Am I a Binge Eater?

Things on the new house are in process. It seems like a really long project, changing your life. Meanwhile, anxiety is a frequent visitor, even with the medications I take for the clinical aspects of it: phobia, panic, insomnia, migraine, IBS. I have been to the doctor three times since we got here a few months ago and I’m feeling more or less balanced. Food has been a problem because it soothes anxiety. Especially fast food and junk food are a problem. So my last visit to the doctor was with their dietician. She was going to set me up with an individualized Mediterranean diet that does not, except in very moderate portions, include sugar, dairy, red meat, alcohol, or wheat. No citrus, caffeine, crucirferious or raw veggies. It’s difficult. I just want someone to tell me what to eat and how much and then that’s all I’ll eat.

Things I know I can eat are oats, eggs, nuts, almond milk, almond yogurt, rice, quinoa, chicken, roasted vegetable, peanut butter and jelly plus some fruits. I do eat just these things for a while until I break down and have a donut. Or several. So I decided to call in the troops. I wanted to know why I eat so much when I fall off the healthy eating train. Is this binging or normal? I’m not changing my diet to lose weight, but to settle my tummy issues. I’ve read several books and articles and have many cookbooks too. Am I spoiled to think I need more variety? Or am I a binge eater? Maybe both? I had a feeling part of my problem would require a different kind of doctor, like a therapist of some sort. But I started with the diet doctor.

She came in and said “You’re obese but you are not morbidly obese.” Then she tried to soften the blow “after menopause it’s almost impossible to lose five pounds.” So I’m five pounds from NOT being obese? Before I could ask her, we went through food groups together, the things I can’t eat. Everything she said, I already knew. I was already trying to do. She did say it was fine to have “just a little” of everything. She was talking so fast I was again unable to ask a deeper question: What is “just a little?” I know I do eat more than just a little. I can’t stop once I start on a bag of chips. I could easy eat ten cookies. I really love sweets. Candy bars. For sure plural.

My life was like that for a long time, the stereotypical yo-yo dieter. Then gradually over maybe ten years, the next day I started to feel ill in ways I am not going to describe as I did that before. I know now if I eat bad shit in copious amounts I feel bad. It’s just been getting worse as the years go by. Not my eating but my gut biome. Some days I’m so bloated I cannot zip my jeans. Other days they feel too loose. I didn’t get a chance to tell the doctor that I can gain or lose five pounds in a day or two. The other binge type thing is if I start, I continue for days. Or I used too. Symptoms have gotten so bad I don’t get off the couch the next day. On the positive side, I’ve got some new prescription medication that helps. I really don’t drink much wine these days because wine and Prevalite do not mix well. Also wine causes insomnia. If I do have a little wine and then I’m just a little tired the next day.

Prevalite does not help me to process unhealthy (for me) foods. I was hoping it would. Finally at the end of the long lecture from the diet doc, I asked no questions, like am I am binge eater. Yes, I think I binge. Or binged. I haven’t overeaten since I saw the doctor. I did order a book on Diet and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is really the best type of therapy for changing any ingrained character trait). I’ve practiced CBT with my favorite therapist in Michigan for other issues not related to food. Being human sure is messy. But the other part is at 66 I know how to find help and I never stop trying to heal myself.

These days, most everything is right. Hope to have exciting house news soon, but as Al keeps telling me, it’s not a done deal until the deal is done.

After the Break

I took a little Spring Break from blogging and it has served me well. I managed a lot more pages on my manuscript and that was the idea. Or in part anyway. I also feel like after 19 years blogging, daily then weekly, I needed to reassess its usefulness. I come back to blogging determined to continue the Retirement Diaries category despite my husband hating all social media and not wanting me to write about him. He did not mention photos, however. So enough about him! I’ll continue to write about writing too. 100 pages into my manuscript. Thanks, Covid. Writing up a Storm. Vaccinated, too. Maybe soon I’ll get back to behaving as normal again? I miss my family and friends face-to-face. Miss everyone, but especially my grandkids, who are still at the age where they think grandparents are cool.

I’ll catch you up on my writing next time, but today, I have a (sort of) (for now) health triumph. When my innards took a slow turn downward, it was difficult to write about, because as one editor, when rejecting her manuscript, said to Tessa Miller, author of What Doesn’t Kill You, “poop stories don’t sell.” I picked up Miller’s medical memoir because I also have the same digestive health challenges and wondered if she had any tips for living easier with what ails me. Miller has Crohn’s disease, which is the most horrible of the chronic poop diseases. At least I came away with that…there may be worse. Wait. I know there’s worse. She mentions them.

I’m feeling grateful that once again, I have found a pill and diet that seems to work. Meaning, I go to the bathroom like a regular person. For too long, I was very hung up on diets, hoping to cure myself if I just avoided dairy/sugar/wheat/grapes/broccoli. I don’t think that anymore. Much more important, which I knew but conveniently forgot for awhile, was to eat smaller meals. Easier on the digestion. There was not a whole lot of “don’t eat this food ever” in Miller’s book, or much mention of food at all, such a nice relief from the heavy focus I’ve had on food since all this started about eight years ago.

For eight years I was convinced that the right diet would make me right again. I tried “mostly plants” aka vegan, that didn’t help at all. Before that was vegetarianism, which I practiced for years, but also did not stop the progress of whatever disease I have. My doc is treating it as IBSD, but I need more testing once I’m back in Michigan. Another diet my doctor suggested was the Mediterranean diet; it didn’t help the core problem either. I did the “Starch Solution” which people swore by, although I think it was more about losing weight while eating potatoes. Yet all these diet did make health claims that just weren’t true for me.

Another thing Miller said was that it takes a long time to diagnose gut disease. I still don’t have a solid label for whatever has been plaguing me. First it was “lactose intolerance” but the meds for that stopped working after a few months. Finally, wheat was the last thing I had not given up. Wheat. It is in everything. Also, I love toast! As my new pill says, most people will not be able to stick with a diet that cuts wheat. Here’s where I’ve been for six months or so now: no sugar, no starchy vegetables, no raw vegetables, only berries and bananas for fruit, no dairy, no wheat, no processed foods. And yes, that’s hard to stick to. When I ate any of those foods, or gave myself a day to eat what I wanted: ice cream, chips, cookies, flourless chocolate cake and white wine, for example, I lost all control of more than my diet.

Wine doesn’t seem to adversely affect my bowels, for which I am grateful. Although I note that when I have wine, I don’t sleep well. Yes, getting old is quite the ride. It takes a long time to learn things and as I age, my body creates new problems to deal with. I’d say that’s true for most of us. As I take this new medicine as directed (a generic of IBGard and also a good probiotic) I have been doing well. It’s a challenge to take two pills thirty minutes before each meal, but I’m managing with the help of a food journal. If I eat dairy, I still take Lactaid, too.

Oh and age is not always to blame! Miller started having problems in her early 20s. But she has Crohn’s and that’s similar but different from my food sensitivities, many of which I do think happen as we get older, especially lactose intolerance. Her book is for everyone who has struggled with gut health. She’s so young and knows so much. While me, I’m a slow learner.

Holiday Eating

Delicious food and drink are a lovely part of my holidays. It’s always been this way, but has become even more delightful now that my kids are grown and moved away. Kids are the main treat, really. Without them, we’re just adults stuffing ourselves silly and perhaps drinking too much eggnog. Even during Covid. I only had three people in my house but I purchased enough baked goods, high fat foods, and alcohol that we still have not finished off. Not a problem with the booze. It doesn’t spoil.

But I do have a problem with food, maybe more than one. First, I’m overweight, so I should not be eating cookies. Second, I have digestive issues I try to control with things like Omeprazole, Lactaid and IBGard. I also have a personal gastroenterologist who has been keeping track of my digestive tract for a very long time. Maybe twenty years.

Probably ten years in, I started having bathroom issues and I blamed that drug. My gastro guy said “Do you want to die of cancer or try to control your toilet trouble?” (The test for my persistent heartburn had revealed pre-cancer cells). So I kept taking the double dose until finally, after many clear tests, he suggested I try taking one pill a day, not two. I had to taper off the double dose gradually, but I did it without heartburn. It did nothing to help with the distress in my lower digestive system.

My personal physician advised Lactaid, then IBgard. I’ve tried pre and probiotics as well. I’ve tried every diet known to man, I’ve read and studied and I’m doing okay on most days. Holidays, not so good. Lactaid worked for a long time, but not so much these days. IBgard had me ecstatic for about a month. An expensive mix of pre-pro biotic plus a secret scarce ingredient found in a specific location that is very difficult to get to, had mixed results. Also I tried to find a dietician, but during Covid, that’s not easy. Meanwhile, sometimes, if I indulged in a treat like a slice of buttered toast, my body revolted in increasingly distressing ways. Even if the “butter” is non-dairy. I use almond milk-cream-peanut butter, etc.

That’s the back story. Moving forward to this Christmas and the feast I provided for my dad, my husband and myself. I was feeling pretty good about this expensive new pill. I ate whatever I wanted. I of course wanted it all. Twice. My dad and I talked a bit about this problem of mine…he has the same thing. My husband, who ate everything we did, does not have our digestive issues. Lucky him. Meanwhile Dad says “Have you looked down the diaper aisle lately? There’s as many diapers for old people as there are for babies.” I gave him some Lactaid because he has a dish of frozen yogurt every night.

My dad is only 18 years older than I am. I see my future and it’s not pretty. Unless I can successfully revise my eating habits. I’m currently reading an IBS cookbook that deals with FODMAP foods. I’ve read it before. Understanding FODMAP will drive you crazy, but wearing diapers? I can’t deal with the idea of that. If I can heal myself by what I eat, I’m doing it. I’m making an appointment with my gastro guy, who I had an appointment with during Covid. He cracks me up. When I reminded him that Omeprazole could be the source of my problem, he said “all medications cause diarrhea.” It’s ironic. Even medications to help cure diarrhea list “diarrhea” as a side effect.

What younger people (and people with better gut health, some of which is inherited) don’t know is that those side effects may not apply to you…until they do.