I am my own worst enemy in so, so many ways, but this particular self sabotage is very much of the emotional eating variety.
I’ve had a tendency towards unhealthy binge eating since I was a teenager. I could quite easily have eaten a whole chocolate cake or back of cherry Bakewells, but alongside being a fussy eater who ate very little as a matter if course as well as a teenage metabolism, I never really suffered any obvious negative effects like weight gain.
These days, being post-30 and eating more in the way of actual meals, I’m not so lucky.
I really want to be a
thinner, fitter, healthier person (the ‘thinner’ is slightly important to me, but the fitter & healthier is becoming more of a priority than actual size). I’ve never been particularly interested in sport or exercise, but as I get older and my metabolism conspires against me it has become abundantly clear that I can no longer just eat what I want or get away without purposeful physical activity if I don’t want to become morbidly obese (and almost certainly develop diabetes). I’ve had some mixed success with bouts of healthy eating and increased physical activity, but they have been entirely episodic and usually dwindle away into obscurity after a few months, usually as winter approaches.
If you read my last post you’ll know that I’ve been eating less meat and paying much more attention to my nutrition and what and how I’m eating. I’ve also developed a good habit of taking a walk on my lunch break and have been attending Pilates classes for almost 5 months. All these things combined have had noticeable effects on my body and I feel I have more defined muscle than I have ever had before. It make me feel good.
Most of the time I manage to eat really quite well. The problem is I really struggle to manage my eating at times when I am unhappy, stressed, tired, bored or lonely (or even just cold sometimes). When I’m not feeling good all my good intentions (and previous efforts) go out the window and I reach for The Calories – ALL The Calories. The picture below is just one example of a day when I was feeling stressed and unhappy so stopped by Tesco on my “healthy lunchtime walk” and purchased nearly 1500 calories in chocolate – a full three quarters of an adult female’s daily recommended intake (all of which was consumed within 36 hours), not to mention the 161g of sugar (more than 5 times the recommended maximum daily intake).
I’m an intelligent person, I know what I’m doing and I know it’s not healthy, but I seem to lack the willpower to stop myself as I’m doing it. I’ve read lots about how to tackle comfort eating, but in the moment I never seem to actually be able to apply what I know, particularly if I’m already low or angry or irritable. I know I’m not actually hungry, I know that a non-sugary alternative is a better health choice, but my internal reward system just doesn’t respond to an apple the same way it does to a donut.
I can even recognise the behaviours I’ve developed around my sugar cravings (addiction).
I will bargain with myself. It’s ok if you eat this now if you want it, you can just exercise when you get home, which is just a deferral and then when I get home I can tell myself it’s ok, I’m tired, there’s always tomorrow. Always tomorrow. Always.
I certainly have denial issues around my binging as well. I hide what I buy and eat it in secret on my own and will even ‘hide’ it from myself by not logging it in my Fitbit food diary. I am ashamed, too ashamed to even fully admit it to myself half the time.
I also know that it’s, at least partially, self reinforcing. Feel shit, eat junk, feel shit about eating the junk, eat more junk, feel more shit……etc, and breaking the cycle is difficult.
The only thing I’ve really found that has any ‘long term’ success is ensuring I don’t have these foods around the house. I still have the issue of their widespread availability when I’m out and about, but not having junk in the house reduces my access significantly. As usual, my problem is sticking with it and eventually a pack of cookies or tub of ice cream makes it onto the shopping order and the flood gates are open again. It’s actually surprisingly hard to go about life in a normal way without being exposed to tempting treats, which makes it difficult to keep up the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.
The stupid thing about all of this is that after the few moments of pleasure I derive from indulging myself I will feel utterly wretched and disgusted with myself. The really stupid thing is that I knew I would because it’s happened before. The really, really stupid thing is that I expect I’ll do it again, probably in the not too distant future.