Successful Dieting; Stop Eating What Is Eating You

Walking at the park and shamelessly eavesdropping whenever the conversation is close, snippets because the see-saw of passing keeps contact to a minimum. Couples sharing a story and parents laughing with the kids are my favorites.  I listen and we smile when they look my way.

Today was different.
A young mother needed something…some comfort, some pain relief. And it was pretty obvious that food was her pill of choice. Dad and kids walked together, but several steps behind mom as she struggled to carry her weight. They seemed to be giving her space. When Dad and the kids laughed, Mom angrily shouted for them to keep up. One of the girls asked if they could stop on the bridge and look at the water. Mom’s sigh let everyone know the depth of her annoyance.  She stopped dead-still, back to the family, foot tapping, and waited while they interfered with her life.  They looked at the water.

No way for me to make this my business. None.
I could smile and say something inane…”beautiful day”…but it wasn’t a beauty she could see. So I just said, “Hi. Cute kids. Nice day to be together in the park.”

And I moved down the path, helpless.

This young woman reached for the comfort of food–the comfort of eating and the comfort of suppressing what was eating her.  That comfort is vital but her choice is deadly.  To sustain we have to find some wiggle room–a way to get out from under the pain.

Sometimes, the comfort is food or drink…or both..fleeting comfort that adds new layers of need.

Realistically misuse of food and drink lead to a new guilt, but a guilt that is easier to handle than the guilt or shame that triggered the pain. This new guilt is one that masks the hopelessness and one that we say we can control. We just need to stop.

That isn’t the key.  Dieting won’t open the guilt and shame to the light of freedom.  Dieting is the twin of drinking/eating for oblivion, another broken crutch that won’t hold the weight.

Risk.  Risk trusting someone, an individual or a group with whom to share what needs to be spoken.  Risk opening up what festers so the healing can happen.  Imagine the joy of no longer needing the false comfort because we faced the real pain and we understand.

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Weighing In: A Summer Rerun

I have missed you, Gentle Reader.   My time to slog-a-blog has been severely restricted by real life happening in lieu of my plans to be with you each day.  When we don’t communicate, I feel the empty spot…the spot that belongs to you, Gentle Reader.

So I am taking a page from the television playbook and re-running some older blogs.  Maybe you missed this writing the first time around.  And maybe it is even worth a reread.

Weighing In:  A Summer Rerun

Noticed some Celebrity and Fashion Photos.
Noticed ‘thin’ almost to skinny anorexia.
Know that our culture seems obsessed with weight, size and shape.
Huge amounts of money pay trainers and gym time.
Groups flourish for the expressed purpose of regulating our size and shape.
Women diet to lose weight and undergo surgery to add dimension.
The value of our shell trumps the inner core.

Consider the reasons we consume food.
Two of those reasons are precious: sustenance and sharing love and the times of our lives.
Consider all we consume that is harmful to both nutrition and enhancing special moments.

Interesting concepts.

I pay dollars to the gym so I can exercise when the weather is uncomfortable. More of my dollars go to the local high school pool so I can burn calories. Daily walks and weekly ice skating chip away at the imbalance of intake and output. Granted, I love every minute of exercise and it does so much more than sustain the body.

In the distant past, I even became part of a group designed to teach the discipline of eating. Now eating habits are almost lock-step in routine. My grandchildren tease that I eat cheesecake once each year and that is my quota of dessert.

How absolutely silly that types!

When I was 50 years old, I joked that at 70, I would eat dessert first and take up cigarettes. Age 71 dessert is not on the table. Cigarettes? Never.
Rationally I understand my regulated patterns, but those patterns are terribly annoying. My new resolution is for age 75. Then I will eat nothing but desserts so I have a ton of excuses to walk, skate and swim even more.

A Look At Emotional Eating

Inside every fat person is a skinny self waiting to break free.

Have you heard that?

There is another inside-out juxtaposition. Inside many skinny people is a fat self waiting to break down. That might be me.

Maybe not skinny, but thin enough to border the line, a rigid, disciplined eater totally controlled by the fear of that lurking fat.  Really.  At my age.

Health focused magazines push the discipline.  Every visit to the book seller finds a new display of diet books.  Restaurants feature skinny meals and exercise gurus count calories.  Organizations advertise expert help towards  weight loss.  Often we learn to fear celebrations because our culture features food at the heart of most milestones.  Eat, drink and be merry kind of celebrations.

Emotional eating uses food to hide anxiety.  This kind of eating builds a tunnel escape.  That darkness can last a very long time.  That is a lonely tunnel.

Actually, there is another very efficient use of overeating.  Overeating gives a reason to obsess offering a ‘ mental cover story’ for whatever the real reason for emotional distress.  Eat too much?  Feel guilty at the lack of discipline and, for the moment, banish the deeper emotions.

Go on a diet and get a new (and false) perspective.  Diets require rigid control, foods, portions, frequency.  So, diets offer a sense that at least part of life is under control.  Diets also give the structure to obsess a bit.  Obsess over food and we  might forget that what we really need— a sense of self, a degree of intimacy in some area of our lives, and gentleness with our own needs.

The most successful (and the most difficult) way to control emotional eating is to simply ride it out.  The craving will be intense.  We might even talk ourselves into believing that we are experiencing  physical hunger.   But when we take a clear look at our emotional level, we know that emotional eating is unloading with intensity.

Ride it out.  Call a friend.  Go for a walk. Run if you can.  Scrub something.  Walk up and down some steps.  Take a shower.  Brush your teeth.  Write about it.   Ride it out.  It will pass.

After the intensity of that ride, do some work on learning to manage the negative without resorting to food.   Start a journal.  Use words, sentences, pages of emotional release.   A few words can trigger the will to change, to give up harmful emotional responses to the negatives that are a sure-bet part of life.

And find someone to trust.  Find a person or a group in which your are free to share what is eating you.  Walking buddies, prayer groups, writing groups and a simple core group of friends can provide the intimacy of sharing that releases the negative before harm happens.  Nothing trumps trust.