Weight is a topic we all hate and love to discuss. Well, maybe "love" isn’t quite the right word. We need to discuss it, and so we do. We share the frustrations of medication weight gain and the strategies for circumventing it. We share the loss of motivation for healthy eating and exercise when we're depressed. We share the day-to-day toil and drudgery of dieting.
Jane, an About.com Bipolar community member, poignantly shared these thoughts of toil and drudgery in a recent forum discussion:
"I just topped my longest diet ever (six months), just in time to waver in my diet. I'm tired of feeling sh*tty all the time. I miss my old habits. I was so much happier when I was overeating. I've lost 35 pounds, and only a handful of people have noticed. If I can lose 35 pounds and hardly anyone notices, that's pretty bad. I gained 1.4 pounds this week. Annihilating. I've stopped exercising because I'm too heavy (190 lbs) and the muscle soreness is unbearable. I'm tired of the obsession, anguish and suffering."Alison, a fellow forum member, posted perceptive comments in response to passages of Jane's post, and we can each garner some wisdom for our own dieting and weight-induced angst:
- "I just topped my longest diet ever."
You've used these words before. Is this a diet, or are you trying to make permanent habit changes for health? Really look at your reasons for doing this. If it's a diet to try and become thin, what are the chances that all your hard work will stick when you achieve that magic number on the scale? Without permanent habit and "head" changes, how will you maintain your goal for life? And if you're thinking "What is the point of trying?" read on.
- "I'm tired of feeling sh*tty."
Can you elaborate on "sh*tty"? Do you feel physically unhealthy or emotionally crummy? If it's emotional, then look what adding food says. It says that food is not just nourishment; it's what I use to deal with my emotions. Why not just deal with the emotions straight on and not take on the health effects of all the extra food you don't need? By daring to just have those emotions (and get help with them if you need to) you can be done with them. You improve your bipolar stability and physical health by not eating more than you need.
- "I miss all my old habits."
Old habits die hard? No, I daresay they never really die. They will always be familiar, and we'll want to return to them like a security blanket when times are tough. But you are tougher, Jane. You've come a helluva long way!
- "I was so much happier when I was overeating."
Did I read correctly? Food = Happiness? Were you really eating out of happiness? Is the 600-pound morbidly obese person eating out of happiness? Are you confusing happiness with a sort of addiction or temporary cover up of some deeper hunger? Some of us are lonely, need to be loved, need engaging work and purpose or any of a thousand things that are missing in our lives. For me it has been boredom, loneliness and depression. That's why I ate more than I needed. It was a temporary high to distract me from more important life issues that caused me pain. What about you?
- "I've lost 35 pounds and only a handful of people have noticed."
OK, you must be depressed here. It's bad that other people haven't noticed? What about the most important person, YOU! Who are you doing this for? Have you noticed? Look at your face, neck and fingers. Are your pants loose? Rings looser? Seriously, have you seen a pile of 35 pounds of meat? That's a lot! That's quite an accomplishment, and your body is thanking you. That's 35 pounds your knees don't have to carry. You are already stemming the onslaught of arthritis. Your heart thanks you. Have you checked your cholesterol lately? Were you pre-diabetic before? And what are the chances of that happening as you continue to lose?
- "I gained 1.4 pounds this week. Annihilating."
So what if you gained? Is it really "annihilating" to your sense of self? Watch out for this, because it will sabotage you. No, it can kill you.
Reach out for help here if you need it. A few pounds up or down on the scale have no bearing on who you are or what you are worth. The scale does not define Jane. Don't worry about the blips. It's the trend that counts when improving your health, and 35 pounds of lost fat is one big deal for your health. I repeat, for your health, not worth.
- "I've stopped exercising. The muscle soreness is unbearable."
What type of exercise are you doing that hurts like that? Walking 30 minutes should be enough, and that shouldn't cause unbearable soreness. Water exercise is especially easy on the joints, if that's a problem. But if you need to take a break from it all, that's OK. Just focus on keeping your activity level up. Increase it a little day by day. Do little things like parking further away from your destination.
- "Is it really worth it?"
Talk to someone with before and after pictures. See what his life was like, what she couldn't do then and can do now. Talk to your doctor. Get her opinion. What do you have to look forward to down the road either way? Talk to yourself. What do you really want deep down? In the eight weeks I've been doing this, I realize that my bipolar health is starting to improve. I've dieted before and exercised grudgingly before (my words to describe myself) and returned to old habits. I needed a change in my head. Why am I doing this? I'm doing this because I want to enjoy my life, not just survive it. I want to participate. I want to be part of my family and not a burden to them. I want health. I don't want to live like a sick person, like I had before. I want to avoid long-term problems like pre-diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and others that otherwise don't plague my family. What do you want?
Alison did a wonderful job of taking each of Jane's statements and suggesting alternative ways of looking at the problems and of dealing with them. For example, if exercise is making you too sore, you're either doing too much or doing the wrong type. And if food is your way to deal with other problems -- isolate those problems and look for solutions that don't require food. Thank you, Alison!