Breaking Habits & Being Honest

This time of year I usually find myself craving all things Easter candy – Peeps (gross, but I love them!), Cadbury Creme Eggs, chocolate coconut eggs, etc. On St. Patrick’s Day I usually want to get a beer or two and eat some corned beef hash and soda bread. Of course, I usually give in to those cravings with the reasoning that a few pieces of candy or a few beers and some salty corned beef isn’t going to hurt me in the long run. I still stand by that rationalization, but on Sunday I made a drug store run for my poor sinus pain-filled husband and found myself eyeing the candy near the check out counter with barely a tinge of longing. It was rather amazing. I realized that St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone without one sip of beer or bite-full of beef and I hadn’t even thought about it.¬†Instead I attended my Pilates class and had a delicious salad for dinner, never feeling as if anything was lacking.

I attribute this change to a lot of things. Physically I think eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and drinking lots of water has helped curb all kinds of cravings. Emotionally/spiritually, I see the support of my husband and regular meditation, Reiki, and yoga as having important roles in regulating my emotions and keeping my anxiety in check.

More and more, as I think back over my past I see how much of an emotional eater I have been. All those forbidden foods that I snuck into my room to eat with abandon provided temporary relief from whatever I was feeling: anxiety, loneliness, anger, lack of security, lack of love, just plain old lack. I was in such denial. I vividly remember watching Oprah one afternoon when I was in high school. She talked about emotional eating and how people use food to fill a void, and sometimes use their weight as a way to protect themselves. I scoffed at that and said to my mom, “Well, that’s not what my problem is. I just have a big bones and a slow metabolism. It’s so frustrating.” Twenty-some years later I realize that it is exactly my problem (or at least a big part of it).

I don’t think I’ve ever really binged. Not in the way that it’s been described by others anyway, but I did eat past the point of being full regularly. I didn’t even realize that until my past few visits with my family this year. Pretty much as soon as I entered my childhood home I would head to the kitchen to find snacks. I snacked until dinner, ate more than usual at dinner, and snacked some more. I should point out that no one else was doing this, just me. When I went to bed I was so full and uncomfortable. I actually woke up in the middle of the night with raging heart burn and once even coughed up a bit of vomit (sorry for the TMI, but I think it’s helpful to be honest).

As I tried to fall back to sleep I pondered a few key questions: Why did I feel this way? Why did I eat so much? Why did I feel like I couldn’t stop eating the whole evening? When I got really honest with myself I realized it was a combination of anxiety and sadness that I was trying to tamp down with whatever I could get my hands on. The sadness was from missing my dad. The anxiety was an old feeling that has permeated my life for as long as I can remember. I no longer blame my family for that, though. I had a pretty good childhood. I just wasn’t really equipped to handle my parents’ divorce and other changes, and I don’t think anyone knew how to help me with that. Still, the feelings return the minute I walk in the door and if I don’t acknowledge them and sit with them, I end up stuffing my face to the point of getting sick.

Being honest about my feelings, particularly the “bad” ones, is a constant struggle. As a highly sensitive child I learned to keep a lot of my emotions to myself. I continued that habit into adulthood, only revealing my true feelings to a handful of close friends and my mom. Writing – fiction, journal entries, free-writing – was my steadfast refuge, but even that began to feel unsafe after I graduated from college. I worried that spending all my free time writing was keeping me from living my real life and so I slowly evicted myself from my one safe haven.

Luckily, after a bunch of failed relationships – some self-destructive and emotionally wrought – I met my husband. Even that relationship had a rocky start, but here we are in our fourth year of marriage. R has helped me in so many ways, but especially by not letting me shut down and hide from my feelings. He pushes me to have conversations that I would otherwise run from and to acknowledge not only what I feel, but also how I let those feelings overcome and undermine me. It’s not easy work, but it’s necessary work and I am so grateful for his patience and love. For the first time I can remember, I feel seen and loved for who I am, not who I’m trying to be.

So while I’m working on breaking habits like turning to food for comfort, and denying my emotions, I hope to re-ignite my old writing habit by posting here more often and keeping a journal again. Words can help us sit with uncomfortable things and see a way past them. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll come sit with me from time to time.

Back on Track

Wow. I apparently cannot get into the swing of blogging. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to find the time to post. I’ve got to work on that.

I don’t have much to report. The past few weeks have not been stellar. One week I ate well, but didn’t get all of my planned workouts in. Another week I completed all of my workouts, but did not eat cleanly. And then the hubby tried to use the Zero Scale to check his weight, not knowing that it was tracking my weight, and everything got thrown out of whack. So, no weigh-ins recently. I reset the scale yesterday and will weigh in next weekend.

I had some emotional setbacks recently which really affected my desire to workout and eat right. It became so clear to me that my physical and emotional health are strongly connected with each other, and so I need to pay attention to both sides of things. The exercising and eating well are only going to get me so far. I need to work on silencing the inner critic. I need to find ways to truly love myself no matter what. And I need to curb the anxiety that takes over every few weeks for a night or two. I never really noticed how often these moods happen until I really began sharing my life and my space with my husband. In the past I’d just lie in bed and cry for however long it took to feel better. Sometimes it took longer than others, but never more than a day or two. Having someone around to witness my plummet is really difficult. It’s hard on me and it’s hard on him, especially when I’m at my worst and lash out at him for nothing. The crazy part is, it’s so much better than it used to be. I used to have days like this a few times a week, now it’s only a few times a month. Still, it’s obviously something I need to dig deeper into and work on healing. It can only make everything in my life so much better.

This week is about determination. It’s about really defining my goals and coming up with plans to reach them. I’ve begun some self-healing work using some books and some blogs (more on those later). I’ve returned to journaling to really look at what is going on with me emotionally since I don’t think I’m ready to share quiet so much here. Finally, I have my meals and my workouts all planned out for the week. I am determined to stay on track and really the way I see myself. It’s going to be quite a long journey, I think, but there’s no other way to go.