While I’ll never been so overweight that my health is at risk, I’ve been constantly trying to lose that last [insert random number between 10 and 40 here] pounds for the last five years. I actually had lost 20lbs right before Christmas and then immediately gained back 10 of it. So I’ve been trying to re-lose that 10lbs ever since. Re-losing weight you’ve already lost recently is emotionally taxing because you spend a lot of time kicking yourself in the head for gaining it to begin with. It’s also unhealthy. There are studies out there that say losing and gaining the same 10lbs over and over again is worse for your body than just keeping it on to begin with. I’d link to the study but it’s cold in my house right now and I’m just trying to whip this entry out before my fingers freeze off.
Yesterday was a Bad Day. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or change your lifestyle at all – you know the Bad Day. It’s the day where, somewhere a long the way, your eating program goes out the window and you find yourself giving up on the entire day ending in a fit of binging that sometimes sees you falling asleep at 10pm with your face in a bowl of Cheese Puffs. My Bad Days are not always about junk food, mainly because we rarely keep junk food in the house. Sometimes I’ll make a Bad Day worse by hitting a fast food joint, but most of my Bad Days just involve me eating too much good stuff. I like a lot of healthy foods – like yogurt and granola. So, a Bad Day might see me binging on that throughout the day. That fact is probably the only thing keeping me ballooning to a greater size – that when I binge it is usually on healthy food. However, calories are calories so when you eat double what you should – whether it’s in yogurt or french fries – you’re going to gain back weight you’ve lost. Which is where I am right now. Where I was yesterday.
I sat in bed last night thinking about my relationship with food. It is such an emotional relationship. A Bad Day for me never involves just food. It’s always bad for emotional reasons as well. Some days I can easily say: I binged because I was stressed. Or: I binged because I missed my Dad. Or: I binged because I yelled at my kids unnecessarily and I felt really guilty about that. Many days food is my therapy. It helps ease my anxiety or depression. It’s my friend to call when I’m stressed or angry.
But it also goes the other way. My food started out bad yesterday when I allowed myself an unhealthy splurge for breakfast: An Egg McMuffin. I used to eat those all the time and I just allowed myself to have one yesterday. I thought, the calorie count isn’t too much more than what I usually eat for breakfast, I can get away with it. Except that something inside of me recognized the inherent badness of the food and you know what? My emotional well-being paid the price. I feel like my depression and anxiety shifted after eating that and the day just got worse. In other words – the bad food? Put me in a bad mood. I’ve often seen this as a predictable relationship in my life: If I eat shitty? I feel shitty. And then, I feel shitty – so I eat more shittily. (Dude. I totally just made up a word.) It’s an unhealthy cycle involving my emotions and food.
I guess I’ve always know this – that food and my emotions are connected. I just don’t think I realized how clearly they’re connected until yesterday when I honestly watched my productivity decline and my stress and anxiety level rise as the grease from the breakfast sandwich permeated my bloodstream. And since it was breakfast? The day went downhill from there. By the time I went to bed last night I had cried more in that day than I had in the weeks prior. And I had also eaten about 3500 calories of granola, yogurt, and also some pizza. (Because, let’s face it, if you’ve trashed your diet by dinner time? Why waste the energy cooking something healthy?)
It’s a weird thing to recognize something concretely that I’ve been vaguely hinting at for years. I’ve always known I had an unhealthy relationship with food, turning to it when I’m not feeling 100%. But I don’t think I ever realized how clearly it works the other way as well: That splurging on something bad for me can also so distinctly shift my mood in the bad direction. Starting the horrible cycle of eating and crying that inevitably defines my Bad Day.
I’m hoping this really clear evidence will help me reshape my relationship with food. Really look at it as fuel for my emotions and trying to make decisions with a better understanding of how it really can affect my mental state. I mean, the Sausage McGriddle tastes amazing (Why must McDonald’s have such an enticing breakfast menu?) – but what’s it going to do to my emotions? Is it worth the tears it may cause later? Is it worth the lack of patience I’ll show with my children? Is it worth the sacrifice my family will have to make as I cry all night? NO. I can honestly tell you that no food, no matter how delicious, is worth all of that. My family deserves better from me…but more importantly? I deserve better. I deserve to feel good, and if that greasy breakfast sandwich is going to make me feel like crap? Then why do I eat it? Hopefully – I won’t. I’m really going to try to examine how foods make me feel. And maybe even try to examine how my feelings affect my cravings. I know I head straight to the pantry when I get stressed…maybe if I recognize that it will be easier to battle it?
(Please don’t tell me to go for a run instead. My husband tells me that and it makes me want to punch him in the face. It’s probably the best advice anyone could give someone who eats when they’re stressed/depressed; but it doesn’t mean we actually enjoy hearing it.)
I’m curious if any of you have had any of these realizations with your relationship with food. Have you noticed any relationships between your mood and how you eat? Does one affect the other? We all know that certain foods help or hinder our energy level – but what about our depression or anxiety? Have you noticed certain foods having a positive or negative effect on those emotional states?
So: Today? I’m going to focus more on eating for my mind. For my heart. Not the organ beating in my chest, but the heart of my emotions. I want to eat in a way that helps me smile, that doesn’t block my inspirations, and that allows me to be productive in the ways I want to be productive. Maybe this is the first step in me breaking up with unhealthy eating habits. I’ve realized the relationship is bad for me, now I just have to take the key back and burn all the love letters. That’s the hard part. Too bad I don’t have my old Milli Vanilli tape. A little bit of Blame It On The Rain might help with the healing.