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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Choose To Be Present

Roll call in middle school. The teacher called out names in alphabetical order. When we heard our name, we responded “present.” That may be one of the only times I paid attention in school. Most of my time was divided between talking to my desk-mates, writing and passing notes, daydreaming or doodling in a workbook. I said I was present, but I wasn’t.

A good part of my life was spent trying to improve myself, constantly looking for books with detailed instructions on how to make something happen that I wanted to happen in my life. Mostly it was about losing weight. I thought the weight made me different than others. The only problem was, sometimes I wasn’t overweight, but I still perceived my body as problematic. This was just another way of not being in the present moment.

Mind-drifting and distraction may be a tool that allows us to function in a situation where we feel overwhelmed or unsafe, but we don’t have to stay in this mode. We can choose to live in the present, accepting everything as it happens, even if it is unpleasant or confusing.

When I first tried to be present, I took a hard look at the truth of my life. I saw myself as a person who was just trying to make a decent life the best way she knew how. It was difficult to accept that bad things happen and that I may not be right all the time. I wanted to make everything perfect, not just for me but for my family, for everyone if I could.

I’ve learned that being present is not about trying to be present or mindful as much as it is about allowing whatever happens to just happen. That is, I can allow things to happen without reacting to them or trying to make things the way I think they should be. Even if I think someone else is wrong, I can let them be wrong. I don’t have to judge them, give my opinion or make corrections.

This also means I don’t have to worry about what others think of me. I don’t have to get angry or upset. I can choose to not feel guilty about past mistakes or stupid things I do. The less I react to my behavior and surroundings, the better I can see it for what it really is and make adjustments to bring my life into a healthy state.
I am not suggesting that you can be completely immune to hardship or pain. I am saying you can allow yourself to feel however you feel without determining if it is good or bad. Not judging yourself, or others, is one of the first steps to acquiring a healthy state of mind.

Being in the present is very do-able. But you have to figure out how to accomplish this your way. It’s good to read about how others have overcome obstacles and learned how to be peaceful. But I don’t think there is any one sure way to do this. If you have the desire to live in the present moment, you have already learned most of what you need to know to make it happen. Trust yourself and let it happen.

I used to think that if I accepted myself the way I was at any given moment, then I was settling for something other than my best. But I found I must accept myself the way I am now to find the love and self respect which will push me into my full potential, my best self.

Thoughts on building a core of happiness, click here.

If you struggle with bingeing or overeating – start here

 

It’s not my job to judge everyone, its my job to love them.

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It May Look Confusing…Just Keep Going

Throughout my binge free journey I have attended therapy and clinics, listened to motivational speakers and read many blogs and books.  I did read a couple of books twice, only because the first time through it didn’t click, and something drew me back for a re-read.  One of these books is called ‘Intuitive Eating’ by dieticians Evelyn Tribole M.S. R.D. and Elyse Resch M.S. R.D. F.A.D.A.  The book describes, in detail, how to learn to eat without dieting and it addresses the phases people go through, based on clients they have treated.

I was attending an out patient eating disorder program when my therapist suggested this book.  Three days a week, I drove to the clinic with the Intuitive Eating book and my food diary in tow.  In the food diary, I kept track of all the food I consumed, and once a week a dietician would examine my diary and make recommendations.

I learned a lot from the program and came out with a better attitude and more appreciation for my body.  But the eating puzzle still didn’t fit together.  If I could eat intuitively, like the book said, why did I have to measure and keep track of my food in the program?  And then there was the paragraph in the book, on page 90- “Beware of the I-Can-Eat-Whatever-I-Want, As-Much-As-I-Want, Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It-Trap,” which basically stated that you should eat unconditionally, but “eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might cause physical discomfort.  Attunement with your body’s satiety cues is an important part of this process.”

Okay, now, I was really confused. There was a condition to ‘unconditionally.’  It just didn’t add up.  I was expected to learn to eat what I want, but it cannot be what I really want, it must be the best thing for my body and it must be enough to satisfy my body, but it can’t be too much or too little.  And it has to be when I am hungry, and I have to stop when I am satisfied. OMG!

I graduated from the program, ditched the book and looked for a food plan I could live with.  I checked out the overeaters anonymous food plans, the paleo diet and whole 30 plans.  I tried them all.  I kept journaling my food.  I played tennis more and rode my bike and joined a gym.  The bingeing lessened, but I struggled with it and still didn’t know what satisfaction with a meal felt like.

I need to skip some of the story here, which I will write about later, but let’s just say, two years elapsed and some things happened, and I finally made the decision to forget about the food plans, the diary and the scale.  I stopped exercising just to burn calories and began playing tennis and riding the bike for fun.  I cancelled the gym membership.  I began to do the one thing I have been wanting to do for years… that is –eat without guilt.

Despite the warning in the book, I decided to eat anything I wanted, any where I wanted, anytime I wanted, with no guilt.  Read that again, with no guilt.  That means I ate with no thoughts of dieting in the future to make up for it, with no thought of having to exercise to ward off the calories, no thought of eating less or ‘better’ tomorrow.  I stopped reading food labels.  I didn’t eat out of entitlement, and I didn’t give up on myself, I just ate what I wanted and what tasted good.  I knew this was the only way I would come to terms with myself.  So, I went all in.

For the first few months, I occasionally overate.  But it was only in guiltless overeating that I learned how to eat normally.  I did gain a few pounds during that time, and almost went back to dieting for this reason.  But I stuck it out, and within a few more months, I was eating and feeling satisfied and not overeating.  Bingeing seemed like a foreign language, I didn’t even understand the hold it once had over me.  And the book, which I read two years earlier made a lot more sense.  When I re-read it, I saw myself and understood it.  If it hadn’t been for that one warning paragraph, I may have tried this sooner.

The point is, when I try to control what, when, where or how much I should eat, my body sees this as a warning that there is something wrong with the food source.  So, it goes into craving mode to ensure I eat more food to thwart the coming restriction or whatever is wrong with the food source.  And when I become desperate to not overeat, my body fights harder to get more food now.  Suddenly, I want to eat anything that looks scrumptious.  And the only things that appear scrumptious are sweets and high fat foods which, as my smart body knows, are calorie dense.  And calories are what it is looking for to continue to function while the food source problem gets straightened out.

Of course, there was no problem with the food source.  The problem was me, giving my body a false signal.  As smart as my body is, it can not interpret my restriction of food as a good thing.  Why?  Because I wasn’t eating to nourish my body, my desire was to eat less to lose weight to be a better person, to feel like I fit in.  I did not honor my body, how could I expect it to honor me?

We must work with our body and not against it.  And the best way, I have found, is to allow myself to eat with no guilt or thoughts of restriction.  This way, my body is satisfied that there will always be food available, it will settle down and stop the cravings.

The hardest part for me, in doing this, was trusting myself.  Even after I made the decision, I second guessed myself several times, but I persevered.  Then my body began to honor me by only wanting to eat at the usual meal times.  It stopped craving sweets and fatty foods.  And now, when I do feel like eating cake, I don’t need a whole cake or even a whole piece, usually a couple bites satisfies me.  The key is allowing myself to eat, and choosing what I feel like eating and not what I think I should have based on calories or fats or macros.

So, I eat what I want, where I want, any time I want.  I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satisfied. (Yes, this is a real thing you can acquire.)  Sometimes, if I think I am full, but want a few more bites, I take them, and its okay.  Some days I eat more than others, but over a week’s time, it evens out.  I don’t force myself to eat more vegetables or healthier foods, but I eat them because I prefer them now.  And even though weight loss was not my goal, I have lost the weight I gained initially and have remained at an even weight since then.

So, I did exactly what I thought the book, in that tiny paragraph, told me not to do.  Maybe there are some people who actually want to keep overeating or bingeing and not worry about it.  But I will give my readers credit for being smart enough to know that it is not a trap that someone else ensnares you in,  it is will-full self destructive behavior.  And we’ve all had enough of that.  What we want is behavior that enhances our lives.  I figure if you are reading this post your goal is to nourish your body, satisfy your psyche and live a happier life.

I recommend you read the book.  It may not make sense the first time around, but let the information just sink in.  And don’t worry about the disclaimer, just eat.  Eat what you want, when you want it, without guilt or shame.  The more you do this, the more sense the book makes.

“It’s not the thought of eating everything in sight that is the problem, it’s the thought of restricting food to lose weight that makes you want to eat everything in sight.”

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There Can Be No Doubt

Recently I watched an online video by a doctor who stated that we should not eat from a certain group of foods.  He had a very impressive background being a surgeon, a public speaker and writer in scientific journals for many years.  He also lost weight at some point in his adult life and was determined that the foods he cut from his diet played a significant role in his weight loss and in keeping it off.

I was mesmerized with the video and how professional and scientific it was.  Just for fun, I googled the foods he restricts and found doctors with just as impressive backgrounds who didn’t agree with him at all.  Their websites were not quite as ‘in your face’ as his, but they, too, believed that certain groups of foods are unhealthy for humans.  However, their lists were completely different than the first doctor’s.  I added all these foods together and realized that if I restricted every food group touted as bad by someone somewhere, I would probably end up having to eat dirt and maybe a few wild berries.

In the midst of all the hype in the media about what is good and bad for us, it is difficult to feel comfortable eating whatever you think you want. We all want to do the right thing for ourselves and our bodies.  But the people we depend on for information about diet and nutrition have let us down.  And I don’t mean any disrespect, but just because doctors and medical professionals have degrees behind their names doesn’t mean they understand the problem of overeating and obesity.  If doctors, diets, pills, nutrition experts and exercise gurus had the magic solution to the problem of obesity, overeating and disordered eating, it would have already been solved by now!

And the reason it has not been solved is because we buy into what the ‘experts’ say.  We think they know better than we do what we should eat. This is false! No one knows better what you should eat than you and your body. And once you begin to trust yourself you will understand this concept.

The first several months of my binge free journey I would second guess myself.  I would hear of a new breakthrough diet or some new superfood that we should be eating and I doubted my decision to eat what I wanted.  I wondered if I should go back to counting calories or trying out the new food or stop eating certain foods. When these thoughts crept up, I found myself with cravings, which made it harder to eat sensibly.  In other words, thoughts of restricting portions of food (by counting calories) or thoughts of restricting certain types of foods (sugars, fats) caused me to crave more food and eat more.

I do advocate eliminating one thing from your diet, though, and that is guilt.  Yes, guilt is the number one cause of the restrictive thoughts that create cravings and make you overeat.  When you eat what you want, you must truly believe that you can eat anything you want now and forever after.  This means you cannot worry about how many cookies you may eat now, you cannot think about eating less at the next meal or running five miles to make up for these calories.  You can’t think of the cookies as a special ‘treat’ that you are only allowed to eat once in a while.  You must allow yourself to enjoy the cookies for what they are and tell yourself you can eat them anytime.

Once you can do this, shame-free, you will find yourself eating a few cookies and putting the rest away.  There is no urgency to eat them all now if you can eat them anytime you want.  And by allowing yourself this freedom, your body will reward you by giving you a feeling of satisfaction after a couple of cookies or telling you when it doesn’t really need or want cookies, and you will grow to be repulsed by the thought of eating the whole box.  You don’t believe this?  Give it a try and see the amazing results.

The statement, ‘eat whatever you want’ may sound like sketchy advice, but it is the only advice that helped me to stop bingeing and overeating. And I am not the only one. There is a large presence on the internet, in books and videos stating that restricting certain foods or portion sizes does not produce the results we hope it will, and even increases our chances of eating unhealthily and gaining weight in the future.  Unfortunately,  some of that hype places too much importance on keeping weight down.  (This warrants an entire article to itself, stay tuned.)

I don’t have the technical skills or the money to make a slick video just yet, but when I do, I will be as adamant as the doctor who wants you stay away from certain foods.   But my mantra is- don’t restrict any food from your diet.  I want to stand on the street corner and shout to everyone I see, “Eat what you think you and your body want and need, eat when you want, wherever you want, however you want, as much as you want, with no guilt, no shame, and watch yourself morph in to the person you have only dreamed about becoming.  Free yourself from bingeing and overeating forever.” Amen.

I have stepped down from my soapbox now. Thank you for reading!

Binge free- steps to start – click here

“Food is not something to try to avoid.  It is energy for your body.  Give your body some credit for knowing what to do with it.” MDfall color impression again