On the way to Florida to pick up my big kids, I did my traditional Cracker Barrel book on CD rental. I love those things!! Hoping for some “mind candy” but not seeing anything I was thrilled about, I went for the most interesting (to me) title they had: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth.
Geneen was on Oprah and everything, so I’m probably way behind the times knowing nothing about this book. I really enjoyed listening to it and came away with tons to think about. (Warning: this isn’t a Christian book, though it mentions God in the title. The author is not a believer in Jesus and there are a few f-bombs and everything. I found plenty of good things to glean from it, but there was plenty to filter out as well. Don’t try it if you are uncomfortable with cursing or with reading non-Christian self-help. If you try it and it offends you, don’t say I didn’t tell ya!)
One of the things this book made me ponder: It’s OK to take care of myself. Common ways I fill my longing for “something more” like overeating for one, are really ways I abuse myself. Stuffing down a whole sleeve of my signature comfort food, DoubleStuf Oreos, leaves me feeling guilty and yucky, not to mention getting me closer to the Type 2 Diabetes that runs in my family. Isn’t it odd that some of the things we run to for “comfort” or to “get my mind off the pain” are really causing us more pain? What’s up with that?
Why didn’t it ever occur to me to eat food as a way to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, not as a drug to numb pain or as a distraction from my problems? What does it really say about me when I’m doing whatever I do to avoid pain, be it eating junk or zoning out on TV, or you fill in the blank, not realizing that said pain avoidance activity is dragging me down more and more? Why don’t I just think to myself, “Ok, Rebecca, you are in pain right now. But instead of eating (or whatever) to distract yourself from pain, let’s just deal with the pain. A little at a time if you have to. But deal with it so it can eventually subside. Save eating (or whatever) as a way to nourish yourself, to love yourself. Don’t let your pain steal other good activities away from you by allowing them to become out of control.”
If I’m eating to nourish myself, that makes a HUGE difference in food choices, both in the type of food I choose and the amount I allow myself to eat. For example, why make myself uncomfortable by overeating? Why do that? If I’m nourishing myself, then I won’t want to stuff so much in that I feel sick or guilty.
I’ve already promised not to make this a weight loss blog, and I won’t. I’m simply using the food thing because I recognize that eating is something I do to cope with pain. However, I think this idea applies to most other unhealthy coping mechanisms. The bottom line is, by using an unhealthy coping mechanism, I’m refusing to take care of myself. Selfishly. Weird, but true.
I’ve got plenty of theories as to WHY I don’t think about taking care of myself: Southern girls are taught to take care of everyone else. It’s a mother’s instinct to give the best of herself to her children. That good ole’ Sunday School acronym, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. Admitting my need for self care is admitting weakness. (that would be pride) I don’t have time. I have a guilt complex. Everyone else seems to be able to keep on giving and never run out, so what’s wrong with me? Blah, blah, blah... I could go on and on. But dwelling on all of the above doesn’t get me any closer to healthy habits. Really, no matter the WHY behind my self-neglect, it’s time to just DO IT. Time to just start taking care of God’s daughter. REAL care, not fake, half-hearted distraction techniques.
What does that look like? How about taking TIME to read… the Bible, my favorite books, Garden and Gun magazine, whatever. Feeding myself healthy things, when I’m hungry, and refusing to abuse myself by overeating. Letting go of work when I leave the place, and letting myself be thrown into the moment with my family. A retreat alone, just me and God. A retreat with my best friend. Plenty of hydration. Exercise. Good sleep. Doctors appointments. Letting myself be the creative person God made me to be, and therefore a much more enjoyable wife and mother. Getting RID of unrealistic expectations. I think those things are a good start!!
P.S. For any fellow food junkies, I loved Geneen Roth’s eating guidelines. You can find them here.by