If you don’t make things worse today, you are already in a better place if compared to yesterday
Are you constantly beating yourself up for thinking too much about food, stopping binge-eating and getting nutrition over control? Does spending too much time on something as natural as food makes you feel guilty? Are you disappointed that after, say, two weeks without a binge, you didn’t become a super-productive badass?
I often hear from recovering binge-eaters that decision to get their eating behavior under control monopolized their thoughts. They want to focus their attention somewhere else and be more productive.
Been there, done that.
I am going to share a couple of thoughts which, I hope, would be helpful to those in early (or at any stage of) recovery. Believe me, I used to fall in this trap numerous times.
Feeling “unproductive” seems to be a common topic for people who experienced the first success in beating binge eating or emotional overeating.
So, you haven’t binged for a week, two weeks, even a month. Congratulations. It takes a lot to put an end to this. I do know this. But along with the first success a certain problem arises.
Now we have all this released energy and time on our hands. “Sugar hangovers” don’t disable us for an entire day. No dragging yourself around in a lethargic state. Euphoria of first victories over life-sucking addiction gets into our head. And we start throwing piles and piles of mega-unrealistic expectations on ourselves.
Let me introduce you to a golden rule which will save you a lot of grief and unnecessary pain. I borrowed this not-so-long-ago-discovered quote from Tim Grover. And I still have to repeat it every day in many areas of my life:
“Before you Start Doing Things Better, Stop Doing them Worse”
This can be applied to any challenging issue.
I used to overlook this “stop making things worse” stage. I went to pains in my desperate attempts to jump right out from “I’ve screwed up royally” hole to “I am a super-productive super-hero” level.
I am not sure where this legend of being invincible- productive super-human comes from. I fathom from the same universal source of all modern-world delusions – media of all sorts. And there is also always some mythical “a friend of a friend” who runs 3 businesses, plays tennis like Venus Williams, looks better than Victoria Secret models, and wins a wife of the year title on top of it all”.
Often movies picture the main character who wakes up to some sort of epic revelation. Eyes are shining with determination and self-confidence. As if someone turned the switch on. And yesterday’s bum goes into a turbo-mode. He moves mountains, saves the world, cleans the entire apartment within a couple of hours (I think it’s on par with saving the world). He drinks raw eggs and starts jogging into dark gloomy morning like Rocky. And so on and so far.
But back to the real world.
“Stop making things worse” is one hell of productive activity!!!!
Once more: “If you don’t make things worse today, you are already in a better place if compared to yesterday”.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper in it.
Why do we tend to look down upon this stage?
I believe because it’s hard to see and feel and “palpate” all this invisible work behind “stop doing it worse”.
We don’t see the inner work our brain and entire nervous system do when re-adjusting to new realities. They get in the game, but are just learning to play by new rules.
We build a new life, new environment, a new reality. It takes time to adapt to it, react to it and exist in it. Brain needs to make new sense of what’s going on. It has to process new information. It has to build new connections. It’s a stress for the poor thing, after all. And it’s already overloaded with work because it’s on the job 24/7. Give it a break.
Binge eating messes up with our life. Big time. We need to invest lots of efforts to develop a new healthy lifestyle. And it means our focus goes there.
Besides, a lot of unsolicited nasty voices start a talk-show in our heads: “You should be at Point X already. According to “perfectly implemented plan” your weight should be Y. Your six-pack should be impeccable.
You didn’t overeat yesterday. For the first time in a decade. Checked. It’s time to conquer Everest and start preparing for a Fitness Bikini Competition.
Not so fast.
What is more, keep in mind that we are dealing with physical addiction too. Just like alcoholics suffer from withdrawals, “sugarholics” go through pretty much the same process.
Brain panics. It goes on strike. It throws tantrums. It demands insane levels of glucose it’s got used to. And you are going to be super-productive here? Are you kidding me?
Compare it with thin ice. You can’t just go and walk on its surface Let it grow and gain strength. Then you will skate and play hockey. Then you will test how thick it is. Then you will cross it and explore what’s on the other side of the lake.
There is time for everything.
If I keep testing the thin and fragile crust of ice over and over again, it will keep breaking. If I decide that somehow, again, by pure effing magic of “This time it will be different” I will pull it through, I will find myself in trouble again. And I will end up with my head under the water gasping for oxygen.
And I have to focus on not screwing up. I have to fight some evil force which pushes me on that thin ice. Some Siren’ song which lures me there. If I succeed in not making things worse, tomorrow I will be still on solid ground and no damage done to myself.
But if I fail to shut this devious voice down…I will hit the bottom. I will struggle to get myself out on the surface. And I will be darn happy just to find myself warm and safe. So much for super-productive.
In terms of binge eating it means that I didn’t waste my time, money, mental and physical energy to attend to destructive and harmful activity which grossly undermines the quality of my life.
I don’t have hard times getting out of bed and getting ready for work. I don’t feel like death warm over. I don’t feel like throwing up.
I am not late for work.
I am not embarrassed to talk to people because I look like a walking dead. I don’t count minutes till the day is over and I can collapse on the bed. I don’t struggle through mental fog. I feel solid emotional ground under my feet.
And, what is of outmost importance, I don’t hate myself.
Not buying junk food is a productive action.
Not eating junk food is a productive action.
Stopping an overeating episode before it blasted into a binge is a productive action.
And don’t’ let “No” particle confuse you.
Remember that things we don’t do and actions we don’t take are as much important as things we do and actions we take.
Not making things worse feels like stagnation. No real progress. No breakthrough. No burning the bridges, or boats, or, at least, some old stuff which irritates you.
It’s not flashy. There is no excitement about it. No bragging on social media. What’s your status today? “Not making things worse”. Oh, is that all?
Yes, that’s all. And that is all it takes to turn my life around. Dramatically.
“To keep yourself away from destructive behavior is mandatory and “no-skipping” stage to “superhero-kind productive” behavior.
Investing mental energy into shifting a binging mindset to ‘never again” pattern takes titanic efforts. And your brain works like never before. So, stop banging your head ahead the wall.
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on your finally binge-free shoulders. Timing is everything.
I remember in my first month after quitting sugar altogether I could just sit and stare at the wall for, like, half an hour. I needed my “sugar fix” to put me in a “functioning” state. But this “sweet cure” was out of question.
And I was mentally beating myself up ruthlessly. My, I wish I knew better back then. My body and mind needed time to self-heal. They needed that stillness and silence to find the lost balance and reach for the solid ground to build my new life on. They needed me to stop fussing around and seeking relief in maintaining superficial state of being “busy”.
Stop comparing yourself to “others” or bombarding yourself with expectations like “It’s a weekend and the sun is shining. I should feel awesome and run all day long like Energizer Rabbit.
“Should” should become anachronism, in my opinion. It is extremely judgmental and mind-junking.
And at this point you may ask: “All this sounds good. But I can’t be stuck in this “Not making things worse” phase forever. I need to grow. I need to evolve. Because if I don’t find something to fill this emotional gap with, eventually I will start sliding back to my addiction. Because I miss the excitement which puts my rear into gear. I have no power that pushes me up the hill. No goal to call me so hard that I just don’t notice obstacles on my way. This “Just don’t make things worse” stage is, honestly, no fun at all”.
“And how long this transitional stage is supposed to last?”
“Is there some limit or deadline?”
“And how do I know when it’s time to start doing things better? When it’s “safe” for me to go outside my comfort zone without overwhelming myself to the point when I turn to food and binge-eating? How do I know that the ice is thick enough and safe to walk, run, and jump around on?”
“What am I going to do with underlying psychological issues which drive me into a “screwing up mode?”
“I can’t neglect other areas of my life, how do I find a balance?”
These are great and legit questions. And I will cover them in the upcoming articles. Stay tuned.
And for now, focus on this transitional stage.
Ok, I am wrapping up my message: “Stop making things worse. Hold a long-term picture for next steps for improvements. Take actions according to your own pace – no need to compete with anyone. Relax.”
Here’s an assignment for you:
Choose one thing you don’t do today which you see as productive action. Do it. Consider your mission done for today.
And have a great binge-free day.