Category Archives: Emotional health

What Do You Value?

It’s a simple question, on the surface.  One that most of us have thought about, whether we’ve pondered for hours or defined immediately.  What do you value?  Asked to make a list of our top ten values, I’d put money on most people having “health” and “family” somewhere on the list.

I took a time-management class through work a while back.  (I was heartened to learn that I’m already really good at time management.  I was less heartened to learn that the reason I can’t get everything done is because I straight-up have too much work assigned.  *sigh*  ANYWAY.)  One of the questions was “what do you value?”  But then the instructor qualified it: the question is not “what do you THINK you value,” but rather, “what DO you value?”  In other words, what values are demonstrated in your behaviors already?

Do you think you value your relationships with your spouse/partner and/or kids?  Great!  But do you then work 80 hours a week at your job so you can earn an income in the high 6 figures?  Hmmmm . . . that might demonstrate that you value your work more than your relationships.  Alternatively, it might show that you place a high value on being able to provide nice THINGS for your family, but again, it’s not a reflection of valued RELATIONSHIPS.  If you valued the relationship more, you’d probably work fewer hours and spend more time with your family.  See how that works?  You can say you value health, but if your actions don’t reflect that, then you don’t really value it – or, perhaps more accurately, you value something else MORE.

I’ve been noodling on that idea for a while.  And along the way I remembered  (what I call) the Geneen Roth Theory of Actions: that everything you do is the effort of your mind and/or body to achieve something productive.  The most maladaptive behavior is still a result of your search for something beneficial.  If you can find the (beneficial) result you were after initially, you can deal with it directly instead of going through the maladaptive/destructive behaviors (which, let’s be honest, probably aren’t getting you what you’re really looking for, anyway).

Still with me?  Ok, then!  I’ve been spending some time thinking about this.  First I made a list of things I THINK I value.  That included everything from relationships to health to whatever else I could think of.  Then I set that list aside for a couple of days.

After a few days had passed, and I didn’t have that list fresh in my mind, I sat down and asked myself the following question: “If someone were to observe my life day in and day out, and draw conclusions about my values based on my behavior, what would those values be?”

HOO, boy. Different answers.  And yet . . . they still made sense.  For instance, if I were to examine my behavior from the outside, I might say that I value television and wine.  On the surface, that sounds awful, doesn’t it?  But if I look beyond the television and wine to the REASONS I (seem to) value those things, I find something else: rest.  I come home from work and stay up too late and drink too much in an effort to find some mental peace and quiet.  Late at night, watching TV, I can be assured that my phone won’t ring, my email account is quiet and (since it’s late) I’m not obligated to be doing any chores (can’t run the vacuum if it’ll wake up the neighbors).  Now, in practice, staying up late, watching TV and drinking means that I’m tired the next morning.  I feel sluggish, run-down and depleted.  But I still need to get up and go to work, expending energy I don’t have.  By the time I come home, I’m even more desperately in need of rest, so I stay up late, watching TV and drinking.

And thus, a vicious cycle is born.

But back to the value list: what I value then, is not drinking or television; what I value is REST.  If I start there, the question then becomes, what do I do that will get me more rest?  I know it’s not staying up late, and I know (let’s be honest) that I’m not going to go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00pm.  Personally, the solution I hit on is to take a nap.  Seriously.  I come home from work, and doze for 20 minutes.  It dissipates any stress I’m carrying from my workday and provides me with a discrete break in my day, so that when I wake up the night no longer stretches before me like some wasteland.  I feel like I have some time to get things done, and the mental space to do it.  I still watch a little TV before bed and have a glass of wine – but it’s not 3 hours of TV and 3 glasses of wine.  That 20 minute nap makes all the difference.

Not only that, but by taking care of the values (needs?) on the 2nd list, I have the time and energy to start a 3rd list.  My 1st list was what I THOUGHT I valued, right off the top of my head; my 2nd list was what values my behavior demonstrated; the 3rd list is for values I’d like to develop that aren’t reflected on the 2nd list.  (And they may not be the same values as reflected in the 1st list either, although there will likely be some crossover.)  So if I’d like to place a higher value on my health, that 20-minute nap (rest) gives me the mental space to do it.  Maybe valuing my health means walking in the park for 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 or 4 days a week.  Maybe it means cutting back on sugary afternoon snacks (Frappucino, I’m looking at you).  It probably doesn’t mean going from sedentary to 90 minutes in the gym, 7 days a week, simply because that’s not sustainable, and won’t make me healthier in the long run.  (I’ve done it.  I know whereof I speak, ok?)

Right now the things I value most are rest and recovery from exhaustion.  In turn, getting enough rest is giving me the mental space and energy to focus a little more on other things – things that got kind of back-burner’d as I felt more tired and depleted.  Funny how that works.

So.  What do you value?

Operation Normal – and Some Farmers’ Market Shopping

Soooo . . . Remember last May when I decided to stop dieting?  And then the whole blog went radio-silent?  As I mentioned before, that was because I needed the mental space to let my brain sort of . . . settle, for lack of a better word.

So for the last 6 months or so, I’ve eaten what I wanted, when I wanted it.  Then those 6 months got kind of stressful, as I started a new job.  So my eating wasn’t always the best.  In fact, I probably did more than my share of stress-eating – and let’s be honest, stress-drinking, too.  But I made an effort to at least eat when I was hungry, and to pay attention to WHY I was eating during those times I knew damn well I wasn’t hungry, but was eating anyway.

I took to calling this “Operation Normal.”

Over the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve started noticing that both my eating and my drinking seem to have leveled out.  I’m not drinking as much, and I’m not eating as much crap food – and I it wasn’t a decision I made consciously, just one that seems to be evolving.  But because back in May I decided to re-assess where I was in a year, and because I knew that year was almost half over, I started reading various food books.  I finally got around to reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I read a BUNCH of Geneen Roth’s books, and one called Real Food by Nina Planck (that last one is AMAZING).  And the more I read, the more I started thinking that rather than focus on calories, fat, protein, etc., I really wanted to think about WHAT I was eating and WHY. 

So at the end of November I started transitioning to “real” food.  I’ve been eating what’s in my freezer, but am working toward only eating raw dairy, pastured meat and poultry (and eggs), and sustainably, humanely raised fish (whether wild or farmed, depending on the fish).  I decided that further, I was going to try an experiment: for 2011, I would eat from the farmers’ market.  I’m a good cook, so I decided I would go to the market, buy whatever looked good and then figure out what the hell to do with it when I got home.  Eating locally, seasonally and intuitively all in one go!

After noodling on that for a while, I decided that (given my history of thinking things must be PERFECT) I would shoot for accomplishing the above 80% of the time.  (Thus allowing myself the occasional heat-and-eat dinner, and things like frozen spinach, which I REFUSE to give up, even if it does get trucked in from across the country.)

So I’ve been working on cleaning out my existing stash of food, and in the meantime, I’ve got a bread machine (“inherited” from Mom) and A PRESSURE CANNER (for Christmas!).  I’m super-excited about that last one, because I really want to can my own tomatoes this summer!!!!  😀

And I started a companion blog to this one: Eating from the Farmers’ Market (More or Less).  The first post over there will go up Monday, the 10th of January (after I make a farmers’ market run over the weekend, because the markets around me were closed the last 2 weekends for Christmas and the Rose Parade).  I’ll split my posting between this one and that one – this one will still be my outlet for my freak-outs and internal dialogues, and that one will be more about what’s in season, what I’m cooking, how much it cost, that sort of thing.  (I’m kind of hoping that I might be able to cull the recipes eventually and get to writing that cookbook I keep blathering on about.)  There will be more personal stuff too, but the serious neuroses will be confined to this blog.  (Lucky, lucky you.  ;D)

So there you go.  That’s the new project.  I’m not deleting any of my old posts off of here, but I also won’t be talking about calories, fat, or any of that going forward.  “Operation Normal,” remember?  And I don’t mean STATISICALLY normal, but NOT-CRAZY normal (I think the latter is actually ABnormal statistically speaking, but let’s not go there).  So it won’t be about weight (although let’s be honest – that’s what the “neurotic” caveat is for), but about health.  Real health: physical, emotional and mental.  Because Lord knows I need me some of that.

Losing My Mind, Finding My Self

It’s been months since I wrote, I know.  At first it was just inconvenient.  I had other things to do.  And then I was just really busy, all the time, and I stopped really reading, too.  And then a month had gone by, then two.  I spent time going through the 1st phase of the Geneen Roth stuff, where eat what you want and work toward eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.  And I put the scale on the top shelf in the closet in the guest room.  And I gained weight.  And then some more (I’m guessing about 20 pounds over the last 4-5 months).  And I didn’t get on the scale, and I didn’t read any blogs or write or anything else.  And even though the weight gain bothered me, I felt better. 

But I would think about blogging, and I it just made me feel . . . ANXIOUS.  I was trying really hard not to focus on my weight, and I was finding that I couldn’t even read general-fitness blogs without feeling like I should get up, go to the gym, eat better, eat less, lose some weight, it’s so SIMPLE, what’s wrong with me, I should just suck it up, get on the treadmill, cut out the carbs, it’s fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, fine fine finefinefineFINEFINE.

I’m FINE.

So I didn’t come back.  Not even to say, “Hey, I love you, I might come back or I might not, but I’m ok.”  I just couldn’t do it.  Everywhere I looked it seemed so simple to just lose! some! weight!  Not easy, necessarily, but SIMPLE.  And if I didn’t write, if I didn’t read, if I didn’t think about anything other than whether or not I was hungry or full or lonely or anxious, if I ate more mindfully . . . I felt BETTER.  Calmer. 

Anda few weeks ago I got on the scale at the doctor’s office (there was a possibility I’d broken my foot, although it turned out to be all soft tissue damage – all better now!), and even though I tried not to see the weight, I did (on a piece of paper I didn’t think would contain it).  And it bothered me.  A lot.  I haven’t been this weight since I was in my early 20s, and bingeing every night.  So I came home and cried.  I kept thinking, “I’m becoming what I’m most afraid of becoming.”  I kept thinking about how I should just go on a diet, and deal with it, and THEN I kept thinking about how doing that has NOT worked, so maybe I should give this Roth thing a shot for more than a couple of months. And then something else occurred to me: when you run from something, it controls your life.  Fear rules your thoughts and behaviors.  So maybe I need to be what scares me most so I can get through it.  Ok, then.

And so a few weeks ago, (when the new pants I’d bought that were a little too big in August became almost too small) I decided that maybe it was time to stop wondering if I was hungry, deciding that I wasn’t, and then making a conscious decision to eat anyway.  (Yeah.  I know that’s not how it’s supposed to work, but I was willing to do it if it was something I needed to get through, first.  And it was.) I finally got to the point where I decided to start thinking about nourishing myself, not just feeding myself.  So I’m trying to meditate every day and drink more water.  That was what came to mind, rising up out of my unconscious when I asked myself, “What do I need next?”

I’ve been reading various blogs here and there again.  Just lurking.  And most of the time, it’s ok.  Some days I don’t read, and I don’t know how often I’ll write.  I’ve taken to calling this project, “Operation Normal.”  😉  And I don’t go the gym, but I do go to my dance classes, and I even bought some new ballet shoes, although I haven’t sewn the elastics on yet, so I haven’t been to class.  But even buying the shoes was a victory: ballet was what made me the craziest, way back when.  And now I stand in a studio, where I’m the biggest girl (even in jazz class), and most of the time, it’s ok.  I feel a little bit like I’m not so much reinventing myself as re-finding myself, or reclaiming myself.  I’m not actually sure who it is that I’m reclaiming – I haven’t seen that person in years.  But I’m kind of curious to find out.

Jury duty!

Yes, that’s right: I’m on jury duty at the moment.  Fortunately I got an interesting case (THAT I CAN’T TALK ABOUT, WHICH IS KILLING ME), so it’s not completely mind-numbing.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write about here.  It’s funny: since I haven’t been writing, my food neuroses are much quieter.  When I don’t spend time every day thinking about them, my eating and exercise get easier, both mentally and scheduling-wise.  I dropped a few pounds just before ShoWest by adhering to the “Sort-of-Like-When-I-Was-In-College-But-Without-the-Crazy-Part” diet, and a central component of that was to stop thinking about it so much. 

Does that make sense?  It’s like I spend so much time THINKING about it that when it comes time to DO something, I’m already tired.  I feel like I’ve already spent so much time on it that I can’t bear to spend any more.  And when I don’t think about it so much, I have energy to do something about it. 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this.  It’s a puzzlement, as they say (sing?).

Too Much Stuff, Squashed Into a Little Ball

Things are crazy around here.  (Then again, when are they NOT?)  So I’m going to space some of this stuff out over the next few days, and you’ll just have to come back if you want to read the whole post!  Muahahahahaha!!  In the meantime, I’m trying to stop by and read at least a couple of blogs a day, but when push comes to shove and I have to choose between reading and exercising, I have to choose exercise.  So, apologies in advance if I’m not commenting so much.  (I might have to go back to working out in the morning, although that comes with its own set of hassles.  Meh.  I’ll figure it out.)

ANYWAY. 

I was at the bookstore the other day about 2 weeks ago (what can I say, I’ve been thinking about this for a while), loitering in the cookbook section (which I do way, WAY too often).  Having browsed the Food Network section and the vegetarian section and the cook-it-fast section and the slow-cooker section, I made my way over to the “healthy” section.  I found a lot of good stuff there: a Best of Cooking Light book that had some yummy-looking stuff, a “Comfort Food Made Healthy” book by Eating Well that was definitely a jackpot find, a Williams-Sonoma “Essentials of Healthful Cooking” that was ALSO a jackpot find. 

And then I glanced down toward the bottom shelves, where I found books with titles like, “Eat Everything You Want Without Gaining a Pound!” and “Gain Taste, Lose Weight!” and “Eat Like a Devil, Look Like an Angel!”  and “The Skinny Girl’s Guide to Gluttony!” and so on.  And on.  And on.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The books that manage to make you feel bad about yourself before you’ve even THOUGHT about food.  The books that basically boil down to one title: “How to Pretend to Stuff Your Face (Using Lettuce) So You Don’t End Up Looking Like the Fat, Disgusting Cow You Are.”  Books about food that simultaneously scream “Embrace it!” and “Run away, run away!” 

No fucking WONDER our culture is so neurotic about food.  On the one hand we have the eliminate-a-food-group dieters and the Calorie Restriction dieters (though some are doing it for health, not weight, which is a whole ‘nother discussion for a different day), and on the other hand we have Nigella Lawson, described by the Los Angeles Times as “the queen of come-on cooking.”  Food is both fetishized and forbidden (triple points for alliteration!), something we dream about and something we “pay for” at the gym.

Really?  I mean, come on: REALLY?

I wrote a couple of posts back about going back to pre-crazy dieting: about eating off the cuff, on the fly, not worrying SO MUCH, not planning out all my meals and snacks a week in advance, not counting calories, not devoting all my waking hours (or at least a sizable number of them) to pursuit of the RIGHT numbers, the RIGHT exercise, the RIGHT Way To Live (TM).  And what that basically boils down to, for me, is to acknowledge that every meal matters, but that no single meal matters.  That I should get some exercise every day, but the kind doesn’t really matter too much.  It’s just not that big a deal.  It can’t be.  It’s when I let it BECOME a big deal that I slip down into craziness.

And hand in hand with that comes the knowledge that I need to start cooking again.  It’s weird to pore over cookbooks while eating a diet frozen dinner.  It’s WEIRD, ok?  I need to remember that food really IS more than just fuel, at least for me, and to acknowledge that THAT’S OK.  I think food is more than fuel for most people, and honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be any different about it.  Frozen dinners don’t carry that sense of nourishment that real food does.  (I hadn’t realized until recently just how much I’d been relying on pre-packaged food again.)

So Sunday night I ate an enormous dinner: I roasted a chicken and mashed some red potatoes with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  I roasted some asparagus with prosciutto.  And sat down at the table and ate.  Now, don’t misunderstand: for some reason, I was ravenous last night – I wasn’t eating just to eat.  But pulling chicken off the bone, sitting in a house full of the smell of (literally) Sunday dinner, it wasn’t just food.  It was a symbol of self-care. 

And in our culture, if you are fat or plump or chunky or even just carrying a LITTLE extra weight, you are not supposed to care for yourself.  Oh, you’ll be told, “take CARE of yourself – lose some weight!” but the very process proscribed for weight-loss is so often to DENY ourselves that most basic symbol of care: eat less, eat diet food, eat non-fat, low-carb and whatever you do, restrict.  Slash your calories, cut your food intake.

The irony there is that for ME, when I eat food that nourishes me – not just my body, but my emotions too – I eat less.  I don’t need food to fill that hole inside because there is no hole.  And so my calorie intake drops, and my portions get smaller (last Sunday notwithstanding!) – all without feeling that I’m missing out on something.  But it’s astonishing (and appalling) to me how HARD it is to do that – how hard it is to take care of myself when I’m surrounded by conflicting messages like “Food is decadent!” and “Food is fuel!”  How hard it is to tune out the chatter and the hyperbole used to sell books and magazines and movies and the Latest! Greatest! Celebrity Diet! EVARRR!!!  This is a seriously schismed culture when it comes to food.

Argh.  I don’t have a good way to wrap this up, either.  I’m all over the place tonight.  This is why I haven’t posted in the last few days.  It doesn’t seem to be sorting it out in my head any better with time though, so for now you get my disjointed ramblings. 

And now it’s a little after 8:00, and I’m going to bed.  I have to get up at 4:00 to go to the gym, and me on fewer than 7 hours of sleep is NOT a happy thing.  😉

*I have to interject here that there are many “diet” books I don’t have a problem with, even if I don’t always like the way they cook.  I’m objecting specifically to the types mentioned at the start of the post.

Thank You

Thank you to the folks who commented on my last post.  I was really floundering, and you helped a lot.  T even left a comment with a make-your-own-circuit, which I TOTALLY did tonight.  It took me 8 minutes, and the thought of doing it made me want to cry, but I figured I could do anything for 2 circuits.  So I did.  And it helped: it was one less thing to feel like I’d failed at, which I TOTALLY NEEDED TONIGHT.  So, thanks, T!

In other news, look!  A Christmas theme!  Now when they add the “snow” that falls, I’ll be REALLY excited.  😀

In still OTHER other news, I did my 8-minute workout tonight, and I made dinner.  Both of those things were big for me tonight.  Now I’m off to re-read some of my Beck book.  I’m catching up again, since I got hung up on the exercise chapter and then GROUND TO A HALT on the “realistic goal” chapter.  Ahem.  So I’m putting some things back together.  I’ve been carting my food journal around without actually writing in it.  Turns out it doesn’t work by osmosis.  Damn.  So I need to start doing that again.  And the exercise.  And getting enough sleep.  But at least I feel like I’m covered for food and exercise the rest of the week.  So I can focus on getting enough water, enough sleep, and tracking my journal.  Those are the big things. 

And I really need to give some thought to how exactly I am going to motivate myself going forward.  How to drag my ass through the day when I’m struggling.  I’m not sure how to do that yet, but obviously I need to consider it.

At the moment, my mood has swung pretty far back toward “manageable.”  Tune in tomorrow to see if it sticks!  *rolls eyes*

Grinding . . . To . . . A . . . Halt. (Also known as “That Sneaky Bastard, Self-Sabotage”)

Yeeeaaaahhh.

First off, I just added a page at the top: One Week at a Time.  I have this habit of starting new healthy behaviors and then forgetting them a week or two later, when I add a new batch.  So now I have them all in one place.  🙂

In other news . . . I’m feeling SUPER un-motivated right now.  I just don’t really give a damn, although I know that the only reason I don’t is because I might start making progress, and yanno, change is scary.  In fact, I don’t really even want to write this post.  I would like to go eat some pasta, curl up in a blanket and watch TV until my eyeballs fall out.

But I won’t.  Dammit.

This month I’ve decided that I’m going on an exercise streak.  I’m going to get some exercise every day, no matter what.  It’s a little overwhelming and scary to think about, I can’t lie.  But I figure I can always find 20 minutes to squeeze in a DVD, even if I don’t do an hour, so that’s something, right?    (And yes, I DID say that I was going to start this last week.  And NO, I did not follow through.  I’m thinking Thanksgiving week was probably not a good week to start a challenge like this.)

Anyway.  That’s really all I have today.  I have to go home tonight and do a DVD, and I have to pull my act back together as far as the Beck stuff and whatever else is concerned.  I don’t want to – but I want to repeat my usual cycle even LESS than I want to pull myself up.  So pulling myself up it is.