Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Sue Ludwig. Sue is the President and Founder of the National Association of Neonatal Therapists. She is also a consultant to neonatal intensive care units around the country, a national speaker, and a published poet. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.
It was a Wednesday.
I had just walked in the door from work. My kids were getting off the school bus at any moment.
I was stressed. So, of course, I looked around for something to make me feel instantly better. Suddenly, I recalled my purchase of one slender bag of barbeque potato chips.
Once again, the Gods of Salty Snacks were there to save me!
Problem was, in my desire to smother my stress I ate half this bag of chips in about 10 minutes. (Did I mention it was a slender bag?) This frenzy was followed by a cycle of guilt and regret, with a sprinkle of self-loathing.
I’d love to say this was only about the chips. I’d love to say this cycle was unfamiliar. But I spent years during my teens and early twenties submerged in anorexia, then bulimia. I’ve long since healed from this. And yet, here I was engaging in these old behaviors.
When I realized (mid-slender-bag) what I was doing, the committee in my head went something like this:
“REALLY? Really, is this where we are today? Are we back in this place?!!”
The “this place” to which they refer is my old “food habits” stomping grounds. A veritable Big-Box Store of behaviors, foods and emotions. Aisles upon aisles of poor decisions waiting to happen.
“This place” even has greeters.
They wave me in. They know me. I have a membership card.
You have these places, don’t you? Your own Big- Box Stores of emotional ruts, brain wiring and experiences. Maybe yours are around food or exercise, alcohol, work, relationships, or spending money. The list could be endless.
Do yourself a favor. The minute you walk through those doors, give yourself permission to leave. Even if the greeters are happy you’ve returned. Beating yourself up for finding your way back just feeds the cycle.
Here are a few ways to interrupt those old patterns:
1 – Do one small thing that changes that cycle or pattern.
On that Wednesday, instead of becoming frustrated, throwing in the towel and just finishing the whole bag, I stopped. I folded the bag neatly and threw it away. It’s amazing how much your pattern doesn’t like new things. It shatters the whole plan. (This makes the greeters grumpy.)
2 – Become your own observer.
In the midst of the frenzy, the observer part of my brain tapped me on the shoulder. I call this “clarity.” Clarity holds a nonjudgmental mirror to my behavior. It made me recognize I was in my ‘food place’. This is half the battle.
3 – Decide to focus forward.
When we’re in moments we’re not very proud of, we tend to really wallow in them. If we’re gonna fall off the proverbial wagon, we may as well go for it, right?
Sometimes I give myself a literal time limit for the wallowing. “I just need 5 minutes here…wallow, wallow… then I’m letting it go.”
It can really be that simple. The rest is just our story. Then take one step forward. See the humor. Laugh at your stuff. Forgive yourself. Keep moving.
For me, that meant I still went to the gym and didn’t punish myself. I just went. I didn’t slip into eating unconsciously for the rest of the day or week. I just ate what was normal for me.
I shared this during a coaching call with Christine – including my frustration and humor, knowing she’d been there, visits there, and can relate. We laughed. A lot.
This doesn’t mean we skate through life without these momentary lapses. It means that it’s never about perfection.
It’s always about growth.
And saying no to your greeters.
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