Sunday, January 30, 2011

How do people do it?

I'm seriously asking. This is not some throw-your-hands-up, rhetorical question. I really need to know HOW people do it.

Back in 2005 I started making some real changes. I was exercising most days, I ran a 5k (sort of), I dropped a few pounds. I was also eating mostly well. I had some formula wherein I decided that I was 97% vegetarian (or something like that). But it was complicated and the truth was that most days I didn't eat meat, but sometimes I did or I had something that had meat stock in it and I didn't mean to (shakes fist at Uno's French Onion soup!). But I was trying and that was good.

After getting pregnant in early 2006, I was determined to stay healthy and only gain the appropriate amount of weight. I was going to keep exercising. And by 5 weeks pregnant, the exercising was out the window. I was so exhausted I was falling asleep at the dinner table after a day of just working. I stayed pretty active, I ate pretty well despite my cravings. I gained about 35 pounds overall which wasn't too bad.

Within a few weeks of having Nathan, I had lost about 30 pounds. I felt terrible though. I had post-partum depression, I ate anything I wanted or was available (which amounted to an extraordinary amount of lunch meats) and slept in spurts that were usually less than an hour at a time. I was A Mess.

I have not recovered. I was using familiar excuses: I finish Nathan's food. I am eating to make up for my lack of sleep. I am drinking tons of extra coffee with half and half or cream. I have no time or energy to exercise. My mom's health was worsening and that was weighing on me, pun intended. A stressful job situation before my maternity leave turned to unbearable when I got back. Between April, when I returned to work and August when I quit my job, I had put on almost all of the pregnancy weight. By the end of 2007, I hit the weight that I swore I'd never hit, about 50 pounds more than someone 5 feet tall should be. I was 2 pounds under my highest pregnancy weight and there was NO OTHER PERSON LIVING IN ME!!

Then I hit my highest pregnancy weight. It is a sad state of affairs when you go higher and instead of wanting to lose the baby weight, you want to get back to the baby weight.

Flash forward to now, about 3 years later. I go up and down with the same 10 pounds. I can't stick to anything long. I use all the same excuses, but they don't seem valid anymore. I could try harder, I just don't. I eat the way I eat because it's easy and it tastes good. I am constantly at odds with myself because I know I am killing myself. Or worse.

My mother died of an autoimmune disease that numerous studies have shown can be prevented, slowed and in some cases even brought into remission be eating a low-fat, mostly vegan diet while simultaneously being very active. My biggest fear is that I'll develop MS. It's probably not a healthy fear or even one worth putting that much effort into, but it's always there in the back of my mind. I don't want a fatal disease to be the reason I change my habits. I want to do it because I should and avoid the disease completely.

I've digressed again. I woke up at 3am today craving a bologna sandwich on white bread with mustard. I don't know why. I spent a little time wondering if it was possible to get some bologna today. I don't think I can fit it in. I was disappointed. Now, ask me if I've ever been up at 3am wondering if I could fit in exercising that day and then been disappointed if I could not. No, it's never happened. Not ever. There's a huge disconnect there.

And a 4 year old begging for my attention means I have to wrap this up. How do people do it? How do people change their lives and never look back? How do I never eat bologna again?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Graduated Exposure

Last week Nathan had a follow up visit with the feeding clinic. I really must say that I wish I had known this place existed 2 years ago. I could have (maybe) avoided a lot of heartache for all of us. I wish Nathan's pediatrician had taken me seriously when I said something was wrong and I wish I had been a stronger advocate for my son when I knew this was not something he'd grow out of. But I guess you just live and learn.

The visit confirmed their suspicion that Nathan suffered from reflux. He has gained 1/2 pound since his first visit there 7 weeks ago. His appetite is really improving which provides us with an opportunity to start introducing new foods and better eating habits over all. Another added bonus is that he is finally sleeping through the night. Clearly taking Pepcid when you have reflux is beneficial.

So the next step for us is The Triangle Game, a graduated exposure therapy designed to increase his ability to encounter new foods. So far I've introduced five foods that I'd like him to eat sooner rather than later. We've gone with a bean, red bell pepper, tomato, pasta and cheese. I have to add a sixth one tomorrow (I could have sworn there was something else, but I really can't remember and Nathan says no too.).

First we put them in a triangle formation on a plate. I tell him to touch it, he has to in 5 seconds or I show him with my finger. If he still refuses, I have to make him. I felt like that was kind of harsh at first, but I noticed right away (because you know he refused and I had to resort to that) that he was only not doing it to be stubborn. He realized we were doing this whether he liked it or not and, I'm surprised to say, he is actually going along with it. Every time he touches a food, we play for 20-30 seconds. That's not always incentive for him, so I've also done a count down of touches left and tonight we read a page per touch of the new books we got.

We've moved on to step two, which is for him to pick up the foods and hand them to me. I am in shock because he has always run away when I've put food like this in front of him. I'm very surprised at his willingness to participate. He still gives me a hard time when I tell him we need to do this, but he is at least coming to the table and trying.

Once he can do the picking up (and that's going really well so far), we will move on to putting the food to his cheek, then to his lips to kiss it, then touching it with his tongue. Once he is willing to lick it, he do one chew, two chews, three chews, until he swallows it. On the one hand I feel like we'll never get there since I can't imagine him ever eating a piece of cheese or a vegetable, but on the other I never thought he'd hold any of these foods either without screaming.

I know to most people this will sound ridiculous. Most children, even the pickiest ones, don't run screaming from food as though it could kill them. But his food aversions are so strong that just smelling a food was making him gag. Now he is at least interacting with very common kid foods. And if I can get him to eat these things, he will nearly double the kinds of foods he'll eat and it will open up a world of possible meal options.

Last weekend, only 2 days into the therapy, he actually tried a new food. It was the tomalito at a restaurant. Basically just a mushed up corn muffin, the site of it was not appealing to Nathan. It was, after all, mushed up. And he could see bits of corn. We lied a little and said we didn't think it was real corn and he should try it any way, and, must to my surprise, he ate it! He ate actual corn. That was the first non-pureed vegetable I think he has eaten since he was a year old. I was so proud and excited for him I cried at the table.

I am optimistic, for the first time in years, that this child will someday eat like most kids eat.