Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In The Moment

Yesterday was such a long day. Between having Mabel sick at home and PMS/beginning of my time of the month, it was a stressful and tiring. Then there were some other little irritants that built up until I was pretty strung out. It was interesting now in hindsight to feel the emotions churning in me and how they gel into this heavy vest of anxiety across my chest.

It was an opportunity to start using some of the techniques I've been learning in my IE reading. One relaxation technique that really works for me is a breathing and counting exercise. You get in a comfortable position (seated, lying down, whatever works best for you), then you close your eyes and slowly inhale and exhale through your nose. The first inhale and exhale, you count to four each time, then for each set you increase to five, six, seven and eight. Then you go back down to four. This borders on meditation, I suppose, because you're focusing on your breathing and the numbers instead of the thoughts that are causing your emotions.

Once I did this, the anxiety eased and I was able to break it apart into the separate emotions that were at the cause of it. I could then look at each of these and find the thoughts behind them. Like yesterday's post, I could then pick apart what was irrational about these thoughts and replace them with more rational statements.

What's great about this is that I'm not avoiding the emotions or distracting myself, which is what I've always done in the past, whether it was with food, cleaning, TV, you name it. That worked to calm me down at first, but the issues never got resolved and would linger around to bite me in the hind end later down the road -- namely, compensating later with compulsive overeating.

This new way is great because I don't have to be afraid of feeling these "scary" emotions; I now have the tools to really explore them, and I'm pleased to find out that these techniques really deflate the impact and make me feel so empowered instead of feeling out of control and helpless.

So, the good news is, last night when I got hungry for an evening snack, I wasn't propelled by my feelings (or the avoidance of them) to eat a whole box of cookies. I ate three, savored them thoroughly instead of inhaling them in a compulsive need to fill myself up, and I was completely satisfied.

The other big thing I did yesterday was pay close attention to my mood at meal times and how it affected my eating. Before lunch I was particularly stressed trying to juggle taking care of my daughter and my responsibilities at work. This rushed feeling carried over into my noontime meal, and I realized I wasn't enjoying my salad because of this keyed up feeling. I put my fork down and made a conscious effort to slow down my mind, and this helped to get back into the moment.

At supper time I was still coming down off the anxiety that had taken over me, and I noticed I wasn't thoroughly enjoying my meal then, either. Again, I stopped and did my best to clear my mind before I continued eating, and again, this helped.

I realize today that what I was doing was trying to become a Conscious Eater. Tree Lover talks about this a lot on her blog, and I didn't truly "get it" until yesterday when I made these observations. When we use food for emotional purposes, or let other distractions cloud our eating experiences, it takes away from the satisfaction and enjoyment of the food. When that happens for me, I usually wind up eating more, thinking this will help. But now I understand that what I need to do is stop and make sure I'm in the moment. I don't want to be fretting over the past or worrying about the future, I want to be in the now, living in the present and staying in touch with my body. This will lead me to eating intuitively.

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