During my son’s junior year of high school, my husband and I along with Michael’s amazing high school guidance counselors set out on the difficult journey of choosing a college. As all parents of college bound kids know, it is both a wonderful and sad time. I was excited for my son to begin the next incredible chapter of his life and sad because he would not be here every day. I would not get to see him every day and talk to him and just give him a hug! My mom heart was definitely being tugged. During this tour of colleges and all that it entails, my husband and I made the decision that we would not take out any loans nor would we have our son take on any debt.
Since I was self-employed, and my type of business did not rely on a building, I decided I would take on a second job. After all, I am superwomen, ha! And if you know me, you know I have abounding energy. God surely gave me an extra helping and I have been that way since birth. My mother said I came out kicking, screaming and eating! That is a tale for another time. I took on a second job at SLM, a trash broker for the restaurant industry. This was a nationwide company. I was hired as a customer service manager. It was an amazing experience; one I will never forget. That first year was going well! I was very proud of myself for keeping it all together and thankful to God for keeping me together”. I can do this was my battle cry! I knew that I could keep this pace up for three years. Right around the end of my first year, I was promoted. With this promotion I was issued more responsibility and required to travel. And that is when the weight started to climb.
I think I was in denial because I could not figure out why I was starting to put on weight. I was fooling myself by telling myself that I had successfully managed my 105-pound weight loss for many years. This is not possible, what was going on? First I had to swallow my pride, and as many of my clients are aware, I ask a ton of questions, so I started to ask myself those very same questions, again! You see I have been down this road three separate times!
The first question I needed an answer to was where the extra calories were coming in. That is when I realized I had not written in my food journal for the past year. I laughed at myself. That is the first counsel I give to my clients as they transition from weight loss to stabilization, never stop journaling. So, I started to journal again, keeping track of what I ate, the time, how much I ate and how I was feeling. The beautiful part of journaling is the bold truth you discover about your relationship with food. What I saw, written so plainly, was that I reverted back to eating when I needed to escape. Yep, that is what was happening.
As work mounted and I attempted to keep all the balls in the air, eating was how I relieved the monotony of customer service, supervising a room full of women, working with my boss and managing the clients that hired us. There were so many balls in the air! I worked out for one to two hours in the early part of the morning, then went to Mass then off to SLM, then home to my clients. The working out kept me emotionally stable, happy and fit. So I felt great! This was a benefit. But what I discovered in between was very different.
While at work, I would go into the kitchen when I had to confront boredom, was near tears from dealing with a client who was not happy or an employee who encountered a client that was not happy, a vendor that was not happy or my boss who was not happy. I would go into the kitchen where our boss kept the snack area. I am sure many of you know exactly what I am talking about, every conceivable goody and drink was there. Some of it provided by the company, some provided by employees (ever notice that table is always jammed with goodies) and some in a vending machine. The end result, when I was feeling overwhelmed by negativity and sadness and I needed a break, I ate! Oh my goodness! How can this be? Can any of you relate?
I wrote in my journal that I was shocked that my first instinct was not to turn to prayer when I was feeling this way but to food! How deep these roots go! I realized through journaling that I was allowing another person’s feelings about a situation, directed at me, to impact my behavior. Bells were going off! I had to reign it back in. I coach and mentor many of you on this very topic. So what does it mean to be overwhelmed?
Merriam-Webster defines overwhelm like this:
- Upset or overthrow: The tornado overwhelmed many mobile homes.
- To cover over completely; submerge: The city was overwhelmed by the flooding caused by the hurricane.
- To overcome by superior force or numbers: The city was overwhelmed by the invading army.
- To overpower in thought or feeling; overwhelmed with grief; overwhelmed by terror; overwhelmed with guilt: A sense of inadequacy overwhelmed me.
Emotional stress affects men and women. The feeling of being overwhelmed by life is sadly becoming the norm in our society today. We work long hours at a stressful job, take care of our family, our house, our pets, our kids, perhaps you are taking care of your parents. Turning to food to cope with this is common place today and easy, just look around. Food has become our drug of choice. You can stop this cycle once you are aware of the root cause of the stress, and then begin to make life changes and choices. That is why I coach my clients through this. If you are overweight, you know we are very good at rationalization.
God did not intend for any of us to worry and have stress.
Psalm 55:23 “Cast your care upon the Lord, who will give you support. He will never allow the righteous to stumble.”
So, what do we do when it all feels like too much? How do we go about working through this pattern of living in a constant state of being overwhelmed and stop eating your emotions? Start by taking a deep breath and asking yourself these questions.
- What did I learn today about my relationship with food?
- What emotion did I work on today?
- Name three things I’m proud of myself for doing
- What’s my goal for tomorrow?
Record your answers! There is something about writing it down. I don’t care if you go and buy a 99 cent notebook, use an app or email your best friend. Journaling is extremely important.
Try using modern technology to journal. Here are a few apps to try:So how was I able to get back in control? I sat with my journal for a few minutes each day and wrote down how I was feeling. The authentic me, not the me I wanted the world to see, the confident, the strong, the women who can handle it all. Oh, how our pride gets in the way. No, I kept a journal about the real me, the scared, insecure woman wondering what she gotten herself into. The real me that was wondering, Am I doing the right thing? (doubt). What am I thinking, how did I expect to pull this off? (fear). By journaling how I really felt, I was able to pray with it and let God direct my actions. I stopped the eating. It doesn’t mean I stopped having those feelings of doubt and fear, no, I just gave them a voice and gave them over to God.
The realization took a daily commitment over the span of several months to be able to put a voice to my emotions and how I had let them direct my eating. My realization: I was eating these feelings. Once I started to document my emotions in writing, they lost their power. The Kracken, as I like to call it, was rechained and I was no longer a slave to my eating desires. I no longer got up from my desk to go to the tray of goodies in the breakroom. From this experience there came a second realization that it was easy to slip back into old habits.
So my sisters, if you have not ever journaled, dive in. Just start! If you are sporadic, make time daily and if you do journal daily, are you real with yourself? At one time, I thought I was going to write a book based on my journal, so my entries became very scripted. I thought if I died, my journals would become a book. I was fooling myself. I was not real therefore my journal made no sense and it became a chore. Once I stopped caring whether my spelling was right, if I used a crayon or if I wrote sideways, I was able to learn about me! Recording your thoughts and emotions is therapeutic. It helps us to cleanse our minds and hearts from our day. By acknowledging our emotions through journaling, instead of channeling them through food, we are taking a large step toward freedom.
Here are the steps to express yourself through your journal:
- Journal regularly, make time on a daily basis
- Read and reflect upon your journal entries from the week. Pray on it and seek God’s direction
- Put together a plan of action by asking yourself
a. What did I do successfully?
b. What do I need to work on or do differently?
- Set goals for the upcoming week
- Start back at Step 1
I know you can do this my sisters!