So there I was, curled up on the couch in the fetal position getting calluses on my fingers from channel surfing. For months, I had wallowed in and out of depression, feeling truly ashamed of my existence.
So there I was, curled up on the couch in the fetal position getting calluses on my fingers from channel surfing. For months, I had wallowed in and out of depression, feeling truly ashamed of my existence. What had brought me to this place? My marriage had broken up; I had no money and had to sell my house. I was in excruciating emotional pain.
Something had to give. And it did. I had to learn one step at a time to take charge of my life, which also included shedding 30 pounds of excess weight. I learned to create my current state of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. My journey has taken me through a process of discovering the unconscious negative patterns in my life that needed healing. This now allows me to make healthy and nurturing choices.
One of my observations was recognizing that we are not meant to handle challenges on our own. I have particular gratitude for Eckhart Tolle and his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Namaste Publishing, 1999) as well as the many workshops of Gila Golub (What Was Your Wake-Up Call?). I learned that, for the most part, we humans spend the vast majority of our time thinking about the past or the future. However, to be truly at peace with ourselves and fully experience the joy of being, we must live in the present and become conscious of our thoughts and emotions.
When it comes to our eating patterns, we are very often triggered by unconscious emotions. By "being present," particularly around the times we eat, we can recognize those unconscious emotions and feelings. We can then consciously continue our old pattern or make what we feel is a better choice.
About two years ago, my doctor put me on cholesterol-lowering medication. I also suffered from severe heartburn and my blood pressure was on the high side of normal. I was packing on the pounds and it was becoming sufficiently painful to look at myself in the mirror. I knew it was time for change. Not a diet change! By applying what I had learned about becoming conscious, I have been able to lose weight. I no longer need medication. In addition, my blood pressure has dropped and my heartburn has disappeared completely. All this and I eat as much, if not more, than I used to!
My process, which I call "It's Not About the Fat," can allow you, too, to easily keep track of your emotions and eating patterns. You should also be able to pick out the times of day when you must be particularly focused on being present so that you can make the healthiest choices.
Before getting out of bed, start your day with a positive thought. Start the process of becoming conscious. In the shower, focus on and feel the water, the soap and the shampoo. Do the same when brushing your hair and teeth, and so on.
Don't skip breakfast. Without breakfast, we start running on adrenaline, which is very hard on the body! Start filling a journal to help you identify your thoughts and feelings, particularly the emotional triggers that cause you to overeat.
Choose positive, nutritionally supportive food fresh fruit and yogurt, for example. Reduce your coffee and black tea consumption. Drink herbal tea, filtered water or freshly squeezed lemon juice and water to help cleanse the liver.
Get conscious again. Observe yourself while eating. Don't do anything else (such as making lunches or reading). Slow down, sit down and eat consciously.
Hint: Every time you make a positive choice, reaffirm that choice with the following phrase: "I love and approve of myself."
Hint: Chew your food consciously. Observe the taste and texture of the food. Enjoy the food, slow down and allow your stomach enough time to register satiety.
Stressors such as commuting, getting kids off to school or deadlines looming create angst. We have created unconscious patterns to deal with this stress. For many of us with weight issues, these patterns revolve around food. Continue filling in your journal.
What are your patterns at this time of day? Do you grab a coffee and donut? Observe your feelings at this point. Become conscious. Observe a breath; observe your body and the physical sensations. If you are feeling negative emotions, don't judge them! Just let them be. Now you are conscious. Now you can make a conscious choice to choose differently than you have in the past. Choose a glass of water or herbal tea rather than coffee, fresh fruit or vegetables rather than instead of a donut, a nutritional bar rather than a chocolate bar.
Hint: Thirst is often confused with hunger. Every time you think you are hungry, drink a glass of water. Wait five minutes and check again before reaching for food.
Time to get conscious again. Observe your physical sensations and emotions. How hungry are you? Are you feeling stress and replaying the old unconscious patterns again? Don't forget to journal!
Consciously choose what to eat. Choose extra vegetables or salad to replace fries or greasy potatoes.
Can you take advantage of your lunchtime to get some exercise? Remember to start out with bite-sized chunks. Go for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes. This could mean going the long way back from lunch to work or climbing a few sets of stairs. Get outside if possible.
Time to get conscious yet again! The same ideas apply here as mid-morning. What are your old patterns at this time? Journal again! Observe your feelings at this point. Become conscious. If you're hungry, choose something healthy, such as a nutrition bar or an apple.
Check in on the way home from work or when the kids get home from school. Time to get conscious again. Keep working on that journal.
Are you mentally preparing yourself for food? It is typical to start snacking before dinner. "Just a little something to take the edge off." Again, this is a critical time to be conscious and make a choice. Try a glass of water and wait five minutes (really, you may just be thirsty!). Then, if you can't wait until dinner, choose wisely.
Hint: If you chose fruit at mid-morning and a nutrition bar for afternoon break, choose fresh vegetables before dinner to maximize variety in your diet.
Stay conscious. Meal preparation is another time when snacking takes place. Most of the time, we pop something into our mouths without even thinking about it. Recognize what you are doing. Once you become aware, you have a choice. Choose to eat whatever is on its way into your mouth or choose not to. And then don't beat yourself up afterwards. Journal!
Time to get conscious again. Observe your physical sensations and emotions. How hungry are you? Are you feeling stress and replaying the old unconscious patterns again? More journaling! Consciously choose what to eat.
This time of day has a tendency to lull us into unconsciousness. We're tired, and we just want some down time. Boredom can hit. Worry and anxiety pop up as our activity levels wind down. This is when we make poor food choices and reach for the snacks, chips and dip, cookies, ice cream or popcorn laced with margarine. Great time to journal!
Be aware of your old habits and consciously choose to eat or do something else. Have a glass of water, choose something healthier to eat (raw veggies or fruit), or do something totally different. Call a friend, play a game with your kids, take a walk, listen to a motivational tape/CD, read a book, work on a hobby. Break the old habits. And practise, practise, practise.