Saturday, September 5, 2009

Counting Emotionally Instead of Numerically

Several times when I tried to "diet", I had problems with a tendency to feel that the entire day was a failure if I made one mistake. That is, if I screwed up and ate something I shouldn't have which would throw the whole day's calorie count out of whack, I'd become depressed, demoralized, and feel guilty because there was no way to "fix" the days total so that I could view it as a success.

On those days, I would tell myself that I'd just indulge even more because I'd already blown the day. In essence, I'd figure that, if I was going to feel bad about messing up, I might as well get more food pleasure for the guilt I was feeling. It was an excuse to just blow the entire day eating the crap I was denying myself. Instead of coming out at 2500 calories for the day and feeling bad, I'd come out at 4000 and feel equally bad.

While there is certainly something to be said for the illogical nature of making a bad situation worse, from an emotional point of view, this made sense. I wasn't thinking about how much more damage I was doing. I was counting food emotionally rather than counting the number of calories. This is part of the essence of the problem with overweight people. It is comfort and pleasure or guilt and pain. We don't have a logical relationship with food. If we did, we wouldn't be in the predicament we're in.

Part of the process for me in getting to the point where I am able to work on doing something about my problem is coming to terms with these issues. Yesterday, I had what I'd consider a "bad food day". While I didn't overeat, I did act on the desire to eat for emotional rather than physical reasons a few times. This is actually a more critical failure than eating too much because this is the path away from controlling my relationship with food. For me, it is crucial that I recognize and avoid situations where I eat because I want the pleasure, am bored, nervous, or sad.

If you're not fat, but you've ever smoked (cigarettes or pot), drank alcohol, had sex, taken a tranquilizer, or even exercised as a behavioral response to an emotional need, then you can begin to see what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the psychology of an addiction, but it's a more insidious and complex addiction because food is everywhere, perfectly legal, socially acceptable, and necessary to survive.

So, I had a bad day with a few lapses yesterday. The important part now is not to have another, then another. Sometimes battling my emotions, fatigue, and desires for food becomes so tiring that I will give in, but at least I didn't give in completely or write off the whole day and go crazy overeating. That's a stepping stone on the path out of my situation.