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A self-loving life is like a bowl of trail mix...

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Can I tell you how many dirty day dreams I've had of velveeta mac n cheese or chocolate dipped macaroons? Oh yes, really.
I'm throwing that out there to expose you to how obsessed I have allowed myself to be regarding food over the years.
My pain management therapist helped me come to the reality that this is a coping mechanism that I have created and fed as a way to cope with my health and chronic pain. As Ethel grew and raged over the years, I have reacted in unhealthy ways. But he refused to condemn me for it. Which for some reason bothered me initially? I guess I was too busy blaming myself, and thus repeating a wonky cycle of ridiculous emotional eating. My thighs can confirm this. : (

After too many years of denial in allowing myself to truly FEEL my fears, my stress, my pain, my anxiety, in an effort to push through those moments, I've decided to embrace it all. Abandoning the food restriction mentality that clearly did nothing for me, except solidify that I would emo eat later, and continue a strange and windy road that I forced myself upon.

I am now trying to give MORE attention to rewiring my noggin and rewarding the 'homecoming' to the eating style I definitely had growing up (AKA normal eating). I'm kinda excited actually to be honest. To NOT sit near someone who is ordering off a menu, based off of their desire and true hunger, not torturing the waiter with menu changes - and silently hating them. Of course, I need to get well enough to get outta the house, but you know what I mean!

Speaking of brains, have you seen the advertisements for the Good Morning America anchor Dan Harris' new book? 10% Happier. How I tamed he voice in my head.
He had an anxiety attack on live TV a while back, and then went on a self help journey. The book pushes even just 5 minutes of meditation per day and how it can work wonders in your happiness bank account. I must say I am intrigued by it.

So what do you do when things get funky? You're a stressball over bills, maybe you've been sick for months and can't catch a break (or your breath)? When work is a bear (or the other B word)? How do you mellow out, bringing yourself back to being sane when your inner emotional brat wants to crunch out the stress?
Don't tell me that you come home and reach for a handful of carrots to satisfy that craving instead of chocolate covered peanuts. I won't believe you...

Prayer seems to be helpful for me, unless I fall off the food wagon (and under its wheels). Then I seem to feel almost too guilt ridden to pray, and I find I avoid it. Sad but true! Like I'm unworthy to pray. Who am I to say that God won't hear me because I have Nutella smudged on my chin? Why do I finish my prayers feeling like a shriveled raisin sometimes? What's that about?

Visualization is great, but I find I dwell too much on the old healthy (non Erythromelalgia) me, not just the smaller me. Then I get depressed and sad. It's the equivalent of bringing down that old box of photos that some of us have in the closet, and sitting on the floor in a puddle of wa-wa-wa's by reminiscing. Not the best kernel of self-help for me currently. Maybe I'll give that a do-over when I'm ready.

So getting back to one of the concepts in this book was to watch your breathing. Yes, I'm sure it can be helpful for slowing down the chow-monster as well as anxiety. You know, those moments ha here you hear your heartbeat in your head? The more and more I read and try to understand emotional eating, the more that I can see that my emo eating behavior IS a form of anxiety reaction.
Wait, that means I have anxiety issues too? That's just bittersweet then, like dried cranberries. I'm learning more about myself, but also know that there's more I need to work on. Ok. I'll embrace that.

Mindful eating is where my focus is at currently. Being mind-full and not food-full. It's not for the faint of heart, and I wish I could find a way to do some mental push ups when things get stressful. To better arm myself (pun!) to feel those stressy anxious moments. Not to eat them (and the bowl-full of them, then crumbs that fell on my shirt, and even those on the floor. Ack, did she just say that?!?).

I do find bits and pieces from all of these methods intriguing and in need of more practice from my end. I'm certainly glad that there are so many methods out there.

Yoga works for some, as well as intense workouts. Workout buddies are great too, but my mobility is growing more limited, so I am not storing my nuts of self reward in those methods currently. Get me a cure, and I promise to come back to this one!

I am tight with a few spark pals, and we try to stay in touch OFTEN. It keeps us accountable, and we probably stir in one (or all) of these self-help methods at one time or another. Sort of like a giant bowl of trail mix. Sometimes we pick out the Brazil nuts - and skip the visualization. Sometimes we go for the cherries and almonds - and channel our energy into writing. My point is, depending on the situation and our potential reactions, we tend to use what we hope works in that moment. I could use some company on this journey. Care to join me?

I'd love to know what YOU find successful, and if you haven't found something that works yet, you're not alone! Keep digging in that bowl until you find it. It's ok to fall. Just keep going!

'Nuff Said'


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • RYDERB
    First…. Little miss Olive is TOO cute in that outfit. emoticon
    I know I can never truly understand how much physical pain you're in, but I can relate to so much of your blog and the emotional pain that goes along with this journey to find what works, and how to live the healthiest happiest life possible It's too easy to get lost in the sea of pain and worry of tomorrows. I do better, when I focus only on "today". and take it one choice at a time. Being able to know that I have friends like you, that understand and don't expect perfection makes it easier too.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1693 days ago
  • MILLIE5522
    What a great blog! I have not been on SP so much lately so I have only just read this.....but what a gem!!! You have some great insights and ideas so thank you for sharing that wonderful mind of yours!! emoticon
    1703 days ago
  • 2WHEELEDSHARON
    I love an Olive with crocheted ears!! emoticon

    A co-worker and I have been reminding ourselves that taking the time to relieve stress is imperative, especially with our jobs. She's Muslim, so since she's supposed to pray 5 times a day, we decided to hold each other accountable to doing something for ourselves during those times. She wins because while she prays, I breakdance instead (my floppy version of it) but the point is that we remind each other not to let our minds question whether we should do it. So go from mind jibber jabber to fun or prayer or something good in 2 seconds, is our motto.
    I admire that you're so open to these opportunities for pain to inform you about it's impact. That seems like a great start to working on some different practices. Way to go!
    1704 days ago
  • TRENTDREAMER
    "Can I tell you how many dirty day dreams I've had of velveeta mac n cheese or chocolate dipped macaroons? Oh yes, really. "
    * If you weren't married, I would totally take the bait and respond to that.

    "As Ethel grew and raged over the years, I have reacted in unhealthy ways. But he refused to condemn me for it. Which for some reason bothered me initially?"
    * He's seen this for years. It is extremely common. When society makes us feel guilty about everything, it can be disconcerting when we run across someone who doesn't play into it.

    "After too many years of denial in allowing myself to truly FEEL my fears, my stress, my pain, my anxiety, in an effort to push through those moments, I've decided to embrace it all."
    * emoticon emoticon

    "How do you mellow out, bringing yourself back to being sane when your inner emotional brat wants to crunch out the stress? "
    * Figure out how to address what's causing the stress, see if I can learn something and grow stronger. At worst, live as best as possible with it (while looking for opportunities to escape or overcome).

    "Who am I to say that God won't hear me because I have Nutella smudged on my chin?"
    * If it's a source of guilt or pain, God's actually more likely to listen to you.

    "Why do I finish my prayers feeling like a shriveled raisin sometimes? What's that about? "
    * ??

    "Visualization is great, but I find I dwell too much on the old healthy (non Erythromelalgia) me, not just the smaller me. Then I get depressed and sad. "
    * emoticon emoticon

    "Workout buddies are great too, but my mobility is growing more limited, so I am not storing my nuts of self reward in those methods currently. Get me a cure, and I promise to come back to this one! "
    * Best of fortune to you!

    "My point is, depending on the situation and our potential reactions, we tend to use what we hope works in that moment. I could use some company on this journey. Care to join me? "
    * I try to go on at least once a week.

    "I'd love to know what YOU find successful, and if you haven't found something that works yet, you're not alone!"
    * Visualizations with a lot of whys? and so whats? It's one thing to visualize weighing x pounds, but then what?

    For me, I think about walking around the city for a few hours without a sore back or legs the next day. I envision helping someone move and not being the fat guy who looks like he should be able to lift the heavy stuff. I envision the joy of that pair of jeans that I love and used to wear fitting again and enjoying wearing them. The confidence of looking good when walking around the mall or at social functions.

    1704 days ago
  • CARRILU
    Wonderful blog Bren. So happy you wrote it. I almost jumped at the prayer and not feeling worthy part. I do that too! It's so weird but I feel like such a fat glutton sometimes that I am simply too ashamed.
    On to what helps during stressful times. I am also constantly learning and here is what I have found. It's basically what Cannie was saying. I try to be proactive instead of reactive. I am struggling with this this week but yes, facing my fears and acting on them instead of running from them until I run out of road (or ice cream). I am also working hard on facing the disappointment of all that will never be perfect and moving forward anyway in spite of it. I don't do old pictures well either for the same reason as you, I don't find it inspiring only depressing so I am trying to create a future and a present that I can take joy in. It may be the first time ever to be truthful and I'm hopeful. That helps some. I enjoy the "streaks" knowing they do get interrupted by even one day of overeating and I cling to the good feeling so I can get back on track faster each time. I visualize a smaller me with all the same flaws but tell myself it will be just as imperfect, just smaller and that reality makes more sense so I live less in an unattainable fantasy and can really get invested knowing it won't change everything. I am buying more into the healthy aspect of food instead of just trying to make my food tracker not go over and learn and observe what days are easier and why. I am spending more time trying to be a good person instead of just a thin one and it makes the vain part of this journey not spiral out of control thus leading to crazy diet lady until I fail once again.
    Whew! There is so much going on in our heads isn't there?!
    I can see how important this has to be for you especially knowing it affects your pain and mobility and that is a lot more pressure than most of us have to deal with when it comes to our "why's" You are and continue to be amazing and inspiring because you keep moving forward instead of collapsing and giving in. What a gift you are to all of us.
    emoticon
    1706 days ago
  • MEWHENRYSMAMA
    Oh, Bren....
    I hear you, I am here for you, anytime. I think we all struggle with the stress issues. I know I do and with my DH also in crisis, it adds a whole new level! I have tried meditation, breathing, reading, crosswords, journaling, therapy, crying, not crying, praying, gratitude,etc etc. I know I need to be more consistent, but usually feel I am lucky to be float in a big, strong current, worrying about the undertow! Sigh! I share your journey...
    I am going to check out the book you mentioned by Dan Harris.
    Love & Hugs,
    Mary
    P.S. Olive is so adorable!
    1706 days ago
  • KAILYNSTAR
    Such deep and most inner thoughts going on in that tiny brain of yours.

    I have to say, I don't have any major coping strageties. I do lose myself in books, I used to walk lots, but no more. I have flat feet and anemia. I go up and down the stairs sometimes, but that's usually doing the laundry.

    It sucks when one gets sick. Overtired, grumpy and just depressed.

    I have had quite the journey for the past few years and I have to admit. I am beat. Just tired and empty. Yet, I keep going.

    You and I have lots in common, yet we are so different. As anyone is I guess.

    Right now I should be getting back on the no sugar and no wheat diet. Only to relieve my fatty liver and lose weight. Yet...I'm just not there mentally. I have a few more things to do before I start it again. Then we will see.

    Hang in there Bren. You are a golden nugget in my pan of sand.

    I think of you often and of course, I'll be here for you.

    Hugs.
    1706 days ago
  • POSITIVEHOPE
    Remember, you innocently asked. Well here it is. Things that worked for me in changing the inner voice. I'll get off the soap box as quickly as I can.
    The choice is struggle for life or find ways to overcome the challenges of the journey. I lost 80 pounds and then regained because I was still struggling. I struggled with the inner negative voice that compelled me to compulsively overeat even after losing all that weight.
    I found THE answer for me to compulsive overeating at DrAmyJohnson.com "Fighting the Urge." This is a free 23 page online booklet that explains where those negative voices come from and how to stop them. By reading that booklet, I have learned how to stop that voice and she also is right when she says that once you start stopping that voice it doesn't show up as frequently. Awesome!
    I also learned how to stop fighting with my inner negative voice. I spent years trying to combat that negative voice with prayer, by being angry with myself, down on myself, trying to educate myself with self help books and articles. I hated loathed and despised that part of myself. Recently I learned about Inside Out Weight Loss (IOWL) by Renee Stephens.
    Renee was a former compulsive eater who now gives free 20 minute podcast talks on what is going on inside our heads to make us gain weight and how to change those inner thoughts that make this journey such a struggle. Through Renee, I learned that those negative voices have a positive intent behind their messages. That negative inner voice wanted to help me. You gotta be kidding! I finally sat down and looked at that part of myself without anger. What are you trying to tell me? Silence. Did you know you are a poor communicator? It took me a while but when I became really comfortable with my inner self and not angry, hostile or superior, I realized it started when I was a child and I was afraid. I thought if I was BIG I would be safe. So I got big. The message, "Eat it! You know you want it. It'll make you feel good." was meant to make me eat because there was a part of me that was still afraid of being small. Now all I have to do is say to myself, "it's okay. I've got this. I know you want it but trust me, we'll be okay." then make the decision to eat it or not. The voice isn't nearly so compelling now. It just stops. No drama. Just calm, peace. I am not an out there kinda person but Renee manages to reach deep inside me. Listening to her has released me from the daily struggle and made me feel powerful and joyful. I can hardly wait until my body weight catches up to my head on this journey. For links to Renee's free online Podcasts, Go to the SP IOWL team.
    These were THE answers for me. I know they might not be everyone's answers but they are worth your time if you are still struggling with those issues.

    1706 days ago
  • NUOVAELLE
    I'm the "yoga/excessive workouts" type now after having been the "eat-everything-in-sight" type for years. And, honestly, this old habit of mine sometimes resurfaces and that's when I really struggle...But, as Cannie said below, there is honor in continuing the struggle - what a nice line that is!
    And SP is always my safest shelter when I struggle. Because here friends can understand, relate, give a virtual pat on the back, send a virtual hug and remind me that I'm not alone in this struggle. Friends like you, honest and supportive and brave. And just watching these friends surviving the struggles and getting through them stronger and more determined is enough to keep me fighting my own.
    Last but not least, books! An introvert's best friend, as I read somewhere. Getting away from it all. I know you're a reader and you know the feeling.
    I've wished so many times for a cure and a pain-free life for you, Bren, and I won't stop wishing. Until then, I'll be right here with you digging in those bowls, trying to find something that works every time the going gets tough. Because there is power in unity. Like snowflakes. So fragile creations but just look at what they can do when they stick together! (Who said that...? Sorry, I can't remember.)
    Big hugs!
    emoticon
    1707 days ago
  • AAAACK
    Your thing about prayer, not feeling worthy when you've been doing something you think you shouldn't, is how I often feel about Sparkpeople. Like I'm unworthy to come here and say ANYthing to anyone b/c I don't know diddly. And I don't want to bring people down with my junk. But dude, I'm pretty sure that God is supposed to already know what you're doing, and know that you're going to be opening a live chat. Ha ha.

    But seriously, it's so weird how smart we all are (including all the people who have already posted responses to this blog) and yet here we all are. I read everything others are writing and think, yeah, man, you guys are so smart! I think I'm smart too. So why do I keep binge eating?

    We have to find our middle ground. We have to figure how to succeed with what we've got. Like What Not To Wear used to say, "dress the body you have today." Well, I guess we should feed the body/life we have today. Physically and emotionally. We need to nurture the lives we have today and quit worrying about what we don't have.

    Sounds simple, right? Yeah, if only. But I'm so glad to have you, and all the other Sparkers on this journey with me! You rock. Keep thinking. Keep sharing. And just keep being you.
    emoticon
    ok...thought I was done, but I was looking for an emoticon and thought, "what the heck is the spray bottle for?!" Then I thought, Yes! We can use it to spray ourselves when we want to treat ourselves badly like when people spray cats who are treating the furniture badly...sure yeah, so be nice to you! And I'll try and be nice to me. No spray, no spray!
    1707 days ago
  • MAMADWARF
    pain meds, being cranky, eating stuff...yeah that is how I cope. Not a really good system is it?????

    I deffinatly need to get on a better plan.

    IM IN!
    1707 days ago
  • CTUPTON
    If I had bad chronic pain I am not sure how I would cope. Tylenol helps me . I feel flexible in the pool. I sleep lots. I am grateful to be old enough to retire and not face the daily stress of teaching. Getting my axes done is a horrible chore for me. But I will do it. I want to move nearer to Buffalo, NY to be close to my big family. I barely know some of them emoticon who married into the family or who were born emoticon in the last few years.

    At least I can lie in bed and read and/or take a nap. Almost every afternoon I do that and forget everything.

    When I do have pain ,whole body or both knees and left shoulder, I am miserable and can't even sleep.

    Reading is my escape. I pick gristly books to engross me .

    Boredom is a big problem of mine. Caregiving limits the time I can be away from home. So my friends on SP are invaluable to me!

    Wish I could take the pain away or give solutions. I feel bad about that. Thanks for writing and sharing some of your thoughts!

    chris

    1707 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    Aw, that photo of cute little "stuffed Olive" in a hat is beyond adorable. I am glad you blogged, Miss Bren. As you know, I am a struggler but more and more I know there is honor in continuing the struggle, rather than collapsing in a big fat weepy defeated heap. Yes, writing to you is one of the ways I gain perspective and gather joy (there is such joy in honest friendship which is based on nothing but mutual caring, admiration, and respect). I breathe and pray. I walk my dogs. I go the gym. I feel appreciation that I CAN do these things. I, too, move further and further away from the false promises of deprivation and restriction. Deprivation and restriction are NOT the same as self-discipline. Discipline means "to learn". The only thing I learned from the "NO NO NO" and "diet diet diet" mindset is failure. What my body needs to function is nutrients and the only true way to get nutrients is to eat enough food to get enough nutrients. I also know my desire to compulsively over-eat goes way down when I am dealing with whatever the realities in my life, currently are. When I am stressed about money, I need to look at bills, talk with my husband, and get paperwork in order, despite my fears. When my home feels messy, I tackle the dishes and the floors and the laundry, etc. and set things straight. Again, I am grateful to be able to tackle chores and face fears and you have helped me in these areas by giving me perspective. Finally, lately, a recurring theme in my head is "it's all temporary". Beauty, good health, youth, athletic ability, life - it's all temporary. When something goes, like youth, something else comes along, like wisdom. Dwelling on what was clouds our ability to see what is. Life is not for sissies, it is TOUGH, so it is good that we are tough. Though, having said that, I deeply wish that your life was no so tough. But, it is and the only thing we can do as your friends is to love you through it. Good thing you are so easy to love, Miss Bren. emoticon
    1707 days ago
  • JCARDINAL
    I love this blog!! It puts so much of my life in perspective. I just recently told my Doctor that I am going to stop comparing my life before and after Lupus. I'm never going to get back there so now I'm concentrating on where this version of me can succeed. My go to stress reliever is reading. It calms me mind and body. I can pick up a book and completely escape from real life going on around me. A book and a cup of tea are like heaven to me. We can get through this Bren, we are strong, determined women!! emoticon emoticon
    1707 days ago
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