I’m not in particularly good head space I as I type this post. This past week was a very difficult one for me on the food front. There are things going on in my life right now that are sources of great anxiety and no little depression. Historically, both of these things make me crave specific types of food, and this time around is no different. This past week I gave in to those cravings several times, and at one point I moved beyond what I would call overeating and into binge territory.
It started with the emotions--depression, anxiety, and sometimes even anger--and then I found myself fixating on my favorite comfort foods. This went beyond what might be considered a craving. It was an agonizing process in which I spent three or four hours arguing with that negative inner voice I've mentioned before.
I don’t need it, I argued. I can get by without that pizza and macaroni and cheese. I don’t need that bag of chips, or an extra serving of ice cream.
But you’ll feel better, that insidious little voice informed me. It’ll taste so good, and you’ll have that nice soporific feeling. You’ll be able to take a nap and then you’ll forget about all the nasty anxiety for a while, and it’ll only be for this once. Just this once . . .
Except once turned into twice, then three times, and then I found myself in the middle of an all out binge. It was over almost before I realized it had started, which is how it often works. Once I quit beating myself up for failing to win the argument with my inner voice, I ruthlessly made myself go back and log every single thing I’d eaten. I’d eaten over 3000 calories in just two hours. To put that in perspective, my baseline calorie allowance for an entire day is 1650. I stared at the total and started to cry with both shame and frustration, and my inner dialogue got worse.
Well, now you've done it, that little voice said. Bet this happens again soon. Ready to throw in the towel yet? I mean, this is about where you gave up the last time, right?
I won’t lie. I seriously contemplated it for a day or two. I halfheartedly counted calories on those days, and had to really push myself to engage in my running routine. I felt my depression worsening and my anxiety was so bad that there were moments where I had to consciously restrain myself from tugging on my hair. This is what happens when I’m floundering and trying to make myself “do the right thing” and not give in to that evil little voice that urges me to undo all the hard work I've already done. I went to bed Saturday night feeling overly tired and brittle around the edges. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was dreading the Sunday morning weigh-in.
Sunday morning it took me nearly 20 minutes to find my courage and step onto the scales. I cried again, but this time they were tears of relief. I hadn't gained any weight. In fact, I’d lost just over two pounds.
Thank you, I offered up to the Universe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
But at the same time, I felt like the weight loss had been sheer luck. I was still treading on dangerous ground as my inner dialogue continued to be negative. I did my best to turn that dialogue off as I made myself a healthy breakfast and got ready to leave for Sunday service. I still felt like I was floundering, that I might have reached a point where I might not be able to go on. I kept pleading with that negative voice to be quiet, but it would not be silenced.
Why are you even trying? You’ll just do this again the next time your life gets overly stressful. Just make the decision to give up now and you’ll feel better.
These are the thoughts that were going through my head as I sat down in the sanctuary for Sunday service. I focused on the ritual and the music, and that voice kind of faded away, but then our minister asked us each to catalog what we thought our personal deficits and gifts were. After the week I’d had it was easy to find the deficits, but I couldn't think of any gifts at that moment. I think my inner turmoil finally surfaced in my expression, because the very good friend that was sitting next to me wrapped her arm around my shoulder and whispered into my ear:
“Your gifts FAR outweigh your deficits.”
In the wake of her words my negative internal dialogue fell silent, and I was finally able to see reason. One binge does not make me a failure, nor does it mean I need to give up. Yes, I had a bad week, but that doesn't mean subsequent weeks need to be more of the same. I can do this. I’ve already lost over one hundred pounds and run on a regular basis. I just need to keep doing all the good things and not beat myself up when I occasionally slip up.
And as the minister finished up his sermon, I finally relocated my resolve.
I’m not giving up, I told that negative voice.
It didn't respond.
And to the friend that whispered into my ear, I know at the time you had no idea your words were a lifeline, but they were. Thank you.