Thursday, November 26, 2009

Complacency and the Food Compass

Lately, I've felt like I've been in a (productive) holding pattern. I eat on or close to target every day, get in a sufficient amount of exercise and wait for appreciable results. I think less about the struggle because I struggle less, though sometimes I feel like I had better focus and resistance to eating earlier in the process.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into emotional eating or compulsive eating without thinking too much and landing a bit higher than I'd like in calories or eating unhealthy food. I wonder if the success I've had to this point has brought on some mental complacency. It's as if I feel less vigilant because I now require less food policing.

This type of complacency is, I'm certain, the youthful sprouts of backsliding. I can see how not nipping this type of mindlessness about food in the bud could lead to regaining in the future when I let my guard down even more. I'm also guessing this is one of the many reasons why it is common for many people, particularly women, to do well initially on their diets and then halt their losses for awhile, or even gain back much of what they lost.

I have an acute sense of my food compass needing to be forcibly held in position such that it points at careful eating at all times. If I become inattentive to its position, it will gradual start making its way back toward less mindful, less healthy, and less portion-controlled eating. It can't be left to its own devices for long at all. I reckon that people who have never had an eating disorder don't give a second thought to their compasses for most of their lives, and are able to point them in the right direction without fear that they'll drift out of place the minute they turn their backs.

I'm hoping that I can snap my attention back when I first start perceiving this drift, but I do get tired of thinking about what I eat, measuring it, and writing it all down all of the time. The tediousness of tracking food, preparing it so carefully, and controlling my desires is immense. In fact, I'm realizing that getting healthy and staying there is unlikely to ever be something which won't drain my time and energy, and it's yet another thing I'm going to have to get comfortable with and accept.


dlamb said...

This is an excellent point and from some of the things to which you hinted about where you are at the present time, I am guessing that you found your compass. I agree that we tend to become complacent, we get tired and bored with the effort it takes to make food/eating/losing such a big part of our lives, sometimes even the center of it.
It IS important though, as you said this many years ago, because the alternative leads to backsliding and regaining, sometimes past the point where we started.
I follow a blogger whom I respect and admire for several reasons, who has been struggling for 4 years. She was successful initially, doing all the things she needed to, but then lost her way and regained a good deal of the weight. It is hard to see her start newly determined every few days but then deciding that she wishes to "coast" a bit, "eat intuitively" or simply do the best she can but not truly monitor everything she ingests, because she is exhausted from having her life be about dieting. I DO understand her mindset but I fear for her. Her medical need to lose weight seems not to be as motivating as it once was.

I see that way too often; the original motivation dissipates and is not replaced by anything else that is as powerful as the desire to eat in a manner that is unlikely to lead to the stated goal.

screaming fatgirl said...

As you read ahead, you'll see that I have moved away from strict monitoring of my food as well. However, this was something which I did tentatively and am very attentive to the idea of falling back into old patterns. Mainly, as you said with this other woman, I could not spend the rest of my life obsessing about food. However, I haven't had much in the way of "slip ups" and have consciously addressed many of my issues both in terms of habitual behaviors and emotionally/psychologically motivated ones. To me, I think it is simply not enough to say, "I eat when I'm unhappy/stressed/tired" and leave it at that. I think many people think that merely recognizing a pattern is the same as breaking it. It is not, and you can't move away from monitoring and trusting yourself until you've figured out how to trust yourself. Most people refuse to scratch the surface, because they believe that the surface is all there is. That's okay. It's not really my business, but it does increase the chances that people won't manage to make the changes they desire.

dlamb said...

Oh, what an excellent point! Had I not had my epiphany, based on a single sentence this dear person wrote, almost casually, I never would have put together all my life long issue that led to my binges. Yes, I knew, as an introspective and overly analytical person, that I was bingeing for all the reasons you mention, but the key issue never clicked in until that split second.

The gratitude I feel for that experience and the change it has made to my life at this advanced age, I cannot tell you. As you said, I need to be very careful not to overeat for other reasons (taste, 'special occasion', exhaustion, because everybody else is, etc) but my experience is the same as yours. I needed to KNOW, intellectually and emotionally, finally understand what that was about.
Luckily for me, I had a very rare opportunity: I was able to address it and receive validation and apologies. What a healing experience for anyone who was hurt unintentionally by somebody very much loved who loved her very much too but unfortunately not very well.