calorie desserts, and generally restrict – just a little bit. And I’m beginning to think about throwing in a day a week (maybe just one.. maybe two) of skipping breakfast to try and get a little weight loss happening and take off some fat. I don’t ever want to get as lean as I was, mind you – I just feel like coming into summer it’d be nice to drop four or five kilos so my belly isn’t quite so big. I’m definitely not planning anything too aggressive but I’m also not sure if this is too early – which is why I thought maybe one day a week might be a good place to start.

Finally, I just finished listening to a podcast from 3D Muscle Journey about transitioning away from tracking macros – I highly recommend it, if you are in a similar situation to me. There’s lots of fantastic takeaways in there. Oh, and (spoiler alert) – they’re working on a course to help people transition away from tracking macros and getting back in tune with their hunger and satiety signals, which will be released in the 3DMJ Vault later this year. And… it’ll be free to access! So that’s super good – I did pay for a similar course from Sustainable Self Development, which was also useful, but knowing the 3DMJ guys this will be well worth checking out.

That’s it for me. I’m off to drink a milky coffee (decaf) and wind down my work week.

And for tonight’s meal, we have….

I had some daddy daughter time tonight and we got takeaway.

My meal was a schnitzel on a bun, specifically this: 

With seasoned potato chips, sweet potato fries and a big salad. Plus some of my daughters schnitzel bites since she is an incredibly fussy eater and didn’t like them much. Afterwards I had a decent hot chocolate with whipped cream and some biscuits, guilt free. It was a big meal, and I’m still pretty damn full a few hours later.

This would have been utterly unthinkable six months ago.

Unfortunately, I had a rather unpleasant encounter with my next door neighbour afterwards, when I confronted them about the loud music they were playing. It left me feeling pretty irritated and could’ve easily triggered a binge but I managed to drink a cup of tea, calm myself down and move on.

I’d call tonight a double win. Just hope I sleep ok and don’t dwell on it – it’s likely there’ll be fallout / continuance of the issue tomorrow and beyond.

Do I really need to track macros?

This post was inspired by a discussion I had in a Facebook group on the weekend. It started with someone sharing this Instagram post from Dr Spencer Nadolsky about the dichotomy between HAES advocates and Fitpros attitudes towards obesity, and the lack of nuance that often exists in these conversations. It’s something I’ve noticed myself – on one hand there seem to be the militant macro trackers who tell everyone to track all their food and get shredded that way, and on the other are the militant HAES advocates who tell everyone to eat whatever they want (with little regard for food quality) and let your body weight fall where it may, without regard or mention of the risk factors that obesity brings. The grey area in between is massive, and in a world that’s dominated by infographics and physique shots, most don’t expend much effort to individualise their advice or caution people about the downsides of extremes in either direction.

Thankfully I think things are slowly changing in the fitness world. There seem to be more and more people in the industry like Eric Helms, Emilia Thompson, Abel Csabai, Stephanie Buttermore, Jordan Syatt and others who are aware of the potential pitfalls of macro tracking particularly with regards to food anxieties and disordered eating. These folks generally encourage their followers to seek out body composition goals and nutritional approaches that are sustainable for that individual – even if it means they carry a little more weight than they’d ideally like, without ignoring the fact that obesity is a risk factor for many diseases and is something we want to avoid. And that, to me, is the kind of message that I want to support.

So I’m going to put down some opinions here, and then share my experiences and thoughts on how I came to them.

Should I track my macros?

  • Do you have ambitious body composition goals, either to get to extremely low levels of body fat (say sub 8-10% for men)?
  • Do you have a fairly tight deadline to lose a significant amount of fat – for example for a photo shoot or a bodybuilding/physique show?
  • Are you an athlete competing at a high level, who needs to ensure their body is optimally fuelled for all training sessions and competitions?

If you answered yes to at least one of these, then tracking macros is probably the best approach to meet your goals, providing you don’t have any contraindications listed below. If you didn’t, then I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t track, but I think you can probably smash your goals out of the park without needing to track anything, it might just take a bit of setting up and experimentation to begin with.

Is there any reason why I shouldn’t track?

  • Does tracking your food add additional stress and burden to your daily life?
  • Do you suffer anxiety about social events or eating food prepared by others due to the impact on your nutritional plan? Do you sometimes avoid these altogether because it’s easier than trying to estimate macros and fit them in to your daily targets?
  • Are you fearful that you’ll be unable to hold back at buffets and parties where there is lots of food available?
  • Do you tend to avoid entire food groups that you’d otherwise enjoy eating simply because it’s too hard to fit them into your daily macros?
  • Do you have a history of disordered eating – whether that’s restrictive eating, binge/purge behaviour, or something else?
  • Is your life hectic and busy, such that you’re quite often under stress, eating on the fly, and have difficulty planning your meals most of the time?

If any of these apply to you, then I’d really question whether tracking macros is a sensible idea. At the very least, if you’re going to do so, at least take the time to consider whether tracking is actually adding anything worthwhile to your life or whether it’s making things more complicated. And on that last point, I would argue that ‘keeping my weight under control’ doesn’t really ‘add’ anything; if you absolutely need to track in order to keep your weight under control then in my opinion you’re either trying to maintain a weight that’s too low for your body to healthily sustain, and/or you’re probably quite capable of maintaining that weight without tracking, simply by learning good habits and eating mindfully. However it does take a leap of faith to let go of the MyFitnessPal safety net and go it alone.

Why do I think this?

Firstly let me say, I don’t hate tracking – at all. I think it can be a fantastic tool and I don’t really regret my time doing it, despite the mess I got myself into with it. As someone who used to be obese and didn’t have any idea or care for what I crammed in my mouth so long as it tasted good, it taught me a lot of important lessons that I’ll continue to use for the rest of my life. For example:

  • What’s a sensible portion size – for me – both in terms of what will satisfy my hunger, but also make me feel good
  • What’s an appropriate amount of protein to be eating at each meal and throughout the day
  • What sort of macro breakdown most foods contain, and how calorically dense they generally are

However, as another commenter on the thread stated: ‘I have no “off” when it comes to food. Can eat and eat and eat and eat‘ – and I totally relate to that. For me, when I was tracking, I always felt like I was restricting and eating less than I needed. The longer I did it, the more food became the central focus of my life, the more tired and grumpy I became, and the more food anxiety I experienced. The problem with tracking is that the more you ‘eat by the numbers’ the further and further you get away from your own hunger and satiety signals, and the more your forget where your ‘off switch’ should be! So while the lessons I learned were important, in the long term, for me it was really just putting a bandaid on the problem.

Another commenter suggested that perhaps I was just not eating enough carbs – but no, that wasn’t the problem. Now I’m a fair bit heavier, it’s clear that I was simply trying to maintain a body weight that was too low for my individual body. I dieted to such a lean state that I had barely any muscle mass and was a starving, tired mess – but yet I was still shit scared of gaining weight. Many people who were once obese and go through a weight loss journey will relate to this – I’ve heard it called adiposephobia, Former Fat Boy Syndrome, and other such names.

Now I’ve come out the other side and I’m in a bigger body, I’m also carrying a lot more muscle and feel like I’m maintaining my body weight without depriving myself much at all – and I’m in a far better position to get a little leaner when I decide that I’m ready. Could I track food now without anxiety now though? I don’t think so – not for very long, anyway – now I know I’m predisposed to these issues, I don’t want to risk going down that rabbit hole again. And anyway, I feel like I’m so much more in tune with my body and so much better at eating mindfully (not without slipups, though… yet) that I strongly believe I could diet down to an acceptable body composition without needing to track anything, just by manipulating the portion sizes and composition of my meals.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make, which is that saying ‘I have no “off” when it comes to food’ perhaps creates a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. In my professional life, I have no time for people who don’t want to learn to help themselves, and I guess I feel like this attitude might be similar. If being out of touch with your body’s nutritional needs is a problem, then is tracking the answer? Maybe, maybe not. I had one person say that tracking is ‘The complete opposite of anxiety for me. I just do the math then eat guilt free or whatever’. If someone has this attitude to tracking and it genuinely causes no issues, then I say, track away.

But on the other hand, if tracking causes issues (and I can’t see how it won’t, at least occasionally) then in my limited experience, eating mindfully and intuitively is a skill that can be learned like any other. I’d be willing to bet that most of us could figure out where that off switch is and how to utilise it with some practice and experimentation. The problem is, it does take more time and effort than tracking – it’s not as simple as ‘eat X calories to maintain my weight’ – there are lots more factors at play. But the more I learn and the more I practice, the more confident I feel that this is the most sustainable approach for me to achieve my training and body composition goals while still finding joy in all types of food.

A decent stretch, but old habits and all that….

So I’m gonna write this post a bit differently. First, the TLDR; then, if anyone is interested, they can read my longer explanations and thoughts. It’s cathartic for me to get that stuff off my chest, but at the same time, I feel as if it’s probably not very interesting to most people – so perhaps the take home messages are the most important thing – so here goes.

  • Last night, I had another binge. It had probably been two and a half, almost three weeks since the last one, which must be close to an all-time record.
  • I’ve forgiven myself completely. It’s OK. It really is. Even people who’ve never suffered from any form of disordered eating overeat sometimes! I had a solid breakfast this morning and don’t feel like I’m going to spiral into a days-long episode of self loathing.
  • I’ve been really enjoying the Breaking Up With Binge Eating podcast lately. It’s full of real world experiences and common sense advice, the episodes are not too long, and interestingly it appears that some of the emotional strategies borrow heavily from ACT therapy – I have been reading The Happiness Trap lately (a book on this very subject – link on the Resources page) and found it very helpful, as well as aligning very nicely with Stoicism.
  • The latest episode of that podcast, which I listened to on my way to work this morning, happened to outline how a client only recognised their progress in retrospect. That was a really timely reminder for me that I’ve come a long way, and these setbacks will happen – it’s not the end of the world.

Today, despite all the things rattling round in my brain, I continue to move forward. That is my vow.

Now – here’s the long version.

The last few weeks have been generally excellent – I’ve managed to keep my stress under control, feel like I haven’t yelled at my child or my dog in weeks, and my eating has fallen into a pretty regular pattern. It was date night on Saturday night, so the wife and I went out for a restaurant meal which was awesome – and although I still made my choices with health in the back of my mind, I wasn’t super anxious about macros or calories and even enjoyed a decent dessert. To be fair, the dessert was shared with my wife, but that was genuinely out of fullness, not fear. And I still ate a damn lot without feeling any concerns whatsoever.

At home though, I’ve been tending towards low calorie desserts again, mostly out of fear that eating a more ‘normal’ high calorie dessert will trigger off a desire to binge. This feels a little like restriction, which has been concerning me, and perhaps the fear is legitimate given what happened – but I don’t think that it was entirely the dessert that did it this time around.

The thing is, I’ve got a little bit of a minor groin injury, which has been bothering me for a while – yet I still keep squatting. I’ve also had a pretty sore biceps for ages (it started months ago, when I was doing curls almost every gym session) which I self diagnosed as tendinopathy. This has never really got any better, and every time I perform movements which hit the biceps it gets a little angry – then on Thursday last week I did some heavy rows (knowing full well I shouldn’t have) and really made it hurt a lot. This started off a bit of depression and disappointment in myself because I should know better by now, and it’s definitely going to impact on my lifting til it heals. I went in and trained on Saturday as normal, and during that session managed to hurt my back on the leg press (an injury I have experienced before – very painful, but will be right as rain in a couple of weeks). So you can imagine me going out for tea on Saturday night, hobbling round with a sore groin, a very sore back, and an arm that can barely lift anything – I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Sensible people would probably take some time out of the gym, but I still trained on Sunday as well. The session went OK, but I guess in the afternoon I was feeling pretty sore and sorry for myself and depression set in. Sunday night happened to be my fortnightly evening alone, when the girls go to visit family without me – I generally enjoy these nights as they’re an opportunity to eat whatever I want in peace and quiet, but unfortunately they all too often turn into hours of obsessing about what to eat, and this was one of those times. It’s a bad recipe, scouring restaurant menus and Facebook food groups trying to decide on a food option for hours at a time, as well as feeling yukky about myself, so this is probably the first problem. Lately, I’ve been very good at letting those thoughts pass and saying ‘worry about dinner at dinner time‘ and not allowing myself to obsess and preplan too much. This time, I failed at that.

Ultimately I decided I wanted a nice takeaway steak sandwich with sweet potato fries – but that’s logistically difficult as I’d have to cook the fries at home – none of the local takeaways do them. I decided to go and buy steak and bread and make it all at home instead – and to many this would be considered a trigger, substituting a ‘healthy’ option for what you really want. However, and I’m sure this isn’t the ED voice talking, deep fried takeaway chips make me feel crap and genuinely aren’t nice/flavoursome enough to me to be worth it, so I don’t know whether I did the wrong thing or not. For better or worse, I made a steak sandwich on sourdough bread, with scotch fillet steak, an egg, full fat (shock horror!) cheese, sweet potato fries and salad. And fuck, was it good. Good enough that I decided to go all out on dessert and have strawberries, blueberries, ice cream, real (not sugar free) chocolate topping and a smattering of M&Ms. And that was bloody good as well. So good, in fact, that it made me want more. So. Much. More.

I typed out all the food I ate here, then decided it might be triggering for some. It was a decent amount, and it was all high calorie dessert type food, but I’ve certainly had much worse binges in the past. And, funny (not really) story – normally I make a cup of tea for the wife every night, and have a decaf or tea myself at the same time. When she got home, I was absolutely stuffed, but still wanted to have a hot chocolate with her tea so I had that, and also ate half a Kit Kat. Because, like, I knew I was extremely bloody full, but it was a limited edition Ruby Kit Kat which I hadn’t tried before and I just wanted it – but I really felt no urge to eat the whole thing. Even that, in itself, is progress – in the past I probably would have just eaten it all. And the Aero bar and the Cherry Ripe that were in the fridge with it.

So here I sit, a day later, reflecting on things. I’m putting this one down simply to the fact that I was sad and in pain, and I let myself obsess about food too long instead of accepting those feelings and letting them pass without acting on them. But having said that – I had a pretty decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast. I’m feeling a little heartburny, but not dreadfully so. Life will go on, these injuries will heal, and I will be a better, stronger person. Next time, I will do better.