Why I No Longer Waste Calories Eating Shoe Leather or Tire Tread


I’ve admitted before that I have food issues.

However, my problems with over-eating are rooted in more than merely my mother’s crazy attitudes toward diet, exercise, and all things weight-related.

Because I have bipolar disorder, I take psychiatric drugs that tend (as my doctor optimistically insists) “to increase body mass.”

How’s that for the fat phobic’s, pound-producing kiss of death?

For folks like me, however, these drugs impact the body in several waistband-expanding ways: slowing metabolism, stimulating appetite, and increasing lethargy.

But rather than bore you with the science behind these unfortunate metabolic facts, I’ll share a story about one of my biggest battles against these drugs—one that culminated in a 1997 when I took the drug Zyprexa.

First a bit of background—

Though I’d not been able  to work since 1990 and had lost 5 years cycling in and out of psychiatric hospitals, in 1995 I decided to move from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Dallas, Texas, hoping treatment available in that larger city would de-escalate my ongoing and, it seemed, worsening symptoms.

It was a risky move.  I had no money.  I had no family support.  And I was sick—very sick.

In order to finance the move I donated plasma as often as possible over a number of months—at $40 a shot, eventually enough to rent a U-Haul truck and move myself several hours south—into a tiny studio apartment with a big window, lots of light, and a cockroach population to match.

When I moved to Dallas, I had known since the early ‘90s that I’d inherited the genetic predisposition for what something called schizoaffective disorder—an illness that is notoriously difficult to treat, as it requires doctors to address several separate sets of symptoms at once—for me those of psychosis,  depression, and mania.  Doctors  struggle to treat one set of symptoms without inadvertently activating another.

I, in fact, fought from 1990 to 1995 in an effort to find just the right combination of medicines that would leave me less symptomatic, but those drugs had only managed to make me fat and leave me feeling really, really miserable.

But in 1995, just months before moving to Dallas, I’d become determined to exercise myself thin again.  And during my early days in Dallas I’d had some success in this regard—that is, until 1997, when I needed to be admitted, for insurance purposes, to a hospital I’d never been in before and was assigned a new psychiatrist to manage my medicines during that stay.`

This doctor put me on a medication called Zyprexa, one that made the appetite increase I’d experience in the past seem minimal by comparison.  In fact, Zyprexa made me so incredibly hungry, I seriously considered gnawing on a table leg or maybe even my own arm, when food was not forthcoming.  I was literally overcome by appetite, by a ravenous desire to consume, to eat anything remotely resembling dinner–even dishes in the hospital cafeteria tougher than and not nearly as appetizing as shoe leather or tire tread.

You name it, I ate it, and I enjoyed it.  A lot.

Like other medications I’d taken, Zyprexa also made me feel thick-headed—like I had to swim through a fog to interact with the world.  I had to fight to stay awake—to keep my eyes open—to carry on a conversation—to process language.  Friendship felt nearly impossible—too much work—too much trouble to have to talk—articulate, move my mouth to form the words.

However, unlike other drugs, Zyprexa blunted everything human about me and left me completely unable to function. For example, I couldn’t remember how to complete the most ordinary of tasks, such as how to brush my teeth or when to wash my hair.   I had to talk myself step by step through these processes, creating lists of every step involved, and marking them off as I completed each, lest I forget where I was and have to start over again.

Fortunately, I only stayed on Zyprexa for a month, but it was thirty days too long, four weeks of fearing I’d never get my life back.

Today, the medications I take don’t debilitate.  Yes, they make me hungry.  Yes, they slow my metabolism and make weight-control a challenge, especially as aging, in its own right, has lessened my ability to burn calories as efficiently as I once did.

However, I’m thankful now to have spent that month taking a drug I hated, because now I know just how much I have to be thankful for, especially in dietary terms.

At least now I don’t have to waste calories eating things like shoe leather or tire tread.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever contemplated eating when really, really hungry?

Note:  If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family.  (The post you just read demonstrates the impact that childhood dysfunction had on me as a young adult.)  To read one of my mafia-related memoir posts,”Kids Make the Best Bookies,” click here.  If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at kownroom@yahoo.com  or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.

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54 thoughts on “Why I No Longer Waste Calories Eating Shoe Leather or Tire Tread

  1. Oh, you’ve captured the brain-fog and ravenousness perfectly. I’ve heard similar horror stories about Zyprexa—that’s probably the only drug my docs didn’t try, maybe because I’d already gained 100 pounds.

    As for binging, I have been known to dig things out of the garbage.

  2. Oh my goodness—what a picture!!! Happily I can say I have never felt like eating anything quite like that and I am glad that you are no longer on that horrible med that made that a possibility!!! Geez.

  3. The picture is hysterical.

    I have never had to look for tire tread. But I have been eating a full meal and been overwhelmed with what I was going to eat as soon as I finished. Horrible feelings. Sounds, though, that you are in a good place (emotionally) for dealing with this!

    As a “hey did you think of this” aside…. I have talked to my doctor for years about this. And I truly feel that my body is not absorbing the nutrients from my food. Because when I am HUNGRY damnit my body is screaming to feed it NOW. It wants SOMETHING. I just don’t know what it is! It’s a horrible feeling.

    • Okay, I KNOW that FEELING. I totally know it! That is exactly what I am trying to describe. It is a horrible feeling–the worst.

      Glad you got a kick out of the photo. Thanks for reading–and laughing with me!

  4. That photo says it all!! I don’t think I’ve ever contemplated eating anything crazy…. just that when I get to a starving point, I want to eat everything in sight!! Your story reminds me of when I was on Prozac, and why I stopped – stopped cold. I was realizing that not only was it taking away my depression, but was also taking away my happiness. I felt nothing – I was empty – a numb, hollow shell of the person I should be. Now, I embrace my feelings – they are what make me ME! ♥

  5. The picture made me laugh out loud for real! When I first started on Zoloft for PTSD, depression and anxiety I felt a numbness about life that scared the crap out of me. I literally felt like life began to run in slow motion. When things got worse and they had to piggyback it with Welbutrin, I began to feel like eating everything. Then they added Xanax for the occassional anxiety attack which literally gave me a feeling of melting away. Mental sicknesses are the worst to deal with and I feel for you, Sista. Like you, I have finally found the right combo of drugs to help me live a more full life. I feel so terrible for you for the things that you’ve had to go through. I am so glad that you have found the right meds and the right partner to make your life not just livable, but worth every minute. Hugs to you!

    • Thanks, Sweetie! It’s interesting to hear that antidepressants had that affect on you. I had forgotten until you mentioned the slow motion thing that I also felt that way on Zyprexa. It was as if time had slowed way down. So glad you mentioned that. Yes, you are so right. Mental illness is the absolute worse. Folks who have never experienced it really have no idea.

      Thanks also for acknowledging how having Sara helps. That is the absolute truth! Hugs to you, too!

  6. It seems so unfair that you’d be saddled with an illness for which the treatment of one symptom worsens the others. And as if there isn’t already enough societal pressure to maintain a particular body shape, having medications that muck with the way your body manages calories is just too much.

  7. My diet is so restricted I’m lucky I can still eat my Special Someone. When I looked at that stunningly long Do Not Eat list I joked to my doctor, “Hey, you’ve left off oral sex!” He gave me a look that screamed, “You whore of Babylon!” I’m now seeing a much hipper gut-guy. Seriously, compared to what you’ve been through to maintain (or regain?) your sanity, forfeiting dairy and any food with flavor is a holiday with tons of presents. Guess I’ll join the herd and give your shoe dinner shot a thumbs up, but I’m pretty sure that’s somewhere on my Do Not Eat list, too.

  8. I can’t remember what is the weirdest thing I’ve ever contemplated eating, because of the meds I’m on now :P Thank God the ones I take now don’t do that to me. I’m glad you persevered and found some that work.

  9. Hysterical photo, Kathy– way too funny!

    I’m so happy to hear that your meds have gotten better since the Zyprexa incident. It’s hard enough keeping healthy without a brutal pharma product wreaking havoc on your body and thwarting any attempts to be human. :)

    When I was 16, I was put on the pill to help with my acne. I started craving salt– LOTS OF SALT! I salted bagels, cereal, pizza (!), and would have definitely added salt to a salt lick if I had the chance. No shoes or table legs, though. :)

  10. The craziest thing I’ve ever contemplated eating? Brussel’s sprouts. And then I made the mistake of actually eating them. Ugh. Let’s just say, I’d prefer a nice plate of sandal to that vile veggie.

  11. And here I was thinking I’d never eaten anything vile at all, when I noticed Mark’s comment about brussel sprouts! Yes, I’ve eaten them!!! I totally simpathise with Mark….they’re…..YUK!!

    Kathy, I loved reading this post. You seem to have learned so much from some adverse experiences, which now make you a very entertaining author! Thats life ~ we learn so much from our experiences. :)

    • I”m so pleased this post spoke to you, Joanne. Though, I don’t hate brussel sprouts myself, I’m not a huge fan either. I have to agree–there are some pretty vile vegetables out there! LOL Thanks so much for reading!

    • It’s good for you that you have not contemplated eating anything weird. I too am glad to have found medications that work! Sanity is a big deal! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  12. Very entertaining picture Kathy! :)

    But oh my … how horrible that must have been to try and deal with. Amazing that you came through all that with your sense of humor intact. I think I’d have wanted to kill someone. *hugs*

    • So glad you enjoyed this post, D. I suppose it is sort of a miracle that I have come out on the other side relatively sane and semi-normal. Thank God for that. Hugs to you, as well————————

  13. What an incredible story. You’ve provided such a vivid glimpse into a world many of us are not familiar with. I’m trying to think what’s the worse I’ve eaten but I’m drawing a blank.But I’m remembering a story on the news several years ago, when a woman in her late sixties or early seventies drove off a rode and into a shallow lake where there were so many trees no one could see her. She was stuck in her car for 3 or 4 days with only one bottle of water and a roll of lifesavers. She rationed the candy and also said she survived by chewing on stuff in her glove compartment. Thankfully, someone saw the car tracks and finally discovered her. When desperate, we will eat anything to survive. I’m off to read about kids making the best bookies. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Wow, I’m honored that you find my story moving. These kinds of stories need to be told, so we can begin to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness.

      But you are so right–we will do or eat anything when it’s a matter of survival. Hope you enjoyed “Kids make the Best Bookies.” Have a great weekend.

  14. I had no idea that the treatment came with its own set of debilitating side effects. I’m glad that you pulled through that and came through to the other side.
    If you want a cure for hunger pains, watch that tv show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. He eats some crazy things that will make you lose your appetite in a minute. :)

    • Oh, how funny, Jackie–I have watched that show! Yes, yes, that will do it, for sure! Can you believe what that guy eats?

      And, yes, antipsychotic medications often have terrible side effects–some of which 20 years ago were virtually debilitating. However, they are better these days. There are still unfriendly side effects no one would want to live with, but sometimes you don’t have a choice–or at least much of one.

      Thanks for reading!

  15. Kathy, every single time I come over here I am amazed and honored and delighted at the courage you show in sharing so many parts of yourself. Only one thought is arising now. One of the books I read recently spoke from the perspective of a woman who speaks of spiritually “awakening”. She said when she woke up she fell 100% in love with herself–and she’s not a small woman. She fell 100% in love with all her extra pounds, adoring them, embracing them, stroking them, talking to them.

    I am sitting for a few minutes with eyes closed feeling love for every part of you, as you are, right now.

    • Oh, Kathy, you are so dear, I don’t even know how to begin to thank you–truly, truly you are dear! Thank you! I guess, I find it easier to be honest and revealing than to hide any longer. For so many years, I was ashamed of my illness. Now I know that the only way stigma can be lessened if for folks like me to tell their stories. Stigma emerges out of fear and ignorance. Wtih knowledge folks are free to not feel stigma toward themselves or others.

  16. Just put a bit of barbecue sauce on there, it’ll taste all right…

    I’ve never had that experience, though my mother once almost ate super glue. She was sleep walking and spread the tube’s contents onto a piece of bread; the smell of the glue woke her up. True story!

    • OMG–the super glue story is perfect. How funny that the smell woke her up. Next time I’ll try the barbecue sauce. Sounds like it would go well with leather. Thanks for reading, Chrissy. Happy Monday to you!

  17. Funny and not so funny blog, Kathy. I know what you mean about medications causing an increase in appetite. When I was taking higher doses of a particular med I considered posting a blog titled, “Help, I can’t stop eating!” It can be frustrating.

  18. Oh man. I am so sorry you had to endure that and I am so glad it gave you a renewed sense of gratitude for your life. wow.

    The craziest thing I ever ate was a HUGE eating binge after my divorce when I made an attempt to do something very kind for my soon to be officially ex-husband and his soon to be new wife. I kind of had a feeling that it was going to blow up in my face and in order to try to silence the fear of how I pretty much made our divroce settlement very vulnerable to sudden and uncomfortable/unwanted change… to try to shove my fear down, I ate 17 turkey and cheese sandwhiches, using my hand as the “knife” to spread the mayo, two gallons of milk, a bag of dove chocolates, and two jars of peanut butter which I pretty much used my hands to eat. I am very thankful for my forgiving metabolism…. and though my hunch did turn out to be right, I’m glad what transpired did because it taught me just how strong I am and also the importance of being gentle with myself during uncomfortable times. Great post! I so appreciate your ability to share your stories so transparently.

  19. I’m glad you’re able to have a sense of humor about what must have been a devastating experience. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced true hunger to the point I would contemplate eating something I ordinarily wouldn’t. It seems like I read a true account of a woman in Alaska maybe who did boil and eat leather, so I don’t think it’s unheard of.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better now.

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