Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Recently a reader responded to one of my posts, questioning when I was going to stop being mad at myself. I thought it was an interesting comment and I filed it away under ‘something to think about.’ After all, I’ve been through a lot of self-actualizing therapy and I figured I was pretty much cured of self-abusing thoughts.

Then the other day when I was in for my ’50,000 mile checkup’ my therapist suggested that the concerns I was expressing to him about my eating patterns and the scale had nothing to do with food or weight management. He noted that there was a lot of stress, anxiety and frustration in my life at the moment, and that I seem to be channelling it completely into concern about my weight.

Somewhat annoyingly, he told me that the only way I can lose the frustration and impotency I’m feeling about eating and weight loss is to concentrate my energies on everything ELSE in my life that causes me to feel stressed out. It wasn’t a message I thought I would hear, or even wanted to think about: the way to attain my weight goal is to let it go.

But he’s right. When I tell myself to ‘buckle down,’ when I demand of myself that resist temptation, when I throw all of my energy into what I ‘should’ be doing to control my weight, I seem to be creating an opposite (AND EQUAL) force in the opposing direction. Its an emotional tug of war that’s going on my head, and not in my stomach. This is because I’m not dealing with the root cause of my emotional upset – I’m merely anaesthetizing my feelings with food.

I have always been blessed (and at times cursed) with a strong emotional richness in my life. I tend to feel my way through new things, new situations, and new people by relying upon my instincts. It leads me to be a great friend and a caring person, but it also means that when there are discordancies or challenges in my everyday world, I process them more with my heart than my head.

My current challenge, therefore, is to embrace my emotional journey for what it is, and not resort to eating as a way to mask or smooth over what’s really bothering me. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I find it a lot easier to plunk 80 cents into the vending machine than to journal my anxiety about my job. I find it easier to open a kitchen cabinet to explore the contents of my psyche. Unfortunately, the answer to my long term mental health can’t be found inside the refrigerator.

So this week I’m spending some quality time with my internal life, and I’m not quite as focused on food. As I identify the people and the situations that trigger stress and anxiety, I am cataloguing them and considering effective ways of dealing with them. And in the middle of all of that, I’m learning not to be so mad at myself.

9 thoughts on “Anger management

  1. Mercury says:

    Very interesting, J. I wonder also if perhaps some part of you doesn’t totally want to lose the weight, because if you do, you’ll lose your favorite point of anxious focus. Food isn’t the only thing that’s comforting. After years of feeling bad about yourself, the feeling itself becomes so familiar that it can be comforting as well, in it’s own way. Just a thought.

  2. stretchy says:

    Jonathan,

    you are brilliant, I love you.

  3. jonquil says:

    You might take a look at the Myers-Briggs personality trait evaluation system. I’ve found it extremely helpful.

    But nothing replaces a good strong sense of self-love. So many people have a tremendous capacity to love and help others, but seem to have a lot of self-hate and self-disgust. If they could only treat themselves as well as they treat others– sort of the inverse of the golden rule!

  4. Laura says:

    Wow, Jonathon, when you wrote:

    “I have always been blessed (and at times cursed) with a strong emotional richness in my life. I tend to feel my way through new things, new situations, and new people by relying upon my instincts. It leads me to be a great friend and a caring person, but it also means that when there are discordancies or challenges in my everyday world, I process them more with my heart than my head.”

    it completely resonated within me as I am exactly the same way, except I’m pretty introspective (maybe too much!). I’m trying also so hard to let it go, let it go! And not be ALWAYS so mad at myself all the time (I’m either obsessing or not doing enough). But it is so hard….Why is it so hard? Why is this such a lifelong problem I can’t get a handle on? One day I hope to turn that corner like so many have…

  5. Monica says:

    “It shouldn’t be a surprise that I find it a lot easier to plunk 80 cents into the vending machine than to journal my anxiety about my job.”

    I understand, completely. The bag of Cheetos or the M&Ms makes me feel better than focusing on how much college stresses me out, but I need to focus on the stress not the food. It’s hard huh?

    I’ve been reading your entries for months now, but never commented until now because I feel like I could have written this myself.

    Great writing. :o)

  6. striving4health says:

    Right on, Jonathan! My thoughts have been inching my way up to “attaining my weight goal by letting it go”. I’ve been noticing over the past few months that the harder I try to focus losing the rest of my extra weight the worse I feel about myself. I’m pet-sitting this week and therefore unable to use my usual amount of focus on my weight loss, and have enjoyed not having to think so hard about what to eat. Guess what? I’ve been eating quite healthfully and mixing up my workouts- and enjoying it. For a long time I thought that living healthfully (and weight consciously) meant not leaving the house very much— but not anymore! Now I know I CAN have a life and be healthy, too. Ya know…I think having life IS healthy.

    Thanks for writing. I always look forward to reading your entries.

    striving4health

  7. Christi Nielsen says:

    It’s strange the way stress in our life affects our eating habits. My cat died a week ago, and I’ve been going back and forth between not eating and stuffing my face. It’s a way of having something to do. I could so spend that energy working out but it’s easier to hold on to that sorrow.

  8. purplequilter says:

    A mantra, of sorts, that got me through my journey to goal weight (80 lbs.) 3 years ago was:

    “Feel the feelings. Don’t EAT the feelings.”

    Also:

    “Get angry all you want, cry all you want, stress all you want, just don’t overeat!”

    I am returning to these thoughts now, after 3 years, as I deal with an injury & not being able to run (which is how I have been relieving my stress for 3 years).

  9. Catherine says:

    Another normally non-conversational lurker here–I too was much intrigued by this entry. I’m likewise prone to start diets and ramp up the exercise when things get (more) stressful at work, even though that’s when it’s hardest to do, and I’ve wondered before what possesses me to add this particular challenge to an already challenging life (especially when it sometimes fails and I feel worse.)

    I think, though, that there is something about needing a manageable challenge on which to focus. It’s all very well for our therapists to tell us to love ourselves and take time for ourselves, but the world seldom encourages this; it’s nice to say “manage your stress”, but this is a time when the dominant work philosophy says that more work is better and the dominant corporate philosophy is to increase “efficiency” (that is, profits for the higher eschelon) by moving the burden further down the ladder. There are undoubtedly things wrong with our self-esteem–anyone can say the same–but there are also things wrong with the working world: weakened unions, job cutbacks, “outsourcing” which takes the jobs from harder-to-exploit groups and moves them to easier-to-exploit groups, and a culture of continual work. (I have an in-law who was on the phone to her law firm while she was in labor with her second child.)

    In the working world of 2005, it takes a LOT of effort (and a lot of guts) to decline to conform, to insist on time to oneself, to refuse to obsess about one’s job…if it’s even possible. I guess what I’m getting at here is that while you may or may not be able to manage your stress in a way that really reduces it, I’d hate to “managing your stress” become the one more task that “managing your weight” has already become. It’s a hard world even for those of us who are lucky enough to have interesting or semi-stable jobs–hang in there.

    Best wishes,
    Catherine

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