Breaking Bad Habits, 2nd Key

The second key I found to be essential for breaking my bad eating habits was to find outBad Habits the underlying emotional reason for overeating in first place.

I’m going to tell you straight up, people, this was not easy. I had to face some deep dark corners of my emotions; feelings that I had unknowingly happily numbed had to come to the surface and be dealt with.

I started by asking myself, every time I went to grab food, why I was eating. Was I hungry? Was my body in need of a specific nourishment? If not, then why was I eating? I realized I usually overate to numb feelings of boredom and loneliness.

Once I was able to identify these emotions and give them a name, processing them became possible. Processing those emotions required a hard look at my life and what wasn’t working about it. I had to look both at my own weaknesses and how people around me were affecting me. I had to face the fact that my marriage was falling apart; I wasn’t getting the emotional support I needed. It left me lonely. I had to face the fact that I didn’t make the best use of the time I had. I was bored.

I had to make two changes in my life. First, I had to minimize the reasons I was feeling those emotions. I separated from my husband. I found that when I am alone with someone there, it is more lonely than the solitude of being alone by choice. I started using my time more wisely. I developed a better work ethic around the house. I went back to school, which definitely used much more of my time.

Second, I had to develop better coping mechanisms for when I still felt those emotions. When I am lonely, I call a friend or talk to the dog. (While it sounds funny, my dog is actually a pretty good listener.) When I am bored, I clean or organize or sort something. I do homework. I run up and down the stairs 10 times.

One of my biggest tool to overcome my emotional eating habits was, whenever I found myself wandering into the kitchen, to drink instead. I’d heard of an eating plan called Trim Healthy Mama, and I wanted to see what it was about. While I decided not to follow the plan, I fell in love with their Good Girl Moonshine.  I always have a quart mason jar on my counter filled with Good Girl Moonshine. It has enough kick that it feels like a better replacement than just water for the food I would have eaten otherwise.

What bad habits are you trying to overcome? Are there emotional reasons that these habits developed? How can you minimize them and develop better coping mechanisms?

See Part 1 of my Breaking Bad Habits here. Part 3 will be coming soon!!

Breaking Bad Habits, 1st Key

Let me be straight up with y’all here: I’m overweight. Not just overweight, but obese. I’m barely 5’1″ and I weight almost 170 pounds. I’m down 10 pounds from 2 months ago and am pretty dang proud of myself, but still have 15 more until I hit “overweight” and 40 to get to “normal”. I’ve tried a bajillion times to lose weight before, and it never stuck. As I’ve become more emotionally healthy over the last few years, I’ve realized there are three keys that I have needed to understand in order to be successful.

For starters, it’s important that you guys know that I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka LDS, aka Mormon. This is important because my first key is faith-based. (Not a person of faith? Skip to keys 2 and 3. They should be posted within the next couple weeks.)

Bad Habits 1

I believe that there really is an adversary, a devil, Satan, Lucifer, or whatever it is you want to call him. He wants us to be miserable. He’ll tempt us to do things that he claims will make us happy but really won’t. He’ll tell us things like, “A handful of chocolate chips isn’t going to make that big of a difference”, and “It’s okay if you sleep in today. You can get up and work out tomorrow.” He can be very discouraging. “You know you’re weak. You know you’re going to give in. Why bother fighting? You’ll never be able to do it”

You know that old image of an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other? Yep; that’s a real thing. I feel it on a daily basis. Maurice Harker, CMHC, Lead Therapist and Director of Life Changing Services, an LDS based therapy group in Utah that specializes in overcoming addiction, supporting the spouses of addicts, and learning self-mastery, says there isn’t really such thing as negative self-talk. Those negative thoughts in our head are the adversary trying to get us to choose poorly. (I just thought that in the voice of the Templar Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade…. “You have chosen… poorly.”) Once we know how that those negative thoughts in our head aren’t because we’re weak, but because a real entity is trying to affect our behavior, it takes overcoming to a whole new level.

angel and devil

An Ensign article (the Ensign is an LDS magazine) titled “The War Goes On” by Elder Larry R. Lawrence talks about this exact thing. He shares a story of President Heber J. Grant, who, when confronted with temptation, said alound, “Mr. Devil, shut up.” My preferred phrase is, “Dude, Satan, get the f out.” (And I do say “f” instead of the swear word, because I’m a good Mormon girl and don’t swear.) So if you find yourself discouraged because your brain keeps sabotaging you, take a different approach. Recognize that it’s the adversary trying to take you down and fight him. Tell him to shut up. Tell him you’re not going to let him win.

Right now, as I type, I have this going on in my head. “Kids aren’t here. Pop popcorn.” “No, I’m done eating for the day. I don’t need popcorn.” “But popcorn is free on your diet plan. Have some.” “Yes, popcorn is free, but the butter and oil aren’t.” “That’s okay, a little extra for the day won’t hurt.” “But I’m not hungry.” “But you don’t need to be hungry for popcorn. You can eat it whenever.” Folks, this is a brutal battle in my head  All over a little popcorn. Guess it’s time to tell the adversary to get the f out and focus on my blogging.

This video by Maurice Harker has awesome information about how to overcome the bonds of the adversary. It’s titled, “How do good, smart people slip into pornography addictions.” But it’s not just about pornography. Do what he says at about 5:30 and pick your one things that you’re trying to overcome and listen with that one thing in mind. You can see his “Breaking the Chains” series for an uncut version.

So the first key to changing habits is to learn to be aware of the adversary and his effect on you. When you feel that negative talk coming into your head, walk away. Do what you know to be right; what will make you happy in the long run.

What habits are you trying to change? In which ways does the adversary speak to you to discourage you?

Escaping, Part 2

In my last blog post I talked about the dangers of escaping instead of feeling emotions.  In this post, I’d like to talk about what to do if you’ve had a rough day and the adversary is pounding you and you want to go into escape mode.

For starters, I’d say this is why it’s important to have a hobby.  I found art journaling to be a godsend for me.  I was introduced to jennibellie on youtube.  I was first drawn to her tutorials on how to make journals and scrapbooks out of scrap materials, but then found that mixed media art was something I enjoyed and was cathartic for me.  Any hobby you enjoy, be it art, music, sewing, woodworking, gardening, etc. can be a great alternative to turn to instead of escaping.

Second, projects can be a great source of diversion when trying to process emotions.  Anything around the house that will make your space better for you, whether functional or aesthetic, will allow you a proper outlet for the energy of big emotions.  Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a huge project.  Even organizing your purses or shoes gives you a sense of accomplishment that you did something worthwhile.

Projects don’t even have to be physical in order to be successful.  I am working on writing a book right now.  I am working very slowly, and I can’t honestly say it’ll ever be done, but it gives me something for my brain to do when all it does is want to focus on my problems and negativity.  Blogging can do the same thing.

Often the best way to avoid escape is to just do those things you have been putting off that are nagging you.  Does the kitchen need to be cleaned?  Do it!  Does laundry need to be done?  Paperwork sorted? Meals planned?  Emails returned?  Just do it!!  Tackle those things that are hanging over your head and making you want to escape in the first place!!

Ask yourself this: What can I do that would make me feel better about myself tomorrow?  If I was living as the ideal “me”, what would I be doing now? This, my friends, is the best tool that I’ve ever found to fight the urge to escape.

Escaping

Some days are hard days.  It’s part of being a human on this earth.  Sometimes our emotions are so big we don’t know what to do with them.  They feel intense and unmanageable.  We may feel like the only thing there is to do is to just turn them off.  Instead of allowing ourselves to feel and process these feelings, we go into “escape mode”.

Escape mode allows us to turn off those emotions and numb ourselves to the point that we can’t feel any of that bad stuff any more.  No more hurt.  It sounds ideal, right?  People escape by binge watching videos on Netflix, youtube, or another streaming channel.  They turn to food.  They dive into social media, arguing on political or religious posts with strangers, or just adding tons of “friends” so there’s always something new and interesting to look at.  They spend excess time on video games.  They get caught up in addictions like drugs, alcohol, pornography.  Sometimes escape can, on the outside, look like a good habit like reading.  But if it allows you an escape from emotions instead of allowing you to process and deal with your emotions, it can still be unhealthy.

With all of these easy ways to escape, it is clear why people do it so often.  Unfortunately, in the long run it does more harm than good.  Those emotions don’t go away.  They fester. We become dependent on these escapes because the hurt is so overwhelming.  Our families suffer because we are no longer able to connect with them, because any chance of making our emotions vulnerable hurts too much.

So, what do you do?  You feel the hurt.  It sucks.  There’s no other way to put it.  It sucks to cry.  Especially if you’ve been programmed by society to believe that it’s a sign of weakness.  But you cry.  You get angry.  You punch a wall.  You throw yourself on a bed and thrash around because there’s no other way to get that emotion out of your body.

In Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection, she likens it to intentionally pressing our finger against a thorn.  Why would you do that?  You do it because, when that emotion is out, you are able to downgrade it.  Where there was abandonment, there is now loneliness.  Where there was devastation, there is now hurt.  Where there was rage, there is now frustration.  Where there was loathing, there is now disappointment.  You can’t live with rage, but you can live with frustration.  And then you don’t have to turn to escape in order to deal with life.

Stay tuned for my post next week about what to do when you’re tempted by escape mode.  When you’ve had a hard day and your brain says, “Let’s grab that big bag of candy and lay on the couch for 4 hours and fast forward through Pride and Prejudice to only watch the parts with Colin Firth”.

Rebooting

Do you know what’s awesome about Mondays?  It’s a chance to reboot.  It’s a new beginning, a clean slate, a fresh start with absolutely no mistakes.  Many people pick Mondays as a day to start new goals or reboot old ones that have fallen by the wayside.  I was wondering recently, though, why wait until a Monday to start a reboot?  Why wait when you have a fresh, new, clean day every day?  There are a few good reasons to start rebooting daily instead of weekly.

Reboot

 

First, it helps build habits faster.  If you fall off a goal after only two days, you are wasting five days until you start again!  What if you rebooted the next day? That’s only one day that you’ve missed, and it will be a lot easier to build a habit if you only skip one day instead of five.

Second, when you start fresh each day you are more likely to focus on your successes in stead of your failures.  It’s more motivating to look back and see how hard you have tried every day to succeed.  If you haven’t even tried for 5 days in a row, how motivated are you going to be to try again?  If you keep trying every day, even if you don’t succeed every day, you are going to be more successful.

Third, it’s nice to have some introspection every morning as you plan your goals for the day.  I had a boss that once told me, “People that make a list get twice as much done as people who don’t, even if they only finish half the things on their list.”  I have found it to be so true!!  When I sit down with my list of “to do’s” and goals every day, it forces me to prioritize my life.  I have found things that, as I work regularly towards my goals and habits, sometimes I find that things are less important to me than they seem in the beginning.  If you reboot weekly instead of daily, you’re going to waste a lot more time figuring out those types of things.

So, how do you do it, you ask?  It’s as simple as making a couple of lists.  Get a notebook, a planner, or another place to write things down.  Make a list of what habits and goals you are working on.  Prioritize them.  You definitely want to work on the most important things first.  But sometimes the most important things are going to take a long time.  So throw in a couple of short, easy to accomplish goals so that you feel successful.  Then, every morning, take five minutes to write down your to do list for the day.  Seriously, it can take as little as five minutes.  This does not have to be a complicated thing.  Just make a to do list.  And then go and do.  Even if you don’t do everything on your list, you will feel accomplished and successful.

Try rebooting daily and see how it works for you.  Come back and leave a comment if you like it!!

Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

So sorry, Brené, if you ever read this, that I couldn’t properly get the accent on your name in the title.

I’ll be honest, friends.  It took me a long time to get through this book.  I got about 3/4 the way through, then had to take a step back from it.  It contained so much awesome information and created so many new awarenesses that I couldn’t contain it all.  (And I think part of that was due to the fact that I had just come off previewing a bunch of novels for my kids, and Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy Series and The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach have a significantly easier reading level.  I had been spoiled.)

I finally sat down with my notebook and decided the only way I was going to get through it was to take notes.  Which, frankly, I should have been doing anyways, since my comprehension and retention is so much better when I do.  It still took me a while, but I made it through.

The Gifts of Imperfection is so chock-full of information it’s hard for me to summarize in a paragraph for a review. So instead I will make a list of my favorite lessons learned:

1 – When we change ourselves to please others or to fit into the mold that we feel society has for us, it will only bring unhappiness.

2 – Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, which includes embracing our imperfections, is imperative to loving ourselves and allowing others to love us.

3 – Hope is not an emotion, but a way of thinking.

4 – The opposite of joy is not sadness.  It is fear.

5 – The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.

6 – Comparing ourselves to others will never lead to happiness.

I look forward to reading Brené’s other books.

4 Legs of Self Care: Spiritual

This is a tricky subject for me to talk about.  I am Mormon, and we have a couple of spiritual practices that are different than other Christian religions, whose practices are different from other organized religions, whose practices are different from those who practice spirituality outside of organized religion.  So I shall endeavor to tread carefully while talking about spiritual self care.

A basic belief in God, or in a greater being or force outside of ourselves can bring purpose when we go through trials.  (From here on out when I refer to God, please feel free to substitute the greater being or force of your belief system.)  I have found those without a belief in God tend to struggle when going through trials.  They often feel that there’s no point. Some who vigilantly follow the law of attraction believe that they are the creator of their trials, and can feel a sense of guilt when something bad happens.  While I believe in the law of attraction, and the christian counterpart, the law of the harvest, I believe that there are other eternal laws that govern our lives and can be the impetus of trials in our lives.

When we believe that God exists and has our greatest interest at heart, it is easier to recognize that trials have a purpose other than making our lives miserable.  If we can harness that purpose and keep an eternal perspective, it is easier to grow (and go) through that trial.

spiritual self care

Spiritual self-care can help us keep the purpose and perspective that is needed to get through trials.  What practices do you find helpful in maintaining your spiritual self?  Do you rely on prayer, scripture study, and church attendance?  What about spending time in the outdoors enjoying God’s creations?  Do you practice meditation?  Do you regularly express gratitude for the blessings you have? Do you give back to others through service?   What can you do to enhance your current connection to God?