7: Putting Your Needs on the Menu

Life can be hectic for most of us at times, particularly if you are a parent or carer. We quite often learn to juggle our ever increasing tasks or responsibilities until they become second nature.

Looking after the kids or a loved one, running a home, being head cook and bottle washer, chauffer, counsellor, confidant and main provider all compete for attention – meaning you need to prioritise what needs to be done in the time you  have to do it.Life Juggling

Like most people I had and continue to have many responsibilities as an adult. Being a mum/latterly step mum, a single parent (for large period of my children’s lives ), to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (managing school or psychological services meetings and planning for changes, like school holidays),  working or studying , running a home (shopping, managing money, bills, cooking, cleaning, childcare, washing),  looking after animals, a husband/new family and so it goes on.

The majority of people experience this in some form or another and with all this going on its no wonder that we quite often find ourselves (our wants or needs) near the bottom of the list, or even shuffled off it all together.

This is what happened to me, over the years.  Often in the past I would focus entirely on all the things that I listed above and precisely zero on what I ‘really’ needed as an individual or the ‘lead’ person of our family. (By this I mean the main person for keeping everything going)

Now I’m not talking about owning a horse and maybe going out for the odd night out or lunch out with my friends – I’m taking about truly considering what the best course of action or simply put, the ‘things’ that I needed to live a healthy happy life- which was and continues to be a my main focus for my then children, now adult children and family.

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It has never dawned on me before that if my health or happiness needs were never met or even considered, that it would effect my ability to function or keep all those plates spinning fully. Or that by putting myself last continually, would mean that others would take my lead and inadvertently do the same.

There is a reason when flying, that the responsible adult puts on their oxygen mask on first…put yourself first

However this was what was happening and my well intentioned or more accurately unconscious ‘sacrifices’ were not only actually causing me harm – but also helping to instil bad habits into the very people I was trying to protect – not to mention providing a poor example for ‘some’ aspects of our life, particularly around healthy eating.

Thinking back on my life before I ‘rebooted’ it, 2 years 9 months ago – I was so busy focusing on ‘doing a good job’ and supporting everything  and everyone else that I totally removed myself and my needs from the equation altogether.

An example I can share would be with my choice of meals and food – particularly when I was a single parent. My priority tended to be what could I cook in the time & budget that I had, that the boys would eat. To anyone who knows my family the flaws in this are obvious, but those who don’t, I’ll share them with you. both my boys have a form of Autism and their choices of foods that they like to eat are not only extremely limited but different from each other.

So at that point in our lives my focus and choices would generally have consisted of;

  • cooking three totally separate meals or three different variations of the same meal,
  • or  an easier option of a large ready meal (like cottage pie or lasagne)  – as well as a separate meal for one of the boys,
  • or the totally easy option of a pizza or large dish or cheesy pasta or take away from the local chip shop, (that sold chips, pizza and chicken strips, so everyone had something that they could eat).

As you can see the first option is time consuming and costly so I would tend to steer away from that one, particularly when the boys were younger and I was a working single mum. The second option I went for quite a lot and the third option became the norm for a while, when we first moved to the Highlands and I was on my own and juggling everything with limited support.

The difference now is that I think more in terms of what do I want or need and then to focus on how can I either make it work for everyone or what else could do to make sure that we’re all catered for.

Now if things are crazy busy, which they quite often are and we’re pushed for time for our evening meal I would generally do the following;

  • plan in advance and have made something I can reheat or make something in the slow cooker that everyone likes – like homemade spaghetti bolognaise
  • let everyone else have take away and I rustle up a healthy speedy meal for me, like stir-fry
  • or we get a take away that we can all eat where I can choose a reasonable option, like Chinese food (the boys like chicken balls and chips or rice).

These aren’t earth shattering changes, however they make a world of difference to me and us as a family.

As I mentioned in the post  4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success, in the past I wouldn’t generally consider my needs and would automatically roll with whatever suited everyone else. Which really hindered any chance of success I may of had with trying to make positive changes to my/our life.

Still sticking with food. We now live as part of a larger family and my shopping list has grown in keeping with the increase of our family. Everyone takes packed lunches to work, college or school ( and I still have the constraints of an exceptionally fussy eater, who has an incredibly limited range of foods they will eat) – so I need to buy a large range of things that gives everyone something they like to eat.

For a while I didn’t consider my own needs within this and would eat what everyone else wanted. I quite often got, can you get me this that or the next thing? which I did – but I would never get the things I wanted or needed. At the time I remember thinking that it was a big waste or a luxury buying these low fat or specific items for one person, so I wouldn’t buy them – which compromised trying to lose weight and would see me fail time and time again.

I Now don’t see things this way, in fact I actually I see them as polar opposite from before. Now I feel it is absolutely essential for the cupboards, fridge and freezer to have the things that I can eat in them and totally unacceptable for this not to be the case.

I have also become much more stricter with who eats this food. This aspect has been a bit of a change for some within my family, who liked to have their full fat cake and eat all the low fat alternatives too! They had to get used to the fact that for once I had started to be a bit more ‘self-fish’ and put my needs first – basically learning to say no to the things that weren’t in my best interest.

This shift has took a bit of getting used to, for me and for the other people in my life, however this has become our normal way of working and we ‘all’ have a far better standard of life because of it.

Instead of going with the flow the first thing my family now ask is, are you ok with going there, eating that or doing that, to which we can make informed choices that caters for us all.

I love meLearning to love myself and put my own needs on the map has not only helped me to lose almost 15stone in weight, giving me a better standard of health, as well as feeling happier and more confident with who I am -but has also led to a change in ‘us’ a family. We are finding that we are doing more activities as a family now than ever before, due to these changes and are planning our next family holiday where we’re going to go scuba diving, something we wouldn’t have even considered before.

The most important thing for me is I feel that I am able to be a better example to my children, by taking control of my health, life and changing things for the better.  I really feel that I can be proud of my achievement, and I actively encourage my now adult children to make sure they put their ‘true’ needs, if not first, then up there alongside other peoples in their relationships and situations in life.

I now live within a larger family so have the luxury of being able to work in partnership with my husband and share the tasks and responsibilities that I once did alone, which has created more space to allow us to focus more on ourselves and our needs and wants.

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I’ve had numerous conversations over the last few years with fellow slimmer’s and this ‘problem’ of being at the bottom of the list, is a regular feature within them.

My advice to anyone thinking about making any kind of lifestyle change is to evaluate where you sit on your list and if you’re not at the top or pretty close to it, you need to change it.

Neglecting my own needs turned out be very detrimental to my health and essentially not only led to unhealthy choices but to me putting my life at risk. Should I have continued down the route I was on, I know wouldn’t have been around in my boys future and wouldn’t be able to watch them grow and flourish or support or help them with their challenges.

Nor would I have discovered or enjoyed the many hidden treasures that I’ve discovered just by making a few, at times slightly uncomfortable but totally worthwhile, changes.

I hope you find this post of interest, next time I will be focusing on consciously eating and how mindfulness helped me achieve success this time.

Good luck

Much Love

Marie x

Previous Posts

6: Start With Your End in Mind: Visualising what Success Would Look Like

5: Refill your Glass and Retune that Inner Voice

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

5: Refill your Glass and Retune that Inner Voice

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

Almost everyone has a conscience to guide them, that little internal voice that questions our actions or thoughts which helps to steer us in the right direction.

Jiminy CricketA bit like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, providing that moral compass on what is wrong or right or good or bad, healthy or unhealthy etc. Our conscience generally runs in the background of our sub conscious and is something that each of us hears and sometimes relies on, to help with those internal discussions or battles that everyone has but may not share.

Like, should I do that? Wear that? Attend that? Eat that? Say that? Etc. Everyday questions, queries and dilemmas that are usually quite harmless and not particularly life changing.

However at times this inner moral compass can become more of an inner critic, like the worst judge on a TV reality show. Like the Simon Cowal or Craig Revel Horwood types, this voice focuses in on and tells you about all the very worst parts or things about you and can quite quickly shake your confidence and self-esteem.

Why did you wear that? You look fat in that. You shouldn’t have done that, said that, ate that. You’re never going to succeed. Everyone thinks you’re going to fail again. Why are you even bothering, you know you can’t do it!

This voice focuses in on our inner fears and worries and in what we ‘perceive’ to be truths and can quite often drown out the positive voice altogether.

This is what happened to me in the past and sometimes it still does, then my husband picks me up on it and I have to squash that voice again!

Over many years of ‘failed’ attempts, my inner critic grew and grew until it was the only thing I could actually hear. My thoughts grew to be continually negative and like a magnet honed in on any mistakes or imperfections.

It got to a stage where I couldn’t see past whatever minor mistake or poor choice I had made and with the help of my ‘inner little friend’, these ‘incidents’ would be magnified in to huge issues that just seemed too big to overcome. Which would generally lead to a course of action, or over reaction, which would cause far more longer term ‘damage’ than the original slip up had.

For example, I regularly recall being ‘derailed’ by eating something that wasn’t part of my then diet and now eating plan. Even just one or two things, like having a take away curry and taking some nann bread for a change. Or deciding to have fish and chips as a ‘treat’ instead of having a baked potato, or deciding to have a couple of biscuits or a slice of cake with that coffee, would result in a torrent of inner negative thoughts. I basically beat myself up about ‘what I had done’.

This would not only take away any particular ‘treat’ and nice element from what I had eaten, it would overshadow anything I had achieved up to that point! I would believe all was lost and I had ruined everything. And essentially convince myself that I should throw in the towel in and give up. It was just too hard and I’d messed it up, I couldn’t take it back and my perfect (unrealistic) ‘plan’ was ruined.

Of course looking back at these thoughts and actions with a rational mind, I can see that they made no sense. Realistically how could eating a bit of nann bread or a slice of cake ruin your life or the real progress you had made so far?

The rational answer is it generally wouldn’t, unless you were having them all the time’, which thanks to my inner voice, I usually reverted too! A minor trip would usually ‘trigger’ an onslaught of binging and reverting back to my old unhealthy eating habits. Which would quickly undo all my hard work and land me back to square one, or further.

I played this perpetual game of snakes and ladders for many years, in fact I’ve been on some sort of a diet or eating program since the age of 14 and started at a weight not too far away from where I actually am now. I’ve literally seen myself see saw all the way up to being 14 & 1/2 stone heavier. And whilst really looking at my habits this time around realised if I were to achieve any kind of success, I would need to address that negativity, fire the inner critic and learn to be kinder to myself.

I started to address that inner negativity by focusing on a number of smaller achievable goals and celebrating them. Sounds simple but we quite often don’t recognise the good things that we do and we rarely celebrate them!

Initially these were weight related, but after a while they became more physical or personal achievements. Like undertaking a 20 mile cycle challenge, it had been over 20 years since being on a bicycle so this was a big achievement for me.

Blackisle Cycle Challenge 2016
I was delighted with achieving this 20 mile cycle early last year and whilst I wasn’t the fastest round it meant a great dealt to me as I hadn’t been able to ride a bycle in over 20 years.

Also buying a new outfit in a smaller size, or having a clear out of all the clothes that now are hanging off you. I love doing this, I have literally gotten rid of dozens of bags of clothes over the last few years and still have to every so often and it feels great!

Trying to look for the positive aspects of situations and using wee slips or mistakes as opportunities to learn how to avoid them in the future. For example, I know if I meet my friends for a coffee there will probably be biscuits or cakes involved, so I take along what I want to eat that is on my plan, so I can join in and it doesn’t knock my progress or confidence.

Conversely if I have had a bigger slip and have really deviated from my plan in a big way on one day, I draw a line under it and start again. I went to school for many years but it’s only just sunk in that there are actually seven days in a week and one bad day doesn’t mean a bad week!

People quite often say don’t look back but in this instance do! Look back at what you’ve achieved and how at any accomplishments you have gained along the way. The slimming club I attend give you awards when you achieve a mile stone, which I put up on my kitchen cupboard as reminders of where I am. I’ve also made a chart mapping my weight loss, with all my personal goals upon it. I made it a few months ago as I had hit a plateau for few weeks where I didn’t have any losses, which started to make me feel a bit anxious. Reflecting back on my achievements and having this to hand to see was quite powerful and gave me the boost I needed to stick at it and keep me on track. Since then I’ve lost another stone and am pretty close to my target weight.achievements

In a similar vein I also have that awful photo of me on my phone which I occasionally look at if I’m unhappy with a result one week and feel a bit down. It’s amazing how quick I start to feel better after seeing that! I also have nice pictures me at events or evenings out, when I’m maybe wearing a new dress or I’ve worn something pretty that I’ve liked to give me a boost. I also carry a laminated photo of me riding in my handbag to remind me of my journey and what I now have, should I start to waver. These small things really help to keep me buoyant when times get tough. I put on 2lbs this week which was unexpected, but it didn’t even phase me as I know next week it won’t be there and I now have faith that I’m still on track and everything is fine.

Acknowledge the nice things that people say about you, quite often in the past complements or nice comments made me feel uncomfortable and I would refute them or counter them with a negative comment. I think that this was because I didn’t feel like I deserved them or that I had such a negative image about myself I didn’t believe them. For example I remember in the past, someone commenting on a dress I wore to my husband’s 40th birthday party. The person complemented my dress saying it was a lovely style and colour and instead of enjoying the complement, I quickly replied with a negative comment about it clinging to my tummy which ruined the sentiment and made them feel awkward and me self-conscious. Where as at my recent birthday celebration a few people complemented my lovely new dress that I had recently bought. This time I took their comments at face value and even basked a little in them. Why not, it’s not against the law to feel good! I even replied that I really liked this dress when I saw it and I actually got it in the sale.

By regularly behaving in this way, these small adjustments to my perspective really started to turn things around for me in other areas of my life too. Instead of being upset or depressed about an unexpected challenge, for example at home with a repair or something with the kids, I feel I am now able to deal with the situation far more rationally and look at it from a different perspective. Usually by trying to find a solution rather than focusing in on who caused the problem or the problem itself.

I believe refilling my glass to the at least the half full line as made a big impact on us all and continues to do so, helping me and my family lead a better quality of life by focusing on the positive.

I hope you found this post interesting, until the next time good luck

Much Love

Marie x

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

shipwrek2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

For some losing weight is simply a case of reducing the amount of calories they take and increasing their exercise. Some people have no issues with doing this when they need to and can easily and successfully manage their weight without any real problems.

However for others, things aren’t that simple and this was true for me. I had a very complex relationship with food and my excess weight, which got in the way and stopped me from achieving the success I craved.

For people like me, more work is required, often involving looking back at past events, to try and identify and understand what is happening, why and what you can do to change this.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” Stephen R Covey

Food and eating it has long since been linked to emotions and providing comfort to people and this was certainly the case for me. I realised as I embarked on this journey that I needed to do something different if I was ever going to find success.

As I mentioned previously in the first post, I had tried many different approaches to losing weight in the past, with only very limited success and short lived results. I really felt that I couldn’t afford to ‘mess about’ this time and I needed a complete approach and to delve deeper than I had before, to put right what I began to realise was wrong.

 

In the past, about 10 years ago, I was prescribed with art therapy to help me identify some of the underlying issues that I had developed with food. However at that time I wasn’t in a place mentally, or physically, as I had to leave the course early, where I could truly utilise the opportunity.

But I have learned that nothing that you experience or learn is a waste, it’s all stored in your memories and hard drive. So I decided to reflect back on the sessions that I had had in the past and revisit what was discussed and how I felt about them.

blueprint

This was the start of me beginning to unravel the issues and the tentative start of redrawing the flawed blueprint I had been living from.

Through using a number of techniques, including,

  • Self-reflection and writing a journal.
  • Talking to people close to me about my thoughts and experiences
  • Reading information about eating disorders and ways to overcome them
  • Reading and completing self-help tasks, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

I managed to identify a number of life events that took place during the course of my childhood, adolescence, including teenage pregnancy and Postpartum Psychosis  (a rare form of post-natal depression) and adult life, like being a single parent to children with autism. Where I sought food as a tonic and developed unhealthy destructive ‘coping’ mechanisms to help me deal with situations that I had struggled to make sense of.

Instead of dealing with these at the time, due to a number of reasons, I suppressed them and tried to solider on like everything was Okay. However like weeds, these underlying feelings and emotions found a route to the surface, which for me was a series of eating habits that formed into what would become ‘eating disordersweed 2

To the outside world I was fine, however in reality I was far from this and this unhealthy relationship continued to flourish and in the background I had created a blueprint or programme which silently run, ‘protecting’ me from harm – or so I subconsciously thought.

Comfort eating, binging, to the point of feeling physically sick, then purging and secret eating were all habits that I had identified. I even managed to locate, for some of these, times when they either began or where I had turned to the ‘safety’ of this behaviour.

I remember feeling extremely agitated when I felt like binging, it would build and build until I would embark on an eating frenzy that would put jaws to shame. Cramming endless random items of food down my neck, anything that was in really, that didn’t need much thought or preparation. Until the urge passed.

I would then begin the ritual of self-loathing, feeling dreadful and like a failure.

Why could I not exercise some control? Why did I not stop when I was feeling full? Why did I even buy half the crap that was in my cupboards? Why was I so weak?

I was never going to lose weight or succeed! I was a failure!!!

These recriminations, often resulted in me heading to the bathroom to try to undo what I had just done, by making myself sick. I remember leaning over the basin, trying desperately to get rid of everything I had devoured in my last session and would stay there doing this until I felt sure I had put things right.

Of course none of this behaviour was right. Eating until you could barely move and then removing it again with the act of making yourself sick, was far from this. I would come to call this my ‘self destruct mode’. Where rational thought didn’t exist and I lived in a turbulent volatile world of extremes, binging and sometimes purging, sometimes sitting in extreme discomfort and continually self berating myself for being so weak.

Understanding and identifying these instances was the first step, but these behaviours were embedded and intrinsically linked to pretty much every aspect of who I was. Just because I had gained some sense of awareness in knowing they existed, didn’t automatically fix them.

I also began to realise that physical aspects of my excess weight, gave me a measure of safety and provided me with a shroud to hide within. One where I could dwell in relative safety and no one could bother or hurt me.

 

DSCF1383I remember during one of the therapy sessions, actually seeing and identifying this. I felt like I was viewing the world through a mask. I could even see the eyelets you would see if actually wearing a physical mask.

My excess weight had become a tool in which to hide in plain sight, like the cloak that Harry Potter wore, I, the real me, could move around undetected.

There were some obvious flaws in this plan, one I was obese, unhealthy and deeply unhappy and two this place of safety had now become more of a cell within a self-imposed jail.DSCF0515

This came as a bit of a shock, but also a revelation as I could now begin to see that I did actually hold the keys to my own release. I just needed to find them and then find where I’d hidden the lock…

To truly begin to address these deep seated issues I had to dig deep and remove the weeds I’d uncovered – from the roots. Replacing them with new seeds of ‘coping strategies’ and healthier habits that would replace the misguided safety net I had unwittingly created.

In essence I started to develop new ways to deal with lifes pressures.

But like anything newly planted, I needed to nurture and cultivate these seeds and shoots, so that they would grow healthy and strong. And be able to stand up to all the elements and tests that life would inevitably throw at them.

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I had to practice new my behaviours repeatedly so that they would become the norm. I also needed to remember that it takes at least 6 weeks of repeatedly, consistently practicing an action before it becomes a habit. (Remember I said that this became my mantra, to help me when I deviated or struggled with the old feelings and urges)

My next steps involved beginning to re-program my brain and subconscious, to develop new ways of coping and ‘unlearn’ the destructive habits I’d depended for so long in the past.

For me this involved several approaches, I didn’t have access to therapy sessions now, so I pulled together my own ‘toolkit’ to help me.

By

  • using visualisation techniques I began to look forwards into what I wanted to achieve and learned to clearly see a vivid picture of what this could look like, and after a bit of practice, feel like for me
  • using conscious eating techniques to ‘consciously eat food’ (you would be amazed at how often you’re not!) I became aware of the amount and quality of what I was eating. In the past I often had no idea of what I’d eaten and I would eat so fast I never truly enjoyed it either!
  • reading a number of self-help books & DVD’s, including Hypnosis, I learned greater understanding, acceptance and ways to change and ‘take control’ of my relationship with food
  • beginning to practice simple Mindfulness techniques I learned ways to cope with daily life and stress that were not related to food.

All these methods, coupled with the newly adopted structure and support of the slimming group and unwavering support from my husband, helped me to map a new path and destination for me this time.

I’m aware that I’ve mentioned lots of different issues and conditions within this blog and I have included a number of links to NHS Choices on some of the topics for extra information. I would also recommend speaking to a health professional if you recognise any of the symptoms or behaviours that I have described, to ensure that you get the right support or treatment.

I hope you have found this post of interest and that it in some way supports you in your quest to live a healthier happier live.

My next post will be about Planning for Success, and how to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving it.

Good luck

Much love

Marie x

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

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