Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can't Lose Weight with a Messy Desk.

The Many Roles of Food

It's practically a one-man show! Food is the Star of my life--driving any others right off the stage. But it's time to turn the tables. It's time to yank the overblown blowsey actress with her hoarse ageing voice and dropped lines, time to give her a smaller, more dignified role and and start looking for better supporting players.

In Beyond Metabolism; Understanding Your Modern Diet Dilemma, Scott Abel suggests my goal shouldn't be to lose weight, necessarily, but, among other things, to make eating and food issues into non-issues. Food has two legitimate roles in our lives, he writes. The first is personal: it provides the body with nourishment for renewal and growth, and fuel for activities. The other is social: it offers opportunities for celebration and interaction with others.

If food is being used outside of these two roles, it is being used inappropriately. The thing to do is not diet, per se, but to discover what it is food is doing for you other than these two things--and find something else instead, something appropriate to take over from food. Hard to explain, but the cliched example is "eating to calm emotions." There's lots written about that--and it is fairly clear that something else, say exercise or meditation or prayer may be more appropriate responses to being upset.

I can certainly do a lot to reduce the inappropriate roles food plays in my life. But I don't know it is reasonable to assume that I can make food into a non-issue for the rest of my life. For example, no one would ever suggest to a recovering alcoholic that his or her goal should be for alcohol to become a non-issue. As far as I understand, it's always an issue. To say otherwise is to dangerously underestimate the power of the beast. So, too, in my case, perhaps.

Nonetheless, food plays an inappropriate role in many areas of my life. Let's see, I use food:

1) yes, as cliched as it is, to calm myself when I am upset--especially when I'm upset with my husband. It is inadvisable for me to speak with him when I am upset--I need to be calm in order for him to hear me. So, I'll use food to "buy some time" to calm myself. Plus, I really do think that some food just calms me down physiologically. This behaviour is new, by the way. I used to use cigarettes to do this in the past.

2) to reduce stress. I get so overwhelmed. I get anxious when I'm overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed a lot. I don't quite understand it. It seems I live at the threshold of being overwhelmed and the smallest things pile up and push me over.

3) to stay awake. My children have poor sleep hygiene. One can barely get to sleep at all, (and never before midnight) the other needs me to sit with her until she falls asleep. Every night. It can take a couple of hours, sometimes and often goes far past the time I want to be in her room rather than my own settling myself for sleep.

I have developed a habit of eating protein and carbs before bed--and often, a lot of it! My favourite for a while was an entire sleeve of crackers with cheese thinly sliced into perfect squares to fit on top of each one.

That's just off the top of my head. Perhaps that's enough to work on for the moment.

Auditions: Things to Try.

I need to fire food and hire something else to take on these roles. And, eventually, I need to re-write the play.

1) It is probably a good idea to find another way to calm myself when I'm upset with my husband (and my kids, and my mom, and anyone else for that matter!) Writing comes to mind. That's quite confrontational, though, and sometimes I'm not ready to process whatever is causing me to be upset. What I want is a better delay tactic. Is that a googlable phrase? "How do I delay responding when I am angry or upset?"

2) This is going to sound very weird, but I can reduce my feelings of being overwhelmed if I stay on top of my clutter. This is tough, though, as it often means I'm cleaning up after other people, too, and I find that that makes me angry.

Right now, I am overwhelmed by the fact that we are leaving for our annual camping trip in four or five days. When we get back, I have only a week to get my kids ready to leave on yet another camping trip: my son is leaving with his Scout troop to go to Newfoundland and my daughter is going to a Girl Guide camp in B.C. To say I am panicky is to put it mildly. You know what? I need to make lists. But first, I need to clear off my desk.

3) I have no clue how to keep myself awake. I need to figure it out, though, as tonight will be one of those nights. My daughter started summer vacation today: so she slept in. I have no idea how I am going to get to bed at a decent hour. I'll look things up on-line later.

Right now, I need to clean off my desk.

Just looking at it makes me want to hyperventilate.
Cue chocolate.

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