Alternate post title: LONGEST. POST. EVER.
OK, so I started thinking about my finances after that last post, and how I managed to pay off so much debt in such (relatively) little time, especially since I’m a bit of a compulsive spender. (That was how I got myself into trouble in the first place: “ooooo, SHINY!”)
I just got a large overtime check from my job, and due to a number of circumstances (ALL of which were within my control, dammit), I need to use it to replenish my savings account instead of paying off more debt. Damn, damn, damn. So I got my Dave Ramsey CDs out and started listening to them in the car again the other day.
(Dave Ramsey is how I got/am getting my financial act together. His stuff is over in the sidebar, under “Not Blogs, but Cool.” He’s pretty conservative, but he doesn’t preach about it, so I can deal with the Biblical references. Just a heads-up if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff, though.)
Anyway. I was listening to those CDs on my way home from my parents’ house, and about halfway through, I realized that I could apply a LOT of what he was saying about Finances to the way I eat and/or exercise. Which would be great for a few reasons: first, I KNOW I can adhere to the principles, because I’ve already done it with my finances. I know that I can fall off the wagon, get back on, and still come out ahead. Second, when I can FIND it, I have this incredible ability to detach from the process. That’s been hard to do with food and exercise, but I’ve been able to do it with other, simpler things. And of course, I’ve been pretty good about being able to do it with money, although that was a big, tough thing to do. Finally, there were some things that I internalized when I learned to handle my finances that I have NOT internalized with regards to food and weight. (See earlier posts on PERFECTION and EPIC FAIL.)
So with that in mind, here we go. (I will say up front that 80% of the content below comes directly from those CDs. The conversion to food is mine, but the concepts are Dave’s. Please consider this my acknowledgment of his copyrights. :D)
First. Dave is a big fan of the written plan. I have not had great luck with writing down my food and exercise, or planning it out for tomorrow/this week/whatever, mainly because as soon as I don’t adhere to it, I think “EPIC FAIL” and I stop. And then I berate myself. And then I berate myself some more. Mainly that is because I think of that plan as set in stone; as a set of rules that I must fit myself into (instead of fitting those rules into myself – that’s an important distinction). But here’s a switch: what if, instead of thinking of that plan like a straitjacket, I recognize it for what it is: “A method for telling your [neuroses] what to do, instead of wondering [what just happened.]” It seems like the same thing in theory, but it’s really not. The latter way of looking at it suggests that instead of fighting against something, I learn to work WITH it. It’s sort of that Law of Attraction thing: you get what you pay attention to, and if you’re struggling against something, YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION TO IT. See what I mean?
Along those same lines, I look at my binge eating. If financial debt (barring things like mortgages) is a sign of crisis living and poor money management, is bingeing any different? Not really. It’s not a sign of poor MONEY management, but it IS a sign of poor mental, emotional and physical HEALTH management. So how to prevent that? (Bear with me, this will seem weird.) If you prevent debt by saving and planning for purchases, maybe you can prevent poor health management by planning for binges. I know, I know, it’s counter-intuitive. But what it really does is remove the stigma from binges, thus making them LESS compelling, at least for me. In other words, you remove the “impluse buy” from the equation, because now you’re planning your impulses. And I DO see this as a little different from “saving calories” because since it’s planned in advance (maybe by a week?), you can either lower your intakes a LITTLE each day, thus short-circuiting the starve-all-day-so-you-can-BINGE impulse (not that *I’VE* ever done that, oh nooooooo), or you can even look at the weekly food list and realize that a binge really DOESN’T MAKE THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE, so fuck it, and just add it in. I know that when I really get myself into trouble isn’t when I mini-binge (which is how my binges start): I get into trouble AFTER the mini-binge, when I declare the whole day an EPIC FAIL and just keep eating.
(OT: It always cracks me up that when I start writing about things that are uncomfortable, I stop using the pronoun “I” and start using “you.” Just an observation, LOL.)
That ties into another idea: “Adults are pretty intelligent if they BOTHER to do [things] on purpose. It’s the not-bothering that messes you up.” So, yeah. What if I plan my wine-and-cheese-and-potato-chip nights? Not down to the day per se, but to acknowledge that yes, I will probably have 2 of them sometime this week, so I might as well ACCOUNT FOR THEM NOW. And to remember: budgeting (whether food or money) is not a method by which I make my BODY behave; it’s a method by which I make my NEUROSES behave. Bringing order to the disordered, so to speak.
There are a number of reasons that I haven’t had a written plan. (I think it was when I got to this point on the CDs that I thought, “Hey! Those are all the reasons I hate food journaling!” and the light bulb went off.)
1) I never had one that worked. I’d finally get the weekly/daily plan (whether calories, points, whatever) to baaaaarely balance, and then someone would have a birthday party or invite me to dinner or I’d miss a workout (or I’d binge). And then I’d chuck the whole thing, thinking, “Psh. This planning thing doesn’t work.” But really, that’s because I need to ALLOW for all those extra things. Maybe “extra random food” should just be a STANDING category. (I know right about now, some of you folks are thinking, “well, DUH!” but bear with me here. This is big stuff for a compulsive perfectionist like myself. LOL) I have to budget an ENTIRE picture of my life, even the parts I would like to think don’t exist. Which leads me to:
2) I am afraid of what I will find – I don’t want to know how bad it is. The inside of my psyche is a dark, scary place – well, it’s less so than it used to be, but some of those dark corners are still shadow-infested. But that brings me to this idea: I have to deal with the REALITY of where I am so that I don’t have to LIVE where I am. Yeah, I know. Obvious point, again. But that’s something I’ve known for a long time; it’s just that I haven’t been able to figure out HOW to deal with it, you know?
3) I am afraid of admitting how “bad” I’ve been. Not necessarily in the “normal” sense, but rather in the oh-my-god-I-ate-all-that-food-and-barely-remember-doing-it sort of way. In the way that seems SO shameful and embarrassing that it almost prevents me from talking about it. Ready for the Dave Ramsey theory? “You are GOING to screw up. You’re human. IT. WILL. HAPPEN.” Please notice something here that makes a HUGE difference to my disordered brain: this is not an “if” statement. It’s not, “IF I eat a little extra this week it’s ok.” It’s not “IF I miss my exercise session, I’ll compensate with x, y or z.” It is “I am GOING to screw up. Plan on it. Don’t beat myself up about it, because it WILL happen.” Like planning for binges, planning to screw up takes the stigma out of it, and lowers that pedestal I put myself on (LOL).
4) I overcomplicate it. FitDay gets cross-referenced with WW Points, and they both get cross-referenced with Calorie King and the Shape website, and then I have to average them all out for my “official” numbers. I won’t eat anything that doesn’t come in pre-measured packages (yeah, THAT’S healthy), because I have to know EXACTLY what I’m eating. I keep spreadsheets of my weight, my BMI, my calorie intake, exercise time, approximate calories burned during exercise, etc. I even adjust it every few weeks as my metabolism slows down; I increase the exercise, decrease the calories, do the math, recheck it, raise and lower things, recheck it, reformat the spreadsheet so now I can trackfor my MOOD too, raise things, lower things, on and on and on and on. And after a week or two or three? It consumes my DAY. And then I get fed up with how MUCH of my day is being WASTED and I stop. I have to remember: I AM NOT TRYING TO IMPRESS ANYONE. I AM JUST TRYING TO KEEP FROM BINGEING/STARVING. I am trying to keep from eating ON ACCIDENT.
5) Sometimes (because of reasons listed above) I make a plan, and then don’t do anything about it. I put it on the kitchen counter and then pretend it doesn’t exist, except for when I beat myself up for not following it. Or I carry it around with me and try not to pay attention when I don’t adhere to it. This is the part that is the most dangerous for me: adhering to a written plan without beating myself up about when I don’t make it. But of course, Dave has something to say about that, too (oh, come on, you knew it was coming, right?), and it sounds suspiciously like one of the things that was said above: When you start, IT WON’T WORK. Write the plan, and do your best. Be aware that the first month WON’T WORK. The second month? WON’T WORK, but a little bit. The THIRD month it will START TO WORK. You’ve gone (fill-in-the-blank) years without a plan and your first month you’ll be lousy at it. THAT’S OK. YOU’RE ON THE BUNNY SLOPE. Just write it all down, and take care of everything you CAN. So although I don’t really know that it will take 3 months, it might possibly take longer than 3 WEEKS, which is normally about when I expect to be PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. Planning on 3 months would mean that any earlier progress would be a bonus, but it would give me PLENTY of time to fall off the wagon and still see progress at the end.
So, yeah. I’m thinking about applying those same financial principles to my eating. I’m HOPING that it will do 2 things: help me bring the disordered eating under control, and also result in weight loss. Because although my healthy weight isn’t MUCH lower than where I am now (vanity weight is another story), it IS lower, by about 15 pounds. I FEEL good at that weight. Mentally, I’d prefer to lose 30 or so, but that really IS Vanity Weight, not Health Weight.
We’ll see how it goes.