Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

All this discussion of ‘treats’ and their place in the life of someone trying to manage their weight given me good pause for reflection. One of the positives that I always got from overeating was a certain combination of pleasure and anaesthetic. Quite possibly because I’m introvert at heart (on the Myers-Briggs scale ) I do find that the normal process of daily living causes me to be slightly on edge. For decades, food –administered often– was what soothed my shattered nerves and kept me functioning.

This use of food as painkiller became so second nature to me that I never realized it. Only when I stopped feeding myself with lots of refined carbs and lots of fat did I begin to understand something was happening. At first I thought it was a simple as ‘withdrawal’ or just resentment. While both of those clearly WERE factors in affecting my mood, they didn’t explain everything.

What made me notice it was that I began developing a constant case of exasperation. People bothered me. Traffic bothered me. Work bothered me. The dog bothered me. And I began to do some serious damage to my relationship with my significant other. After all, what is more irritating than a person who is irritated all of the time.

Most probably this is what led me to regain some weight last year. On the conscious level, I couldn’t understand what was propelling me to eat junky foods so often and why I felt so vulnerable to emotional eating (especially in the evening). But the addition of these junky items apparently did provide at least some calming effect, either as a sedative, a burst of pleasure or as an anaesthetic.

These past few months I’ve been eating more peacefully, in a healthier manner, and have slowly lost weight. This was largely accomplished by cutting out those foods that had been dancing around the periphery of my day. A cookie here, a snack bar there, a few handfuls of peanuts when no one was looking. Once I had cleared those away, things seemed to fall into place.

Except for one thing. I’ve been kind of irritable lately. Devin mentioned it to me, as a matter of fact. Apparently despite daily exercise, focused relaxation, and more sleep, I’m just missing that certain extra something that was helping me get through the day. I know if I sit quietly for a time by myself, it tends to help. But as a grown man in a busy world, relying on “down time” is not a particularly practical strategy.

I know this – I refuse to simply go back to eating junk food just to take off the edge. But I need more tools that work – simple, easy things that I can do on the run. When my back hurts, or my ankle (running injury) throbs it seems to help to take a REAL aspirin. But I’m at a loss for other solutions that are as immediate, when its just my psyche that’s in pain.

I’d like to think that the ‘real’ Jonathan is a thin person who smiles a lot and has a great sense of humor. I’ll keep you posted.

9 thoughts on “Irritation of Life

  1. Allie says:

    Jonathan,
    Since reading Jane’s post about drinking tea instead of eating a snack, I’ve been drinking chai tea with a little bit of skim milk and half a packet of Splenda. Its been helping my junk food cravings immensely. Its not a cookie, and I’m not going to be able to find anything to replace that, but its just enough of a small luxury that I feel like I’m treating myself to something nice. A lot of your posts have rung true for me; if health and weight weren’t a concern, I would easily eat bags of candy or cake over dinner every night. The chai tea really has a dessert feeling to it, maybe it’ll help.

    And if you want a no food or drink fix, I’d say buy a cd of your favorite comedian. I have a few comedy cds on my ipod, and when I need a nice pick me up, few things help like a hearty, ab-burning, belly laugh.

  2. heather says:

    there’s a direct relationship between carbohydrates (especially fast-absorbing refined carbs) and seratonin levels in the brain. the more carbs you eat, the more seratonin in your noggin. this is why food makes us feel good.

    some time ago, it was suggested to me by a friend to look into a supplement called 5-htp. this is a tryptophan precursor, tryptophan being the stuff in turkey and other foods which also increases seratonin levels in the brain. it is used in different doeses as a treatment for anxiety, weight control, insomnia, migraine prevention and fibromyalgia.

    i really don’t mean to sound like a advertisment, but i’ve been taking a low dose for about a year now and have seen a marked reduction in the level at which i start to get frazzled in situations which would normally have me at my wit’s end. your description of your increased irritation immediately made me think of my experience.

  3. jane says:

    oh jonathan, here’s a big hug!!!! and you’re talking about one of the big reasons i took up knitting again. i’ve discovered – the hard way – that i MUST keep moving. either my mind, hands, or whole body has to keep going or i’m a mess. cranky, distracted, irritable, unfocused, etc etc etc etc. sound familiar?

    but also, i think it’s important to realize that we’ve anesthetized ourselves with foods so that we could please everyone else, rather than ‘being unpleasant,’ whatever that might mean.

    so go ahead, be cranky. realize that you’re FEELING your emotions, not feeding them. it’s a healing process. and you’re doing great!!!

  4. Jeanne says:

    Oh Jonathon!

    You just popped me on the head with your statement “I know that if I sit quietly for a time by myself I feel better. But….”

    Ouch! That really woke me up, reading that!

    I think this maybe one of the cases where we know the answer, BUT we just don’t want to accept it. It’s inconvenient, it doesn’t fit into our self image as busy, productive adults. BUT maybe introverts and sensitive folk need to build down time and quiet into our lives if we’re going to live a quality life. Maybe it’s as necessary to us as fresh air and healthy food.

    Sometimes we have to ask our busy grown up selves this question: what are we doing that is so important that we starve ourselves for a daily dose of serenity?

    Jeanne

  5. Deirdre says:

    I think this maybe one of the cases where we know the answer, BUT we just don’t want to accept it. It’s inconvenient, it doesn’t fit into our self image as busy, productive adults. BUT maybe introverts and sensitive folk need to build down time and quiet into our lives if we’re going to live a quality life. Maybe it’s as necessary to us as fresh air and healthy food.

    You might want to read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron.

  6. Sheryl says:

    This is a great post, and some really great suggestions for a fellow introvert/emotional eater.

  7. jonquil says:

    An introvert needs time alone, and a little peace. That’s hard to come by in an overstimulated, chaotic, hyper environment. So:

    1. A Room of One’s Own: A place where you can close the door, or just pull a curtain, to screen out the world and think. It helps if this spot is decorated serenely– no clutter. (That’s probably not a problem for you anyway– I’ll bet you are a neat, tidy person.) Christopher Alexander, the architect, has a lot to say on this topic in “A Pattern Language.”

    2. Earplugs, sunglasses, eyeshades, etc: As often as you can. It really cuts down on the excess sensory input.

    3. Escape from the cubie: If you are living in the “cubicle” office landscape, do everything you can to get out of there or at least, make it more private. Plants, screens, file cabinets. And don’t have your desk with your back to the entrance. That leads to being frequently startled, which is bad for intoverts. Use a white noise generator, fountain, or earphones to create a soothing background.

    4. Lower the volume: Don’t listen to talk radio or anything stressful in and out of work. Try Mozart, or nothing at all. There is no point in getting riled up on your way home after a stressful day at the office.

    5. Be yourself: Don’t try to imitate extrovert behavior any more than you have to to get by in life. America is a hyper-extroverted culture. (Especially California, more especially L.A. and the Bay area.) Don’t take it personally, or imagine you are less of a person because you don’t conform to the norm.

    6. Know your rights: Modernity can be a constant assault on the soul. The noise pollution alone is bad for everyone. You can model introvert values as a good, because they help calm and quiet this screaming, out-of-control world. What you need, personally, is also what the world needs, collectively. So go with that.

    These ideas are all palliatives, really. The ultimate thing is to eliminate environmental stressors, not just combat them. But that’s a long term solution, and may take years of planning. I know I’m far, far less stressed since I got out of the rat race, and moved to the country in Oregon. But then, I’m an INTJ, and we are not amused by those who attempt to stress us… 😉

  8. Quinn says:

    INTJ here.

    People bother me.

    Traffic bothers me.

    Work bothers me.

    I don’t have a dog. Maybe that’s just as well.

    I have lived a very different life from yours, Jonathan, having been lucky enough to recognize my need for quiet time early in life. Probably helps that many of my relatives are the same way. (A number of them are seriously overweight, too.)

    Unfortunately for us, the social organization of the USA just doesn’t recognize very well the need for and value of introverts. Europe is better about this. People are allowed to have private lives there, or so they tell me.

    In the last few years I have decided to give up trying to be more extroverted. My brain just doesn’t function well that way. While this means limiting my job choices and social life in some ways, amazingly, a whole other world has opened up to me. And other people are, mostly, very understanding when i say that I’m an introvert and, while I very much enjoy their company, i need lots of time ALONE. It is then up to the other person to deal with it. if they can’t, then … well, … toodle-ooo! Of course, it helps that I live in a large city. plenty more people to make friends with, work for, etc.

    Have you tried explaining the introversion to your SO? Maybe he can help you find ways to have some down time. Also, some people find meditating for a half hour or so each day really helps them to cope.

    Best of luck!

  9. Nikhila says:

    Over the last 4 years I’ve lost about 75 pounds. I’m still 30 pounds away from a healthy weight (according to BMI charts) and have set a goal of 15 pounds this year, take a break, then 10-15 pounds in 2008. I don’t mind that this is taking so long because I’d been carrying these extra 30 around for years.

    The slow process of weight loss is not exactly by choice. I’ve discovered that each layer of fat holds a new, sometimes painful, self discovery and I need time to process it if I want to keep the weight off.

    At 230 pounds I realized none of my clothes fit and that the attitude of ‘loving and accepting my body as is’ was not coming from a feminist place of love–it was coming from a sense of failure regarding the rest of my life. At 180 I realized I tried to stay fat as a form of rebellion against my parents–despite the fact that I lived 3000 miles away and was 28 years old. At 160 I realized all my negative emotions seemed to reside in my tummy and overeating was a way of literally covering them over.

    Each discovery has required me to find a new way to cope or even overcome the emotional hurdle that led me to NEED to keep the weight on. I’m currently waffling around 150-155 because I haven’t quite dealt with the emotional issue that keeps me here. I think it might have to do with fear of being loved or something simple stated but hard to deal with as that.

    In the end, these layers of fat all work as a barrier between me and the world. A little shield that keeps folks away, for a variety of reasons.

    I share my story because when I read your post I thought perhaps your irritability came from a similar place–not just the loss of carbs, but maybe an emotional issue. With the weight loss you’ve lost not only certain tried and true coping mechanisms (like over eating), you’ve also lost your shield.

    A GP once asked me, in response to my laments about how the last 30 pounds just weren’t comnig off (because I wasn’t letting them come off I admitted), “Do you take care of a lot of people?” When I looked surprised, she explained “People who find themselves overtaxed by others often keep a layer of fat as protection and insulation from their demands.” Something about this explanation rang true to me.

    I’m hoping that in losing this next 15 pounds I get better at taking care of myself and giving myself time alone–rather than rushing around trying to be everyone’s friend. I’m also working hard at being OK with being loved. We’ll see if it sticks because if it does, I know the weight will fall off as it typically does once I get through something.

    Of course, one short visit to my family can wreck all my progress and often pops me right back up to 160–but that’s family for me.

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