New Tools

I’ve been thinking lately of how crazy it is that little people eventually become adults. Where did this cute little baby go?? I’ve also been thinking about things we do to cope with life and our emotions. When Spencer was little and upset, his pacifier was one of the prime instruments in the toolbox of things that could help him calm down.

Funnily enough, we don’t really outgrow the need for tools in our “calm down” toolbox, though they change over time. When Spencer got too old for a pacifier, I tried this trick I read about – trim just the tip off and do that over time and voila – he’d be weaned off it. The first night I handed him the mutilated pacifier, Spencer put in his mouth, pulled it out, looked at it, and said, “fix it!” His weaning was rather abrupt but he was already moving on to new tools, so it wasn’t a huge loss. If only I could give up some of my less healthy tools so easily!!

Over the past nine months or so I’ve been working on that tool box of mine. For most of my life, food has been a primary self soothing tool. Feeling bored and lonely? A snack is a great antidote. Life is feeling particularly difficult? There’s the perfect chocolate for that. I’m not unique. All those romcoms where the heroine deals with a breakup by breaking out the ice cream resonate because we’ve all been there (unless you are one of those awesome people who found a healthier tool to use – and kudos to you!)

So last summer I decided I was tired of this weird relationship I had with food – where I ate a lot of junk and felt guilty for it and guilty for what it did to my body and the resultant struggle where I wanted to be accepting of who I was and how I looked – even though I really wasn’t. It’s been an interesting journey. Because I’m always more motivated when I have “skin in the game”, I paid for a service that encouraged me to log all kinds of stuff and also provided daily motivation to change how I eat and how I move and how I cope with life’s challenges. Logging food choices was a big wake up call about what I was really eating and why. I didn’t “give up” any foods but I got more realistic about what my body needs. Logging activity was also eye opening … making conscious efforts to get more steps in a day taught me that I could really find more time to move – and that I could try new ways of moving (hockey, I’m looking at you!) Probably the most challenging part has been finding new ways to “calm down”. Food is such an easy and rewarding method. What’s easier that popping a handful of chocolate chips on my way out the door?? But gradually I’ve seen a difference as I’ve made efforts to make room for yoga and more time for prayer in my daily schedule. I’ve worked on journaling feelings rather than avoiding them. I’ve worked on making connections with people when I just want to hide away with a book. And I’ve learned that popping a handful of blueberries works almost as good as chocolate chips (because food is still pretty darn yummy and a wonderful part of life).

Like all efforts to change, this journey has been full of ups and down – but I’ve enjoyed the learning process. I’ve also made a conscious effort to remind myself that I’m not looking for dramatic overnight changes but rather small, sustainable patterns and habits that I want to be part of me forever (and giving up chocolate is not something I’m willing to do!!). I’ve enjoyed the perks of being in better shape – I started playing pickup basketball a few weeks ago and realized that six months ago I would not have been able to keep up. I also have a lot less aches & pains when I get up in the morning.

Maybe one of the best parts of this process has been realizing that just because I’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean I have to keep doing it that way. And I can make changes out of a place of compassion for myself rather than constantly beating myself up for not meeting my own high expectations. It’s a good lesson to learn even if it took me awhile to get here!

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