FOOD REVELATIONS

chili-large-logo

The following are things I have learned about food as I have walked this Intuitive Eating journey.

1.    I really don’t like Poptarts, or brownies, or celery sticks, or watermelon, or chicken nuggets, or a host of other things I thought I liked.  I had forbidden brownies and Poptarts and chicken nuggets so when I bought them, I binged.  But now with giving myself unconditional permission to eat all the brownies, Poptarts, and chicken nuggets that I want, I discovered, I really hate them.  In the same vein, I discovered I don’t like celery sticks or watermelon, or walnuts—things I convinced myself I liked when I was restricting.

2.    Food has lost some magic.  When I was restricting and bingeing, food had a divinity attached to it because I always binged on the forbidden foods in secret, and they were all mine.  When I finally would allow myself a tiny bit of chocolate or sugar, it seemed like it tasted magical.  But now, all foods—fruits, veggies, candies, baked goods, etc.)—have a similar meaning to me, which means some of the forbidden foods have lost their magic.  I used to spend hours and even days planning and preparing meals to make sure they used the exact right ingredients, price, and nutrition.  Now I find other things to fill those hours and food simply takes up as much time as it takes to make and eat it, nothing more.  Sometimes I whimsically think of the time when food was such a special treat for me (especially the forbidden ones) because I now have to find other things in my life that bring that same magic or joy.  But most times, I am so grateful that food has lost its supreme hold over me.          

3.    My body does not respond well to large quantities of sugar or processed food.  I have found that my body is not happy (yep, I’m talking gas and other bodily movements) when I eat large quantities or processed foods in a short period of time.  My body prefers if I spread those foods out across several days or a couple times a week.  So, even though I used to follow this rule as a restriction on treats, I now follow it because that’s what my body wants, a huge difference.      

4.    I actually enjoy going to restaurants now.  Before Intuitive Eating, restaurants used to be one of the most fearful places for me, because I always felt such pressure from myself and from those I ate with to choose only entrées that were nutritious.  I would always eat daintily at the table, and take at least half my entrée home with me.  But, then when I got home, I would binge on the rest of my entrée and other foods because I felt so deprived at the restaurant.  Other times, I would binge at the restaurant and feel so sick when leaving, that I would bash every part of my body and willpower.  However, with Intuitive Eating, restaurants do not need to be feared or lead automatically to binges.  I now LOVE going to restaurants because the entire menu is open to me.  I usually still bring food home, but I feel no need to binge on it because I did not deprive myself at the restaurant.  Instead, I look forward to the opportunity to eat my entrée later and enjoy it all over again.

5.    I like eating less of each food and more varieties of food at each meal (ex. half sandwich, chips, and fruit instead of simply a whole sandwich).  This one really surprised me.  My food palate likes variety at each meal rather than a lot of just one main entrée.  And because of that, I love providing veggies and fruits to accompany the main dish at each meal.  I get a taste of everything at each meal and feel so satisfied.  It also helps financially because each meal goes further.

These are some of the things I have learned so far and I am sure to add more as I continue.  What about you—what kinds of things have your learned/surprised you while on your journey?

HUGE EXERCISE BREAKTHROUGH

images

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE 

Another huge part of my recovery has been the battle with exercise.  Growing up, exercise was always connected with team sports—swim team, cross-country, soccer, lacrosse.  I wasn’t a sports superstar, but I was a contributing member of several sports teams.  However, I stopped participating on sports teams for a few years, and rapidly gained weight.  That’s when my exercise habits shifted from sports teams to an individual pursuit of some goal.  As an overweight teenager, I began dieting and using exercise to lose weight, become healthier, and fit in.  And indeed, I shrunk fairly easily, got new clothes, received compliments, and felt confident in my new body.  However, this began my journey down the slippery slope of using exercise for something more than recreation or joy of movement.

Once started, I couldn’t stop exercising for fear I would gain the weight back.  So, from then on, I made sure I exercised everyday.  I remember berating myself when I missed a day, and trying to make it up the next day by working out twice as long or twice as hard.  Whenever I missed a day, the whole day was ruined—I body bashed and binged myself into psychological oblivion.  And that moved to using exercising as punishment.  Whenever I binged, I would work out twice that day, or I would tell myself that I am really fat and my body is disgusting throughout the whole next workout.  I engaged in extreme exercising, programs like Insanity, Turbo Fire, and P90X because I believed that they would finally change my body into what I wanted.

THE BETTER WAY

With IE, exercise is all about enjoying the movement of your body—its natural grace and agility.  Since embracing IE, my exercise habits have been difficult to change.  I still have a mini freak-out each time I miss a day of exercising (even when I’m sick or injured.)  But I have learned that I do not like extreme exercise programs or regimes, at least, not right now.  I enjoy working hard, straining my muscles, and sweating, but not to the point of exhaustion or pain.  I enjoy the feeling of sore muscles because I know that means my body is building and growing, however not sore enough that I cannot play with my little girls and complete daily chores.

This breakthrough has been huge for me.  I was doing those workout programs for the wrong reasons—for weight loss, for self-esteem and confidence boosts, and for punishment for falling of the diet wagon.  Now, I am beginning to enjoy exercise because of how I feel afterward with building muscles, but also during the actual workout.  I am beginning to change my workout voice from I need to keep going because my abs are flabby to I really love how I am feeling my abs work but I can stop when I need to, and from I’m working off those brownies from yesterday to I have the energy to go all out—I can do this!  This change has been huge and I find I am a much happier person because of it.  I still feel pangs of guilt or envy when I see someone training for a marathon or doing Insanity, but I know what kind of person I am when I do those things myself, and I don’t want to be that person again.  I want to be happy and healthy, and now I am (well, at least I’m working on it.)  

A RESPONSE TO PREVENTION

images

THE BACKGROUND

When I was deep into the dieting world, I subscribed to Prevention magazine’s daily emails.  For those of you who don’t know, Prevention is a woman’s magazine that focuses on preventing aging, weight gain, illness (essentially the natural process of life), etc. from happening.  It is a monthly magazine chock full of editorials, new diet plans (Flat Belly Diet, 400 Calorie Fix), weight loss secrets, exercise regimes, power foods (acai berries), and health advice accompanied with personal testimonials, advertisements, and photos.  While the magazine means well and successfully follows society’s trend of salivating over the latest nutrition research, it goes against almost everything Intuitive Eating stands for.  Although exercising, nutrition, and illness prevention are essential for a healthy life, Prevention maintains the only way to achieve those things is through vigorous dieting, willpower, and regimented exercise; however, this is completely false.  Intuitive Eating replaces the rules and structure of dieting with your body’s natural hunger signals, the idea of lack of willpower with reconnection to your body’s needs and desires, and regimented exercise with the beauty of gentle movement.

THE AD

I received the following email from Prevention just the other day:

IMG_1069  

THE RESPONSE

Dear Prevention,

I don’t need to get my body back.  I have a body that has taken me through 24 years of life relatively healthily, recovered from a torn ACL and meniscus, given birth to two children, run a half marathon, worships God, lifts, bends, runs, walks, and bikes all over the place.  It is not the same body—shape or size—as when I was a teenager, nor should it be.  I have done so much since then and my body has grown with me.  It is stronger and more knowledgeable, has more scars and done more wonderful things than ever before.

I appreciate that you want us to love our bodies, but I don’t have to wait until 2014, and I certainly don’t need your planner to do so.  I am working on learning to love my body, as are dozens of others.  As far as all the hoping and good intentions not giving me the body I want, all I have to say is that I have the body I want.  I do agree with you that planning is important, so I will give you this—I will plan to continue to ignore your misguided, society-driven propaganda that you send to my inbox each week, and plow forward with spreading the word that there is a better way.

Sincerely,

Breanna

So, what kinds of responses would you have, given the chance?

LETTER TO THE WEIGHT LOSS INDUSTRY: I SAY ENOUGH!

images

Dear Weight Loss Industry (diets, exercise programs, supplements, plastic surgery, hollywood, you-know-who-you-are, etc.):

When I follow your lead, I feel like a monkey on a leash, grasping at the newest and best banana that gets thrown in my direction.  Nothing is satisfying, everything is depriving.  When I listen to your sweet whispers, I think not of romance, but of weakness—my own bone-gnawing weakness.  I see my flaws in every detail, as if they are stuck on the repeat cycle of an Ipod shuffle.  When I see the images you put on the screen and the false promises behind which you stand, I feel a desperate desire to prove myself even knowing I will fail.

When I follow you, I tie my own hands behind my back, place the blindfold over my eyes, and walk docilely to the hangman’s noose.  My nostrils fill with the scent of failure, a stale stench of rotting vegetation and human waste.  My ears pick up the pitiful sounds of carrion birds mournfully raising their song to the still air.  But as they cease to call, the only sound that breaks the silence is my heavy footfall as I walk steadily to the noose.  Something inside of me screams to get out, to fight back, to not give in, but still I walk toward the inevitable.  It is second nature to quell the battlefield raging in my head because I have completely fooled myself into believing that walking towards this death will actually bring me the happiness I crave.  I ignore health and sickness; I ignore friends, family, and God.  In fact, as I place my neck inside the noose, my last thought is if I had only tried harder, then perhaps I might have achieved your impossible standard of beauty.

But no more.  I have had enough.  Blessedly, I have not hung myself with rope made from your empty promises.  I managed to escape through the trapdoor at my feet.  And now, I raise my voice, as small as it may be, in defense—no—in offense of your message and your tactics.  I despise that you thrive on pointing out our perceived flaws and insecurities, that you use guilt and shame to sell your products.  I despise that you decide the standard of beauty and health just because your voice is the loudest and the most funded.  I despise that you literally lead people to the slaughter in pursuit of superficial goals that promise happiness but deliver failure.  And most of all, I despise the fact that somehow you manage to convince us that your failure is our failure, that your empty promises are a result of our lack of willpower.

I say enough is enough.  Although I hope to end my personal fight against you and find peace, I will never stop fighting for all those who are still walking towards the noose.  I do not pretend that this world will ever be free of you in my lifetime, but know this, I will fight until my dying breath, and my words will fight long after that.  I look towards our own noble history and see that one voice is powerful enough to stand in opposition your reign of manipulation and artful deceit.  I am not a utopian, but I see potential—the great, godlike potential of men and women to lift up what we have been given to something greater than what it was at the beginning.

I see a world where we are accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes as beautiful and encouraging health at every size.  I see a world where magazines feature stories of human greatness rather than the newest bikini-ready body or crash diet.  I see a world where women can sit down together to eat and converse and not feel the need to mention the nutrition or calorie-count of their food, or enter the shark-infested waters of communal body bashing.  I see a world where we enjoy food for its satisfying quality and energy value rather than its scientifically proven nutritional value.

I see a world where we move our bodies and exercise, not out of envy, or guilt, or feelings of personal disgust, but because we recognize the strength of muscles, and the graceful movement of limbs.  The movement enlivens us as we praise the bodies we have been given.  I see a world where we can drive down a street littered with advertisements and have companies trying to sell retail with quality items not half-naked airbrushed objects.  I see a world where confidence comes from knowledge of our inherent worth as human beings rather than our body’s health or size.

I raise my voice against your world.  You better watch out because my voice is small now, but it won’t be for long.  I have had enough.  Haven’t you?

VICTORY–CHOCOLATE BECOMES PEACH

Peach-Chocolate-Medley-02010 (2)

In the book “Intuitive Eating,” the authors comment on several occasions that if the principle of Unconditional Permission to Eat is embraced, then soon enough chocolate will have the same connotation and satisfaction as a peach.  I kept reading that idea thinking that it was never going to be that way for me because I love chocolate.

However, I am here to testify that I was wrong.  I love chocolate and always will, but I no longer feel that there is some parasite sitting in my belly demanding to be fed chocolate.  I no longer feel the need to eat a whole package of oreos or have five brownies.  I am satisfied with just one brownie and a couple of oreos with milk.  I used to want chocolate all the time, or at least, after every meal.  Now, I am satisfied with chocolate once a day, or sometimes even less!  And the best part about it is that I do not feel deprived of chocolate.  I am not restricting myself at all.  I truly know that if I want chocolate, I can have it, but I just don’t want it all the time.

How did this happen, you may ask?  Well, there has been no magic switch or button, and even though I only noticed it, it certainly didn’t happen in one day.  This whole process of Intuitive Eating and therapy has given me the chance to reconnect with my body and my body does not need or want chocolate all the time.  I cannot point to one specific principle and tell you that if you follow that specific one, then you will think chocolate is the same as a peach too.   There are no shortcuts.  But I do know that this IE process has been really difficult and yet so rewarding.  When I started, I could not have imagined that I would really be at the point I am today, but it is possible, for me, AND for you!

IN A MOMENT OF NEED

empowerment
THE MOMENT

My last post about admitting defeat in a battle with my body left me feeling tremendously vulnerable.  I was so uncomfortable that not even 24 hours after I posted it, I wanted very badly to take down the post and I even got online to do so, when I read a fresh comment from a reader.

When I write a post, I advertise my new post on Facebook and on the Intuitive Eating Community website.  This comment from a tender follower from the Intuitive Eating Community website encouraged me to keep the post up because she felt the same way.  Since then, I have had several additional positive comments that have reaffirmed that my decision to be vulnerable was a courageous decision and worth it.  I wanted to share with you their comments, in hopes that they might help you to take a chance, to persevere despite tremendous emotional discomfort because if you take that chance like I did, then these words can also be said of you.

THE COMMENTS

“I am feeling the exact same way this week. It’s driving me crazy. I don’t know how to quiet those voices in my head. I know we are not alone, and we’ll keep fighting.”

“Thank you so much for sharing this post! I can really relate, although I am not in the icy cold, dark water myself at the moment (but I’ve been there before and think your description is spot on!).

I really love the conclusion ” I lost this battle, but not the war”.”

“Thank you for sharing this. How are you doing?

I also find weight loss to be a major emotional trigger for me. I suspect, actually, that this has a lot to do with why I have not lost weight. Oh, and writing that out just made me realize that those fears must be one of my ‘blocks’ with IE that I need to work through (I had been thinking it was something that I needed to wait – weight, haha – out).

Anyway, keep posting. We’ll figure this out. I appreciate your blog and read it sometimes when I need some grounding. I should comment but I feel like a stranger!”

“Before i comment about the actual post, i would like to say – you are a really amazing writer! i love your phrases, sentence structures and style.

ok. i havent been battling self image for as long, but i have some advice ( i don’t know how much you will connect to it).

i think it’s REALLY important to know and remind ourselves ALL THE TIME that Gd gave us these bodies. He put our souls inside, trusting US to treat our bodies with respect and care, just like we would keep our most valuable treasure in a safe vessel.

I know that at the low and beyond low points of our self esteem it seems impossible to ever love ourselves, the food we eat or our actions, but i think the more we remind ourselves of how important our bodies are – not only to us, but to Gd too – the less horrible we will eventually feel about them.

a last side note – in addition to our bodies’ importance (it gives us life, it holds our souls) it is also good to keep in mind that it is just a body. this is REALLY hard to do, especially with how easy it is to judge others on their bodies, but try getting to know a person NOT based on looks or what you hear, but rather on how they treat you, how they act. I’ve been doing that this year. it makes me think of how different somebody can be on the inside!

sorry for such a long post! :)”   

“Hi Breanna, I just want to thank you for your honesty. I spent some time on your blog today and was impressed by your commitment and willingness to show ups AND downs. You mentioned you almost took down the post for feeling vulnerable … I heard an interesting TED talk about vulnerability. The woman, who researches the subject, says vulnerability is no weakness, it is pure courage. She adds, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” So, congrats on being courageous and inviting creativity and change!

TO YOU

This post is a simple shout-out to all my readers thanking you for your support and empathy.  I am edified, encouraged, and empowered by your stories and your comments.

ADMITTING DEFEAT

no_fear_of_drowning____by_allison712

THE BACKGROUND

So, I know it has been a while since my last post and the reason for that is that I have been loosing a battle.  The last week or so, since I wrote the weight loss trigger post, I have been fighting a battle as vicious and terrible as some of the darkest ones I fought in the deepest clutches of my eating disorder.  At one corner is me as I am now, or at least, how I was a week or so ago—not fully healed, but recovering with a passable relationship with food, and a most-days-are-good relationship with my body.  At the other corner is a massive wave of hate for my body.  A little bit of background might help understand why and where this came from.

In the midst of my eating disorder, I would get compliments on how thin I was becoming and for a few moments, maybe even a few days, I felt proud of myself—my dedication to restricting and over-exercising—and would look in the mirror and feel confident that I looked better without all that weight.  This confidence—if you want to call it that—did not last very long and each successive time became shorter and shorter until eventually it disappeared entirely.  For quite a few months the cycle of self-destruction continued—I get a compliment on my thin physique, I look in the mirror and like the thinner me better, and then a short time later, I look in the mirror and see all the flaws I had before the weight was lost, and hate my body even stronger and more than before.  The flaws I saw in my physique seemed even more pronounced.  It was during this cycle of self-destruction that I developed a passionate hatred and disgust for my body.    

THE TRIGGER 

So, a few weeks ago when I received that compliment about having lost weight, it became the greatest trigger I have yet faced.  I thought writing about it would be enough.  I thought talking about it would be enough.  But it wasn’t.  I lost this battle—I succumbed to that hatred of my body, to that voice exaggerating every flaw, and to my tendency to compare my body to that of others.  This trigger propelled me to begin anew this cycle of self-destructive.  

This week, none of my mantras or images worked.  I looked in the mirror each morning and felt disgusted each time I stepped away.  At exercising each morning, I assessed the bodies of those in the room, and measured up heavier, and more disgusting than each of them.  I kept changing clothes this week because I did not feel comfortable in any outfit I chose, no matter how baggy.  And worst of all, I restricted, binged, and shamed myself into silence, simply proving to me that I was weak and powerless to fight.

THE BATTLE

The hatred for my own body surrounds me as icy cold waters.  I’m wearing my finest and yet I am alone hanging only to a piece of waterlogged driftwood with no land in sight.  The still night, with its cloudless sky and sparkling stars, betrays nothing about the battle I am fighting.  The waters lap hungrily at me, beckoning me to enter their embrace.  Just let go.  Give up.  Your body is disgusting and you know it too, so give in.  You are weak.  It will be so much easier if you just stop fighting it. 

The waves whisper so seductively, but I scream back, at least, I think it is screaming for the force it requires from me to say it, but the piercing air makes it come out a squeak.  Leave me be. You can’t have me.  Stop it.  I can’t do this.  The tears streaming down my cheeks in frustration and anger and loss freeze before they reach the water.  I splash my hands on the water’s surface in an effort to fight back and my driftwood disappears on the ripples.  I’m treading water now, but my strength is near spent.  My face falls below the water and I struggle to breathe.  I take a deep breath and water fills my lungs; the moon bids farewell as I sink beneath the water. 

WHAT TO DO WITH DEFEAT

This week I have felt such a hatred for my body.  And yes, in a few moments, I could no longer fight the constant barrage of hate-bearing thoughts, so I gave in.  I picked on every flaw I perceived, I tore myself apart, and in the end, I was defeated.  The funny thing about defeat is that once I acknowledged it, raged at it, and wept for it, I was able to claw my way up from its watery depths and breathe again.  I lost this battle, but not the war.  Although I feel as if I have taken dozens of steps backward, I am still on the path to end this war for good.    

TRIGGER–CONFRONTING ED

Breaking-Free-of-Shackles-300x241

THE CONFRONTATION

Near the end of my training program for running my first half marathon, I was running 9 miles at my local recreation center.  I usually run outside but it was near 100 degrees and I knew that I would be wiped out if I tried to run in that heat, so I hit the track.  A mile is 8 times around the track, so I had to run around it 72 times.  I was feeling pretty good about the run— my legs were doing well enough, no shin splints or creaky ankles.  It took me a good 90 minutes to complete the run so I saw several joggers come and go along the track.  About 7 miles into the run, I noticed a girl and a woman had just arrived to walk around the track.

The girl had small weights circled around her ankles and wrists—at first, I thought they were shackles they looked so confining.  I could not tell the age of this girl because her skin was pasty, her eyes were shallow, and her cheeks were sunken.  Her legs and arms would have rivaled a toothpick for thinness.   The woman walking with her could have been her mother, therapist, or friend, but it was plain that she had been assigned to help this girl exercise without militant fervor.  In just one instant, this girl, struggling in her own right with an ED, brought back memories and feelings so heavy, I nearly fell to floor with the weight of it.

Every time I passed her around the track I felt a dark cloud as thick as butter engulf my mind.  I suddenly felt claustrophobic and it had nothing to do with the scent of overly sweaty bodies and too much perfume.  My legs felt heavy and with each step I took, my breath became shallower.  I attempted to banish this cloud and its accompanying feelings from my mind and heart with simple mantras such as “This doesn’t bother me.”  “I’m fine.” “I can do this.” However, those mantas were not adequate because it did bother me, I wasn’t fine, and I felt like I couldn’t do it.  I knew I needed a stronger comeback. So, I stepped into my visual reality.

THE COMEBACK

I am alone in a dark, dank room.  I almost gag because the smell of rusty pipes clings to my throat like sandpaper.  There are impenetrable chains immobilizing my wrists and ankles, locking me securely to a metal chair.  I have been sitting on this chair so long that I lost feeling in my legs and every muscle aches.  I long to stretch my limbs and be free of this chair, but my shackles mock me a prisoner forever.  I do everything I think of to free myself—cry out for help, maneuver my hands through the chain holes—but nothing works.

After hopelessness enters my heart, I decide to give it one last-ditch effort and I simply yank one of my wrists free of the chains, and somehow, someway it makes sense now—I am free, forever free of them.  The chair is ED, and I viciously yank off the chains that bind me to her.  I crush them like grapes in my palm, and with tears glistening off my cheeks, I scream to the sky, “I’m free of her!  I’m free of her!”

In this case, the “her” was not so much this girl walking ever so slowly with her mentor around the jogging track, but a symbol of my ED that stalked me all these years, ever present, seeping into every aspect of my waking thoughts, and lurking beneath every happy moment.  This image of me breaking free from long-binding chains is much more powerful and it helps me finish my last 2 miles.  Each time I pass her, I scream inside my head like a bell reverberating, “I’m happy!  I’m healthy! I’m free of her!”

A READER’S QUESTION–FEEL THE FEELINGS

TDT_Feeling Your Feelings

In response to my last post about Fast Sunday, a reader said the following:

I am so enjoying your blogging. Yay for you having that victory!! I’m still working on figuring out how hungry I am and also on not eating as a response to shameful feelings—which I just had this past weekend and then binged to numb those uncomfortable feelings–have you had any experience with dealing with uncomfortable feelings?

This post is to answer that question, the question about how to deal with uncomfortable feelings.

STEP ONE—FEEL THE FEELINGS

The first and yet most difficult step is a change in attitude from one of needing to numb, distract, or push away strong emotions (especially uncomfortable ones) to an attitude of letting myself really, truly feel them.  This is most difficult with uncomfortable emotions (shame, anger, hurt, disgust, fear, etc.) because they often propel us to act in ways that numb those feelings temporarily, while really propelling us to repeat vicious cycles of binging and numbing.

What I mean when I say really, truly feel the emotions is (1) name the emotion accurately, (2) allow myself to feel uncomfortable with that emotion, and (3) begin to discover what that emotion is telling me.  For example, after a binge, I feel immense guilt (among other things) so I label it as just that, guilt, and I allow myself to feel uncomfortable with this emotion.  Usually feelings of guilt propel me to binge even more or to over-exercise in order to compensate for everything that I ate.  But, I am learning to label guilt for what it is—simply a sensation that means I regret eating too much food because it makes my body feel very uncomfortable.  I remind myself that I do not want to feel guilt again and in order to avoid that I try to avoid overeating (guilt and shame are really difficult and often complicated emotions that I will discuss separately in a forthcoming post, so keep your eyes open!)

The key here is to not add judgment of myself based on the emotion.  LABEL THE EMOTION, NOT MYSELF.  For example, if I feel guilty after a binge, then I label that emotion as guilt, but I DO NOT label myself as a failure, my body as disgusting and my spirit as worthless.  It is hard, but possible.  Sometimes when I find myself wanting to attach those judgments to myself when experiencing a particularly strong emotion, I recall the image of the fork in the road.

This change in attitude, and really truly feeling feelings is difficult and often takes many attempts and a bucket-load of determination.  You need a nothing-is-going-to-defeat-me, and I-have-the-power attitude.  Let me say it again—it’s difficult, but possible.

The last part of this process of feeling feelings is to look at what the emotion is doing for you.  For example, when I am disgusted after a binge, the emotion is telling me that I ate too much, my body is uncomfortable, and I want to dress in the baggiest, least restricting clothes I have until my swollen belly recedes.  Another example—when I look in the mirror after a particularly rigorous session of body-bashing, all I see is ugliness and fatness, leading to deep feelings of disgust for entire body.  This feeling of disgust tells me that I don’t like the way things are—my relationship with food, the clothes I’m wearing, my exercise routine, my eating disorder, etc.  These feelings are telling me that something needs to change—I need to attend therapy, I need to start IE, I need to be kind to my body etc.  This feeling of disgust tells me that I need serious help to overcome misplaced interpretations of my body.  These very feelings of disgust, ugliness, and fatness are what propelled me to seek out IE in the first place, get into therapy, and form this blog.  I am a long way from healthy, but I am getting there, and my feelings—uncomfortable and strong ones especially—are helping me to get there.

STEP TWO—COPING STRATEGIES

In step one, it is essential to begin to allow myself to be anxious and uncomfortable, and even fearful when sitting with and feeling strong emotions.   However, it is not needed to wallow in them.  As long as the emotion is being expressed and I am learning to decipher what the emotion is telling me, then it has served its purpose.  So, step two is about learning to replace eating as a coping or numbing mechanism with other, more positive methods.  As I’m sure you can tell by now, I am a list-maker, and so I advocate making a list of sure-fire ways to help yourself cope with strong emotions.  Below is my personal list, but understand that it is always changing and growing.  Some emotions are so strong that I need to do several things on my list in order to feel better, and others are quailed after only one.

COPING STRATEGIES LIST:

  1. Take a bath (usually a nice, long, hot one)
  2. Read a book (usually a fantasy novel)
  3. Clean (and vigorously with lots of elbow grease)
  4. Cook or bake
  5. Sew/quilt (I love making handbags)
  6. Watch a tear-jerker
  7. Talk (to my husband/therapist etc.)
  8. Write in my blog/journal
  9. Be active (walk/run/bike)
  10. Just say no (to taking on too many things, to repeating the vicious cycle etc.)
  11. Breathe/mindfulness (progressive muscle relaxation, meditation)
  12. Music (listen or play)
  13. Laugh (I love Bill Cosby and Brian Regan routines)
  14. Serve (my daughters/family/friends/neighbors etc.)

HUGE CAVEAT

Sometimes, in very rare cases, emotions are so overwhelming that allowing myself to feel them in the moment might and sometimes does lead to disaster.  I’m talking about the emotions that are so strong that it feels like my body is ripping apart at the seams, that, if felt, will literally send me spiraling into an abyss so deep that the light at the end of the tunnel is lost.  When these emotions come, sometimes I neglect all of the above steps for my own safety and sanity.  In other words, I employ the tried-and-tested technique of distraction.  I get involved in something else so totally that I ignore my emotion and refuse to let myself feel it or become overwhelmed by it.

The key here is to distract myself with something healthy, not eating.  So, when those rare—and I’m talking extremely rare—times come that my sanity or safety is within an inch of being overwhelmed, I distract myself with something healthy.  This distraction may come from the above list or from a different list, but I make sure to pick something that will allow my mind to be totally immersed for a time.  Now, the most important part of this caveat is that once my sanity and safety are assured, it is essential to go back through what happened and what I thought that brought me to that brink of emotional abyss.  Once partially removed from that moment, it becomes easier to see why I was tempted so far down the path of self-destruction.  Ask some questions like “What triggered me?”  “Why couldn’t I cope?” “What are my fears?” “Where can I get help?” “What about next time?”

P.S. I know that some of these things can be confusing and that maybe some of them don’t work for you.  Please feel free to comment, email, or facebook me for help, advice, or simply a listening ear and an understanding heart for your own journeys.  I invite all who would like to share their thoughts on how they deal with strong or uncomfortable emotions in the comment section of this post so that all may benefit from our collective wisdom.  Blessings!

VICTORY–FAST SUNDAY

Fasting4

THE HISTORY 

So, for those who don’t know, I’m a Mormon, and as a Mormon, I fast (go without food or drink) for two meals on the first Sunday of each month.  For short, we call it Fast Sunday (real original, huh?).  We do this for several reasons, but the most important being the idea that our spirit is stronger than our body.  Showing that we can halt the physical body’s demand for food, even for a little while, allows us to more fully focus on spiritual things.  We can develop a closer and deeper relationship with God by fasting.  Well, Fast Sundays have always been hard for me because of all the feelings of deprivation, scarcity, and restricting habits that I used to use.  I always found it so hard to ignore any pangs of hunger that came and when the time would come to finally eat, I would think of myself as starving, and I would inevitably overeat.

THIS TIME

Well, this last Fast Sunday, I was cautiously optimistic that this time would be different.  And my optimism paid off—for the first time in years, I was able to have a genuinely tender and special Fast Sunday.  When hunger pangs came (as they always do), I was able to acknowledge them for what they were—hunger, rather than thinking of them as somehow connected to my past restricting habits.  I was able to feel the hunger, label it on the Hunger Scale, and then continue on with my Sunday.  When the time came to eat, I labeled my hunger and it wasn’t nearly as “starving” as I had previously labeled it in my thoughts.  In fact, I felt perfectly content to simply eat a normal amount of food and feel satisfied with it.  And, because I did not have to focus on the gnawing sensation in my belly, I was able to comfortably focus on my Savior, and on His words, and on growing my belief and love for Him.  It was so special, and I think (again cautiously optimistic), that all future Fast Sundays will continue to be just as special.