Breaking Up With Food: Season Finale | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E24

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.

What is your favorite season or series finale? Seinfeld? The Office? Breaking Bad?

I love these series and I hated to see them come to an end. I hate endings.

Sometimes I re-watch series and save the season or series finale for maybe a month or two. I did that with the new Star Trek series: Picard. I knew the series was ending, so I watched it in it’s entirely, except for the last three episodes. And then I savored them over the course of six weeks.

One of my Social Work professors, Dr. Timothy Johnson, explained that life, and really therapy, is made up of beginnings, middles, and ends.You have to attend to each phase,” he would say.

Beginnings: build relationships, introduce new ideas, develop a roadmap.
Middles: revisit the map and goals you have set. Begin the discharge process.
Ends: review progress and develop relapse prevention.

This is the season nine finale, and I wanted to end it with a review, and maybe not relapse prevention, but more looking at excuses for why people fail to break up with food.

First, the Review

I hope I sold you on the idea that you have a relationship with food, and it’s likely that it’s a little dysfunctional. 

We looked at ways of determining if it’s dysfunctional.

I discussed the need for breaking up with food and why it’s so difficult.

Throughout this season, I shared four Obesity Memoirs from people who broke up and stayed broke up with food. These were heroic journeys.

I did an interview with Terri, a healthy ager.

I had six episodes that walked you through strategies for breaking up with food.

I finished up the season, providing you with the importance of hope and self-love for breaking up with food

I ended the season with advice for writing a love letter to yourself.

24 episodes.

Ready But Excuses

I was talking about this season with my wife, and she suggested sharing several excuses that keep people from breaking up with food and developing a new lifestyle.

Before I come up with excuses, I want to first say that some people don’t break up with food because they’re not ready. “The lesson begins when the student is ready.”

It usually takes some kind of crisis or life event to break up with food. It could be a lab report. It could be a book. That’s the case with me. 30 years ago my father gave me, “Turning Back the Clock,” by Dr. Bob Arnot. It changed the way I think about fitness.

It could be the loss of a mentor or friend to a preventable disease. It could be that still small voice that you listen to that’s telling you to do something else or you’re going to die.

OK, so let’s assume you’re ready. These are what I call “Ready But Excuses.” You’re ready but….

Ready But Excuse #1

“I don’t have time.” I get home and it’s dark. The mornings are busy getting ready for work and a long commute. My mornings are taken up with kids. I’m exhausted by the weekend, and I just want to relax.

My Advice: Start slow, 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Tag team child rearing with your partner. Alternate resistance training with cardio training. Put exercise on your calendar.

Ready But Excuse #2

“I don’t know how to start.”

Here’s some suggestions:
Join a fitness gym,
Hire a Trainer,
Read books on exercising and nutrition,
Carve out a physical space in your home to workout,
Buy some basic fitness tools. Dumbbells and a bench are a good start.

Ready But Excuse #3

“I don’t enjoy working out.”

My Advice: Try different gyms, classes, groups, activities. I love hiking. It requires almost no skills or equipment. Read episode 21. My wife loves Jazzercise. I cycle during the warmer months. Find something you love. Gyms can be boring.

Ready But Excuse #4

“I’m embarrassed about my appearance and my lack of athleticism.”

Advice: Everyone started there. Everyone was a little embarrassed, not knowing what to do in a gym or being seen walking in the neighborhood.

Here are my thoughts on this excuse: Do you think people are looking at you and thinking, “What a loser!” Nothing could be further from the truth. 99.9% of people who see you are envious because they wish they were working out. Inside they’re saying, “Go girl!”

My second thought is, project yourself out three or six months. You’ll look better, feel stronger, because you started and stayed with it!

Ready But Excuse #5

“I have (fill in the blank) pain.” Your knee. Your hips. Your feet. Your shoulders.

If you’re significantly overweight, your joints are likely suffering from carrying around that extra weight. It may mean you’ll need to focus on the nutrition side of breaking up with food first. You may need to lose 50 to 100 pounds first to take the pressure off your joints. You might need to invest in footwear. I was experiencing Achilles tendon pain. A friend recommended Hokas. Problem solved.

Spend time stretching. The Internet is full of tutorials for stretching.

Ready But Excuse #6

“I hate working out alone.” 

Fortunately, there are lots of group-fitness opportunities. Have I mentioned Jazzercize?
Unfortunately, working out can be a little lonely, but use this time to “get into your head.” Some of my most creative times are when I’m hiking alone.

Ready But Excuse #6

“I’ve tried breaking up with food before, but I usually end up making up. I keep going back.”

I get this. Really, think of life as a series of break ups. We will likely need to break up with food again, and again, and again.
What’s wrong with that?

I have wrestled with my relationship with food for 60+ years. I love food! I love get-togethers where there is food! I love eating sugar! And since I have continued to wrestle with food, I’m not 50 pounds overweight. I maintain a mostly healthy weight because I regularly have to break up with food over and over again.

Well, that’s it. Season Nine. I have thoroughly loved studying this topic and writing about it. I hope it helped you have a relationship change with food.

Next season is entitled “The Aging Brain.” I hope you join me.

Want to Break Up with Food? Write a Dear John Letter! | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E23

Four days. Five national parks. 1400 miles. Utah.

I shared in an earlier episode that my son and I did a road trip this fall through Utah. 

During our trip, we listened to Edward Abbey’s book, “Desert Solitaire.” After all, it is Abbey’s Country. Abbey can be a little crusty. Sort of a curmudgeon. My son and I were remarking that his suggestion that they limit entrance to the national parks to walkers, bicycles, horses, and pigs was stupid. We got it. He wrote his book in the 60’s when cars were becoming ubiquitous. He worried about the damage that automobiles would cause to the wilderness. Note: Most national parks use Entrance Reservations and shuttle buses to lessen the impact of people on the park. Abbey introduced us to the desert mice, the solitude of Arches National Park, the snakes, the trees, the flowers, and the uranium prospectors of the 50’s and 60’s of southeastern Utah. 

Something jumped out at me in the first chapter that I had missed in previous readings. We had been listening to it on Audible. After a cup of coffee, on one of the cold high desert mornings, Abbey announced that he was going to go into his little ranger trailer and write a letter to himself.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not an email but a handwritten letter. I wrote and typed a few to my sons for Christmas several years ago. During my time in the Air Force, I was stationed at Ozan Air Base for about two years. It was 1976 to 1978. No cell phones. No email, not yet. I had just gotten married to my first wife; I wrote to her and my parents almost every week. I didn’t speak to them for nearly 2 years. Imagine that. Mom and Dad both wrote. I could hear their voices as I read those letters.

I’ve been reading a book about Herman Hesse, and his relationship with Carl Jung. They maintained their relationship with letters. The author of the book, Miguel Serrano maintained his relationship with Jung and Hesse with letters, mostly hand written. 

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the art of letter writing. And maybe the place to start is writing a letter to yourself, your true self. 

Abbey stepped into the little ranger trailer in the middle of Arches National Park to write a letter to himself, or as Carl Jung would say to his true self. People write letters to stay connected. People write letters to provide advice, help solve problems, and even to give hope and inspiration. They are called epistles in the Christian Scriptures. They are love letters and yes, Dear John letters, for breaking up.

What would a letter to your true self look like? 

Writing a love letter to yourself would include sharing how you’re doing. It would include bearing your soul, sharing your struggles, avoiding the pretension and phoniness that you project out in the world, your persona. Letters to your true self would contain your dreams, your prayers, and also your frustrations, failures, and sorrows. And then your struggles and questions about all of those things. And after you’ve written a letter to your true self, maybe you can answer it by having your true self send you a letter. You open your heart and your mind, your conscious, and let the return letter flow to you from your true self.

We’ve been talking about breaking up with food and staying broke up. For some of you, it’s about learning to maintain a healthy weight, stepping away from alcohol, or like me, you’re trying to prepare for the last 10 years of your life. Breaking up with food is a struggle for you. But for some of you, breaking up with food is a life and death fight to avoid Type 2 Diabetes, the loss of mobility, heart disease, and even premature death. 

Maybe your breakup is with alcohol.
I’ve struggled these past nine or 10 months with breaking up with alcohol. Don’t get me wrong. I follow the National Institute of Health guidelines for drinking 1 to 2 drinks if daily, three drinks, if less than daily. But I’ve looked at the effects of alcohol on my judgment. I haven’t decided to abstain from alcohol, but I am looking into ways of moderating my drinking. I’m in the middle of sober October as I write this. Maybe writing a letter to my true self would help settle it once and for all.

Sample letter to my true self about breaking up with food:

Dear True Self, 

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote. It’s hard to find a time. But now I need your help. Maybe I’ve neglected asking for help because I have this pride that keeps me from asking for help. You know me, I think I can solve my problems by myself, I don’t need anyone. But you know that’s not true. I want to be kind. I want to be wise. I want to be strong. But I do things that I think could threaten my well-being. What are those? Things like alcohol. You know I don’t abuse alcohol. But I think I need to get it completely out of my life or at least learn how to moderate it. I go back-and-forth on and off again, mostly on. I need help. I need clarity. I need strength. I need your help. Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours, 

Mark

Dear Mark,

It was so good to hear from you. I know you struggle. We all struggle. Life is difficult. I know you’ve made mistakes. You’re human, I know you care about the people in your life. And I know you want to be strong, both mentally and physically. Think about a few things when it comes to alcohol. Why do you want to drink. I know you’ve developed a routine around alcohol. You typically drink from 5 to 7 PM. I know. And it’s become a way to relax. You feel bored. You feel anxious. You feel spent. And then you drink. It’s the same with food. Maybe pushing through those times would help. Maybe it’s time to be honest with yourself. Maybe it’s time to love yourself. I wonder what you would say to a friend or family member or client if they came to you with a struggle and wanted to quit drinking alcohol. Wouldn’t you want to know why? I think you would avoid giving advice. I think you would help them sort through the reasons, maybe get to the root of their desire to quit. So, I want you to stop and think. I think you struggle with quitting because alcohol is a much bigger part of your life then you’re willing to admit. I think you struggle because you don’t want to lose the relationship that you have with alcohol. You know what it does for you. And I think you struggle because it embarrasses you to admit that you have a problem with it, that you don’t have the willpower over it. It’s time to admit that you really enjoy something that is potentially harmful to you, both physically and mentally. Maybe that’s the place to start. I have more to say. Respond back with your feedback on my thoughts. 

Take care, 

Your True Self

And now, maybe it’s time to write that Dear John letter.

Maybe it’s time to write that letter to food and break up with it once and for all. Be honest. The relationship that you have with it is killing you or maybe at best leading to some chronic problems that might not be life-threatening but will control your life for the rest of your life.

Go ahead and vent about that relationship with food. Tell food that it’s not your friend. Not anymore. And that you’re not going to depend on it for your emotional well-being. You’re not going to see it as a source of pleasure, because it’s killing you.

Write a letter to food, break up with it, and then find new relationships that will promote health and well-being in your life.

| To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.

 

The Real Reason You Can’t Stay Broke Up with Food | Healthy Aging Series: S9 E22

“And now abide faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love.”

 I Corinthians 13:13 KJV.

My heart breaks as I see or watch people in dysfunctional relationships. 

We had a patio party with some friends this past smoky weekend. Smoke from the Canadian forest fires filled the evening sky.

Here’s the story they told. A friend of theirs is married to a man who has a problem with alcohol. Their friend was explaining something complicated to her partner and her alcoholic partner was trying to interject his ideas, and eventually became so angry and told her to “Shut the fuck up!“

 His wife turned around and walked off in embarrassment, shame, or maybe even fear. I wondered why she stays with him. I was a member of Al-Anon for a number of years, and I remember hearing similar stories. Here’s what Al-Anon taught me: 

You cannot love your partner out of their addiction problems, but what you can do is love yourself out of the dysfunction of the relationship.

People who remain in abusive relationships often do so because they fail to love themselves. 

Don’t misunderstand me, these dysfunctional relationships are mired in all kinds of issues: financial dependence, cultural taboos, and religion, just to name a few.

Al-Anon taught me that I can only help others if I first take care of and love myself.

Cover your ears if you don’t want to hear this next part. If you choose to stay in a dysfunctional relationship, it might indicate that you are having lapses of self-love. It’s love gone awry. 

Love gone awry means that the lack of self-love transports you to a land were choice is extinct. There comes a point in life when you are living in a dysfunctional relationship, to say it’s over! I love myself, and the best way to demonstrate love is to break up.  

If this is true for our dysfunctional relationship with people, it might also be true for a relationship with food. We get into trouble breaking up and staying very broke up with food because we have lapses, at least temporary lapses, of self-love. What else could it be? 

Something has to compete with our appetites and cravings. Something has to compete with our addiction to sugar. Something has to break the chain of overeating and binge eating. And maybe that something is self-love. 

It isn’t self-loathing that keeps us in a dysfunctional relationship with food. It’s love that has gone awry. When we love food more than we love ourselves, we love what it does for us. Food makes us forget about us. Food makes us forget about what it’s doing to us, one calorie at a time. Food makes us strong and powerful and creates a new you. It makes us feel good if only for a moment. But food can also rob you of a future with your children, your family, and your friends by shortening your life. 

In the past blog, I’ve told you that in order to have a breakup with food, you have to start thinking differently about food. But first, you have to start thinking differently about yourself. 

Think this: I love me. I don’t want to hurt me. I want to take care of me. Food doesn’t care about me so I need to care about me.  I want to take care of me. I want to be happy and healthy the last 10 years of my life, so I want to take care of myself now. Giving into those cravings might feel good but I want to take care of me. I love me. Those momentary pleasures are not good for me. Self-love is the only thing that can break the spell that food has over you. Self-love is the only thing that can break you out of the trance that food has over you. Self-love is the magic that will make your cravings and appetites disappear

Where to Start with Self-Love

In the same way that you would protect your family member from harm, protect yourself from harm. Tell yourself that your relationship with food is hurting you, it’s harming you! Cry!! 

Let yourself feel the pain of food addiction and cry because it hurts you.

Pledge to take care of the most important thing in your life, you and your body. Your body is vulnerable to its appetites. It needs you to love it and shepherd it, to take care of it! Be your body’s champion. Be your body’s protector. It needs you to love it and care for it.

Stop now, and look at your hands, your arms, your body. Find a mirror. Look into it. Look at yourself. Decide now whether or not you love the person you’re looking at, or rather, will you love the person you’re looking at? Will you start loving you? 

In my last blog I talked about magic, not magic in the Harry Potter sense, but magic in the ability for you to change from the inside out. 

Once you start loving yourself, you then need to believe that there is magic within you to change you and transform you. 

Breaking up with food is mostly an inside job! 

My next blog will be about writing a Dear John Letter to food.

| To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.