Love is a Battlefield

Happy Week 6, everyone! Well… it is for us, anyway.

Our 20/20 progress continues to be excellent so far. We both decided to move on to Stage 4 this week, which re-introduces us to the joys of fruit other than berries and apples. I don’t quite know how to explain how sweet all the other fruits are by comparison at this point; we are so far removed from sweeteners (artificial or otherwise) that the last diet soda I attempted to drink nearly made me sick. The orange I had at lunch today felt like a decadent dessert. Pineapple is almost unbearable.

In some ways this is awful, because I’m starting to realize that even after 20/20 ends, I’m not going to be the person I was; I can’t even begin to guess what a real dessert would taste like now! Most foods at restaurants are terrifying. Nothing tastes like it used to. On the flip side, it’s going to be better for my health and my ability to maintain the weight loss once I’ve achieved it. This lifestyle change (I don’t want to call it a diet, because it’s really not, it’s just a different way of eating) hasn’t taken anything from me that didn’t NEED to be taken, and yet there’s still a little sense of loss from all the good memories of tasty food. Even if I’ll never eat the same way, I can still make new memories – this time with the people and the places I go to, and not just the food!

Both of us also continue to lose weight. For my part, I’ve lost four pounds this week! The last couple of weeks have finally brought me in range of the 1-2% of body weight reduction each week, for which I am THRILLED! It’s a new thing for me, losing weight to something other than extreme illness. Even with my body and my limitations, it is possible to change with enough time and effort. I’m the smallest now that I’ve been in several years, and even my tightest jeans are starting to threaten to fall off of me. John and I realized that between the two of us, we’ve managed to lose an equivalent amount of weight to both of our cats combined – perhaps a silly benchmark, but we have two VERY hefty cats living in this condo!

We also successfully ate restaurant food for the first time since 20/20 started! We could have tried before, and in fact we are semi-encouraged to do things that test our limits so that we know how to handle them, but John felt that he wasn’t yet ready to risk it until now. I’ve been hoping to do this for a couple of weeks; everything I’ve learned over the last six months, but especially since joining 20/20, has taught me a lot of safe ways to make eating out safe. Learning to eat Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Indian foods without rice or bread was one of the first tricks I learned while trying to clean up my diet in years past, and Mediterranean is easy since you can always order salad. As long as you’re careful what sauces and dressings you’re using (and how much of them you’re actually eating,) it’s very possible to stay healthy and still enjoy a treat out once in awhile.

Our treat came from Beijing O’Chef, a local Szechuan Chinese restaurant that we’ve adored since we moved to Kirkland. Despite the absurd name, their food is pretty authentic from what I’ve heard, and I’ve never had a bad dish no matter what I try to order. The authenticity also helps in terms of health, since so many places try to suit American palates by piling on the sugar and salt. The simple spicy beef and green beans dish we picked was an old favorite from our pre-20/20 days, and we enjoyed the heck out of it! Even with our new inability to tolerate “normal” amounts of sugar, salt, fat, etc, we had zero trouble devouring it between the two of us. We supplemented it per the rules of the diet with more veggies and a shake at home, and all of it worked really well. Neither of us had trouble getting back on the wagon, there were no ridiculous splurges, and no cravings. I was prepared for another “banana-shake incident” but we planned carefully to avoid it and IT WORKED!

I’m really proud of us for doing so well, but I’m most proud of John, who had to conquer a very deep fear of potentially making mistakes to face eating out. He was genuinely terrified at even the suggestion of doing anything like this until now, as eating out too much used to be the source of some of our worst habits. We won’t be doing this all the time, and it’s still far better to manage our own food at home right now, but now we know that we have the freedom and the knowledge to make safer choices when we do go out.

As my title alludes to, however, this week wasn’t all roses. We had what I consider to be our once-per-year ugly fight last weekend, and it was just as painful and difficult as it ever is. We’re so close mentally and emotionally that there aren’t a lot of things we disagree on, and when we do disagree, we’re usually respectful of each other when we do it. It’s hard to imagine us fighting, right? I hate to even admit that we do it, but – vulnerability, right? Like most couples, it happens when we fail to communicate well; one person says something meant to be helpful, but the other person hears it wrong or internalizes it badly, and then everyone’s in tears and upset and unsure of how to move on. I’m also too aware that I have the kindest, most loving husband in the world – who is currently working on learning to express himself and his needs after years of struggling with a socially-anxious and terrified wife. Sometimes I don’t know things are a problem until they explode in my face, and I’m still learning to be gracious about that.

I never chose to be as helpless as I ended up, but the truth is that my fall from grace had deep effects on the man I love as well, and we’ve been working through the results of that on both of us for a couple of years now; about the same amount of time that I’ve been working on my own recovery. There is still a deep anger in me that I can barely describe when I think of how blind I was to all of this before; I would give anything to just turn back the clock and never forget my own worth and my own agency… but that’s not how things work. He has always been the sort of person to sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of my happiness, and he put so much of himself into trying to save me that it hurt him over the years. This is why mental illness is such a challenge in families and lives; it doesn’t just affect the person afflicted by it. It affects everyone they know and love. Watching someone you love repeatedly hurt themselves over and over again takes a toll that I’m not sure it’s possible to understand until you’ve experienced it.

Because of that, I’ve fought far longer and harder than anyone to help him regain what he’s lost along the way. The things I’m going through now are many of the same things he tried to carry for me. While I cannot say that any of this was my fault, and I’m not to blame, I am still heartbroken about my role in all of this. There is nothing I treasure more in my life than the man I married, and the long, impossible journey it took to bring us together across so many years and so many miles. He isn’t the only protector in this family; I too would do anything to protect his heart and the smile I fell in love with. Had I realized sooner, in the haze of darkness that was my mind, what was going on, I’d have put a stop to it then. The problem is that there’s nothing that I can do now to help but listen, love, and be as strong as I can be while he pulls himself out of the same dark hole that I fell down years ago. In some ways, it’s a special sort of hell; a sort of divine penance to help me learn the lessons I didn’t learn soon enough. Life is strange like that.

But I’m a warrior. I don’t handle sitting and waiting well. I want to help. I want to change things. Especially now that I’m no longer the helpless child I was. Alas, there are some enemies that others can, and must, face in their own minds – not alone, but beyond my reach and influence.

Trusting is also difficult, but I must. Just like I was, I know that the man I married is locked down and afraid of so many things that he shouldn’t be. He thinks things about himself that I’d consider worthy of immediate violence if anyone else said them to him. But even so… he’s still there, and he’s stayed with me though everything. Sometimes he even remembers how to smile and have fun. He’s far stronger than anyone, even myself, ever gave him credit for. And it’s time to believe that he, too, can emerge from this stronger and kinder and wiser. It’s easy to be afraid that he might change during his journey, but the funny thing I’ve realized is that what I’m afraid of already happened. The change I was terrified of came. We nearly lost each other and we didn’t even know it.

And yet… we’re both still here. Still in love enough to fight to try to save each other. Still in love enough to have stupid fights when we misunderstand each other’s intentions. Still in love enough to listen when listening is the only weapon worth wielding. What we’re fighting for now IS that love.

He’s strong enough to have done all that and more… and I will be, too. It’s the only way I can ever thank him.


  1. Cara

    Wow! It’s fascinating to read about your experience with diet elimination and reintroduction because you are getting to experience that to such a great extent! It’s fun hearing about how sweet fruit is to you having had berries for 6 weeks, and it’s inspiring me to eat only berries for several weeks to reset my palette and experience that first hand. Sounds amazing! I mean, how great to appreciate a simple fruit like it’s dessert! I’ve only experimented with eliminating gluten, meat, dairy, and all processed foods (like eating nothing but whole grains, legumes and fruits/veggies), but those eliminations mostly resulted in higher sensitivity to sodium and oils, and maybe slightly sweet things, like baked goods but still more of a combination of the sweet with the fat than the sweet alone! So, how do you feel about your new tastebud experience? Are you enjoying it? Do you wish you could tolerate sugar/fat/oil slightly more? How do you see yourself in terms of palette sensitivity going forward when you’re done with 20/20? Like, will you keep certain foods at a minimum or eliminated after that just to keep your body/palette functioning in a more efficient/food sensitive way?
    Congrats on the weight loss! Holy crap 4lbs!! That’s amazing! I can’t wait to see you again because I bet you already look so different than last time I saw you a few weeks ago. I thought you looked good then, but I’m sure your body is changing a lot in a week! Also congrats on your guys’ first experience eating out! I’m sure that was fun to get out and do something different, and break up the monotony and grind of food prep life. 🙂
    I appreciate your opening up about your big fight with John and sharing your sentiments coming out of it. I can totally empathize with what you guys are both going through right now, and how it must tax your relating to and communication with each other. Luckily, you are both patient and kind people, and it is wonderful that you are able to look past the immediate disagreement at hand to see the bigger picture of your relationship evolving and strengthening. I know that I can, and many other people can relate who are in long term relationships/marriages. It’s challenging, and especially challenging when you’re undergoing major life changes. I wanted to share something with you (and others who may read this) that happened in my marriage. As you know, since you’re my best friend, I have a troubled past with a lot of abuse and trauma. Years and years of therapy have helped me, but during that time of working on myself, it took a huge toll on my relationship with Joe. I didn’t realize until about 3 years into therapy, that sharing the burden of my pain, acting out, and dealing with my mental illnesses was affecting him too. I just always figured he was a strong person and that because he didn’t go through it personally, he would just have this objective, removed point of view about it. Well, we had an epic blowout fight new years night of 2011/2012 that gave me a glimpse of his pain. I realized as he cried, telling me how much of what I went through hurt him, and that when he met me he didn’t know how deep that pain went, and that he was hurting from all that I was going through and doing to myself (like acting out with binge eating and stuff). It was only then that I realized how much the people we love are affected by our afflictions, even though they aren’t experiencing it first hand. In the end, I got better slowly but surely, and I had to learn how to contain/compartmentalize some of my pain and memories so it wasn’t oozing into every conversation he and I had, and I just outright stopped my acting out behavior and started my long arduous journey of becoming more healthy. I’m lucky, just like you, to have a patient and understanding partner who sticks by me while I work on improving myself instead of taking off like I would expect anyone else to do. He has helped me incredibly over the years and knows me better than anyone else on this earth. This has built a truly beautiful, incredibly deep trust and connection with each other that I’m not sure could be shaken at this point (knock on wood!). I know that you and John have that kind of connection and relationship too. I know that our paths are totally different, and our marriages are different too, but just know that you’re not alone in experiencing struggle sometimes. And that in the end, even though it’s harder to change and sometimes more painful, it’s worth it in the end. My heart goes out to you both, I love you guys! <3

    • DterminD

      So far I think I’m still in shock about a lot of the palate changes! Each week is a whole new experience. I no longer take anything for granted. Even though I still look at old favorites and want/miss them on some level, the program is extremely educational about the many ways that we delude ourselves into creating bad habits that fuel themselves, and the many ways our society helps us to do it. I’m still pretty angry and disgusted by what I’ve learned, and I’m putting my time into learning new and better ways to make the things I want without going back to those habits. I’m not saying I’ll never eat that cheeseburger/pizza/ice cream/etc. again, but I’ll be hyper-aware of what’s going into my mouth and what my brain’s reaction will be to it when I do. Knowing the reasons why your brain and body do things helps you prevent them both from working against you in unexpected ways!

      I guess that’s a long way of saying that I don’t mind my current level of (in)tolerance for things. 🙂 It makes things harder for sure, and I have to be a lot more picky and selective than I used to be, but it’s worth it for the change in how I feel, the weight loss, and the control over my diabetes. When I do things right, I’m not hungry, I don’t have cravings, and I’m still free to do 85% of what I want, which makes me resent the other 15% a whole lot less. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your story as well. You and Joe have certainly been through a lot, and I’m so glad that you two are doing so much better and are so happy together these days! It’s good to know that we’re not alone on this journey, and I do have every faith that we’ll emerge from this as a stronger, wiser couple. We’ve been through so much already over 15 (?!) years, and we’re both absolutely committed to learning how to meet each other’s needs while protecting our own this time. With that, we’ll be better equipped to love each other AND any kids we someday have.

      • Cara

        That’s great! I’m glad you aren’t minding it and finding enjoyment in learning all the things you’re learning! It’s great that you can control your cravings too, thats a powerful tool that I’m sure will help you a lot throughout the rest of your life. I share your sentiment on being angry and disgusted by things in regard to health/diet/nutrition. Our society and corporations are full of deceitful methods of advertising, misleading information, and popular beliefs that are unfortunately very misguided. Not only that, but what’s actually good for us is buried by industry influence and policy of things that aren’t good for us that it’s hard to see through all the b.s. to get to the truth sometimes. For instance, the dairy industry is all butt-hurt about peoples’ choices to go dairy free with milk lately and decline in profits the last few years, that they are suing all alternative milk companies (soy almond and coconut) to remove the word “milk” from their cartons because according to them, it’s stealing consumers away from buying actual dairy milk. How petty is that!? It’s just a tiny example of a huge problem where corporations and their greed take precedence over what’s actually good for people (like consider all the people with dairy allergies and intolerance) and just letting society better itself and make better or even just different choices. It’s crazy, and the more I learn, I feel like the more I learn. One thing leads to another, to another, and over a few years I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of studies and articles really delving into things and trying to figure out what healthy diet actually is and how to protect myself and my family from misinformation. I have had those feelings of anger and disgust for sure! It kind of led me down a crazy rabbit hole of research which eventually led to lots of changes and experimenting in my diet. Everyone has a different take on what they find, but I found that the pathway my research took (for finding the healthiest diet for PCOS/insulin resistance and family history of heart issues/diabetes/cancer) led me down the path of plant based diets and clean eating. There’s a great book called “How not to die” that’s a super dense, medical study packed, very informative collection so to speak, of things that I’ve read elsewhere and long term medical nutritional/diet studies that I’ve pulled separately. It’s a great book if you’re ever at the point where you get really nerdy into reading about nutrition. It basically advocates if nothing more, reducing meat/dairy/processed food consumption and eating more servings of vegetables and fruit every day. And if you’re super serious, cutting those things out all together and trying a whole food plant based lifestyle. Or, being somewhere in the middle like a vegetarian, whole food diet, or doing meat-free mondays. It argues the health reasons for making dietary improvements against what common knowledge says. For instance, there’s a common belief that red meat is the best source of iron, but did you know that swiss chard is actually the best source of iron on earth? It has three times what meat has, and it is non-heme iron which is more bioavailable and easily digested by our bodies (and impossible to overdose on because our body discards what it doesn’t use through our digestive tract) vs. red meat which has heme iron which isn’t as easy to absorb and can cause toxic build up if you consume too much of it since the excess can’t be swept away in the digestive tract, it stays in the blood and damages our liver and kidney organs. And take DHA – most people don’t know that your own body produces DHA for you, it’s not an acid you only get from diet. Omega 3,6, and 9 fatty acids are the precursers for DHA synthesis and allow your body to synthesize it effectively, when consumed in appropriate ratios. And most people think that fish is the best source of omega-3. Wrong! Flax seed oil is the best source, again with about 3x the levels that are in fish or fish oil and are also more bioavailable. It’s stuff like this that astounds me and makes me mad that isn’t common knowledge, because not only are those items cheaper and more readily available, but they are better for our bodies and the environment. But you know who needs to make money on fish oil tablets and red meat? The meat and fishing industries, and guess how much money they have to market, litigate, and keep people ignorant of alternatives so people keep buying them? And when you get into looking at that stuff, you get into looking at sustainability, environmentalism, and stuff like that which makes you really seriously consider your choices. It’s crazy. And I realize I probably sound like a maniac, but I’m just passionate about nutrition because I feel so sad about all the misinformation and injustice out there. If you ever wanna chat up a storm about that kind of stuff, I am a maaaaajor nutrition nerd so I’d love to discuss what you’ve learned and talk about all the stuff wrong with nutrition someday! I’m interested in hearing more about what you’ve learned about the brain and cravings. My shrink has studied that a lot, so I know it’s a big deal in health and psychology these days but I personally don’t know a ton about it. I do know how connected the body and mind are though, and how a lot of what we mistake to be physiological reactions are actually psycological or vice versa. Sounds like we have tons to talk about next time we get together! Speaking of which, I’ll text you about that. It’s getting nice out so maybe I should pack Michael up in the stroller and we should go take a walk at a nice park!?

  2. Carolyn

    I am so proud of both of you, for making this journey that has its ups and downs along the path towards progress. Speaking of which- Congratulations on your latest progress, in various areas. And much, much love.

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