My client (let’s call her Jane) has been struggling to make it in to the studio for her sessions. To her credit, she works a lot of hours, owns a business and generally has a high amount of stress.
Her struggle beyond this is a general sense of lethargy, the “blues” and just wanting to curl up under the covers and vanish.
Rinse and repeat the next day and the next.
And I asked her a couple of very pointed questions that I prefaced with “This is coming from a place of love.”
“How old are you?”
“Do you think 53 years is long enough to suffer?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good…can you stop suffering?”
Somewhat out of context, you may wonder what I meant.
For many of my clients, they don’t know how to step out of the circle of suffering. That circle looks something like this:
-Wake up feeling poorly rested and rush to work.
-Skip breakfast or eat something of poor quality.
-Feel sluggish until the next meal time which either gets skipped due to work load or is replaced by a meal too large in calories or too poor in quality (often both.)
-Stumble through the rest of the work day, dehydrated (due to lack of water intake), stressed, tired and ready to go home.
-Get home, thoroughly exhausted, eat a dinner similar to lunch (too large in calories/too poor in quality), curl up on the couch, watch TV, snack some more, go to bed.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
And Jane’s concern is easy to understand: I’m too tired and too depressed to do anything different. I don’t have the energy to do anything productive or beneficial for myself.
Here’s the first victory: Jane is admitting the problem.
Now, can she remove the things that mask the pain?
When you’re in the circle of suffering, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no light. There’s just the endless rehash of the same destructive patterns.
We eat poor quality because it’s a temporary relief to the stress and the pain of life. Blood sugar typically rises and then sufficiently plummets leading us back to more poor quality food or more caffeine (often both) and the circle continues.
For Jane, the suggestion was simple to make: remove those poor foods. They’re not gone forever, they’re gone for now because they’re winning the battle and she is not. It’s times like these for people like Jane who need to step away from the foods that cover up pain and don’t give her the space to focus on her problems.
I’m not standing in a glass house throwing stones either. For me, 10 years of not knowing how to cope with my own problems led to drugs. I didn’t associate self-medicating with food until my father was diagnosed with cancer and had only a few months left to live. Then, food became the coping mechanism. I had to find a way to mask the pain of knowing he’d be gone.
When we can step outside of the “circle” we can troubleshoot:
Why am I eating this? Because I’m stressed and I want comfort.
What happens when I eat this? I temporarily fill the void so that I don’t have to think about my stress.
How do I feel when I eat this? Momentarily fulfilled, then guilty, then sad. I berate myself for my decisions, throw the day out the window and repeat the behavior because I already feel like a failure so if I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail BIG.
And I told Jane “You may need to remove these foods for right now. They are not serving you. They are your master. It needs to be the other way around. When you do this, you will slowly regain control of your circumstances.”
I will give credit to the fact that several of my clients suffer from clinical depression. They are on medication for this. Sometimes, it is the right medication and sometimes it needs to be changed.
*For those clients, please see your doctor to get things on the right track.*
Beyond the symptoms of the clinically depressed, the same concepts apply. If you drink alcohol to cope with your emotions, you are consuming a downer which compounds your problems. If this sounds like you, alcohol may need to temporarily be off the grid until you are through the current struggle.
If you are taking anti-depressants AND consuming alcohol, it can become something of a double-whammy. The alcohol decreases the effectiveness of the antidepressant.
Talk to your spouse/your family/your significant other. Explain the depths of the problem. Not just a glossy “I need to lose weight” statement either.
I mean “Hey, I need to talk to you. I have a problem that is burying me right now and I can’t conquer it without you.”
If my wife, for instance, said those words to me I’d be all in. I’m not going to watch her suffer. Not when I have the capacity to help.
If you cannot break your own circle of suffering, you will have to enlist the help of others. This may include those you are intimate with as well as a qualified therapist who has experience working with individuals suffering from some level of disordered eating.
This does not make you a defective person. You are perfect. Your coping mechanisms are not.
At some point, the foods that you lost control over may have a kinder place in your life. The reintroduction of those foods is different for everyone.
For now, rather than mask the pain: face the pain. It is temporary.
There is a better (stronger, healthier) you on the other side.
But first, remove the things that mask the pain.
Below is Courtney, down 22lbs and currently solving the food problem of what can belong and what needs to be on the backburner…for now.
“We Make Great People Greater”