Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mental Health Update - Week 2

I meant to update last night but was just too tired from work so here I am at the computer lab during a break between classes. If you didn't read the first part of my xmas vacay, please refer to my previous post first!

As cliche as the saying is. "What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger" is what happened to me during week 2 of my break at home. By this point, the scale showed that I had already gained 8lb (yes, that's right, go do that math) and I had adopted the attitude that instead of fighting these insane mental food cravings EVERYDAY I would just eat whatever and clean up the massacre when I returned to school.

The first two days of adopting this new attitude led to an eating frenzy. While I didn't binge in my room anymore, I certainly ate too much! Every lunch and dinner left me full to the brim and I somehow found room for more. The biggest difference though, was that I didn't feel ashamed for how I ate, and since I had come to accept this one fact I didn't take offense to any of the fat comments anymore either.

The miraculous thing was, that after 2-3 days of eating myself silly, I stopped. Someone smart somewhere said that, "If food isn't the problem, dieting isn't the answer." It was never really about dieting for me. My inability to lose weight in the past year hasn't been due to gluttony or a physiological need for ice cream and chocolate, but rather emotional triggers resulting from loneliness, a need for control, and fear of failure.

I never had anytime for myself due to work and 486R and was distancing myself from friends and social circumstances for fear of ridicule. For my entire life I was always the girl who ate whatever I wanted and stayed (relatively) skinny, and it seemed so wrong to meet new people and have them see this obsessively dieting and (not so skinny) girl. In my head, I was the 120lb girl trapped in a 135lb body. I was ashamed of myself and felt like I was a fake. This drove me away from people and towards trying to fix my woes through calorie counting and bizarre eating habits. I was afraid to eat out, afraid to eat someone else's cooking, and constantly obsessing about food.

Upon returning home and being surrounded by family everyday, I definitely wasn't lonely anymore. Seeing my best friends constantly helped too. There were so many people whom I haven't spoken to in months - even years, and upon seeing them face to face, felt so easy to just pick up where we left off! Time is one aspect of a relationship that can't be faked, no matter how intense or deep the emotional connection, I found a deep sense of peace and assurance to be reunited with people I've known for 7+ years. More importantly, I didn't feel self-conscious around people who knew the real 'Tracy'. A lot of my friends commended me two summers ago on my 10lb weight loss from being a gym rat for 3 months, and in a similar manner, I felt that they saw my weight fluctuation as just a common - average variance in my life. To them - I was still the old me, and knowing this gave me a sense of self-confidence to be the old me, which allowed me to happily reunite with my former (less anal & bitter) self.

As for the need for control, it was out of my hands! My mom did all the cooking for dinner, and every second meal seemed to be a meal at a relative's or a restaurant. After the initial few days of struggle, I realized that in certain situations, I have no choice but to let other people take the reigns over my diet. As harsh as my parents can be, it definitely helped me that their goals (weight loss) aligned with mine (weight loss).

Ironically too, once I had 'accepted failure' after that first week, I wasn't afraid of it anymore. That's when my obsession with food started to dissipate. I wasn't constantly worrying about what my next meal was going to be, I just accepted that it was probably going to come and that I was probably going to eat it and be satiated. I didn't worry about not getting 6-8 servings of produce a day, or whether I was eating too many unrefined carbs. And wouldn't you know, the less I thought about food, the less I ate. The less I controlled my intake, the more I trusted my instincts. I ate until I was full, and then I stopped. If I knew I was going to have a big dinner, I would 'save room' in my stomach. Sometimes I skipped breakfast! Binging stopped. Overeating stopped. If I wanted chocolate I'd eat it in front of the TV while my mom protested, and it really didn't bother me. Once I came to terms with myself, other people's opinions remained just that - opinions.

In the end, it's all a matter of perspective. Food wasn't the enemy, I was my enemy. But I made everyone around me my enemy for trying to judge me and forcing me to eat 'horribly unhealthy' foods. It took going back to my roots and being reunited with people who I know love me unconditionally to let go of this way of thinking. I knew my friends didn't judge me for the number on the scale, and realized that my parents' and family's insistance is the same as my own thoughts - just out loud! They weren't cruel for saying the truth, I was just too weak at first to accept it. Everyone around me is trying to help, and I'm the one who's sabotaging their efforts by forcing myself into an unnatural, lonely place with nothing but a cupboard of food.

Well this year, I definitely want to make changes. My top 3 New Year's resolutions were to:

1. Keep in touch with my family (by calling them every night, instead of every week or two weeks like I had been last year)
2. Spend more time with friends
3. Make loved ones the priority (over school, over work, and definitely, definitely over weird diet restrictions!)

Actually, when I returned to my Vancouver home, my roommate said I looked in 'particular good spirit' and that my skin was glowing and radiant. Sam also commented on how happy and cheerful I seemed when we went out to dinner earlier this week, and I definitely feel it. While the trip home was difficult and I had more than a couple meltdowns in the first week, I am thankful for the experience it offered me and feel so much stronger and happier with myself. A great way to start a brand new year!

So after that long tirade, I'm sure you're thinking , "well good for you Tracy for gaining all that valuable perspective! But what are you going to do about the weight? And what about the 8 lbs you gained in Winnipeg? Aren't you in a worse position weight-wise than before you left?"

Well stay tuned for the ACTION PLAN on how I plan on tackling weight loss (and hopefully return to food blogging) in the next post!

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