Making the Bed (And Other Victories)

Making The Bed And Other Victories

For the last week, I’ve been trying to share a meaningful personal victory over depression, and have met with limited success.

I told a friend. They didn’t get it. “Doesn’t everyone?”, they asked me.

I told my brother. He didn’t get it. “Is that a…good…thing?” he inquired, hesitation in his voice.

So, I told my mother, but her encouragement is a given. I could tell her that I eviscerated a live chipmunk and she would metaphorically pat me on the head for what a good boy I have been. Right before she called a mental health professional on my behalf.

It seems that announcing “I made the bed three days in a row!” is not quite the watershed moment for the rest of the world that it is for me.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Last week, I admitted to you all that I have yet to get a therapist/counselor to work through my depression with. This is still true. I have gotten a referral to what I hope is a person able to deal with my idiosyncrasies and will be calling them for an appointment later today.

However, what has happened is apparently the Prozac has begun to kick in.

I will admit, I was expecting a more…dramatic result from the Prozac. I sort of had it in my head that there would be a period where my body got used to the medication. Then, one amazing morning, I would wake up and step into glorious sunshine, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns.

After all, that’s what happens to normal people every day, right?

Instead, I find that I’ve grown a little more stable. I am not yelling at Lor at the drop of a hat. Going outdoors is not causing me to burst into flame spontaneously. I wash the dishes without being prompted a half-dozen times.

And, oh yes, there is the subject of the bed…

The Bed, Unmade

Let me explain how depression works.

A normally adjusted person takes a look at an unmade bed and thinks: “I need to make the bed.” Maybe they get it done, maybe they don’t, depending on how late they are for work, etc. But the acknowledgment is there.

A depressed person takes a look at the unmade bed and thinks: “Why should I even bother to make that bed? I am just going to screw it up in a few hours anyway. Just like I screw everything else up. So what’s the point? In fact, I might as well just go back to my unmade bed and lie there…”

So, yes, the fact that I have been making the bed for a few days in a row is actually significant, though it probably doesn’t look like it to the untrained eye.

To me, a made bed is a victory. A small one, yes, but a victory nonetheless. It also represents potential. “If I can do this,” I think, “maybe I can do something else too!”

In the past week, I’ve completed a few things around the house, managed to get my professional life back off the ground, and even spent some time with my extended family.

All on the strength of making the bed in the first place.

Filling The Spaces

Of course, this is only the beginning of rebuilding a functional life after my depression derailment.

I still need to get back to regular posting here on Misdirected. Today will represent the first time I have posted in back to back weeks in a few months, so we will tentatively chalk that one up as “progress.”

But there are so many other things that I am going to have to start over on. it is literally tiring to think about. I haven’t been to a gym in weeks. I haven’t run over a mile in who knows how long. My personal trainer certificate hangs on the wall gathering dust, as the works I had intended to build around it remain unstarted.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of my fiction writing. I have probably not come up with an original idea since the beginning of the year.

So much remains undone, in fact, that I can actually feel the weight of them bearing down on me. There is so much, in fact, that I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack fluttering in my chest, just trying to comprehend how I am ever going to get it all done.

I just have to sit back for a minute and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, practicing mindfulness, all the things the self-help gurus tell you to do that you are secretly sure aren’t really working. I am just going to have to remind myself that change happens incrementally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that all I can do is all I can do.

So, I’ll just wait with one ear listening for the sound of Lor getting out of bed. Then I can go collect my early-morning hug and kiss, and reassurance that someone loves me and believes in me, even if I don’t believe in myself.

And then, I’ll make the bed.

Not Looking Forward To My First Day Back At The Gym,

– Jeremy

PS: Five days left to go on my Epilepsy Birthday Fundraiser over on Facebook. Please consider it if you are looking for an important cause to support!

The Biggest Fire

The Biggest Fire

Yesterday, while surfing through unread Facebook entries, I came across an interesting post. My birthday is coming up later in the month, and apparently, I have the option of asking my Facebook followers to donate to a worthy non-profit in lieu of sending me gifts.

Now, mind you, I don’t think I normally receive birthday presents from 99.9% of the folks following me on FB. But, still, it seemed like a nifty idea, right? Get the folks who follow me on Facebook plugged into the cause that matters the most to me.

Just about then, a problem occurred to me: I didn’t know which cause mattered the most to me.

Which Fire Burns Brightest

Seems like it should be simple enough, right? Just identify which of the causes that I support and advocate for has had the most impact on me. But, how do I quantify the negative effect of the things I care about?

Epilepsy changed my life forever and placed me in the position of no longer being able to hold down a “real” job.

Chronic obesity crippled me to the point that I had to have 75% of a major organ removed to deal with it.

Depression is waging a war against my ability to actually accomplish much of anything in my day-to-day life. Many days, depression is winning that war.

So – which one has impacted me the most, exactly?

Or, put another way, if I had the ability to make only one of these issues vanish off the face of the planet, which one would I pick?

Suddenly, any answer seems fraught with peril.

Weighed In The Balance (And Found Wanting)

Epilepsy affects roughly one in every hundred of us. It takes us out of the driver’s seat of our own brain and turns the controls over to an internal electrical storm. In many cases (like mine) it requires a constant babysitter – tying up two lives instead of just one. It shortens our lives, kills us in our sleep, and ruins our quality of life. So, of course, I should focus on epilepsy, right? Seems like a no-brainer. (Hah!)

Except that obesity is killing us nationally.  Over 35% of Americans are obese. Some estimates suggest that, as a nation, we are spending upwards of 190 BILLION dollars on the societal costs of obesity annually. Do the math, folks: 325 Million people are spending 190 Billion dollars on obesity… That’s $584 per person, every year. Can you imagine what that money could do if it wasn’t being used on the societal costs of weight?

The U.S. trade deficit is 560 Billion, people. Just sayin’.

Yeah, but…depression.

It is killing us, slowly and silently. Around 7% of us are suffering from depression. Depression crushes our productivity and removes our enjoyment from life. And, in many cases, it takes our best and brightest from us too soon. It is stigmatized and misunderstood, And, yet, it is frequently successfully treatable. Getting us to sign up for the treatment in the first place is apparently the major hurdle. (I, for instance, have yet to make my initial appointment to see a counselor. Because reasons.)

So, yeah. Pick one. Go ahead.

I’ll wait.

Negative Paralysis

The problem is that the problems all look SO large, that it seems impossible to choose just one. And, in many cases, that means that we don’t pick one at all.

We go through life ignoring ALL of them, instead of taking a breath and getting to work on at least one of them. The paralysis of indecision keeps so many of us from doing anything about anything.

It is very easy to forget that we can’t solve all of these issues by ourselves. It takes collective action to tackle world-shattering problems. And if small groups of us can get motivated to each work on the issues that speak to us the most strongly, progress gets made on all of them.

The idea isn’t to fix the whole world. It is for each of us to leave the place a little better than the way we found it.

In that spirit, I am going to go ahead and select one. It may not have the highest societal cost, and it may not be the one with the clearest solution, but it is the one I’ve been dealing with for a decade and a half now: Epilepsy.

If you agree with me, awesome. Toss a buck or two in the plate for the folks at the Epilepsy Foundation. They remain one of the major distributors of funds to community groups, education, and epilepsy research.

If not, no hard feelings. But pick something, for goodness sake. The world needs your active involvement in tackling the problems facing it. This is no time to sit on the sidelines and just sort of hope that things will get better on their own. Because we all know how well THAT works in the long run.

Trying To Leave The World Better Than The Way I Found It,

  • Jeremy

The Long, Dark Silence of the Soul

Long Dark Silence

Ever had a morning filled with good intentions and glorious plans for achievement? Only to arrive at the evening discovering that you not only didn’t accomplish anything but may have actually taken a step or two backward during the course of the day?

Yeah, I’ve had several months in a row like that.

Once upon a time, Misdirected was written every day of the week.

Then, it devolved to a couple times a week, as other projects ramped up.

Eventually, I moved it to a once a week publication schedule, determined to not let it slide any further back.

But nowadays, I am lucky to get out one post a month.

So, what happened?

The Things We Do Not Talk About

First, let me qualify: It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. It is more a case of not wanting to say it.

Which is unusual, for me, as you all well know. I can talk about epilepsy until I am blue in the face. I am willing to expose the dark underbelly (see what I did there?) of obesity. I’ve taken the Misdirected audience day-by-day through the good, bad, and ugly of bariatric surgery.

But the elephant in the room is that which I don’t talk about – the one subject that makes me intensely uncomfortable. I’ve tried to talk about it, heaven knows. My “Drafts” folder here is filled to the brim with halfway done to totally completed articles that never saw the light of day. A few even made it all the way to the final step before publication – the “Lor Review.” She would read them, shake her head a bit, and ask if I really wanted to publish that post.

See, the subject I am talking about is Depression.

Oh, THIS Again

In my opinion, the major problem with understanding Depression comes from its name. “Depression.” It sounds very straightforward – just a case of the blues, or “Feelz bad, man.”

I wish the folks that had named depression had called it something more descriptive. Maybe if they had named the diagnosis “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die And I Can’t Even Get Out of Bed Why The Hell Won’t You Just Leave Me Alone” it would have a bit more impact on those trying to understand it from the outside.

The frustrating thing is, there are so many of us suffering from this illness. Yet it still gets blown off. People say we are lazy, that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, that we need to just get over it.

Pretty similar to the way outsiders look at a diagnosis of chronic obesity, now that I am looking at the words in print. Interesting, that.

But, the fact of the matter is, I don’t have an explanation for my condition. For someone who has had life hand me pre-squeezed lemons, I’ve done pretty well. I’ve lived longer than I was expected to. I’ve accomplished personal and professional goals. I have loving meaningful relationships with my family and my spouse.

And, at the end of the day, I still feel worthless.

Self-Worth: What Aisle Is That On?

Still don’t get it? Don’t feel bad, many people don’t. Let me give you an example, for those who might not understand the mechanics of depression.

Last night we went to the 5 year anniversary for DaVita Bariatrics, the practice that performed the sleeve operations for both Lor and I. Being surrounded by success stories was nice. While we all chatted and praised each other’s progress, before and after photos of certain patients were projected on the wall. Lor’s looked amazing. Looking at mine, though, I literally could not see the “after” photo. All I could focus on was the “before” shot. There I sat, looking dejected and exhausted at my Mother-in-Laws at Christmas 2015. I weighed 300 pounds and in the picture, I look like I am pushing 400.

Standing there, surrounded by success stories, I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was supposedly the “old” me.

Yup, I thought, there I am. That is who I am.

Dropping the Bomb

And I am one of the lucky few who actually has a family who understands the condition. They’ve been down this road before with me. In fact, my family will be horrified when they read this. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Well, guys, mainly because I am sick of being a burden. As anyone who has had to rely on an entire infrastructure of people just to make it from day to day will tell you, it gets old asking for help. Especially when you are convinced that those who are your support structure are secretly exhausted with your constant demands. This is why so many suffering from depression eventually commit suicide. It isn’t because they are out to do permanent emotional damage to their families and loved ones. It is because those of us suffering from the condition are convinced that the lives of those around them will be improved by our absence.

Now, nobody panic. I am not suffering from suicidal ideation currently. But, as someone who has walked those roads, I can tell you exactly what the thought process is. Those of us who suffer from depression don’t talk about it because we are embarrassed. We are ashamed. And we are exhausted from dealing with this condition that never seems to get better.

So, we assume that those who love us must also be embarrassed by us. That they must be secretly ashamed of us. That they have to be exhausted from caring for us.

So, we keep our mouths shut. And when everyone asks how we are doing, we say “Fine.”

Then we change the subject.

The Enemy In Action

Allow me to describe how depression affects your thinking.

While we were in California last week, jeremycschofield.com went down. There was an issue between my hosting provider and the company I used to originally register the domain name. (Who knew?) So, when we got home, I discovered that my website had not been functional for almost a week.

Initially, I scrambled to get everything back up and running. But, once repairs were carried out, I was suddenly done with the process. It just all seemed so overwhelming and exhausting.

I should’ve put out an email to my followers explaining what happened. I didn’t.

Even a post on Twitter and Facebook would have been a good idea. But, I didn’t do either.

Why not? Because I was unable to convince myself that anyone cared enough to hear about it. This despite the fact that my very own statistics showed that I had several hundred people a day visiting Misdirected. I literally could not make the evidence in front of my eyes overcome the feeling of worthlessness inside my head.

The conclusions that a person suffering from depression arrives at make no logical sense. But this disconnect exists everywhere around me. When I speak to Lor I can’t figure out why she is married to me. Looking around my house, I am positive that “someone” is going to take it away from me. I stare at my Personal Training Certificate on the wall and have no idea how I ever managed to earn it.

I can even hold a copy of Inheritance in my hand, and still feel as though someone else must’ve written it.  In fact, my personal copy now sits on a shelf above my head, buried under spiral notebooks filled with other things. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore.

Daylight

It took Wil Wheaton’s blog post from a few days ago to motivate me to tackle this head-on. If someone as successful as he is can still be wrestling with these invisible demons, and brave enough to admit it, then the least I can do is tell the truth as well. I not only owe it to my loved ones, but I owe it to anyone else going through this. It needs to be said: if you are suffering from depression, you are not alone. You are not the only one on the face of the planet feeling the way you do.

So, before any of my readers starts worrying, let me just say that I am ok. Well, not exactly ok. I am SAFE is a better word. Lor, bless her heart, is staying on top of me. This ain’t her first rodeo. Which comes back to making me feel like crap for putting her through this, but, yeah. At some point, I have to accept that those around me put up with me out of love and not because they are all masochists.

But it has become apparent that I am going to have to go back into some kind of therapy/treatment. Back, you say? Yeah, I struggled with depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts for years after developing epilepsy. Only the love and support of my family and a very talented counselor got me through it.

So, if this ain’t my first go-round, why haven’t I just gotten some help, you might ask. That’s the tricky thing about depression. I just keep waiting to wake up and feel ok again. After all, I had just started to turn the corner. Things were looking up – 2017 was an awesome year for me.

So, why would anyone believe me when I say I’ve relapsed? Never mind that I obviously have. Surely a professional is just going to pat me on the back and tell me “Chin up” or something…right?

TL;DR (Because Why Would You?)

Normally, I will finish a blog post in an hour – two at most. I started this one at 6 AM this morning.

It is now 6:27 PM.

So, let me just summarize: Yes, there is something currently wrong with me. I am aware of the problem and am screwing up my nerve to talk to someone about potential treatment options.

The logical part of me says this is all due to chemical imbalances in my brain and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

The rest of me wants to apologize to all of you for not being who I think I should be for you.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from depression, please be gentle and patient with them. And encourage them to get some help.

If you are the one suffering along with me – talk to your friends and loved ones. Talk to your doctor. And start taking care of yourself. The way you feel is not your fault, and you are not alone in the world.

Talk to you all again soon.

But Probably Not On A Daily Basis,

  • Jeremy

 

Zen and the Art of Circuit Training

The Art of Circuit Training
At first, it seems so easy.

You join a gym, full of fire and determination. This time is going to be different, you say. You will stay the course, spend hours in the gym every week, and by Summer you will have a physique that will make the Greek Gods weep with envy.

Two months later, you are looking at the clock, comparing it to your day’s schedule, and wincing. Maybe you don’t really have time to go to the gym today…

Thus begins the slow slide into skipped gym visits, dietary shortcuts, and growing malaise. By Memorial Day, you have gained ten pounds and refuse to take your shirt off poolside.

What went wrong? You over-committed and underdelivered. The oldest story in the history of mankind.

So, how about a different approach? It is only April, after all – there is still time to rescue yourself from Summer Body Failure.

Consider, instead, circuit training.

Defining the Circle

Long looked down on by weight-lifting purists, circuit training is slowly gaining a positive reputation. The idea that you can do something positive for yourself with only half an hour invested each day seems too good to be true, yes?

Let me clue you in on a little secret: spending half an hour at the gym (or in any kind of exercise) consistently beats multi-hour workouts that you fail to work into your schedule. Every single time. The #1 key to movement is to keep moving. It is as simple as that.

So, just ignore the powerlifters and the marathon runners for now. All we are trying to do here is build a foundation. Especially us bariatric patients: we have no real idea how to go from being glued to a couch 18 hours a day to spending 18 hours a week at a gym, right? Circuit training is a great step into regular exercise that can actually produce comprehensive results.

So, what the heck is circuit training, anyway?

Performing The Circuit

So, first: there are several kinds of circuit training, including ones that involve working out in your home or office using only your own body weight as resistance. We won’t be tackling those here, but are instead focusing on in-gym, machine-based circuit training. Why? Because bariatric patients (like myself) usually need some additional assistance getting started. This requires a gym membership. Ask your current gym (Or the gyms you are evaluating) about their circuit training availability.

At its most basic level, circuit training (at a gym) involves hitting a series of weight machines in a row, one after another. Between time spent on each machine is a brief rest period, followed by a short period of cardio exercise. The circuit will involve 10 machines, 10 cardio periods, and 20 30-second “rest” periods. When you’ve arrived back at the first machine, you have completed a single “circuit”, in 30 minutes or so.

And, let’s face facts: the person who states they cant carve 60 minutes out of their day (factoring in half an hour getting to and from the gym) to exercise is either lying or needs schedule prioritization help beyond the scope of this article. Cut one hour of television viewing out of your schedule a day and you instantly have enough time to get this done. Surely you can live without viewing the latest reboot of Lost In Space in the name of your health, yes?

So, denials aside, you jump into the “circuit” at an open machine, then follow the circle around for half an hour. Then you grab your gym bag and go home. Do this 2-3 times a week and you’ll see noticeable results within a month. Guaranteed.

So, what’s the catch? (Because there is always a catch.) There are a few ways to sabotage yourself, even with something as simple as following a pre-defined progression.  Let’s look a little deeper, then, into the mechanics of circuit training…

Introduction to Circuit Training

1. Whole Body Focus:

The secret to circuit training is that the “circuit” hits every single major muscle group in your body. The one I currently use (And yes, I do circuit training when pressed for time) goes through the following progression: Seated Leg Press, Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Seated Bench Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Row, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl, Tricep Extension, and *Crunch. (More on Crunches later.) This group of exercises touches every major muscle group in your body.

2. Cardio:

Between each machine is a set of steps, designed to keep the heart rate up. There are roughly Umpty-bajillion different ways you could use these steps to maintain a cardio workout. I tend to do a double set of five exercises:

1. Step up then back;

2.Step up, down the other side, then back to my starting position;

3. Step sideways up, down the other side and back to starting position;

4. Step up with one leg, bring opposite knee to chest, then reverse the process starting with the alternate leg;

5. and, finally, calf raises.

There are gyms that, for whatever reason, do not have a set of steps near their circuit training machines. You could substitute cardio exercises like running in place, jumping jacks, good mornings, etc. However, even the most basic of gyms tends to have free-standing cardio steps somewhere. I would recommend grabbing one and setting it up nearby for use while you travel from machine to machine.

3. Rest periods:

Between each machine and step, I get a 30-second rest period. I use this time to drink (Hydrate or die), wipe down the equipment I have been using, and get myself set up for the next exercise.

4. Development:

As with any new exercise, it is important to take your time and get it right. Get a staff member at your gym to walk you through the whole process, on every machine – and get them to help you set your “maximum” weight levels. You’ll be starting your circuit workouts at about 50% of your max, to ensure that you are getting the maximum bang for your buck in the weight vs. reps area.

5. Intensity:

It is important to not spend your time on circuit training simply going through the motions. Instead, be focused during your time on the machines and steps. You should not be struggling with the weights you have selected. You should move each weight outward with a fluid motion, taking about a second to reach nearly full extension. (Full extension can lead to over-stressing ligaments and joints.) At the “top” of your push, squeeze the muscles you are working. Then, slowly lower the weight to the starting position, taking twice as long to lower the weight as you did lifting it. Each rep should take about 3 seconds: a one-second push, a squeeze, then a 2-second return to start. If you find you are unable to finish your minute moving your current weight, drop down to the next weight on your machine. You are wanting to reach the end of your 20-ish reps feeling like resistance is gradually building against your muscles. If you finish your minute easily, make a note, and next time start at the next higher weight – and expect to have to make an adjustment down during your workout.

So, there’s always a downside, right? Here are a few things to watch out for on the negative side of time-saving workouts.

Welcome To The Downside

1. Stabilizers:

The one major negative to working with machines is the very thing that makes them safer to exercise with. An awful lot of the benefit of free weight exercise comes not from the muscle groups being targetted, but instead from the work on the secondary or “stabilizer” muscles that also get engaged just from trying to maintain balance and equilibrium while pushing free weights. The incorporation of these stabilizer muscles is missing from machine-assisted lifting.

2. Intensity:

The fact that circuit training takes place in a closed loop means that much of the thought and planning that would go into a free weight program is missing. This can make it very easy to place your workout on cruise control and simply mail it in. While any movement is still preferable to no movement, your development will be dramatically hindered by not pursuing challenge and development during circuit training.

3. Safety:

Free weight exercise requires constant attention and focus. Circuit training can be perceived as “Easy mode”. Accordingly, it can be very easy to inadvertently injure yourself by simply being inattentive. I have watched people at my local gym use bad form on machines, slip while performing cardio steps, even fall over because they were attempting to talk on the phone or watch streaming video while working out. Circuit training is not the place for these activities.

4. Twerps:

The closest I have come to getting into a fight in a gym since 7th grade P.E. is in and around circuit training equipment. Why? Because so many people insist on using circuit training machines as their own personal playground. Rather than participating in the “circuit” portion of circuit training, many times individuals will camp out on a circuit training machine for their own personal workout routines, rather than using freely available machines elsewhere in the gym. Asking them (politely) to move along so that you can take your turn rarely produces positive results. Instead, bypass their position for now, and come back to it at the end of your routine. Multiple and/or habitual offenders need to be reported to gym management. You are not being paid to enforce the rules of the road in circuit training. Don’t engage testosterone-flooded exercisers yourself. The results can be…less than ideal. Ahem.

5. Crunch Time:

Usually, the final machine in any circuit training circuit is some form of ab-training machine, usually a contraption with straps and weights that ball you up like a device created by the Marquis de Sade. Seriously – crunch machines are a back injury waiting to happen. Skip the ab machine in a circuit entirely, and spend your 60 seconds on a hanging leg lift or (even better) working on Planks. Think you can hold a full Plank for 60 seconds? It is not as easy as it looks. It is also one of the absolute best exercises you can do for your core and abs.

Joining The Circuit

There you have it – the secrets of the Circuit Training section of your local gym. Stop wasting your gym membership money by staying home and watching Roseanne instead of hitting the gym. Get in, push yourself through the circuit, and head back home 3 times a week. Make sure you are taking at least a day off between sessions, mind you.

Once you’ve mastered the Circuit, cough up the funds for an initial appointment with a certified Personal Trainer to keep on moving down the personal fitness road. Just remember: movement is key to success. Even 30 minutes on the Circuit at your nearby gym beats spending an hour on the couch eating Cheetos.

Chasing Myself In A Circle,

Jeremy

Toxic

Toxic

I am trapped in a toxic relationship.

I’ve always thought of myself as pretty strong – able to overcome most things. Hell, I’ve lived with epilepsy for 15 years now, right?

But this particular relationship just keeps coming back and biting me in the ass. Every time I think I have escaped, it reaches out and grabs ahold of me again, drawing me back into its grasp.

The moment I give in I am simultaneously enraptured and ashamed. I know for a fact that what is coming will be humiliating and painful. But, in the name of a few moments of pleasure, I take the plunge anyway.

The really hurtful thing is this – my relationship is literally toxic. I keep poisoning myself and I can’t seem to stop.

Too Close To Home

Less than a quarter mile from our home is a cesspit of sin and amoral license, known as “Sonic Drive-In.”

Oh, they sell things I can eat. Grilled chicken sandwiches and basic burgers I can remove the buns from. They make a decent boneless chicken wing 6-pack if I am in the mood to spread my eating out over a couple of meals.

But that is not where I go wrong.

Every once in a while, about once a month or so, the urge overwhelms me. We go to Sonic, and I buy the most forbidden of fruits:

Ice Cream.

When we pull in, I try to rein myself in. I will get the “Mini” size. My self-directed negotiation makes me promise myself I will split it in half. I will contain my lust for Fudge and Ice Cream whipped together – I will keep myself together.

Ten minutes later, I am looking into an empty small drink cup, wondering where I went wrong. And being tempted to lick the last vestiges of whipped cream off the inside of the cup.

Five minutes after that, I am locked in a bathroom for the next few hours. That’s all the time it takes for me to begin paying the price for my lack of self-control.

The Failure of Negative Reinforcement

A large portion of the early success of any kind of bariatric surgery is negative reinforcement. After surgery, your stomach has been shrunk to such a degree that overeating produces discomfort and, in some cases, outright sickness. For many of us, certain foods are especially difficult to handle – sometimes leafy greens, occasionally tougher proteins, some folks even have difficulty with certain liquids.

But just about all of us can’t handle processed sugar anymore. We even have a specific term for it: “Dumping Syndrome”, categorized by sharp pains, foaming vomit and long-term diarrhea. This is usually enough to encourage us to stay the heck away from foods containing processed sugar.

Usually.

Negative reinforcement does not always work. There is always that one child who doesn’t learn the first time and keeps trying to stick the silverware into the electrical socket.

I am afraid that, in this particular case, that child is me.

Negative reinforcement usually works for me, too. It only took two trips to the hospital to be treated for kidney stones. After the second visit, I started making sure that I get in my 64+ ounces of water a day.

But I just can’t seem to make the ice cream thing stick.

So, every few weeks, I find myself camped out in the bathroom for several hours in a row, wondering why in the hell I keep doing this to myself.

The Tangle In My Brain

Seriously, now: there is absolutely no reason that my body would be craving processed sugar.

I get over 70 grams of protein in every day. That is usually balanced by 60ish grams of carbs. A multi-vitamin takes care of any other missing dietary components.

There is literally nothing in processed sugar that my body needs.

Plus, I can pass up the brownies, the Little Debbie snacks, the Snickers bars. It is simply this one “food” that triggers this reaction in me.

In short, it is all in my head.

Mind you, this is not minimizing the problem. The great majority of our bad dietary decisions are “in our heads”, which is why healthy folks have so much trouble understanding obesity. “Just put down the cheeseburger”, and all that.

Something simply misfires in our brain, and next thing you know we are neck deep in addictive behavior. And yes, Virginia, there is such as thing as psychological addiction. It is not the same as physical dependence/addiction, but it is a real condition just the same.

And food addiction is extremely pervasive among those of us with obesity. So much so that many patients of bariatric surgery turn their food addictions into a different type of addiction: alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc. The surgery that changes our physiology does nothing to change our mental processes.

The Quest for an Ice Cream Cure

I am a fortunate case – I haven’t relapsed into overeating or started drinking Jack Daniels by the gallon.

But I just can’t manage to stop poisoning myself once a month.

Lor has tried to help. Every time I decide to do it, she warns me what is coming. I tell her “I know” and do it anyway. Then, after an hour or two in the bathroom, I invariably ask her “Why did you let me eat that?”

Addictive behavior is rarely fair to loved ones.

It has been suggested to me that I seek professional help. It just seems so overboard to start talking to a counselor because I make myself sick every few weeks.

On the other hand, do I wait until I am doing this to myself once a week?

Accepting failure is hard – especially when it seems so minor. My weight hasn’t changed. My clothes still fit. I am still able to do a host of things that I couldn’t two years ago.

And, yet, still: every time we drive by, I hear Ice Cream calling my name. A sweet siren song, promising moments of pleasure followed by hours of pain.

Maybe We’ll Just Move Next Door To A Salad Bar,

  • Jeremy