So far, I’ve worked through Chapter 4 of Dr. Phil’s book, The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom, and continue to be astounded by the practical, concrete application of what I already know to be true. I know what my bad eating and bingeing habits are. I’ve written them down with every weight loss book I’ve ever read. I also know when these behaviors happen—the activities, situations or people that trigger them. I’ve carefully examined what my payoff is for continuing to eat compulsively.
All that information ever concluded for me was that compulsive eating was an integral part of my bipolar disorder, and that untangling those two would be nearly impossible.
But, Dr. Phil gave me a couple more things to consider and, maybe, a way to start slipping the knots of my compulsion. He opined the only way to get rid of a bad eating habit was to replace it with an activity incompatible with eating. So, I made a list of things I can do besides eat during the times when I’m most prone to bingeing. It’s a fun list—full of physical activity, art, writing and things that need to get done anyway.
Then, I listed the ways I can adjust my eating style. For example, I eat too fast, so I plan to stop and take a breath before starting a meal, then set down my fork between bites. I know all about how the body can’t register fullness until 20 minutes after the fact, but my fullness button has always been much more broken than that. I can eat for hours and never feel “full.” And even though I’ve read about these techniques before, I’ve never tried them, because I was sure they wouldn’t work. I’m willing to do whatever it takes now.
The last piece (so far) was to make a plan. Oh, goody! I’m a planning pro! My journals are full of plans, most of which were too grandiose, too unrealistic, too stringent, too desperate to ever succeed. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand this about myself. I’ve learned to adjust my goals to something more manageable and realistic. I never could have accomplished this without my Bipolar Bad-Ass Training (Thank you, Xena and Linda Hamilton!).
My plan includes some radical changes and some simple ones. The big change is eliminating TV. I don’t know if this will be permanent, but for now I can’t watch TV without eating, so out it goes. I also eat when I read (another way to numb my emotional turmoil). I’m going to try some shifts with reading first, since I want to continue to work with my ECT-induced reading disability. First, I’ll make sure to finish a meal and do some other activity before opening a book. If I read while I eat or right after I eat, I just continue shoveling food in my mouth. So, maybe a break will make a difference. If not, I’ll try reading only where there’s no access to food, like at the library. That seems drastic, but again, I’m ready to do what it takes.
Without TV I have a lot of open time to fill, especially in the evening. My plan is to go back to the Y after supper to work on the stationary bike, or take a walk when the weather is fair. I used to practice Tai Chi, so I will pull out the DVD (proper use of the TV) and start that practice again. And most importantly, I plan to make meditation part of my nightly practice. Like drawing, I’ve been wanting to get back to regular meditation for years. Now is the time.
I know this is a huge life change. The few days I’ve been without TV have jangled my nerves. I can feel the habitual behavior straining to reestablish itself and throwing up flares of panic. I also know that I have to plant these seeds while I’m stable and give them every opportunity to take root. I need a practical plan in place and working before the next episode comes or I’ll chuck the whole thing and fall back into compulsive behavior. I will anyway, I know that, but hopefully these new tools will give me a way to steer the compulsion off its normal target. All I’m looking for is a tiny adjustment, a way to alter the compulsion’s trajectory slightly.
I may not be able to follow through on all these plans. It may not be realistic to do them all at once. But, I’ll never know unless I try.