As much of a control freak as I am with most things, there is also a big part of me that is impulsive. To be more specific, I am very impulsive to my emotions and how I feel.
If I am uncomfortable—physically or mentally—I want to make it go away as quickly as possible. I don’t want to take time to let things pass or work themselves out. All I know at that moment is that I want to feel better and I know the easiest way to get there—instant gratification.
So where logic often takes the place of my impulsivity with most things, there are times when I act completely illogically, despite my awareness. (This is why I don’t often put myself in situations where I feel vulnerable, as I know that when I like something, I tend to take it to extremes.)
When you work on recovering from anything, a big part of the process is delaying gratification. I know what will make me feel better in that moment—when I’m stressed and want to (insert any default behavior here)—but it takes more work and impulse control to delay gratification until I’m in a “better” place.
I’ve recently had to remind myself that delaying that instant gratification can lead to a more long-term satisfaction. When I’m in the moment and deny myself the unhealthy coping mechanism, it stinks. I hate it. When I wait for things to pass, I might still feel like crap.
However, there is also a sense of gratification knowing that I made the healthier decision. To be honest, I hate the lists I was always given to do a puzzle or write a letter to myself when I want to do whatever it is I’m not supposed to do. Although delightful activities, that doesn’t work for me. So even though I’m in no place to give advice about this right now, the practical list below is to help me as much as it might help one or two of you.
Consider this my practical Hypocritical Healthy Hints list.
Whether you’re trying to stop over-exercising, overeating, under-eating/restricting or any other behavior you know you need to change, maybe something below will help you “in the moment.”
Leave your shoes at home: I mean this literally and figuratively. For example, if you have a tendency to over-exercise, don’t enable yourself to do it any time and any place. If I have my tennis shoes at work, I will go for a walk. If I don’t, I won’t. As embarrassing as it is, I often wear certain clothes or shoes for the sole purpose of comfort in case I walk. By leaving my shoes at home—whatever your “shoes” may be—I delay that activity.
Don’t buy it: I am someone who basically eats the same foods every day, just in different combinations. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this—we all have our staples—it is a problem when I feel like I can’t branch out without panic or when I feel like an ass for eating the same thing every day. My solution? Don’t buy it. If I don’t have all my “safe” staples in the kitchen all the time, I am forced to try something else. I am a huge enabler with this in that I need backups to my backups, but forcing myself to get creative with what I have can be a nice change.
And while this is centered towards food, it applies everywhere. If I don’t buy a scale, I don’t have a scale in the house. If I don’t buy a workout DVD, I don’t workout at home. You get the point. Don’t enable yourself for disorder.
Try something once: Do something different, whether it be eating something new, forcing yourself to be social or taking a full day off from all your self-imposed obligations. If you hate it, you never have to do it again. If you like it, the benefits are obvious.
Keep your mouth busy: That sounds weird, but after I eat a meal I feel like I always want something more, even if I’m stuffed. It’s not hunger, but rather the fact that I want something else to do with my mouth (other than ramble on, if you can believe it.) Drink a cup of hot tea, chew gum or brush your teeth. These are not meant to prevent me from eating anything—that’s not the point—but rather a sign that I’m done and it’s time to move on until the next feeding.
Find a happy place: I mean that in a concrete sense, not some psychological meditative sense—although I do advocate that as well when I can actually sit and focus for more than five seconds. Anyway, on days when my head is nuts and I just want to get away from myself for awhile, I go to the botanical gardens. I’ve posted about them many times, as I’m a member and take full advantage of the beautiful distractions it can offer. I get out of my house and among nature and other people. Even if I come home and slip back into bitch mode, at least I had a nice reprieve. It can be a coffee shop, a bookstore, the mall—just find a happy (safe) place.
By the way, these pictures scattered throughout are from the Rose Show they had this weekend. I needed a break, it was rainy, they had flowers. It worked.
Shower: I know that if I take a shower and wash my hair, I am much less likely to immediately go get sweaty working out. It might just delay the inevitable, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, a warm shower makes everything feel better, no?
Clean: Along those lines of cleanliness, clean. I know it’s the OCD in me, but once I get started cleaning, I usually get pretty into it. This can serve as a great distraction and once again provide that buffer of time to either delay or completely eliminate the urge to do whatever it is I shouldn’t do.
Just say no to drugs: Namely coffee, laxatives and sleep aids. Hear me out on this one, and remember I am only speaking from my own experience. For a long time I had a reliance on all three of those things to bring me the “quick fix” I talk about above. If I was uncomfortable, all I had to do was drink or pop a pill and everything would quickly resolve itself, even if the after-effects were unpleasant. I know I was relying on these things to alter the physical, but also to alter the mental. Not good. It completely screwed up my system(s) in a way that I am still recovering from today.
Now if I’m tired, I know it’s not a crash from the coffee or a haze from the sleep aid. If I have stomach issues, I know it’s not from the pills or the coffee, but rather just because I have an effed up stomach. You get my point. While all of these things can be helpful in certain situations, for me, it’s best to not have them around at all and rely on my body to take care of itself. If they are around, I’ll use them, so I don’t keep them around.
Trick yourself: I have a habit of skipping an extra snack in favor of just waiting for the next meal, using the excuse that I’m not hungry and I can just wait—this is especially true in the afternoon for me. Well, of course I could, but that doesn’t mean I should. To ensure that I get my mid-morning snack in, I eat an early breakfast so I’m forced to have a mid-morning snack. I hate going longer than four hours without any food, so this taps into the fact that I would feel worse for going a long stretch of time without eating than I would to have the snack. I kind of trick myself, I suppose. At any rate, it works, and mid-morning snacks are no problem now.
And because I used the word above, Ensure really isn’t that bad. You may feel like a 90-year-old lady buying it at the store, but it’s a quick way to get in a lot of nutrients/calories without feeling full. In fact, they usually spark my hunger.
Question your motivation: I don’t mean the healthy motivation. Why are you buying food you know you will binge on? Why are you going to the gym again? Why are you passing up the chance to go out? Why are you reading those blogs? It can be easy to default into behavior we’re comfortable with, so check yourself once in awhile and question your motivation. If you feel like you’re coming from an unhealthy place, don’t do it—or at least delay it a bit and see if the urge is still there later.
But don’t question yourself: By that I mean don’t surround yourself with people or things that make you feel uncomfortable about the (healthy) decisions you make. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true, and it’s important to remember that we all have different goals and needs. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good—this includes “virtually” as well.
Find one: Talk to at least one person for accountability and always be honest, no matter what. The first time you “forget” to say something you allow the disorder to regain some power. It may take awhile to trust or be trusted, but it’s worth it.
Cut yourself some slack: No explanation needed.
Do you have any practical tips you want to add for anything?