A while back I discovered Awareness Journaling and have been giving it a try.
It's becoming a powerful little tool to help me get a handle on eating. Now that I'm a few years out from my surgery, I can eat almost as much as a normal person--a normal thin person. That means, with care and determination, I can eat enough to regain at least some of my weight. I'm simply not going to allow that to happen.
The little (tiny) awareness journal helps keep me focused on the project. It shows me where and when I eat too much. It shows me when and where I eat UNCONSCIOUSLY. That's a big problem. I have a tendency to try to medicate away tension and transitory unhappiness with food. I find it helpful to simply write "I feel lousy."
Acknowledging that I feel lousy about something--I'm tense, I'm feeling pressured, I'm very tired, I need a break, I'm restless, I'm sleepy--is often enough to make "phantom hunger" evaporate. It's astounding how rarely I am genuinely hungry. Often, I just want to eat. When that happens, almost as if by magic, I start feeling hunger pangs. Writing "I just want to eat" is sometimes enough to keep me from grabbing some kind of junk and stuffing it into my mouth. When I acknowledge my feelings, fake hunger usually goes away and doesn't come back until it's real hunger--the kind caused by low blood sugar and nutritional needs.
The journal also is a good place to whine. Nobody wants to hear the same complaints you have been making for years. The journal pages don't mind, they are your friends!
But it is NOT a place to beat yourself up. If you have a binge or just eat one too many cookies, note it down and don't editorialize. The temptation to beat yourself up is huge--at least for me. I do my awareness journaling in pencil so that I can erase when I need to. Sometimes I'll see a little sneaky beating up going on (Yikes! How could I eat so much!?!) I literally erase it and substitute something positive. ("Now is a new moment. I'm starting over now." or "Keep marching, this is just a stumble.") I don't think the positive thing even needs to be strictly true ("I'm going to do really well the rest of today.") but it helps if there's friendly stuff in there for you to read tomorrow or at the end of today.
Should you keep track of calories? I didn't at first. For the first several days--maybe more than a week--I just wrote down what I ate and how I felt and let it go at that. After a while, when that was beginning to be a habit, I went back and estimated the calories I had been eating. That was a real eye-opener. Now I do track calories. I try not to be too strict, but I use the journal as a guide. If I had a cookie at the birthday party this morning maybe I'll have some grapes instead of a cheese stick for my bed time snack. Because of the journal I'll actually remember the cookie!
Go back and read it every few days. Flip back through the days and look for patterns. I discovered I get phantom hunger when I'm tired more than any other time. See what your patterns are and maybe you can get ahead of them instead of running behind them.
I also recommend experimentation. This is your journal. Don't stress about it. Play with it. Try different things on different pages until you are comfortable with it. I think other than using it as a bludgeon to make yourself feel bad, there's no way to do it wrong.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
A while back I discovered Awareness Journaling and have been giving it a try.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Not all hunger is created equal.
For a naturally thin person there is hunger caused by low blood sugar and nutritional needs. Overweight people feel that kind of hunger but not very often.
It isn't really hunger. It's the compulsion to eat. That's different. Naturally thin people may occasionally feel phantom hunger. I wouldn't know. I know naturally thin people occasionally indulge in emotional eating (Give me ice cream! No bowl needed!) but for them it's a rare now-and-then kind of thing, not a daily moment-to-moment battle.
For obese compulsive over eaters phantom hunger is pretty much a constant companion. Gastric bypass and lapband surgery are not brain surgery. Phantom hunger is something that will need to be acknowledged and dealt with.
Phantom hunger comes in levels. Sometimes it's a little urge: "Gosh, I'd like a cookie." Or "I'm hungry for something, I just can't figure out what it is."
Sometimes it's a little more irrational. You've already had a meal, but you have a powerful urge to keep eating. No way can there be room in your stomach. No way can you still have a true appetite. Dinner's over. That's usually when I would get up and look for "just a little something for desert." I've never really cared that much for sweets, but it would be an excuse to keep eating.
Then there's totally fooling yourself. This has become clear now that I'm journaling. I have a little urge to eat something, just a nudge. I ignore it. I had something to eat an hour ago I can't be seriously hungry. Ten minutes later my stomach is growling and I am physically, painfully hungry. If I don't eat something I'll go nuts (so my internal conversation goes). So I eat something. Sometimes giving in satisfies the urge and sometimes it doesn't.
Occasionally something will happen and I can't eat right this minute. I'll have to wait a half hour until I get home or whatever. Then the half hour passes and the phantom hunger is gone. Completely. I wasn't actually hungry at all. I was totally fooling myself.
But it felt so real!!! Learning how to distinguishing the real thing from the phony version is the project.
Next time I'll go into some detail about how awareness journaling helps.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A friend of mine turned me on to this site: SparkPeople. I have just begun to explore it.
So far the menu tracker page is a bit clunky, but it might be "trainable" to make it easier to use. I'm still using Awareness Journaling to track food and calories so I don't need that page at the moment. (I'll report on the Awareness Journaling in a few days.)
I found the music area this afternoon and really enjoyed that part!
I've also subscribed to a couple of their newsletters--they have several, you should check them out.
I'm still exploring it but I thought I would pass along this tidbit.
Friday, September 19, 2008
For more than a year I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out how to work exercise into my schedule. Not only is it time-consuming, but it's freekin' boring. When I had a membership at the Y, I would sit peddling on the recumbent bike staring into space or reading a book. Book reading beats just cycling or cycling while watching boring daytime tv, but in a few months I couldn't find the time for it.
Then my husband got sick and had to have a stent installed to open an artery that had been clogged with cheetos and bacon. The bacon and cheetos had to disappear from his life (well, they're fading) and he had to start exercising. He adores exercise almost as much as I do which means he'd rather be stabbed with a fork. Death is worse than being stabbed with a fork so exercise had to happen.
My husband whined that he hates exercise because it's boring. I told him I wanted to get another 30 years out of him and I'd entertain him while he was exercising. I can be darned amusing when I want to be.
So we went to the mall and walked. Amazingly, we ended up entertaining each other. We talk, play, have mutual fantasies. I snarl about politics, he tries to explain computer programming. I gossip about friends, he talks about his latest carpentry project.
And we've had no problem at all finding time for it. Oddly.
Obviously this is the way to exercise. Yes, skinny, athletic people talk about the joys of running five miles--endorphins and all that. But for people who are at least temperamentally obese, figuring out something fun is key.
Think about who might enjoy walking with you, playing tennis with you, badminton with you, shooting hoops with you. Walking is the best form of exercise if you are heavy or not burdened with excessive youth. Your dog, your kids, your spouse, your friends--any of them can be entertaining when you are doing some kind of boring exercise. Maybe instead of asking your friend to meet you for coffee, ask them to meet you at the park (or the mall, if the weather's bad) for a walk.
Get out there and enjoy yourself!