Such a vicious cycle.
We start a new diet and things are going happily, perfectly, smoothly when times are good. But it’s inevitable… life happens.
We get stress.
We or a loved one gets sick.
We get money problems.
Someone in our house loses their job and it causes stress.
An in-law or parent needs our care or needs to move in with our family.
Our kid or a family member has a serious brush with the law or makes a huge mistake.
The neighbors are talking about us.
We have a life changing event such moving, divorce, career change, pregnancy, adoption, etc.
Family or friends making us feel guilty for dieting and causing stress.
A huge snowstorm, hurricane or other weather related event that coops us up inside, destroys part of our house and causes stress.
Any of these and more do one thing in common….
It shoves all other priorities aside and brings itself FRONT AND CENTER into our life. It pushes everything to the background. It’s all you think about, talk about, dream about. You can’t even sleep properly because you’re so distracted and consumed. Consumed is a good word because it EATS AT YOU like a zombie you can’t shake. Your life is YOUR story. But now you’re just a stagehand sweeping up, cleaning up and running around after too many other actors and staying in the shadows. And seriously? I’m supposed to keep dieting and eating right when all this other stuff is eating me up inside???
Life changes. It happens. You can’t control that.
I could tell you a long boring story of some personal things that happened to me in the past 8 years that involve my divorce, my uterine cancer, my mother’s stroke, breast cancer and other medical issues, my six month bout with vertigo and my inner ear, my dating a criminal for a short time and not knowing what he was doing, having my 200 gallon fuel oil tank dump over in my yard with over a foot of snow on the ground, having M. Night Shyamalan film a movie right next door to me and the drama that caused in my neighborhood and in my yard for a summer, my constant ups and downs with my ex-husband and going to court, having a stalker that made me put up surveillance cameras on my house, closing down a 48 year long run family business, house shopping in another state and getting ready to relocate…I know I left at least a half a dozen things out of there….all the while I kept at losing 150 pounds to get to my goal.
Ok…. Get it?
There are a million things all grabbing at us like zombies wanting to own us, consume us, eat us up to the point we can’t ignore them. So we turn to food… why is that?
Well, I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I have my own theories
- We tend to use food like a drug to comfort us against the pain of reality. This starts young. My parents would joke about how they parked me in my high chair with a big bowl of chocolate pudding so they could get some afternoon lovin’ in. Yup, my eating issues started early. Perhaps this is why when I feel lonely or sitting home alone and feel…isolated…I want to eat. I don’t know. But it makes me feel “not so alone” and that pattern started early. Food was my drug, my “friend”, my babysitter. Or it’s a lot like when a doctor will give kids a lollipop or pretzels after they have a shot in the arm to comfort them. Sugar or food in general is used as a sedative or to get us “high” when life gets us down.
- It distracts us. Similar a little bit to #1 but slightly different. If we are “busy” eating, then we are too “busy” to deal with our problems in a proactive way. Sorry, I can’t balance the checkbook that I know is overdrawn right now because I’m busy eating. Sorry, can’t clean the house, it’s lunch time. Sorry, we can’t have that serious relationship talk right now, it’s dinner time.
- When we’re stressed out, it kicks up stomach acids. When we’re nervous and full of anxiety, our stomach will start to make noises. We confuse them with the growling of a empty stomach. The stomach is just overloaded with the overproduction of acids because we are upset! We hear the grumbling of the tummy and our brain gets confused and says, “Oh I must be hungry. I need to keep my strength up during this tough time.” And we eat. I know. I’ve done it. Just because your stomach growls does NOT mean you are truly hungry.
- Sometimes we’re in such a bad mood and our self-esteem is so low we sabotage ourselves. We buy that big container of ice cream and start digging in with a spoon. We know it’s bad. But we have all this bad stuff happening and we deserve to feel better. Plus with everyone else jumping all over our shit and making us feel horrible, we’re going to jump on that train too and pick on the fat chick because hey, we wouldn’t want to be left out of the “in” group that has all the fun. So we pick on ourselves along with everyone else.
- It’s an excuse to go off the diet. Inside, we’re rebelling because we don’t like the diet, the rules, the restrictions, the weighing, measuring, calculating, etc. Life is hard right now, we deserve a break from “this diet crap” and we start eating what we want and binge. Because we deserve it, right?
- We’re sometimes scared of change. Life changes constantly. But the taste of food doesn’t change, we know we can go to it and it will always be there, yummy and satisfying. But life is changing and scaring me…I’ll go to what I know…food.
Between the stress of life around us and our rationalization of the stress binge, it robs us of our focus. It blurs the lines of what we know is right and wrong with our dieting. We start saying “I’ll just start again tomorrow.” We “console” ourselves that we can just start up again another day. (psssst, that’s called sabotage) Yup, been there… and tomorrow is always a day away and before you know it..you’re so far down the rabbit hole, you just give up. Tomorrow just never gets here and you don’t care anymore.
So how do you grab back your focus?
The first step… and I know I’ve touched on this before, but you MUST listen to me… is being friends with yourself. STOP bullying yourself, STOP rewarding yourself with food and bad behaviors, STOP sabotaging yourself, STOP joining in the crowd that beats you up, STOP it. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Look, we got to get a hold on this. I got your back even if nobody else does. We can do this.” Yes, say it outloud. And if you feel silly doing it, then you really have bullied yourself up to this point.
Here’s a list of things I think you need to do to bring back the focus on YOU while life is going freaking crazy.
- - Always preplan your food menu either the night before or the morning of your day. NOT tracking as you go or afterward. Kim Bensen taught me this and it revolutionized my diet thinking. (Go to http://www.kimbensen.com to learn more)
- – Learn to adapt. Whether it’s your food menu, your plans for the day or life. Change scares the heck out of people and you need to stop being scared of it and start embracing it. I felt like I was going to die when my husband asked me for a divorce. After a week of crying which did nothing for me, I got my head together and started goal planning. My father told me my attitude took a 180 degree turn and I became a warrior for my kids and myself. Instead of looking at everything in your life like a personal attack and drama, look for the opportunity to turn it into a great learning experience. My cancer taught me to value every day of my life after my surgery. My vertigo taught me to appreciate the times of calm and balance. My days of working only 20 hours a week taught me to be super thrifty and creative when money was tight. And when your food is all planned out and your plans change, take a few minutes, look around you at what you CAN have and fit it into your plan. Or eat very very lightly and have some of your planned dinner when you can get back home. Learn to roll with the changes of the day. Ride in the front seat of the moment instead of having the moment drive you mad.
- – JOURNAL!!! When you write down your thoughts on a day to day basis, you are doing some very good, very cheap therapy. You’re getting your thoughts out so you can read them. Some people hate that and feel vulnerable. I think it’s necessary for healing. Go back and read your thoughts a week later and read as though it was a letter from a friend. What would you tell this friend? What can YOU see that your friend isn’t seeing?
- When you’re stress eating, binging, zombie eating, whatever you want to call it try to stop yourself in a freeze frame moment. WHAT are you truly thinking about? Rarely is it about food. You’re not thinking about what you’re shoving in your mouth. You’re dwelling on some bad thought. WHAT got you to this point? An argument, a conversation, a phone call, something you saw, heard, a person… what is the REAL issue that has you doing this???
- Remember that you are NOT the world’s policeman. You are not the world’s caretaker. You are not the world’s savior. And you are NOT a martyr that you need to victimize yourself for pity, attention or approval. You can only save yourself. Find that last bit of strength you thought you didn’t have and do that.
-Take time to BREA THE. All the stress kicks up our anxiety and it feels like things are going 200 miles per hour and it’s exhausting. I don’t care how many people you think you have to take care of or what your day consists of. You need to take SOME kind of time for yourself. It’s grounding. It’s focus. It’s healthy. Get your sleep in with an extra nap, take 15 minutes at lunch to walk, take an hour for yourself on the weekend to do something that you want to do, have coffee with a friend, do something for YOURSELF that makes you feel good (and doesn’t involve food).
- Keep your sense of humor. Ok, you may be looking at this like “You don’t know my life, it’s not funny.” Ok, If I can keep MY sense of humor (go ahead and go back to the beginning of this article about all the bullshit I’ve gone through) with a crazy ex-husband and his flavor-of-the-month girlfriends, a sibling stalker, cancer, relocating out of state and working non-stop than YOU CAN TOO!
- Stop looking for approval. The only approval you need is your own. It doesn’t MATTER what that mother, father, spouse, neighbor, mother in law, boyfriend or girlfriend, son or daughter, boss, employee, friend or enemy, club member, stranger, guy on the road staring at you at the red light thinks about you. WHO THE HECK CARES??? What matters is what YOU think about yourself and you better start liking yourself or you’re NEVER going to be happy!!! Trust me, when I learned to like myself….life changed. It didn’t get less crazy but I could really handle it so much better. I could look in the mirror or just say outloud to myself, “Wow, do you believe that just happened?” And then answer myself laughing with, “Really! What’s up with that?” Even just having those outloud conversations makes me feel “not so alone” in this world that I don’t have to run to my pudding for non-verbal comfort or “affection”. I have outloud words to talk out my feelings.
The bottom line is… it’s about control. You cannot and will not ever control life, the weather, cancer, death, or your crazy family and friends. But you CAN control what you put in your mouth. Life is a stage and we are all players. But you have to start being the STAR of your life and letting yourself take an active role instead of just being the stage hand that sweeps up and takes care of all the other actors.
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