Yes, I think too much

Course Corrections

with 7 comments

I have been hoping for quite some time to write some blog posts, but my life has become incredibly busy in a variety of ways. One of the things that has happened since I have lost so much weight is that my weekends are spent outside of the home and I have little time to sit down and type posts, even when I have things I want to say.

I mentioned some time ago on my former blog that successfully losing weight in the long run is really about self-actualization, not simply adding healthy eating and exercise to your life. I have come to more fully appreciate what that means over the past six months, and it has not been easy. On the one hand, the manner in which I have reframed my relationship with food has not sent me scurrying to the pantry in times of stress, but the amount of stress has increased because the changes that occur have brought up other issues.

For one thing, being out and about so much brings up a serious approach-avoidance conflict for me. I want to get out more for the enjoyable aspects, but find the experience oppressive in so many ways because of the overwhelming sensory stimuli. Since I live in one of the most densely populated cities in the world (where people are literally crammed onto trains during rush hour by conductors shoving them into the doors), every step out of the door involves dodging people, listening to unpleasant noises (construction, loud speaker announcements, etc.), and having to adjust to a variety of unpredictable variables which directly affect my comfort but are utterly out of my control like whether or not I can sit on public transport (and therefore take pressure off of my gimpy knee).

These logistical issues and overstimulation were anticipated problems as a result of being more mobile and free to leave my apartment after losing weight. Related aspects which I hadn’t considered are also cropping up and tapping into other neuroses of mine. Going out and about involves more money being spent, and I grew up poor and have a lot of anxiety about money in general. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve spent the last 7-9 year focused rather strongly on saving money and being frugal in anticipation of leaving this Asian country and going home to America. Loosening my notions of what is “reasonable” to spend with certain unemployment in my future and after training myself to live as low on the hog as possible has been very difficult for me.

There is actually an almost humorous irony to the current situation that I find myself in. At 380 lbs., I used to avoid restaurants for fear that I’d be too fat to fit in the seating and be embarrassed (a fear I still have at around 225 lbs., but I realize that it’s irrational for the most part). Now that I am physically able to sit in a restaurant, I find that I have anxiety about the money spent on the meals. It’s hard not to feel strange paying about $25 for a meal when I can make something at home for 1/5 that amount or less (and have leftovers to boot).

Before I go any further, I must stress emphatically that I am not substituting a new anxiety for an old one in some psychological balancing act which will allow me to feel stressed and neurotic all of the time. That is not what is going on. This is an existing neuroses (about money) that wasn’t being brought as strongly into play because the circumstances were such that the responses came out less frequently than they do now. It shows in yet another way how being so fat as to be essentially disabled from normal life was actually beneficial to me. It allowed me not to engage in anxiety invoking behaviors.

The changes I’m going through and the new issues that are coming out have taxed me greatly. I am constantly battling my negative responses and trying to wrestle them to the ground with logic and positive conditioning. It’s the equivalent of talking myself off the bridge day-in and day-out rather than allowing that jump to happen. “The jump” in this metaphor would be deciding not to go out and live life as a “normal” person would and remain secure in my home with my neuroses ruling my behavior. It applies to more than simply my fears about money, fears that were built into me by my upbringing as a very poor person and my mother’s constant dialogs about our issues with it.

Every day is exhausting for me because of these needs to correct the course of my mental pathways. They want to go straight ahead and I keep forcing a right turn. It isn’t really all that dissimilar from the sort of mental conditioning I did when I changed my relationship with food. These other issues are just as persistent, but more ambiguous and vague than the simple choices related to food. This makes mental conditioning more complex as I’m not as certain of the outcomes.

I can tell myself that I will get a job in the future so I don’t need to save every cent from now until when I leave for home. I can tell myself that I have a little over a year left here and that I should take advantage of the time to see and do everything I might want to do and spending a little money on that is a good thing. In fact, I may regret not doing so. However, in the back of my mind is the thought that I could regret spending the money and the fear that I might end up broke and in dire circumstances. This is unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility. And even when reason succeeds in convincing me that I should spend a little more money now and worry less about later, it doesn’t mitigate the feeling in the pit of my stomach which remains.

So, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting is that I’m constantly wearing myself out trying to deal with new feelings and problems. I constantly feel as though I’m being torn from safe and secure moorings and setting sail into unknown and potentially dangerous seas. The fact that I’m the one choosing to do it doesn’t make it any easier. I simply know, however, that if I want to “get anywhere” (continue to grow as a person and self-actualize), I have no choice  but to keep forging ahead.


Written by yesithinktoomuch

November 26, 2010 at 4:28 am

7 Responses

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  1. I hope you are making progress with forging ahead. Maybe another way to move forward is framing those traits in a more positive manner. Being thrifty or more cautious about money might be a core part of you that can’t change that much. I hope you can find a path that helps lessen any remaining fears about your future.

    Your insights are compelling and eye-opening to my engineering brain.


    December 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

  2. I feel empathy and respect for your observation: “I constantly feel as though I’m being torn from safe and secure moorings and setting sail into unknown and potentially dangerous seas. The fact that I’m the one choosing to do it doesn’t make it any easier.”

    However, I’m not sure one can actually grasp the magnitude of difference (between choosing drastic change and having it thrust into your life) until you experience that difference yourself in a more vivid way.

    Until recently, I would have been more likely to agree that stressful challenges are similarly stressful whether one chooses them or whether they are imposed from forces beyond one’s control (even if, in general, one is oriented by an internal locus of control).

    Then a whole lot of crap started snowballing into my beautifully arranged balance of self care and self actualization. 😦 The craptastic events haven’t impacted my ability to refrain from overeating, but they have tested my ability to cope, far beyond anything I could have imagined and in ways that are surely having long term health consequences for me.

    Maslow understood that basic needs generally must be met before greater strides toward self actualization can be pursued. I believe he proposed the hierarchy of needs because he understood that it does matter, in terms of difficulty and stress load, whether one chooses to make challenging changes under difficult circumstances or whether one is forced to struggle (to cope as best one can with very few options) when unpredictable and unchosen challenges (problems) arise.

    I think you are hinting in that direction in this essay, but you don’t follow it all the way, when you discuss the challenges associated with not knowing whether your spending a bit more now (and feeling anxious as a result) or enforce more frugality on yourself so that you can continue to increase your savings and investments for the future (while not knowing what lies in your future, or the state of the future world economy.)

    This awareness of the significant difference between “choosing” while having a variety of options vs. “choosing” while having one (or no other alternative) option is a piece of psychological analysis that is often missing when people typically try to tease emotional responses loose from the social and economic pressures within which those “choices” are embedded and over which the individual may have few opportunities, if any, to change.

    For instance, following your example, if you build up a large savings account now (based on the current economic trends) only to find your savings wiped out later by a series of events you do not choose, leaving you destitute in spite of your careful planning and foresight, I believe you might then better understand how much more stressful, frightening, and powerless you would feel while struggling with major changes that you did NOT choose.

    Perhaps this is an unimportant point that is not worth attempting to discuss here, and the focus in this discussion should remain on the fact that you ARE choosing to make difficult changes while enhancing your ability to cope. Yet in light of your previous insights about and empathy towards the differences between people when it comes to whether or not they can permanently change how they eat and live with food, I thought I would suggest another viewpoint for you to ponder. Offered with respect, of course.


    December 13, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    • I think you’re personalizing my issues a bit here, Rebecca. Perhaps you’re feeling a little resentment that you are having issues in your life that you cannot control and feel that my difficulties over things I can choose are trivial and not worth complaining about?

      I’m not in a competition with the suffering of those who are forced into difficult life circumstances. It’s not about whether they are enduring more pain than I am. I’m simply asserting that the stress I feel is acute and not mitigated by the fact that it is self-induced. It’s not a comparative circumstance, but an individual one.

      I’ve spent most of my life with an external locus of control. You know well from my old blog how I grew up – extremely poor, with an alcoholic father and a depressed, spendaholic mother. I have had little control over much of my life so I know the despair of such circumstances all too well. I don’t need to be reminded of the despair one feels when bad circumstances are foisted upon one. I’ve lived that for most of my life. It’s not something that I need to develop greater empathy for. I’ve got it in spades.

      I know your situation is difficult right now from the posts you’ve made on other blogs. I know you are unemployed and close to homelessness and you didn’t make choices to put you in that position, but please don’t view the things I say as a “I hurt more than you” assertion. I simply hurt. I’m not looking to one-up someone else. I’m just talking about how I feel. The comparing my pain about this to my pain about other things, not my pain to that which another person feels.


      December 17, 2010 at 5:55 am

  3. Perhaps you are correct. However, I’m not aware of any resentment. Instead, I am enormously grateful to have been forced to face circumstances that are showing me who I am, and what I am capable of, at a time in my life when I thought the hardest thing I would face is my choice to abstain from overeating and to lose weight. It turns out those accomplishments are easy compared to the rest. It turns out, also, that my life was in a rather cozy rut, and I doubt I would have found ways that pushed me to grow anywhere near as much as have the recent developments. Of course, losing the weight has made my social interations infinitely easier; it is quite shocking to realize how many doors open when one is granted social approval on the basis of appearance. Kind of like being an earthling after the invasion of “the Body Snatchers”…you can walk among them and never be seen as anything but a swell person.


    December 18, 2010 at 3:17 am

  4. I understand this all too well. I would never have thought that losing weight, instead of being the ticket to a perfect life, would just bring up all the issues I had been avoiding for years, and force me to deal, whether I want to or not (usually, not).

    I’m kinda neurotic about money, too. My parents are almost as weird about money as they are about food. I feel that I am able to balance not living the life of an ascetic vs. being a spendthrift, but it takes rational thinking to overcome some emotions, including fear at times.

    As for eating out? Maybe different where you live, but here, portions tend to be huge so they can charge more, ingredients are substandard compared to what you can cook at home (for 20% cost, with leftover). I try to mostly feed myself, but still end up out a few times weekly. In Argentina, food seems to be beef and wine, and dinner is eaten 10 pm, earliest. Not my lifestyle, but when in Rome… (or Buenos Aires)

    PS RNegade: I hear you on the social interactions after losing weight. People don’t even do this consciously, for the most part, but it is so clear. Those who say it’s all about attitude are full of crap. True, exceptionally good attitude may overcome this some of the time, but really, it’s all about appearance.


    December 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    • Hi, Julie, and thanks for commenting.

      The portions here are tiny and expensive. It’s par for the course. Food is much, much cheaper in the U.S., even in restaurants. I also prefer to and generally feed myself. In fact, prior to the recent past, I hadn’t been in a restaurant for over 5 years (or more) and always cooked for myself. However, my husband wants to have more variety, and this is quite fair of him to expect that.

      And you are so right that it takes rational thinking to overcome emotions. Unfortunately, the brain is perfectly capable of saying, “this is irrational” and then saying, “but I don’t want to do it anyway”. I know more fears are irrational, but that doesn’t make them go away. That takes so much hard work mentally, but I am forging ahead. That being said, it gets very tiring after awhile micro-managing your thought processes.

      And, finally, I agree with both of you on the social interactions and especially that it being a load of crap that it’s all about attitude. Frankly, I find the assertion that losing weight makes people treat you better because you have a better attitude offensive and demeaning. It’s just another way of blaming the (former) fat person for their own problems. It’s also over-looking the obvious and overt fat prejudice that exists and blaming the victim of said prejudice.


      December 23, 2010 at 1:56 am

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