Thursday, June 19, 2008

Struggling with Food

“I struggle with my weight. When my child was about 2, and I was still choosing to have complete control over what food was in the house and how often or rarely we ate sweets, I was able to lose a bunch of weight and it felt great. It's not just vanity, I have more energy, etc. when I'm at a healthier weight.

Now that I am keeping more sweet stuff in the house, and trying to create a sense of abundance around food, I have gained back all that I lost plus some, and I can't seem to lose it. It is too hard to have all this yummy stuff around and not eat it when I'm tired or frustrated.

I do not want to make my child a part of my issues about food and eating, so do not want to enlist hir "help" in keeping the sweets out of sight or anything like that.

Got any good thinking points for me?”

It seems to me like you’ve got two solid areas to consider – change your internal thinking about food, or change your external environment. Within those areas, you’ve got a lot of options, and I think it’s important to remember that you can work on both areas at the same time. (Set your environment up so that success is easy while also working on dismantling thought patterns that trip you up.)

One important thing I think you need to be aware of is simply that your child, by virtue of living with you, is going to see your issues with food. Maybe that means seeing you indulge in sweet stuff when you’re tired and frustrated, or seeing you put sweet stuff in a special locked cabinet, or seeing you take ten deep breaths and count to 100 every single time you look at a sugary treat, or or or or or… Whatever you do, however you choose to deal with or hide from this issue, that will be part of your child’s environment and frame of reference. I don’t think that talking explicitly with your child about your issues with food will “make” your child part of your issues. I do think that, whether you like it or not, your issues are likely to have some impact on how your child views food. I think there is a difference between saying “I’m buying this for you, so I’m putting it in this drawer/bin/Tupperware/cupboard,” and saying “I’m buying this for you, don’t ever share any with me not matter how much I beg and plead, and always leave it locked so I can’t sneak no matter how much I want to.” Does it change how you view the food if it’s in a drawer with your child’s name on it vs. being in a communal cupboard? Do you want it more or less? (I don’t think there’s a right answer to that one. I think what matters is that you know YOUR answer. If you’ll crave it more if it is supposed to be someone else’s, than give yourself permission to eat it. If you feel freed from wanting it by seeing it as someone else’s, than slap a nametag on it and let it go.)

Some things to think about…

Solve for the exhaustion and frustration that trigger binging you feel bad about. Find ways that consistently work for you to get rest and feel mellow.

Exercise more. Go for walks, ride a bike to the store, get Wii Fit, do yoga in your living room, treat cleaning up as a hardcore workout, do ten jumping jacks and ten pushups every single time you feel remotely crappy, frustrated, tired, hungry, sad, angry, etc.

Read about Margaret Cho’s “fuck it” diet, and consider dismissing all the rest of this “advice” of mine completely.

Stop yourself for a second before eating anything to think about what you’re feeding – your belly, your tongue, your emotions – and whether the food in your hand is the best solution you can think of. Plan ahead. Have a friend to call for when you need emotional support. Give yourself permission to taste things and then spit them in the garbage, or to take a nibble of something and toss the rest in the trash. Make a list of food that gives you energy and satisfies your belly, and post it on your fridge. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with vegetables that are ready to eat, fruit in pretty bowls in obvious places, quick protein snacks on hand (nuts, hard boiled eggs, good meat ready to eat), and so on.

Come up with other ideas for how to soothe yourself if you do end up frustrated or tired – music, light, scents, touch, exercise, sleep, conversations… Then do those things. Put your lists on the cupboards or on the fridge. Stop yourself when you see them, and read them.

You are right that this is your problem. Now you just need to figure out how you want to solve it. I hope something here proves useful.

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