sticking to a budget

One of the things I’ve wanted to get on top of this summer is our budget.  My husband and I both work and on paper make a good amount of money, but most of our money goes towards our co-op mortgage and daycare/preschool/babysitting, and we go through cycles of having huge amounts of credit card debt that really stress me out.

I just met with a financial counselor this morning to develop a plan.  I’m going to try to get my husband to agree to track all of our spending for the month of September, including cash (which has been difficult!), to see if my projected budget is correct.  I use Mint.com to pull all of our accounts together, but so much of our transactions are left as “uncategorized.”  If my projections are correct, that means that we have about $3,000 a month to tackle our $20,000+ credit card debt.  If my projections are off we will have to commit to adhering to a tighter budget, so that we can pay of our debt to reach our financial goals: starting an emergency fund, adding to our 403b and 401k and college saving accounts for our girls.  I’d also like to be able to afford a vacation next year and have more available for upgrading our apartment, phones, and computer.  We’re going to try tracking everything on paper for 30 days.  Let’s see how that conversation goes tonight…

I’ve mentioned before that for the last 18 months I spent about $750 on WW and didn’t get back to goal.  Now I’m trying going to OA meetings (about $20/month donations).  I guess that only saves me $22 a month or so.  Plus I plunked down $40 on books already…

Do any of you have tips for sticking to a budget, getting out of credit card debt, or tracking your spending? I’d love to hear…

Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanist 12 Steps

I have a hard time picturing a higher power (HP) while attending OA and learning about the steps.  I was thinking that my HP could be the OA fellowship, since I really can’t believe in a higher power, other than the laws of physics.  I think I like these versions of the steps better that the ones that actually mention God or a Higher Power (compiled from the blog of Bellwood Health Services):


Agnostics AA 12 Steps

Roger C. (2012). The Little Book. A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps, (11)

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe and to accept that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
  7. With humility and openness sought to eliminate our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through meditation to improve our spiritual awareness and our understanding of the AA way of life and to discover the power to carry out that way of life.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Humanist Twelve Steps

Roger C. (2012). The Little Book. A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps, (13)
Renowned behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner’s 12-Step version first published in “The Humanist” (1987).

  1. We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking have failed.
  2. We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
  3. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.
  4. We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.
  5. We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
  6. We are ready to accept the help they give us.
  7. We earnestly hope that they will help.
  8. We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.
  9. We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.
  10. We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
  11. We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.
  12. We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.

So re-written for overeating the agnostic OA steps would be (based on Roger C (2012)):

Agnostics OA 12 Steps
  1. We admitted we were powerless over food—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe and to accept that we needed strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
  7. With humility and openness sought to eliminate our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through meditation to improve our spiritual awareness and our understanding of the OA way of life and to discover the power to carry out that way of life.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other over eaters, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

letting go of what you can’t have and isn’t good for you…

Today was my second Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meeting.  I almost wish I had recorded the meeting.  There were so many good things that I wish I could remember.  The meeting is a literature meeting so today the leader read  from For Today.  Today’s meditation talked about the laws of nature which I liked, but also letting go.  Some members also talked about envy, especially of people that you don’t know, or thought you’d like to be because you think you’d have it easier or would be happier if you were skinnier.  I swear it was like I was listening to me talk to my therapist.

another obsession

Warning: some sexual content and obscenities below (no pictures, just text).  Please do not read unless you are comfortable reading about sex, masturbation, pornography, and what might be considered sex work. 

So, this week has been a busy one:  I went to my first OA meeting and wrote a bit about that.  I went to my psychiatrist and agreed to give Zoloft another try, with the addition of Ritalin to keep me from jumping around in my head from anxious thought to anxious thought, and to perhaps snip some of the expected weight gain in the bud.  Still getting used to the Ritalin though; I do feel a bit too hyped-up, and when I took it first thing in the morning it made me feel panicky, so I ended up taking a half a Klonopin, which might have defeated the purpose.

I went back to my chiropractor since last October, since I had been doing physical therapy for my hip and was feeling overwhelmed by appointments and stressed by missing too much work or home stuff.  Then had some mild kid sickness issues, but ending up having a nice afternoon with the girls.  Glad my workplace is so flexible!

Which brings me to a phone “interview” with a mutual acquaintance at a big insurance company.  She really liked my resume and wants to shuffle some things around in her department to accommodate my leadership and analytical skills!  Going to meet her for coffee in two weeks after her vacation to see if it’s as good as a fit as it sounds.  I might be able to do more stimulating work (which I seem to need since I spend too much time at my current job blogging and doing personal things online…), get paid more, and be able to work remotely 2 or 3 days a week!

Since I confirmed with my hip surgeon today that I can stop PT, I joined a Planet Fitness  near my office (only $10/month!) and went one morning before work.

Now that I’ve gotten through the usual, let’s get to what’s really on my mind this week: sex.  Posting those pics of me over the years reminded me that there was a time before I started dating my husband when I was seriously addicted to online porn and masturbation.  I had lots of fantasies about being double-penetrated and tied up.  I took anonymous (no face) sexual pictures of myself and posted them on some amateur sites and even messaged with some people.  I bought lots of sex toys and felt so much pleasure, but I still had conflicted feelings about my body image.  On the one hand, I thought I looked hot in some of the pictures I took (and LOVED getting positive feedback from others), but on the other hand, I was still ashamed that I was overweight.  I was even “size-prejudiced” in my own porn consumption:  I loved looking a pictures of slim, busty women and buff guys.  I almost considered meeting someone I met online to have a sexual encounter, but didn’t go through with it.  I was having a bad time dating on traditional sites, but still craved contact…

Then I started dating my husband and slowly masturbated less and less and hardly looked at online porn.  I threw away my vibrators and dildos.  I thought we should be “enough” for each other sexually.  We picked a date for our wedding even though I loathed the thought of dress shopping and having pictures taken of me at that size.

Then when I was pregnant for the first time and had those awful panic attacks for four weeks, I found a picture of a naked skinny girl on our computer.  I confronted my husband about it and cried and cried.  Here I was suffering: unable to work, eat, read, sleep, or doing anything but rock, shake, and pace–with our unborn child inside of me–and my husband was jerking off to a small-titted bitch.  I felt so betrayed.  He apologized, and I implored him to not download pictures to our shared computer for me to see.  I realized he probably needed a major release from the constant worry of taking care of me those 4 horrible weeks.

Since then, I’ve had serious ups and downs with my sexual desire, most likely related to adjusting to parenthood, lack of sleep, my continued anxiety, depression, weight gain, and negative body image, and my semi-alcoholic and majorly panicky brother living in our living room.

But…now we’ve been having amazing sex again.  In May I had an orgasm that lasted for what felt like 5 minutes, I saw colors and was almost paralyzed by pleasure.  My husband had expressed interest in the past of taking sexy pics of me, but I was always too ashamed, and didn’t want my face in the picture, in case someone I knew found the pics.  But I’ve been watching Orange is the New Black, Younger, and reading some chick lit (normally I’m more into the New Yorker!), and feeling my kinks bubbling up again.  In both OITNB and Younger, the characters start or attempt to sell dirty panties.  Vice reports that

“Google trends shows the search term “sell used panties” experienced the biggest global spike ever following the June 12 premiere of Orange Is the New Black‘s third season.”

The idea instantly and crazily appealed to me.  I like to blog & design simple websites, I always wanted to sell something online, I wanted to make money creatively, I love the smell of my dirty underwear, and I need some external positive feedback that my overweight body is still sexy and that many people would want to have sex with me or fantasize about me.  Wait.  Does that sound like crazy low self-esteem talk?  As a happily married, intellectual, feminist, working mother of two girls in the 21st century, do I really want to start doing what is essentially sex work?  Maybe I do.  It can be anonymous.  I can involve my husband in taking the pictures of me in my panties–which he’s always wanted to do.  I can do it all by mail and never in person.  I can create a separate user account on my computer so that my kids and babysitter won’t see naked pics of me. It gets me really excited just thinking about it.  In fact, I’ve been obsessing about it the last week.  Researching other sites and methods, ordering new panties, picking a pseudonym, setting up a new email account, website & twitter account, etc.  I used my phone at work so much yesterday that I ran out of power at 3pm.  That never happens to me.

BUT. Thinking about the OA meeting and podcasts, and seeing my therapist later today, I can’t help but think that I’m replacing my obsession with food with an obsession with sex.  And I still have an unhealthy/disjointed body image.  And I’d be contributing to the objectification of women, right?  But if we’re all aware and willing it’s ok, right? As Dan Savage would say, I’m trying to be “sex positive” and GGG (Good, Giving, and Game) about this.  And Googling him I just see that he was named Humanist of the Year in 2013.  I’m a Humanist, too!  Now I’ll be really crazy and think that this is a sign that my OA Higher Power is telling me to trade this obsession for my old one until I can learn some non-obsessive coping mechanisms…

tried OA yesterday

Yesterday afternoon I went to my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting.  I think I liked the vibe better than WW since there is more intense sharing, although I’ll need to get used to the higher power aspect.  I ordered some books and materials to read through and listened to the Step One podcast on the way to work this morning.

I cried a lot listening to other people’s stories and then got two people’s phone numbers at the end for support.  Going to check out another meeting later this week or next.  Interested in using the tools and learning more about the 12 steps and 12 traditions in order to help me learn to recover from binge eating.  I’m a little worried about whether I need to totally eliminate my trigger foods from my food plan, or whether I can ever learn to eat those foods in moderation.

Anybody else out there go to OA?  What worked for you?

pics over the years, serious yo-yo-ing

Here are some pictures of me over the years.  One of the reasons I want to lose weight is selfish.  I don’t want to hate looking back at myself in photographs, especially now that I have two girls and we’re constantly taking pictures.  I know some people say you should love the body you have, but I keep thinking back tot 2012 when I was at goal…

Now in 2015 I’m back on meds, trying ones that aren’t supposed to increase weight gain, but I still feel very depressed and hopeless.  Here I am in May 2015.  I should give up on skinny jeans for a while, I think:

may 2015 v2may 2015 ph v2

In the fall of 2014 I went back off meds and went back to grad school for the second time:

sept 2014 v2

Here I was in May 2014 after gaining my 2013 maternity leave weight and being very depressed and anxious, back on Zoloft.  Since then I’ve lost a few pounds, and gained them back again.

2014 may v2

Here I was a week or so after my second was born in 2013, only 7 lbs above goal, before I started having serious postpartum depression and anxiety .  I was freaking out and binge-eating Nutella on Petit Lu cookies like crazy when I was on maternity leave:

2013 july v2

One of my favorites, at Lifetime and my goal weight in July 2012, before getting pregnant with my second, off meds:

2012_goal2

Here is what I looked like in 2011, on my birthday, 9 months after my first child and back on anti-depressants, and a few months before I started Weight Watchers for the 3rd or 4th time, about 20-25 pounds above goal:

2011-03-01v2

In 2009, I was lost a few pounds on Jenny Craig, and some from tapering off my meds, still 10 away from goal, just before I got pregnant with my first:

2009v2

And here I am on my honeymoon in 2008 😦  Makes me cringe.

HM 2008 v2

Here I am at my wedding.  I really hate looking at my wedding pictures, which makes me sad.  I hated shopping for a dress, and I postponed picking a date for two years because of my weight.

wedding 2008 v2

Here is what I looked like in early 2008, before my wedding, about 20 pounds over goal.  At this point I had been seriously struggling with my weight since 2000, although you could argue that even as a child and adolescent I wasn’t happy.  I had tried doing things on my own and programs like Weight Watchers a couple of times, but I couldn’t lose more than 5 or 10 pounds, and then I’d yo-yo back up.  I was always crying at meetings and at the gym because I hated my body so much.

FEb 2008 v2

In 2005 and 2006 I might have been at my heaviest post-grad school…probably 30 pounds over goal:

poland 2005 v2

Here I was in 98 or 99 in college, after my breast reduction in 1996, probably around my current goal weight:

98-99

And a real flash from the past: me back in middle school in 1991 or 92, I think.  Compared to other skinny pre-teens/adolescents I was quite curvy, but I thought I was too fat.  I think I was probably 10 or 15 pounds below my current goal, in the middle of a healthy weight range for my height and age.  In high school I think I was 5 pounds heavier, and then in college, another 5 pounds.  In my first grad school period my infrequent exercise habits could no longer compensate for my binge eating and I gained another 15.

p_v14alcyc4mp1204 1992ish

So over the last 15 years, there has only been one year where I remotely liked the way I looked in pictures.  Although even in 2012 there are some pictures where I’m not happy with how I look.

thoughts on “May (or May Not) Cause Weight Gain”

I was just reading this article in the New York Times by Diana Spechler from March about depression, weight, body image, and going off her meds.  Here are some excerpts that resonated with me.

I eat and eat until I’m horrified by all the eating I’ve done. I eat more. I speed-eat. I’m in a Dorito-eating contest with myself…On bupropion, food didn’t hold the appeal it had once held. It became a bit of a chore, chewing food. For the first time in my life, I would forget to have lunch, leave burritos half uneaten, find myself unable to finish dessert. It should be reflexive — to eat when we’re hungry, to stop when we’re satisfied — but this was the first time I could remember my brain receiving those messages. A genie had granted the wish that I had been making since I was a teenager: Release me from my food fixation…I wish that I’d aged out of this. I wish that my feminism protected me from this. But I’ll likely wind up dieting again, doing calorie math in my head, because few things make me feel as hopeful or invigorated.

Over the last few days and weeks I realized that I really hate myself so much.  I’m so ashamed of my life.  But instead of hurting or killing myself I stuff myself with food until I’m numb and high and my record-player thoughts slow down.  But the fix is short-lived and then I hate myself again until my mouth is stuffed again.

It was really rough with my in-laws staying with us.  My mother-in-law criticizes my father-in-law about his eating, which made me feel self-conscious about my own.  She also talked about her grandparents who were survivors of WWII who just kept going despite the trauma, which made me feel bad that my mom committed suicide, and that I have suicidal tendencies.

I don’t think the Viibryd (vilazodone) is helping.  My therapist recommended Lamictal, which is really a mood stabilizer.  Need to meet with my psychiatrist again.  I’m still so unhappy about my weight, our financial situation, our dumpy apartment and long commute, parenting, and my career prospects.  I realized over the last 18 months I spent about $750 on Weight Watchers and didn’t meet any of my goals.  I’m going to try Overeaters Anonymous, tracking food on my FitBit app, which is free.  I asked my husband to do the dishes because when I’m in the kitchen I just binge ridiculously.  I’m going to do my exercises for my hip and core and glutes, and buy a new Just Dance game for the Wii.

what a long year it’s been

So last fall I was doing physical therapy (PT) as a sort of “pre-hab” to see if I could avoid having arthroscopic surgery on the labral tear on my hip.  I also started my MS program.  I still managed to go to weight watchers but didn’t achieve my goals.  I ended up deciding to go off Zoloft in September 2014 to see if that would help with my weight loss.  Took one class two nights a week.  I did manage to lose a a few pounds, even after having my surgery in February.

My spring semester was really busy: classes four nights a week, plus working full time, doing PT and spending time with my husband and two girls.  I managed not to binge too much.  But then my therapist started mentioning that I seemed depressed and anxious and recommended going back on meds.  I was really scared to because I feared I would gain weight.  I tried Brintellix (vortioxetine) , which isn’t supposed to affect your weight, but I felt worse.  Really stressed out with all the kids’ whining.  Then school ended and I had to go home every day instead of getting to go to class and stimulating my mind.  I signed up for some free online classes to try to get ahead.  I also applied for a few new jobs and did one round of interviews before pulling out because it’s not a good fit.  I ended up officially quitting weight watchers because I only went a few times in the Spring semester, and I feel so stressed about money.  Thinking of seeing a financial counselor.

I ended up stopping Brintellix and trying Viibryd (vilazodone).  I’ve been on it a month and now I’m at my highest non-pregnant weight since 2011: 158!  I’m thinking of joining a Binge Eating or Eating Disorders support group to try to improve my body image.  But then part of me just wants to lose weight so I feel better about myself.  I constantly feel judged.  By my co-workers, friends, strangers, in-laws.  What can’t I like me the way I am?  Should I just go back to Weight Watchers?  I’m crying all the time, and officially you’re not supposed to do Weight Watchers if you have an eating disorder.

But I really want to lose weight before my 20th reunion in 2016.  I also hate being so fat and ugly in all our family pics with the kids.

I’m trying hard to not feel like this year has been wasted, but that’s kind of what I feel like…

ups and downs, but more ups

My hip is feeling much better, which I’m grateful for.  This week I finally started biking again, which feels good.  I also started physical therapy and water aerobics.  My hips feel a little sore but not too bad.  Two weeks ago I was down a pound a half, but I missed WW last week due to work and a family emergency, and this week I was up slightly, which wasn’t really a surprise.

hip injury

I’ve been limping for a week now and it’s very frustrating.  My hips have always been creaky, every since I was a teenage and danced six days a week.  But in 2012 I had serious problems after flying to London with my almost 2-year-old on my lap for 7 hours.  When I finally got up my hips felt like they were burning.  When we got home I went to an orthopaedist who said I had bone spurs on my hips. I started physically therapy for my hip pain–I had already been doing physical therapy for my plantar fasciitis for a few months.  Since the fall of 2012 my hips have felt pretty good.  They didn’t really hurt during or after my second pregnancy.  I do sleep with a pillow between my legs ever since having my first daughter, though, since my hips just feel too far apart for my legs now.

Now the hip pain feels a bit different–sharper and more localized–and my doctor suggested I get an MRI.  I wonder if it’s a labral tear?  I should find out today or Monday.  Until then I’m using a cane to get to and from work on the train and subway!  It’s so frustrating and is making it almost impossible for me to do my usual exercise: stair climbing, yoga, bicycle riding, and my plank challenge.  Yesterday at my WW meeting, some other members suggested I use hand weights or keep myself busy with other hand-related activities to keep myself from eating mindlessly.  Any other tips?  I was up two pounds this week, which puts me over where I started back in December!  Argh!!!