Tag Archives: Acceptance

Exercise addiction and eating problems – good days, bad days and thought gremlins

A non-artists impression (!)

Thought gremlins – a non-artists (!) impression

It’s been a few months since I last wrote about the tangle of eating, exercise and emotions I have found myself in this year.

I’m tired. More than anything I’m tired of thinking about food, eating, exercise and what I ‘should’ be doing. It’s just so tedious. Meditation, interesting work, DIY, time spent with friends and crafting gives me a break for a while but I can’t just turn it off completely.

I’m working on accepting that this particular punishing thought gremlin will take up brainspace for a while yet. I’m not going to waste the space I have left worrying about how much he’s around. That seems counter-productive.

Instead I’m trying to tame him by guiding  my thoughts in a healthier direction and gradually diluting them with new perspectives and approaches. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it only gives me glimpses of how things could be. This makes it worse when he grips back hold.

In the grip of the thought gremlin

When he’s got a grip he still sets tests for me and makes me feel awful for failing them . Do certain clothes fit? Do my fingers fit around? How does my body look and feel?

When I ran a 5k 10 seconds slower than my PB he whispered that it was because I was getting fatter. He didn’t care that it was still a sub 20 minute time. Achievements and compliments slide off him and fall forgotten.

Sometimes he chooses to berate me about how stupid I am to worry about it at all when so many people are dealing with astronomically more pressing problems. He’s not going to let me cut down on exercise too much right now – but he’s going to try and stop me enjoying it by telling me I’m doing too much as well.

A bad day

A tyranny of bartering and balancing. Reassigning guilt and promises. Negative and positive calorie credit. Pinching, pulling, judging and comparing.

Trapped by a grotesque distortion of natural processes that mend and fuel, store and burn energy. That keep me alive and moving hard and fast and well. I’ve hated every inch of skin. I know every fold and dimple intimately. Every tiny growth, bulge or change tells me I should be better.

What I have eaten today? Lost track, list it again. Over and over. Test my wrists, check my bones. If I list it in sections and move the biscuits to mid morning it sounds ok. Doesn’t it? Lost track, list it again. Maybe write it down. It’s ok that it looks like a lot, I ran yesterday and went spinning this morning. But that was to make up for last night when I had pudding. And couldn’t stop eating it (“because of your pathetic lack of self control” – thanks thought gremlin!). So I’m not really in credit, I should run this afternoon. But my knee. My bloody knee aches. If I was sensible I’d rest it. Even thinking of running on an injured knee shows I have a problem. But my trousers feel tight. I feel enormous. My wedding ring feels tight. I could swim. But that doesn’t burn as many calories. It doesn’t give me the FEELING. If I could just run today then that would reset everything. I can start being sensible tomorrow. If I cut down on food then I won’t have to exercise as much. But I don’t want to get back into restricting, it takes up too much headspace. I just want to eat normally. All this exercise makes me hungry. Maybe my knee is ok anyway. I’ll have a cold bath afterwards. Then I can have a nice dinner without worrying. Then the thoughts will calm down for a while and I’ll be able to focus on other things.

I refuse to restrict any more. I’m holding on to normal that way. And I’m HUNGRY. Instead I fight the urge to run and run and spin and swim and drain my body of energy then, as the voices quiet and I feel free of guilt, eat my way back to the same cycle.

On days like this it feels as if even a good day is one where the judgemental voices are appeased not forgotten. How do you stop when eating and exercise are always going to be part of life?

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What dogs can teach us about wellbeing and mindfulness

How my dog helps me remember to be mindful through acceptance, curiosity, living in the moment and pure joy.

Be more dog?

O2’s recently launched  ‘Be more dog‘ campaign got me thinking. Their emphasis is on findingwatson blog excitement and joie de vivre in a world too bored and their aim is to sell their services. But since getting our collie Dr Watson seven months ago, I’ve realised that there is a lot that dogs can teach us.

Spending time with Watson reminds me of some of the core teachings of the Mindfulness Based Therapy for Depression course I completed last year.

Acceptance

Dogs are incredibly accepting. Watson takes his experiences as they come. He doesn’t make judgements about what is going on in his head or feel that he ‘should’ be feeling differently. He just feels.

Sometimes he feels rubbish for a bit – like when he naughtily eats old food he finds in the park and then throws up. Or when he gets told off for eating fluff out of his bed. But as soon as he feels better, he embraces it. He doesn’t dwell on the time he felt bad and let it seep into his better mood.

We can learn something from this. Humans have a tendency to judge our experiences all the time – often on auto pilot. We usually judge them as not being quite right in some way – thinking that this is not quite what should be happening, or not what we should be feeling. These can then lead into thoughts about blame and what could or should be different – “I shouldn’t be feeling like this, I’m always getting things wrong, things are always going to be like this”. We get sucked into ruminating and end up in those well worn grooves of negative thoughts. Continue reading

Food, fat and flexible thinking – what’s so great about perfect anyway?!

Appearance is one of the main reasons for suicidal thoughts in the UK

According to Samaritans research, appearance is one of the main reasons for suicidal thoughtsScreen Shot 2013-10-26 at 09.40.33 in the UK. APPEARANCE.  This makes me very angry. But I can also completely understand why it is up there in the top three along with ‘feelings of failure’ and ‘academia’.

Food, fat and my thoughts about eating are one of the least clear and most complex aspects of managing my mental wellbeing. After all I have to eat every day. I can’t give up eating because it sometimes causes me mental anguish.

I have an athletic figure (that’s what I’d always go for when I did online dating anyway!). My body does amazing things for me – most recently a marathon in a time I was incredibly proud of. I’m not fat. To be honest, I never really have been.

My old teenage diaries would tell you otherwise. An angry blog post from Nothingbythebook recently triggered memories of what started my own difficult relationship with food. I was a girl like the one in the blog post. We didn’t have a TV and (at a risk of sounding overly romantic) I lived outside in hand me downs. My heroes were the ‘pirates’ in Swallows and Amazons. I remember a midnight feast I planned with friends in the garden where the more food we managed to acquire, the more gleeful we all became. Not once did I think ‘if I eat this, I’ll get fat’. And that’s how it should be. I haven’t felt that completely untainted glee at a pile of food since. Continue reading

Keeping the beast asleep – Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and my experience of how it can help prevent relapse

Recurrent depression

I recently found something I wrote a couple of years ago, while trying to make sense of a particularly difficult period of depression;

“Recurrent depression is cyclical. It comes and goes in longer periods than just days or weeks. Each low episode can last months, and within that time it can make everything much harder, with deep lows and any better times feeling fleeting and insecure. The hardest part of the fact it is recurrent is in the way that when you’re low you forget the good months and better years and just remember the  times in the cycle where you were fighting it, and it feels like you’ve spent your whole life feeling low, that every time you thought you’d beaten it, it comes back and that there’s nothing to look forward to but more of the same. I can understand why depression is a killer. The only way to give each apparently endless low a meaning is to try so hard not to see it as a setback or as a return to the hardest darkness but to try and learn from each one, to gain as much practice in management and insight from each time to help the next time become easier. And maybe each time it comes around, each low period, be it weeks, months or longer, will get easier to manage and survive through as a result. And perhaps the low times will come less often.”

It’s been the recurrent nature of my depression that has kept me on varying doses of monstiCitalopram for almost 11 years. It is the recurrent nature of depression in general that seems to present such a challenge to both sufferers and those providing treatment. I’ve often wondered if one can ‘recover’ from something that has been part of one’s life for so long? Or does one just end up learning to manage it more effectively, becoming ever more aware of those tiny changes to the delicate balance of your mind that could, without proper attention, tip you downhill again? Can ‘recovery’ be more than just a lasting period of absence of symptoms if at any moment the black swan of relapse could ‘disprove’ it ever was.

Preventing relapse

For me, on a day to day basis, it’s about finding and using the tools that I know keep my mind healthy. That’s not to say I don’t have bad times, but I’m becoming increasingly better at stopping those times spiral down into longer darker times and, in general, I can function ‘normally’. These tools have become even more important recently as I start the long (and never previously successful) process of trying to cut down my dose of Citalopram.

MBCT – ‘the integration of core cognitive therapy principles with sustained mindfulness practice’

Among the more common tools of diet, a lot of running and swimming (I can’t overemphasise the importance and impact of exercise on my mood), writing, militant amounts of sleep and my SAD light, I attended an eight week course at Breathing Space. This is a course designed by Segal, Williams & Teasdale in their book Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression – a New Approach to Preventing Relapse and taught by trained members of the Buddhist community, supervised by a consultant psychiatrist. Continue reading