CheezIt Ice Cream Hangover

What can I say? I have been off path this month. I have felt uninspired, stodgy, dull and frustrated with myself. I ate CheezIts and ice cream for dinner one night. Not together, though I don’t know why that distinction matters. It does. The ice cream was my entree and then I ate the CheezIts after. Later, when I was feeling unwell, I said,

CheezIts and ice cream was a bad choice for dinner.

I’m not saying that one shouldn’t have ice cream for dinner. Ice cream is great! And, this isn’t even badasssnowflakethe ‘off-path’ part of this scenario. I intend to eat ice cream for dinner with CheezIt sprinkles if the mood strikes me. However, I was feeling like shit because I had been eating foods lacking in nutrition. I had not been moving my body. I was feeling depressed and then I ate ice cream and CheezIts for dinner. And this dinner choice lead to a spiral of self-destructive mind chatter. It sent me into the, I have been struggling with self-care for 44 years now with NOTHING positive ever happening ever space. I ate CheezIt ice cream for dinner and no, this isn’t a Ben & Jerry’s flavor. Everything is a disaster, now. And a friend said to me,

Hold on a minute, I’ve got to stop you there.

And this is where the self-compassion conversation picked up again. Thank you for the reminder.

In my 44 years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what Healthy looks like and a lot of time plotting how I would get there. My ideals have been directed by a societal pressure that equates thinness with health and beauty. I made GOALS. I said, this is what perfect is and anything short of that is imperfect. It felt a lot like failing, a lot of the time. It felt dismissive of all the better than I could have imagined things happening on the way to the goal. In no way, did healthy ever look like, eating Cheezit ice cream for dinner. I must be failing, again.  And the time between the CheezIts and ice cream dinner, the weight loss obsession, the extreme fitness exercise regimes, and the self loathing are the times when I am feeling healthy and in the flow. What about those times?  How could I let a moment of dodgy dinner choice cloud a whole lifetime? Now would be a good time to practice self-compassion, my friend reminds me.

Self-compassion allows me to see that I am always moving towards greater awareness. The path has not been straight. It has zig-zagged a bit, double backed and meandered but, not necessarily been off-course. A kindness kicks in to replace all of the harsh self-talk. As, I define what health and beauty means for me, I learn to approach CheezIt ice cream dinner hangovers not as lapses or evidence of failure but, rather as a trimming of the sails. A reminder of what feels good for me and what is helpful in living my life as I intend. I have times when it is easy and times when I struggle.

Whatever I have done that is less than my perceived perfect is done. It is history. It is part of the history that makes my glorious life. I love it, All. And what I don’t like, well, I can change that.

Here are some ways to practice self-compassion if you are feeling critical. These practices are based on research by Karen Neff, PH. D, author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind and excerpted from 5 Strategies for Self-compassion by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. writing for World of Psychology. Full article here.

  • Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Watch your language. Is it something you would say to a friend? If, not, then don’t say it to your self. Use kind words in self-talk.

  • Comfort yourself with a physical gesture. Kind physical gestures have an immediate effect on our bodies, activating the soothing parasympathetic system, Neff said. Specifically, physical gestures “get you out of your head and drop you into your body,” she said, which is important since “the head loves to run away with storylines.” For instance, she suggested putting your hands over your heart or simply holding your arm. Any gesture will do.

  • Have an arsenal of kind phrases at the ready, whenever you start with the ‘I am a disaster’ talk. Pick statements that really resonate with you. Combining that with a physical gesture — like hands over your heart — is especially powerful, Neff said. She uses the following phrases:

    This is a moment of suffering.
    Suffering is part of life.
    May I be kind to myself in this moment?
    May I give myself the compassion I need?

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Humans: Wonderful and Completely Annoying

I had planned to write a post about how wonderful and completely annoying humans are all at once. As a race, we do the most extraordinary things, act selflessly, create beauty and joy, climb mountains and then push one another off those mountains- this is the annoying bit about humans. We create and destroy. We love and hate. We get together to help a stranger and don’t use our turn signals- a maddening habit. But, that all seems too heavy for today. And I feared it might just end up in a rant about turn signals. I won’t go into the existential Rabbit Hole of being human today- of all days.

Because this is a day for over eating and lethargy. It’s like, my perfect holiday. Why spoil it trying to understand humans? Thanksgiving, a hiding place for binge eaters. On Thanksgiving, it is not only acceptable, but encouraged to eat to the point of discomfort. We start early in the day so that there is time to nap and have a second round of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pie, eating the turkey to be polite and get to the good stuff. The phrase ‘food coma’ is bandied about, ‘it’s all good, let em sleep it off’. I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it! And yet, I feel a little uneasy.

Maybe, I want to do things a little differently this year? I did resist the urge to eat the pizza rolls in the garbage, remember? I have taken steps toward changing my relationship to food. I might want to feel more energized, joyful and engaged today rather than uncomfortable, numb and sleepy. The challenge for me then: Can I be mindful? Can I fill up on gratitude and good company with one side of mashed potatoes? And not get drunk doing it? I think, if I remember the essence of the holiday, which is Gratitude, that I have a chance.  Here is a shortlist of what I am thankful for right now:

  1. BBC period dramas- Downton Abbey is fantastic.
  2. The Redheads Cafe- It’s like an episode of Cheers in there, love a small town cafe!
  3. The beautiful white snow covering all of the crap in my yard. I won’t be grateful for this come the New Year so, this is a big one for me.
  4. Videos of cats and humans doing things to cats on the internet. I am working with a group of artists on a new video in this genre, hold space for that. It’s going to be huge.
  5. Truth tellers, helpers and creators.
  6. Pumpkin pie: It’s pie. It’s a vegetable. Totally good for you.
  7. Humans who forget to use their turn signals. They keep me present, paying attention. I am not fully committed to this line of gratitude, wavering a bit but, I will leave it here, for now.
  8. YOU. Thanks for reading. Tell me what you are thanking the stars for today.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all.

It’s All Too Much

I had a lot of conversations this past week on the theme of feeling overwhelmed, or at least enough to make me pay attention. I continue to feel swept away by food choices, out of my element as I restructure my relationship with eating. And this is a big deal, Food and I go back a long way. We have been companions, side by side, through thick and thin- well, not so much thin but, you get where I am coming from. I have eaten for reasons other than physical hunger. Food is pissed at me for leaving and I am sometimes sad and second guessing the intention. I refer you to the Pizza Rolls post. And admit that I ate some very tasty sweet orange marmalade toast thingys to the point of feeling ill Monday afternoon. So yah, this change is gradual and wading through what to eat to FEEL GOOD has felt, at times, overwhelming.

I have noticed that this feeling of ‘it’s all too much’ comes along with a good dose of self-pity, powerlessness and lack. Interesting. It’s too much because I’m not/there’s not/it’s not enough. There is not enough time. There is not enough money. You don’t do your share. I can’t handle this. It doesn’t matter what I am overwhelmed with: chores, bills, day planner, meetings, groceries, kids. The source of the distress comes from lack, comes from scarcity, it is fear…again. I talked about fear in last week’s post, Looking For Helpers. The response to which was overwhelming in a good way. I had so many offers of support in my effort, pledges for donations too! Thank you for those comments. In that post, I referenced Pressfield’s The Art of War and his idea that resistance and fear are part of the process of change for the good. I think it bears repeating. Forward movement is met with resistance. Remember this, it helps. And this too:

  1. Segmenting: Take whatever it is that is TOO MUCH and break it down into sections. And then, tackle a section. Writing the whole book feels like too much but, a chapter is doable.
  2. Time limits: I used to get really bent out of shape about housework. I would rage clean, muttering, am I the only one around here who knows how to clean the fill in the blank. A good friend of mine suggested I try limiting the time I spent on the chore. So, I would say, “I am going to get as much done as I can in 30 minutes.” And then walk away, move on to the next thing, like having fun. I find this especially good for those never-ending chores. There is always going to be more laundry.
  3. Gratitude: Just take a few minutes to write a list of everything that brings you joy, peace, ease and wellness. We have amazing resources to tap into all around us. Sometimes we need reminding.
  4. Prioritize: Order your lists, and I know you have lists for your lists, put them in order of importance. If item #1 doesn’t get done I’m going to die and so on. Oh and  make item #1 about self-care, put your own oxygen mask on first. I’m still working on this one, myself. I structure my ‘To Do’ list a little differently these days. It is more about how I want to feel and less about what I must get done. I’m productive as all hell most days but, the one thing I let slip in priority is my excercise. #1 on my list is Move Your Body.
  5. Acknowledge it Sucks: Sometimes just allowing myself to feel the weight of what I have to accomplish or wade through is enough to allow me to face it and begin, taking the first step is often the hardest. It totally blows that you have to do X, Y and Z. But, you have what it takes and see #3 and #6.
  6. Call on your Helpers: The folks that you are your best with- The A Team. You know who they are and they will be there to help you with perspective, help you clean your refrigerator, pick up your kids, if you ask. And if you can’t think of anyone to call on put Look For Helpers at the top of your list. We all need help.

Pizza Rolls

I was sitting on the couch, in a bit of a daydream, wondering if I was going to go into the kitchen and eat the pizza rolls out of the trash. Would that be bad? I thought. I really thought about it and then, dude, that is a line you do not want to cross. You start eating things out of the trash, there is no going back. And I realize there are dumpster divers who eat discarded food, I’m ok with that. It’s not my thing but, I get that it is still ‘good’. I’m not judging. I also understand that there are folks out there who have needed to eat like this to survive. However, this is not the case for me. I have plenty of good, healthy food in the cupboard. I threw the kid’s pizza rolls in the trash because they are not good for me and I did not want to eat them. They burn my mouth and make me sick. I also love them and my mind wandered toward their salty, crispy, orangeness, just hanging out in the garbage waiting for me. It was a low moment in my life.

Let me give you some background on what brought me to this point. I have long used food for reasons other than nutrition. It has been my comfort, my celebration, my shame and constant companion. I am perplexed by the notion that one might stop eating just before they were feeling full. I have always eaten beyond this point. I also have eaten for reasons other than physical hunger. There is the nervous hunger, the sad hunger, the happy hunger, the bored hunger and the whatever else I can think of reason to eat.  As a result of this life-long obsession and misuse of food, I carry extra weight and have recently begun to develop some health problems that are linked to poor nutrition.

I have been on every diet known to man and tried fitness craze after fitness craze. Including:

  • Jazzercize- this really dates me, leotards and tights. My mom took me, when I first hit adolescence and my round figure started to develop. It was fun but, kind of embarrassing. People were on the grapefruit and cabbage soup diets around this time.
  • Step aerobics- where I, beet red from exertion, fell off my step in class, causing the instructor to ask me if I was alright. We followed this class with breakfast out, usually pancakes, because- let’s face it, we earned those calories. It was around this time that I became vegetarian for a few years.
  • A spell of Jogging- Mostly downhill, I do hate to sweat.
  • Oh Modern Dance- I still to this day can not hear Paul Simon’s I Know What I Know without dying of laughter. I was always a beat off.
  • The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, Something I saw on Oprah, Something I read in Good Housekeeping, Dr Oz, Dr Weil, My own made up diet of cheese with a side of cheese and some lettuce.
  • Tae Bo, Tai Chi, and any thing on the fitness channel.
  • Adventures with Yoga- Not at all aerobic for me, which makes it hands-down favorite. You can read about how I equate it to napping here.
  • Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, fat free. What the fuck do I eat? diet. Which is about where I was when I contemplated eating pizza rolls from the trash.

And it is at this moment, when I am thinking of eating food from the trash, where I find this life long struggle with weight and body image, self-loathing, self-love, beauty, ugliness, societal pressures, my expectations, other’s expectations,  all fade away. It isn’t about any of that, any longer. It is about feeling good. And I am pretty clear that eating pizza rolls from the garbage can is not going to feel good. And Richard Simmons’ Sweating to the Oldies is not going to be the way to move my body. I have a truer guide, a better way and it is simply to ask, “Will this make me feel good?” And if the answer is Hells yah! then, have at it! I’m calling it the Hells yah diet and fitness regime. Who’s in?