Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Different Type of New Year's Day

I've always loved New Year's Day. It represents a clean slate. It's a chance to start over, do things the right way, "get my act together" and stop killing myself slowly with bad habits.

I've spent previous January 1sts surrounded by a stack of  fitness magazines and notebooks, making endless lists of menu plans, workout itineraries and weekly schedules. Like many other "dieters",  I would attempt a way-too-intense workout and make a spartan meal to start the year off right. And by 9:08 a.m. on January 2nd all of the previous day's planning had been nullified by a craving and caving in to a sugary foe.

This January 1st is different. I am still planning out a weekly menu, but it's something I do all of the time now. I am still making a schedule of when I will work out this week, but that's because if I don't put it on the calendar other things can easily become "more important." What's different this year is that I understand that planning is not the Holy Grail of weight loss. Don't get me wrong, planning is important. "Failing to plan is planning to fail." We can't feed ourselves properly without having the right food in the house and making time to prepare it. But the number one thing that I need for a healthy lifestyle is my mental game plan.

This is the whole point to Brownie Rehab. Most of us are intelligent people who understand that we need to exercise and eat healthy food in order to be fit. But for compulsive or emotional eaters, this knowledge is not enough. We need to have the mental tools to help us make the right choices WHEN LIFE IS THROWING US CURVEBALLS. Menus and workout plans can't help when the kids are screaming, the checkbook is in the red, your Mother is gossiping about your cousins and the car is making a $1000 noise.

The first tool in my mental game plan is the emotional eating journal. If you don't have one, click here to read all about it. Once you've tracked your triggers for a few weeks, the next step is to pause and ask yourself "What do I REALLY need?" when you find yourself reaching for that brownie. This is the part that takes practice.

The first question to ask yourself is actually  "What am I really upset about?" The mental conversation might sound like this: "The kids are fighting and I can't take it anymore. My nerves are on edge. I don't have any patience left. I'm exhausted and raw."

The second question is "What do I really need?" The obvious answer is that you need the kids to stop fighting. But what else specifically can help the situation? Maybe the kids need some time to themselves - not necessarily a punishment, just time without their sibling to feel like they can do what they want instead of having to constantly negotiate.  It could be as simple as having one kid play in the kitchen and the other one play in the family room. 

If you keep pondering "What do I really need" you might find other answers too. Maybe you'll admit that you need some time to yourself to decompress. It's like the pre-flight instructions on a plane - put your own oxygen mask on first, before you try to take care of anyone else.  Try to get a babysitter, negotiate free time with your spouse or call another Mom that you can trade drop off playdates. You might realize that you're just physically tired and you need to force yourself to go to bed earlier instead of staying up sucking time on Facebook.

This example happened to be parenting related, but the idea is always the same. When you find yourself staring into the pantry, searching mindlessly for something you know you'll regret later... pause.  Ask yourself  "Am I actually hungry? Why am I looking for something that I know I'll feel guilty about later? Am I actually upset about something? What can I do to resolve whatever is bothering me?"

The deeper you delve into "What do I really need?", the closer you'll come to gaining control of emotional eating.

The core of emotional eating is that we eat to stifle our emotions, the same way an alcoholic drinks to escape their problems. Actually dealing with our emotions and trying to problem solve are equally, if not more, important than any menu plan or exercise routine.

Happy New Year. May this be the year that you find what you really need.



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