As I’ve alluded to on social media (and here!), lately I’ve been taking steps toward dealing with my food issues, among other things, and last night I dealt with one of the least pleasant aspects of that.
Sitting with my feelings.
Too often, whenever I’ve felt upset (or, let’s be honest, happy, or bored, or pretty much any emotion), I’ve turned to food for comfort (or celebration, or activity), feeling like I “deserved it” because I was going through a shitty time (or a great time), and so why not reward myself with food. And that got me to a top weight in the mid-270s despite becoming more physically active.
For the past month, I’ve been trying the opposite. Whenever I’ve had the impulse to eat outside of my three meals, I stop, breathe, and think about whether or not I’m actually hungry, or if there’s something else going on. It hasn’t been perfect. The other night, I served myself a second big bowl of mac and cheese for dinner without batting an eyelash, just because it was a reflex and I didn’t take the time to stop and think. I was rewarded with a stomach ache. So, you know, there’s that. My body knows what’s up even if I don’t.
Yesterday was a particularly “good” day. I returned home after a tech scout for an upcoming video project related to Incredible Girl (start getting excited, people!), and the rainy, cold weather was making me restless. Every time I would sit down to do something, my brain would be like “Nope!,” and I’d get up and pace the apartment. Didn’t want to watch TV, didn’t want to read, didn’t want to write… So, as is my usual pattern, I walked to the kitchen and opened up the cabinet where the cereal is. But then I stopped. I took a breath. I listened to my body. I realized I wasn’t hungry at all. Then I walked to the living room where The Boy was sitting and just said, out loud, “I’m bored and restleeeeeeeeeeess….,” getting it out in a big, toddler-like whine. Then it occurred to me, what I really wanted to do was curl up under a blanket and take a nap. So I did. When I woke up about an hour later, I was refreshed, drank some water, and went about my day.
It was the most perfect example of taking a pause to examine my feelings before eating, and taking that moment saved me yesterday! I was thrilled.
Then, later that night, I was blindsided by a Mack truck of unadulterated emotion – and it wasn’t positive. It was as if suddenly, and without warning, every single insecurity, worry, and fear just came on and started to suffocate me. I was already in bed at this point, and just burst into tears. And as it was so late, I was already in bed, and I’d made the decision to not use food as a crutch, eating wasn’t an option. So I just cried. When The Boy came in to bed later on and realized something was wrong, I was comforted, and hugged, and held. After a while of that, I still couldn’t sleep, so I got up to see if I could tire myself out playing Candy Crush and Tetris. I moved candies and puzzle pieces and sat with how crappy I felt. And I didn’t eat. And I let it feel like shit. Eventually, I went to bed, emotionally spent and tired. But I didn’t eat. And I’m still here. And I feel better today.
That’s the point. The negative feelings I’m always so afraid of – the ones I don’t want to “burden” anyone with, the ones I don’t want to allow to turn me into a “negative person” – didn’t take me down. I allowed myself to feel them, I talked them through, and they passed. And I’m still here. I didn’t need to numb them, or shove them aside, or drown them in bowls of cereal. Even that moment earlier, when I was bored and restless, the moment I named my boredom and restlessness out loud, I realized what a dumb reason that was to eat. What’s more, I realized that there were so many other things I could be doing that would benefit me and not involve food at all, and I thought it insane that I would ever think to forgo that just to eat something.
It’s not always going to be this easy. I know this is something with which I’m always going to struggle. But I do know that, as I’ve spoken to other people who’ve dealt with food issues (or other addictions), it will get easier. It’s like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it. I need to remember that my negative feelings aren’t something I can ignore. They’re a signal from my subconscious that there’s something that I need to address, and I need to remember that when I do face them – when I speak them aloud or otherwise share them either with another person, or with God in quiet – they’re never as scary as I think they’re going to be. I always come through on the other side, and there’s always something to be done about them. Nothing is completely hopeless – even if it feels like it might be in the moment.
The key to getting to that is to Pause. To make room for quiet. When I have the urge to put something in my mouth, to remember that I can, but only after I’ve thought about it first. It’s not about Not Eating. It’s not about deprivation. It’s about de-emphasizing food’s place in my life. If I’m genuinely hungry, if it’s been a couple of hours since I’ve last eaten something and it makes sense for me to be hungry, then of course, I should eat (and take the time to enjoy it and not rush through it). But nine times out of ten, my desire to eat is for every other reason but that, and when I take the time to stop and think, the reasons becomes apparent. And that Pause a gift I’m giving myself. It’s me taking care of myself in the most important way.
It’s me saying Teresa, your feelings are important. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be happy, and you won’t be until you deal with this. I will help you deal with it, and you will be OK.
Ice cream doesn’t say that. 🙂