I overindulged this weekend – candy, sweets, junk food, you name it. And I didn’t wait until the bunny made a visit on Sunday either – I started on Friday, went ‘big’ on Saturday (I do live in Texas), and by Sunday was in full-fledged binge mode. Then came Monday morning, and the familiar feeling of regret. Not AGAIN! I thought I was over this crazy cycle – eating healthily for awhile, overeating madly for a time, feeling shame and guilt, and then getting back on the bandwagon again swearing I would never do that again, only to repeat the cycle over and over. It’s maddening.
Over the last three decades, I estimate that I have gained and lost approximately 900 pounds. Granted, they have been the same 25-30 pounds over and over again for 30 years straight, but that doesn’t minimize the toll on my psyche, not to mention my physical body and health! Given that I espouse self-love pretty much routinely now in both my work and my home life, I had to stop and pause on Monday when the old feelings of defeat hit me so hard. What is it exactly that keeps me in this old, self-destructive pattern?
I have been my ideal weight enough times over the past 30 years to know that the magical thinking I entertain when I’m heavier than I want to be is just that – magical, unrealistic, fantasy thinking! Life will NOT be different or wonderful just because I can fit into my preferred size of clothing, or not be embarrassed to be seen at the pool. The same circumstances that I allow to create stress in my life – my relationships with my partner or children, issues at work, financial worries, a busy schedule, etc. will all still be there, no matter how much I weigh. I know that my worth as a human being is in no way related to my appearance or weight. And yet… there’s a strange hold that this issue has on me. That inner critic doesn’t want to stop judging me harshly for doing what I “should not” do – namely, act out of control. I know that’s the real issue here – feeling like I am not at choice for my decisions but somehow compelled to act in ways that I really don’t want to. Which is pure crap, because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that we are each always acting from choice, and trying to take care of ourselves the best we can!
I decided to employ one of my favorite remedies for self-soothing: self-acknowledgment. Where could I be celebrating myself around this issue instead of criticizing myself? Well, for one thing, I have to look at how much my behavior around food has improved, especially in the last 10 years or so. I decided to make a list of all the baby steps I’ve taken in the right direction over the last 3 decades. Particularly after my kids were born, and definitely more so after my son was on a special diet for 3½ years, I have been learning more and more about nutrition, food, and health and making better and better choices, which have led me to create new, healthier habits. Although my weight still fluctuates regularly, I have narrowed the gap from swinging 25-30 pounds at a time to 10 or 15, and sometimes only 5-10 pounds. That’s a big improvement. I’ve also reduced how much time I spend thinking in terms of black or white (I can only eat all healthy or all unhealthy, with no gray in between), which has definitely cut down on binging. Over all that time, I’ve definitely added more healthy foods to my diet, so when I do eat more than I want to it’s less damaging to my health than before. Additionally, I have looked at my beliefs around food and been deliberate about choosing thoughts that are more useful and balanced about the impact of food on my health. I am intentional about what messages I give to my kids around eating and food. Also, I spend less time thinking (obsessing!) about food compared to when I was younger. All in all, I’m in a totally different place around food at 45 years old than I was at 15, when this battle began. And even though it may not be exactly where I want to “land” about this issue as my final destination, I am definitely headed in the right direction.
Most importantly, after looking at all the small changes I’ve made, I was able to see the big picture and let go of my old habitual response of feeling bad about my indulgences this weekend. Yes, I regret how I chose to eat, but there’s absolutely no need to feel guilt or shame for it. I am still amazing and wonderful and on the path to doing things differently. There’s a lot I can celebrate about my progress, and when I remember to do so life feels a whole lot better!
What about you? Is there a negative cycle in your life you can look at differently? Where can you celebrate yourself for baby steps you’re taking to change a habit or pattern you don’t like? Even having the intention or desire to make a change is worth some self-acknowledgment! I’m guessing that when you really look objectively, there are many steps you’ve taken that deserve your praise. Please share your experiences and comments below.