Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lather, rinse, repeat...

I’ve been a little stressed lately. Ok, a lot stressed. But while the atypical shenanigans afoot in my life lately might be making my head spin like the Tasmanian devil, you’d likely only notice this if you looked very, very closely—and only when I didn’t know you were looking. While I might be fairly well known for having a penchant for the dramatic in some (read: many) situations and will fight ferociously for the well being of those I love (or hell, who I barely know if I detect the faint whiff of injustice in the air), I tend to hold my emotions pretty close the vest when something is bothering me. This has always been my M.O. according to the people who raised me. My father tells me that even as a very young child trying to get me to divulge what may or may not be bothering me was a lot like performing dental work on an unwilling patient, like say a raccoon. With rabies.

There is, however, one relatively reliable barometer of my mental status at any given time. If you want to know if I’ve got a lot on my plate, then just look to see how much I’ve got on my plate.

I admire those people who, when the going gets tough, fall squarely into the “tough get going” category. When there’s a crisis to be tackled at work or in the life of someone I love, I am totally one of them. But in my own life, when the going gets tough—the tough go to Long John Silvers. Or at least they did last night.

I didn’t set out to engage in fried fish therapy, mind you. In between drop off and pick up duties I actually intended to stop for a few things at the store and then hit the gym. Instead I wolfed down up a #7 seafood lovers platter with a side of clams and then took a nap (which is pretty much the same thing, right?). I could tell you that I felt bad about it at the time, but it would be a lie. Despite the fact that I’m not really even a fan of Long John Silvers (seriously, I think they should cut out the middle man and just replace all their dining room seating with toilets), every bite I took of that meal had exactly the effect I desired, each mouthful dulled the rising panic within me and left me calm and sleepy and tired enough to forget about everything that drove me to eat it in the first place. It was a familiar feeling.

Looking back over my life and at how my weight has fluctuated through the years, it’s not terribly difficult to see a pattern emerge. When harmony reigns, the balance in my life is reflected in my eating patterns and my resolve is strong and sure. But when that balance is thrown off kilter, the ground feels less sure beneath my feet and I find myself stumbling around trying to regain my footing while old habits seep out of the cracks in the foundation that seemed so strong just moments ago. I find myself reaching for food and the comfort it brings, the hazy calm that settles over me with each bite, with each swallow, with each sigh of relief that comes when the gaping hole inside of me has been filled up for the moment. Never mind that it won’t last, or that the low that follows will spin me farther into despair. All that matters right then is that temporary comfort is better than the alternative.

When the fog lifts, it occurs to me that the first step to restoring balance in my life is often taking control of my weight, and restoring my power over food usually snowballs into giving me the energy to deal with the things that threw off my balance in the first place. When I look back to see what lessons I can take with me for the next time things go haywire, it frustrates me because the line between cause and effect is blurry. Balance equals control, chaos upsets control, loss of control makes chaos worse, rock bottom chaos leads to regaining control, control facilitates balance (lather, rinse, repeat). The chicken versus eggishness of it all makes my head hurt.

So when I woke up at 5 AM with a headache, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Neither was that familiar feeling of self loathing it brought with it. I spent some time kicking myself for what I’d done, mentally listing and re-listing my sins and calculating the damage, thinking about how long it had been since I’d done something like that. As I lay there in the dark I asked myself if this was as low as I needed to go, if I was ready to be in control again. Turns out I was. So I got up, brushed my teeth, put on my sweatpants and went to the gym.

I feel good. The darkness is lifting, and what I couldn’t face last night doesn’t seem as scary today. I feel in control, like I’m ready to find balance again.

Lather, rinse…


  1. Hell, that's all you can do Sara! Mistakes and weakensses are part of our lives, and the expectation of perfection is futile. What we do after our mistakes is what determines who and what we are.

    Why is it that food like Long John's...which is certainly not quality is what we run too? I can remember eating 2 whoppers and 2 huge fries not all that long ago. Now you'd think if I was going off the would be for something really good.

  2. Seriously, Sara, I don't think anyone else could have expressed this better. It's like you're inside my head sometimes. In fact, maybe I should just stop blogging and have my site refer anybody that sees it to your site. :o)

  3. As ever... you set a great example to us all, when you say at the end of your post "I got up... and went to the gym". Well done you! Don't beat yourself too hard - you've turned things around.

    I know what you mean about balance though. I too got up feeling cruddy this morning - with the first tendrils of an autumn cold. Popped in to buy fruit on my way to work and found myself standing in front of choccy biscuits - ooops! Thankfully, they are still in the shop and the nice fresh, juicy, vitamin-filled fruit is sitting next to me right now.

    Never give up. We can do it!

  4. hang in there stress makes me hungry for shit too

  5. Believe me when I say I don’t find the fact that you’ve been going through a difficult time funny in the least, Sara, but when I read this line: “…fried fish therapy…” I just cracked up laughing. I guess it’s because I’ve been down that same path myself, far too many times to mention. What usually followed was self-medicating with huge doses of chocolate.

    On a more mature note, I think it’s truly amazing and inspiring that you made yourself go to the gym during all you went through. I’m not sure I would have done the same. So congrats are definitely in order! :-D


  6. You do have a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful take on a lot of things, this posting included.

  7. "When the going gets tough—the tough go to Long John Silvers" would make an awesome t-shirt.

  8. It's all about control, having it means we control what we eat, losing it means what we eat controls us and our life. I hate losing control

    I'm glad you got to the gym. I know how easy it would have been just to blow off the gym after a night of greasy food, but you did. Woohoo for you Sara. I think you're in control again. :)