Treats and tricks.

In the midst of overhauling the studio, a whole bunch of my favorite things have gathered in one corner of the room. These things seem to tell a story about who I have been, and I find myself wondering, which ones will continue on to tell the story of who I’m yet to be?

corner-of-the-studio

This has been a challenging autumn (or year, or life…in fact; I don’t know if there’s a life that exists without a whole lotta challenge, now that I think of it) and I’ve been doing a bunch of healing and growing and wondering what is coming around the bend.  Every day is a new adventure, though I am often convinced that it’s definitely going to be the same as yesterday, or last week. As if it could ever be.  This has been a time of shedding skins and trying on new clothes.

Today I got the message from my essential, inner dancing girl self that she needed a play day. No fighting inner demons today…just a day to play.  So I danced around the studio; I smashed some stuff in my yard with a sledgehammer (that was on my bucket list; totally awesome), and I am now playing with rubber stamps.  Not sure what’s next.

I’ve been playing around with the idea that, for me, a treat can often just be the next best-feeling thing.  And sometimes the treat is in the looking forward to and the doing (as with watching a favorite show, eating a divine cookie, watching the sunset, or having tea with a friend) and sometimes the treat is maybe in the doing and mostly in the result (cleaning the bathroom, doing my bookkeeping, washing the dishes for what feels like the gazillionth time in a day, or taking out the trash).

Today a treat for me is looking forward to and getting to take photos of a beautiful, dear friend.  Another treat is looking forward to watching a new silly TV show I like called “No Tomorrow”.  Another treat is making a card for a friend and popping it in the mailbox.  And another treat might be getting out on my bicycle…if it feels good.

I like the idea that anything can be a treat on one day, and that it may not feel so treat-like on the next.  I do my best work and have my best feeling life when I trust the treats of today and move towards whichever one tastes the sweetest in this moment.  And in the moments when the world seems devoid of treats, when everything seems like a chore or drudge work, then it’s probably time for me to pause and reconnect with my essential self.

I have a few tricks I use to link back up with my inner dancing girl.  It might be time to ask myself, “what would feel downright naughty right now?” or maybe,”what is the thing that has been on my to-do list the longest that would make the most difference to complete or let go?” Or it might be time to take a look and see: “is there anything in my schedule coming up, today or any day in the future, that I really and truly do not want to do even though I said I would, or thought I could, or think I should?”

Sometimes when there is stuck energy about something in my life, even the treaty-est sweet treats don’t hold the juice and the joy that I am looking for, and ordinary non-treaty things just seem like the absolute pits.  In those times, we can check out and eat or drink or smoke or shop or whatever we do to keep our tough feelings away for awhile, or we can extend the utmost kindness to our wretched-feeling selves and get curious (and honestly, I usually end up doing a bit of both).

“What’s up, honey?”, we can ask ourselves,  “I hear you that it seems like nothing would feel good and there’s no way to make it better.  Can you say anything else about what you’re feeling right now?”.  And often this is the perfect time to call a friend, real (or imaginary if that’s what you’ve got), and find someone to hold our hand, to ask us loving questions and to listen while we unfurl whatever tornado is twisting up our insides.  And then go find ourselves a dang good treat.

aquinnah-sunset-dusk
Dusk at the cliffs in Aquinnah, late summer. Treat! Treat!

i could eat a house. day #13.

My body is constantly surprising me.  When I really listen, it tells me that its needs are often different from what I expect them to be–they are different every day.  I am not like a car that just needs gas and oil and water and I will go along happily.  There is not a daily routine I have found that I can just follow and have my body respond positively.   When I look back, though, there is often reason, there is often rhyme.

I have noticed that when I am not hungry, but for some reason I feel expected to eat (so food doesn’t go to waste, or because I am at a restaurant, or I have just cooked myself a delicious meal, or this is the only time in my day I have scheduled a break to eat), I find myself eating faster just to get the eating over with.  I often don’t really even taste the food, and I certainly don’t enjoy it.

Sometimes in these cases I will even end up eating more than I would otherwise because I have no access to my “hunger-ometer”; it has been overridden, and therefore, the only direction that I have about when to stop eating is from my mind.  “Ok, Lily, that should be enough food.  You can stop eating now.”  And because I am already doing something that is overriding my body’s requested/expressed needs, I am feeling anxious.  And in the past, my go-to cure for anxiety has been… you guessed it, eating!

Eating because I am full also used to show up in scenarios like this one: I have eaten too much and feel stuffed and yucky and fat.  All of a sudden, as I am having this uncomfortable experience of being over-stuffed, I have the thought, “Oh, I’ll be ok, I still have a half a chocolate chip cookie in my bag if I need it.”  Need it for what?!  What kind of bizarre program am I running in which my remedy for feeling stuffed is to eat a half a chocolate chip cookie, in which my answer to feeling stuffed is to eat more food?!

I realize that what my mind probably means when it thinks, “I will be fine” is that it has somewhere to escape to.  It has some way to escape from feeling whatever uncomfortable thing it is experiencing that it doesn’t want to experience.

When Geneen Roth talks about why we eat compulsively, she suggests that it is because we either don’t want to feel what we are feeling, or don’t want to know something that we already know.  In that half a cookie I could count on a moment or two of numbing relief, allowing me to escape from the actual experience I was having in my body.  Eating it would allow me to check out of the present for a minute.  The problem with this strategy was that once I had finished the last crumb, there I was, still feeling fat, and even a little bit more stuffed than before.

What I have finally begun to be able to do, though, is to be willing, little by little, to allow myself to feel what I am feeling. I have begun to realize that even super-uncomfortable feelings are not an actual threat to my well-being.  While I used to perceive the act of feeling my feelings as a mysterious danger zone to be avoided at all costs, I now have practice in just being with them.  I often can let them pass through me, breathing, and find myself still intact, and often in awe, on the other side.

What I know to do in situations like last night is to breathe.  I know to sit or to write and to let myself sort out whatever craziness I have gotten worked up about.  I know that the best thing to do, when I feel like I could eat everything in the whole house, is to pause.  To take a minute or five or 30–however long it takes for me to slow my nervous system down, to get out of fight or flight mode, and to get clear about what I am actually experiencing.  I can now recognize this kind of ravenous hunger as emotionally based, because no matter how hungry my body ever gets physically, it never imagines needing to eat more than a few courses before it will be satisfied.

My my mind, or whatever is in charge when my body isn’t running the show, is the one who thinks, feels, that it could eat everything in the house, and more, and even then is worried that it would still feel that emptiness inside or that perceived lack of the ability to get its needs met.

When I am, “so hungry I could eat a horse”, I ask myself what I would actually like to eat (assuming I haven’t already served myself a hunk of horse) and I prepare myself a meal.  When I feel hungry enough to eat my whole house, and everything in it, I do my best to sit down and breathe.  I have a glass of water, I get out my journal, or just simply sit, and I ask myself what it is I really want.  What is my heart or my body really yearning for?  It is my guess that there aren’t, in fact, many human bodies who would think that they actually need a whole house full of food to satisfy their physical hunger.  It is only our emotional appetites that can feel that large.

Project Freedom: Day #1

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 was the first day of my current project to heal my relationship with food, to break free from my patterns of emotional eating, and to create a body in which I  love living!

It was sometime in the late afternoon on this particular Thursday, when I ate the last gooey, sugary bite and realized I had managed to consume two, full-sized almond snickers bars in the short span of a couple of hours.  The last time I ate even one snickers bar was probably over five years ago.  Snickers bars were the candy of my youth.  I was a vegetarian, and they were one of the few candy bars which didn’t contain either gelatin or egg whites.  I’m not sayin’ they were healthy, but they didn’t break any of my family’s dietary rules (beside the sugar!), and I absolutely loved them.  Somewhere along the way, though, I became so sensitive to sugar that they were way too sweet and I gave them up.  I can’t say I never looked back…

After a whole bunch of experimentation with food and diet over the course of the last 15 years, I have finally figured out a way of eating that makes me feel good in my body and mind.  Even so, I continue to re-test the validity of these specific dietary choices over and over and over again.  And I keep getting the same result.  Yes, I know, insanity.  And yet I don’t think I am necessarily less sane than any other emotional, hormonal (ie; I have emotions. I have hormones.) 30 year-old woman.  So what is going on?

I am not sure if I will ever find a definitive answer to that question, but for the duration of this month-long eating experiment, “Project Freedom”, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I am making a commitment to learn how to trust myself with food.

Here are a few of the tools I plan to use on this part of the journey:

  1.  The Eating Guidelines. Geneen Roth has started referring to her eating guidelines, as “what love would say to you if love could speak”. “Honey”, love would say, “eat when you are hungry, eat what you want, and stop when you’ve had enough.” “Sweetie, take some time. Eat in a relaxed environment. Don’t feel like you need to sneak your food. And please, my darling, eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.”  I was introduced to Geneen’s eating guidelines when I was in my late teens, struggling with learning how to listen to my body, and they have continued to make a tremendous difference in my life.  In the beginning most of the guidelines seemed impossible to follow.  And I still find myself “waking up” to find myself eating while driving, or walking, or eating more than I want, or eating something I think I should eat but don’t really want to eat.  But, as I was reminded today, the guidelines are suggestions for traversing the journey called life.  I am not going to get my eating taken care of, and then move onto the rest of my life.  Instead, my success with the guidelines is an indicator.  When I find myself unable to follow them, it is time for me to check in with myself and see what is going on.  I am no longer attached to the belief that they are impossible.  In fact, I am sure that following them will make possible what I want for my relationship with food and my life.
  2. Writing. Asking myself questions. Being curious about my experience. Whenever I am not sure if I am hungry, I will have a dialogue with myself until I get sure.  I am excited to record all the parts of my journey including the yummy food I choose to eat (stay posted for photos and simple recipes), and the creative alternatives to emotional eating that I come up with.  I will journal every day and do my best to post something here most days.  I am also keeping a daily log of what I eat, what I feel, my intention for the day, what my body wants, etc.
  3. Participation in a weekly, group coaching call on “becoming irresistible” with Be More You.  Homework for this call includes making goals and taking actions towards my dream of finding a life partner, as well as being in touch with other women for support and guidance, and offering the same in return.  Not to mention becoming irresistible along the way.

I am committed to healing my relationship with food primarily for the freedom and self-love and trust it will provide.  Although I am not thrilled with my current pooch of a buddha belly, the possibility of finding my natural weight is a fabulous bonus.  I am excited to listen to my body as it tells me what it needs to be nourished and healthy and to find its “right” size.

For the next month, I plan to record my experiences and findings as I explore what it feels like to bring focus and commitment to this area of my life, and also be willing to share it with others.  The reason I have decided to finally record and share a part of my journey is this: As my favorite life coach, Martha Beck, says, “my story is all I have to give, which is why I keep writing it down”.  Although my experience with emotional eating is not necessarily the part of my story I feel most proud of, I offer it up with the intention that it will be useful to others who are facing similar challenges and are reaching for the same goal of healing their relationship with food.

Please feel free to leave comments if you are so moved (I would love it!), and if you have questions I will do my best to respond.  Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Thoughts

Your emotions are incredibly powerful, precise navigational tools, custom-made to help you find and reach your own North Star

– Martha Beck

Any thought I have that doesn’t make me feel good is taking me away from my true nature, or my “North Star”, as life coach Martha Beck calls the soul’s purpose here on earth. My emotions work as a guidance system, a navigational GPS telling me how close or far I am from being lined up with the flow of my true self. Finding good feeling thoughts in any situation continually helps me realign myself with who I really am and helps me to focus on my true purpose.