OMG – where has this book been all of my life? Apparently just lying in wait, waiting for me to be in the right place to go searching for it. As I read, I sometimes wonder where I would be now if I had read this book a year ago; five years ago; 10 years ago! But, it doesn’t do any good to wonder, so I stop. I have already put into play a few of the key points I have learned so far, and I feel good. Uh, really pretty good, in fact. I have actually managed to eat at one of my “user” restaurants, eat only half of what I would have normally eaten, took the other half home and didn’t even eat it at all (as opposed to eating it in the car in my driveway after the five minute drive home, or perhaps an hour or so later while watching TV in bed). I can’t tell you the last time I have done that. I usually waddle from the restaurant, wanting to throw up or in physical pain in my gut because I have stuffed so much food into my stomach that it hurts to contort myself into my driver’s seat and hook my seatbelt. I am often out of breath after I eat, probably because my stomach is so packed with food that it is filling my chest cavity and inhibiting my lungs from working properly. Sad picture, isn’t it? Well, it’s the truth. I also managed to order pizza yesterday without any anger or frustration or self-loathing involved, although there was some boredom. However, instead of ordering a 16” extra-large with two chocolate lava cakes for dessert, I ordered one 10” with a soda. I found that even this ridiculously tiny (in my eyes) pizza filled my stomach to capacity – which I thought only a large pizza could do. I was full by the time I ate half, but had to finish it because the voice in my head said I had to (that is Harriet; more on that later), but otherwise would have been happy to stop right then. Who knew? I did; I just chose to ignore. Silly girl.
I am now on page 79 (of 265) of Shrink Yourself and have learned a lot of very eye opening stuff. For those of you who follow this blog who do not have problems with food (or perhaps just think that you don’t), I still highly recommend this book. Some people do have problems with abusing food, but don’t have trouble with their weight. This book can still help you to change your feelings and relationship with food. I promise – no one is paying me to say that I really recommend reading it. Look for it at your local public library if you don’t want to purchase it. I was going to let Sissy read mine when I finished it, but I have a feeling I’m not going to want to let it go.
I have learned that I have feeling phobias. I never would have thought that was true! I have lots of feelings, and thought that because I considered myself an “emotional” person, that meant that I was in touch with them, albeit in perhaps a not-so-healthy way. As humans, we are “meaning-hungry creatures. We make everything mean something.” That is me to a “T”. If someone doesn’t return my voice mail or email, then they are mad at me or I have done something wrong or they just don’t care about me (even though I know none of these things are true). These misinterpretations make simple feelings feel like more than they really are. There are also things called “Catastrophe Predictions”. You can probably figure out what those are; it’s like snow in Oregon. It’s not the snow itself that is scary to people, it’s the worst-case scenario predictions that people come up with that scare them. Schools are closed, Trail Blazer games get cancelled, and people leave work at 2pm to get home before the roads get bad. All for a few flakes of snow. I liked one of the sentences in one of the paragraphs under this heading: “When you come to the place where you’re feeling powerless for just a moment, you believe on some level that eating is the only option you really have to make yourself feel better, and that otherwise that moment will become an eternity.” Welcome to my life. However, I have learned that I use food to push away negative feelings that I don’t want to deal with. I use food as an over-the-counter tranquilizer. When I am bingeing, I feel content and secure. I am not thinking about anything else – this is called the trance. It is a very appropriate way to describe how I feel when I binge; I am not thinking about the horrible day I had, or how much I hate my job or how lonely I am, all I am thinking about is how delicious the food tastes and how quickly it will be gone. I have now learned that I “have to remember that you need to master the feeling phobia and food trance in order to understand the deeper issues that make you feel powerless.”
Anyway, I have learned something about my conscience. I always thought that your conscience was your guide, and it is. However, there is more than one kind of conscience, and one of mine – called the critical conscience - is a real sick Nazi bitch. She uses every opportunity to get me down, kick me repeatedly and viciously while I am down, and then uses every tactic to keep me down if I show any sign of trying to get back up. She tells me I am worthless, stupid, fat, ugly, unlovable, unforgivable, and will never attain any goal I set for myself; she loves to see me as a helpless, lonely, and hopeless victim. See? I told you she was a bitch. The worst part? I believe her. Utterly and completely. Why???
The book recommends giving your self-critical voice a name, like Harriet. “Even though you’re an intelligent, self-contained, functioning adult, Harriet has a lot of power.” Sometimes the critical voice is just background noise, but sometimes it’s like she is screaming through a bull horn, and I feel like others can hear her, and they agree with her. There have been times when I am in the grocery store, wavering between what I want to eat and what I know I should eat, and her voice is so loud and confusing that I leave the store in tears, half full shopping cart (or an empty one) stranded in an aisle. I have sat in restaurants full of people and families, trying to keep it together while she pokes me in my broken ribs (from some earlier assault) with her Nazi stiletto pointed toe black leather boots, telling me how I will never, ever have anyone in my life and I will always be alone and unloved. She is the one that tells me that I must keep eating, even when I can feel that I am full (and sometimes in physical pain), because there are starving children in (insert impoverished country of your choice here), or because it will be a waste of money if I don't. I am powerless to tell her to shut the hell up, mostly because she was a nameless, faceless captor of my psyche. Well, no more. Her name is Harriet – or whatever I tell her her name is – and the fact that I have now taken her down a peg by naming her gives me some power! You may scoff, but it actually works. Now when I hear her start to go to town on me, I can say SHUT THE HELL UP, HARRIET!! I sometimes say it out loud. And you know what? She does. I think that sometimes I can even hear her sputtering and looking for some sort of response, but by then I have moved on and left her in the dust, kicking at air. HA! Take that.
Well, this is getting wordy, so I will leave you with this for now. I will write again later to give you more updates on how I am doing with this. Nothing much else in life is happening right now. But maybe that will change too.