A Recent Lesson About Control

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Life has been busy and fulfilling the past couple months… which often leads to a prolonged absence from blogging.  I love to write, I love to share my thoughts and feelings, but mostly I love to enjoy downtime with my husband, kids, and friends – so sometimes the writing time gets squeezed out.

Once I write my book and can make my living as a writer – I’ll be much more consistent blogger. 🙂

While life was humming along peacefully and happily, I began to notice that I was hyper-focusing on my diet.  As a person living with Type 1 Diabetes (or “T1D” as it’s recently been dubbed), I have all sorts of mental and emotional issues around food.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the ultimate virtue in diabetes is being under “control”.  While training for a marathon and not seeing the weight loss that I’d anticipated, I decided to take it up a notch and start planning my meals more precisely.

untitledSo here’s the thing, I eat healthfully.  No refine grains or sugars, lots of vegetables, fruit, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts… you get the idea.  So, it’s not like my diet needed an overhaul.  But, I was frustrated my a recurring circumstance… I would often tell myself during the day, “You’re not going to eat ____ this evening.”  That blank could be popcorn, chocolate, an apple with natural peanut butter, etc.  Then, when I caved and had something to eat after dinner, I felt like a failure.  This cycle was causing me to spend way too much mental energy on my food choices, and it was exhausting.

In an effort to “fix” this problem, I revamped a weekly meal plan that mapped out each meal and snack within the day – Monday through Sunday.  This exercise helped me to feel in “control” of my diet, but I often felt like it wasn’t very useful as things would change as the week progressed (i.e. extra leftovers were made for dinner, we decided to grab lunch somewhere, etc.).  When I started to be honest with myself, the only value I was getting out of doing these meal plans was the sense of control over my diet.

Last week, I finally realized that I’d fallen into a cycle: fear of feeling bad about my lack of self-control….therefore, striving to control my diet…. thus, thinking and planning my meals excessively…. which just served to intensify the fear and need for control.  Spot the vicious cycle??  Once I recognized this, it was clearly the same cycle that I’d experienced when I feared sleeping issues and feeling anxious.

A simple realization occurred to me: If I’m thinking about something a lot, that’s a strong indicator that there’s something I’m striving to control.

So, since that breakthrough, I decided to let go. I still decided on a few meals to prep for the week and grocery shopped for them.  I still did a big food prep session on Sunday.  But, I stopped planning what I’d eat for each meal within a given day.  I stopped telling myself what I wasn’t going to allow myself to eat.  Instead, I decided what to eat based on what I felt like eating at the time.  Just as it is futile to imagine or anticipate how running mile 5 is going to feel, when I am on mile 2, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to plan what I’m eating for lunch on Thursday when it’s Monday morning.  Right??

What do you think the result of this change was…?  I’m actually eating less! Imagine that. I think that’s because meals are more fulfilling when I eat what sounds good (within the healthy options I prepped) instead of forcing myself to stick to a predetermined plan.   Taking away the internal struggle of what I should eat, shouldn’t eat, etc. has been a big relief and removed the sense of deprivation.

And, best of all, it turns out that the opposite phenomenon is also true – when I’m not striving to control a situation, I think about it a whole lot less.

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