I’m in a foul mood. Antsy, anxious, cranky, tired. I had hot flashes last night. I don’t get a lot of these, yet, but I had them last night, woke in a pool of sweat, dried off, then didn’t sleep well the rest of the night in my clammy sheets.
It’s a grey day, colder than it should be – the sort of discouraging, demoralizing, bone-chilling cold that talked me right out of walking for a few miles, as I had planned all week to do today.
And then, I started the day with oatmeal, which doesn’t work for me at all. Now I can’t stop thinking about food.
I’ve been eating all day, and recording my calories as they accumulate and accumulate.
It’s around 5:30 p.m. here, and I’ve got only 98 calories left in the bank for the day. Before dinner.
I overate by 200 calories yesterday AND the day before.
And I underexercised today.
I’m in the hole, which only makes me crankier.
When I’m mad and hungry and anxious and tired, I’m in danger of a serious calorie overload. When I feel put-upon and under-rested and my to-do list is ridiculously long, it’s hard to ALSO deprive myself of food. I’ve been deprived of time, rest, peace, happiness, quiet, and now I should deprive myself of food? TOO? Not fair!
Or that’s the way my thinking goes. It’s twisted thinking. It’s whiney and childish thinking. I know that, and I know better.
I know that stuffing myself will satisfy nothing. Will fix nothing. That hunger does not equal deprivation in my world of plenty, when my body hosts enough fat to keep me alive for days, weeks without further nourishment. I know that this urge to eat is a reptilian auto-response to feeling tired and sore and unwell. It’s just the way I’m wired.
However, I also know that I am a sentient being, and I can overcome this feeling.
How? By doing what I’m doing right now. By writing to you. By writing to you, or writing to myself in my journal, I can write out all these feelings, record them, name them, figure out where they’re coming from. (The war, lack of sleep, too much work, too many chores, too many responsibilities, fears of many kinds, anxiousness about aging, concerns for family, friends.)
By naming where they’re coming from, I can think through which of these pressuresI can control. Those things I can’t control don’t deserve my worry. Those things I can control deserve my attention. I look at the things I can do something about, and decide on a course of action. Cut back on work? I can cut back on my to do list by reducing my expectations, delegating responsibilities, or just saying no. I can cut back on my responsibilities by letting go of some of them. I can treat fear with self-talk, to some extent. I can try to embrace menopause and aging through study and learning and talking to other women. I can check in with family and friends I’m worried about.
But most of all, I can reflect on the fact that I am lucky enough to live a life which will most certainly not end in starvation.
I can remember that my body is wired to crave food, particularly when stressed. Bodies like to gather and store energy. Letting myself be a bit hungry cannot possibly hurt me. Exercising self-control over food is absolutely necessary to enjoy good health in the sedentary life of plenty I am lucky enough to lead.
There. In the course of thinking it through even a little, I’ve completely distracted myself from food. For the moment. I’m going to post this, then make myself a cup of peppermint tea. A big cup of peppermint tea.
And then, instead of any of the things on my long to do list, I’m going to mollify my crankiness by reading a good book. The taxes will wait for tomorrow. That’s all there is to it.
Is stress eating a problem for you? Hunger and anxiety can feel the same in the pit of your stomach. It’s not always easy to tell the difference. If deep breathing or laughing make the feeling disappear, you know it’s anxiety.
It’s not worth overeating over.
If it is anxiety that’s got you in the pantry for the 8th time today, then write, write, write, dearies. It actually does help. I swear it does. Remember the formula: Write out what you’re feeling, dreading, mad about. Analyze what you’ve written for opportunities to change things. Name the things you can change, and name the things you can’t. Be honest about what you can and can’t change.
For those things you can’t change, let go. Don’t sweat them. Don’t rail against them. Don’t waste an ounce of energy on them.
For those things you can change, make a plan. Don’t be afraid to cut back. Don’t be afraid to say no. Allow yourself to focus on the things that are the most important for you. List your responsibilities, prioritize them, and then lop some off the list starting from the bottom by saying no, delegating, quitting, retiring, redesigning your life to eliminate the pressure.
And breathe, breathe, breathe,