Have you ever read something that you think about for days, like a song that gets stuck in your head? All weekend I thought about one line from the cover story in this month’s Arthritis Today. It was like a hammer to the head – an AHA! moment – only I didn’t know why. I couldn’t immediately (and still can’t…thus this blog) connect it to the context my subconscious saw was there.
Sandy is a 50-year-old woman living with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I can only imagine the kind of pain she lives with, and yet she walks up to 5 miles on the beach every chance she gets. That’s inspirational to me in and of itself. But that’s not what dogged me all weekend. It was this line: By getting regular exercise, as well as closely monitoring her diet and avoiding emotional drama, Sandy says she’s been able to safely manage her RA and fibromyalgia.
The first two principals – exercise and diet – we all know in a yadda-yadda-yadda kind of way are keys to losing weight and keeping it off. But what about that third principal: “…avoiding emotional drama”? Yes, Sandy was talking about managing a disease, but I really believe emotional drama – both our own and other people’s – matters in how we lose and maintain weight.
Maybe ya’ll have already thought about this, so forgive me for being late to the party. I’ve just not put the two together in cognitive terms before. The rest of this blog is about the links I’m starting to see between emotional “drama” and weight.
Excess weight is its own emotional drama, right? Whether we feel ashamed or embarrassed about our bodies, or beat ourselves up when we fail, this lack of self acceptance fuels the gain-loss-gain cycle. Nothing like a little Ben & Jerry’s to ease the pain of self-flagellation or my personal favorite: “I can never change, so why bother?”
Avoiding emotional drama of excess weight doesn’t mean avoiding the issue of weight. It means swapping negative for positive dialogue and not engaging in “poor me.” The moment I start in with negative self-talk is the moment I want to dive head first into a box of Teddy Grahams. Recognizing the relationship between food and my emotions helped me adopt alternative coping mechanisms, like the question I ask myself when faced with a food dilemma: How will I feel five minutes after eating this?
That was the easy drama to dissect. The more complex and sticky drama is that which belongs to our family, friends and associates, and in how we engage in or move within that drama.
One of the things I realized this weekend is that when I engage in someone else’s drama, I avoid my own issues. I think this is why that line – “avoiding emotional drama” – struck such a cognitive chord. When I was finally ready to lose weight for the last time, I’d made myself a priority. To do that, I had to lose the emotional baggage of others. This is a fine line, though. You have to learn how to stop placing yourself in the center of someone else’s issues and listen from the outside and be compassionate from the outside rather than trying to always solve someone’s problem or, worse, think they’re problem is somehow about you when it’s not. That’s different, obviously, from the times when we have caused someone pain by our actions or lack of action.
Over the last five years, I’ve come to hate emotional drama. My friends and (some) family understand that. If I’ve done something that has hurt someone I love and I have no clue, I rely on them to tell me rather than ignore me. I spent years pacifying people and I don’t have the will or energy for it anymore. I’m learning to own my issues (whether I recognize them on my own or are brought up to me) and to separate other people’s issues from our own. Working out issues before they become emotional drama is worth it with those we love. It’s not easy by any means, but what’s most important to achieve in our lives is rarely easy.
So how does this all relate to weight loss and maintenance? For me: Teddy Grahams. Or mashed potatoes. Or stress (cortisol, anyone?). Or negative self talk. When emotional drama enters my life, it eventually shows up on the scale.
I’m doing pretty well with the diet and exercise principles in Sandy’s story. The “avoiding emotional drama” part is a little more tricky.
So….do you think emotional drama hinders weight loss and maintenance? Or am I totally off base on this?