Thursday, February 29, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds with monthly weight loss challenges


Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass surgery or weight loss drugs. Today ends my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge. This month I've devoted more to emotional wellness. For me, this means overcoming toxic shame and chronic guilt and working to heal CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). This stems from parental exploitation, neglect, abuse and parentification and was compounded by gaslighting. 

I worked through this month exposing experiences in which this has happened throughout my life. For the first time in my almost 6 decade life, I've said what happened. I've told secrets. I've said how I felt about it. I've been honest with myself and you my readers instead of covering up and participating in my own gaslighting. It might have seemed that none of this had anything to do with how I got overweight or how I lost 100 pounds. It did in the sense that getting emotionally healthier is crucial to getting physically healthier. 

Beginning tomorrow, I'm issuing a March Madness Weight Loss Challenge that will include some avant garde tips and "mad" ways to lose weight. We'll end this Happy Heart February by sharing that part of how I lost 100 pounds was with weight loss challenges such as these. Even if I had a rough previous month, I can always restart working on my health goals. And a new month provides the perfect time for that fresh start! Love you all, mar

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How I'm detoxing the poisonous effects of gaslighting by becoming a human being instead of a human doing

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. What began with this month's  Happy Heart February weight loss challenge has morphed into an Odyssey of emotional exploration.  I heard a call to go down memory lane, to get to the bottom of my persistent nightmares, CPTSD, toxic shame, chronic guilt and constant sense of failure. I've been blogging about my encounters on this "Camino de Santiago of the soul." 

I've faced the neglect, abandonment, exploitation, passive-aggressive guilting, unmerited punishment, parentification, manipulation, abuse and gaslighting I experienced with open eyes instead of the blind refusal to admit that my parents and stepparents were wrong. I'm beginning to put it all into perspective based on my actual impressions, memories and feelings, not the spun narratives I've been indoctrinated with. I'm saying what happened instead of perpetuating the lies and coverups. 

What I am coming to understand is that those experiences and gaslighting by adults about what was really happening, fed my constant toxic shame, chronic guilt, and sense of lose-lose failure. I began from a very young age, to internalize the gaslighting and even to gaslight myself. This is the nature of the gaslighting beast. It feeds on itself and grows bigger and bigger until it is the only reality you know. If you've ever been chronically gaslit, you know just what I mean. 

The lies, smoke and mirrors create a false world that blots out the real one. Gaslighters are SOOO believable with their manipulation. They don't just lie. It's even worse than that. They distort truth, dismiss other versions, exaggerate your faults and mistakes and refuse to acknowledge their own. They sense your weakness (in my case, raging empath, false responsibility, toxic guilt and shame). Even God was twisted to be an implacable tyrant who expected me to serve everyone to the destruction of myself. 

Weirdly, or not, when you are being gaslit, you understand that it does and should only apply to you. You are the one in the wrong. No one else. Your siblings aren't treated this way. Your parents and stepparents don't treat each other that way. That's because you are the problem. You, in your own little self, are responsible for and routinely fail to provide, others happiness. It makes interacting with others outside your tiny dark gaslit world, virtually impossible. 

You see they aren't experiencing this. They don't see the world as you do. They don't feel the fear, terror, horror, shame, guilt and misery you dwell in. Generally, they misunderstand you or think you're really odd. You often end up bullied and exploited on the outside too. If you do give the impression of fitting in, it's only because you're so good at faking and playing a part. 

And fitting into the real world is an oxymoron too. Gaslighting has told you that common rights are for others but not for you. You've been forced to live by a complicated set of rules and expectations that change at a whim, that others haven't. You are expected to somehow make your way in this foreign place where you don't belong, can't fit in and shouldn't believe you deserve to. Yet you can't ask for help because gaslighting has also told you to keep secrets. They say you're making a scene, lying, making a fool of yourself, showing off or being too sensitive. 
You grow up never even thinking to tell anyone. Here's where it gets even more complicated. You've been told that you're treated as you deserve and that they are always right. BUT they also don't want yo to tell anyone and pull out every shaming tactic they can to keep you quiet. If they really knew you, they'd know they didn't need to. You've breathed in the gas and internalized the lies. You're so busy gaslighting yourself. And you don't want to hurt or upset anyone. You have become the perfect daughter, they expected you to be, but you don't know it because you're so stuck in guilt and shame. 

Little ones, if ANY of this resonates, let me breathe some fresh, clean air into you. See, it doesn't matter how much you give, or do, or love or are. You will never satisfy these black holes. They are bottomless. They just go on taking, digesting you and spitting you out, used up. don't have to do or be or give or love any more than you do. In fact, you can back off on the giving because if you're like me, it's become all you know. 

But it's not. You are person. YOU ARE ENOUGH! YOU ARE LOVEABLE! YOU ARE WHOLE and BEAUTIFUL. You are, to quote P!NK "f-cking perfect." 

I am having to breathe this air too. And after 6 decades of the noxious fumes of gaslighting, it's a sweet perfume. I'm coming out of the cloud of despair, shame and misery. I'm learning that I'm NOT a human doing but a human being. 

This is ALL thanks to my higher power and some very lovely people He put in my life, who call me wife, mom, Omi and friend. I'm not to the promised land yet. But I'm on the camino. Please join me? 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How I'm overcoming toxic shame and gaslighting by affirming the truth

 Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds. Lately I've been working on emotional issues related to gaslighting, toxic shame, chronic guilt and low self-esteem. Just recently, I had an Aha moment that has been very helpful to healing. I realized that all my life, I've affirmed the wrong things. I've believed and trusted people who didn't merit it. I've made excuses for others' exploitation, neglect, abuse and abandonment. I've ignored my own feelings to protect others' mistreatment of me and in so doing participated in my own gaslighting. 

The aha moment came when I recalled an incident of sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of a teenager with past history of aggressive behavior, who was in my mother's and her boyfriend's foster care. When I told mom, I felt at the time that she was passive-aggressively angry with me. It seemed to me that she thought I was lying. She expressed annoyance that now she would have to make the young man leave our home. I felt at the time that she was more concerned with him and her foster care than she was with me. 

Now, bear in mind that this is possibly the most painful thing I've ever had to tell anyone. I was ashamed, disgusted, humiliated and very vulnerable. I didn't want to tell anyone. I remember, after seeing her response, instantly wishing I'd not brought it up. I asked if I was wrong to and she irritably said no I was right to and she'd handle it. And that was that. Later that night, at dinner, much to my chagrin, she praised her boyfriend, whom she'd told about the situation, for "how well" he'd handled it.

I was mortified that she'd shared my private hell with him, of all people. He himself was abusive and mocking, calling me "Blisters" in reference to my breast size. I never understood, till my husband said something, that this was child sexual abuse. I spent that summer in misery. I never went swimming despite loving Lake Michigan. I wouldn't shower and wore the ugliest clothes I could find. Nothing was ever said about it again. 

I spent the rest of my life, not only feeling rotten about the assault, but ashamed of myself. I felt responsible for my mother losing her foster care and hated myself for making her mad. I've had to fight demons telling me I'd exaggerated it or brought it on myself. And worst of all, I believed that I'd imagined that my mother was upset with me about it. My mother, the voices in my head say, is a good caring Christian woman who would never blame and shame her daughter for something like this. I misunderstood or If she did, she had a good reason.

Just two days ago, however, the blinders fell off and I could finally see that yes, she was upset and no, not because of what happened to me but what it would mean for her (loss of foster care income, possible closure, censure). This was the same woman who turned a blind eye to her boyfriend's abuse. Who allowed and even encouraged him to sexually shame me. I felt dismissed because she was dismissive. I felt ashamed because she  implied that I was somehow to blame. I felt humiliated because she shared my private story with my abuser and then was more concerned about bragging him up for telling off a 15-year-old than protecting her 11-year-old from experiencing it in the first place. 

So the abuse shouldn't have happened. The kid shouldn't have been brought into my home. My mom should have showed compassion and love. She should have kept it private and not shared it with her live-in. All these things can't be changed. But at least now I don't have the additional burden of guilt for  believing that my mom did what she did. I don't feel ashamed saying what actually happened. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

How I'm fighting toxic shame and gaslighting by breaking down the wall

Hello my dear friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge is revealing to me how important healing the heart and mind is to fixing the body. If you're just tuning in, welcome but also fair warning. I've been sharing a lot of painful memories of parental gaslighting, abandonment, neglect, abuse, endangerment, exploitation, parentification and manipulation. 

I'm uncovering and the roots of CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), toxic shame and undeserved, chronic guilt. I'm dismantling my "stinkin thinkin" which has led to lack of self-care, self-harm and a life of misery. It's going to be a long road because I'm only just understanding now, what happened and how wrong it was. I'm now able to put these experiences in proper perspective. I'm learning to trust my narrative, not the version I was gaslit into believing. 

Gaslighting, from a very young age, taught me to believe many dangerous and potentially deadly lies. It undermines everything. Self-confidence, it says, is prideful. Self-esteem is arrogant. Self-care is selfish. Not taking care of others is being a poor servant. Disagreeing is disobedience. Having an opinion is "sassing."  Speaking up is talking back. 

Respect is one way and is owed to anyone your parents decide to put in charge, regardless of whether they have earned it or give you respect in return. Responsibilities and rules are for you. Rights are for them. Anything they do is right even if they tell you it's wrong for others. You owe your parents everything while they owe you nothing. 

These and many other lies built a wall, brick by brick, that imprisoned me in toxic shame. There was no way out. They had every exit barred and an answer for everything. I was being crushed under increasingly more expectation, excessive demands and crazier rules. 

It's only been by kicking down the wall that I've been able to find some freedom and peace. I'm slowly starting to crush every brick, every wrong teaching, every shameful experience, every hurtful demand and reexamine it for what it was, and not the gaslighting lies I've been fed all these years. And it's exhausting. 

If any of this resonates, please stay tuned. We'll kick down these walls together. Love, mar

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

How I am getting healthier by learning to mouth off to toxic blame- shame

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge has been a bit of a departure from the usual focus on how I lost 100 pounds. I'm needing to work on problems of toxic shame and chronic, undeserved guilt which have flawed my self-image, crippled self-esteem and sabotaged self-care. They stem from gaslighting, exploitation, parentification and neglect in early years. 

So today, I'm sharing how I'm getting healthier by mouthing off to toxic blame-shame. According to my father, I was both "too critical" and "too sensitive" to criticism. I'm not sure just who he thought I was too critical of because I literally groveled at his feet for attention and love, which was very transactional, especially when he remarried and had a family. 

It became my job in my tweens to "fix" everything and everyone. I was my dad's wingman before I knew the term. As he saw it, he messed up his first marriage and by golly he wasn't going to mess up the second, not if I could help it. So he sacrificed me, my childhood, mental health, care and love on the altar of wedded bliss. And he and his wife were still miserable.   

Whenever his wife was unhappy (she didn't say she was unhappy she would just pout in a passive aggressive way) he'd say, not "what can I do to help but "maybe Mary could help?" He forgot that he was the one who married her, not me. I was never asked about any of it not even to check and see how I was feeling. But it sure was my place to make their relationship work. He'd then invite her to think up tasks to add to my already long list of responsibilities, to make her feel better. But it never did. And then that temporary "little extra helping out" just became part of my permanent to-do list.  Despite doing most of the work, including sleeping with her babies, I always annoyed her. And Dad was quick to remind me how disappointed and upset she was with me.  Though he never said how or what I could do better. I really worried a lot about that, pleasing people. It's a big part of my constant feeling of failure now.  

Back to sleeping with the babies. It got so bad with the youngest that I was locked in his bedroom. There was a hook so I could get out but I had to tiptoe then hurry back. They could only justify locking him in if someone was in there with him. So I had to get up with him, soothe him, find his blanket, tuck him in, etc.  Just as I did my own kids, later. That's part of the parentification. Neither his father nor mother ever asked how he did at night or whether he kept me up. No one cared as long as they got what they wanted. So not only was I supposed to husband Dad's wife I was supposed to mother his child. Creepy. 

Interestingly, as an adult the boy still complains of how he was locked in "his room." He never mentions how I was there with him because he evidently has forgotten. I say interesting because he calls it his room, which it was. He didn't sleep with  me in my room. I slept with him in his, in a tiny, uncomfortable youth bed. I had no desk, dresser or space of my own. 

During this period I was in college and had a job. But I was also made to sleep with my parents' babies beginning at age 11 and up. At my mom's house, she and her boyfriend slept two floors down and I slept with 4 foster kids under 4 and all with special needs. I say their homes because I never thought of any house as my home. I'd say I "lived with my dad and his wife or mom and her husband." I was not encouraged to think of any as "my home." Being shunted back and forth between parents' homes, without a proper bedroom or space in the family, I have learned, is "hidden homelessness." And is part of my PTSD. 

In college, the childcare and chores, were in lieu of rent. I don't know how they justified it to themselves when I was younger especially considering I really didn't cost them much. Beginning around 11, I was responsible for babysitting, childcare, hanging laundry on the line (even in winter snow), folding clothes, ironing, washing dishes, dusting, mopping, changing beds, making lunches, cleaning the bathroom, fixing supper and cleaning up afterwards and anything else asked. 

It took me till 59 years old to ask myself, besides all that, what else was there for my dad and his wife do? Their kids never did any chores when I was around even though I was doing all this when I was younger than them. They were all boys. My boyfriend (now husband) says I "wiped everyone's asses and waited on them hand and foot." I never realized how much till just recently. 

It also recently occurred to me what a good deal they got in me as live in babysitter, nanny, maid and au pair. I also went to school, had homework, student teaching and a job. Food was pretty sparse and I bought all my own clothing and essentials. So basically I cost them nothing. But what they saved in fees boggles. Rent would have cost me about $200 a month. A nanny/au pair would have cost them at least $200 a week especially with all the nightime care. And they would have been required to provide the nanny with her own room. 

Another interesting thing is that there was a big room beside the garage that could have been mine. Dad said I couldn't use it because it wasn't heated. Fair enough. But when I moved out, he made into a nice (heated) apartment for the son of a friend of theirs (who was younger than me) Now I realize of course why he didn't for me: who would have slept in the baby's room?  

What bothers is that I never questioned it. Of course you would exploit your own daughter while rolling out the red carpet for someone else's kid. That's gaslighting for you. I remember how they worked so hard to make that nice space for him and then bragged about what a good house guest he was. I wonder if he'd been so nice if he'd had to climb icebergs to get frozen diapers off the line or comfort a toddler every night. 

As I write this, the voices of gaslighting and toxic shame are screaming loudly. They say things like don't exaggerate! You're betraying family secrets! You ought to be ashamed (I am)! You're too sensitive! You're too critical! That never happened! 

These aren't imaginary voices, they're memories. If I had questioned or complained, my parents and stepparents would have come unglued. See previous blog post about dad "paddling" 13-y/o me (his word. Mine is beating) because I was ungrateful. Again his words. This was the first forced-to-sleep-with-baby time. 

So I didn't question, out of fear. I believed them when they said I was ungrateful, disrespectful, , a poor family member. There's gaslighting again. I was so worried being a bad daughter that I never saw what shitty parents they were. I was expected to behave like family while being treated like the help. I was a scapegoat, servant, support system, spouse and surrogate parent. I was a "family member" when it came to responsibilities, but not the rights. 

This how successful the gaslighting was. I didn't get that I deserved better. I knew others weren't treated that way. I didn't treat my kids that way. Yet it took my nearly 6 decades to understand that I deserved love and care. It will probably take me the rest of my life to FEEL that I deserve it. That you don't have to earn your home. That it is YOUR home too. That care isn't transactional. It bugs me too because I was a grown-ass adult when some of these things happened yet I was treated like a naughty child. They didn't even care enough to adapt to my being an adult. They just kept shaming and belittling. I'll blog more later on how they were caught doing this at my place of work and made to look very foolish. 

So, this blog post has gotten long and there's more to come. There are so many more experiences like this and virtually no happy ones. I'm sick of the nightly nightmares and chronic PTSD induced pain. I'm going through  a lot of emotional house-cleaning to myself in a better place. And one of the ways I'm doing that is to start mouthing off (something I was often accused of but do not remember once ever doing.)

I'm going to talk back to the crazy talk I had to endure and which has made me the mess I am now. I going to call this shit out for what it was instead of believing their gaslighting. I'm going to explain, in no uncertain terms, how this scapegoating, shaming, parentification, exploiting, transactional life, shutting out and abuse makes me feel. I'm going to rearrange my head until I can get some relief from constant self-hatred, from feeling always in the wrong, of feeling responsible for everyone and then ashamed when I don't get every little thing right, of feeling like a human doing instead of a human being, of feeling like a little girl alone, out on the street looking in at the family inside. 

And when the voices tell me I'm wrong, that I should just keep it hidden, that no one cares or wants to know, that I'm being disrespectful or disloyal, or whatever, I'm going to shut them out. If I feel dismissed as I have so often before, I'm not going to shut up and crawl away. I'm going to keep talking, yelling if I need to. I'm going to get mad and loud. I'm the only one who knows what really happened. I'm the only one suffering. They claim it didn't happen or they don't remember. Up to now I've been too good at pretending it didn't happen and it doesn't hurt. Well, it did and I do.  

Does it sound like I'm talking to someone or a group of someones? I probably do sound a little paranoid. That's another part of gaslighting, how it makes you feel stupid and untruthful and selfish, and so ashamed of yourself. And that is the work of the evil one. He wants me to think no one cares. That I'm just making a fool of myself. 

But I believe, even though I don't feel it yet, some, maybe most care. That to expect ridicule, or scolding or dismissing as I've experienced is a sign that it was real and that it did happen. That I expect it to keep happening is another symptom and also another scare tactic to keep me quiet. 

But I also believe that it will resonate with people who have been hurt like this. Maybe telling my story will help you sort your own. I don't want anyone to suffer like this. If you've experienced childhood abuse or trauma, neglect, abandonment, exploitation or manipulation, keep reading. I think we can find comfort together. If you haven't and you're just here to lend support, thank you!!! 

Love you all

Friday, February 16, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds by recognizing gaslighting and turning off the gas

Hello dear friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. In this month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, I'm exploring a lot of issues that may not seem relevant to weight loss. But they are very much about mental and emotional health. Today I'll share how I lost 100 pounds by recognizing gaslighting and shutting off the gas. 

The term gaslighting is one I've only recently become familiar with. But the experience of being gaslit as a child and teen, I know very well, as well as the toxic shame and chronic guilt it produces. However, I only just recognized that gaslighting was happening. I didn't see that the four people who were supposed to love and protect me, only had self-serving interests at heart. I thought that parentifying, exploiting, manipulating and endangering me were just what parents did. 

It might seem strange to anyone who has not experienced this. Believe me, I question my own experiences all the time. That's what gaslighting teaches you to do: deny, don't think, feel or question, it's all your fault, responsibility, job or problem. You're in the wrong. You're too sensitive. You're too critical. I heard these things so often that I started saying them to myself. I struggle daily to correct wrong ideas about myself and what is and isn't my fault or responsibility. I still hear voices every day and in nightmares every night. I second and third and twenty-sixth guess every decision I make. 

So what does this have to do with how I lost 100 pounds? My self-image was (is still) so damaged by C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) from gaslighting that I developed self-harming behaviors. I was underweight from lack of care and self-care. Then later, toxic shame and chronic guilt led to having two stillborn babies, depression and anxiety and then to antidepressants which caused weight gain and obesity. 

Much of my toxic shame and chronic guilt stem from being gaslit about what was my responsibility to my parents. They were very transactional and love must be earned by rigid obedience to them. But the target always moved and the to-do list kept getting longer. So I always failed and required punishment which I only later understood was abuse. Consequently, I made some poor parenting decisions, like spanking my kids, because that's what was done to me. My good loving sense said it was wrong. (I'm still mad at myself for not listening to that.) But since my parents did these things and they were never wrong, I must be wrong, again, right?  And it was a real mind-eff: my natural guilt faulting me for spanking while my toxic guilt shamed me for not spanking. Damned if you do and don't. 

To further the hypocrisy, the one time I confronted it, they lied and said they never hit me. At another time, she accused me of abusing my children by slapping them. When she was reminded that she herself frequently slapped, it was denied. Now she was very self-righteous, the many times I was slapped that I was being sassy and brought it on myself. Though what I could have said, at age 8, when I never even talked about all the scary and dangerous things that did happen and accepted her every "do as I say, not as I do" I don't know. 

But yet when it was pointed out that I spanked for the same reasons I was spanked, she lied and said she never had and that I was abusive. So I'm confused. It's justified when you did it and abuse when I do? If so, why did you lie and say you hadn't?  If you realized later it was wrong, why did you still preach to me the "spare the rod" doctrine (though I was the only one of your kids you hit)? Why did you say God expected me to and then fault me when I did?  Or do you just make it up as you go along? 

The "Rules for thee but not for me" was another big part of the gaslighting. I'll blog more about that later.  And rules for thee and rules for half-siblings. They never punished them like me. In fact, they punished me for things the others did. They always took their spouses' or kids' part. Every. Single. Time. Like when I was outed from my room and made to sleep in a tiny cupboard room with my infant half-brother, at age 14. Apparently I didn't show enough enthusiasm. I couldn't have actually questioned it because I was too afraid to. And I wouldn't have anyway and they knew it. That's how it worked. I was told to and I did. End of subject. 

But my dad decided that I was somehow being disobedient. Or his conscience was saying it was a stupid move. Or he was mad at his wife for wanting her suite of a room to herself and not wanting to be bothered with their child at night. Or he was just pissed off because he always was. Regardless, yet again, he spun it that I was at fault. All of a sudden, he began beating me in front of everyone. It scared the shit out of all of us. I was so humiliated, I wet my pants. I weepingly apologized though for what I have never figured out.  I, of course, slept in the room with the baby (and got up with him at night, every night). By way of acknowledging his tantrum, dad said I was too sensitive. 

This just confirmed to me that I was a dangerous mess of a person who needed constant, punitive, vindictive chastisement or I'd go off the rails on a crazy train. No punishment was too harsh for me. Like kicking me out of mom's husband's house (operative words "his house" not mine. No house was ever mine that I recall since about age 3   or 4) when I was 16 and making me homeless. I deserved it and more. That's what I told my then boyfriend, now husband when I explained some of the things that were done to me. 

This vicious cycle of shame, punishment and gaslighting have just about killed me several times. They have certainly pushed me to the edge and I would have gone over if not for my now family and my Higher Power whom I choose to call God. What's also helped is calling out what happened for what it is--wrong. By telling my stories regardless of who thinks I should keep them secret. By knowing that what happened, happened, even though no one mentioned them again. By trusting my version of events even though no one else has ever mentioned them again. 

It's also helped to talk back to people, in my mind. I'll never be able to say to them what I need to say. I'll keep the peace and keep on pretending because confronting it only hurts me further with the continued gaslighting and lying. But now at least, I'm doing it to protect me and the people who perpetrated these sick, deviant behaviors on me. So I say in my head, all the things I should have been able to say at the time. I call them out,  polite and obedient be damned. 

Thank you for joining me on this very unpleasant walk down memory lane. My inclination is to apologize for upsetting you, like I did the one time I shared this with an extended family member. But I can't do that anymore. No one was or ever has been there, caring or supporting me through it. No one knew or cared to know. I faked it for everyone, to spare anyone knowing what I was dealing with. I had to manage alone and do the best I could. If I'm to fix this mess I am now, I need to be honest.  

I'm sorry to my children for the wrong things I did when I thought they were right. I'm sorry for not trusting my gut. You were never the problem, I was. You were and are the solution. The sunshine in the dark. You are all that I want to be. And one thing I promise, here and now, is that no child or teen that I have any responsibility for will ever go through anything like this alone. Not while I'm there. 

So this may not have a lot to do with weight loss as such. But it has everything to do with losing toxic shame and chronic guilt which have much to do with overall wellbeing. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds with low calorie food swaps that taste just as good as regular

Hello pals of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs! Happy Valentine's Day! Today as part of my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, I'll share how I lost 100 pounds with low calorie food swaps that taste just as good as regular. 

Low calorie butter with olive oil. I get the light butter spread version like Land o Lakes and I don't taste any difference. I'll blend regular butter with olive oil, coconut oil or avocado to make spread butter with about half the calories. 

Low calorie light bread food swap. Keto bread is half the calories of regular bread with twice the protein. It's expensive but very filling so one slice is plenty. I also use 35-calorie per slice bread with oat grain. 

Blue agave syrup for sugar food swap. This isn't necessarily lower in calories but the sugars are low glycemic and you don't need much to hit the sweet spot. Part of how I lost 100 pounds was to eat foods I craved but control portions. 

Cauliflower for white foods. Cauliflower is virtually zero calorie especially when you consider it's calorie forward (consumption burns more than consumed). Cauliflower versions of white foods (rice, pasta, bread and potatoes) make super 1200 calorie diet food swaps. 

Salads for sandwiches. I'll make high protein salads (with nuts, seeds, meat toppings, eggs, cheese) as food swap for sandwiches. I'll wrap sandwich fillings in lettuce leaves. Filling up on vegetables and salads is crucial to weight loss on the 1200 calorie diet. 

Bragg's Liquid Amino for salt and soy sauce. Cutting sodium in essential to weight loss on any diet. Low sodium foods reduce inflammation and hypertension and improve metabolism. 

Stay tuned for more on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass surgery or weight loss drugs. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds by going toe to toe with toxic shame

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. In keeping with my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, I've been unpacking a lot of emotional health issues related to weight gain. 

Toxic shame and chronic guilt have been in my life for as long as I can remember. Starting in childhood and continuing in adulthood and marriage, I've taken too much on myself and not made others responsible for their part. I've felt guilty for things I had no part in. I've been ashamed of others' behavior as if it were my own. It's so out of control that I'm haunted by dreams of having done terrible things I haven't done. This constant oppression exhausts my resources and I have behaved in ways I shouldn't. But, while being able to forgive others readily, without being asked, I cannot forgive myself. And it just keeps spiraling down. 

Just recently, I began to really look toxic shame in the face. I recently posted about how I'm listening to the voices in my head and it's helping me understand how false and deceitful they are. I always thought that my dreams were from God, trying to get me to see some error of my ways. God, for me, has always been very punitive. Our priest suggested that these dreams may not be from God but from the devil, trying to turn me on myself. This makes sense as I've always struggled with that toxic shame, self-hatred and even self-harm. And the devil is the father of lies. 

In going toe to toe with the toxic shame and voices in my head, I'm  seeing how they've been gaslighting me into a very distorted self-image. That I'm responsible for others' problems, that it's my job to fix everyone, that I'll always fail and must be shamed and beaten into submission to avoid harming anyone. 

So I've been creating safe spaces (more on that later) to meditate on what these voices in my head are really saying.  I cover it in prayer so that the devil, who is very convincing, can't pull me back in. I've been considering where all this toxic shame and chronic guilt stems. I realize that, beginning very young, a fragile house of cards was constructed in my mind, built on lies, exploitation, manipulation, abuse, neglect, cover-ups and gaslighting. 

These have caused a false reality in which to be burdened with inappropriate expectations and responsibilities was normal, healthy and God's will. Where bizarre situations and behaviors of adults were normal and I was the abnormal one if I questioned. As a child, I couldn't do much about it. And as it was done by adults who were supposed to love me, I didn't question. 

Now, with the eyes of an adult (and a parent myself) I have been examining these beliefs and practices. I ask myself, would I consider these things safe and healthy? Would I do or allow these to be done, to a child? Would I expect this of a child? And the answer is almost always, NO! It is not right for them and it wasn't right for me. 

By shining the light of reality on this illusory house of cards I was forced to live in, it topples. Truth shows up my experiences for the dangerous, terrifying, deceitful, unhealthy, unsafe, abnormal, immoral and unnatural things they were. It exposes them as not appropriate or what God wanted for me, but manipulation, self-serving lies, exploitation, neglect and abuse. 

Even as I write this, the voices in my head are screaming. They're telling me I'm lying and exaggerating. That by breaking silence, I'm being disloyal and wicked. I fear that by not kowtowing to the shame and guilt. By saying that I don't always fail and sometimes do good, I'm being prideful. 

But the peace of God, that passes all understanding, is there too. For the first time in 59 years, I'm beginning to accept that what happened was not God's will. I'm learning that secrets that hurt should not be kept. It feels really strange. But I'm going to keep on keeping on, as Alanon says and that with practice, I'll come to a healthier understanding of what's mine and what  isn't my responsibility. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

How I'm dealing with shaming behaviors by trying something new

 Hello my friends. This blog is primarily about how I lost 100 pounds but it covers a lot of emotional and mental health territory that may not seem related to weight loss. That's because a large part of how I lost 100 pounds (without gastric bypass) had to do with losing chronic guilt and toxic shame. Earlier today I posted about some really painful memories of toxic shame and chronic guilt and how I am healing those. And just recently, I had an opportunity to put these into practice. 

My husband is a wonderful guy with some really annoying habits. One of which is to backpedal and "bait and switch" in conversations. I am a very compassionate person. An empath. When someone shares something with me that is upsetting to them, I dive in with my whole heart, to listen, comfort and help. 

His annoying habit, and it seems that he is playing on my empath nature when he does it, is to start a conversation, actually kind of a rant, about something at work, for example. I show care, by responding lovingly with affirmation of feeling, echoing and supporting his frustration, reflecting back what was said so he knows I'm hearing and empathizing. I do not do this in any kind of patronizing way. I know to avoid that because I'm an empathetic to how it feels when someone does it to me. 

But then, when I have responded, he will often backpedal and defend the person. Or he will say he doesn't get what I'm talking about when I affirm his frustration over an issue he has just been complaining about. I do this by rephrasing the problem, to show I understand his angst. Or I will wonder aloud why someone would act this way. Then he will, I feel purposely misunderstand me or play devil's advocate. Over something HE initiated a conversation (sic rant) over. 

He baits and switches by engaging my sympathies and then turning on me. This takes me back because I'm so wrapped up in feeling with him and for him. It thought we were on the same page. I was on the same page. It comes out of nowhere and feels a like a stab in the back. I'm confused and to find myself suddenly on the defensive. I didn't come prepared and am not wearing appropriate defensive armor for battle. 

Worst of all, he does it in an annoyed way, as I'm annoying him by being responsive!  It's so gaslighting. Being an empath plus having low self-esteem, I take it personally. I second guess myself, feel foolish, wondering what I'm misunderstanding or missing. I comb through everything I said, mentally, trying to find what I said to merit such a response. I'm vulnerable, being suddenly placed on the defensive with no explanation of why. 

In my anxiousness, I sometimes retort. Then he, being already irritable, snaps back at me. When I explain what I feel he says he did nothing wrong and can't understand why he's upset. He then, in an annoyed, patronizing way, apologizes for "upsetting me." But he's clearly angry and now, not just with the situation but with me. This "you statement" puts me even more on the defensive. I am not upset. I'm confused and frustrated. He's upsetting things by 1) starting a conversation while irritable 2) disrespecting me by not requesting, just expecting, me to listen 3) ranting  in the first place 4) backpedaling 5) devaluing my help and compassion 6) directing his anger with other situations, at me 6) being dismissive of my feelings 7) getting angry with me for being upset by his upsetting behavior and 8) making a passive-aggressive, shaming apology when he clearly feels I'm somehow in the wrong.

So today, when it happened again, I did make the mistake of showing my frustration. But then I added "don't talk to me about work anymore." I'm following it up by doing the hardest part of all, following through. When he sent me a pat on the head "sorry" text, I just said "okay" where normally I'd have swept it under the rug and accepted it as a real apology that it wasn't. 

When talk of frustrating situations comes up, I'm going to try staying cool and not getting involved. Hopefully this boundary will show that if he can't respect me for the good I give, I can respect myself. 

How I lost 100 pounds and guilt and shame by listening to the voices in my head

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month's Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, we're exploring ways to not only lose weight but also chronic guilt and toxic shame from childhood. Today,  I'm losing chronic guilt and toxic shame by listening to the voices in my head. Really. 

When I talk about the voices in my head, I mean the negative, shaming messages that were said and implied, when I was younger. They autoplay continually. In sleep, they cause horrible dreams and when I'm awake, they drive my chronic guilt and toxic shame. They cause me to second-guess myself, they undermine my good works, distort my sense of self and sabotage my self-esteem and peace of mind. 

I'm so used to hearing these subconscious messages that I expect them. I try to ignore, but I can't because they are so pervasive and insidious. They disturb and unsettle me. They haunt me and cause me to be constantly looking over my shoulder in fear. It feels like being pursued by invisible enemies that is trying to destroy me. As others can't see them, it probably looks to the outside, that I'm making it up or faking. Or just acting really weird.

I found myself doing this just this morning, which prompted this blog post. But for once instead of ignoring or trying to, I listened to those voices in my head. I had opted not to go into work earlier and instead work later and I'd also missed several calls. The voices were accusing me of laziness, of making the wrong choices, of letting people down, of failing, of not doing my part. 

All were greatly exaggerated, not remotely true and not even applicable the situation. I realized that these voices question every single decision I make and the verdict is I'm always wrong. I'm damned if I do or don't. The voices tell me that they  have to micromanage everything I do because I can't be trusted. I don't just fail I AM failure. 

And I realized that these aren't just imaginary voices but memories. I was expected, as a child, to do the parents' work. I was expected to think and act like an adult while the adults immature, spoiled and selfish. I was expected to do others' work, to raise siblings and to fix whatever was wrong with everyone. I was given no guidance or good example. Nothing I did was good enough. I was accused of selfish and ulterior motives. The worst was always expected of me, blame assigned and if there was an issue between me and a family member no one ever took my side. 

So this sounds, to myself and I fear to you,  exaggerated and lying. That I'm making it up or "showing off" (something I heard a LOT). I see now that this is part of how people were able to gaslight and manipulate me. They had an answer for everything and it was always me in the wrong. I could never get ahead. I just had to knuckle under and keep trying. Ironically, the harder I tried the worse I was told that I failed. I was shunted from place to place and at age 16 I was evicted from my parents' home. My crime was to come home an hour late. 

Notice I said parents home. Because that's how it was presented to me. I did not have a home. I was allowed, very transactionally, to live with them. But I had to earn my place and what I had to do, to do that kept changing and getting more difficult. Rules were arbitrary and applied only to me. 

I apologize, but I'm going to end this blog post here because I am just emotionally exhausted with the memories. I'll write more about what I'm learning from all this, later. I love you all dearly, and ask that if any of this resonates with you, PLEASE, don't wait as long as I have to get help. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

Best Valentine's Day gifts for people on a diet: How I lost 100 pounds by redefining treats


Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. As part of my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge I'm looking at non-food Valentine's gifts. Because part of how I lost 100 pounds was by redefining treats. And I realize that the best Valentine's Day gifts are not food but self-care. Here are 6 Valentine's Day gifts in all price ranges for people on a diet.

Bath set: Some of my most peaceful, relaxed moments are spent in the bathtub. So give your loved one goodies to pamper themselves, for Valentine's Day. Fill a basket with scented body wash, body oil, bath brush, exfoliating treatments, back pillow and even a tray for book and teacup. 

Personal care items: Guys, if you're like mine, you buy the cheapest of cheap in personal care. I mean, God love you for frugality, but you deserve better. I'm loving the increasing range of options for men, in personal care. Beard oil, body spray, moisturizers, fancy shave lotions, aftershave, nice quality razors. Trust me, once you go from two-blade to 3, 4 or 5, you'll never go back. And your skin will thank you. For Valentines' Day gifts for men, get him 4-blade razors, moisturizing body wash and shaving products like Cremo (it smells soooo sexy, too!) 

Books: explore books on your loved one's interest list. Check out Thriftbooks for secondhand. I've found many of my husband's beloved children's books there. And for ebooks and audio recordings, Hoopla is free to download on your phone. 

Pets: Adopt a new pet for your Valentine. I adopted these two kitty boys shown in the picture, for my husband's birthday. His mother and our cat Scooter had both passed away on previous birthdays and so this was a difficult time for him. Moishe and Mordecai have made what was a sad time, happy! (and very silly!)

Games: When we were dating, in the early 80s, my now-husband and I didn't have much money for dates. So we played games, favorites being Chinese Checkers, Uno and Scattergories. We've amassed a huge collection of board games and have even been able to find games from childhood, like King Oil, Dealer's Choice, old Clue, Careers, Forest Friends and Waterworks on eBay. 

Love coupons: I made these with the kids years ago and they never fail to please. Make coupons redeemable for one morning to sleep in, a free car wash or a night off doing the dishes. 

If you follow this blog, you know that I often reference the gastric bypass reality show "My 600-lb Life." One problem that comes up with every patient on "My 600-lb Life" is that treats must be junk food and comfort only comes from eating. Rethinking what is actually a treat, was a major part of how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight  loss drugs. 

How I lost 100 pounds by pulling my head out of the sand: Happy Heart February weight loss challenge

Hello my very dear friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. Today, Groundhog Day I realized that part of how I lost 100 pounds was by pulling my head out of the ground. It fits right in with my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, to lose weight but also toxic shame and chronic guilt. 

In past posts, I've shared about the toxicity I grew up with. And yes, it feels disloyal and wrong to admit that or talk about it. But I'm learning that the people who might say it's disloyal are the same ones perpetrating my toxic shame and guilt. To heal this broken heart of mine, I need to start being loyal to it first. If that means telling secrets, so be it. I need to share it. And to do that, I had to pull my head out of the sand of denial and accept that it had happened, that I wasn't imagining it. 

I mentioned loyalty. Abuse, neglect, exploitation, manipulation and parentification exist because of a misplaced loyalty to keep quiet what's happening. And that was taught by either not acknowledging that it was wrong or gaslighting me into thinking it was right and I was wrong. This cycle of silent abuse shanghaied my common sense and made me distrust myself. 

The first step to getting out of the quicksand is to admit you're stuck. Next is to get help. When I first began to pull my head out and open my eyes to what was actually going on (instead of the version I'd been given), my first response was disbelief. I'm so programmed to self-doubt that I don't dare trust even the evidence of my own senses.  Or even of others. When I tell my story, there is shock, disgust and even some horror, but no disbelief. People take me at my word and that helps me to start trusting myself. 

So what does this have to do with how I lost 100 pounds? If I can lose toxic shame and guilt, fear and self-doubt, dropping a few pounds is a cinch! Keeping toxic secrets weighs me down. Sharing, asking for help and trusting the right things, frees me. Confidence, self-respect, self-care are magic mojo pills. With them and the help of my Higher Power, I can do anything. 

Join me for more heart smart tips in this Happy Heart February! 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds by talking back: Happy Heart February tips for weight loss and joy!

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. This month, I'm sharing a Happy Heart February weight loss challenge. It's not so much about diet as healing heart hurts. If you've struggled with self-care or toxic shame and guilt, here are ways to heal that broken heart and create a happy one. 

We talked in the last post about how too much caring for others and not enough self-care destroys us. Recovery means growing skin to protect us from toxic shame, guilt, manipulation and exploitation. The first step is recognize how shame and guilt have broken down my ability to care for myself. Journaling and talking to a trusted friend or counselor helps. Verbalizing what happened and how it felt, helps lance the toxin stored in my wounded heart. 

I was raised to think it was a mortal sin to question the authority of the adults in my life. That talking back, "sassing", arguing and thinking for myself was wrong. The Bible was beaten to tell me that God expected me to obey them. And He does but not when they contradict Him. Not when they hurt, exploit or manipulate me. Not when they make me do things they won't do themselves. Not when I have to do as they say but not as they do. Those actions confuse, break and destroy. They are not of God. 

To heal, I NEED to argue with wrong messages, to talk back to the voices guilting and shaming me. To contradict the notion that God expects me to take care of others but not me. I need to question hypocrisy, deceit and self-serving manipulation and exploitation. I need to let God define for he expects of me and not let others' paraphrase for their own ends.   

If you have struggled with anything like this, you'll know what I mean when I say that if feels strange and wrong to do these things. Years of conditioning have trained me to knee-jerk self-doubt. But if I listen to God, I find reassurance that the old ways are not the right ones. And each time, it gets easier. 

You might wonder, as I do, how to separate wrong learning from right. Should I discard everything I was taught? How do I hold on to what's good while detaching from what's toxic? All good questions that we'll look at in the next post. 

How I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass: Happy Heart February Weight Loss Challenge

 Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. Each  month I issue a new weight loss challenge to help us all lose weight, maintain weight loss and just be healthier overall. This month is Happy Heart February weight loss challenge. 

I call this a "weight loss" challenge because many people come here to learn how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass and what they can do to lose weight. But I'm writing for anyone who wants to be healthier, regardless of weight. The things I share aren't just for people who are overweight. They can even help someone who wants to gain weight because a lot of what I focus on is mental health. 

In Happy Heart February we're going to explore how emotional health drives physical issues. I rounded out January with posts on self-care, or lack thereof, and its impact on obesity, weight loss, body image, self-image and much more. This month I'm looking at ways to care for our hearts, the inside feels ones as much as the pump ones. To do this I need to tell a two-part story. 

Part one:

I grew up neglected, exploited and manipulated by adults charged with protecting me. I didn't learn how to care for myself or even that I should. I have empath tendencies and that was capitalized on. I cared too much, too hard and too long for too many people and not enough for myself. I was worked like an  adult and parent. I now know this parentification is dangerous and inappropriate. Then, it was just doing my job. Obeying everyone was being the "good girl" God expected me to be. 

These and other guilt and shame tactics destroyed any ability I had to protect myself. I lived in constant  remorse, anxiety, shame and fear of failure. God was not loving but draconian taskmaster who expected little girls take everyone's crap. I was only worth what I could provide. That I had to earn basic necessities including love. Which, no matter how hard I tried I never achieved. 

Whether I was an empath or just a very easily guilted child, I don't know. But the result was the same. I've heard empaths described as having no skin. We lack a protective layer that separates us from the feelings, wants, needs and issues of others.  We don't know where others stop and we begin. We absorb others' toxicity into our cells, because we don't know that we shouldn't. And, in my case, were actually told that we should. We exist only to serve.  

We learn to ignore cues and warning messages from our mind, heart, body and soul, which God (the real one, not the fake one I knew) provides to keep us safe. We end up with "emotional leprosy" as our confused, damaged nerves no longer protect us from pain and injury. Our conflicted mind-heart  sabotages our health, peace, security and comfort. We die internally. 

So that's the heart-breaking first part. If any of this resonates, I'm so sorry. But the good news is that it doesn't end there. In part two, we explore ways to mend our broken hearts. To literally grow some skin to save us from the "slings and arrows" that are killing us. We'll consider ways to turn a wounded heart into a happy one. 

Stay tuned for more on how I lost 100 pounds and am finding peace of mind and joy of heart. 

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