Being compassionate can often be misinterpreted as being too soft.
I began thinking a bit more about compassion quite some time ago, and was reminded of it again this week. It is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and Beat are working hard to raise awareness and understanding of eating disorders, challenge stereotypes and stigmas and raise funds. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting 1.6 million people in the UK – they claim more lives than any other mental illness but are treatable and recovery is possible.
My experience with an eating disorder was rather extreme. I binged my way to 43st+. Despite working with the Eating Disorders Association locally, there was no help for me – no funding was available unless I was anorexic or bulimic…no funding for binge eating disorder. I got the feeling that this was down to the ‘just eat less and move more’ mentality that plagues the severely obese. This is not a message in any way, shape, or form that was endorsed by the EDA – they really wanted to help, but their hands were tied.
So I did what I could myself. It has been a long and painful road towards recovery. I even joined in with clinical trials for new ways of working with binge eating sufferers – one of which was the compassionate approach – as I desperately want to help others get the support that I couldn’t…and if the clinical trials produce favourable results, this means funding opportunities. However, I kept getting put in the ‘no help’ control group…and so really did have to go it alone!
Back to the binging for a second though…
When it comes to binging, I have had people confide in me that they often have an extra biscuit or two. I understand that this is an important issue for them…but what about eating a whole packet of biscuits…or two…followed by a multipack of crisps, six sausage rolls, a family bag of chocolate, and a tub of ice cream…all eaten after a Chinese takeaway?! I tend to think of eating disorders as a spectrum – with milder cases and more serious cases. All cases are bloody important nonetheless and the impact of such eating should not be dismissed regardless of the severity.
The descriptor for binge eating is as follows – and this comes from Beat’s website…
‘If you binge eat, you may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time (perhaps not at a normal mealtime) and feel a lack of control during these binges, but unlike someone with bulimia nervosa, you do not try to get rid of the food. You may feel your eating is out of control, eat what you think of as an unusually large amount of food, eat much more quickly in these binges, eat until you are uncomfortably full, eat large amounts of food when you are not hungry or eat alone. You do this for very similar reasons to someone with bulimia.’
People who have experienced binge eating have said, “I spent all my time thinking about food. I even woke up at night thinking about it.” And, “Sometimes I just feel that I’ve lost all control, that nothing in the world can feel as bad as I do after a binge, then I just start worrying about my weight. It never goes away.”
So where the hell do you start when you think about food all of the time, feel like you have lost control, and then worry about it all…a vicious cycle of guilt, binge, guilt, binge, guilt, binge?
First of all you have to take responsibility. This is a huge element of compassionate mind work which is often overlooked.
However, learning to be compassionate takes some time. There is that hurdle of the perception of being ‘weak’ or ‘soft’ if you are compassionate. Just take a moment to think of some compassionate people who are well-known…Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Florence Nightingale…and lesser known compassionate people…those in war zones helping with aid efforts, people who volunteer to help the homeless, my Mum! Do you see these as weak people?
If you do, then send me your number and I will give you a call which will involve a great big verbal ‘slap’!
For me, these people are the epitome of strength.
One of the most important issues that I learnt to deal with was that surrounding my emotions. I did that with a good dose of empathy – I had to develop an understanding of my emotions…anxiety, anger, feelings of loneliness, worthlessness. Instead of avoiding these emotions, and burying them with food, I learnt how to accept them, and I learnt why they reared their heads!
So once you start to see compassion as a strength, and start to recognise, accept and feel your emotions, where do you go from there?
You begin to become compassionate with yourself…
If your friend was going through a tough time, and struggling to follow a healthy eating plan for example, what advice would you give them? Now, if you are struggling to stick to your eating plan, what is that little voice in your head telling you? I will bet that your little voice is a lot harsher than the advice you would give to a friend!
Why is that? Is it because being nice to yourself feels strange? Is it because you want to make progress, and being nice is not part of that?
This critical voice – or critical self – is probably your biggest threat to success. ‘I’m useless’…’I can’t believe I have eaten that, how disgusting!’…’Look how bloody fat you are’…’I hate myself’…’I am a failure’. Do you find any of these words inspiring? Would you ever say these words to someone you love?
Inspiration and love starts in your own mind…if you don’t love yourself and speak to yourself nicely – positive mind stuff again! – then how on earth do you think you can inspire your mind to target?
This is where the responsibility element of compassionate thinking comes into play. You have to take responsibility for that little voice in your mind. That empathy stuff I mentioned earlier is important. That voice is there for a reason…usually because you feel threatened or have done something that you feel you shouldn’t have.
Maybe you have been on track all day, but then eaten in the evening foods that you consider unplanned. Why is this? Use that empathy to understand the emotions…where they stem from. Recognise the pattern of behaviour, or the trigger that led to this emotion. Then get that critical voice and give it a smack – treat yourself kindly, but accept responsibility for changing your future actions in the same situation. As, believe me, you will experience these emotions time and time again…you just don’t want to keep eating to deal with them!
I know that it sounds easier said than done. It can be a long road to recovery…but developing the same compassion for yourself as you show to others is a big factor in that recovery. Accept that you are human, that mistakes will be made – in fact, they aren’t even mistakes…just normal life! Accept that things rarely work out as planned…but that you can still reach your goal regardless.
So that’s it for compassionate responsibility. Don’t confuse compassion with weakness. Don’t use compassion as a reason to be nice without taking responsibility…telling yourself that it’s okay to behave that way time and time again will not get results…but neither will beating yourself up!
Right then…the usuals…
Today has been great. I had my third personal training session and I have to admit to being apprehensive. The first was okay but resulted in a 57th minute threat of fainting. The second was not so good – with my body playing up and sending severe faint warnings on at least five occasions…so I felt a bit useless. Today however was amazing. No signs of fainting at all. I managed lots of weights and, in the words of my trainer, destroyed my upper body. The most amazing feeling though was being able to leg-press 120kgs. I have had this weight in mind for a few weeks now…it was the closest weight to my weight loss on the weight stack. I had tried shifting it before on an upper body weight machine and couldn’t budge it. As we began an ascending session of reps on the leg-press, I explained that I really wanted to press 120kg. The answer I got back was that we would do…but not just yet. Ha! Not yet? Not yet? I do not like being told ‘not yet’…so I warmed up with a teensy 20kg and 12 reps…then up to my usual 60kg x 12 reps, then 70kg x 12, then 80kg x 12, then 90kg x 12, then 100kg x 12. At this point my trainer looked a bit stunned. We agreed to skip the 110kg and go straight for the 120kg…and I pressed another 12 reps on this too. It felt amazing…but it also felt a bit strange. It was such a heavy bloody weight, yet I carried that around for so long…it makes me sad to think of the time I wasted – but no longer! The downside is that he is now increasing the weights on my normal workouts…so that has taught me not to get too cocky. It’s a good move to pull out in front of the football academy lads though who think they are the dogs round ones!
I then quickly caught up with my sister and had to play pretend taxi driving with my nephew…which included imaginary speed bumps, seatbelts and opening the taxi doors when we went to the imaginary park and imaginary shops! I bumped into my old lady down the road and had a very fleeting catch up but have promised to pop in and see her tomorrow. And it is the theatre again tonight for us. Another Mr WLB choice…so he is hoping for a good one this time!
Breakfast: Cherry porridge (5 syns), followed by an unphotographed banana!Lunch: Leftover pasta with salad.Dinner: Cheese, mushroom and spinach omelette with Linda Mc sausages (2 x HEA and 2 x HEB).Snacks: Pineapple and Total Greek, and two packets of rice cakes (9 syns).A good food day. I used some of my cherries in the porridge today and it was rather nice. I had my banana just befor my workout but forgot to take a pic of that! Lunch was leftover pasta from last night with some herb salad and cherry tomatoes. Dinner was a nice mushroom, tomato, and spinach omelette with cheese, on top of my toasted rolls, with Linda Mc rosemary and red onion sausages. The rice cakes are lovely, and now that my Christmas Green & Blacks bars are finished, I am back on those! And the pineapple is great with the yogurt.
Exercise: 70 minutes of gruelling personal training!
Thank you for reading,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx