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.