The following food-log email exchange between myself and my client, Elaine, is the reason I started this blog. As I read through over 15 years of food logs, I continue to see how each one is like a golden nugget. The lessons that were learned (myself included) about personal behaviors, eating patterns, food addiction, self-sabotage, self-confidence, etc. are all here in these food logs. I cannot think of a better learning tool than reading other people's experiences that you can relate to (concerning food/body image/control-issues, etc.) and realizing you are not alone. Through my one-on-one sessions and these emails, I have uncovered secrets, fears, shame, guilt and dug deep with my clients to find solutions and answers. Please read...
8:30 Two Ezekiel toast with peanut butter. (Left my damn banana up in my room)
1:30 Amy's Veggie and Bean burrito with Greek Yogurt. Applesauce. Still hungry but don't really want any of my snacks.
Okay, some spicy pumpkin seeds. Meh.
4:00 So, so tired. Mainly because I was up late last night and a lot of stress of school stuff. Decide to go to gym. Multiple times during the drive I almost get off highway to go home and take a nap, but make it there. So tired, so I do the treadmill, slow walking at 12 incline. Feels good. Sweating. Tired though. Friend texts who cancelled our walking date, but is available now, so I leave after 30 min. We walk around the park for 40 minutes. Felt good. Energized now.
6:45 Scarf down like three pickles and a slice of turkey. But not hungry.
Meeting friend for dinner at City Winery...and then it all goes downhill. You can disown me at any time.
7:00 We are conned into the 5 for $5. Not so much conned as it is an ounce of five different wines, but more so that the woman decides to talk our ear off and probably pours more than an ounce for each. I'm good with the water for each sip.
8:30 So...I seriously thought about lying, but the point is that I have to learn that when I slip up or treat myself or whatever that I'm aware of it. I wish it wasn't right after having fries last night...but I definitely got a burger. And three more glasses of red wine. Yup. That happened. And it was really good with some aioli sauce. I wish I could say that I didn't eat the bun or didn't put the sauce on, but I did. So, this is where I need help. I'm really good at justifying things and there are going to be a lot of instances where I just get the good thing. But i have to learn the difference between a splurge/treat night or a just eating shit night. Progress is that I'm even thinking about this, and glad that it's here for us to discuss. This is what I need support on because I know how to order better, but I didn't. I am for the most part eating well and I don't want to deny myself stuff, but this wasn't a special occasion or place or anything, it was just good. I also know that I have happy hour with coworkers tomorrow. Grrrrr. Guilt. Oy vey!
You know what is so interesting, fascinating and why I just keep finding so many things that I love about my career??? YOUR EMAIL!!!!! Your email...here is why:
I read your "confession" as I have with other clients and my first reaction and instinct is..."that is normal..." I sense the extreme "shame" in having to say it "out loud" and the intense internal struggles of "oh, shit...what did I do, why did I do that?" and "wait, this is a burger and it is so good and I want it...and I do not want to have to think about all this shit and I do not want to have to feel guilty and I just want to eat a fucking burger...and I am eating it and it is amazing." And what it makes me realize and experience in myself and with my clients and in every person on this earth is that we all have these areas in life that are, for lack of a better term, good vs. evil. There is a control issue internally with what we want and what we do. But for me, when I read your email...damn, I am having a hard time trying to get the feeling I have inside out here on this page so bear with me...
Okay, it was like...hey, its no big deal...you had a burger. Guess what??? For the past few weeks you have made changes that are sooooooo HUGE and so out of your comfort zone and you have listened to me and trusted me and paid attention and the work you have done and are doing in this process is golden. So, when I read that you almost did not tell me...and what that means is the shame involved or just the acceptance of confessing to the only person who would care about you eating a burger at this point, it just breaks my heart because that goes very deep into our fears of being judged and yelled at (by another or our own inner voice.)
And I guess what I feel is that I know my own feelings of shame and it is a painful place to be...and having worked on my shame for many years, I have let so much of it go but there is always some that can creep back in at times. I want to have you get to a place where the balance of being able to enjoy a burger and fries along with eating clean and healthy takes over any shame or guilt or feelings of being judged. You nailed it when you said just by writing to me and taking the ownership and asking for the help to figure out how to balance this struggle is the beauty of what we are doing together. And yes, when you said the other day that this is "therapy," it is and it has to be because there is not one person who comes to me with food or body issues and struggles that just needs a food plan. We, who struggle, need to go much deeper to become aware and to kick the shit out of some of the evil and embrace the balance. And, this is BRAND NEW for you...it has only been a few weeks. So, be kind to yourself...I know you are probably someone who puts a ton of pressure on herself to get it right the first time and do not make mistakes and do not screw up...but with me and this process...each time you have "screwed up" you have come away with a HUGE learning tool. So, in this process it is about each step of the way, seeing what happens and each road block you come to is exactly what we need to have you learn the tool to put in your tool box. So, keep "screwing up" because soon you will not have "screw-ups" because you will have been in every situation that you needed to learn from and if you use your tool, great and if not...you have it for the next time. But for now, you need to see all the progress and learning that you have done and that it is not the end of the world that you had the burger but that you learn from it. And now...after this very short reply...here are the physiological reasons for last night:
From 830 to 130 you had toast and pb without that damn banana that keeps running away.
From 130, when you were still hungry but did not eat anything because you did not want what you had, until 645 you had nothing...except a few seeds.
Here is a lesson and where we have to become the adult!!! We might not WANT the snacks but if you know that you are hungry and you NOW KNOW that if you do not fuel it will backfire for the rest of the day and night...get out your tool...EAT whatever you have because you know that it will save you and your guilt and shame and energy and fat-loss and sugar cravings and the "fuck-its" for the rest of the day...especially if you are going out that night. We can whine and say, "ew, yuck, it is not what I want." or "It is not my first choice but I need the fuel so I do not fall off the wagon and crash and burn later."
You went to the gym instead of a nap...WHICH IS FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!! But what happened is that without any fuel in your body, you exercised (I am very proud of you for this step!!!!) That means you burned your "sugars" and you were on extreme empty. Even though you felt good and energized and even though you were not very hungry at 645 (because you were on overload, you did not have time to think about being hungry and your body had already shut down from not being fed or fueled) your body was burning all of its glycogen...sugars..and that will make you RAVENOUS and crave sugar, alcohol, starch, carbs, food...once you finally sit down and the body all of a sudden just crashes.
The minute you SAW the food...smelled the food...and your physiological body was SCREAMING for the starch, alcohol, sugar, fat, carbs...as you said...it was all downhill. This is about 70% why it happened. 20% hormonal. 10% you wanted it. This is the tool...please do not put this tool away yet...if you can carry this one with you...it is the support you are looking for. You will continue to have these "burger" experiences because you need more of them to really see and understand this whole process. But you do have the tool, now...so maybe you can start to let go of some of the guilt and shame and just know that it is now about practice.
Whew...I hope this all made sense. I love you for letting me express myself to you this way...and I love you more for all your hard work...keep it up!!!! Hugs...
I will save this email. There really is so much psychology involved. I reread my writing today and, yes, it's all about the shame! Ugh. I think I wouldn't have been so hard on myself if I had planned the splurge, but instead I made a game-time decision. I think another big takeaway (besides eating more throughout the day - definitely having more food at school) is that at least I'm noticing now. Like, wow, I ate that. It was delicious, but now I need to be extra good to my body today.
Thank you so much!
There's another woman at school who I saw eating Engine 2 veggies and rice. I was like "I was so confused. I thought I had left those in the freezer." Turns out she also couldn't remember if it was her Ezekiel bread or not. So, I have a new lunch buddy.
Thank you for your email and the reminder that this is brand new and that you are here to help me. Amazing that it all comes back to shame. You have not once made me feel bad about a choice, yet I still have that defense up. You are so good at explaining why I should make certain choices, but you've never made me feel bad about it or made fun of an attempt. The human mind is weird. Or at least mine is.
Thank you so much!
I know...there is so much that we can discover about our behaviors. Sometimes I feel like it would be better if I didn't "get" human behavior because in certain situations it is not always great to be on this end. Ugh!!!
I love that you want to save this email and that you went back to read yours. And yes, something I keep talking about is the awareness...noticing...the behaviors. I only just started understanding how just the ACT of the awareness is so powerful. We do not need to ACT on the awareness right away...but the more we notice what we are doing...the awareness will take over and become bigger than the older behavior. I saw a video about action vs. consequence and how the process does not work correctly in people with sugar/food addiction/addictions in general. They said as a younger kid the inability to stop and think about the consequence is normal...that part of the brain is not developed yet. But it should be in adults. We should be able to stop and think about the consequence of robbing a bank before actually doing it...whereas a teenager might not have developed that skill. Addicts do not have that part of the brain developed or it is missing and if a friend calls and says..."let's rob a bank and make a lot of money" they will go right ahead and do it without thinking. Same as seeing a cake and eating it...and THEN after, feeling like shit about doing it. Most adults have the ability to stop and think and then decide...but in some...it is 90% harder because of the lack of brain development. I am probably not describing this exactly as it is...but I hope you get the idea. I only developed this skill/ability in my mid-thirties. It was kind of like that saying...if you do the same thing over and over and get the same result...you are insane (or something like that.) Well, I finally got to the point where I literally stop...like, STOP, and say...do you really want this? Do you want to feel like shit physically...do you want to feel shame...do you want to feel your pants are tighter...is it worth all of that...can you wait for another time...and if the answer is ..."I am fine with that and I thought about all the consequences"...then and only then will I eat it and be 100% fine with the choice. Holy shit, Emily, you have the ability to make me write a lot...I hope you are not overwhelmed by these...you are lucky we are not on the phone because you would be asleep...heheheeeee.
I LOVE that another woman is eating clean and yummy foods. Do you like her? If so, it would be cool to share some food ideas, etc.
Thank you so much for letting me know that I have not made you feel bad or uncomfortable. And that you feel that I have explained the choices, etc.so that you understand what, why and how you are doing it all. (exactly what I have as my description for my blog.) There is nothing better for me than the reward I get from hearing that from you and seeing your success. So, this weekend, try and be aware of action BEFORE consequence and consequence BEFORE action. Hugs!!!!!!