A new yo-yo?

Most of my adult life I have been very good at dieting: I stick with the plan, refusing to let a morsel of forbidden food pass my lips, staying with it until the magical day when I suddenly decide I am ok. It’s not normally been at the target I set myself at the start but I feel good in my clothes (and without them), I feel right, I feel me so I stop. And then, twenty minutes later I am back in the elasticated waist, black “slimming” trousers trying to fool myself that I haven’t rebounded, gone back (or worse) to where I was. It feels like a few days off diet and woosh, it’s all back.

So I know I can’t keep doing this: it’s pointless, painful, pathetic. Such a waste of time, of my life, so I know it’s got to go but I am feeling like I have entered into another cycle. I spend days focusing on eating “normally”, feel good about food (I am in control not the other way around), and then the minute I take my attention off to something more interesting, more worthwhile (my children, my partner, my work) then I panic I am out of control so I need to re-set myself. Is it just the same? I don’t weigh myself, I don’t sit around all day eating chocolate and crisps, but I worry that without the daily scale visit I am spiraling up and up.

Sure I can use my clothes but I am trying not to think about it all the time so that feels counter productive. I need to have trust, I need to think “normal” rather than thinking like a reformed dieter, knowing the calorie content of everything I eat, not listening to my body. But that’s really hard when I have spent years ignoring my inner hunger, not eating when I did need food, eating something I didn’t want because it was “good”. I want to stop thinking about it all the time but I have to think about it to get to that point.

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Totting it up

So my mind’s been full of food again. Well, only really this evening as I am home alone and seem to have decided eating is something I want to do. And do. And do. Yes I was hungry to start with, but then I seemed to continue. Why? Because I could? There was no-one here to watch, no-one who I thought would be judging? I think I just did it out of habit, a very old habit that seems to have come back because I stopped paying attention, because I stopped thinking about it. I suppose I started to think I could eat normally without having to think about it and maybe I’m just not there yet.

So I ate a bit of breakfast: two small pieces of toast and they were small pieces and later we went out to lunch. My partner was going out this evening so I knew we wouldn’t be eating an evening meal but I wasn’t very hungry. I didn’t eat half the food on my plate and I felt really full. So far, so normal.

But then this evening, after I’d had something to eat when I knew I wasn’t really hungry anymore I continued to eat. I did this sort of stupid mental calculation, something along the lines of “well, you haven’t eaten that much today so maybe you could have/deserve….” and even when I was eating I was thinking about the next thing I could eat, the next thing I deserved. It’s so depressing: I feel good about myself, my life is going well and yet these all habits are still lurking. Still it’s only one evening and it’s just reminded me that I need to be more vigilant, it’s not time to stop thinking about it yet. I shall start again tomorrow.

See-saw

The most frustrating part of working on myself and the way I feel about my body is that just when I think I am getting somewhere, that I am moving in the right direction then I suddenly swing back the other way and enter another period of self loathing, doubt, the chattering, incessant negative voices won’t go away.

In the last few weeks eating has started to feel more natural, more normal. I knew I wasn’t sorted, I hadn’t reached the end, but I felt like I had made huge strides in the right direction. I would catch myself eating something because I was rewarding myself, or because I was bored, but I just sort of filed it away rather than thought how awful it was etc. It seemed to be happening less and less: food was moving out of its place as the primary focus in my life, I was beginning to feel more relaxed about it.

So what happened? I went out today and was sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend when I caught sight of myself in a mirror. What did I see? Well the mirror was low so I couldn’t see my head so all I saw was fat! My stomach looked huge, I had rolls on my back, I thought I looked hideous. I suddenly felt stupid, that I had been deluding myself, I was just being lazy rather than keeping myself in check. I tried to make sense of the way I felt about myself: my clothes are the same size as when I last weighed myself so why should I suddenly feel I had become some sort of whale?

Sitting here now I feel cross with myself: angry because I kept looking, allowed those negative voices to hold the floor, came home and thought about restricting my eating, thought about how other people must be looking at me and commenting on my weight, all the old negative, horrible stuff that has gone through my head for years. And then I decided to take back control: I sat down to write this to reset my brain, to move on, to keep going and tell those voices to shut the f*** up!

Normal? What’s normal….

So things seem to have been going well over the last few weeks. I haven’t really been thinking about eating, my body, my weight most of the time. Of course I have occasional moments of panic: it’s funny how I can feel that I look and feel ok one day and then the next the self-doubt reappears and I am convinced I am on the fast road to becoming a whale! Just catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window or looking at myself in a mirror can have all those negative thoughts circulating again. I get fed up with them, but they are still lurking in the wings, waiting to catch me in a moment of insecurity, filling my brain with their toxic messages. Sometimes I find it hard to fight back, readjust my thinking and get back on the road I want to be on. It takes time.

But that’s all an aside: what I have been considering is what is “normal” eating. Take today, for example, a stressful morning: a long difficult drive to a meeting only to find the other person didn’t show up. I know that happens sometimes but I have been feeling really positive lately (if that doesn’t contradict what I wrote before?), especially about my work so I felt a bit of a dip. When I got home I made coffee and thought that I fancied a bit of chocolate, I knew I didn’t want a lot, but I had a long mental conversation about whether I really wanted chocolate or was I comforting my disappointment? Eventually I decided I did just fancy eating something sweet that had nothing to do with crushing my feelings, I broke a bit off a bar of chocolate, ate that slowly, enjoyed it and didn’t feel that I had to go back for the rest of the bar. Is that what normal people do (probably without the irritating internal dialogue)? Am I starting to be normal?

The shame of it….

We had a lovely family day yesterday: a birthday meal, plenty to eat and drink, lots of laughter, a really lovely day. I went to bed feeling blessed and happy. And then I had a horrible dream: the only bit of it I remember clearly is being told I had put on a lot of weight. I woke up feeling awful, and then sad that this obsession I have with my body, my eating, my weight, could impact on me so strongly and spoil the end of a lovely weekend.

The primary feeling I had was shame or embarassment. Perhaps the idea that I could enjoy a family day without monitoring all I was eating and drinking was too much for my subconscious, perhaps it was trying to inflict my old ways of thinking back on me? I sat and thought about it, remembering I hadn’t actually eaten that much so why were these negative voices so strong? And even if I had eaten more than normal why did it matter that much? We don’t do this every day, every week or even every month so one day wouldn’t have a huge impact. It just all seems so pointless and negative.

I don’t want the focus of my life to be on this, I want food to be simply fuel but it seems like parts of me are fighting back and I hated the feeling of shame, the idea of someone really hitting me where it hurts: the way I look and the way I feel about the way I look. I imagine every mouthful causing my hips to expand and I am fighting this really hard, talking to myself with the kindess I use with other people, but it is still fighting back. I still look at photos of friends from school to see if they are bigger or smaller than me: what a sad way to judge the world and the people in it. I realise the fight has just begun just when I was hoping it was getting nearer the end!

Keep the focus

I have found it hard to focus on what I am eating whilst I am eating it. I find it quite easy to think about what I want to eat, do I want savoury or sweet, hot or cold etc but slowing down my eating, thinking about how the food feels, being aware of feelings of fullness I have found much more difficult. I think it’s because food has been so many more things in my life other than simply nutrition, fuel, something to keep my body going.

I know the theory: sit at the table, look at my food, smell my food, chew slowly, consider how it feels whilst I am chewing it, how does it taste, but I find it really hard to do that. I have a habit of reading whilst I am eating so simply being with the food feels alien. I can do things like put down the food between bites, take my time but it still feels like something I am doing without really being engaged with it. I don’t know why I am struggling with this so much: I want to make it better and know this is a step I have to take so I suppose that I am trying to bypass it and go straight to “normal eater” state whilst knowing I can’t do that.

Perhaps this is just another way in which I try to sabotage this process, allow myself to drift back to the yoyo habits that have occupied so much of my life. I need to work harder at this.

So how can I eat?

The problem with having to think differently about a thing like eating is that it takes a long time to change my mind and I’m not very good at waiting: I want to be different now! It’s hard going through stages, taking my time, having something on my mind all the time when I am trying not to think about it at all. Yes I know I have to take my time but I don’t want to.

So I have to learn to eat slowly, mindfully, be aware of what I am eating, how it makes me feel. I think (or should think) about these things before I start eating, when I am choosing what I want to eat, rather than just stuffing food into my mouth to fill a hunger, whether that be physical or emotional.

I have learnt (though thinking) that I often eat too much because I want to have my fair share of the food that’s available: I think this has to do with me equating food with love which is a strong message from my childhood. I remember eating quickly as we were a big family and if I didn’t finish quickly I wouldn’t be able to have anymore. I think my mother didn’t know how to show her love for us other than by providing good, warming, wholesome food and I wanted to have at least the same amount of that as my brothers and sisters. I am aware of that feeling, I am aware of my irritation with my partner when he demolishes his dinner and rushes for seconds before I have finished what I have put on my plate. There is usually plenty (I still cook for the whole family even though most of my family no longer live here) but I do feel cross and I think this is about the fact he doesn’t think about anyone else. He is focussed on his meal, making sure he has enough, regardless of what anyone else needs or wants. That selfishness brings back a lot of difficult memories and I can see that a lot of my emotions are tied up with food and hence my need to eat more than my body wants.

This isn’t simple.