Disclaimer: This blog talks about food and feelings towards it. Please don’t read if you think you will find this triggering.
One of the ways I cope with my eating difficulties is making sure that I remain in control of what and when I eat; making meal plans, preparing my own lunches and scheduling regular gym visits. Nothing can go wrong if I’m in the driving seat but with a demanding lifestyle, it can be difficult to stick to a routine at all times.
Busy with work and social arrangements, I recently had a week with less trips to the gym, more eating out and consuming foods I would usually deem as ‘bad’ like bread. It started with pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. A staff meal out. Multiple lunch dates with colleagues. Circumstances meant I had to be a little more flexible with my eating pattern and deal with not going to the gym for 3 days in a row. I learnt that I didn’t need to tire myself out at the gym every day to ‘deserve’ a good meal because being busy in other ways was just as exhausting. With the help of a friend I decided not to squeeze in runs between arrangements just because I thought I needed to rather than because I wanted to.
Nothing. Nothing ‘bad’ happened. I look the same as I did last week. I enjoyed what I ate and who I ate with. No one judged me and told me I ought to have gone to the gym more. For one of the first times I don’t feel guilty for allowing myself to be more relaxed with my usual strict regime. It was one week. On a return visit to the gym, I coped with the same work out I would have done before. In the course of a week I hadn’t lost muscle, stamina or the ability to run. I don’t feel the need to compensate by restricting foods or working harder at the gym. I’m not sure exactly why I don’t feel the guilt I have done in the past, perhaps it was the rush of being preoccupied with other things that I didn’t have time to over-think it all.
Now I had known that plans meant eating and exercise were going to be slightly outside of my usual schedule, so I was prepared for a challenging week. In view of this I guess I did maintain a certain level of control but where I would previously I have labelled this as a ‘bad’ week because it broke the routine, this time it felt like a ‘good’ week. Perhaps the next stage is coping with more spontaneous changes to routine by saying yes to more spur-of-the-moment occasions.
Whilst I feel good about myself and my body now, I have no doubt that thoughts of ‘bad’ foods will return and so will the guilt. But for now it’s a time to celebrate the small victories of the week, which may seem odd to others but for those who understand, it’s a sure fist pump moment! By remembering this feeling and the logic to my behaviour this may help with future challenges. Gym or no gym, my body needs fuel. Spontaneity can be scary and anxiety inducing but remembering that nothing bad will really happen is a helpful way to challenge negative thoughts when they make their rounds again in the future.