Yes, I think too much

No longer a member of the tribe

with 8 comments

I’m a person who does not do well with change. I’m not sure if this is because of something that is hard-wired, or due to my upbringing. It’s likely the result of both. I think growing up in a rural area and being exposed to less rapid change may make me less adaptable, but also that my tendency to be overstimulated because I’m an HSP may also factor into it. I’m aware of my difficulties in this regard, and I try to understand that I will feel stress when sudden or dramatic change comes along. Feeling the stress and anxiety is fine. Acting on it destructively is not.

Recently, I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed by the changes I’ve pushed myself into. I’ve gone from following a lot of diet blogs and forums and writing my own weight loss blog to cutting almost all of that sort of contact out of my life (though I still follow the personal blogs of my former readers). I feel this change is very important, but it is also causing me to feel anxious and depressed as I have to exert considerable energy to establish new routines. It’s probably one of the reasons why people who haven’t yet done the mental work associated with repairing their damaged relationship with food find it hard to continue to stay on track if they are not “obsessed”. Stepping away from any pattern or routine is itself a stressful action and if you haven’t worked out your issues with food, the first thing you may want to do is turn back to food for comfort.

Fortunately, I have not even had the vaguest impulse to misuse food in this fashion. The idea of eating more to relieve the stress I feel hasn’t even popped into my head. This time of difficulty is an affirmation that everything I have done has “worked” for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the negative feelings that I do, but simply that my mind doesn’t seek food as a solution to the problem.

Unfortunately, the “solution” my mind reaches for is an “interim” solution and that is to relieve the stress of abandoning old routines by turning back to them on occasion. I find myself  loading the 3 Fat Chicks forums when I feel at a loss. I have done this only twice in the past week, and I am fully cognizant of the fact that I’m doing something as a response to anxiety which may prolong the sense of anxiousness I feel. What is worse, when I read the forums, I derive no comfort or enlightenment from them. In fact, I am increasingly struck by how dysfunctional the discourse on those forums are. People express concern for being obsessed with weight loss and rather than being offered tactics or advice for coping with their issue, people offer up validation of being obsessed. I recall all too well how I felt that I couldn’t carry on like that, and I can understand how others may feel the same way. It starts to drive you insane. There’s no problem with talking about such things, but there is a problem with perpetuating a cycle of clearly dysfunctional obsession by forming a community which says this is the only option if you want to lose weight. It’s not the only option. It truly is not.

The only “good point” to how I’m responding to the sites which I used to peruse on a regular basis is that it makes me feel happy to close the window and therefore less likely to find myself back in an act of picking up old routine. I actually feel more dysfunctional for reading them and as if I’m involved in a sort of discourse which will lead me down a very unhappy path. I come away more motivated to stay on the path to new routines and identity building that is causing me anxiety.

Perhaps I simply don’t belong in those places anymore, or perhaps they are the hotbeds of dysfunction that I perceive them to be. It’s hard to say, but it is absolutely clear that I need to push on and away from the diet culture on-line and continue to grow in other directions. I not only no longer need to be that person, but I profoundly do not want to be that person.

One other point which I have noticed and I know other people encounter this as well is that I was much better supported when I talked about weight loss, but not so in this endeavor. It is clear that I’m no longer a part of a tribe that is insular and highly focused. Personal growth is not of particular value as compared to body consciousness. I don’t mention this because I feel sorry for myself or to solicit comments or support, merely as a curious and valuable observation. If I were to talk more about weight loss again, I would get more attention than I get now. And that’s okay. I don’t need that sort of attention necessarily, and perhaps people don’t need to learn from this stage of my process as it is too personalized. However, it does factor into why people who become obsessed with weight loss remain so. In addition to everything else that they get, it helps them continue to get support and feel valued.

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Written by yesithinktoomuch

September 22, 2010 at 1:07 am

8 Responses

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  1. I’m enjoying your new blog! It’s thoughtful and interesting, not surprisingly. I just haven’t had anything relevant to comment about before now. Your use of the word “tribe” says a lot. People have a hard time connecting in their actual communities (in contrast to electronic *communities*), for many complex reasons I suppose, and online “tribes” perhaps fill some longing to feel they’re part of something bigger, out there. I am isolated in some ways (don’t watch TV or attend to much world or local news, for instance), but not in the ways that are truly important (I have close ties with my family and friends, and I often read several books each week, as time permits). I am still researching about maintaining after weight loss because I’ve been bitten in the butt by the return of obsessive hunger far too many times in the past (after successfully losing large amounts by what I had believed were healthy, gradual, retraining-of-my-mind steps). So my own experience leads me to believe that the people you describe may feel desperate. I know I did previously. But not until I had *successfully* maintained for long periods. I hope to avoid that upsetting predicament this time!

    -Rebecca

    RNegade

    September 23, 2010 at 1:52 am

  2. Great post! I have felt similarly about my blog reading. Currently, I try to be more selective and vary the content.

    PS. Thanks for the HSP link. I suspect my son may fit that criteria, so I look forward to learning more.

    Karen

    September 23, 2010 at 2:39 am

  3. I would rather remain anon. I like this post. I very much understand it. I’ve felt guilty for feeling this way. Thanks for posting.

    Anon

    September 23, 2010 at 4:52 am

    • Thank you for reading, Anon. I hope you don’t feel guilty because I don’t think our feelings or choices are ones we should feel that way about. I think we have to accept our weaknesses or poor choices (whatever they may be in life about anything – we all make them!) and that will help us move on eventually to make choices which we feel serve us better.

      If I embrace my poor choices and know why I make them, then I can start to make a move to change. It starts with that recognition of my motivation and needs. Good luck and best wishes to you.

      yesithinktoomuch

      September 23, 2010 at 9:30 am

  4. Rebecca: Thanks for commenting, and for following this blog, too. I wondered if I had lost you in the transition. 😉

    I can understand the difficulty people have connecting in real life. When I lived in my small rural home town, I had the same problems growing up and reached out via a multitude of penpals all over the world. I couldn’t find people who shared my feelings and interests locally because the “pond” I was in was too small. This was long before the Internet (or PCs, for that matter), so I found a path via the postal service. I think it’s great that we have a chance to reach out and find support outside of our immediate area, but I think that it’s important for it to be in context and perspective.

    Virtual communities are assemblies of our own minds. In many ways, they are imagined more than real, and that makes them all the more attractive. Not only can we elevate them (or degrade them) to suit our whims, but they are unreal so that we can abandon them at our whim and the people are not in a position to make any true demands of us. However, that power means we can be abandoned and that the falseness of those connections is always just under the surface of our sense of the reality of them. I don’t mean to say that you or other kind people who read my blog and take the time to comment so generously aren’t “real people”, but the connection we share is a very special one, and we all have to remember that it’s not the same as real friends, family, etc. and that it can’t serve the same function, even when superficially, it appears to be more fulfilling or to satisfy a need that no one else does.

    I agree that it is difficult to maintain once you’ve lost, and people are desperate and may be seeking online communities. However, I think that perpetuating dysfunctional thinking to maintain weight ultimately is self-defeating. The communities themselves have value, but I don’t think that value comes from validating obsessive behavior. Unfortunately, the type of people who tend to populate them are people who are unsuccessful at transitioning away from the support network even when they are successful at losing and maintaining their preferred body size. I think such people often forget that being a particular weight is not the goal of their existence, but rather being happy and fulfilled is. It may be my particular conceit and an opinion others can surely reject, but I don’t think anyone can be deeply fulfilled if their life revolves around food and weight forever. My sense is that the failure to transition successfully from food- and weight-obsessed thinking to other things is part of what causes people to regain.

    Mind you, I’m not saying I do not “attend” mentally to my weight or eating any longer. I do, but I do so in a fashion which does not consume my thoughts or my life. Do I sometimes have to remind myself of things or push back stray desires? Sure. Do I agonize over it or ruminate on it? Very rarely. This morning I bought a scone from a bakery for breakfast. It was a lovely, fluffy cinnamon scone, freshly baked with a crispy cinnamon sugar exterior. It was about medium in size, and I wanted to eat it all because it was so good and appealing. I had to remind myself that half was as good as all of it and that I didn’t need it all to enjoy the experience. And, I did, and that was the end of it. I don’t think about the other half in the kitchen or wish I had more (nor am I itching to eat it as many people would be who have problems with when their mental conditioning is incomplete).

    What I’m trying to say is that my sense of the mental aspects isn’t that you never have an impulse that you have to tap back with a talk with yourself. I think even average weight people have these issues (in fact, I know they do as I have an uncle who is thin who has actually announced, “I’ve had enough even though I’d like more”). It’s more a matter of no longer being preoccupied. As one woman said, weight loss is the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up in the morning. I don’t think that is a place people need or want to be past a certain point, and telling someone that it is normal or desirable to live like that forever in order to maintain their weight is not helpful. There’s nothing wrong with being “there” for awhile, but after awhile, it’s time to transition, but you can’t do that if your mental processes are not yet complete, and in the case of many people in forums, they never even started on them. They just changed the habits and figured that the mental part was secondary, tertiary, or inconsequential.

    Karen: Hi there, and thank you for your comment! I’m glad that the link will help you. I really think that HSP is something that people need to be more aware of.

    yesithinktoomuch

    September 23, 2010 at 9:20 am

  5. I so agree with you! You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

    The weight loss blogosphere is terribly dysfunctional. No doubt, many other blogospheres are equally bad, but it’s the one we both know quite well.

    Recently, I have been considering ceasing to actively blog in this area because I cannot sit mindlessly by watching people supporting each others’ obsessions. When I do call people out on their unhealthy psychological behaviours, I am seen as a mean girl who is trying to shoot others down in their efforts to achieve “health” (though what they really want, in their heart of hearts, is just to be really, really skinny).

    Nor do I want to put my blogging head on the chopping block of such people as Allan, the king of cognitive dissonance and I quote:
    “For those of you that have told me that my comments are “bullying” let’s all remember that I mean well always, that I always sign my name for you to come right over and return the thoughts. Finally, don’t fuck with my peeps. I have their backs online, and if you want to really know fear, I am here in person.”

    I haven’t stopped yet (and I thank you for your recent comment–Part 2 is on the way!) but I often see good reason to just give up.

    Then again, I think of Pastor Niemoeller. We must speak out, each in our own way. Thanks for your excellent blog.

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    NewMe

    September 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    • Hi, NewMe, and thanks for commenting!

      I think that my sense of when to stop talking about something is related to when it no longer serves my interests or well-being. I have no interest in ironing out others distorted behaviors. It’s not that I don’t care about others or their well-being, but rather that I recognize the wisdom of the old adage of leading horses to water but being unable to make them drink. People drink from the bottles that appeal to them, and people who are desperately unhappy for whatever reason aren’t going to partake of what you offer if it is not what they want to hear.

      This is something that I talked about, though indirectly, in the post, “When “the truth” doesn’t serve.” My truth isn’t everyone’s truth, and even when it is a shared truth, they may not be capable of understanding it or ready to digest it. The more aggressive the response to one’s message, the less secure the listener in their particular chosen way of thinking. If there is no truth in what you say, they have no reason to be angry, but the stronger your truth, the more threatened they feel and more aggressively they push back.

      I think you have had two experiences in the recent past with such parties, one which you have mentioned in your comment, and another who posted angrily about your anonymous list of bloggers post because she is in denial about being self-hating and is upset by the observation that she is so. Defensiveness always tells you something about a person. It tells you that you’ve tapped a truth they cannot bear to recognize.

      I think that the world of weight loss is particularly dysfunctional because it reaches into a lot of psychological corners. People are desperate to change, but often cannot do so without radical alterations in their lifestyle. They become militant because they feel it is the only way to succeed, and they actually don’t enjoy their changed life as much as they profess. Sure, they’re happy at reduced weights, but they aren’t happy doing all of the things that get and keep them there because most are in an unsustainable pattern and are solely motivated by avoiding the negative rather than pursuing the positive. It’s a very lopsided way to live, and it’s despair and fear that drives it. No one can live forever in a state of fear, and aggression is a manifestation of fear (meaning our mutual source of trouble is a terrified person deep down).

      The bottom line, and I realized this about 4-6 months ago, is that you can’t help those people because they don’t want your help and they don’t think you have anything to offer them. It’s their way or the highway.

      yesithinktoomuch

      September 30, 2010 at 2:55 am

  6. @New Me: I love that quote! Thanks!

    @Eileen: I tend to think that any obsessive activity by definition is dysfunctional, including thinking (to borrow from your blog title!) if one is overly identified with the activity for a prolonged period. I’m glad you knew when to move on! I still follow the blogs of practicing and recovering persons with EDs (including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating), including so called pro ana and pro mia blogs. It is not strictly an intellectual fascination that provokes my interest, of course. There are important parallels and lessons to be gleaned from the varieties of obsessive and compulsive practices, especially those associated with activities that are both sources of nourishment and, too often unfortunately, self punishment. I see clear reflections of EDs, often, in the weight loss blogs, sometimes especially among bloggers who on the surface seem to be having great *success* and who incite huge fan loyalty. Observation has been a helpful way for me to learn about behaviors and patterns of thinking that lead, eventually, to increased suffering. Over time, the dysfunctional patterns become all too evident. Some of the most “dysfunctional” bloggers are my most helpful teachers.

    BTW, glad to see that you are flourishing! I really liked your last post about “the truth” (in relation to communication with friends & others) and am still mulling over parts of it.

    -Rebecca

    RNegade

    September 23, 2010 at 9:29 pm


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