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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Know your enemy

The main hurdle for me in trying to eat healthily is the feeling that I am always missing out.  Intellectually, we all know the benefits of eating well, but this is not enough, particularly if, rather than making you feel worse, sugary and fatty foods actually (temporarily) boost your mood.

Again, The Places That Scare You ('TPTSY') explains that this is normal - it is human nature to mistake dissatisfaction for happiness.  I was struggling with how to overcome this when I read Chapter 4 of TPTSY, which covers the benefits of meditation.  One of the benefits is "clear seeing" (or dare I suggest - "seeing clearly") - we begin to see bad habits as restrictions.

When I read this I realised that I shouldn't regard Tim Tams as standard benefits that everyone else in the world gets to enjoy (because of course when you are thinking this way you conveniently ignore diabetics, the third world, kidnapped children in the Ivory Coast forced to harvest cacao from sunrise to setset, etc), instead they are barriers to my true enjoyment of life. Since then I have found it far easier to say no.  For example, I said no to a Tim Tam just three hours ago and didn't feel deprived.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Out of control

Several months ago, I was talking to one of the fit people at work, you know the type - get up at 5:00am to go on a lazy 50km bike ride before work.  I asked him how he maintained his discipline when it came to eating. His answer "suck it up, princess".

I knew he was right, so it has been somewhat disconcerting to me to find myself wholly unable to apply this principle to my Get Fit and Healthy Project (GFH Project).  At first I would tell myself "Tomorrow I will eat right", but it just seems beyond me.  I don't think I have eaten so badly, ingested as much sugar and caffeine nor exercised or slept as little as I have in the past six weeks. It seems that immediately I started my official GFH Project, I started acting in the completely opposite way.

Given this behaviour, I have been heartened by a chapter called "Heightened Neurosis" in The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron.  This chapter explains that this behavour is NORMAL.  It even sets out the categories of neurosis, all of which I related to:

  1. Feelings of not measuring up - for example, feeling that you will never be able to stick to a diet and exercise program, which is how I have been feeling for six weeks.
  2. Feeling superior - this is how I felt back in March when I was a caveman for a month (only eating animal protein, fruit and vegetables).  I felt like I was on the right path and it was only a matter of time before I would be glowing with effortless good health.  Of course, after the month was over, despite assurances from numerous websites and even though I felt great, I just went back to my old habits.
  3. Avoiding another issue - by making the problem about what I am eating, I am avoiding acknowledging that the real issue is my Graves Disease, that nobody knows why it occurs, that even if I eat perfectly and exercise every day, I still might not recover.

To overcome heightened neurosis, the book advises "ongoing patience and kindness toward this inevitable process", accepting yourself and thinking of it "as a sign that old habits are being liberated". By practicing "compassionate inquiry into out moods, our emotions and our thoughts", we develop understanding (the Sun - refer last post) and over time we stop acting against ourselves.

It seems to be working, albeit slowly.  So far I have stopped drinking beer because while I like beer, it most definitely doesn't like me.  I've also only had one cup of tea with breakfast, instead of two.  It's not exactly "suck it up, princess", but at least I seem to be heading in the right direction again.