Self-destructive behavior usually is trigger or caused by something subconscious – and until you can identify the cause, it’s difficult to stall, stop and even correct the behavior. Often we don’t even realize we are into the pattern until reality slaps us in the face. We are so busy living that we don’t stop and recognize that something pretty significant is going on.
I’ve done lots of therapy over the years. I’m not crazy in the clinical sense, but sometimes my life is pretty crazy and I need that objective view to help me deal with “stuff”. Sometimes the “stuff” is anger, or grief, or fear, or confusion, or anxiety – but it doesn’t always manifest in some nice neat little labeled box. So figuring out what the predominate emotion is can be a challenge. And even when the emotion is identified, finding the cause or trigger is even more troublesome. One of the best things I learned through therapy is that sometimes you have to unpack layer by layer before you can figure out what is really bothering you. For me, journaling is the best way to accomplish this task. And even more specifically, I’ve found that (for me) using an interview technique really opens things up. Much of what you see and read here on my blog are things that I’ve journaled about over the years, and so I thought to myself, maybe it would be helpful for you as readers to see the process in action. What is to follow is likely to be pretty raw and ragged, but with any luck…I’ll find some preliminary answers. Here goes!
Q: So what seems to be going on?
A: I’m not sure really…but I seem to have lost my focus and motivation.
Q: on what specifically?
A: Everything, but we’ll start with the eating healthy and weight loss
Q: So what were you doing and how was it working?
A: I was doing JUDDD, calorie cycling, intermittent fasting – whatever you want to call it. I was doing well, was in my sweet spot as far as my target maintenance range, feeling good. I was tracking my food daily and starting to ease up on strict weekend rotations, easing my way into maintenance.
Q: That sounds like the perfect storm – target range, easing up…your work is done so let’s just stop what we know works and kick back…
A: Right?!?!!?!? I knew it would be tricky…but I was busy and had all kinds of interruptions and reasons why I needed to make exceptions.
Q: Excuses…just excuses.
A: Of course. There’s always something…and always something on the horizon…So I did my usual thing of “I’ll get back to it when this is over…next week after this passes” And I just let myself be dictated by my circumstances, instead of exerting some control.
Q: Now we’re getting somewhere…so let’s go back…when did the control start slipping…what was going on?
A: Well the semester started, so things started to get busier and more projects going on. And the weather started to turn more fall like. So that meant being hungry for/craving more comfort food type things. Less light stir fry and grilled this or that…more creamy, saucy, soupy things…more bread. But also those things taste good emotionally…soothe my weary soul.
Hmm…there’s more here…now that I really think about it.
My parents sold their house.
Even before that…I started going to church again.
Q: ok…so let’s talk about this a minute. You have 3 big things going on…
- Work getting busier, semester getting ready to start
- Parents selling the house, potentially digging up all kinds of things
- You started going to church again.
Let’s pick that apart one by one. Obviously any of those could be emotional landmines on their own, with many other issues, but combined…it’s a great big issue with the only clear solution…stuff your face, right?
A: Right…when in doubt…eat bread. I have a feeling that we won’t be able to fully tackle all 3 of them succinctly…but they all three feed into why I’ve turned to stuffing my face and eating my way right back up and out of “safe maintenance level”. When I got on the scale this morning to face the music and see what kind of damage my mindless emotional eating had done, I knew I need to take back some control. So I made the decision to get back to tracking calories, and to see if with sheer grit and determination I could pull off a real DD today. I’ve got my coffee for now, will drink water all afternoon – tea if I get chilled – and I packed a diet root beer for this afternoon. I won’t eat anything until dinner, and will plan on a protein and veggie filled dinner – and NO WINE. Willpower will get me through the day.
Let’s work on #1 for today…work schedule, busy projects and how my schedule in general has been upended, and has affected my eating patterns.
Q: That sounds like a reasonable plan. You’ve done many, many, many of these DDs, so the routine should offer you some comfort if nothing else. Some return to normalcy and predictability…which ties in nicely to your request to focus on #1 and your schedule and its many interruptions. So what are some of the highlights you’ve had to deal with in the last couple of months? And how do those specifically relate to food choices?
A: Ok…so in August…A couple of Saturday craft shows, so those make for extra tired and long weeks. When I’m tired, I’m more apt to eat convenience foods, and want things that are fast and readily available. Cheese and crackers, portable snacks, and easy fast dinners. Not taking the time to prep good meals, and skipping salads and veggies and such in exchange for protein and carbs for fuel to just keep going.
Also in August, I started attending church regularly. I’ll not go into the whys of that, but simply introduce the fact that following church every Sunday is treats in the fellowship hall. Cakes, cookies, breads, etc. Add in the fact that church can fuel some strong emotions, and you can see how this might lead to some emotional eating and justification of it.
Q: Ah yes…ok…September?
A: Another Saturday craft show – with chicken and joe-joes on the way home. Busy September work schedule – interviews, meetings, planning for upcoming seminars and PEAB meetings and such. Add in the fact that my father in law came up for a visit and well…things just got crazy. He was here for 2 weeks, and part of that time he was sick. So I was cooking only things that he would eat, and making plans and adjustments with him in mind. It stresses me out to have company for that long, and so that more or less started the end of rotations and the start of indulging in wine every night as a “stress management tool”. <eye roll> I know it’s destructive, but it’s how I could manage.
I also did a much needed, but long single day road trip. Road food – jerky, pretzels, 2 lunches, chicken and joe-joes on the road…you get the picture. By then, the busy schedule and lack of privacy at home had me indulging in lots of things I had no business eating or buying…I was just trying to cope and cover my emotions in a layer of comfort food.
I think I was starting to recognize that things were out of control…but I wasn’t ready to sit down and really “deal” with any of it, and I knew I still had some crazy stuff on my calendar coming up…so the delaying tactic worked its way in as well. After I get through this…as soon as I come back from…It’s pretty much my standard MO. Take care of everyone and everything else…I’ll deal with ME when I have more time.
Q: Yes, this is a well-established pattern for you. Putting others needs above your own, to the point of self-destruction. But you are wrestling back control now, yes?
A: That’s my plan. Tracking calories and back into solid JUDDD rotations. But I also know that I need to unravel some of other stuff rattling around in my head. I know that I need to deal with the emotional issues that make me turn to food in the first place.
I know I need to unpack the box surrounding my parents move and how I really feel about all of it. And I know I need to process my feelings in and around my decision to go back to church and what that has stirred up. It’s all tied together, and I need to unravel it all. But not today.
That’s it for today. I hope that my personal Q&A session will help show how I approach digging deeper into stuff that bugs me, but how it also guides me to a deeper understanding of my own behavior, in the hopes that I can find real change. I think that many people see only the surface issues, and don’t take the time to figure out exactly what it is that drives their behavior.