Friday, August 31, 2012

What Sucks

You know what sucks? It sucks that I still like to use food for comfort, when stress is high and I need relief. I don't binge. I don't even go on junk runs to the store to get "special" comfort foods. I just... eat. I start putting things in my mouth for no reason. Dumb stuff, like a tablespoon of peanut butter or a slice of cheese. It is ridiculous, I know I am doing it, I mentally justify it as "it's not a candy bar, it's not fast food, I didn't go out and BUY it out of compulsion, it's not a large amount, it's just one piece" but it just snowballs. It is so dumb. I hate it. I can have a nice healthy breakfast of eggs and veggies and maybe a piece of fruit, and then I get stressed out about things I have no control over and rather than use the other coping mechanisms I have learned, I turn around and make a piece of toast or something when I am not even hungry.

This is nothing new; I have gone through phases like this before. It is just frustrating because I know better, I have other ways of coping, I don't NEED to pick 5 olives out of a jar and eat them to relieve stress. But I do it. It's a habit, I guess, a long-ingrained habit that I've modified so that instead of a complete Big Mac meal at 3pm I have 6 crackers or a cup of coffee, but still. I don't like it. But the thing is, nothing cuts the stress like a few bites of food. Maybe it is those old neural pathways that take so long to die. Maybe it is the remnants of binge eating disorder where I used to get frantic, go on a crazy shopping spree, then come home and secretly eat a couple thousand calories of junk in order to get relief. I guess now I don't get the big *hit* of relief I got from that kind of binge; I eat a few cashews... like 5 or 6 nuts.... and I get the relief feeling. But it is not the slide into paradise (and shame) that bingeing used to be. I dunno, it really just sucks. I tell myself "just stop it" and I do, for days or weeks, and then suddenly 3 or 4 emotionally stressful things happen and I find myself eating a couple of pretzels to calm myself down.

I know people will give me all kinds of alternatives and tell me to do other things instead, or to just knock it off or walk away or whatever. I know those things. It is actually doing them that is the struggle for me lately.

17 comments:

Andra said...

A Whole 30 will CHANGE those "old neural pathways" as you put it. But there is only one way you will find out is by doing it.

As an aside, I'm sure your readers will appreciate how you view their advice, perhaps I shouldn't have bothered.

Lyn said...

I have always thanked people for their comments and advice, Andra. A lot of it is very helpful. My post was not meant to say it wasn't valid input or to disregard those words of wisdom. It was to say that my *knowing* what to do and actually getting it done are entirely different things.

Neesha said...

It's great that you've changed your desires so much to this point. Imagine how much more they will change as you keep being aware and working it. I think it's a reason to celebrate!

Amy said...

I am so with you on this!! I have the same gut reaction to stress (pun not intended). It is the last part of me that makes me feel like an addict, and it is so annoying. Not trying to justify, but it doesn't sound like you are getting away with what you are eating. I doubt 5-6 cashews will make a difference on the scale, and if with as harmful as stress is on your body, it might be the better alternative. Probably not a popular opinion, but that's how I feel.

Margaret said...

I STILL do the same thing and I keep my kitchen stripped of anything remotely tempting. I just feel like I need... something. Now. It wastes calories and drives me crazy, but I've never been able to control it.

Let me know if you find it...

Liz said...

I do the same thing almost without even realizing it. It must just be such an ingrained comfort that it is hard to break. You aren't doing what you used to though!! And that is progress!!!

Sam said...

I think for the first time I kind of get what you mean about advice, Lyn. I think what you don't want is people sharing things in the TONE of advice-giving. When we give advice, it's all too easy to distance ourselves psychologically from what we're saying, to take on an 'oh, it's so easy and simple' tone. In reality, if we can relate to Lyn and somehow found a solution to similar struggles, it WASN'T easy for us. So why take that tone?

I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that a better way to say it is: Well, I did this. This and that were hard, but I found, amazingly, that my feelings changed in this way.

For example, for me, I definitely sometimes eat to soothe myself and it's hard to break the cycle, and something that doesn't work for me is then depriving myself to make up for those bites between meals--i.e. cut back meals until they disappear into one huge mush of snacking all day. That just makes me feel sad and deprived and my eating gets chaotic.

The only thing that really helps me when I'm in that rut is to think to myself 'Your dinner will taste better if you're hungry for it.' That's it. Done. And it really helps. It doesn't fix things entirely, obviously, but it does help to think of my future pleasure instead of my present pain. Actually, exercise in the name of having a healthy appetite kind of works too... it leaves me way more focused on how my body feels, anyhow. And eating when you are hungry is one of life's greatest pleasures, I think.

BTW I am low-normal weight but I struggle with all of this stuff a whole lot, and have a binge-eating past.

MargieAnne said...

Hi Lyn.

I still have some days of wanting to eat that are purely the result of stress. One thing I am beginning to accept although I don't fully understand it yet is that there is a lot of truth in it being caused by hormones. For too long people used a hormone imbalance to excuse being an overeater or getting fat.

But .....

Apparently there is an increasing amount of science backing that up.

The only answer seems to be get yourself as healthy as you can. Eat good healthy foods. Avoid loading on carbohydrates and hopefully this stress pattern will diminish with time. Also use your stress busting techniques like deep breathing and whatever works for you.

Since you have been working on all these aspects for a long time I think you can hope for the day when popping food in your mouth when stressed will no longer be an issue.

Don't beat yourself up more than you should on this one. You've come a long way. Stay proud of where you are.

Blessings.

Kris said...

During college, I had to write A LOT of papers. I wrote countless essays and stories that I felt were sub-par and beneath my actual level. I also happened to be super busy. I always used to think, "If I didn't have so many other responsibilites and could *really* focus on writing, I could actually write an AWESOME paper." Well, six years later and I'm still waiting for that magical moment, except I'm not, because I've realized that moment will never come.

Which is my roundabout way of saying if you're waiting for life stressors to finally go away so that you can *really* focus on you health goals, don't. When/if this healthy lifestyle thing gets easier, it won't be because major stressors have suddenly stopped popping up regularly in your life. It's because you will have forged different neural pathways by praciticing new habits again and again and again. Even when it sucks. Actually, *especially* when it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Lyn,

Usually I just lurk, but I really feel compelled this time to break my silence.

Something over 4 years ago, I started taking the weight off, and stopped full-on destructive and routine binge eating. Over about 1.5 years, I lost 220-ish pounds. A BMI of 50 to a BMI of 21. After completing the loss portion of the journey, I have kept that off for two years, and I STILL do this. I still sometimes fill the void with a small bite or two of something far healthier than the multiple candybars I used to snarf down, or cope with stress by, I dunno, eating a couple of plums or a fiber bar instead of a whole pizza.

I don't consider myself a failure for doing that. I frankly don't care if that's still 'binge behavior' -- it doesn't negate the hard work I've done, and there IS a difference between eating a few cashew nuts or olives and doing a swan dive into the pastry case at the grocery store, or hitting the drive-through. I don't have to be perfect all the time, you know? I had to let go of the idea that I was a failure when I do something like that. I'll spare everybody the whole how I did it routine, because it's incredibly annoying and tiring to have somebody go all self-appointed expert on your ass. Believe me, I've been evangelized to and told I'm Doing It Wrong because low carb doesn't work for me enough times that I'm not going to try to ram my own personal plan down anybody else's throat. Seriously, I have had people who have SEEN me lose those 220 pounds and keep them off for quite a while now look me right in the eye and tell me I'm wrong, and I really should be eating low carb. I think low carb works for a lot of people, but I didn't do it that way, nor do I have any interest in paleo or primal or whatever; I want to keep doing what works for me, and I'll reconsider if it stops working. I absolutely don't believe in magic bullets for weight loss, I believe you do what works for you, and I've been reading along quietly for years, but I still have no idea what it takes for Lyn. Lyn's probably a better judge of that than I could ever be, given that I'm on the outside looking in. I would just like to let you know that, yes, even those of us who set out to lose the weight, lost it steadily and predictably, with nothing more than the occasional upward fluctuation on the scale in the process CAN and DO maintain with a bit of (much healthier!) stress-eating along the way. Please don't beat yourself up too hard over it; that kind of perfectionism all too often ends in that swan-dive into the pastry case, because if you can't be perfect, why should you bother at all?

Good luck to you, Lyn. I've appreciated your candor as you've shared your journey with random internet people over the years, and I wish you more success.

Karen said...

Stopping the habit is the key to success. The pathway still is there for me, but I no longer choose the food or the behavior. I could but I don't.

I feel for you. It does suck, but it sucks less than the eat, repent, repeat cycle- IMO. Choose the suckiness. In time, it sucks less!! If that makes any sense at all. Karen P

Lyn said...

Wow, thank you so much for all the insights. I feel a lot better tonight reading what you had to say than I felt this morning. And yes, hormones... because I felt really down last night and today and then looked at the calendar and realized it IS hormones. I know I will feel better in a few days. I have gotten all teary-eyed a few times today plus feeling kind of down and more frustrated than usual, and I am sure this is partly why.

I love being able to come here and say what I am truly feeling. Even after 5 years I am still amazed that anyone WANTS to hear what I have to say. That has helped me work through so many things. Thank you.

LHA said...

I do not have the answer to this, but I have certainly enjoyed reading the ideas that have been posted. I will say that decreasing the amount of food that you mindlessly put in your mouth in times of stress, as well as reaching a point where that food is not as junky, is a real accomplishment. Whether or not this is enough of an accomplishment to meet your goals is your decision. I would say that I don't think you should beat yourself up over it while you are still looking for an answer you feel is right for you. You have made so much progress and even though you are not seeing it that way, this behavior you have described seems like even more progress to me. Good luck and thanks for blogging!

Anonymous said...

A friend just gave me a great piece of advice that can apply to weight loss and anything else........LIFE DOES NOT NEED TO BE PERFECT TO BE WONDERFUL.

Moosecat said...

Lyn, you don't have to be perfect each and every day. Be kinder to yourself. xx

purpleivy said...

Your first paragraph could have been describing me...the bit about peanut butter and cheese....

Unknown said...

Personally I think eating five olives or one slice of cheese or one tsp of peanut butter is not weird comfort eating at all. I understand you struggle with your metabolism and need to limit your calories but still. I used to be a bit bigger than now but somehow after puberty it just clicked that food is just fuel and now I am at a healthy BMI. But I would STILL eat a little something more here and there when I am somewhat stressed. That's not weird obsessive food behaviour. Don't beat yourself up about everything, Lyn, you're doing well. And a bit of exercise will go much further for your health than panicking about food 24/7. You are frustrated about you weight, I understand that, but after years of binging and yo yo dieting there may not be so much scope left to influence that. Love yourself & take care of yourself, Lyn. Don't be hard on yourself. You don't deserve that! Love from Antonia