My college classes start back up tomorrow, and I am glad that I took some time during my break to delve into issues I have been facing my whole life, and that have led to my weight issues. My school schedule, piled on top of an already-really-busy life, is often the straw that breaks the camel's back for me. I blame a lot of my stress and comfort eating on school, but the truth is, when I'm not in school I still eat junk, but I have a slightly lower stress level. Its hard to determine where the habits end, the comfort eating takes over, and real hunger comes in, but I'm glad I am starting to be able to sort some of these things out. Even though I only read 3 books about compulsive/mindless/emotional eating and weight, I have picked up some really valuable tools. I found the book Its Not About Food the most useful in my situation, because so often I find myself eating when I am not hungry, and while the other books addressed emotional eating on a surface-level, Its Not About Food traces it back to its beginning, to where we learned our value about ourselves (whether it was real or assumed) and why we react emotionally to these deeply embedded cues, and that eating is a way of coping with something that we don't know how else to cope with. And it's not just food we use, but drugs, legal and not. I remember clearly the first time I took a sinus medicine while at work, years ago. I was working with a man I was crushing HARD on, and had a huge sinus headache. I took an over the counter sinus relief med. An hour later I was flying high! I flew around the place like Super Woman, getting job after job done, my mood was at it's blissful peak. I abused sinus meds for a long time after that, not realizing that it was a way of coping with things I didn't want to deal with. I do have sinus issues, and I eventually switched to caffeine to fill the gap, but it was an early coping technique that I didn't realize until reading the book. Caffeine, alcohol, food; they have all been ways of coping for me, in avoiding what I don't want to deal with. The alcohol fell off my list when I started having kids, and after, it made my stomach feel bad. And the caffeine has its limits; with my blood pressure rising again I have to watch my intake, and with my hormones making an unfortunate switch toward menopause, I don't sleep well so now I have to be even more careful. So that leaves food. Sweet, cozy food. It's legal, readily available almost everywhere, and PLEASURABLE. Who doesn't love food? Not being restricted of any certain foods feels like love, doesn't it? Sure, there is guilt after you eat something you don't feel you should have, but for those few minutes, it feels like bliss. And eating foods that are deemed 'good'? Bittersweet. And, depends on my mood. If I am thinking of my health, eating healthy makes me feel powerful, if I am focused on my emotions, eating healthy feels like deprivation.
One of the lessons of Its Not About Food is to love yourself the way you are. This is meant literally, that you should learn to appreciate the fat that is hanging off of you, for being there for you/protecting you when you felt you had no other way of coping with a situation. It asks you to take the emotional charge and self-slamming you do when you don't like what you see in the mirror. Asking you to not react emotionally to what you look like is a huge request. I am not there yet. But I have learned to not react to the number I am seeing on the scale (193 today), and simply accept it as 'where I am right now'. But I am also learning that loving myself is more than just not freaking out about the scale. It is about realizing that I, and my needs, are just as important as everyone else's, and I don't have to cater to everyone else. This was another aha moment I had reading the book. It isn't just me, it wasn't entirely in my upbringing that I let myself feel that, because I am fat, I am always in the way, and I need to make myself useful to others, even at my own expense. It comes from feeling unworthy of having what others do.
But I am starting to change that up a little. Friday was a day when several different stressors came to a head in my world. My boss's horrible lack of communication had me wondering if my request to come in a few minutes late (so I could go get my books for school) was granted or not, the roads were slippery (which causes me HUGE anxiety), my kids were starting on a new bus and we were not ready in time, and I was supposed to drive to my dad's house after work that night, 90-some miles away with horrible roads, in the dark, with winds blowing so hard it was causing white-out conditions. By the time I got the kids on the bus, I decided I was going to go ahead and get my books and be late to work. It was my boss's inadequacies that led me to not know what was going on. The wind was so harsh (-12 degrees with windchill) that it felt like needles in my face, and as I walked the 1/4 mile to the bookstore, I swore under my breath, fuck them all, I'm doing ME. I got my books and rushed to work on icy roads, arriving only 5 minutes late. Then I realized that my boss had sent me a message to my work email, hours after we closed for the day, and knowing I couldn't get it until the following day when I'd already asked to come in late. Anyway, she was off, so if she is mad about me going without approval, she will have to write me up. It was only an issue because I switched shifts with my coworker and will have to work a 10 1/2 hour shift on Monday. Later that day, I cancelled going to my dad's. It was his 60th birthday and while I would have loved to surprise him and be there to help celebrate it, I wasn't feeling well (sore throat-turned itchy, stuffy inner ear) and I couldn't fathom taking to wicked roads with white-out snow conditions and deer running. I was a little irritated that they didn't understand me not wanting to put my family at risk. Anyway, I cancelled and a huge weight lifted off me. My family had a relaxing Friday night that included thin crust, cheese-less veggie pizza, and some frozen custard that I bought impulsively while driving my son to a sleepover. It made my throat feel better, and also calmed my nerves a little. I was feeling really guilty for not going to my dad's birthday dinner. I still have a lot of work to do around guilt.
Saturday was grocery day. It's not my favorite thing to do, but somewhere along the line it got put on my plate and now it's just habitual. Part of my habit is really unhealthy. Back when I used to shop at Walmart, before I was more conscious of GMOs and pesticides, when I was already starting to go off the rails a bit, I would get a little "reward" to eat before bringing the groceries home. Sometimes it would be a healthy drink or a protein bar I didn't need, but a lot of times it was something even less productive, like an entire box of granola bars or breakfast pastries. When I switched grocery stores, somehow my habit switched to eating something on the way to the grocery. Sometimes it was an energy drink, one time it was McDonald's, and many times it was a donut. I haven't been doing that the past month or so, but for some reason, I did it yesterday, two donuts and an energy drink. I was completely aware of the absurdity when the cashier was trying to talk me into getting another energy drink because they were on a good 2-for sale. "I'm trying to cut back" I explained. Then I picked my two, heavily-frosted donuts off the counter and headed to buy a fortune's worth of fresh, organic, GMO-free groceries. Since I have been trying to figure out WHY I am eating junk, I put a little thought into it and came up with: habit combined with thoughts of starting fresh and not doing this anymore.
At the store, I found my body CRAVING veggies. I bought broccoli, kale, carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes with no real menu plan, I was just listening to what my body was asking for. My grocery just more than doubled their natural/vegan/organic foods and I had so so many new interesting choices, I felt like a kid in a candy store! Normally on Saturdays we would have homemade guacamole and chips, but the avocados were not ripe, so I made a huge platter of cut veggies with some vegan ranch dressing I'd found. My family devoured the healthy snack and I felt like Super Mom. And the best part was, I didn't spend my entire night in the kitchen trying a new recipe, so I had some free time to enjoy myself and relax. I don't get/do/demand enough of that. I was very aware of how much my body was craving the broccoli, to an unnatural point, considering I don't particularly like broccoli. I ate it like it was candy.
My body is protesting my current situation. My joints ache from having to haul all this extra weight around. It makes me feel prematurely old. I know I will feel better if I get nutrients from my food, and start to move. I did a long session of stretching and yoga for my lower body yesterday because all the running in the cold air has given me a huge knot in my glute and is making my hip feel bad. I can fix my health issues. I am not as old as I feel. While the yoga didn't take the knot out, it made my lower body buzz, and I felt a warmth that was more comforting than donuts. This is something I know I need to do, strengthen my body and make sure I can maintain some flexibility. Yoga feels good. I am going to challenge myself to get up early to do some most days of the week. Once I strengthen my lower body and have less joint pain, I'll be able to step up the cardio. I'm in the right place for this right now, I can tell by how positive I feel when I think of taking care of myself. I AM important. I DO deserve this. I don't like feeling old, fragile, giggly and stiff.
This week, I am going to finally give up those damn energy drinks! I don't need them, they don't do anything for me, and they have horrible things in them. It is a positive change I can make.
My other commitment to myself is to continue to go inside; to go further than the emotion to see what is really going on; to ask for what I need, what I feel is not fulfilled.
I am confident that I will figure this out. And at long last, I am in a place of wanting it. Maybe the true freedom comes in letting go of things that haven't worked and accepting new ways to change you and help you grow. I am not embarking on a diet, but in a self-exploration of emotions and food and health. And now, a deep breath as I move forward.