Food and Uncertainty

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Ambiguity intolerance is the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as threatening.

It makes sense – the unknown is scary. But some people have a harder time dealing with it than others.  And these people are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, especially when faced with a particularly difficult stressor.

Uncertainty and Food

I believe that many disordered eaters suffer from ambiguity intolerance.

Have you ever turned to food to flood your brains with feel-good chemicals in order to avoid feelings of panic? Have you ever done this – even though nothing was wrong in that particular moment?

Fostering a Taste for Uncertainty

If you find yourself threatened by the unknown, fostering a healthier relationship with uncertainty might do wonders to decrease your anxiety.

Who knows, you might even develop a taste for uncertainty. This time next year you could be reading this post while wrestling a shark.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on this hour, this minute, and this day. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the whole entire future. Bring yourself into the present by focusing on what you can do right now. I know this is easier said than done. But try.
  2. Do things that scare you. You have to actively do things that scare you. It sucks, but you’ll (most likely) live. Last year, I jumped out of a freaking airplane! It was the worst thing ever.
  3. Improve a skill. Some people feel anxious because they have an overall feeling of never being good enough. But everyone is good at something. Take something you’re good at and get great at it. Your feelings of pride will spill over into every day life. See my post on pursuing your weird hobbies.
  4. Achieve a behavioral goal. Set a small behavioral goal for yourself, and achieve it. Like number three above, the good feelings will spill over into your every day life making you feel less anxious in general. You’ll also see that things aren’t so hard when you take them one step at a time.  Example: I will go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks.

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When the People You Love Hate You

Expected consequence of losing weight: People like you more. And it hurts.

Unexpected consequence of losing weight: People dislike you more. And it hurts.

Autistic to Jealousy

Like most humanoids, I experience a wide range of complex emotions: Happiness/Sadness. Anger —> Euphoria. Anticipation! Fear! Excitement! …Diarrhea. Usually in that exact order.

But unlike many humans, I have a mental defect. I don’t experience jealousy. In fact, I’m incapable of  comprehending it.  Important Exception: you better not touch my fucking man.

I know you don’t believe me – but what can I say? I don’t experience jealousy. I understand that it’s an emotion that must serve some evolutionary purpose, but seriously – I didn’t get the software update.  I also didn’t get the software that gives you competitive drive.

From the bottom of my heart – I don’t care if every single creature in the entire universe is more successful or prettier or less hairy then me.  In fact, I hope they are.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I am by no means at peace with myself.

I want to be more successful and important than I am. If I’m not important, I will die. And nobody will miss me. I also have to be flawless. Because if I’m not beautiful, then I’m worthless. So every flaw must be eradicated, beginning with my entire face.

But my sense of competition, however unhealthy, is exclusively with MYSELF.

..And I thank god for that. Because I get to experience nothing but genuine happiness and love for all of mankind. And even for most of dolphin-kind.

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with the exception of this smug bastard

So it’s hard for me, as someone who can’t fathom jealousy, to be the victim of it.

My natural preference is for everyone in the world to have as much success as possible. The more success EVERYONE has, the more likely it is that someone will be around to help my future offspring when an asteroid comes.

I can’t comprehend anything else. I can’t comprehend the complex emotion of simultaneously loving someone AND also wishing bad upon them.  Or even weirder – wishing that I had what they have at their expense. It doesn’t make sense.

I want to reconcile these apparently conflicting concepts, but this particular emotion is more complex than my limited framework allows.  I’m autistic to jealousy.  So I’m trying in vain to rationalize something that cannot be rationalized. Jealousy is a feeling that someone has.

Since I’ve Lost Weight..

Certain people have become suspiciously nice to me. As in way way way too nice. And I know in my heart that some people (most people) love and value me more at 135 pounds than my they did at 190 pounds. And it hurts like hell.

And Since I’ve Lost Weight…

Other people have become incredibly horrible to me. As in ridiculously, unnecessarily, absurdly mean.

…I’m talking Mean Girls mean. These are people who supposedly love me. And it hurts like hell.

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I just want to grab these mean girls and say, “What the fuck guys? Who does this help? WHY ON EARTH would you want me to hurt?”

..But that’s because I’m trying to take something as complex as jealousy and make it simple.  I’m trying rationalize things I can’t understand.

Trying to Understand

I  – for whatever reason – cannot comprehend what it means to compare myself to another person. My brain just isn’t wired that way. And I should consider myself lucky, because that’s a heavy burden.

But the drinkers of hater-ade, they have brains too. And their brains, for whatever reason, ARE wired that way. So their bad attitude is not really their fault.

I have to TRY to comprehend it. And when I try,  I imagine it must hurt.  Maybe more than their actions hurt me.

And I have to try to stay empathetic! Because I have flaws too. For example:

  • I eat a lot of chocolate
  • I have a history of being flakey, and
  • I never brush my teeth before bed. Don’t worry though – I brush compulsively throughout the day.

I’m not trying to be high and mighty here. I just recognize that I have choices. I can choose:

  • to take it personally, and therefore get mad, anxious and/or hurt; OR
  • to expand my consciousness by using this as a learning experience

I KNOW I have these choices, because I’m making them right now.

But what if jealous people don’t have a choice? I mean – jealousy doesn’t sound pleasant.  Would anyone REALLY choose jealousy over happiness if they truly had a choice?

I want to be mad! But I’m trying to stay humble because I don’t know what goes on inside of anyone’s head except my own.

This, I do for my own sake and sanity. Or at least I’m trying my best.

Stay empathetic my friends! 

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There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

I come bearing wonderful news.

What we call “emotional eating” – it doesn’t exist.  You actually just have terrible habits.

Who are YOU really?

A lump of clay? An eternal soul?
A child of God?
A descendant of Ancient Aliens????

I say you are a BRAIN. And maybe an alien also. I guess in some sense you’re a lump of clay too.

Whatever. But what you perceive, what you think, what you do – they are the all the same. They all originate in your brain, and they also shape your brain.

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Your neuroses, your hangups. And yes – your eating disorder. These all happen to your brain. The people you love & hate. All of it, all of them – they only APPEAR to live in houses and apartments. Really, they live in neurons that fired together.

As Woody Allen once said, “the brain is my second favorite organ.” If I had a penis, I might agree. But since I have lesser genitals, my brain comes first.

Some small portion of my brain is conscious. That tiny portion wants to be dictator, and I don’t even know why.

But even though my conscious brain wants to be dictator, it can never be. It’s too small, and too powerless. The rest of my brain is less conscious, but quicker. It knows it can do better than “I” can do. It’s been around millions of years longer, long before I was a reptile-fish.

These “reptile-fish” parts, they are my instincts. On top of that, I have a bunch of “mammal parts” – my habits. They are stronger than my human parts. And the only way to control them is to help shape them. 

The Power of Habit

What is your brain?

Is our “life” the current? Or the synapse? Or the things on both sides of the synapse?

I don’t know. It seems though, that whatever it is – it learns.  In the evolutionary past,  we couldn’t survive if we didn’t create shortcuts. We had to learn by making conscious associations, and then, by repetition, our brain made those associations unconscious.

Thus, we became habit machines!
We became so good at it, that we lived to tell the tale.

One of my favorite books is called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. You should give it a read. If you’re not familiar with this area, empower yourself.

Whatever you are –  you are a bundle of habits. Your brain only leaves precious few things to its limited conscious control.

So when you are eating emotionally, are you really eating emotionally? Or are you eating out of habit? I say, the latter. And I’ll tell you why it matters.

..Why it Matters

Many emotional eaters feel they need to address their emotional issues in order to stop their emotional eating.  But you’ll never address your emotional issues. You’ll always be fucked up. You have less than zero hope.

Does this sound cynical? Because it’s not. Be empowered. To me, this sounds like freedom.

I promise you this. You don’t need to address any issues in order to stop overeating. You need to address your habits.

You can be fucked up beyond belief, and still be a size 6. Or 8. Or 10. Here are just a few examples of people who are fucked up beyond belief:

  • every single size 6 on earth
  • every single size 8 on earth
  • every single size 22 on earth
  • every single nudist, nun, attorney and/or doctor on earth
  • me
  • you

If you’re fucked up, that only means you experience emotions. We all do that.

Of course there are extreme outliers. But 1/3 of the population having depression?? Give me a break.

Is a basic condition of being human really something you want to “fix”? 

Maybe you do. But in any event, you don’t NEED to fix your emotional issues to fix your over-eating.  Believe it or not, skinny people have emotions too.

Do Emotions Have Anything to Do With Your Eating?

Yes! They have everything to do with it.

Emotions trigger your habits, they help form your habits. The emotions you feel while doing an activity make certain habits “stickier” than others.

But you don’t eat because you’re emotional. You eat because of habit. 

Habits are all about triggers. And even if you *THINK* an emotion is the culprit, usually that emotion is brought on by some kind of environmental trigger.

Mindfulness versus Fixing Everything

Maybe you should try to deal with your issues. I don’t know.

I tend to think that things sort themselves out when you focus on them less, not more. The less neurons fire, the more their connections atrophy and die off. That’s just my approach. So go ahead: ignore your problems. Repression is kind of a  bullshit sham anyway.

Instead, be MINDFUL of your issues. Don’t try to fix them, just know what they are, know what your triggers are, and focus on a new behavior you can use to replace an old behavior:

Example:
Issue: I am fat and no one loves me because they are afraid I’ll eat them. When I sit on the couch and watch TV, I am reminded of my overwhelming size and sweatiness, and so I just eat more to cover my sad emotions.

  • Classic solution that is pointless: I’m going to talk to a therapist about how fat and sad I am. She will probably refer me to a psychiatrist who will diagnose me with depression. Instead of recommending exercise or more time outside, they’ll recommend a drug. The drug might work, or on the other hand, it might make me suicidal. I’ll probably end up even fatter.
  • Mindful Solution: I know that I FEEL fat and sad and that no one loves me. But I also know that plenty of fat people are loved, and that losing weight is possible, even if I haven’t done it yet. I know there is nothing INHERENTLY FAT about me. It’s only temporary. Every time I start to feel sad, I’ll go for a 20 minute walk, and see if I feel better. Even if I really really really don’t feel like walking.

What Happens When you Try The Mindful Solution?

You stop trying to fix things, which only reinforces their very existence.

Remember, the things you want to fix live in your brain! A brain that wires itself based solely on past experiences.

Instead, you focus on a concrete behavior that not only begins to REPLACE the prior bad habit,  but is also a small step towards your goal. This kills two fatty birds with one habit-stone.

Because of the power of habit, if you repeat a behavior enough times, you’ll begin to WANT to do the new behavior.

Your new behavior won’t ever completely replace your bad habits. They’re already wired, and may always lie dormant.

But your new behavior will make it MUCH easier. And it will change your brain for the better.

..all it takes is a little bit of repetition.

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You Don’t Need a Clean Slate

“Ok, I’m excited to do this.”

“I’m finally going to take the plunge!”

“Awesome, cool. Let’s start Monday.”

The Fresh Start Hypothesis

How many times have you made a decision NOW, but only to start Monday? How many times have you vowed to take up a skill, or to make a big change beginning on New Years Day?

These are both features of what social scientists call the “Fresh Start Hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that we have a general tendency to correlate changes in behavior with temporal triggers or changes in environment.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you understand more about human nature, you understand more about yourself. And if you understand more about yourself, you have greater control of your outcomes.

We can recognize the “Fresh Start Hypothesis” for what it is, and consider how we can exploit this natural tendency to our benefit. On the other hand, we can also think about how such tendencies might create psychological barriers to success.

In other words, the desire for a “clean slate” can be helpful. But it can also block you. And there is nothing more tragic than someone standing in the way of their own success.

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Know Yourself. 

There is no right or wrong answer here. Everyone is different. We all have different motivations at different times in our lives.

A “fresh start” may be just what you need!   On the other hand, if you find yourself making a “fresh start” every Monday – it might be time to recognize that this approach isn’t working for you.  You have too much emotional baggage, and it’s associated with the Fresh Start.

“But it will be different this time!” Maybe it will. Who am I to say? But maybe you are simply sabotaging yourself.

  • Example 1:  It’s December 27th and it’s a Friday. You are miserable. Kids throw jelly donuts at you, and at 5’1 you weigh 220 pounds. You have never attempted to lose weight before, and in fact your weight hasn’t really bothered you until recently. You have zero healthy habits, and you barely know where to begin.
    • Solution: If you’re going to do a major life overhaul, you can start on January 1st. But until then, see if you can substitute one meal a day with a salad.
  • Example 2: At 5’2′ you weigh 160 pounds. You aren’t happy with your weight, but you’re always dieting. Almost every Monday you find yourself vowing that this week will be different. By Thursday or Friday, you’ve usually fallen off the wagon. You feel guilty and you binge all weekend. Next Monday you know you’ll get it right!
    • Solution: Stop starting Monday. Start right now. For you, the BREAK from starting on Mondays is the REAL fresh start. Don’t be hard on yourself, either. Just make one change for the better.
    • Alternative solution: start Monday, but also start implementing one specific change right now.

The Power of Now

If you need to make a change, it’s best to start RIGHT NOW. But maybe don’t start all the way just yet..

You DON’T need:

  • a funeral procession for your last meal
  • ritual binge before your “purge.”

The more you see fitness as a “project” the more likely you are to see it as deprivation or hard labor.  It doesn’t have to be this way. It could just be simple – eat less shit.

On the other hand, the more you see your fitness journey as a “project” the more likely you are to take it seriously.

So what can we do about this contradiction?

Make a Fresh Start WITHOUT a Fresh Start

  1. Understand that most people have a tendency to correlate behavioral changes with temporal markers.
  2. Understand that our habits do not exist in isolation. They are intertwined with the concepts of time, and also with our physical environments. This will make it easier for you to change them.
  3. Understand also that an absolute NEED for a “clean slate” can be detrimental. And it’s also an illusion. You never need it, you only think you do.
  4. Use this knowledge for good! And Not for evil.

“Starting” can mean taking one small concrete action beginning right now. It could be as simple as replacing one part of dinner with veggies.

Do this PRIOR to taking a big plunge. You can still take the big plunge when you’re ready.

More Ways to Use the Fresh Start for Good

Start NOW!

But use temporal triggers and environmental changes to enhance your efforts.

Examples:

  • I’m beginning to replace one meal with a salad each day TODAY.
    • But beginning on Monday, I’ll start tracking my weight once weekly
  • I’m going to begin cut down on processed foods TODAY.
    • But once the semester starts, I will go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • I’m going to add more veggies in my diet beginning TODAY.
    • But starting on January 1, I’m going to begin my meal plan.
  • I’m going to try to make as many healthy choices as I can TODAY
    • But starting Monday, I’m going to do a 30 day weight loss challenge

The Struggle

I write this post because I struggled with this for a long time. I was always making a fresh start, and I was always failing.

My TRUE fresh start was when I recognized that my need for a clean slate was holding me back. It was crazy and delusional. I would NEVER have a clean slate. And I would never stick perfectly to a diet plan.

And even so, it was difficult to break the pattern. It took time. My brain kept going back to it. I had to break the pattern by reminding myself over and over again that my mind was playing tricks on me.

Remember this: the universe doesn’t have major plans for you. It’s apathetic. It doesn’t care about your clean slate. Only you do. And that’s because it’s a part of your human nature. Forgive yourself. Your slate is as clean RIGHT NOW as it will ever be.

You can use your need for a “fresh start” for good, or you can use it as an excuse to self-sabotage.

I say, if you’re not happy – then start this minute. In whatever small way you can.

Have you struggled with this?

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Emotional eating and peanut butter banana sammies

This topic hits really close to home. I crave food the most when I am sad, stressed, nervous, made, or anxious. Basically it hits when I “just can’t deal”. For many years, emotional eating derailed me from succeeding on whatever diet plan I was on at the moment (we need to discuss the word diet at some point. I really hate that word. It’s a lifestyle change… once I realized the difference between diet and lifestyle change, my world changed).

Cortisol is a stress hormone that triggers cravings for foods that give immediate pleasure like high fat foods, foods that are salty and sweet. My go to foods were always pasta and breads and if I wasn’t home, man oh man, the most comforting food to me was Wendy’s #6- spicy chicken sandwich. Eating that food gave me such a temporary high. It reduced all my stress and made me feel like everything was ok in the world. But then I would get so mad at myself for eating those bad foods. What a vicious cycle from sadness and stress to anger and around and around we’d go.

Emotions are sometimes hard to control, BUT, we can control how we consume foods. I have my moments of weakness but not as bad as before and I definitely don’t beat myself up over it anymore because guilt is just another negative emotion.

Here are ways I’ve been able to help myself and I hope my experiences can help you too.

 Know yourself. Know what sets you off and be prepared.

Example: Work stressors. Keep healthy, satisfying snacks around. I always make sure to have something laying around like nuts (I love Emerald’s 100 cal packs of Cocoa Roast Almonds), apples, bananas, protein bars, or my recent favorite, banana peanut butter sandwiches (see recipe below).

 Find ways to cope.

Examples:

-Take your lunch break and go for a walk. Get the blood flowing, get some fresh air and relax. Enjoy the world around you.

-Keep a journal; sort out your thoughts, word vomit all over those pages!

-Take a breath! Breathing is a powerful tool that can prompt relaxation. Check this link out for some useful breathing techniques: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

Get a hobby!

– I’ve had an on again off again love affair with Cycling. It’s back on and we are strong as ever and determined to make it work.

-How about art? Coloring? Check out these adult coloring books: http://www.amazon.com/Adult-Coloring-Book-Relieving-Patterns/dp/1941325122

-Watch animal videos on you-tube. I promise, this helps.

Talk to someone

There are a few people in life that can make me feel better- my husband, my parents, and my besties. Thanks guys, I love you!

If you have a moment, let us know what coping techniques you’ve used.

Banana and peanut butter sandwiches to the rescue:

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What you will need:

1 Banana

2 tablespoons peanut butter

Freezer safe Tupperware

Directions:

Cut banana into dime size pieces, you should be able to make 8-10 “sandwiches”

Spread thin layer of PB on a slice and top with another slice of banana

Put your sandwiches inside a freezer safe dish and freeze at least an hour before eating

Enjoy!

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