Coping – Then and Now

If only it were THAT easy!

Well, sometimes it is that easy. Fat Kitty is the King of Cheering Mom Up. Nothing makes me happier than pulling into my driveway to see his little face perk up in the window, then disappear because he’s running into the kitchen to greet me with his belly exposed for rubs. Seriously, that’s what I walk in to every day and I love it! Fat Kitty gets belly scratches before I do anything else.

He’s really good at sensing when I’m stressed out or upset and he perches himself on my lap, his paws on my shoulders, looking up at me adoringly and purring happily. It’s hard to be upset or sad when you look down and see this:

So my question for you: how do you deal with stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc? Basically, how do you COPE? And has that changed now that you are trying to be healthier?

I ask this because my coping mechanisms have changed dramatically since I was 250 pounds. In the past, my way of coping with any kind of emotion or stressor in life was to turn toward food. Specifically, ice cream. I could go through a huge tub of ice cream in just a few days.

The other way I dealt with stressors was escapism. My preferred method of escaping was watching TV or movies. It wasn’t uncommon that I’d have a weekend marathon of Law & Order episodes on USA. Escaping was so much easier than dealing.

Unhealthy Ways of Coping with Stress

(source) These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

Do any of those ring a bell? They sure ring a lot of memory bells for me!

So change the situation. Get the temptations out of the house. Get yourself out of the house. Try another way to deal with stress than any other method that has “worked” in the past. I use quotes for worked because while binge eating and escaping into TV land was unhealthy, IT WORKED. There was something inside of me that WAS feeling better, a need was being met, until it became painfully obviously that it wasn’t really working (i.e. gaining 100 pounds).

How is my coping different now? It’s pretty drastic in its differences. First, I normally don’t turn towards food. I’m not 100% cured of that urge, but I do pretty well most of the time not turning toward food or alcohol to dampen emotions that are uncomfortable.

Second, exercise. Instead of spending my entire existence on the couch, lost in other people’s lives instead of dealing with or living my own, I use exercise to calm unhappy emotions or get nervous energy out. Sometimes when you’re mad, there’s nothing better than going for a run! Exercise fixes so much!

Maybe using exercise to cope with stress is just another form of escapism, but at least it’s a healthier one. Because you know those TV marathon escapism sessions included binge eating! They went hand-in-hand. It’s kind of hard to binge-eat ice cream while you’re on a treadmill. 🙂

It’s all a learning process. Where are you in this learning process? How do you cope? And how is different now than before?

Instant Gratification or Long Term Goal?

When I decided it was time to lose the weight, I set my mind on a goal I wanted to reach. 100 pounds was the goal but it was too big in my head. I felt overwhelmed and I couldn’t even picture what that would look like. Instead, I set a goal of 50 pounds. 50 didn’t seem as big and scary.

You can read more about my journey here, but to recap briefly: I started swimming a few days a week. Then, after a month I started working on the food portion of the process. This was definitely the tricky part. Food has always been my ISSUE. Binge eating, emotional eating, stress eating, food was what I turned to. Exercise was the much easier component for me–even though  I was out of shape and extremely slow in the pool.

So how did I manage to reach that first goal of losing 50 pounds when food was the enemy for me? Temptation was hard to resist! Clearly I hadn’t been resisting it if I’d gotten to 250 pounds.

Instant Gratification or Long Term Goal?

I’ve mentioned before that I started to look at food as math. If I ate 300 calories for breakfast, that meant I had 400 calories for lunch, 100 calories for a snack and then dinner was 600 calories and if I was lucky, I had some calories left over for dessert! Then it was a matter of “what could I eat that is 300 calories?” It was a puzzle and I had to move pieces around to make them all fit.

What helped me the most was this question I asked myself when faced with temptation: “Do I eat this NOW or do I focus on my long term goal?”

In the beginning of my weight loss quest I had the awesome momentum of seeing BIG LOSSES on the scale. Losing 5-8 pounds a week was such a motivating feeling. I was seeing progress, my efforts weren’t being wasted, I didn’t feel like I was slowly torturing myself by denying myself food because it was working. I was getting closer to my goal. This spurred me on, it made it so much easier to resist those donuts at work, or pizza with friends.

The closer I got to 150 pounds (my goal weight), the more motivated I was. “THIS WILL ACTUALLY BECOME A REALITY. Holy Shit. I might actually lose 100 pounds!” Of course those plateaus were speed bumps on the road to goal weight but I still managed to beat those.

What I’m trying to say is: how badly do you want to reach that goal? Whatever it is. Maybe you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, maybe 200, maybe you’re just trying to keep off the weight you already lost. Ask yourself what I asked myself constantly: “How badly do I want to reach my goal?”

Asking myself that question when faced with temptation helped me maneuver the pitfalls of weight loss. It wasn’t fool-proof. I was definitely guilty of nibbling, giving in to temptation, reverting back to some binge-habits temporarily, and living in the moment instead of thinking of my long term goal, but it worked pretty well!

QUESTION: Where do you stand on the instant gratification or long term goal topic? What has helped you?