Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feel, don't feed, your feelings (Emotional Triggers)

The past few days I have felt sad. As usual, I look for external reasons. What day is it--is it an anniversary of someone's death? Where's my focus--have I been thinking about sad things? Do I have PMS? This particular time, I can't pinpoint a reason.

I don't like the cold and snow, but doesn't make me sad. The anniversary of my dad's death is coming up, but not for a week, and I don't usually feel melancholy so far in advance. I miss my girl and my best friend, but those feelings don't usually sideline me. I don't think I have PMS, since that makes me feel less sad and more as if an evil spirit has taken up residence in my body. It is just a non-specific malaise.

However, since I don't have a lot of coping skills, sadness (specified or not) leads to seeking comfort in food, which leads to an elevated number on the scale which leads to further sadness and feelings of defeat. It's a vicious cycle--or circle--I never know which one is correct, though both accurately describe this situation.

Since January, I have intently focused on winning the battle against food. Overcoming my dependence on it. Eating to live instead of living to eat. I say: I'm doing this for health and not to lose weight. And I kind of mean it. But gosh darn it, I wish that number on the scale would go down.

I have read books, listened to TED talks and am currently re-reading and participating in an online Bible study for Lysa TerKeurst's book Made to Crave. But, the same stupid number shows up on the scale every morning. Some days, it goes down a number or two, but it always goes back. One step forward one step back. One step back one step forward--this monotonous mambo is wearing me out.

I have prayed, given this to God, and laid this issue at the cross, more times than I can count. But in times of sadness, defeat, depression, I will not reach for the phone to call a human friend, I will instead reach for my faithful friend the sandwich. I will take comfort in the sweet goodness of a cookie rather than the reassuring words of my husband. While I try very hard to reach out and encourage others, I find it very difficult to reach outside my comfort zone when cookies are usually so much closer.When I feel empty and defeated, I will make a huge meal instead of calling a friend or going for a walk or praying.

Last week at church, there was a display of the most amazing cakes you have ever seen. I wanted a piece so bad. I started to take a piece, and my husband said, "Don't do it, baby." Initially, I was shocked--and a little angry--and turned with my mouth hanging open to see if he had lost his mind. "It will taste good now, but you'll be mad at yourself." Darn that man I love. He was right, and I didn't eat a whole piece. I did, however, have a bite and it was delicious and wonderful and everything I had hoped it would be. AND that one little bite was enough.

I think that's the hardest part of beating this addiction. The "one is too many; one more isn't enough" mentality. Unlike cigarettes or alcohol, you can't just quit food cold turkey. We have to eat. But like other substances, I have used innately harmless sweets in an unhealthy way. I have tried to fill voids that no amount of peanut butter could fill. I have had long conversations with trail mix instead of God or even a friend.

In counseling school, the therapist/professor asked, "What would happen if you let yourself feel the sadness?" I would cry and feel sad, but I've been there before, and I know that I would stop crying eventually.

Overcoming emotional eating is a process like anything else. There are ups and downs. Victories and defeats. And right now, I feel pretty defeated. I feel a lot like I might never overcome this. I feel alone and empty, and maybe a cookie would make me feel better in this moment, but that is not true. So today, I'm going to focus on feeling my feelings instead of feeding them.




18 comments:

  1. hiya honey. you know that cravings last 14 minutes, right? can you listen to music instead? read an article in a magazine? load the dishwasher (always in need here...) practice awareness with the breath? i hope you will let the feelings of defeat go; they are not you; they are temporary. i'm glad you enjoyed a bite. that's all we need. xo

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  2. You're right, of course. Thank you for the encouragement :) It's never about the actual food. It's about something wanting in me. I just have to fill that void with kindness and love instead of food. Today, I did restorative yoga :)

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  3. I understand. I have been struggling with this for years. My Mom died when I was 21 and I was 28 when my Dad died. Remember that you are beautiful inside and out!! (Even on those days you don't feel like it.) You are stronger than you know!

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    1. Thank you so much, Gina. I'm sorry that you lost your parents so young. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you.

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  4. You were taught, indoctrinated and it was ground into you over years that food was love and love was food. Cake and cookies and pie and pudding replaced attention and caring. It's a bit more than you using food to fill a hole. It's breaking habits that were nurtured into you, hardwired there over years. The problem, I think, is mostly due to the fact that the electrician happens to still be working in the neighborhood. I wish I could trade you some of the callouses on my soul, but that would simply lead you to chase other dragons. Keep trying, but remember to celebrate little victories and bear in mind that the game is still rigged against you.

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  5. I enjoyed reading your post. Even though the issue is deep, the post is quite witty! When I got to the part about the cake, I realized that sometimes it is OKAY to have one bite and it will be enough. We have to prepare ourselves mentally for that, but at least then we don't feel as if we will be deprived from all things delicious for the rest of our lives. Thanks for sharing. I'll be tucking that little piece of wisdom in my pocket for later! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Angie :) Have a great day!

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  6. Mary, I felt that you were in my head when I read your blog today. Although I stress eat instead of sadness eat, it is the same gut wrenching frustration that I must have food to live, but I have a hard time even realizing that I am putting food in my mouth when I am stressed. Your words are witty and very true and touch a chord that is very sensitive to most women. Thanks for your insight and for just today I am going to try to do as you have stated and focus on my feelings instead of feeding them. Good luck with your day!

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    1. I read the other day about the calories we "forget to count," and thought about the times I plop myself in front of the kids' snack cupboard and eat handfuls of cheez-its -__- when they are arguing. Hmmm...

      Thank you for your encouragement :) Good luck to you today too!

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  7. Mary ~ Thanks for visiting my blog because it enabled me to find yours! I love your Blog Title and really enjoyed this post too. I definitely understand your feelings of "circling" the mountain (http://cravingsconfidential.blogspot.com/2014/02/its-week-4-inour-made-to-crave-bible.html) Thankfully, this journey is less about ongoing WILL power and more about HIS power. Keep the faith ~ Miriam

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    1. Thank you, Miriam. I appreciate your encouragement and support! I love your writing :)

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  8. This is just wonderful! "Feel. Don't feed." I'm adding that to my list of self-talk mantras.

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    1. Thank you so much, Linda! I need it tattooed inside my eyelids, haha :)

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  9. Wow! Thank you so much for your honesty! Your words moved my heart. Such an encouragement! Thank you again.

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    1. Aww, thank you so much for your kind words, Yadi! I am so glad that you related :)

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  10. Mary, I have been on a wonderful journey of healing from multiple forms of childhood abuse, and I can totally relate to your struggle. As a child, we need to be taught how to appropriately deal with our emotions. When we haven't been taught how to do that in the way that God intends for us to, we are subject to believe the lies that we are fed from satan regarding our emotions. The lie he enticed me into believing is that emotions are bad, and we can't let them out. If we are sad, people won't want to be around us. If we are too happy, people will tear us down. The only safe place for me was to be emotionally flat-lined. Well, God gave me those emotions, so I'm sure he intended me to feel and express them. Express them His way, not the worlds way. When I don't express them, I have to stuff them with something. My stuffing of choice is Double Stuff Oreos and Ice Cream. So, if I'm sad or depressed, or even just feeling a little down, I go for those. If I'm having a good day, and I need to celebrate, I go for those. If I'm bored, and don't know what to do with myself, I again go to those. I don't need a negative feeling to go for the goods, I just need A feeling! I am so glad that God has given me the strength to not buy Double Stuff Oreos lately, and also the strength to not eat that ice cream that is in my freezer right now. I do know that to keep it up, I have to rely daily, sometimes hourly on His strength in me, because I still want those oreos and that ice cream! Thank you for sharing your struggle, which gave me the courage to share mine! We are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us!

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    1. I completely relate to the idea of feelings being bad and conforming to the world's idea of who we should be. Thank you so much for sharing so openly. I appreciate you :)

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