Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

Since last Thursday's thoughts I've put a lot on my mental plate, so to speak. I watched an Oprah show about obese teens and their families that really affected me - odd since I was never obese as a teen.  I have no doubt that I would have been, had I not been swimming about 2 miles per day during the winter and walking nearly everywhere I needed to go. As I watched that show - at times sobbing so hard my breathing came in gasps -  I came to realize I've been hanging on to a great deal of anger since my teenage years.  A lot of stuff happened from the ages of 13-18 that no kid should have to deal with, so I simply didn't. Deal with it, that is. I pushed it away and saved it for later.  This is how people become junkies. Seriously. My dope of choice just happens to be food. I really wish there'd been a similar kind of intervention around when I was a teenager, though it's never too late to intervene. Every day, every moment - hell, every choice ... is a chance to get it right. 

Which brings me to my next point.  This article sort of encapsulates everything I've been trying to learn about how to cope and recover from my self-defeating behaviors. I found this to be very compelling:

People tend to think that urges will escalate infinitely if they don't yield to them — but in fact, like a wave, they rise to a peak and then fall. That is, even if you don't give in, the urge dissipates.

Indeed, because of the way the brain is wired, each time an addict lets an urge pass without engaging in the unwanted behavior, it weakens the neural connections that underlie the desire; each time he or she rewards the craving with the bad habit, the brain pathways, and the addiction, are strengthened. It helps for people to remind themselves that if they can resist an addictive urge once, it will become easier and easier to do it again in the future.

How powerful is that? I mean, somewhere in the back of my mind I'm sure I know that every time I do something good for myself, that I will tend to keep doing things that are good for me. But to see it there in print, that every time you make a good choice for yourself rather than an unhealthy choice, you actually change how your brain works. That is powerful. 

I did something that made me proud of myself yesterday and reinforced that all this work I am doing is having an effect. I had given myself permission yesterday to skip my scheduled run. I had had a long night at work, and I just don't function too well when I have to day-sleep. Add in some hormonally-based fatigue and a slight case of the fuckits, and I pretty much had myself talked out of it. Later in the day, just a couple hours before I had to go in for my shift, I got myself really worked up and po'd over something.  Today, that something is totally insignificant, but yesterday it had me irritated to the point of feeling jumpy and shaky. It was dinner time, and I was hungry. I was just about to heat up my dinner and sit down in front of the news with it. Something made me stop and realize I was in a really negative frame of mind, and did I really want to cement that in my neural pathways associated with food and tv? Believe me, that path is already there, and it's more of a 10-lane freeway. So I did something I rarely do: I went upstairs, still irritable and shaky, put on my workout clothes, and banged out 2 quick miles on the treadmill. A new and healthy little footpath tromped down in my brain. It's never too late to try a new path. 

Last thought: I've been having trouble motivating myself the past week. I wish desperately that I could be the kind of runner that blissfully zones out and before I know it, look! I'm done! Well, I'm not that runner. I'm the runner that covers my treadmill display with a towel so I can't obsess over it. I have a few requirements that, if not met, can cause me to torture myself during an entire workout session. I have to have music. Gum is a big plus. It keeps my brain occupied a little. Doesn't matter how cold it is outside. The heat in my house has to be turned off while I run. Bedroom window is open. One thing I had been overlooking, however, is the power of the playlist. Sure, I give props to my playlists all the time for giving me that push to finish. The problem is, I get accustomed to playlists quickly, and soon start to obsess about which song is next, what song is starting to bore me, where I was in the playlist last time I ran - was I ahead or behind?  The answer? Change the playlist! Don't ever underestimate the power of a new playlist to motivate and inspire. 

Yesterday: 2
Today: 3
Tomorrow: Off!

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