I clearly remember when I began having disordered thoughts and actions about food. I was 17-years-old and was dealing with the tragic death of my best friend’s mother. The death was shocking, and at 17, I didn’t know what to do, let alone how to be there for my friend. If I was feeling this way, I couldn’t even imagine what she was feeling. All I know is that during this time in my life, I felt myself shut down emotionally.
Not long after the tragic news, I turned to food. I had never done this before. I had never given it a thought. It just came to me. I realized that food has always made me happy and therefore I can use it to my advantage now to feel better about life. Food can be my friend, my confidant, and my way to control the world around me. The fact is, I knew I couldn’t control everything in life, but I could control what I ate and how I ate. It was my body and I was calling the shots. I wanted control.
I started cutting back on what I ate and it didn’t take long for friends and family to realize something was up. I was not the same person. Luckily, my mom put me in counseling and for the first time I was able to understand how something tragic can make you turn to unhealthy patterns for comfort. I stopped my disordered ways, and eventually, I felt like myself again.
Although I beat disordered thinking early on, it didn’t go away 100%. My past of disordered eating and thinking has come back to haunt me on a few occasions since then. After about the third time of it rearing it’s ugly face again, I saw a pattern.
I realized that my negative self-talk and thinking would return when I was faced with extremely stressful situations. High stress is my trigger. For instance, when my first boyfriend broke up with me while I was a freshman in college, I immediately wanted to go on a diet to feel better about myself. And when I graduated college and had no clue what I was doing, I wanted my diet “friend” in my life. Then there was just last year when I lived out of state and desperately wanted to be back in Ohio. I started up a new diet plan to have my old pal back in my life.
With all of these instances, I was seeking control for what seemed like an out of control situation. I wanted to call the shots in my life and food was how I could do it.
Breaking the Pattern
Most recently when I was in a minor car accident (that made me feel out of control and stressed), I felt the negative thoughts come creeping back. I even started making a mental plan of how I can begin to restrict my intake and diet. But before things got out of hand, I made a conscious decision to stop.
I knew that going down this slippery slope of dieting was not fun. Sure, in the beginning, I feel a great sense of control and accomplishment for being able to stick to a plan. But it doesn’t last long. I begin to beat myself up when I slip up and go off plan. My self esteem takes a dive and I feel even worse off than I did before.
Being Aware of the Problem
The first step in breaking the pattern of anything is to become aware that there actually is a problem. So that’s exactly what I did. I chose to become aware of what I was doing.
With this added awareness, I realized I was putting myself through my own self inflicted misery. I was choosing to deal with my emotions in a negative manor rather than actually feeling my emotions.
Stress, I’ve come to realize, is a powerful thing. If not dealt with properly, it can cause all sorts of mayhem in life. Adequately dealing with my stress has been one of the ways I’ve effectively beaten my pattern of disordered thinking (which can lead me to disordered eating).
Exercise is one of my main stress relievers. It’s essential for me to do. Even just a walk outside allows me to decompress and let my mind rest and have my thoughts wonder.
Nurturing my relationships with my family and friends is also another way I relieve stress. I love my family and friends so much and spending time with them, either in person or on the phone, automatically makes me feel better. Even just anticipating a get together in the near future with friends and family makes me happy. My relationships mean everything to me.
Another way that I relieve stress is through reading. I love to read and recently I can’t get enough of it. I even find going to the bookstore to be stress relieving. I love being around books and stories and I love getting lost in a story of characters.
Find Your Outlet
These are all things that relax me and help me be a better person who can adequately deal with the stress of life. My point in sharing these examples is to say that everyone needs to find positive outlets in life to deal with stress. I truly believe it’s essential to living a healthy and happy life.
Having self love is another factor that has allowed me to break the pattern of disordered thinking. Love is a powerful thing and I’d go as far to say that it is the most powerful thing in life. Loving yourself is absolutely crucial in life. I’ve written posts on how to stop food obsession and really, they all boil down to having self love.
Loving yourself to me means being kind to your mind, body and soul. Living out your dreams and passions in life, taking time out to relax and unwind, eating well and exercising, spending time with loved ones, and having fun are all ways to be kind to your mind, body and soul.
It’s OK to do things for yourself and for your own well being. When I became more aware of the importance of self-love, my disordered thoughts have almost diminished. I can say with confidence that I go many days without a negative thought about myself. This is a huge accomplishment coming from someone who would go weeks on a restricted diet and demand my body to become something it clearly isn’t. Those days are long gone and I’m a much happier person because of it.
Not Seeking Perfection
Am I 100% happy and positive all of the time? No, I still get stressed and still have negative feelings. I’m not seeking perfection here. Heck, just a couple of months ago I was starting to fill myself with doubt about my weight. I thought that this doubt was coming from my weekly weigh-ins and being number obsessed.
After taking the scale away, I realized it wasn’t the scale I was angry at. I was feeling negative towards myself because I thought I shouldn’t be at that number. Those pesky negative body thoughts were creeping back in and I was for whatever reason attaching my worth to a number. When I made the decision to accept that this is where my body functions optimally and where I feel great health-wise, I realized my thoughts were silly. It really is just a number and it’s where my body likes to be. I chose to accept it and to not worry about it anymore.
With having more love and acceptance of myself I am much more aware of how to deal with the negativity that can arise in me. I am able to turn things around much quicker and see the greater picture in life rather than sweat the small stuff.
Making the Choice
The most important thing I’ve done in breaking the pattern is to make a conscious choice to do so. I’m the creator of my own happiness and I choose to live my life in a positive way, not wrapped up in my own negativity. Making this choice has made my life much more enjoyable and full of wonder.
How do you handle negative self-talk?