Self Care not Self Indulgence

I’ve been thinking a lot about Self-Care lately. I have been on a journey as I try to get to the root of my over-eating problems, food addictions, bad habits and life-style choices that have left me in a state of being overweight and unhealthy. I’ve been trying to figure out why I keep self-sabotaging all my attempts to be healthier, lose weight etc. What is wrong with me? 

 

Through this process, a couple stories from my childhood have come to mind. I wrote them down. I thought about them a lot. And slowly, a pattern revealed itself. I use food as a form of Being Kind to myself. In my mind, allowing myself to have that: extra helping, piece of chocolate, bakery delight, ice cream etc. is a way that I try to be kind to myself. I’m feeling depressed. I go eat something yummy. I’m stressed out. I buy myself a chocolate bar. I’m overwhelmed. I go eat fast food.  In all these situations I am feeling the need to be kind to myself and food has become the way that I do that. 

 

Obviously, this actually not being kind to myself. It has caused me to be overweight and unhealthy. That is not kindness. 

 

During these past weeks, I had a friend who was doing an “88 Days of Self-Care” where she described every day what she was doing to take care of herself. But I didn’t really grasp what she was doing until I read a post someone had shared about Self-Care by SORT THIS. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The main point that I carried away is that Self-Care is basically Self-Parenting. It’s not Self-Indulgence. I have definitely been completely into the self-indulgence thing. As a Parent of Many Children, hearing the term Self-Parent starts all kinds of bells ringing. I understand this concept. I know how to parent. I do this all day. No, you can’t have that candy. You don’t need to be eating sugar. Get your butts outside and play, you’ve been sitting around the house all day. Go get some sunshine, you’ve been cooped up in a dark room all day. Eat your vegetables! You need the nutrients! Take your vitamins, it will help you stay healthier. Have you had enough water today? Don’t forget you need to drink water all day! No, we’re not having dessert tonight, you don’t need to have dessert every day. 

 

I know all about parenting. 

 

This has been a paradigm shift for me. How to be Kind to Esther? Parent Esther. Don’t Indulge Esther. Stressed out? Go for a walk, get on the elliptical. Journal. Play the piano. Feeling Depressed? Repeat the above. Unhealthy? Talk to your doctor, find out what changes you need to make. Make the changes. 

 

In the past, my biggest hang up was that self-denial felt like being mean to myself. And after a while I would just get over it. Life is hard and I want someone to be kind to me. And not getting to eat dessert during the holidays while everyone else is, felt mean. Not getting that special treat when I was stressed did not feel kind at all. 

 

But now, I’m trying to see it through the lense of parenting. When I see a child walking around with an armful of junk food, stuffing their faces, I don’t think, “Oh what a lucky child! Someone was so nice to give them that!” I think, “Why is this kid’s parents letting him eat all that? It’s going to make them sick!” Parenting. Saying no because you’re looking at the Big Picture instead of the in-the-moment desires. I know you want to stay up all night watching tv, but you have school in the morning, so you need to get in bed on time. Saying No because you love this person and you want the best for them. And the best involves discipline. 

 

So, for the upcoming year, that is my goal. Start parenting myself. 

 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 5 It’s All A Mind Game

I’ve been thinking about rules and diet plans and cheating on those rules and diet plans. I am feeling ready to move forward…I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about how I think, figuring out why I eat, but I want to make some changes now. The problem is, when I think about diet plans I start feeling panicky. Let’s see, if I do this diet plan, it means I can no longer ever eat sugar. Ok, well, before I start this diet plan, I need to go buy a box of chocolates, and maybe eat a bit more ice cream and maybe have some cake and pie one more time, because, I really love desserts and if I’m going to have to give them up, then I better have one last fling! Oh wait, I could do this other diet plan instead, it says no animal products. Ok, well, first I need to have one more cheeseburger and some bacon and maybe a really good piece of grilled BBQ chicken, cause if I’m giving up meat, I need to have one last fling! And on and on it goes. Someone tells me that I can’t have something ever again and I instantly want to have it.

I’ve been trying to think how I can circumnavigate this tendency of mine. What if I decide to go on a certain diet and I just go in with the idea that I can cheat whenever I want to? Or what if I just give up on diet all together and just make small healthy changes, one at a time? Here’s the problem. My baseline behavior is to crave food that isn’t good for me and eat it in quantities that I don’t need. I need structure. I need a system. I need a chance to wean myself off of some of the more addicting foods like sugar and excess salt and fat. Processed foods that excite my taste buds, but give me a stomach ache. I need to get off of all that stuff so that I can re-learn how to enjoy the taste of fruit and vegetables. I need to restrict myself so that I re-learn how to be satisfied with a much smaller serving. I need a diet plan. I even have a diet plan. One of my own making that is simply based on what my body seems to like and not like: unlimited fruits and vegetables, limited grain, limited fat, lean meat, no dairy except maybe the occasional sprinkle of cheese, no sugar. Over years of dieting and “lifestyle changes” I’ve discovered that this particular way of eating makes me feel good and I drop weight when I do this.

What I’m trying to figure out is how to deal with things like birthdays and holidays and potlucks with friends. I find that when I severely restrict myself I do good for months and then suddenly something snaps and I just get tired of depriving myself of dessert and so I cheat and then that cheat just seems to open up the floodgates and suddenly I am no longer eating healthy any more and am instead bingeing on all of my favorite unhealthy foods. This is what I’m trying to figure out how to avoid.

Maybe if I go into the diet telling myself, you are going to eat healthy, but if temptation should rear it’s head on a special occasion, then you can just go ahead and have a small helping of the bad stuff. And maybe, if I know that I can cheat whenever I want, it won’t be so hard to resist or go back to the healthy eating after I’ve cheated. It’s a mind game. All of this is a mind game.

Well, I think that’s going to be the plan. I hope to start when I do my next grocery shopping. Here’s to healthy eating and here’s to winning the mind game.