Stress and comfort eating: stumbling along the way

This has been a hard week.

I am finding work really difficult at the moment. A month ago I decided to start looking for other positions and I had ways to manage some of the difficult things to keep going in the short term. Well, this past week things unravelled a little more and my eating went out of control.

I decided on Wednesday afternoon that for the rest of that day I did not have to have my healthy living goals in view. I did not have to be aiming for them. I gave myself space for the rest of that day. I ate what I wanted to, aware all the time that I was seeking relief from the stress. That was ok because I had some plans to manage some of the work stuff on Thursday and I was also completing a job application and submitting it.

Things did became a little easier at work on Thursday as I implemented my plan but my eating did not fall back into place. On Friday I woke up not feeling hungry but I still had a substantial breakfast. On Saturday I started with good intentions but there was no follow through.

My exercise also disappeared last week, but that was partly because the weather was so bad. A convenient excuse to have this week…

This post is not really about beating myself up (well it is a little bit). I need to write about it and reflect on my relationship with food and stress and try to learn through this.

It is obvious that food is my main stress relief strategy. The reason I have been able to get through so much at work already is because exercise has helped me to manage my stress levels. But in a week that was really difficult, with my lunchtime walks all converted to siting down for lunch, I just was not coping. And so I ate. I ate so that I would not feel the stress anymore. And then I kept eating. I ate till I felt unwell. I ate so that I did not feel hunger between meals. I just wanted all the frustration and ambiguity and disappointment and struggles with work to stop; eating made it stop for a little while. Eating dulled everything for a little while. These are old familiar patterns and it worries me how easy it is to slip back into them.

Pulling out of the comfort eating was hard. I knew I was taking very fast backward steps in terms of my weight. I kept saying to myself that this week was already a write off so why not really write it off. And then part of my mind would swing into the positive self talk and the goals and motivations. I felt trapped in the stress, by my goals and in my body. But I knew that if I had one day of eating well, I would feel better and I would be able to go again. And if that one day was before the start of the new week then I could start the week off in a better place and leave this past week behind.

I weighed myself yesterday morning and am up at least a kg on last weeks weight. It was good to see that on the scale, to get confirmation of the backward steps. I went walking yesterday, I did a 70 min walk with my fam and friends in the morning and I walked to the shop and back in the afternoon. I felt alot better after my morning walk. The other thing I am pleased about with this walk to the shop is that I did not buy something to eat on the walk home. I struggled with that. I really wanted something. I argued with myself and I walked away empty handed. Yesterday I was already in a better place and was starting to be accountable again.

This morning I woke up hungry. I had my normal cereal and milk for breakfast and I tracked it. I went out with my toddler in the morning but took a banana and an apple bar to have for morning tea, and I tracked it. I bought a good lunch option and I tracked it. I had afternoon tea at a sensible time to stop my blood sugar from plummeting before dinner and I tracked it. And I have tracked my dinner. I am back to chewing gum between meals because that way I am chewing something. I have stopped my comfort eating. I have relaxed this weekend and I feel better for nurturing myself in healthy ways.

I currently have a headache. It is a low sort of buzzy headache that I associate wth quitting smoking. It is a withdrawal headache – my body is missing the refined carbs I guess. I ate alot of refined carbs in the last 4 days. The good thing about this headache is that it shows me that going back to plan today has made a difference to my body. The other good thing is that I know that tomorrow the headache should be gone and I will feel better in myself, with my energy levels and general wellbeing.

The last week has been a struggle. While my old patterns are very easy to fall into, I also see changes. I pulled out of my comfort eating in 4 days. I recognise my headache for what it is, I recognise how much exercise helps me. I know that I need to do nurturing things for myself to help me manage the stress of work. I am not going to look back and feel bad about the lack of control, I am going to get up tomorrow morning, weigh myself, do my exercise and look to the new week.

Success is not what I achieve at any given moment (although walking out of the shops yesterday empty handed was a victory), success in terms of this journey is improvement from where I was, most of my choices being healthy ones, respecting myself and my body. I am already a success. I will keep being a success.

I am ok.


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