Facing Food Addiction: Part 5: Change The Voices In Your Head

Pink sings a song with the phrase “change the voices in your head, make them like you instead”…  I LOVE that song because it reminds me how powerful thoughts are.  It reminds me that at any given moment, I can choose my thoughts.  I can’t always pick my circumstances and I have difficulty controlling my emotions once they get started but I CAN control my thoughts.

Step 1 is to start hearing the inner dialog.  Don’t judge it and don’t even try to change it at first, just listen and observe it.

Step 2 is to start identifying what prompted those thoughts and decide if you want to keep them or not.

Step 3 is to re-frame the ones you want to rid yourself from into something you want to think.

In ANY circumstance, there is ALWAYS more than one way to look at it.  Please understand that I’m not suggesting practicing living in denial, pretending everything is fine and glorious when it’s absolutely not.  What I’m suggesting is to embrace those difficult times as a chance to grow, because they are!

Here are some demons in my head (a life coach of mine called some of them “the shame tyrant”) that pop up from time to time and the way I re-frame them (sometimes in the form of asking myself a question):

I’m not as good at ____ as her/him

My best is enough

I suck

I am enough

I’m worthless

I have value

I messed up! (and that is TOTALLY the end of the world!!!!!!!)

I will make mistakes as I’m learning.

I HAVE to…

What does loving myself look like in this situation?

I can’t

I can by…

I’m ugly

I’m beautiful (see “I feel pretty” blog post from last year and other posts under “body image” for more on this one)

You are too fat to eat that

I am worth reaching my goals

I’m lonely

I am loved (I have found this one to be particularly amazing because as I told myself I am loved, more people started loving me (crying happy tears as I write this))

I can’t stand _______

What is the lesson I can learn from this experience?

Running is a GREAT opportunity to practice re-framing.  When working up to greater and greater distances, it shows how much time and experience change perception.  I remember when 3 miles was a REALLY long ways!  Now, seriously, 3 miles is a warm up (unless it’s speed work and even then, it’s a short run).  I’ve run 10-11 miles the past couple of Saturdays and it feels like 5-6 used to.  I’m getting stronger.  In the dark moments when my joints are starting to ache and my muscles are burning a bit, I like to practice using positive thoughts to move through those times.  I say things to myself like:  I move with ease.  I am whole.  I am complete. Run like the wind, Bullseye! My legs are on fire (as a GOOD thing).  I’m gliding through the air.  I’m doing this.  I got this!  Go, girl!  Look how far you’ve come!  Sometimes I think about stretching out with my roller and drinking my post-workout protein shake.

Sometimes there isn’t a way to re-frame it but it’s a thought that does me no good so I envision the thought as text written in the air and imagine it floating away and dissipating.  If it comes again, it dissipates as quickly as it came in.  I have no use for it, so it leaves.  I don’t judge that it came up, I just dismiss it.  It’s not even worth thinking about the fact I thought it… goodbye…

The bible is full of stories of people who royally messed up, didn’t wait for God’s direction when they were “supposed to” and God used them anyway.  Jesus came to free us of sin.  We all have our burdens to bare from things outside our control, no need to add to them!  If you want to feel miserable and it’s working for you, great.  But know that you do not have to punish yourself.  You do not have to carry a dark cloud of pain and suffering.  You can take it off and let it go.

The scary part about letting go of former belief patterns is there’s a period of lost identity as you leave behind an old way and move forward in a new way.  Challenges larger than ever faced before tend to show up at those times.  Use them as opportunities to practice your new skills, your new thought patterns.  It’s the tested quality of our faith that leads to endurance.(James 1:3)

 

From my heart to yours,

Thanks for reading

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Facing Food Addiction: Part 3: Make a Plan A

Before any plan will work successfully, you have to start with pure intentions.  Dealing only with the symptoms of a problem might seem to work short term but it’s not sustainable.  You also run the risk of getting out of balance in another way (trading one addiction for another).

Once you are ready to work a plan, set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-sensitive).  Set at least one for your spiritual self, one for your physical self and one for your emotional self.  Ignoring any portion of that triad will inhibit progress.  Addressing all three will lead to success and long term sustainability.

Long before any change happens in my physical body, my spiritual and emotional self give me signs I’m getting off track.   Emotionally, I start to feel like I can’t say “no”.  I think things like: “I don’t have a choice”, “I have to do this”, “you can’t”, “you suck”, “this is too hard”….  When I’m emotionally well, I instead think things like” “I have a choice”, “do I want to do this?”, “I can by…”, “you’ll make mistakes while you’re learning”, “you have what you need to accomplish this”…. Spiritually, I start not thinking much beyond myself.  I lose faith that the answer I need will appear when I need it.  I start to question what I believe (not in a good way).  Sometimes, in really dark periods, I think that I am unforgivable and completely unlovable.

When I’m well emotionally and spiritually because I’m taking time to nurture myself in those ways, I have energy to stay on track with food and exercise.  When I’m not well, it’s ugly…. But, I have learned I can get back on track!  Learn from the slip and go back to making healthy choices again.

My weight loss journey started with an experienced, licensed personal trainer who had me on a meal plan of 1300-1500 calories (60% carbs, 20% fat, 20% protein) and strength training for 45 minutes 3x a week.  I could add in any cardio I wanted (like walking, biking or elliptical  but I was supposed to get in those strength workouts no matter what).  The strength workouts were full body routines, working large muscle groups and getting my heart rate up (they felt harder than running 3 miles does today!).  Pick up any Women’s Health or Men’s Health magazine and they will have at least one of those routines inside.

Just doing cardio and eating less will help you lose pounds but without strength training, you will also lose muscle (reducing the number of calories you burn when at rest, slowing your metabolism).  If being a member of a gym is not an option, there are hundreds of body weighted strength exercises you can do at home and a few small dumbbells can round out what muscle groups you work.

Seriously look at your finances.  If you did not buy cigarettes, alcohol, lattes, pop, candy, chips or fast food, how much money would you save?  Try it for a week.  If you still don’t have money for a trainer, you’ll still end up ahead!  If cutting it out all together is too much, cut spending on those things gradually over time (with a SMART goal).

Wellness is a process, a journey….small choices that add up over time, either taking you in the direction of better health and wellness or the other way.  Wishing you a lifetime of health and happiness!

 

From my heart to yours,

Thanks for reading

 

Next up… Make a Plan B

Facing Food Addiction: Part 1

There are different statistics out there about the percentage of people who gain back weight after losing a significant portion of it.  There is scientific evidence suggesting that fat cells do not actually disappear without some kind of extreme intervention, they merely shrink.  The data can be bleak if you pay much attention.

A recent Facebook interaction with a dear friend preceded by an encouraging conversation with a new acquaintance only a few days before, has inspired me to start a series of blog posts about my journey overcoming food addiction.  If you look at the statistics of people successfully overcoming drug or alcohol addiction for the rest of their lives, the data is bleak as well.  That does not mean no one does it, it just means most don’t.

Unlike controlled substances or illegal drugs, you will die without food.  Food is fuel.  You need it for your brain to work, muscles to flex and accomplish your daily business.  Food is also the most socially acceptable substance to abuse.  My experience has been people more hastily criticize someone choosing to not eat certain foods than they will someone gorging past the point of comfort.  My goal here is to simply acknowledge managing food is tough stuff.  It’s not easy, but it is possible.

There are people who argue that everyone carries weight differently and that some people are just made to be fat.  They will claim their metabolisms are slow or that society unnecessarily judges them for being who they are.  If that applies to you, this series of blog posts is likely not your cup of tea.

I hated being fat.  I hated not being able to walk up stairs comfortably…Not able to run a block without feeling like my lungs would collapse…Not able to fit into clothes at Target.  I hated being overlooked, treated like I was invisible while my sexy, skinny friends got all the attention.  I HATED being the project of the “wing man”.  I disliked feeling fatigued…I felt trapped in an ugly, “too big” body and didn’t know what to do about it.  I hated myself because of it.

Now, I can run several miles without feeling the least bit winded.  Last fall, I completed my first marathon.  Stairs are no trouble at all, unless I run up several flights of them at a time, but even then, I can keep going without feeling like my legs will fall off.  I have a full, happy life and have recently been recharged by some new people who have blessed my path.  This was not accomplished just by dieting…. no… just dieting does little long term.

Did I follow a meal and exercise plan to the letter for several months?  Yes. Do I still follow it to the letter now? No.  Did I change my lifestyle?  Yes.  Is it easy?  No. Did I have support?  Yes.  Do all my friends, family and coworkers follow my diet? Not a bloody chance!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about what’s worked for me, what’s set me back and what keeps me going.  I am not a doctor, psychologist or nutritionist but I have successfully kept off 30% of my original body weight for over 3 years now.  I’ve taken the advice of all three classes of professionals and am an expert at being human.  A mom…A wife… A business woman… A friend…

 

SIDE NOTE:  If you have a particular struggle you want to share or a topic you would like me to cover here, please email me  at powerfrominside @ gmail.com.

 

From my hear to yours, thank you for reading.

 

 

Improving My Relationship With Food

In talking with other people about how they feel when they eat, I understand that the “I’m full” trigger hits me much later than my thinner friends.  I dislike feeling at all hungry the same way my friends who battle anorexia and bulimia dislike feeling full.

I don’t like feeling restricted.  I rebel when that’s my perception.  Food is my #1 “go to” default when I’m stressed or feeling discomfort.  When I’m tired and stressed, my willpower to stay “on track” wanes.  Looking back at former posts, this feeling tends to hit me in about the 3rd week of the month.  Coincidence?  Perhaps….

As much as I would like to deny it, I am always going to have the ability and temptation to overeat.  I don’t have to shame myself for indulging sometimes.  I am not perfect and that is OK.  At the same time, I need to maintain humility in that certain indulgences can turn into a downward spiral of more and more high calorie/low nutrient choices.

As hard as losing weight is, maintaining is harder.  Not at first, but after a few years, it’s easy to think that you’re “safe”, the weight isn’t coming back, and then it does.  When I started training for this upcoming marathon, I thought it would help me lose weight.  I’ve found running to instead increase my appetite and make it harder to not eat a significant surplus on days I’m not running.  Then I get off schedule a little, don’t get in as many miles and ….  do the math.

I find myself having thoughts like “see, this won’t last” and “your mother was right”.  (When I sent her a picture of me at my goal weight she said I needed to gain 10lbs and losing too much weight won’t stay off)  I can’t get my mother out of my head, I can only tell her I disagree and her opinion does not have to have a baring on my life (in my head).  We rarely talk any more due to our radically different religious beliefs but she’s with me… most days.

I was given this formula:

emotional health = feel emotions + control thoughts + choose behavior

I’m working on it….

Off The Wagon…On The Wagon

No lifestyle change comes effortlessly but it doesn’t have to be hard.

My greatest enemy is my own negative thoughts about myself.  The catastrophic events I imagine in my head are much worse than reality. Feeling fear is much greater than experiencing the very thing I’m afraid of.

A month ago, I fell off the wagon hard.  Further off than I have been in 3 years.  Shortly after celebrating my 3 year “sobriety”, sweets entered my diet regularly again.  Once a week, then twice, then 4 or more.  I went to that deep, dark hopeless place where I am powerless against temptation and there is no way out.  I was imagining there was no one who could help me.  No thought pattern that would work.  Failing was my fate.  Then… I emailed my trainer about it.   I admitted to not logging, as if not taking a picture would somehow mean it didn’t happen.  I shared my inner thoughts, even though when reading my words I felt insane.  She wrote back words of encouragement.  She told me about her struggles and her tendency to compare.  She revealed her insecurities about knowing someone smaller (this from a 5’2 solid rock of a beautiful lady with arms that put Michele Obama’s to SHAME!).  She suggested thinking about how I wanted to feel and asking myself if that particular food would truly make me feel good instead of weight or size.

Somehow, being honest and sharing with another trusted human being helps.  I felt better after sending the email and improved even more after reading her response.  I know that healthy body image comes from inside, not out.  She was another good reminder of that fact.

After only a few days of being back on track, my mood was better, my workouts consistent and my weight was on a downward trend.  I have been told you have to embrace the “process” in recovery.  Such a concept is very difficult to grasp for a performance based workaholic stress addict.  Yet, I see that it works.  By being more concerned with the process, everyday choices, and practicing being aware of thoughts, feelings and experiences in my world RIGHT NOW, I am happy.  I dont’ try to be happy, it just happens.  If I wasn’t attempting to be so aware, I might even miss it because it comes so naturally.  Things just work out.  I can’t explain how but they do.  The disappointments aren’t paralyzing.  The bursts of anger aren’t an unforgiveable death sentence.  They just are what they are. I try to learn from what happened and aim to make a better choice next time.

Today, I ran a 5K as part of a sprint triathlon relay.  My teammates are incredible, hard working, free spirited survivors.  They lift me up, give me strength, and fill my heart with love.

The great thing about completing triathlons as a team is there’s no competition between friends.  It’s not even possible to compare a run time to a bike time or swim time, each are their own sport.  When part of a team, somehow “my best” gets better.  Although ability may always be there, there’s something about knowing that someone is counting on you.  A race is just another workout without people to cheer you on.  I am grateful for the volunteers, friends, and, most of all, my husband who came out to cheer us on today!  You help keep us going!

If you have a desire to race but something is holding you back, sign up for a local event and start training.  Just do it.  Make an attainable goal and accomplish it.  No matter how slow you may go, you’re still doing laps around anyone on the couch.  You are worth it!  Don’t listen to any little voice inside that says “I can’t because…”, you can!

 

From my heart to yours,

Thanks for reading

3 years ago today…

Food is my drug of choice.  I can pass on beer, wine, liquors, smokes, no problem.  Ice cream, fries, rice krispie treats (especially the ones with chocolate on top or M&Ms inside), Mike&Ike, Starburst, that’s a different story…

Three years ago today, like an alcoholic recording day 1 of sobriety, I recorded day 1 of my own “food coma sobriety”.  I’d been working a recovery program for about 3 years, was in a great relationship (Still am, thanks, God!), work stress was high but more manageable than it had been, I was starting to worry less about my son…  My sister in law had posted a candid photo of me in an orange and brown flowered dress on Facebook.  I knew what the scale said but I didn’t know I looked like THAT!  I knew I was abusing my body by overeating and also knew that with JUST portion control, it was possible to lose weight (my cat had).  In my journal, I recorded June 4, 2009 as the day I stopped overeating.

Every year since, I have taken time to revisit how far I’ve come, thank God for giving me strength and tools to succeed and celebrating my accomplishments on the anniversary of that day.

This morning, I spent some time reading journal entries from 2004 (first year of recovery journey) and the summer of 2009 (early stages of sustained weight loss).  Common themes back then were self hatred, anger, fear and failure.  Reading some of the entries still brings a heavy feeling in my chest and tightness in my throat.  I was in so much pain.  So conflicted.  So lonely.  So ashamed.  I’m so grateful to have survived all that!

If you are in that place now, I hope my experience gives you encouragement.  You CAN CHANGE!  You DESERVE to be healthy!  Success isn’t just for other people, it’s for you too.

I reached a healthy weight by November 2009 and have maintained that weight within 7lbs since that time.  I am not perfect.  I have eaten more than I need on several days in the past 3 years but not consistently.  I get off track; I get back on track.  I refuse to beat myself up about what I’ve done in the past.  Every minute is a fresh start, a chance to make a better choice.

My philosophy is I workout to live, I don’t live to workout.  I aim to eat more healthy than unhealthy.  I like me.  I accept me…wrinkles and stretch marks too.  I’m not without faults and I’ve stopped trying so hard to be.  I want to keep being a better person.  Tomorrow, I aim to make better choices than I did today.  My best at this moment is enough.

I still see a professional, certified, trainer 1-2 times a month.  I might not forever but I still need the accountability.  I need someone to reach out to for advice that I trust and is educated.  The way I see it, personal trainer bills are cheaper than doctor/medication bills from continuing down a self-destructive path.   The fear of weight coming back is getting less intense although I aim to keep where I have been fresh enough I don’t get over confident and lose my way.

From my heart to yours,

thanks for reading

If I’m not my thoughts, what am I?

My husband and I recently started seeing a marriage counselor.  We don’t want just a marriage, we want a GREAT marriage.  There were some warning signs of trouble that surfaced and we decided to face them while they were small.

In the last session my husband and I had with our counselor, I remembered how hard it used to be to identify what I want.  I remember the first counselor I ever saw asking me “How are you?” and all I could do was tell him about my friend’s problems, my husband, my son, my parents, my cat, my job… While describing how impossible my family’s belief system was, he asked me “What kind of Jehovah Witness do you want to be?”.  I had nothing to say.  My mind, usually quick with responses, was utterly blank.  This was a forgein concept.  I hadn’t given myself permission to be anything just because it’s who I wanted to be.  The people I was drawn to were artists, musicians, writers, philosophical thinkers…  All things I had denied myself because they weren’t appreciated by those closest to me at the time.  It blew my mind this fellow was suggesting I could do anything “my way”.

I felt messed up, defective, and wanted a set of steps, tasks, to check off a list to get an “A” in recovery.  He suggested turning my life over to God.  He said, if I did, I would be in for a wild ride.  As he nodded and smiled at me, I saw peace.  What I was doing wasn’t working, I was completely miserable to my core and I couldn’t even answer the simplest questions of “How are you?” and “What do you want?”.  So, I opened my heart and I gave some new concepts a spin around the block.

Fast forward 7 years… I stopped overeating June 4, 2009.  At that time, I’d had around 3 years practicing “letting go and letting God” seeking “progress not perfection” and attempting to just “be”.  My cat had gone from being dangerously overweight to a healthy weight just by me measuring his food and not feeding him every time he meowed.  My vet told me it was like a person going from 200lbs down to 150lbs (I was around 200lbs at the time).  There was an upscale gym with lots of beautiful people working out on the skywalk level near work.  I had often walked by and wished I could be “good enough” to be one of those people.

July 10, 2009, I walked in that fancy gym and asked for a tour.  The manager gave me one and made an appointment to meet with my husband and me the following day.  During our appointment, the manager asked me a set of questions about eating, exercise and family history.  To my horror, he showed me that on my current path, I was biologically 10 YEARS older than my chronological age.  A decade. Double digits.  He showed me I could lose 30lbs and go from high risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes to low risk or… I could die approximately 10 years earlier, my choice.

I surrendered right then and there.  I asked for help and I did what my trainer said to do.  I went from one small meal to the next, one day at a time, sticking to the plan (With some initial resistance as my first trainer, now friend, can tell you!).  As results came and I talked through roadblocks with the trainer, good habits got easier.  I was honest with myself, shared my struggles, and worked to develop plans to succeed in situations I knew were going to be difficult.  As I approached my goal weight, I refused to beat myself up about my choices.  I learned I am more than my thoughts.

Fast forward to this week.  The marriage counselor shared another client had said to him “if I’m not my thoughts, what I am I?” and he confessed he didn’t have a good answer.  I knew the answer but I didn’t have words.  I had only a picture in my mind which I drew right then and there in the office.  It was powerful enough, I couldn’t keep from letting it out right away.

I see myself as a semi-transparent cylinder with forms reaching above and below.  There are thoughts, temptations, desires, that flutter about but that isn’t really me.  I am centered. I am whole.  I am connected.  Nothing nor anyone can ever take that from me because it is “me”.  Thoughts are just thoughts, feelings are just feelings, my center can decide what to do about them.

Growing is not comfortable.  I believe there’s always an answer, usually several to choose from, and have peace in my heart that what I need will present itself if I remain open to it.  I’m not perfect. I’m practicing being okay knowing that.

Enough

At the core of every self-destructive behavior is a faulty core belief of  “I’m not good enough” in some form.

I’ve spent the majority of my life in such a state and learned to recognize it only a few years ago.  I’m currently practicing rewriting the botched tape.

Before it’s ever a conscious thought, my tape manifests itself in ways like: being critical of how I look in the mirror, comparing myself to and therefore competing with others, getting off task at work, yelling at my son, beating myself up over missing a workout or not doing the entire thing well enough, overeating, etc…

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to control the symptoms instead of addressing the core belief that’s behind them all.  I am good at sticking to a plan and checking tasks off a list but that only tames the demon for so long.

If you’re in the same boat, try overwriting the old tape with me by saying to yourself:  I’m good enough because I am.  I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment, what is the next right thing to do?

What a wonderful new world we can make together!