Friday, March 27, 2009

Road Blocks

Recently, I've noticed something about myself that I never saw before. In the past, I had a habit of eating to soothe my feelings. That's no revelation. When I'd get angry, upset, lonely, or sad... or have any kind of stress... I'd turn to food for comfort. Somehow, a candy bar (or 3) or a bag of nice, crunchy chips and a Coke made me feel better and made life easier. We all see where that got me. I also binged when I was *really* stressed or had any kind of overwhelming emotions. I already knew all of this.

The thing I have just recently noticed is that if I *think* there is something upsetting or stressful coming up in the future, I have a tendency to get a head start on my eating for comfort, days or even a week in advance of the anticipated event. Let me give you some examples.

Several days before my husband shows up or leaves, I'd binge. I'd pace around nervously and eat too much. This might go on for 3 or 4 or more days *ahead* of his actual arrival or departure.

A week before my daughter has a possibly painful or stressful doctor's appointment, I start getting the urge to binge and eat for comfort.

If I have an appointment coming up that I am dreading, I eat badly for days in advance because I am worried about it.

Even when the "event" is not certain, but something that *might* happen, I seem to gear up for it as my stress level increases, and start eating badly way ahead of time.

Is it self sabotage? Just a bad habit? What?

I dunno. I noticed it over the past month as I examined my feelings whenever I had the urge to eat or binge. It went something like this:

Me: "I really want to buy a bunch of candy and eat it all."
Self: "Why? Why would you want to do that?"
Me: "I just want it."
Self: "No, you want to lose weight and be healthy."
Me: "I don't care about that right now, I just *need* the chocolate."
Self: "What do you need it for? Is there a feeling you're trying to avoid?"
Me: "Shut up and buy the candy."
Self: "Are you trying to stuff down some anxiety about something? Or what?"
Me: (Sigh..) "Well I guess I am worried that I am going to overeat candy on Easter."
Self: "But that's weeks away."
Me: "Yeah I know, but I've always binged on Easter candy. Remember when I used to steal candy out of the kids' baskets when they were sleeping?"
Self: "Yes. Remember how you felt about that?"
Me: (hangs head)
Self: "You can decide ahead of time not to eat candy this year, or you can plan a special treat just for that day, but there is no reason to binge TODAY because of something that might happen in a few weeks."
Me: (whining) "But I want candy!!"
Self: "You don't need it. Do something else."
Me: "I am going to screw up on Easter so I may as well eat what I want right now."
Self: "That doesn't even make sense. Knock it off."
Me: "But..."
Self: "But nothing. Knock it off or I will make you scrub a toilet."

(Notice how having five children has given me an edge when it comes to dealing with the inner brat).

Yes, it's true. I perceive a road block ahead, and I anticipate a problem. Then I create a bigger problem by eating to calm myself. Vicious cycle. Bad habit. I see something coming up in days or weeks and I think: "road block!" So I slam on my brakes (with regard to healthy eating) and come to a screeching halt, candies jammed in my mouth and melted chocolate spattered on my shirt. But half the time when I get there, there isn't really a road block. Just a detour, or maybe nothing at all.

I have a meeting this afternoon to go to regarding one of my children who has a medical disability. It is a "big deal" kind of meeting, with me and one other person advocating for my child, and a whole slew of people standing for the school. I have to get things right at this meeting, for the sake of my child. And I've been stressed about this meeting for days. However, I haven't used food to deal with that stress. Not once. Not this time. I'll get through it, it'll be over, life will go on. My child's education has nothing to do with my eating. Nothing. So there is no reason for me to fabricate a link between the two.

I'm done anticipating failure. I look ahead and see success. Detours? Maybe... but roadblocks? No way.


Jules said...

I hear ya! Good luck @ the meeting and congrats on beating the urges!

Since my daughter was born I've been trying really hard to stuff easter baskets & stockings with just a little bit of candy and other things instead. Like dried fruit, crackers, fruit snacks. I also put it $1 item toys, books, etc... This way, she won't grow up thinking it's suppose to be filled with all candy like I grew up and too this way... she gets a treat and I get the added bonus of not having her (or me) with a ton of sweets in the house to eat until they are gone. She won't know the difference and grandma is on board so that basket's the same with a little more sweets than I do. :)

Jesse said...

Hi Lyn,

In my life, I call this plain old anxiety! It's totally normal to have anticipatory stress. For me it's not the doctor's appointment or the deadline itself that's stressful, it's the worrying beforehand about how it *might* go, whether I'm ready, etc etc. Binging is not my default comfort behavior when I'm anxious (I do mindless eating, but not nec. binging, when I'm bored) but it sounds like you are not managing plain old stress, but anxiety. I can't imagine being in your position with this situation with your husband, it sounds like weathering a hurricane that you can't escape! It is a lot to deal with.

Anyway, I don't know if anxiety is a useful term to describe what you're talking about, I was just struck by how it resonated with my experiences. I'm not talking about plain old worries, either, but the kind of anxiety that can control your life. It sounds like that's what the binging does. Some people can't sleep or tremble or have panic attacks, you binge. Sounds like your mind is just searching to calm that anticipatory anxiety.

Anonymous said...

Yea! Hope your meeting goes well. I can tell how much you love your children, and I'm rooting for ya!

Amie said...

I love you inner voices. I usually lose those arguments :)
Sounds like you maybe have an IEP meeting? Let me know if you need help or advice :) I might be able to give some insight into the school side of things.

Vickie said...

I identify with being able to 'see things', find the patterns, not take them personally, learn, apply new knowledge.

really good posting!

Vickie said...

loved what jesse wrote about anxiety too!

Foodie McBody said...

Excellent insight!! You're doing some amazing good, deep and important "work" here. Love the dialogue and that you took the time to do that.

IRJessica said...

Sounds like a great break through- keep it up!!

--cara said...

It's like you're in my head and you tape recorded a conversation I had with myself. You nailed it. I get the same way. I'm glad you didn't binge over that meeting, though. Great progress!!

Annalisa201 said...

Wow... Ditto. Tears in my eyes because I know someone else goes through exactly what I do. Thank you for posting! :) Thank you

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

I like both your "me" and "self," but "self" should become a life coach. She's very very smart :)

new*me said...

i didn't realize how stressed caused binging until I really started to be aware. I felt it the other day when the kids were sick, they were screaming and I was thinking I need a banana!

Hope the meeting went well :)

ChristinaJane said...

wow. this is incredibly insightful. being self-aware is always so hard for me.
good luck with your meeting and stay easter candy strong.

elife said...

The head-start stress eating...I am queen of this. It's almost as if I can't stand the pressure of worrying that I'll eat, so I just get it over with. Bizarre, I know.

I hope your meeting goes well.

Ria said...

Good for you for passing on the stress eating. I'll second Lynn - "self" is very very smart!

I hope the meeting with your child's school went well.

Sassle said...

Hi Lyn,

Great post! I can relate on so many levels with you (except the mom part, I'm a steppie). I found myself doing this right before any big event, weeks ahead of time. If a wedding came up, I'd eat not one of whatever but a whole box every day until the event, then I wouldn't go because of shame.

This was a great and insightful post! Thanks so much!


p.s. what a coincidence, my captcha reads


coincidence I think not!! LOL!

Sassle said...

Forgot to mention Good Luck with the school meeting!


Karen In Tennessee said...

Yikes, Lyn, get out of my brain!!! That is the exact dialogue I have with myself. Its insanity, isn't it? I really want to lose weight. I really need to lose weight. Yet, that inner brat sometimes pops up and says "But I want it anyway...even it derails all your plans!!!!" I guess I need to threaten that brat with toilet scrubbing too...that would shut her up in a big hurry. :)

Sara said...


I can't tell you how many times that conversation has played out in my head. I always seem to binge on Easter candy (or any holiday candy!) as well, and I never really thought about it, but I may have been doing a little bit of what you do (eating in anticipation of failure). It's like I've binged for so long in my life that it's hard to believe that in the future I won't binge. It's so screwed up. And it's something for me to really think about. Thanks for posting this.

Pam said...

Good for you for recognizing an extra element to an equation you already knew existed! That is a huge step toward victory!

Anonymous said...

I liked the part where you threaten to make yourself scrub a toilet!


antgirl said...

That was a big step. Congrats!

Perhaps you can find a coping mechanism that has a more positive impact on your life - massage? meditation? a run or walk to burn off the stress? Someone to talk it all over with?

You sure have a lot of stressors. My hat is off to ya.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I got emotional reading this. I have the same arguments with myself. Huge anxiety issues! Help us Jesus! *laugh*

Jess said...

I've found that having an inner dialog with yourself is useful when you are trying to overcome binge eating or any eating disorder for that matter. That's what the author of Life Without Ed did to overcome anorexia. Very different from BED but still a useful tool for anyone suffering any kind of addiction. If you deal w/ the reasons behind why you binge, then you can treat that instead.