Happy new year comrades! Hope your 2011 is off to a cracking start.
Things were rather crapful, healthwise, in the last six weeks of 2010. I was about as mindful as bulldozer! While there was some brilliant bits (good times with friends and family, progress on a groovy new web project) but there were also very messy bits – workplace madness, my 6th major cold of the year and the re-emergence of that old self-destructive streak. I dropped the ball completely and just did not have any interest in looking after myself. I took to hiding in the bath tub with the bubbles a foot high so I could pretend I didn't have a body. Next thing my rubbish bin was jangling with the sound of foil wrappers from chocolate coins and the size 18 dress I reluctantly wore for a summer wedding was now too tight to wear to a party. D'oh.
I've come out the other side now after a couple of weeks off work and some time to rest and think. I learned so much in 2010 with the shrink visits and mindfulness stuff – many lightbulbs went off. But I wasn't able to translate those lightbulbs into meaningful, lasting changes.
The missing element was a plan. It's not enough to realise you have work to do – you have to figure out how the hell you're going to do it. Otherwise I could see myself muddling on forever, slightly more aware of why I do the things I do, but still bloody doing them!
So it was time for action. I spent Boxing Day mapping out a wee strategy. I thought I'd talk about the lard-related bits of it on here…
Yeah, that old chestnut! But it works for me. When I acknowledge and document what I eat, I'm thoughtful with my choices and more likely to tune into hunger signals. When I don't, I do okay for a while but then I get sloppy with portion sizes, then unhealthy choices creep in, then it's "quick, noone's looking!" mode, then the slide into all-out denial.
All year the shrink tried to get me to fill in a diary and I never stuck with it. I don't know if it was because a) I didn't want her to see how bad my "mistakes" could be (interesting to seek the approval of someone you're paying), or b) I didn't want to acknowledge what I was eating, because it might mean giving up the fleeting diversion of eating rubbish. Maybe both?
I've realised since, that I just have to buckle down and DO IT, but in a way that suits me. Which leads us to…
The food diary is a Google Docs spreadsheet. It's inspired by the paper Food/Mood journal the shrink gave me, but I'm finding it so much easier to update on the computer or phone. One row per day with columns for meals and observations. The document is shared with a good friend who's on a similar path – we have a tab each and check in on the other's progress daily so theres no scope for slacking off. And so on to…
Accountability & Real World Support
Getting help from a professional is great but in many ways it's an expensive way of talking to yourself. You can dump all your woes in the session, walk out of the office and kind of leave it there and not really do anything with it back in the "real world".
I've always been most successful when I'm open about my eating struggles with those closest to me. My recent strategy of trying to fix things myself and pretending all was okay did not work, and was no doubt unconvincing for my loved ones as I slowly inflated before their very eyes.
So I've had some conversations with my nearest and dearest along the lines of, "Well, obviously I've been struggling a wee bit here. This is what I'm planning to do about it. Do you reckon you might like to buddy up on a food diary/go somewhere healthier for lunch/eat at the table instead of on the couch/etc etc etc?". Simple things, low key support, but for someone who has not wanted to acknowledge what was really going on to herself, let alone out loud to others, it was huge step forward. It had been very lonely on Planet Denial.
I'm back to the good old weekly meal planning. There's a spreadsheet for that too! Healthier meals but not boring, single spear of asparagus and a glass of air diet food. Normal, everyday food but remembering I don't need a mountain of rice and that toast doesn't have to come in pairs. This is becoming less of a drama each day now that I'm getting back to…
The mindful eating tools and techniques I'd adopted last year were really helpful. I'd just stopped using them! So it's back to things like: tuning in to hunger levels before and during eating, putting my food on a plate and sitting down to eat it, exercising for enjoyment not punishment, etc etc etc.
I've got a combination of practical and mindful tactics, accountability measures and support. I'm ready to tackle this now. The black dog is back in his kennel! Unlike a year ago, addressing my eating now is not a diversion – the "designated issue" as Martha Beck calls it – because I've worked on the bigger issues.
That's enough baby steps for now, I reckon. Are you still awake?
Disclaimer: My pal Lainey is always bemused when I put disclaimers on my blog but I should show her the emails I get from folks insisting, "you're doing it wrong". So I'm disclaiming that this is the plan of action I have come up with based on what worked in the past combined with what I've learned since about my wily ways. I'm giving it a red hot go (one week down) and will reassess at the end of the month. Yee-ha!