Sunday, August 31, 2008

Escaping the Mind-Storms...Gonna Stop That Emo-eating Right Now

I was reading an article by behavioural psychology expert Dean Anderson today, and once again was totally perplexed by this guy-- I don't care how many times I change the password, or what difficulty level I set it to, he always seems to find a way to hack into my journal and see exactly what I'm going through. Then, by golly, he makes it the topic of his next article, without fail!

Today it was about emotional eating-- go figure. He claims it is the single most common problem those of us who are calorically-challenged (I personally am bipolar: calorically- and kinetically-challenged, alternately and sometimes simultaneously), and furthermore if we are to enjoy any success at this, we're all going to have to get our act together and learn to deal-- tell me more, Dean, I'm listening.

Well, he goes on to put his money where his keyboard is. Pretty basic stuff-- we dieting geniuses have heard it all before: Keep a food journal to help identify emo-eating triggers, create a healthy mental environment by practicing prayer, medititation, body-mind control exercising, focusing and my favorite, getting massages. Then there is always turning to message boards and friends for support. THEN... he casually tosses out the phrase "Developing good problem solving skills."

Really, Dean? Okay, I'll just run right out and do that...why didn't I think of that before? I'll hop on down to the corner Goodproblemsolvingskills-R-Us store, and pick up two boxes of that stuff. But before the harshly cynical little imp in me could get really wound up, I discovered he actually had some very good tips for working on this deficiency in my make-up, which I am now looking forward to implementing, with great hope, dare I add.

He is promoting this 3-minute solution, which is fabulously attractive to me. I seldom have the attention span of more than three minutes to solve my major psychological problems. The first obstacle I encountered was, it took more than three minutes to read what I should put into action within three minutes in order to derail emo-eating. So this is going to take some effort on my part, I'm thinking. Huh. Alright, well let me go over this again to break it down for myself, in easily digestible brain-bytes.

He advocates during the first critical response minute following the overwhelming urge to give into emo-eating, to focus upon staying grounded. We eat emotionally when we lose connection to our grounded selves. So, basically, force oneself into mental slow-mo at the onset. I was really impressed with how he broke it down. I had never taken time to go beneath the level of recognizing I was eating due to stress. My solution up until now has been, well, get rid of stress. But some stress is necessary in order for change to be taking place. I cannot paraphrase it better than he did:

"Nine times out of ten, what really leads to emotional eating is getting caught in a "mind storm" of worst-case scenarios, projections, misinterpretations, and all the emotional overreactions that come with these thoughts. This "storm" turns a manageable challenge into something that makes you feel helpless, overwhelmed, ashamed or afraid—and sends you to the kitchen to find something to stuff those extreme feelings. When you can stay grounded in the moment of stress, you have many more options."

He goes on to prescribe some actions: take a few deep breaths--a quick mental time-out-- look around and physically ground yourself by taking in the objects around you and acknowledging to yourself where you are, and last, identify exactly what physical sensations you are experiencing. I suppose the purpose in that would be to journal them, and after repetition, it would become second nature to recognize yourself going into this mode so that you can launch the counter-offensive. What a lot of trouble just to conquer a little life-long addiction, right?

That was supposed to have used up no more than about a minute. The second minute, after calm has been restored, he suggests performing a reality check. A check-up from the neck-up, I like to say. What thoughts are going through my head and do they help right now? Am I engaging in all-or-nothing thinking? Stop it. Better not over-indulge now, then I have less to make up for later. Am I over-reacting to someone's non-supportive-- oh, let's just say critical-- remark? I know I'm alright, whether they acknowledge it or not...or is it me being overly critical of myself? Stop it. I love me just as I am right now, I'll just love the good choices I've made that lead me to a healthy mind and body even more when I reach my goal. And last but not least, am I stressing because what I'm about to do is get all up into someone else's business? STOP IT. I never learned anything when someone in my past stepped in to "save" me...except where to go next time I needed an easy mark. I learned by working through my own problems, one day at a time. What makes me think other people are any different? Or am I trying to involve myself in their life to avoid working on the real problem...me?

Now I'm sliding into that final minute of learning to cope with emo-eating. So I've stopped the blow-up, done some self-analysis. Now it's time for application of principles I've learned work. I can do that after I've really put this situation to bed, and again I love the questions he suggests I ask myself:

  1. How big a deal is this, anyway? If I knew I was going to die in a week, would this be something I would want to spend this minute of my remaining time on?
  2. Will any bad things happen if I postpone thinking about this until I have more time to figure things out?
  3. Do I have all the information I need to decide how to respond to this? Do I really know what’s going on here, or am I making assumptions? Am I worrying about things that might not even happen? What do I need to check out before taking action?
  4. Is there anything I can do right now that will change or help this situation?
  5. Am I trying to control something I can't, like what other people think, say, or do?
  6. Have I really thought through this problem, and broken it down into manageable pieces I can handle one-at-a-time?
I am going to read over and over this and try to remember to apply it the very next time an opportunity to avoid emo-eating arises. But I know that nightly I am faced with my personal most difficult time, and that is when I sit to watch TV after I've finished everything else. It's as if I sit down, and there is something in the cushion of my chair that injects my butt every 30 minutes with some invisible propelling agent which shoots me out of the chair, through the hall, across the front-room into the kitchen. I've put counter-attack measures in place that result in, once my body finds itself in front of the fridge and the hand attached to the arm has opened the door, there is really nothing I could abuse myself with... oh, okay, if I wanted to consume giant spoonfuls of mayonnaise mixed with dried tomatoes and refrigerated pie dough, but, come on, you can only do that so many times.

I generally return now to the chair with a bowlful of baby carrots or raw mushrooms or a half cup of non-fat cottage cheese. But that is not the issue. The issue is the habit. It must go. Must I restrict myself from TV altogether until this is whipped? Must I return to enforcing the rule, I don't eat unless I am sitting down in an appropriate eating location, like the dining room? Well, slipping back into half-measures have availed me nought. It is time to bring out the big guns and go commando on my addiction's butt.

Maybe I could talk Coach Dean into articalizing on that topic. No...wait! I've written it in my journal. The hacker minions he has assigned to my life will no doubt report back, and it is already fait accompli.

1 comment:

Beloved said...

Loved it P~Phat! Thanks for this post. Emo-eating/emo-drinking is definitely a challenging problem. But the techniques here sure seem promising. Would love it if you post your experience going thru these steps for the first time.