Calorie Restriction As Emotional Distraction

Thank you to everyone who said Happy 2nd Blog Anniversary to me here and also on Twitter. I can’t believe it and it’s been so amazing to have love poured our by ‘complete strangers’.

Today has been a fantastic day. Went to microbiology lab and got to culture some of my hair so hopefully I’ll get to see some microbes growing next week. I am a closet HUGE nerd.

I came home and read this blog post from Jen@PriorFatGirl. I love this lady, but I got thinking about some of the things which she wrote.

The past six weeks, my eating has been off. I spend Monday-Thursday making up for the calorie consumption that takes place on Friday-Sunday. Doing things I’ve always said are not health. As in limiting, restricting and denying foods. Which also means limiting, restricting and denying a healthy relationship with food. Such a horrible cycle to be in.

1500: Wednesday to Monday, I will track everything I eat and make it my goal to eat 1500 calories. No more, no less. The goal here is to even things out and to get out of the cycle of spending my weekdays trying to makeup for what I did on the weekends.

I was thinking back to when I was going through a lot of emotional stuff: I went straight to constricting my caloric/point intake. I would set-up elaborate plans that would have twice daily working out, limited food intake and promises of not ‘wavering’ from my plan. Jen is actually increasing her caloric intake to 1,500 after speaking with her dietician. Kudos to her. But she’s demanding a five day a week, strict adherence to it…and it comes at time that is very emotionally sensitive to her right now.

It made me REALLY think about how we use food and/or calorie control to MANAGE our lives, especially when we have a lot of emotional shiznat going on. For me it was either binging on food to escape and/or trying to constrict my intake.

It’s evident in my life that the best laid plans…usually go WAY OFF..when used to DISTRACT ourselves from aspects of our lives. The immediate escape that eating and/or caloric stictness gives, doesn’t actually help deal with the emotional needs the world is demanding us to deal with.

I am not going to speak for Jen. However, it did make me think heaps about how I had used ‘starting NOW on a plan’ as a tool of masking the inevitable volcano of emotions I didn’t want to, didn’t know how to, and/or couldn’t be bothered dealing with.

When you’re emotionally weak or your life is crazy do you ‘go back on plan’ or totally off plan?
How do you deal with life without food/dieting?


19 thoughts on “Calorie Restriction As Emotional Distraction

  1. Christie {Honoring Health} says:

    I actually have a post coming up about this very topic. I think people often see the binging or overeating as a way of coping but never stop to think that the restricting is coping too. Good for you for coming to that.

    p.s. we need to catch up ASAP! I miss talking to you!

  2. Trish @IamSucceeding says:

    Interesting question…I think the norm answer for me is go off plan…but really as I try to move over into more intuitive eating…I think it would be neither as I strive to go for balance…even under stress and “bad” days.

  3. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    This is a hugely important post. It gets to the heart of things and points out the difference between “either/or” thinking and “both/and” thinking. Understanding the difference has made an impact on the way I operate, for sure!

  4. Elisabeth says:

    I completely agree with you on this. I love Jen to pieces, and she is just as wonderful and down-to-earth in real life as she seems on her blog. She is on her own journey, and I respect the process that she’s going through because I’ve SO been there. It’s very easy to recognize the process of restriction and CONTROL of food in hindsight.

    Don’t you just wish sometimes that you could take the things that you know and the things that you’ve learned and inject them into another person’s brain?! That is how I feel daily with Jen.

    I have been “recovered” for 4 years, but there are still periods of time when I start thinking about tracking my calories. In fact, just a few short months ago, I DID begin tracking my calories again for a week or so. I was going through an extremely stressful time at work, and I KNEW what I was doing, but felt like it was the only way that I could hold on to my sanity. I didn’t restrict, just kept track. After a week, I recall being BORED with writing everything down, so that was my cue to stop it.

    Sometimes, the outside “voices” (life, distractions, stress, emotional challenges) become too LOUD to listen to ourselves. Those are the times when remaining intuitive become difficult for me.

  5. Hope says:

    Oh gosh, I go totally off plan. Although, as a former WW, I always heard that even when everything in your life is crazy and out of your control, you CAN control your eating and stay on plan, as it’s reassuring that you can at least control something in your life.

    So, for me, mostly its just eating to make the stress go away, which, I’m sorry to say, sometimes the food really does help. :/

  6. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self says:

    You are bringing up such an important point!!!

    I talk a lot about emotional OVEReating on my blog. But the truth is that many people – myself included at times – get the same distraction/numbness from restricting…or even just by being very meticulous and in control of every bite. I think that whenever we find ourselves thinking about food ALL THE TIME, it’s a sign that we’re using it in an emotional way.

  7. Suzanne says:

    I’m 50/50 on this topic. For me it all depends on the source of my emotion and what emotion I’m feeling. If I’m down and struggling then I will eat anything and everything in sight. If I’m frustrated, upset / angry then I try to control it by going on a strict calorie controlling plan. I will eat only 1000 calories a day. It seems like being able to control my food means I’ll be able to control other parts of my life too.

    I think whatever we do, control or binge, it’s a very important topic to be discussed, thanks for addressing it.

  8. poiseinparma says:

    It comes down to wanting to always be “in control”. You lose control of pieces of your life so you take control of those things that you can. It’s so hard to just let go and let yourself feel what you need to feel and eat what your body needs.

  9. Jen, a priorfatgirl says:

    You know you mean a lot to me — and I truly appreciate you being on my side? I DO! I DO!

    In your post above though, you left out a very important piece of information. The part where I mentioned

    “In discussions with my dietitian, she suggested that I increase my calories back up and sustain the same amount of calories consistently, to get out of the cycle.”

    Part of the past six weeks for me has been the opposite of using calorie counting as an emotional distraction. I have used my hunger and limiting calories as the emotional distraction. The point in counting calories for 5 days is to give myself a consistent amount of nutrient so that I can concentrate my energy on emotions. So while I agree that for some people, calorie counting can in fact be a emotional distraction, I am actually using it for the next 5 days to allow myself to focus on the emotions.

    The good part of my journey is that I am not alone. That I am working with both a dietitian and a therapist through this journey–I’ve reached out for help and am confident that I’ll get there. It may take me years, but I’ll get there. I’m surrounded with amazing people like you and Elisabeth who continue to remind me of my goals and be my voice of reason. So for that, I thank you!

    • Mish says:

      Thanks for writing Jen. I think that your commitment to this is important and I appreciate your journey. I did mention in my post that you had increased your calorie intake due to your dietitian’s orders and praised you for it. I also think it’s a great thing, as you pointed out…that this change is to enable you to focus on your emotions. I remember when I was eating nothing, when I was dieting, that I couldn’t focus on anything. I have noticed that since I have balanced out my eating more…the bouncing back and forth from my emotions isn’t as severe..although it still happens.

  10. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    This is-to a much more serious extent-why anorexics continue in spite of themselves. It is control. Just as a binge is control of comfort, restriction is controlling order.

    I think a healthy minded person has to be careful of all excesses.

  11. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this post, just a reminder what I’m working on and why.

    PoiseinParma wrote:
    “It comes down to wanting to always be “in control”. You lose control of pieces of your life so you take control of those things that you can. It’s so hard to just let go and let yourself feel what you need to feel and eat what your body needs.”

    My dietitian/counselor wants me to listen more and eat by my body’s signals, but also eat consistently enough to keep my focus…it’s very hard. Last night I went to bed crying and feeling like I can’t do it. I just went to bed because I couldn’t hear the noise in my head any longer.

    Right now feels completely OUT of control, but I know I am taking my power back by not giving in. Like the whole world is going to go crazy and end if I eat “too much” and don’t track every morsel I DO actually eat. NO! I eat to feed my body and soul, stay strong, FEEL strong…I have to keep reminding myself why, and that it’s all gonna be ok.

    Thank you all for sharing.

  12. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I want to link to a post that I think says it all:

    It’s from Cathy at All Things Power! http://Cathy-Cox.Blogspot.Com/2010/07/Good-Bad-Ugly-Truth.Html

    I’ve “known” Cathy for several years through a popular diet website’s support boards. Cathy is as true a person as you can get. She’s lost over 100 pounds and is now struggling with an eating disorder and what she talks about on her blog speaks to me about this whole process that we put ourselves through, and why.

  13. missyrayn says:

    I don’t count when I’m emotionally drained or depressed but I still try to make good choices. Does it always work…heck no. But at least I’m not stressed about the points/calories and getting to a better place.

  14. chris says:

    I am the opposite. I used to use food as everything. This is why I count my calories. I used food like a drug addict uses drugs. Because of my relationship with food and it’s long history, I will never have a normal relationship with food. If I overeat, I don’t punish myself the next day or the next week with food. I eat the calories I should eat that day. According to my weight and activity level. I don’t allow emotions to come into food consumption anymore. Food is fuel. I will be working on this the rest of my life.

  15. Sagan says:

    Very interesting point! For myself, I’ve found that food is a huge control mechanism. I’ve restricted my food to about 1,000 calories at one point and at other times I’ve dealt with issues by eating over 3,000 calories. These total extremes… or else I would eat a normal amount of food, but I would be very strict about eating ONLY whole foods with NO exceptions.

    I think that in our lives we’re always going to have SOMETHING that we fall back on as a way to feel in control… it just depends what we choose to use as our control mechanism. Right now I’m trying to switch mine over to exercise. No, it doesn’t deal with the problem at the root, but as long as I don’t go crazy with fitness, it will be a far better outlet than food, in my opinion.

  16. Tanya says:

    I think it’s important too to remember that every person has their own RIGHT way of doing things that might be vastly different than what works for others. There are different triggers & solutions for everyone – some people need strict calorie control, some people need to avoid certain things always or it might trigger overeating – and the list goes on.

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