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Great story. I can relate to it on many levels.
This past Saturday I ran my 3rd 5k. I am a 41 year old woman who took up running in March. It was something I had never been able to do before. I quit smoking last December and in an effort to thwart off weight gain and to reach a personal goal of running a 5k, I was off...and literally running!
I had slipped off the running track for about 5 weeks. There was vacation, back to school shopping and I had started some serious binge/compulsive eating again. For this particular 5k I trained a mere 2 weeks.
I finished the race at 39:28 - a pace of 12:44. My high goal was under 40 minutes. Midrange was 42, and I absolutely HAD to finish in 45 minutes.
Needless to say, I beat my high goal and that was stopping to walk for 3:30 after about 2.75 miles. I should of been ecstatic! Overjoyed! No...instead I felt not good enough when eyeing all the fitter (thinner) participants at the finish line. All the fitter (thinner) participants who finished in less time than me and who didn't have to stop and walk for 3 1/2 minutes.
My rational mind KNOWS this is ridiculous. I keep hugging myself and congratulating myself on finishing the race and reaching my goal. I literally have to keep doing this daily or else the satisfaction is lost. Its crazy, I know and that is why I am here.
This is the story of a patient who has been struggling with weight issues since her early teens. One day she told me about how she had just completed a 100 mile bike ride for a charity organization. She was proud of her achievement because this ride was on a grueling course, up four hills, each of which had an 8 mile incline. The story itself made me exhausted. I marveled at her strength, endurance and ability to stick to it. She is a married woman in her mid-50s and had only taken up biking later in life as a way to get the exercise she needed to complement her chronic dieting efforts.
She then went on to tell me that her riding partner, a professional trainer who works out seven days a week, was riding faster and stronger than she was. She said “I guess I’m not so strong after all” and looked a bit deflated. I was immediately taken aback. The bike ride was a great victory for her, and in two minutes she took it away from herself.
The emotional mind has a way of thinking in the negative, the kind of thinking we endeavor to clarify and change in the Shrink Yourself Program. If the emotional thinking is not revisited and corrected, then the conclusion sticks... ”I am not so good” and the achievement is nullified. Her self image stays weak, and the achievement that enhances her self image disappears.
I took her up on her obvious thinking error. Unless she was number one she was essentially nothing. She wasn’t satisfied to be in the 99.9% percentile of women her age who are capable of riding 100 miles uphill. That meant nothing. She was applying one of the thinking errors that we demonstrate repeatedly in the program. The all or none thinking error. This is one of the major emotional thinking errors that perpetuate the self doubts and self criticism that plagues almost all emotional eaters.
We both understood the history involved. During high school she felt that she was fat and rejected by most of the other girls who were thin, including her older sister. She was teased and put down. Now she was working hard to be in shape and was proud of her achievements in her workout group. When one of the members said that she looked like she was being too aggressive and competitive in trying to be better than the rest of them, she had her wits about her to say “no, I am doing this for myself because it is my turn to be in good shape.” However, secretly she thought to herself, it feels good to be better than somebody. Nothing wrong with enjoying a small victory.
She defended and endorsed that particular achievement, but when she reversed her big 100 mile uphill bike ride victory, by slipping into the all or none thinking error, she put herself right back in high school again. This happened inside of her mind quickly, like a reflex. Unfortunately, the bad feelings and self doubts from the past are perpetuated in the present, as if they are still true.
That is an example of how the past history perpetuates itself inside our current life. That is how self doubts and sore sensitive spots from the past continue to be the kind of emotional pain that drives us to over use food for comfort. I believe that the major source of pain that drives emotional eating is not simply the frustrations of our current life, but the amplification of those frustrations by the pains of the past still hanging around inside.
This is a key issue. Past experiences cannot be eradicated from your brain. They have occurred and they are recorded. But you can do something to modify that recording. You can sort out the difference between the memory experience, even if it was painful, and the current reality. Her current reality demonstrates that she should be very proud of all the effort she has put in to stay in shape. She does not have a body that people can make fun of, she is strong, and she now enjoys her physical strength. She is the only one who can take that success away from herself and return to being the victim of her self doubts.
This is why we push the PAUSE and THINK exercise so strongly inside the program. You have to catch yourself doing this to yourself. And you have to catch yourself many times before you can master the distinction between a memory experience, and the reality of a particular situation. Over eating and binging interrupts your clear thinking and keeps you from making this crucial distinction and therefore keeps you stuck in those parts of your past you no longer want to inhabit.
What have you accomplished lately but have denied yourself the success you deserve?
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)