Friday, January 12, 2018

Food Choices, Food Addiction, and Using the RI Method

About three years ago, I wrote how the RI Method helped me to stop overeating in many situations. For about 16 years, not counting the time I was pregnant, I've maintained a 45 pound weight loss, followed by another 15 pound weight loss more recently.

I decided to adopt a vegan diet in September of 2000, mainly for ethical reasons (being married to a vegan helped, too). As I read various books about veganism, I was shocked to learn how the vegetarian diet I had followed for several years did nothing to benefit the lives of farmed animals. Plus, I learned that a vegan diet also offered health benefits, specifically a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet that eliminates processed foods such as flour, sugar, and oils.

While I understood the benefits of embracing what's commonly called an "SOS-free" diet along, and steering away from refined food products, putting it into practice day in an out was difficult. I could eat this way for days or weeks until tempted by a vegan "treat." Yet I managed to stay at what I considered a decent weight for my height.

Over the years I studied this way of eating (WOE) more and more, and I learned that not only could a WFPB diet help me keep my weight in the normal range, but it could possibly help me eliminate or at least decrease what we in RI call nervous symptoms: depression, anxiety, wild mood swings -- all of these and more! Going vegan had helped ameliorate these, but they still interfered with daily functions and I had frequent setbacks. But along with regular exercise (a brisk walk) and practicing the Recovery Method, I might have a chance to eliminate those annoying nervous symptoms and function better.

I slowly gave up eating highly refined foods, starting with processed oils. I learned how to cook without using any oil and minimizing my use of salt. I studied food plans that helped people go sugar, oil, and salt (SOS)-free. Some encouraged eating more complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes and rice, and others emphasized eating more leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, romaine lettuce, mushrooms, and some focused on adding  nuts and seeds, but they all eliminated added oil and refined foods from the menu. They also strongly suggested either cutting out sugar or reducing its use.

I usually committed to one of these plans and followed it for days or weeks at a time, only to give into my cravings for sugary foods, usually soy lattes and chocolate or homemade baked treats. But even though I was still eating sugar once in a while (and sometimes more than once in while), I noticed that when I ate fewer refined foods, my nervous symptoms didn't interfere with my life quite as much. I still had lowered tones and anxiety, but the symptoms didn't get so bad that I couldn't function in daily life. 

In July of 2016, I joined a program known as UWL or "Ultimate Weight Loss." Run by two amazing people --  Chef AJ, who is a vegan chef, author, and much more, and John Pierre, a fitness trainer to celebrities, author, and animal advocate -- this program promotes eating whole vegetables, fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes as well as regular exercise, meditation, and other healthy habits.  I learned soon after joining that I am a caffeine and sugar addict. Yep, I had followed a vegan diet for years and even an oil-free diet, but it still included coffee, sugar, and salt. It took me more than a year, but I finally stopped drinking coffee and eating sugar except for what exists in whole fruits. Since then, I've increased my energy level and my mood has stabilized even more than in previous years. This program was able to help me eliminate the use of sugar, oil, salt, and refined food products when other programs, including well-known ones you've probably heard about in the media and Internet and make millions of dollars a year in sales, could not.

I still use the Recovery Method every single day. Without it, I couldn't "do the things I fear and dread to do," like get up earlier in the day to exercise (move my muscles) or bear the discomfort of withdrawing from caffeine and sugar. I "control my muscles" when I feel tempted by a formerly favorite food product while shopping in the market and don't put the product in my cart, and I "remove myself from a temper provoking situation" by avoiding the aisles where these products are stocked. And when I have inevitably eaten a food that is not optimal for my goals, I spot the fearful temper and drop the judgment against myself for my own mental health.

Some people in UWL report that within days or a week of starting the program they have more energy and fewer headaches or whatever it is they're suffering from. I have to remind myself over and over that "comparisons are odious and should be avoided." For me, it took several months before I had enough energy to make it through the day without wanting to stop on the way home from work for a cup of coffee.

I'd never tell anyone to give up coffee, sugar, oil, and salt, or whatever is they enjoy eating and drinking, but I do know that for me, stopping these products improved my nervous symptoms. It's up to you to decide what works best, but I'd suggest eliminating these products for at least 30 days to see if you have any improvement in your symptoms. At the very least, check out Chef AJ's Ultimate Weight Loss page to see how the program works. Another program that people find helpful for weight loss but includes a tiny bit of sugar and salt is Dr. John McDougall's program. He also promotes a WFPB diet and has many free resources on his website.

Whatever you decide to do (remember: "decide, plan, and act"), endorse for reading this (it was longer than I planned) and for making a business of your mental health. Thank you for being group-minded enough to read this. I hope it helps you on your journey to good average mental health and great physical health!

(P.S. - If you stumbled across this blog and have no idea what I mean by the "RI Method" or the Recovery program, please visit Recovery International for a comprehensive explanation of the program.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Is it Nervous or Is it Physical?

When I attended my first Recovery International meeting years ago, I was told that members give examples about nervous and physical symptoms that arise in relation to a nervous condition (i.e., depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.). Even if I had a headache I could spot it was distressing but not dangerous if it was the result of getting worked up over a triviality. 

Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to avoid any serious physical illnesses or ailments. However, in the last month or two, I've had some physical symptoms that could be nervous or could be truly physical in nature. I've been to the doctor a few times and she ordered some tests. Two of the tests I've completed so far turned out normal, which is wonderful. I have another test coming up soon. In the meantime, I find myself obsessing about what could be causing my symptoms. 

When I first started experiencing these symptoms, I attended a few RI meetings (always good to do whether or not I have any symptoms). The members offered helpful spots to deal with the symptoms I was experiencing. At home, I skimmed the book Selections after we read it at one of the meetings. It's chock full of wonderful RI spots and philosophies, and I read a few chapters several times, gleaning what I could in relation to my symptoms. I wrote about 15 short passages on Post-It notes, which I then taped to a blank piece of paper and put it on the wall next to my bed so I could read them when I go to bed at night and wake in the morning. 

I found I was engaging in a lot of self-diagnosing. It's funny, but when I first came to an RI meeting, almost all of my symptoms were emotional. Over the years, I've had very few physical symptoms, and those I did have were transient. I never really did much self-diagnosing then (other than "I think I'm going crazy"). But this time, I have physical symptoms and virtually no emotional symptoms. No lowered tones, no anger, no fearful thoughts (other than those surrounding the symptoms), no feelings of unreality, no panic. 

But regardless of the nature of my symptoms, I can spot that they're distressing but not dangerous (after all, I've had them for more than a month and I'm still around, so even if there's a medical problem, it's not dangerous), they're phasic and not basic, I can function with them, and to know is not to know. 

Soon, I'll know whether or not my symptoms are nervous or not (or both), and until then, I can wait with reflective calm. I'm so very lucky to have stumbled upon this method years ago, and I wish more people knew about it so they could gain inner peace in their lives. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ideas and the Recovery Method

It's been so long since I've posted here, but I'm still around. Sometimes I have an experience I think I should share here, but then I get busy and forget about it, and then when I think about it again, it seems too trivial to post here at all. But I guess that's the point about the RI Method: dealing with trivialities we experience on a daily basis. And boy, do I have my share of them as do we all.

I'm still going to post about how I use the RI Method in my daily life, but I'm focusing on writing essays and incorporating how I use Recovery in the situations about which I'm writing. I suppose I've already been doing that at least some of the time, but I don't just want to post a list of spots as if I'm giving an example, because that's not my main goal of this blog.

My goal or mission is to show the world how the Recovery Method works for all types of trivial, daily situations and even some not so trivial situations, too. I hope this will encourage people with all types of emotional difficulties to explore the RI Method and attend meetings, either in person, over the telephone, or online.

So look out for my next post sometime in the next week. And I want to wish everyone a great Fourth of July and endorse for all the efforts you make this weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Low meeting attendance -- is it average?

Lately, the attendance at my meeting has dropped. When I started my meeting, about 6 to 8 people attended. During the summer attendance dropped, but it increased again around Thanksgiving.

This past year the pattern has remained the same -- sort of, anyway. Last night at my meeting, no one attended except me. I sat in the room, listening to the sound of silence and the occasional chirp of a cricket. After half an hour, I decided to go home.

As I drove home, I had fearful thoughts. Maybe people didn't like my meetings, maybe the meetings were boring or I was boring, or they liked the other local meeting that takes place on a different night, or . . . and so on.

Then I decided to come up with secure thoughts, thinking back to meetings I've attended for the last fourteen years. Attendance always ebbed and flowed, depending on the time of year (holidays, summer, spring break), the weather (too windy, too rainy, too hot), or any number of other variables in the outer environment.

I realized that fluctuation in attendance is average, that if I expect to be frustrated by it, I won't be disappointed, and that the people who attend my meeting are outer environment.

If this had happened before I started using the RI method, I would have felt terrible about no one showing up at my meeting (or other event for which I was responsible), working it up for days until I got depressed and angry. Now, I think it is average and that I can decide to close my meeting if attendance remains low or try advertising to increase attendance, but at least I know there is no danger.

Andrew Morrell Photography / Foter / CC BY-ND
Photo credit: Andrew Morrell Photography / Foter / CC BY-ND

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Getting well means getting things done

It's been ages since I posted here, but that's because I've been busy. I've thought about posting here and about what I might want to post, but I never got around to actually writing about anything. But now it's past midnight and I've got a million other things to do, so what do I do? Post something here. This past year has probably been one of the busiest years I've had since I first started attending RI meetings in 1999. I can't believe it's been 14 years. I'm working more hours now than I have since before I began RI (for a few years I didn't work at all, just attended RI meetings -- sometimes that is the best thing a person with severe nervous symptoms can do for herself or himself). Since graduating with a master's degree and starting part-time work, I've gone from working 5 hours a week to working 12 to 16 hours a week. My son is almost ten and he keeps me working, too. We just spent a day at the park with our homeschooling friends and I didn't get home till after 6:30 p.m. Then it was on to making dinner, reading, and bedtime. I then spent an hour responding to emails and sending emails for various responsibilities I have. And now I'm thinking of applying for a full-time job. Jobs in my field evaporated in 2007 (the year I graduated, of course), so when I saw a job listing last week for something that looked viable, I started thinking I might have a chance even if 50 other qualified people also apply. I've also taken online creative writing classes for the past few years, and now I spend time journaling and writing short stories. Long ago, perhaps at my first or second meeting, I heard someone say, "We don't wait to get well to do things, we do things to get well." I pondered the meaning of that for a long time. I wondered how I could do things without getting well first. It took me a while, but I realized I was using backward logic. If I sat around waiting to get better, I'd never get better. If I did things, ignoring my symptoms or spotting on them so they didn't work me up, I proved to myself that I could do things and then did more and more things until I functioned. I still have symptoms, but I spot on them and don't give in to what Dr. Low called the "defeatist babble of the brain."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making mistakes and the courage it takes

Recently, I posted about people I've either met at meetings or in my personal life who insist that their symptoms are far worse than mine and use that as an excuse to tell me why RI wouldn't help them. After I had posted it, I realized I made a mistake and that it could be hurtful to those people and so deleted it. Instead, I'd like to offer encouragement to anyone who feels that they could not be helped by RI because it seems too "simple" or "easy" and uncomplicated in today's world of complicated solutions to our problems or that it's not working quickly enough for them. For many years I attended a meeting led by a very dear woman who often spotted at meetings that "Recovery is simple, but not easy." What that meant to me is that though the method itself is uncomplicated, it is not easy to spot on our symptoms because it requires a certain type of introspection that can be painful. It can be difficult to admit that our symptoms are average and that they aren't dangerous because some of us were told for many years either by professionals or friends or society that our symptoms are dangerous, that we should find a way to get rid of them immediately and if they come back, that's bad news. When attending our first RI meeting, we hear that "symptoms are distressing but not dangerous" and that "they'll rise and fall and run their course if we don't attach danger to them." We might hear that we are taking ourselves a little too seriously and think, "But my problems are serious, my symptoms are dangerous, and if they don't stop, I'll (fill in the blank with any number of desperate measures)." Basically, at our first meeting we might experience a challenge to our ideas of how the world is supposed to be. RI challenges us to change the way we think, to change our thoughts about ourselves and how we see the world. That can be scary, but it's worth it in order to reduce our symptoms to the point where we can not only solve our own problems and be what Dr. Low called "self-led" but we can change our thoughts and ultimately change our lives.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

RI and Overeating

I started this post a while ago, but recently decided to overhaul my diet. I know I am not the first person to use RI to help control my eating habits, but I rarely hear anyone talk about it at a meeting, so I thought I'd share my ideas here.

When I started attending Recovery meetings, I was at least 40 pounds overweight. I overate because of depression and anxiety and also as a result of the side effects of some medication. I wasn't exactly moving my muscles, either.

After attending RI meetings for a month or so, I found myself in another program's meeting. At the break, a box of cheap cookies sat on the table next to the coffee. I eyed it. They weren't my favorite kind (oatmeal with icing), but suddenly, I felt hungry. I started to reach my hand toward the box and then I realized that I could control my muscles and not take the cookie. I could bear the discomfort of not eating the cookie. There was no danger if I did not eat that cookie, which I really didn't like in the first place.

I applied this idea to many other eating situations. It worked. I also started moving my muscles more often and began to lose weight. I changed my diet further, and that helped, too. It took several years, but I lost about 40 to 45 pounds (I stopped weighing myself at a certain point but am certain I gained more afterward).

So, if you are dieting and trying to stop eating foods that you know to be unhealthy or fattening, look at some the Recovery tools you already use for other situations. I'm not saying these will help with an eating disorder, but these tools are very effective for controlling those overeating muscles.
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