Posts Tagged ‘impulse control’

I knew I was going to like my therapist when I saw that he had several volumes of Calvin and Hobbes on his bookshelf.

My therapist is friendly, down-to-earth, and very reasonable.  His background is impressive, and his specialty is healthy lifestyle and food-related issues.  He told me that he holds weekly support groups for impulse control and mindful eating, to name a few.  The mindful eating support group sounds very interesting to me, and I may look into that in the future.

He did a lot more talking than I expected, but I liked the way that he explained things and then picked up on the fact that I already knew most of the information he was giving me about nutrition and healthy eating.  He used examples from his own life so that I felt more at ease discussing my own proclivities.  He asked questions, and when I answered them, he was spot-on with giving me meaningful, insightful feedback. I’m going to italicize the things that were very insightful to me.

The first question he asked me was what my relationship to food was like, and for some strange reason, tears sprang to my eyes as I answered.  I told him:

I’ve always been overweight, but it wasn’t until about 15 years ago or so that I became obese and then “morbidly obese.”  I’ve struggled to lose weight my entire life and I’m seeing patterns and cycles in my behavior around food and I want to learn how to stop those behaviors, or at least control them.  I’ve signed up for WLS and I know that I WILL lose the weight with the surgery, but I want to deal with any underlying issues I may have so that I don’t regain the weight.

Growing up, we eat healthy, well-balanced meals, but I am Italian, so food is often about celebrating.  And often in that celebration there is overindulgence.  But I know how to eat healthfully and I love eating that way.  I enjoy fruits and veggies, and eating a balanced diet.  I like cooking for myself and others.

But there’s also a side of me that overeats junk.  Sometimes because I’ve had a bad day, but more often because I’m bored or because I just got paid, or because I feel like I deserve it.”

He highlighted the fact that I seem to be someone who eats around my feelings of passion – when I’m really happy or things are going well or when I’m feeling low/bored.  I hadn’t thought about it that way before.  He also said that he doesn’t think it’s a problem to have food and celebrations going hand in hand because he feels that food is one of the joys of life, a belief that I echo.

We talked a bit about secret eating, which started for me in 5th grade until about 8th grade and then again when I was 25 until today.  I told him how I felt so out of control and disappointed after the binge or overeating session, and I explained that I am a control freak and a perfectionist, so I hate feeling like I let anyone down, even myself.  He asked if I ever found myself unaware of what I was doing or zoning out when I was binging, and I told him no, that it was definitely a conscious decision.  And he just seemed to take note of that. It was interesting that when we were talking about secret eating, I got very teary eyed again.  I told him that I always feel so ashamed when I eat secretly, and even though most of my meals are eaten alone, since I live by myself, there is a significant difference when I’m engaging in secret eating. 

He talked about scheduling treats for myself so that I can have the foods that I enjoy or like to indulge in.  He said that by scheduling them, some of the “bad food factor” or the power of the food would disappear because I was allowing myself to have it.  And I wasn’t going off program, because it was a planned treat.  I really liked the idea of taking the power of the food away.  And to be honest with you, I really don’t know what food I would automatically plan for myself to have.  There’s not one go-to binging food.  And I’m not sure that I’d want to have that, anyway.  But his point is a good one.  By planning it out, it gives you something to look forward to, but it keeps it all in balance in an otherwise healthy food lifestyle.

He gave his own example of his weakness for Blizzards from Dairy Queen.  He allows himself one small Blizzard a week.  It stops him from keeping ice cream in the house, which he said he’d eat within days if he had it.  And it also allowed him to get some distance from the thing that he wanted.  This is where that impulse control comes in, I think.  In other words, if he wants ice cream and has it in the house, it will be seconds until he’s eating it and maybe eating ALL of it.  Where as if he has to get dressed, get in the car, drive to Dairy Queen, order it, deal with money and waiting in line, he may think twice.  He said it gives him lots of opportunities to make another choice.  Plus, at Dairy Queen, he’s going to get a set amount and that’s it.  He won’t overindulge, because he’s already decided that the small is enough for him.  And he will enjoy it more because he’s in the moment when he’s eating it, rather than mindlessly shoveling food into his mouth in front of the t.v..  This brings up the mindful eating he mentioned before, and after reading Heidi’s account of a recent mindful eating experience, I think I may sign up for that group session because it would be good for me.

I told him that I’m usually an all or nothing type of person.  That I either perfectly on program or else I am off of it.  And so he said that I might want to be careful with the planned treats, in that case, to see whether they lead me down a path of going off the wagon.  I could see it happening, depending on the food, but I think if it’s something I enjoy but don’t normally binge on, like wine and cheese, for example, it would be a really nice treat once a week.  I will heed his warning and see if the scheduled treats end up making me bingey.

My homework over the next few weeks is to deny myself when I have a mindless, unplanned craving.  I know that sounds counter-intuitive to the scheduled treats, but for those of you who binge or overeat, you know that those impulses come up several times a day.  And you can’t give in to all of them.  He said that when we deny ourselves the thing we’re jonezing for, we become desperate.  And in that desperation the underlying issues are often revealed.  He wants to me to journal my feelings when I’ve denied a desire and see what other emotions come up.  I’m very interested to see what happens.

Our next appointment isn’t for 3 weeks, which is perfect.  It gives me time to practice some of the things that he mentioned, for school to start, and for some cravings to come up, too. I like the fact that he’s not asking me to meet every week, because as I mentioned before, that would be a bit too expensive for me.  Or, I would rather use the money in other ways. Meeting every 3-4 weeks is perfect for me.

Overall, I really liked meeting with him, and if I got so much out of the very first session, I’m sure I’ll really learn some things about myself after we delve deeper into these issues.  Part of me is wondering why in the heck I didn’t seek out a mental health professional years ago, but the other part of me knows that I wasn’t ready.  I’m very open to this process right now, and I wasn’t before.  I’ve said this many times before because it’s one of life’s truths for me – everything happens for a reason.  I think I was meant to wait to get this help until right before I qualified for WLS so that it would “stick.”  I’m so glad I’m doing this for myself now, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.


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