Thursday, 15 December 2011

Weight Loss: Old Habits Die Hard

My weight last week 90.6kg
My weight this week 91.2kg
(I have no explanation - beyond medication and ongoing problems with fluid.)

Have you ever found yourself putting food in your mouth and thought: "I didn't even want this?"

We develop our habits over a lifetime. Some habits are useful for us, some not so useful.

When we develop the habit of washing our hands before eating (because Mum or Dad constantly tells us to do it at each meal time when we are little) we are developing a useful and healthy habit.

When we learn that food is a cure for pain, or boredom or stress, we're learning an unhealthy habit. Many people with weight problems, like me, learned this early on in life.  One of my earliest memories of this lesson learned, was tripping over and cutting my head quite badly. While my mother cleaned the wound, my father went out to get me a Cherry Ripe bar to make it better. (For people outside Australia - a Cherry Ripe is glace cherries and desiccated coconut in what's probably a condensed milk base, covered in rich dark chocolate - it's addictive, and definitely not on any dietician's list of foods essential for anyone.)

As a kid, whenever I went to the movies, my mother always had lollies or chocolate in her handbag to had out during the film. (We weren't one of those families rich enough to buy popcorn at the theatre.)

For special occasions, there was always lots of food around. Conversely, in everyday life, especially when I was very little, there were times when food was quite scarce.

I learned to associate food - especially unhealthy food with feeling better when things were bad, and with things being good. I also learned to eat while doing other things, such as watching a movie. Fast forward about 40 years, and the first thing I think to do if I've had a bad day, is to find something sugary and fatty to eat. (Chocolate is always good.) I also have an issue with "unconscious" eating - eating things without even noticing while I do something else like watching tv.

Does this really make my bad day better? Well no, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I know my rheumatologist has very good reasons for wanting me to lose weight, and eating stuff with a high energy-density and no nutritional value does not really help to meet that goal.  Another reason it doesn't help is the uncomfortable way fatty foods just seem to sit in my stomach for ever and cause horrible reflux.

So how do we change any habit? It starts with becoming aware of the habit we have. For me, that means writing down what I eat (the Calorie King website makes this relatively easy for me), and making an effort to notice why I'm eating - is it because it's time to eat, or because I'm stressed or bored, or because I'm honestly hungry.

The next step, if I'm not actually hungry, is to identify the need I am trying to meet with food. If I'm lonely - it's better to call a friend than to eat. If I'm bored, picking up a book to read, or going on line, or draw or paint, or even sweeping the kitchen is a better way to deal with boredom. If I have a problem that needs to be worked through, I need to get out my journal and work in that (or again call a friend or Mr Wonderful). If I'm tired (and I often catch myself eating because I'm tired) I need to sleep. If I'm in pain (and yes, I've learned to medicate physical pain with food - usually chocolate) I need pain relief or the TENS machine.

 That all sounds so simple when I write it down - but in the real world, of course, it is very, very difficult. The reason it's difficult, is that after 45 years of really bad habits with regard to food, I can't expect to develop completely new habits overnight. The challenge is to accept that I'll slip up at times, but to keep trying anyway. The only way I can fail is if I give up trying.

If you're struggling with a lifetime of bad habits - then like me you have a big challenge ahead. It's hard work, but it's worth it. As long as we keep trying, we're going to get there in the end.

1 comment:

  1. It is soooooo hard to correct bad habits. The ONLY reason I decided to change my eating habits is lupus. Even with that, I constantly need reminders. Thanks for the encouragement. =)


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