I have become aware that I have not overcome some deep seated issue that is manifesting itself in obsessive behaviour around my diet. This has been going on since the age of, about thirteen; however, I thought I had it under control for a while there.
What I do know is, when I do regular challenging physical exercise (for me it’s yoga asana) I don’t do these behaviours. I suppose it is because I am then obsessed with training. Hmmm, obsessive behaviour is a bit of a theme here.
Is it okay to have obsessive behavioural traits?
We have evolved with the necessary wiring to survive in a world where nothing we need is guaranteed to be available; however, now those same things that were once commodities are now abundant. We have revolutionised technology at such a rate that our biological evolution has not kept up and so they are not synchronised, which is why we see so much obesity and related illness in the world; therefore, it isn’t reasonable (in my opinion) to say that this part of the population are lazy, they just can’t seem to navigate the confusion that is their inner compass. When, once upon a time they would have been working together in a supportive community environment where they would have rejoiced in having a strong sense of purpose through contribution, now there is only the need to compete with their fellow humans in an attempt to have an ounce of self worth. Sad.
Food can be used as a drug like any other, especially when pulled out of a crinkly sounding packet with pretty colours splattered all over it; but even nutritious food, when eaten in excess, will inevitably result in negative side-effects. Ultimately it comes down to our desire for control.
Obsessing over food would have been handy when, in order to get any, we would have had to work particularly hard to acquire it; nowadays however, in the first world at least, food is easily accessible at all times of the day. I know from experience that people don’t just wake up up day and think, ‘I’m going to eat myself into numbness and create a cycle of self loathing so that when I become fat and unhealthy I can have an excuse to actually hate myself’. People endure long periods of days that are overloaded with stressful situations for which they turn to food for comfort. The brain has a strong clever mechanism (again, an evolutionary necessity for continuing the species), employing the neurotransmitter Dopamine, in the reward and pleasure system. Dopamine is released during pleasurable situations (like eating a favourite food), resulting in you seeking out that same activity again and again; so much for free will, hey? This means that when you are stressed it is particularly challenging to curb a certain behaviour that makes you feel good, even if logically you know it is bad for you. The good news is that finding something else to replace the food will work, especially if you combine that new habit with smiling or laughing… I’m not even joking (get it?). Dopamine is released, along with Endorphines and Seretonin when you smile, so by smiling while building your new habit will increase your chances of creating one that sticks a round for the long term.
The biggest hurdle I have found for trying to create a new healthy habit is time and space away from feeling cortisol, pumping through my system as I attempt to keep my toddlers from maiming themselves all day every day. It is hugely frustrating because I know in the deepest parts of my being that we were not meant to be raising kids like this – alone at home while dad works long-arse hours – I should be surrounded my community sharing the load. No point in dwelling on it though I suppose because it is what it is.
I need to find a way to let my mindfulness access every area – every moment – of my life, because mindfulness is the key to success.
So, the first step in my recovery is to admit that I am not in balance. I must admit that my tendency toward needing to control the outcome of, well… everything, is being expressed via my diet. I picked up this fabulous personality trait from my mother and I refuse to let it take over my ability to be happy, like it has her. It stops with me! I found yoga and meditation and so I know that I will be able to break the cycle.
I believe the main reason people won’t speak up and admit their shortcomings so that they can begin the process of recovery is because it means admitting to everyone that they were wrong. No doubt they have been spouting off their opinions (ME), which justify their behaviour, for as long as they have been doing it. Once a person can get over this fear however, it’s in the bag. Humility is the most endearing trait one can encompass and it will only result in a gain in respect and friendship rather than the anticipated onslaught of judgement; those that do cast judgement can only do so because they have their own dirty secrets, so who gives a shit. Cultivating humility feels amazing. It’s like, you’re handing over the reigns of a bucking bronco to an experienced rider and you can breathe again, with your feet firmly on the earth, safe from harm; because nothing can hurt you when you give up the ability to entertain that emotion for longer than it naturally occurs.
Accept responsibility for the behaviour instead of holding onto the benign belief that somehow you don’t have control over own actions, then sit in the emotions and other sensations this brings up for you. Just own it. It won’t feel particularly comfortable and you will want to run back into your comfort zone of the same limiting behaviours. Don’t do it… stay here in the truth. Your ego will act out in a fit of excuses for why you shouldn’t make the decision to stop your addiction and your mind will produce a flurry of tantrums as you keep ignoring it’s irrational behaviour; it’s okay, keep going. Don’t be afraid, you’re doing an amazing job. Smile. This is the practice that will save you from yourself. Let go of your anxieties around what people will say – it doesn’t matter. Let go of the anger and blame you are holding onto around why you are in this predicament – it doesn’t matter. Only you can make this decision and only you can walk the path to lasting happiness through moderation of the mind-stuff, which is mindfulness.
It is simple, but it is not easy. You can do it though…