Self Control -It May Not Be What You Think

When I was in sixth grade I had to write an essay on self-control.  I remember turning in a paper that was messy and incomplete and having the teacher say, in front of the class, that I obviously didn’t have any self-control because I couldn’t get my work done properly.  My first guilt trip!

Usually my work was very good, but this week my dad was in the hospital and my mom was struggling.  Despite what was going on in my life at home, I took to heart the response from the teacher and allowed that to define me.  For many years I felt like the one who had missed the lesson in self-control.  I wasn’t even sure what it was, but I knew self-control was hard and something I lacked.

The truth is, I probably had more self-control than most of the kids in my class.  My dad was in and out of rehab many times that year.  My mom was trying to hold down two jobs to keep us from losing our home.  I had to get up, get dressed, feed myself, take care of my dog, and get to school on my own.  One day, I missed the bus and called a neighbor to drive me to school.

But I never saw what I did as being the right thing or the good thing or using self-control.  It was just my life.  Through my eyes, I was different than my friends and my perception that I did not have self-control eventually morphed into self-contempt.

Fast forward 25 years and I still had that sixth-grade mentality.  Thinking I knew what self-control was, I blamed myself for not having any, especially around food.  I could control my food for about a week if the stars were aligned and everything went my way. But one tiny stressor would fling me from that salad into the arms of a waiting chocolate cake.  To keep myself from gaining dreaded weight, I jogged or swam.  When I couldn’t do those things, I became bulimic.

I chastised myself for not having enough willpower or control.  But while punishing myself for that, I was raising three children as a single mom, working 60 hours a week as a business professional and trying to date. Talk about willpower!

I had enough willpower to knock down buildings, and enough self-control to challenge a Buddhist monk.  What I didn’t have was confidence.  The self-loathing of my body and the guilt about eating overshadowed all my accomplishments.  Instead of seeing my self-control, all I saw was self-disgust.

To break out of this mindset meant a change in my perception.  I had to dare myself to love me regardless of how I ate or what my body looked like, stopping all self-criticism until I could learn how to be constructive.  I had to perceive myself as already having everything I needed to be the best person I could be.

It took several more years of struggling with BED before I let all this sink in and stopped trying to control everything I ate.  This doesn’t mean I now eat unconsciously, it means I allow my body to tell me what it wants, and if it happens to want a piece of cake, I allow myself to enjoy it with no guilt, no counting calories or fat grams, no thinking about restricting my next meal or my portion sizes, just pure acceptance and enjoyment of what I am eating at the moment.  The amazing thing is, I very seldom want chocolate cake anymore.  Its not always perfect, but the cravings, struggle and body bashing are gone.

For me, self-control isn’t about forcing myself to eat the right foods and exercise more.  It’s not about making myself feel guilty for eating too much or the wrong foods.  It’s about letting go of the thoughts that say “I have to be like someone else,” or “I am not enough.”  Its about trusting that I have what it takes to love and nourish myself regardless of what anyone else says.

Read More –Binge Free: The Beginning     Take Action – Binge Free: First Steps

 

                                                  I am enough.

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The Vanity of Change

In my early thirties, it seemed like my life was one big crisis after another.  I was newly remarried with small children.  My eating was disordered and I was convinced that I had to take medication to keep myself together.  One time, wanting some sympathy from my mom, I jokingly told her I felt like I was the family drama queen.  Instead of sympathy, she blurted out, “You are the family drama queen!”

The realization that I did things to get attention was devastating.  What others had seen in me for quite some time, I finally saw.  For most of my adult life, I had staggered in and out of programs, religions and philosophies trying to fix myself.  Now I realized that in the quest for a “cure,” I was making myself crazier.

That made me realize I wasn’t in this thing alone, that my behavior affected my family and friends. I didn’t want to be the family drama queen, I wanted to be the wise one, the stoic one, the lucky one, the happy one -anyone but the one you would roll your eyes at when she walked into the room.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  And for a long time, I clung to the belief that things had to be exactly as I wanted them to be and that I had to be thin to be happy.  But little by little, I began to be honest with myself.  I realized that life could be good even if I wasn’t perfect.

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The further I get into this binge free journey, the more I appreciate my life and everything in it.  Finding peace with food has taken so much stress out of my life that it makes me wonder what I could have accomplished if I had done this many years ago. But since I try not to ruminate about my past or base my value on accomplishments anymore, those thoughts are fleeting.  Mostly I just enjoy the moments I am in and let my thoughts meander in and out of my brain.

If my thoughts are disrespectful to myself or someone else, or negative in some way, I let them come and go.  By not worrying about them or chastising myself for having them, they will fade away.  When I first began this change, I used to purposely replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts -and every now and then I still do this.  But mostly I just let the thoughts be what they are, and my mind will flow in a positive direction.

Being content and happy is a good thing but it can lead to something not so good -pride.  And I don’t mean the healthy kind of pride in ourselves that helps us feel confident, I mean the kind of pride that makes us think we are better than someone else -also known as vanity.

Vanity has a way of seeping into our brains and propping us up with lies about our significance.  It validates our worthiness by pointing out the faults of others.  So, when I find myself thinking how great I am because I ate well today, or having thoughts that I must be better off than someone who struggles with food, I have to stop and check myself.  I am the same value whether I have an eating disorder or eat the perfect diet, whether I am thin or fat or in between.  And this is the same for everyone.

So, I find myself feeling good about where I am today compared to my past.  It could be called pride, but it is more a feeling of relief.  I didn’t work to get where I am as much as I just allowed myself to be.  I now allow myself to be content no matter what I am feeling.  This means giving myself the luxury of wasting time, being wrong, or being selfish or boring  – all things I used to try very hard not to be.

In accepting my feelings and unshackling myself from guilt, I have become more compassionate to others and more productive when I worried about these things.  This is still not to say that anyone else’s journey will begin or end like mine. Or that my way is the only way or even he best way to change.

It was the best way for me because I truly believed it was.  I could have taken a different road, but chose this path.  Just as you will choose your path and you will know it is the right one.

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If you are new to my blog, you can read about how I began this journey and the steps I took to make it happen.

 

Stop Coping, Start Living

I used to think I had to cope with my problem behavior, whether it was overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or being depressed and anxious.  I went about my life, going to school, working, getting married, having kids, all with a coping strategy running in the back of my mind.  Sometimes the coping didn’t work, and the bad feelings and behaviors would come to the forefront. They would take out a few months of my life and I would have to regroup. But for the most part, my unwanted feelings and behaviors became something I learned to function with.

The problem with coping is that it never ceases.  By telling myself I had to manage my depression, anxiety and eating issues, I gave them more power than they should have had in my life.  Notice, I even called it my depression, my anxiety, my eating issues. When in fact, they weren’t ever mine, they were just symptoms of an erroneous thought process.  I considered myself flawed compared to others, like I had a burden to carry, so I resigned myself to living and performing with these issues.

This burden almost felt good, at times, like I deserved this depression or anxiety, bulimia, binge eating or whatever else I was dealing with.  So, year after year, I stayed in survival mode, saying things like,

“I’m hangin’ in there,” or “I’ll manage,” or “I’ll get by.”

To me, these were positive statements. They were proof that I would get through and live for another day.  But in reality, they were mistakes in my thinking.  As long as I had the notion that all I could do was ‘hang in there,’ I stayed in victim mode.  I saw my defects as something that happened upon me, maybe from the way I was raised or from my genetics or for whatever reason.  And as long as I was merely coping, I took no responsibility for my actions. I just tried to quell my behavior and fit into life the best I could.

So, how do you get out of coping mode and into living?

Once I decided to overcome my issues and not just cope with them, things began to change. The very first attribute I acquired was a sense of value. I had to know that I was a good person regardless of my behavior. This doesn’t mean I congratulated myself for bad conduct, it means I became aware of my value as a human being.  I realized that nothing I could do or not do determined my value as a person. A faith in God helped me, but even if you don’t believe in God, you can still believe in your inherent worth.  You are as human as anyone else on this earth. You weren’t born with depression, anxiety, or eating problems.  And if you had a traumatic past or believe you are genetically predisposed to these problems,  it still doesn’t mean they have to manifest in your life.

Understanding and accepting my value gave me a reason to be happier and change my behavior.  And it came in this order – being happy comes first.  Being happy is not as hard as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t natural either.  My perceived failures gave me something to focus on and talk about.  It was an easy way to get attention from others.  I went to therapists and clinics and even in-patient treatment programs.  I took medicines and talked to others who had these problems.  I made a lifestyle out of working on my ‘issues’.

When I started to believe in myself, I didn’t want to just cope anymore, I wanted to thrive. I decided it was okay to have bad feelings and that things did not have to be perfect.  The bad stuff didn’t go away immediately, but the power it had over me did.  On days when I woke up with that tight, anxious feeling in my chest, instead of worrying myself into a full blown panic attack, I would acknowledge the feeling and make no judgement about it.  Then I got up and went about my day.  After a couple hours, I would forget about it.

In the case of depression, I realized that when I felt the most despondent, I thought everyone hated me and I felt sorry for myself.  I performed a reality check on the thought, “Everyone hates me” and realized that even if not everyone liked me, it still was highly unlikely that everyone hated me.  So instead of trying to stop the depressing feeling, I acknowledged it, made no good or bad judgement about it and decided not to have a pity party.  I soon found myself doing interesting things and reaching out to others.

Binge eating behavior was the last big hurdle.  I had overcome the darkest aspects of my life, but couldn’t seem to shake the eating problem.  It was only when I stopped feeling guilty for eating and stopped trying to restrict food that the insatiable hunger went away and was replaced by natural hunger and satisfaction with normal meals.

When I condense my life changes down to one page, like this, I wonder why it took me so long to become the person I am now happy with.  It could be that it takes time, maturity and experience.  But if we all wise up and get happier as we get older, all old people should be ecstatic and not cranky and depressed, as some are.  But whether you are young or old, you can bring about positive changes in your life.  It starts with an understanding of your inherent value.  We are all worthy whether we know and believe it or not.  And this inherent value supersedes genetics, past events, character and behavior.  Once I realized this, I stopped coping and started living.

How to realize your value click here

How to start a binge free life click here

Featured photo from pixabay.

brake-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_large-hi“You don’t have to entertain every thought that comes into your head.” MD
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How To Surrender… And Win

After yo-yo dieting and binge eating most of your adult life, eating whatever you want may seem impossible.  When I first began my binge free journey,  I told myself I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted.  I took all restrictions off food.  In case you are wondering, I did not picture myself eating ten thousand calories worth of chocolate cake every day and not gaining a pound, but I did picture myself eating meals I liked and food I wanted, including chocolate cake, with no restrictions on type of food or portion sizes.

Somehow, I knew this was the right thing to do.  I was overeating at almost every meal and bingeing in times of stress. I  know, it doesn’t make sense.  If you want to stop eating too much, you should be able to say to yourself, “Stop eating so much.”  And poof…you stop eating so much.  I tried this for 25 years and it never worked, and it never will work, so why do we keep doing it?  I finally gave up dieting to save my sanity and maybe even my life.

When I say the words ‘gave up,’ I don’t mean I considered myself a failure and started eating because I’ll never lose weight anyway or that food defeated me.  It’s quite the opposite.  I took control of my eating by allowing myself to eat what I thought my body wanted at any given time.  Instead of succumbing to the food I used to restrict, I now eat my fill and it doesn’t rule me anymore.

I didn’t throw all my knowledge about nutrition out the window, but I did buy and eat foods I never allowed myself to eat in the past.  It seems ironic that I eat less of those foods now than when they were restricted.

When you restrict food or even have thoughts of not eating in the future, like starting a diet on Monday, your body gets a stress signal – ‘food will be scarce.’  So, it encourages you, rather compels, you to eat more now.  How many ‘last suppers’ have you had?  If you do happen to thwart the compulsion and reduce your calories for any period of time, your body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy.  At some point, you will give in to hunger for more calories and go off your diet, which causes you to feel guilty and eat more.  There you are, back in the vicious cycle.

To stop this cycle forever is not difficult if you really want to do it.  The hardest part is to be faithful to it.  As with any change, you must make a concerted effort to stick with the program.  This means eating cookies when you have a taste for them and not thinking of ways to make up for it later.  It means telling yourself you can still eat whatever you want the next time you are hungry, regardless of what or how much you just ate.  It means taking the guilt out of the eating process entirely.

Once you get used to this process and quit second guessing your decision to not diet, your body and your psyche will stop being at odds with each other.  And once they get on the same side, you will feel a peace that you may have not experienced in a long time.

For tips on Motivation click here.

“I used to ask the question -Why do I always do stuff that makes me feel guilty? When the real question is -Why do I feel guilty for the stuff I do?” MD

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Is Enough As Good As A Feast?

One of my favorite movies is the 1969 version of  True Grit.  Set in the 1870’s, Mattie is a strong-minded young girl who teams up with a hard drinking US Marshall to find her father’s killer.  When asked why she doesn’t eat more during her first dinner with the rowdy Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, she replies in a straightforward way,

“I’ve had enough. Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have been mesmerized with that saying since I first heard it in that movie.  I used to think it was the brainchild of a savvy scriptwriter, but it’s actually an old English proverb that also appeared in the movie Mary Poppins.

For a long time, I wanted to agree with this proverb, but I couldn’t make myself really feel it or believe it.

“If enough is as good as a feast, why don’t I ever seem to have enough? I never feel like I’ve had enough, even when I am stuffed full and sick from all the food in my stomach. There is still something inside me which screams, “NOT ENOUGH.”

Of course, I realize now that part of the craving for more food had a lot to do with how I viewed myself and that I tried, during every waking moment, to eat a restricted number of calories per day.

But even now, I have times when I want to eat more than my body needs. Sometimes I DO eat more than I need.  But now I stop when I realize I don’t need any more. My body usually tells me when I’ve had enough.  My mind now agrees and I know it’s okay to stop eating.  So, what is the difference between now and back then, when I had the obsession?

How do I stop myself from eating all the chocolate chip cookies I just took out of the oven before my family even gets home?

When I first started this process a little over a year ago, I would just tell myself, I can eat these cookies now or I can eat them later, or tomorrow or any day for the rest of my life. This took immediate pressure off and I no longer felt compelled to eat whatever I was craving. I could then make a choice about what to eat or not.

If I suddenly found myself reaching for a fourth cookie, I just took notice and told myself it didn’t matter how much I just ate, I could still eat what I wanted at the next meal or the next time I felt hungry. I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure in any way.

I said this out loud everyday,  “I can eat whatever I want now or the next meal, in two hours, two days, next week, or anytime, for the rest of my life.”  This helped me to really believe what I was saying.

Once I began believing this, I saw my disordered eating through a different lens.  I realized it was a normal response to the signals I give my body via thoughts about food restriction or permission, and that it is related to beliefs I hold about myself and my value.  In recognizing this, I am able to stop having pity parties every time I do something I consider ‘bad.’

Once the ‘badness’ is taken away from the food/hunger equation, it’s much easier to choose to eat what you think is good for you and stop when you’ve had enough, even if you don’t feel fully satisfied.

But don’t worry, as you continue this journey, satisfaction will be something you will learn how to feel more than ever before.  Most days, you will really feel like enough is as good as feast.  And for those times you don’t – everything will still be okay.

Actions to take to begin your binge free journey click here.

“Just because I don’t feel good at any one time, doesn’t mean better things aren’t happening in my life.”_MG_1186

 

Binge Free – The Beginning

I used to be hungry all the time. My hunger wasn’t about food, but I used food to try to satisfy it. Nothing filled it up. No matter how much food I stuffed down my throat, there was no satisfaction, nothing to tell me that I’d had enough. It’s like when a light switch doesn’t work and you want to go to sleep, but can’t turn off the bright light. A pathway in my brain said, Feed me, but never switched off to say, Ok, that’s enough.  Another part of me would say, Stop eating, but it was a condemning voice that said..

“You are such an idiot, why do you do this to yourself, you are such a loser.”

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I ate even more to quell that voice. The more I ate, the guiltier I felt.  Still hungry, I told myself, I’ll just eat everything I want now and make up for the extra calories tomorrow by eating less or exercising more.  That is what I wanted to do, but never did, at least not for more than a few days.

For years, I would get home from work and stand in my pantry and devour everything I could find until I felt so sick I had to vomit to get some relief.  When I didn’t vomit, I laid on my bed and berated myself and swore that tomorrow I would eat properly.  Sometimes I looked at diets or food plans online, printing lists of acceptable foods to eat. With raised spirits, I told myself, I can do this!  I’d get up in the morning with a new outlook, drink an instant breakfast, eat salad for lunch and make plans for a healthy dinner.  All the while counting those nasty little calories.  But when I got home, I would overeat or binge and start the ‘guilt, self-loathing’ cycle all over again.

One day I realized that the voice accusing me and telling me I was a malfunctioning person could be wrong.  Instead of my whole persona being flawed, maybe my thinking was just incorrect.

Maybe the thoughts I have about being defective don’t really mean that I am defective. Maybe the thoughts are flawed. Having flawed thoughts does not make me a flawed person. I feel like I am defective down to the core of my being most of the time. But just because I feel a certain way doesn’t make me that way. I feel like I don’t fit in with most ‘normal people’. But what if I’m wrong about that? Maybe I am really a good person and I’m just telling myself I am bad because of all the crap I went through as a kid or because my brain is shaped a certain way or my DNA has an extra chromosome or some other reason I don’t even know of.  Maybe I have just convinced myself that I am different from ‘normal people’, especially when it comes to eating. And maybe I don’t feel like I fit in with others because I am telling myself I don’t fit in. And maybe I can change those thoughts. Maybe?

With this new idea, I realized that breaking out of the spiral of overeating-binging-loathing-dieting-overeating did not have to be about changing my eating behavior.  To break a cycle, only one thing needs to be changed, and who said it has to be your eating behavior?  A big part of the binge eating cycle is guilt and self loathing associated with overeating.

 “What if I could change my thoughts instead of my eating behavior? Eating does not HAVE to make me feel guilty. I choose to feel guilty when I eat too much or eat a forbidden food. And if I have a choice to feel guilty, I also have the choice to NOT feel guilty. I don’t have to berate myself.”

I thought, like most Americans, that if I could diet and lose weight, I would be healthier and happier.  It makes sense; dieting leads to weight loss which leads to feeling good about myself which leads to no bingeing.  The trouble was, it never worked that way for me.  I would drop a few pounds, start feeling good about losing weight, then eat a donut in a weak moment and end up sick from raiding the refrigerator.  Then on to a bingeing episode which could last months.

“What if I could get out of this cycle by stopping the guilt and self-loathing part instead of trying to diet or change my eating behavior? How would this work?”

I stopped binging the very first day I began to think and say out loud, the thoughts below. Stopping bingeing is the easy part.  Learning how to live a better life and accept who you are takes more work.  But it is worth it. And you can do it!

I will not feel guilty for any eating behavior, that includes overeating and bingeing.
• I will not feel guilty eating any type of food. All foods are good.
• I will not think about restricting any food.
• I can eat what I want today, later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for the rest of my life.
• I never have to diet or restrict food again.
• I will not judge myself based on my body size or my eating.
• I will eat what I want, when I want, in the amount I want.
• I will not make myself eat anything I do not want.
• No matter what I eat, I will always plan on still eating whatever I want at the next meal or the next time I want food.
• I will not plan to restrict food or exercise to ‘make up’ for eating now.
• If I eat too much and become uncomfortable, I will take note how it made me feel physically, but I will not berate myself or feel guilty or bad for eating.
• I will stop using words like fattening, sinful or decadent in regard to food.
• I will not count calories or macros or fat grams or anything else associated with controlling my food intake.

It took me about a year to understand that eating like this was more important than losing weight.   Losing weight has always been my main focus.  And to that end, I tried to eat what someone else said I should eat by following diets and food plans.  But when I began to trust my body and eat what I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start to repair itself and begin wanting healthier foods naturally.

I gained a few pounds at first, but after a year, my weight is inching down. The weight doesn’t matter that much, though.  What matters is, after many years of bingeing and restricting, I now eat whatever I want and I don’t eat anything I don’t want.  I am strong and healthy and my body is adjusting its weight to reflect that.  I don’t force myself to eat a healthy meal to get some dessert.  If I want dessert only, I eat the dessert.  I put no restrictions on food or eating.  My meals are typically healthier than they have ever been, not because I force myself to eat well, but because I naturally want to eat well.  Sometimes I still have cravings, but usually they are for things like chef salad, ice-cold watermelon, or hot homemade soup.

You can make a change now. Binge Free First Steps

If I did this, you can too!

“I don’t need to compare myself to others.  The space I occupy on this earth is just right for me.  No one else can fit into it and I cannot fit into anyone else’s space.  I will strive to be my best, but will always appreciate who I am and where I am right now.” MD

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