Saturday, January 15, 2011

Target Behavior

At the beginning of this journey I had many target behaviors to track and monitor. Over time I have narrowed those targets down to only a couple. Which is certainly a relief. Less time consuming for sure. Regardless, DBT is still work, all the time. Sometimes, I get tired. I am sure many of you can relate to this. Now, when I get tired I automatically want to turn to a "comfort" action.

My comfort actions are alcohol, drugs, spending money....eating. I am proud to say it has been almost 3 years since my last drink, my prescriber has weened me off of the addictive anti-anxiety drugs and the like and I have curbed the over-spending. Although...eating still remains.

This would be me, except of course that I am not a guy! However, over-eating is my biggest demon when it comes to comfort behaviors. Amazingly enough I have also lost 60 pounds over the last two years, and I have maintained for almost a year. So the over-eating is really scary for me. I do not want to gain any of that weight back. 

What does this dilemma tell me? Well, it means that my next focus is on learning how to truly eat mindfully. This skill ranks up there with Radical Acceptance in my book. I have read a lot about how I need to do this, and I have been putting it off. Reasoning that I am working on a lot, I need to give myself a break and only work on the ones that pose an immediate threat to my well being. Alright, that makes sense and honestly, I am at the point that it is the most urgent threat to my well being. Something needs to change.

The past 4 weeks I have let the over-eating take over for the majority of the time and because of it, I have gained 7 pounds. As a side note, I am taking into consideration weight fluctuation, I am not squabbling over a pound or two. Even still, I see this gain as the end of the world, in my emotion mind. In my logic mind I reason that this is only a few pounds, and I can be more diligent about my food plan and it will be gone in a flash. Although what my logic mind says about the gain is true, but this situation screams at me that I need to focus my attention on it. Because it feels like such a failure on my part and the fear has gripped me so badly, that is my cue to focus on why. Why is my body image so important? Why is 7 pounds of weight gain so terrifying? 

From a mindful observation of my situation I have come up with this: 

  1. Control
  2. Trauma
  3. Society

In that order. 

Control: lives of a person with a mental illness are so turbulent that we struggle and fight for any ounce of control we can in order to stop our worlds from collapsing. In our mind control becomes such a focus that we may even tear down our own progress in a quest for it. It becomes a drug. It drives us. All that is well and fine when it is motivating us to make changes, but if not kept in check, it takes over. This sounds detrimental I know. But I am confident that there are many that can relate to how serious this desire for control over everything can be. Piece by piece I have learned there are so many things that I cannot control, but all the while I was learning, I was controlling my image. This control, if lost, brings me terror. Leading me to the second reason why this is such a big deal:

Trauma: my past trauma coupled with my need to control makes this a particularly sensitive area in my life. My emotion mind screams that I need to look a certain way, that I need to weigh a certain amount and that I need to wear a certain size. The many attempts I have made to accept myself the way that I am, have all ended in failure and oddly enough this failure doesn't seem to phase me. Again, this is an enormous reminder to me that what I really need is to be comfortable in my own skin and be mindful about health, not image. 

Society: No, I am not "blaming" society for my problems. But I am holding it responsible for the fractured idea of what a woman's image "should" be. Without this additional stressor to my problem, I would have less of a fight. A fight none-the-less, but it would be lessened a bit if society had realistic ideas of what a woman should look like. If society embraced the different sizes and shapes of the women of our world we would have a positive outlook about our image from infancy and would not have been programmed to believe something that is not realistic. In that, it is not realistic that I will ever be a size 8. My body is not designed that way by genetics, period. For me to strive after that, I would be setting myself up for failure. (I am happy to report, that I have long since given up on that goal, recognizing that it is unattainable as a healthy woman.)

So, what am I going to do about this? Mindfulness.

I have started a tracking goal of learning what it feels like to be mindful when I am eating. I am not biting more off than I can chew, for now I am taking small steps and accepting that this is the beginning of a very tall mountain, this issue has been ingrained in me for many many years. It is time to face it. I am not picking different foods yet, nor am I restricting when I eat. For now, I am simply being mindful while I eat. My food plan that I have been on now for two years has been effective in losing the weight, and now it is time to be mindful of what it feels like to eat. I personally believe that this will alleviate the damage that binging creates. If, once I have mastered this skill, I find that I need to focus more on what and when I am eating then so be it, but I will get there when I get there.

How does one eat mindfully? Well, each bite that I take I feel it in my mouth. Is it crunchy? Soft? Is it easy to swallow or do I have to chew it smaller? What is the texture of the food I am eating? Do I need a utensil to eat it? What are the colors of my food? After each portion of something I stop and put my hands on my dreaded abdomen and take 5 deep breaths. I ask myself, "am I full?" I keep doing this until I am either full, or my food is gone.

Now, realistically I cannot do this every time I eat for the next few weeks or months, however long it takes me to master this. So I have agreed to do this for one meal out of each day. If I have more than one meal by myself and at home that day, I do it mindfully too. I am excited to see my progress with this skill and I would love to hear from anyone that has already done this, or is working for this too. Or, anyone who hates the idea altogether! Essentially, I would love feedback on this.

It is my endeavor to fight the skewed idea I have about myself, learn how to feel good with how I look now.  Not how I will look soon, or how I think I look. Because, honestly, what I see and what others see is often different. Again, I am certain many women suffer this too.

Here's to a good start with my new goals! Thanks for taking this journey with me!


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