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Love Myself Monday...Reframing Negative Thoughts and Celebrating Life

Posted Aug 15 2011 2:16pm

I have a confession. With all the rainy weather and being cooped up in the house, I was not dealing with my meal plan well yesterday. I wake up early, around 5:00-5:30, meaning I eat breakfast around that time as well. Then I am hungry at like 10 am for either a snack or lunch. Yesterday goodness knows why but I was craving a sweet potato (which thankfully I had in the pantry J ) and a nice big salad with shrimp and hummus? Ok, that’s fine, all those things are healthy and all food I can feel good about putting into my body. Well after that I was still pretty hungry so I had a Chobani Yogurt (I bought a pomegranate one for $1 yesterday and apparently my stomach thought I needed to try it!) topped with strawberries, cereal and peanut butter. It was delicious and again, a healthy selection, so I put my mind at ease a little by reading The House at Riverton and making plans with my mother-in law to go see The Help. Well at 1:30 I was again kind of hungry and decided I wanted a snack. I wanted more yogurt, a Thomas Cinnamon Raisin Bagel Thin, Strawberries and Peanut Butter. Please don’t get me wrong. NONE OF THIS IS BAD FOR ME. I need the nutrients and I need the calories to repair the damage I have done to my body, but the fact that my eating schedule was varying from my normal routine was definitely throwing me for a loop. As I sat at my kitchen counter after my latest snack I took a breathe and reminded myself, as I do every day I take a shower and still see clumps of hair in my hands when I wash it, that I still have a long way to go. Rationally, I know all these things, but like I said, the abnormal eating schedule and constant hunger sent me into a tailspin with thoughts like I could never be satisfied and wondering “omg what if its like this all day, and then tomorrow, and forever and I will never be able to stop!”

This is a common fear for those with disordered eating habits. I have had it before and undoubtedly will have it again, BUT the bigger and better point to this post is before I could NOT, under any circumstances, get out of my head during destructive thoughts. I would agonize and plan how to restrict more later or sneak in some exercise. I would berate myself and think of all the things I wanted but I could not have because there was a really mean voice in my head telling me no. At these points I couldn’t decide what was worse…the horrific thoughts in my head or the constant gnawing at my stomach because I was so darn hungry. Many times the bad thoughts won and I did not listen to my body L

But this weekend was different because just as I was about to throw on my Free Runs and hop back on that treadmill I saw a tweet from Caitlin at HTP about her new post. I checked it because I enjoy reading blogs and I think truly believe someone was trying to send me a message that my treadmill ambitions were wrong since I already exercised this morning. And you know what….I was right. Staring me right in the face was an Operation Beautiful message that I needed to see at that very moment. So thank you, very much Caitlin for making me realize my thoughts were not productive and they were keeping me trapped in the cycle of ED.

See that is what happens every time you let an irrational thought, specifically negative-self talk, corrupt your brain…it takes you one step back in your recovery… it allows room for more thoughts to creep in and eventually take over…If I let the bad thoughts stay and impact my behaviors, the next time I have another snack when it isn’t actually "snack time," I will probably think the same thing and maybe then I will get on the treadmill and hurt myself. The more you fight back against the habitual negative self-talk, the further you progress toward a healthy life. Permitting bad beliefs has always stopped my recovery processes in the past and this weekend, and from now on, I am not going to let it.

Yes I am uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, but if I sit with the anxiety, it will eventually go away. And next time if I do the right thing, and combat these irrational beliefs again, they might start going away all together! In science they call it is called changing your neuropath ways. In order to break a bad habit you need to alter your behavior…essentially train your brain to think and do things differently. That’s what I have to do! Learn to live healthily with balance not obsession! Exercise for enjoyment not over-exertion and the calorie burn. These are all concepts I considered foreign a few months ago, but after a few times of practice, they seemed to become more natural, more comfortable.

So for anyone struggling with negative self-talk here are some things I do to reframe my thoughts. Many are specifically geared around food and exercise, but honestly you could try the technique with almost any form of low-self esteem. I hope they help!

1. Irrational Belief: OMG I am eating so much!

My body needs this right now…the food I am putting in it is necessary for proper function and other things, specifically:

Carbohydrates for energy and to keep my metabolism functioning properly

Protein to build back the muscles I used to be proud of! Athletes need strength and you cannot be strong with no food.

Fats to make my hair stop falling out, my nails to grow, MY BRAIN TO WORK CORRECTLY…

Dairy because my bones are brittle and weak after treating them so poorly…

This is usually helpful when I am struggling with a specific item…for example when I first conquered my fear of fats (nuts, nut butters, etc…all my favorites now J ) I literally had to talk myself through them almost every time. Now I eat them with almost every meal!

2. Irrational Belief: If I eat this _________, I will blow up like a major balloon and everyone will hate me.

There are so many things wrong with the statement above, but yet I believed it for a very long time. First of all, no one item of food, or single day of eating for that matter, causes instantaneous weight gain. A cookie, for example, will not automatically stick to your thighs and make them grow an inch at the table. It takes 3500 calories OVER what your body requires to function on a daily basis in order to gain a pound. Most people stay around the same weight because they eat more one day, and less some others. That is how it works, our body regulates itself when it is within its biologically predisposed set-point range. Not that I condone looking at a caloric needs calculator but if you take a general rule, most women, teenagers and into their 30’s need about 2000-2500 calories depending on their activity level just to maintain…you would have to eat 500 calories over that EVERY DAY in order to gain a pound a week.

By thinking I was gaining weight with every morsel I put into my mouth, was to think I was an exception to science. Am I that special? That science and facts do not pertain to me??? I am special, yes, but not to the point where I have different rules than everyone else. Science is science, numerical facts are typically proven, and often my nutritionist uses charts, graphs, and scientific articles to convince me of my flawed thinking.

Now the second part of the above sentence, "everyone will hate me," is ridiculous because people who are worth having in my life will not hate me because of a few extra pounds. I have said this before but, many might even like me better because my mind will not be one hundred percent focused on food, never living in the present, and a constantly making me a cranky pants because I am so hungry. Not to mention no one seems to notice the “ton of weight I gained” other than me. Hello distorted body image??

These are more general ways I challenge myself in these, and many other irrational situations, or when having to fight the ludicrous and extremely rigid rules I created for myself…

1. What is more important, being skinny or life, a productive and fulfilling life?

It is no secret that eating disorders kill. It is a sad fact that no one can deny. The statistics are scary and with every day that we/I stay sick, is another day taken from my life. When they are talking at my funeral do I want the eulogy to say, “Yup, she was really skinny and great at dieting.” Or would I want it to say “She did so many good things with her life, had a kind heart, and lived to the fullest!” I personally chose the latter, so I apologize to anyone I am not skinny enough for you, but actually participating in life sounds pretty appealing right now. (I am just kidding…I do not apologize for my appearance at all. This is me, take it or leave it J )

2. What is this really about?

There is probably something emotional, or stressful occurring that negative thoughts are an easy distraction from…I usually evaluate what is going in my life outside food guilt and desires to exercise and many times the root of the problem has nothing to do with these things. When I can pinpoint why I am focusing on myself, food, and weight, I can also determine a much better solution…one that does not harm my body…

3. Reminding myself of all the reasons recovery from an ED and low self-esteem are a GOOD idea…remembering those dark days of my addiction and how miserable they were…

There are a million reasons to name of why recovery is great! Just to name a few…

  • Having REAL relationships again
  • Feeling energetic without excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Getting to do activities you were banned from during recovery (running!!!)
  • Fitting into clothes that actually make you feel good about yourself and that help you look like a 24 year old woman!
  • Gaining back the potential to have children if you want them
  • Having nice hair, skin and nails
  • Being able to smile and truly mean it (many have told me my eyes sparkle when I am in a healthier statement…personally I think that is an awesome compliment!)
  • Being able to go out in public and to social events without having a panic attack
  • Being able to stay present and focus on things you used to enjoy

Etc., etc., etc.

Please, please, please comment with any other things you can think of that make a healthy, balanced lifestyle the best way to go! I know there are a ton more J

And with that have a wonderful start to the week. I am calling today, Love Myself Monday ;-)

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