I’ve been feeling like I’m on the verge of overwhelm lately. I’m not there, but I have to pull out all my best self-care to keep myself from going there. The overwhelm is two-fold: (1) lots of work — all awesome, but still — lots and (2) the looming one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing.
With these two things on board, I’ve been noticing a destructive thought pattern creeping back into my consciousness: loads of desire to go on a diet. I’ve thought about how much weight I can lose before my fall teaching tour, why it probably wouldn’t be a big deal if I started weighing myself every day and how cool it would be if all I “ate” was green juice for the next month.
<Insert sound of record screeching to a halt here>
I Thought We Were Over This
Fortunately, all my years of processing this dieting instinct caused me to catch it pretty quickly — before I even managed to put myself on a diet.
This alone is a miracle. (One I worked really hard for, but still – totally amazing and cause to celebrate.)
Once I started to notice what was going on (“I am wanting to diet; that’s weird.”), I had to start looking for the big question — WHY?
I know from past experience that the first answer is never right. Because my first answer is inevitably some variation of “because you really need to lose weight, you ridiculous loser.”
So after a string of those got out of the way, I was able to settle in a bit more. And then it hit me: Of course. Of course!
Of course I want to go on a diet — that is a hell of a lot easier than, oh, doing scary new things and grieving the loss of your beloved father. Tons easier. INFINITELY easier.
I See Something Shiny
I have a little bit of the “shiny” syndrome. Maybe you know what I mean — some people see something “shiny” (new shoes, a different career, an interesting person) and then immediately focus on that and get distracted from what’s in front of them.
For me, dieting is my “shiny.” Rather than face my nerves, my anxiety, my sadness, my nostalgia, I go to dieting. It only makes sense and it looks like this:
See/think/feel something I’d rather avoid = diet
This “works” for me in a couple ways: (1) It allows me to not feel whatever I’m trying to avoid, (2) It gives me what always feels like a “justified” activity — dieting because I really need to and (3) It gets others off my back because, in some messed up way, we’ve decided that diets are a great topic of conversation, so it’s easy to fill up time with that instead of say, how I’m really feeling.
This Go ‘Round
What’s interesting to me this time around the should I/shouldn’t I diet cycle is that, unlike last time, I caught it earlier — before it even started.
(Did I mention this is a miracle?)
And what this tells me is that progress is possible — it’s slow and VERY painstaking at times. But it happens. The urge isn’t completely gone (and maybe it never will be — five + years in, it’s too early for me to tell). But I’m getting craftier in seeing it for what it is — something that has literally nothing (zip, zilch, zero) to do with my body.
And knowing that feels really good because it allows me to look at and process whatever is really going on, which is the relief I wanted in the first place but just wouldn’t let myself acknowledge.
Wanting to implement the same process in your life, around dieting or anything else? Here’s my process; feel free to give it a try.
- Notice what’s going on (“Hmm…I’ve been thinking about trying that new diet quite a bit lately.”)
- Gently, lovingly ask yourself (“What is really going on here?”)
- Allow whatever comes up to come up, no matter how ridiculous it sounds (“I wish I didn’t have to go to that party next week.” “I’m worried about my daughter.” “My big project is due in 3 weeks and I don’t know how I’ll get it done.”)
- Now check back in on your coping behavior (dieting in my case, but maybe something else in yours): “Was a diet really what I was looking for? How and why would that be addressing the issue I just identified as my root problem?”
- Now that the true issue is at hand, ask yourself with SO much care what support you need instead (a trusted friend’s ear, a day off, a nap, someone to help you with some short-term work tasks).
Finally, get the support you need. Identifying & meeting your true needs may be the most important thing you can do in this life. It transforms you and everyone around you.