Test Your Thoughts (Before they test you!)

September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

Not long ago, I wrote this post—Thought Storms.  It was all about the nonstop obsessive food thoughts that were terrorizing my entire Sunday.   They were harassing me like a couple of bullies who stand in the hallway at school and stalk you around with no reprieve.

Have you ever experienced a day like this before?  One where the thoughts are overwhelming.  The cravings are painful.  The hunger seems powerful.  And you spend a sheer 24 hours doing nothing more than trying to survive it without going off plan?

I have experienced many of these days.

It feels like I am literally hanging by a thread just trying to stick to my plan without diving into a box of donuts.

There are times my thoughts win and defeat me.  But then there are other times.  

The times when I WIN.

I beat the thoughts and I overcome THEM instead of THEM overcoming ME.

And then I think to myself…..

Well….well….well…...I’m stronger than I thought!

This is how it worked for me recently when I overcame those thoughts and won the battle.

I woke up the next morning and  felt amazing.  I looked in the mirror and thought:

“I’m awesome! I conquered it! I WON!”

Now I feel empowered.

I feel strong.

But I also feel in some ways shocked.

Like someone who in an emergency suddenly harnesses the power to lift a car off of a  person trapped below.

How did I do that??  Where did THAT strength come from??

That’s when you realize—I can do this!  And here comes the smile.  The pride in yourself because suddenly you can envision it.   You can see it all clearly now. This is going to happen!

THIS IS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN  

You are going to lose this weight.  You are going to fit in clothes.  You’re going to walk into a room and people will notice you are smaller.

It’s all going to come true.  Because you have it in you.  You have the power to make it happen.

Oh these are such wonderful days!!!!

I mean if you’re like me…. you’ve spent days—no, YEARS even—feeling the exact opposite of this.

Years of feeling powerless.

Years of feeling defeated.

But not today….

No–TODAY I feel powerful.  Because yesterday I defeated those demons.  So now I feel not just strong —but unusually strong.

I’m Wonder Woman.

I have an untapped strength inside of me and I can conquer whatever comes my way! Now everything seems different.  It’s not like the day before where the thoughts were pounding down on me like the storm that never stops.  No-today there is peace. Today there is the knowledge that I am going to finally get back on “track”.  Get this weight off.  Lose the pounds I had regained.  Finally there is progress.  Because  I battled those demons  and won.

I have the power now!!

This is how I felt on that Monday.  The previous day I had spent literally 24 hours feeling as if I was hanging off the edge of a building.  I had the ledge gripped with my fingertips trying not to fall into an abyss of food.  The very next day, though, I woke up with the knowledge that I had survived that day and won.  It left me with an entirely different feeling.  Now it was the food that was hanging onto that ledge and I was the one firmly on top.  Now I had the power.

The whole day went so well in fact that by the time 5 pm rolled around I felt more powerful than ever.

So powerful in fact that I started to entertain the following idea….

I am so mentally strong right now that I bet I could skip dinner altogether.   

I want to pause right here for a moment because while I wasn’t aware of it at the time—THIS VERY THOUGHT was an attack!

If we were to view this whole process of gaining control over food as a war….then you could say I had just won a battle.  But you might also have to realize that the enemy I am fighting against is very psychologically astute!  And instead of retreating and accepting defeat, he simply regrouped and came up with a different strategy.

A brilliant strategy where he comes to me as a friend.  A voice that congratulates me.   That shakes my hand and says “Well Done!!” and then pumps me up.   Telling me how awesome I am.  How strong I am!  SO strong in fact that I should skip dinner altogether.  And maybe dinner tomorrow too!  And his suggestions will only lead to further weakening me for the next battle ahead.   While I thought he had accepted defeat—he had only decided to come to me under that disguise and then plant seeds of destruction once again!

 He used my own victory, confidence and pride in having won the battle against me!  He built me up so that he could take me down!

And so instead of eating my planned dinner, I took a bath.

While I was in the bath I started thinking about how strong I was.  So strong that I could not only stick to my food plan all day but I could in fact skip dinner altogether.  Oh yes! I have really arrived.  I am a force to be reckoned with!! Nothing is going to stop me now!

As a matter of fact maybe I should skip dinner tomorrow too.   I will probably lose weight even faster.  In fact, by Christmas I will fit into a size.….

And the thoughts continue…

As the next hour and a half went on, I began entertaining all the ways I could change up my food plan.   In fact why not just get the last hundred or so pounds off as quickly as possible?? Why not just get this over with already? Why am I dragging this out? I have the strength of superman right?  From now on I’ll just eat as little as possible.  I’ll even cut down on my protein shakes.  Maybe I’ll just exist on water!

Suddenly everything has changed.

Because yesterday I was underneath a mountain of obsessive thoughts of food and my only hope was that I could just make it through 24 hours without completely losing my mind.   But now  I have such delusions of grandeur and so much confidence in my superhuman strength that I have decided that I’ll just lose 100 pounds in no time flat by resisting all food forever!

Can we see how the pendulum swings?

24 hours ago, I was a woman so defeated that she could barely imagine lasting through the next 60 seconds without devouring every last bit of food that she could find.  I was so overcome with thoughts of food that I was pacing back and forth in the house ringing my hands like a crazy person!!

My kids mostly steered clear of me that day because they know what this mood can bring!  They can see it in my eyes.   They know why I’m pacing and they don’t make the mistake of asking “What’s wrong?”…..

This is how I feel when days like this come

But that was 24 hours ago!!

Now I feel  so powerful that I believe I can subsist on a few ice cubes and a glass of water for the next 6 months!!!

Food! Schmoood! I’m OVER it.  I’ve got your number.  I’m in control now!

One minute I feel utterly controlled and dominated by thoughts of food.  I feel so depressed and defeated that I wonder why I even bother.

Then the very next day I am consumed with my own superhuman strength.

I may look like some ordinary 42 year old woman but this is what I see when I look in the mirror now!

 

It’s strange to many people.  That much  I know.

Because most people don’t see their food personified.

They don’t see it with emotion.

Every donut, cupcake, and milkshake as some 70’s villain from the Wonder Woman show ready to attack!!

Most people see food as food.  It doesn’t speak to them.  It doesn’t control them.  But to me it’s  often thought of as a villain with a grand plan to outwit me.  An entity with the desire to manipulate me.

But let’s get back to my power trip.  The morning after I fought my strong desires to devour the refrigerator and emerged victorious.

Now I’m the one on top.  Feeling totally in control.  So in control I’ve hatched a plan to never eat again it seems!!

Because THAT makes sense, right?

But now I’ve heaped all this pressure on myself.   Instead of the plan that works at a normal pace I must now go guns blazing!

I must now lose all of my weight in a day.

When I walked downstairs at 7 pm I suddenly started feeling anxious as a result of this pressure.  I started feeling hungry.  And that hunger was legitimate.  It was real.  Because it was time for me to eat!!  But I decided at 5 pm to switch it up.  To change the plan.  And now it’s a power play.  It’s all about control and I’m losing it.  Losing it fast.  And that’s when the fear sets  in.

Now the thoughts in my head sound like this…..

There it goes.  That’s it.  I’m losing my strength. I’m losing my power.

I AM LOSING CONTROL!

I won’t be able to do this after all.  

That plan I devised in the tub where I would subsist on nothing but water for 6 months wasn’t so hot.  

 

And once panic set in, I became keenly aware that I was not actually Wonder Woman.  That bracelet on my wrist could not deflect bullets at all!  If I tossed a headband across the room it wouldn’t knock someone out and then boomerang back to me!  And I was totally incapable of lifting the back of my van above my head.  Oh no!! WHAT NOW?!

Upon realizing my human limitations, I decided to revert back to the original plan.  It seemed this  extremist plan was not going to work.

So off I went to eat my fish and salad.  The meal I had preplanned to eat before my “power” trip took over.  The meal I had planned when I was still thinking rationally.

The problem is that while my pre-planned meal was totally acceptable and fine EARLIER in the day —now it felt like failure.

And why? Because in my extreme/all-or-nothing mindset— I had now failed to prove that my power was big enough to tackle all my issues in a single day!  To lose all the weight at once instead of over time.

Isn’t it interesting how before all of this began—eating my preplanned dinner would have felt like a success! It would have been a victory! But now because I decided to change everything at the last minute and reset my plan to completely unrealistic standards—now I’m a failure!

And that feeling of failure makes me doubt everything now!  Now all I can think of is this….

What if  yesterday was a fluke?

What if I really can’t resist food?

What if I can’t control my hunger??

FEAR PANIC FEAR PANIC FEAR PANIC

Those self defeating thoughts are back!!

The food obsessive thoughts running rampant just like they had been that Sunday.

And now all I can think of is THIS:

 I want a Pop Tart.  

I want a Pop tart right now!

A pop tart I must have.

 All the pop tarts in fact.

Every pop tart that ever was popped!

Can you see how quickly someone like me can cycle through victory and defeat?

From feeling empowered to feeling defeated?

Feeling stable to being an extremist?

I believe this is exactly the same cycle that many of us who struggle with food go through.  This is why it’s important to recognize that for many of us there is much more to weight loss than a nutrition and exercise plan.  So much of it has to do with our thoughts.  And many times our own thoughts act as the enemy.   Planting seeds to take us down the wrong path.   Even when we have success, we must be careful!  Sometimes it is when we are most successful that the enemy strikes even harder!  And he is always willing to change his tactics.  He may go from telling you that you cannot accomplish anything at all (self defeating, berating thoughts) to telling you that you can accomplish everything you want in a day…(delusions of grandeur)—-These are thoughts that are full of pressure and unrealistic expectations.

Where is the happy medium??

And how do we plan ahead for these thoughts so that neither end of the extreme takes us off course?

Here is a lesson I’ve learned about myself.

 I should never make decisions about my food plan on the fly.

 When it comes to food decisions, I simply cannot trust myself most of the time to think rationally.  This is why putting a food plan in place and leaving it alone is usually the best call for me. You see, eating is too often an emotional experience.  I can’t always be trusted to be reasonable.  So when I start going into these extreme thought patterns— it’s NOT the time for making decisions.

I now have a rule that if I’m going to change the way I’m doing things it HAS to be done in advance.

Like someone who must go before a committee and get it approved before putting it into action.

Feeling like you need to switch up your entire food plan at 5 pm is usually a clue that irrational thinking is on its way! This is when we must tell ourselves—-If it’s a good idea right now then it will also be a good idea next week.  If it’s something I have to radically change in the next hour then I’m likely reacting out of emotion and not reason.  The nothing but water plan I hatched in the tub?   Shelve that one under “crazy” because we all know that’s where it belongs.  But someone with a mind like mine can cycle through those thoughts.  So the rule has to be that new “plans” aren’t devised and implemented in the same day.  If it’s truly a good idea then that will still be a good idea tomorrow.  If it is something I must suddenly switch up right now then odds are I’m off the hinges again.

Had I simply enjoyed the feeling of strength and empowerment that overcoming the previous day’s challenges brought me then all would have been fine.  But for someone with a long history of often feeling defeated, two things can happen after a day of success.

1. You either suddenly believe that you have flipped the switch and become all powerful leading you to create unrealistic expectations of yourself for the next day

OR

2. You doubt any success that you had believing it was just a fluke leading you to feel that the successful day you experienced cannot be repeated.

The problem is that neither of these thoughts are balanced.

This is why it’s so critical to accept the emotions we are feeling without allowing them to influence any decisions we make in that moment.

It’s when we base our decisions off of emotional highs and lows that we get in trouble.

It is often hard to navigate the mental aspects of weight loss.   Being prepared in advance is key.  The events described above are for me not isolated incidents.  These are exactly the sorts of things that will happen again.  Since I know that, I need to be aware of it.  I need to develop a strategy to talk myself down when it happens!  And I need to begin to notice which thoughts lead to self defeating patterns.  Recognizing those thoughts will go a long way in keeping ourselves on track.  We need to become so aware of them that we see them a mile away!

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 *****Here is something you might find useful.  Try challenging your thoughts.  Walk through the process to test them and make sure they are actually healthy thoughts and not deceptive ones.  Sometimes people choose to keep a thought record.  Other times they use a worksheet to help them test their thoughts.  There are even apps that do this.  I’ll admit that when I was at my most successful, I was doing this REGULARLY.   I find that this helps me out immensely.  You can find a lot of self help resources for this by googling or searching “Cognitive Distortions” or “CBT”.  Here is a link with a huge amount of resources and worksheets that I have personally used in my own life —-Worksheets

What thoughts throw you off track?    Do you have a method in place for defeating those thoughts before they defeat you?

 

 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyn September 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm

I totally relate to this!! It is a mental issue, more than a physical one, I think. I just blogged yesterday about this, how the THOUGHTS are controlling and obsessive and we have to heal the mind to heal the body. Being aware of the thought ‘swings’ is a huge step. And knowing we don’t have to do what we think about is huge, too. Great post!
Lyn recently posted..On Shame and Guilt for the BingeMy Profile

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Startingoveragain September 25, 2014 at 11:07 pm

I often think to myself, “if only I had a switch to shut off these thoughts”. I sometimes have to actually say “stop!” or “be quiet” to silence the negativity. One of the things that starts me in a downward spiral is when I step on the scale before the week is up and I’m all happy that I’ve lost some weight. Then I get on it again in the proper time frame (the actual one week mark) and it shows no loss or a gain. It is so defeating to me that I tend to eat to spite “it”. I’m trying to ride it out this time, to actually, for once, reach my goal.

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Kristy September 29, 2014 at 10:03 am

Just want to say I’ve definitely experienced these thoughts – the all or nothing snap. I believe in the power of seeking balance and harmony in our eating and also in other areas of life. I truly struggle with consistency and reasonable decisions. Your posts are all well written and give me some interesting concepts to muse. Thankyou.

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Anneli September 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Don’t you just wish you could be a Vulcan sometimes? I would love it if my food thoughts were based on logic–then I would hardly ever eat pizza and cookies.
I think everyone has crazy thoughts, but it takes an exceptional person to recognize her own craziness. Keep on!!!!
Anneli recently posted..PF ChangsMy Profile

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Holly from 300 Pounds Down September 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

I totally love that you said I’m an exceptional person because I recognize my own ‘crazy’. This might literally be my favorite comment EVER!!!!

((Anneli))

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