If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.
For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.
I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)
To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”
If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.
This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.
If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?
I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.
Has anyone else had experience with this?
On Saturday morning, I went for an extra long walk. I didn’t take my hat or scarf, though I should have. It was the kind of weather that fools you into thinking it’s warm even though it’s freezing. Sunshine does something for my soul, it stirs up some deep happiness that I forget sometimes when it’s been cloudy for awhile.
I veered off my normal route and walked down the hill a little further so I could get a better view of Utah Lake. It was so beautiful for some reason. I stopped and looked at it for a minute, and then a feeling of gratitude came over me as I thought about where I was a year ago and where I am now.
Last February, I would have never imagined that my life would be like it is now in such a short time. A year ago, I was depressed, sick, my stress and anxiety were through the roof, and overweight because my compulsive eating was out of control. I lived in a tiny studio above my uncle’s garage and worked as a nanny, and I had no idea what to do about my future. I had no social life. I was so creatively stuck that I started to believe that I wasn’t meant to be an artist and writer after all, that I had nothing to say. I felt stuck, and I was miserable.
Now, standing on that hill looking over the lake, I have a clear vision of my future and a path to get there, but I also have the faith to let things unfold as they must. I have a great job that’s actually related to my degree, my body is maintaining a happy weight and though I’m still tweaking my self-care, I’m much healthier. I have an apartment I love, and I’m making art and writing all the time. I’m actually selling my work, and I have plans for growing my career from this little seed I’ve planted.
I’m so thankful for this past year and how incredibly far I’ve come. I’m so blessed. I’m amazed how I’ve been led to everything I need whether it’s tools, signs, opportunities, friends, or ideas. I’m grateful for my new outlook on the world, that I understand that struggles are important opportunities to learn, and therefore blessings. I could have never learned how to be truly happy without being truly miserable first. I couldn’t learn how to grow if I couldn’t experience being stuck. I couldn’t have acquired the new tools and knowledge I have without the situations that prompted me to seek them.
I hope that you all are well and that you’re experiencing some wonderful growth right now. Have a wonderful week. 🙂
I can’t believe how fast a year can go by. The days are long, but the years are short.
Today, before I take my Christmas tree down, make a pile of dip, and scoot off to a New Year’s Eve party, I’m going to take some quiet time for a special tradition that I started on a whim last year, and hope to continue for years to come.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve enjoyed writing letters to my past and future selves. As kooky as it sounds, it really helps me with perspective, closure, goals, and self-love. You can read my letter to my 13-year-old self here and a self-love letter here. When I was 14, I wrote four letters for my future self to open and certain times: One for the end of ninth grade, one for college or high school graduation (can’t remember which), one for my wedding day, and one for the birth of my first child. That one still lives in a folder in my filing cabinet where my New Year’s letter will live for the next year.
I just read the letter I wrote to myself last year, and it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come. One year ago today, I was under a mountain of stress and beginning to feel the signs of burning out. My poor adrenal glands were pooped, my creative output was nil, and I was completely out of control around food. In fact, I just noticed that on that day, I wore the same jeans that I wear right now. They’re comfy now, but back then they fit like a sausage casing, and a few weeks later I couldn’t button them at all.
I was in a very different place, and I knew from reading that letter that I was reaching out to my future self out of desperation. I clung to the hope that the future held joy rather than the stagnation and depression I experienced. Here’s the last paragraph:
I read The 7 Habits o Highly Effective People and I imagined I met you. I don’t know if it was exactly you, but I hope you’re wiser than me. I hope you’re happier, stronger, and…I don’t want to say “better”, but I can’t think of a more accurate word. I write this because I want to somehow bridge the gap between us. I’m sure there’s quite a trek ahead of me and that you’ll be waiting for me at the other side. I’m still scared.
See you there.
When I leave you today, I’ll write a new letter. Though I have a clear vision of what I hope my life will be like in one year, I know that plans can change in an instant and nothing goes according to plan anyway. I accept whatever changes I make , welcome the opportunities and challenges of the new year, and open my mind to the lessons 2012 holds. I’ll tell my future self where I am now so that then, no matter what happens, I can see how far I’ve come. I hope to grow as much in the coming year as I have this year.
You might think this is a fabulous idea, or you might think I’m a loon. Either way, why not give the letter thing a try? If nothing else, it’s fun. It’s almost like time travel.
I am grateful for the growth and joy I’ve experienced this year and I welcome the challenges and opportunities 2012 has to offer.
Be safe tonight, and have a happy new year!
So something happened yesterday that hasn’t happened for a few months: I ate compulsively. It wasn’t an obvious binge, but over the course of the day I noticed that I never felt hungry once, but I never felt satisfied and I kept eating. I didn’t get upset or anything, I didn’t think those awful thoughts that usually come with a binge. “Why are you doing this?! You’re so weak. You must not care about your body. All the hard work you’ve done, and you throw it away just to keep tasting.”
Nope, none of that. I just let it happen, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with me and that I didn’t quite have the strength to deal with it in the moment, which is fine. So I ate, and it all tasted delicious.
Later in my journal, I realized that I might just need to go back to the basics.
I believe that all compulsive eating behaviors come from a mixture of emotional and physical roots. I know my physical and chemical roots well, and the way I ate yesterday-lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates, no protein, healthy fat or veggies-could only set me up for more binging. I’m sure my blood sugar was going nuts.
After the emotional work I did last week, I know that I’m still struggling with the feeling of urgency, of feeling rushed and trying to relieve that tension by eating. Though I worked out the feeling last week, I haven’t let it go yet.
So what did I decide to do?
This week, I’m hitting my reset button and returning to the basics, to what I know works for my body and mind.
- Eating foods that make me feel good (lots of veggies with some fruits, nuts, eggs, fish and sprouted grains) and avoiding the foods that mess up my body signals (sugars, dairy, white flour)
- Eating consciously-chewing thoroughly, eating at the table without a book or my computer, and blowing off mealtimes and eating when I feel like it.
- Joyful movement, my way. This usually means a good walk or run in the morning, a few shorter walks throughout the day and my yoga practice.
- Taking my time, removing all the pressure. Taking time to do yoga and study my scriptures, taking time to lock myself in my studio to play or just think if I want, and taking time to be slow.
- This comes from a place of self-love and a desire to heal.
- Unlike a diet, this is all about removing pressure on the body and spirit
- This is non-obsessive and feels like a relief. It’s not exciting the same way dieting. It just feels good, like falling asleep after a long day.