Monday, August 30, 2010

It's All About Being Kind

I’ve realized something about myself this week.

I am an emotional eater.

It really surprised me to realize that about myself. I had always pictured an “emotional eater” to be a woman with extreme emotional issues, who sat there bawling her eyes out as she polished off an entire half gallon of Haggan Dazs chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. That is certainly not me.

However, I realized that I do eat when I’m anxious or frustrated. Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, when I’m bored.

Like the other night. I was feeling very anxious about the little infection in my finger that could easily become a very scary blood infection. So what did I do? I polished off a half a bag of pretzels and ended up with a stomachache. Yeah, that’s what you call emotional eating.

I’ve read some interesting books by Geneen Roth (her latest being “Women, Food, and God”), and so far I really like some of the advice that she gives in her books.

If I were to take away one profound truth that I’ve learned from her books, it is this: Be kind to yourself.

It sounds really simple, “Be kind to yourself.” But what does being kind to yourself mean?

In my world (and to paraphrase some of the author’s ideas), being kind to myself means:

1) Finding a better outlet than food for anxiety and frustration,
2) When I’m bored, finding something entertaining to do, instead of eating,
3) Eating slowly, without distractions, and really paying attention to & enjoying my food,
4) When I’m eating, stopping every couple of minutes to ask myself “Am I still hungry?”,
5) Stopping the negative self-talk, like “I feel so fat today” or “I can’t believe I can’t fit into those pants any more! I’m getting so fat! I have to go on a diet right away.”

So far, I’ve really been diggin’ on this “being kind to myself” stuff. Here are some of the discoveries I’ve made in the past few days:

--On Saturday afternoon, I had a good-sized bowl of Fannie Mae Mint Meltaways ice cream. (Yummy!) Instead of watching t.v., reading, or listening to music while I was eating it, I sat comfortably and really paid attention to every single spoonful of that ice cream that I ate. Man, what a wonderful experience that was! Really, it was such a treat to really pay attention to what I was eating. And later that night, I felt no need to snack as I had done for almost every night in the past few months. I think I felt like I had been so indulgent (kind to myself) earlier in the day, so I was satisfied with not eating a late-night snack. (Late-night snacking had become a really bad habit for me.)

--Last night, I watched a lot of t.v. and was getting really bored. As I felt myself reaching for a bag of cookies, I stopped and asked myself if I was really hungry. I decided that I wasn’t, that I was just bored. So instead, I challenged Iwanski to a “Crossword Puzzle Competition.” (We compete to see who can finish the crossword puzzle in the daily “Red Eye” newspaper the fastest.) And whatta ya’ know? My “hunger” just disappeared.

--I realized that a lot of times at work, I overindulge on a snack at my desk because I’m anxious, rushing, and not paying attention to what I’m eating. Today, I forced myself to step away from my desk. The result? I calmed down and enjoyed a really delicious snack of popcorn. (At the grocery store, I found these individualized bags of microwave “kettle corn” popcorn at 110 calories a bag—very yummy stuff!)

--I also realized that I often do the same thing during lunchtime at work. I am always rushing from one project to the next, so lunch became yet another project to “finish.” All too often, I ended up with that stuffed, bloated feeling—which made for an uncomfortable afternoon. Today, I really slowed down and savored my food—and I stopped every few minutes to ask myself, “Am I really hungry?” I found this challenging—as I think I’ve been ignoring my body’s hunger signals for far too long—but I did come to realize that I wasn’t really hungry for those last couple bites of my Healthy Choice Asian Potsticker meal (as opposed to the um…Polish? potsticker meal?). So I did the unthinkable—I threw the last little bit away! Wow, that was a first for me. And most importantly, I didn’t throw it away because I was denying myself the food—I threw it away because I was no longer hungry—and being kind to myself means not eating too much and giving myself a stomachache.

--Today, a coworker of mine looked at herself in the bathroom mirror at work and said, while laughing lightly, “I just noticed how fat my belly looks in this outfit.” Now, before I began thinking about this whole “being kind to yourself” idea, I would have laughed and commiserated with her; I probably would have said something like, “I think my belly looks fat no matter what I wear” or something equally as self-critical. Instead, I began to share with her how I’ve been thinking about this stuff lately, and she said, “Hmm…okay…” I think I saw a faint recognition of “This is truth” in her eyes. We women are way, FAR too hard on ourselves, with how we judge our bodies. In fact, it’s now socially acceptable to criticize our bodies…in my personal experience, if you’re with a group of women who are criticizing what they perceive to be their “fat butt” or their “pudgy tummy,” you’re expected to join in by finding fault in your own body. Isn’t that ridiculous?

It’s just been such an awakening for me so far, to really embrace this concept of “being kind to yourself.”

And I know that I’m just at the beginning of this “adventure” away from emotional eating, into self-kindness…I can’t wait to see what discoveries lie ahead!


Eric said...

Good for you. I won't even pretend to understand the emotional eating aspect that seems to effect women more than men. Still, the bored eating is something I understand. "Hey, 3rd inning of the baseball game. A cookie sounds good now."

But am I really really hungry?

Wouldn't a handful of grapes be better?

I've been working on those concepts too. It's a whole new mind set that takes some getting used to. IT takes work but I believe the results in health, not just physical appearance, will make it all worth it.

Jonathan said...

I think my therapist must have read the same stuff. She always ended the sessions with "Be gentle with yourself."

"Okay, I'll be gentle with myself with a giant bowl of beef bourguignon.

Sigh. . . .

rosemary said...

cookies, cherry cordials, frito's with bean dip....some of the things that I stress with....or used to anyway. Now it's rice cakes, fig newtons and grapes.

Mom said...

Wise words.New thought for me that thinking about what I eat and and making wiser choices is really a kindness to myself.

Barb said...

What a great post. Definitely making me step back and rethink how I relate to food. Thanks sweetie!

Fantastic Forrest said...

You're not only Miss Healthypants; with tips like these, you're Miss Smartypants. I mean that you're very smart, not smart alecky. :-D

Sling said...

You may even find,when asking yourself 'Am I still hungry?',that you might even end up skipping a meal all together from time to time.
Keep being kind to yourself kid! :)