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The spiral of change

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Picture a spiral, then picture yourself moving along it. Imagine the point at which you start is the beginning of your work on a particular issue.

For me, the issue I'm working on is how I use unhealthy actions like overeating to try to cope with stressful emotions. It's been a long journey, and many, many times I've backslid.

When I overeat to soothe my emotions, that's a single point on the spiral. I work on it, think about it, talk about it, try new techniques, and then something tumultuous happens in my life and I often go back to using food to try to cope. Sometimes when I emotionally overeat I feel like I'm trapped in the same deep, dark hole that I've been hiding in for years.

But it's not true. In between the tumult, I have moved along the spiral of my life. It may feel like nothing's changed. It may feel hopeless, but it's not. I have visited this same point on the spiral over and over, but in between, I am moving and growing and changing. I'm not stuck, and things have changed; I have changed.

I used to overeat every night, in secret -- rich, sugary foods and crunchy, salty, greasy foods. I used to eat until I felt sick. I used to eat and then I would be ashamed -- so ashamed I hated myself. I didn't know how to stop. I didn't know precisely why I did it; I just knew that I was unhappy and I ate. Even though I knew it didn't bring happiness, in the moment I always felt like it would ease things. I felt so trapped in my behaviour, so lonely and isolated.

So I reached out and asked for help. I got counselling and joined a support group and learned some cognitive techniques and some mindfulness techniques, and slowly, bit by bit, year after year, I turned to food less frequently.

I still eat for comfort sometimes, but not in the same way I did before. When I eat for comfort, I often become aware of new trigger thoughts. In this last bout, I watched myself eat in anger, and my trigger thought was 'nobody understands me.' I laughed and laughed when I realized that was the thought that preceded several bouts of emotional eating. After all, I'm on Spark, where PEOPLE REALLY DO UNDERSTAND!

Now when I eat emotionally, I don't eat as much as I used to. I don't eat until it hurts. I don't eat rich foods like I used to. Rich foods can leave me feeling quite sick, and I don't do that kind of self-harming anymore either.

I could despair and moan and wonder whether I'll ever be truly healed. But I got this far in part by learning to accept my imperfections and see my life as it really is. Emotional overeating is something that I do. It's not even rare; lots of people do it.

The upside is that when I make strides in my progress, I feel so proud. I have a goal and am moving towards it. When I feel like I'm not moving, I remind myself of where I began, long ago, on the spiral of change.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am so glad that you reached out for help. Now I think that you are helping others with your blogs...they are so well written. No, our patterns may not go away all together but now we are more aware of them and they are less damaging...recovery time is faster and for me...I don't even keep the damaging foods in the house anymore so I have less chance of sabatoging myself even when I want to!

    Great blog!
    3109 days ago
    There is so much useful content here. I read it back when you first posted it, while in San Francisco, and was struck by your insights. I'll be back to review it AGAIN!
    3121 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7651842
    You write such awesome blogs. Thanks for sharing you journey with us.
    3134 days ago
  • CATS_MEOW_0911
    Beautifully stated, Tara...so insightful, thank you for sharing.
    3149 days ago
    Thankyou for sharing with such sincerity and clarity. I think the majority of us on here can relate to this and it's reassuring to see that changes can be made for the long run even if there are slip-ups now and again.We must forgive ourselves and get back on track. I have been 3 and a half months without a binge and I live in fear of the next one.... emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3150 days ago
    You are doing a fantastic job with your goals and your progress. Lovely blog!
    3150 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8467616
    This really resonates for me too. The old issues aren't completely gone -- but we just don't fall down the hole anymore. When rich food makes you feel pretty awful, you know you have changed your physiology. Congratulations on your progress!
    3150 days ago
    Ah, the good old spiral path. More complex than the two steps forward, one step back. Congratulations for seeing that while the behavior sometimes still pops up, it has changed in quality, quantity, duration and frequency. I think with any ingrained habit the trick is to not let a "flare up" or backslide blind us to the ways we really and truly have changed our ways.

    Sending all sorts of good wishes your way.
    3150 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    Tara - this is beautifully stated and I truly relate. Thank you.
    3150 days ago
    Thanks for the blog! Any improvement is good. Remember it's a work in progress and baby steps get you where you need to be. Thanks for sharing and making me think about my eating issues.
    3150 days ago
    Wow, this is a blog I think could really speak to those who deal with emotional eating.

    3150 days ago
    Great blog Tara! I really wish I was as eloquent as you.
    I glad you are working all this out. You deserve to be healthy and happy!
    3150 days ago
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