Monday, June 7, 2010

Maybe It's Simpler Than I Thought!

I've been spending some time thinking about my cravings issues, and I think I have a little bit of new insight.

Yesterday was HARD. Yes, it was PMS. Yes, I seriously wanted some junky food. But there is something else going on here too... something to do with focus.

I've written before about how binge eating is a great (even if subconscious) distraction from reality. Everything disappears and it's just you and the food. And when it's over, it's still a great distraction because then you get to be consumed with guilt or panic or shame or whatever, and your whole existence revolves around "trying to get control" and "why did I do that" and "how can I fix it." And you don't have to face the stuff that is REALLY bothering you.

But there's something else. I am doing really well lately with making sure I am conscious and aware of what stuff is bothering me, and taking time and focus to deal with those things constructively rather than burying them under a pile of food. But how about this: I think I eat out of boredom, more than I thought.

It's not like I have a few free hours and think, "gee, I am bored, I want a hot fudge sundae." It's more like, well, like that saying, "an idle mind is the devil's playground." If I am not focused on doing *something,* then what tends to leech in is the old food obsession.

I figured this out because yesterday I was super tired and I took the day "off" from doing a lot of the usual things that I fill my time with. I rested, I cooked a little, I watched TV and read and surfed the web. I had a lot of idle hours. And it seemed like every time I turned around I was dealing with that inner brat:

"I want a pickle!"
"I want some cheese!"
"I want a hot dog!"
"I want a biscuit!"
and on and on and on...

It took a lot of effort to combat those thoughts. As time went by it got worse and worse. My whole brain seemed to be focused on FOOD.

But today, I was busy. I was running around doing errands and when I was home I was cleaning and doing laundry and dealing with stuff. And you know what? I did not have ANY obsessive food thoughts. NONE. And I was not hungry. And you know what else? I still have PMS. But no cravings.

So I think I have a bit of a key, here. If I stay busy.... HONESTLY busy, not just *token* busy but actually moving and doing things and thinking about REAL THINGS, my mind does not wander to food UNTIL I AM HUNGRY. And then, it's just, "hey, it's time to eat." And I have my on-plan food and get back to work.

I know it can be really hard to pry ones' self off the couch and DO stuff, but maybe that IS a key to weight loss and freedom from food obsession... not just because moving burns more calories, but because the mind is engaged and not available for self-sabotage.

Anyway, now that I am aware of this, I have a new strategy. If I start getting cravings or food thoughts, I'm going to get off my ample bottom and DO something: clean, work on a project, go for a walk, take a kid to the park, whatever. Because now that I know, it would be foolish to just sit around trying to fight the thoughts. I'll just put my mind to work on something else.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like fatigue was your problem rather than boredom.

It's predictable for me. I'm tired but don't actually rest, push myself to keep going on something. And within 20 minutes of thinking "I'm tired" and continuing to sit at the computer, it's like I'm on auto-pilot, wandering into the kitchen.

I think if I could just make myself go have a little nap, I'd avoid all the extracurricular grazing AND be more productive.

My struggle is always trying to see that my real needs are met because, otherwise, food is the go-to panacea.

Love your blog!


Anonymous said...

When you perfect the perpetual motion machine, let me know. It ends up being a vicious cycle, that I keep myself busy, moving, and not hungry one day and the next day I'm sitting, resting, and eating everything. I think PMS is just one day a month, eat more food but hopefully healthy, strong-flavored, salty...

Lyn said...

Anonymous (Arabella)~

I actually feel like a slug most mornings and would sit and stare at the computer all day if I could. This morning I was tired, too, but once I get up and get moving, I feel energized! It was never that way when I was younger, but it seems to take more to get me going at 40.

kristi said...

I completely understand and agree with you. I have been on Medifast for 12 days now and have been doing outstanding. And to boot, I have just about finished painting every room upstairs in that 12 days because I needed to think of something else besides food.

Laura said...

I so agree with this for myself. My job is very sedentary, and although I do bring my lunch from home, there are days (not too many, probably 1x per month) where my mind kind of fixates on fatty foods. The positive is that to make up for it, I arrange my calories to fit it in. It's definitely not healthy or nutritionally sound food, but I figure that keeping track of the foods and fitting them into my limit makes it not as big of a deal. :)

Julie said...

I agree too. I have a sedentary boring job and I have to make myself do things during the day or the "cravings" kick in big time. Same at home. Keep busy, keep busy!

Jennifer said...

Lyn- I agree with you totally. Being busy is a big key. But sometimes we do get tired! And that is where the willpower comes in. And you have it! Whoopie! Some days are harder than others with cravings and I just tell myself that they will pass. And then they do.

I went off plan for the first time in 14 weeks this weekend. But the difference was(and I blogged all about it) that I felt in control. It was a choice I made. It was not an out of control binge I felt bad about after. It was not a failure but actually just the opposite. A treat that I deserved. And I thought about your post a while back how you went off for a day(by choice) and then just moved on. I did the same and felt it was a success. I am hoping my relationship with food is improving! But I did feel anxious to get back on plan!!! Like it was a comfort zone or something. Odd, right?

Amy said...

I am going to follow your own advie in the last paragraph. I eat from boredom too.

Michelle said...

I have always been a boredom eater and luckily I recognize it. Not so luckily I already notice the same behavior in my 4 1/2 year old daughter. I'm working to train both of us to keep busy doing things other than grazing in the kitchen.

Tammy said...

Oh dear Lord I know the boredom eating all too well. I don't remember ever noticing it before I was laid off, but now that I've been out of a job for a year and 3 months...oh yes....totally obsessed with food thoughts...absolutely...out of pure boredom. there are other reasons going on right now of course...but I've definitely noticed the boredom thing.

JEN said...

just saying hi, i stumbled on your blog and I am on a similar journey. I started out last year in march at 285lbs and i'm currently 168lbs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lyn - this comment's not exactly applicable here, but I'm wondering - do you have any suggestions for doing Medifast really on the go? (i.e. not home for 12ish hours per day)

Lisa said...

I definitely think you're right about the boredom.
I often feel hungrier on a night once my daily routine is done, my daughter is in bed and it's time for me to relax. That's when the old sugar cravings rear their ugly heads usually.

Christie said...

I totally agree! On the days when I'm really busy, and quite absorbed in what I'm doing, I don't over-eat.

If I'm busy and happy and/or engaged with what I'm doing, I can hold out till meal times. One of the important things I've found is to just get on with the job in hand as well. If I leave it to loom and overface me, I'll do some procrastination eating to hide myself from it.

CCR said...

It's good to recognise that eating out of boredom is a pattern for you.

However your strategy of keeping busy only works to a point. Having regular rest and time for self-care is absolutely essential to good mental and physical health.

In order to reach a point where you can rest and be idle without the urge to binge you need to keep chipping away at the work that you are already carrying out, dealing with the emotions and really feeling them and battling through them. Also, becoming truly and deeply happy with who you are. Distraction only works for so long.

And if you must distract yourself, especially when tired, may I suggest that you do it with lovely things, like a bubble bath or a wonderful book, rather than running errands.

Anonymous said...

I find that if I plan for my snacks, then I'm not obsessed with what I "think" I want to eat - I just am anticipating what I get to eat next. This way I'm eating healthily and more ordered.

I do agree with the person who said that fatigue can give you cravings too. When I have PMS I need to sleep more and that helps me to not overeat.

You're doing a great job!

Hope @ Hope's Journey said...

Oh yes, I know the feeling. This type of thing seems to happen to me every weekend. I'll just be sitting around, relaxing and then my brain will scream "FEED ME POPTARTS!! NOW!!" and I know it's just out of boredom, so I can usually resist it, but if it doesn't go away within an hour or so, I usually get up and get out of the house.

I'm a total clothes horse now, so I go shopping. My thinking is, do I want to eat crap food and feel crappy, or do I want to go shopping, usually just to look, and see all the pretty clothes I can fit into now that I'm smaller. It's ALWAYS shopping for me. :)

Glad you had a breakthrough. :)

Dreidl said...

I can totally relate to that. I find my worst days are when I am bored or tired. The busier I am the more focused and on plan my eating is. Keep working through it, you are doing amazing!!

LHA said...

Thanks for a great post on an important topic. This is a realization I came to recently also. I work very long hours at a job with a lot of down time. Unless I find something to do to occupy my time when not very busy at work I find myself eating. I have made a list of things that I can do during such times, and they include writing in my journal, phoning a friend, reading an interesting book, hand-sewing, crossword puzzles, buying and reading newspapers or magazines and I am also currently writing two books, mostly just for my own amusement!

I also agree with the comments that eating can be a way to deal with fatigue. Since I am often sleep-deprived due to my work schedule, I have become aware that
I sometimes eat to try to relieve fatigue. That actually makes me feel more tired.

Many thanks for your inspring blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Lyn - I work from home and couldn't agree with you more. On the days when I am busy and chained to the computer, mind occupied, fingers flying over the keyboard, I almost forget about food completely. But those days when I'm "off" and have no work in the house, all I do is think about the goodies I can go whip up in the kitchen (just because I usually don't buy junk food doesn't mean I don't know how to make my own). It's days like those I wish I had an out-of-the-house job without access to a full kitchen and all my cookbooks!

Lyn said...


Yes, you can definitely do Medifast on the go! The bars are tasty and portable (and the Fruit & Nut bars don't melt when they get hot). So are the chili puffs, parmesan puffs, cinnamon pretzels and honey mustard pretzels. I love those items and often take them with me on the road with a big bottle of water.

Also the chili and soups can be put in a thermos and keep nicely for travel. I also use the cranberry mango drink in a water bottle with ice as a good traveling solution. Some people who use shakes bring a portable mini blender with them to make shakes, but there are ready to drink shakes available too (in little cartons that don't need refrigeration). Hope this helps!

Auntie M said...

This is so true. Last night I made this amazing dessert pizza, which I pointed out and counted. Now, right in the moment I wanted to eat all of the dang thing but I went upstairs and away from the food, busying myself with a book, and poof-- I forgot all about that food.

The next question is, how do I keep myself busy?

Hanlie said...

Distracting yourself is a very valuable tool. I'm even using it with my puppy! It removes the old habits of berating yourself and reinforcing the craving in the process.

You beat the cravings that time. I think that is absolutely marvelous. The sky didn't fall, you didn't dissolve in a puddle and you didn't spend the rest of the day stressed out. We can all learn from this... And I'm convinced that once you've proven to yourself that you can beat the cravings, the next time will be easier, until cravings will no longer be a problem.

Well done, Lyn! As always I learn a lot from you.