I have to admit it: I’ve been struggling lately. All sorts of sweets and good things have made their way into my kitchen and I feel helpless to stop myself from eating it all. And it’s a mindless feeding, one where I’m not even sure that I’m tasting the food as much as just shoveling it into my mouth.  As a Cookie Monster impersonation it’s spot on (“nom nom nom cookies!”), but as a lifestyle, it leaves a little to be desired.

It’s a weird feeling — most of the time, it’s as though once I’ve made the decision (well, “decision” might be overstating it) to binge, I completely detach and just eat, almost like being outside my body and seeing myself doing it. My brain shuts off; my hands and mouth work on their own. And it’s devoid of feeling until I wake up, and then: guilt, regret, remorse.

I’ve been trying to figure out the “why” of it. It’s not stress eating — at least, it’s not in response to any sort of stress that I’m aware of. I don’t think it’s emotional eating, because, frankly, I haven’t been all that emotional about anything lately. It could be hormonal, I suppose, because I am coming off birth control pills but none of the other typical hormone stuff is happening (TMI, I know … sorry … but you’ll just have to deal with it).

I think it just might be habit.

Watching TV? Let’s munch on something. Worked out this morning? Get a donut to celebrate. Reading a book? Watching a movie? Writing a blog post? Perfect time to eat since I’ll be too distracted to notice what I’m doing. And all this leads me to believe that while I don’t have an eating disorder, I certainly have a disordered relationship with food — it’s serving a purpose other than fueling my body.

And so I finally decided that I needed some help figuring this out.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a therapist — shortly after I started on meds, life was better and far more manageable and so I went out on my own. And it’s been good, to be honest. I had worked through a set of issues and was feeling confident about the direction I was headed. But now the food issue, which has always been around in one form or another, has become a problem that I no longer want to try and work out by myself.

My first appointment was about a month ago — I was nervous, but not as much as I thought I would be; this feels so much more like going to an expert for input on a problem instead of feeling like I’m broken and need fixing. It might only sound like a difference in semantics, but those two scenarios feel like different universes to me. I mean, if one of my dogs was itching so badly he wanted to chew his paws off (he does), I’d go to the expert — the veterinarian — to see what was wrong (I did) (Poor Clarke).

It’s been interesting working through things so far. Of course, food isn’t the only thing we’re touching on… as I’m sure it’s easy to guess, food and eating are the symptoms, not the actual problem. I do feel like I’ve got a little better handle on what might be going on, though.

I’m not going to go into details — writer/blog privilege and all that — but suffice it to say that I’ve seen progress even in the short time I’ve been going, and it all boils down to one thing, really — the “m” word. Being mindful. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll likely talk about it again, but it’s the key to so much. Being present, being aware and really noticing life and emotions as they go by is empowering beyond words.

Habits are a great tool to get us through our days (imagine having to really THINK about brushing your teeth or driving to work), but being mindful is what makes those days worthwhile.  Truly experiencing life isn’t possible without stopping and taking in the moment. And whether or not you have an issue with being a Cookie Monster, just try it — stop, look, appreciate, even think about the “why’s” from time to time — because that’s how you get to know yourself, your life and everything around you.

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My mandate, right underneath the scar that changed the trajectory of my life.

As you probably noticed, I’ve had a change of address! My family likes to tease me that I change addresses about every 5 years (guilty as charged!) and since I’m not planning on selling my current townhome, I figured I’d move my virtual home instead. Please excuse the mess, but I’m still settling in. I’ve imported my posts from runathealth.blogger.com as well as my older stuff that had been living at intheballpark.net (there might be a few of you out there that remember that site), but the formatting is a little wonky on some of them and I’m still trying to make it all homey and cute.

So – yes – letgoandlive.me. I had mused to my triathlete buddies that I was looking to change my blog up, make it into something a little more all-encompassing and one of my very wise friends gave me the let go and live idea, in homage to my tattoo. Brilliant! Definitely a personal connection and as soon as I read the suggestion, I was in love with it (and had a “DUH” moment, realizing that I should have thought of it myself… of course, this is why I surround myself with amazing people — they totally make it possible to cover up all of my shortcomings).

I’m excited to be here — it feels not only like a fresh start, but also like a place where I can build a home. And while the main thrust will still be matters of physical and mental health, Let Go And Live will give me a venue to air other thoughts and ideas as well. And even more than that, let go and live is a mandate! It’s what I need to remind myself of daily (hence the tattoo) to get the most out of every day. You never know how much time you have, best to savor every moment and live the hell out of life.

So over the next few weeks, you’ll likely see the format change and evolve as I go through different iterations of themes and layouts, but I’m going to keep posting, regardless. It’s not as though this is going to allow me to quit my day job (or even earn enough to buy a cookie), so I’m not worried about it being a work in progress. I mean, I’m a work in progress, why not my blog, too? So, who’s along for the ride?

 

What if the only thing limiting our future was our ability to imagine it?

In a TED talk, Daniel Goldstein quotes philosopher Derek Parfit: “We might neglect our future selves because of some failure of belief or imagination.”  Think about that:  we might be mistreating the yet-to-be version of ourselves merely because we suck at being able to imagine ourselves there in that future.


Goldstein, a behavioral economist, used the quote to illustrate why people often don’t save enough money for retirement — they can’t fathom themselves becoming old and so putting a dollar away today to support themselves when they’re old seems ludicrous — but can’t this be applied to any decision that puts us on a path either to the person we want to be or some other alternate universe that we’re not as thrilled about?


When I’m trying to use willpower to put the cookie down, I often say to myself something along the lines of “Don’t let short term pleasures override long term goals”. The problem is, of course, that the short term pleasure, is, well, here. Right now. And usually quite yummy. And the long term goal? Well, it’s oh so far away. My imagination is quite challenged to see how not eating the cookie today will cause me to be svelte and sexy in a year.

And that lean and fit future me? I have faith that I’ll get there, but instead of being a wholehearted, can totally see it in my mind’s eye kind of belief, it’s more of the “sure it’ll happen but I have no idea how” kind of belief (that allows me to eat the cookie because there doesn’t seem to be a straight line between it and my future).

So, what if it really is just a matter of imagination?

What if I spent time envisioning the future me? I mean, really picturing myself, drawing up a complete story of what I’ll feel like, what I’ll be doing, how I’ll look. Down to such details as what my daily eating habits are and how many times a week I’ll be outside running and even what cute shoes I’ll have treated myself to. Will this help? Will spending, say, 10 minutes a day playing this movie in my mind make a difference?

To be honest, it feels a bit woo-woo to me. A little hokey, even.

But then, can you think of something you wanted so bad you could almost taste it? Something that you would have sacrificed anything to get? I certainly do — 4 years ago, I decided that I wanted to place in the top 3 in my age group in the local duathlon. I knew I needed to do some hard run and bike training, and I also had to drop a little weight. But my desire to get there was visceral; I could feel it in my bones. And you know what? I worked my butt off (almost literally) to get there. I ate well. I trained hard. I didn’t let many short term pleasures get in the way of my goal. There were days when I wanted nothing more than to go back to bed rather than getting up and working out, but I dragged myself out of bed anyway.  I couldn’t let down my future self. And damn if that didn’t feel awesome.

That’s the feeling to bottle.

At the time, I didn’t really think of it in terms of working today for my future self, but that’s exactly what it was. I could totally see myself on the course and picture what I would look like, how I would feel and exactly how I was going to race on that day.  I knew what I had to do those days in February and March to feed the person I was going to be on that day in late June.  


So today starts my experiment in envisioning my future self:  I’m going to spend time meditating on becoming the me I want to be. I’m going to paint a vivid picture in my head of what I’m going to look like, the things I’m going to be doing and even the day-to-day routine that I’m going to follow.  For this to work, that vision will have to be as real as something I can touch and hold, turning it around in my hands and seeing it from all sides. So real that my whole being will vibrate in harmony with it.  

Can this work?  I guess I’ll just have to wait and ask my future self.