Whenever we are doing something we say we don’t want to be doing it is because some other need has trumped our conscious intention. (Or we are just lying to get out of doing something we really don’t want to do – like being “too busy” to do whatever it is we should be doing.)
When I eat a whole plate of Christmas cookies, my desire to look good in a bathing suit has been trumped by my body’s stress reaction and requirement that I provide comfort and quick energy. The body isn’t coordinating with the brain at this point, so it doesn’t know that a brownie isn’t going to provide lasting comfort and energy. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t know any better – and the body will do just about anything to get its immediate, basic needs met. I don’t like it. But, as you know from all of your own good intentions gone to hell, there are forces greater than ourselves at work here. Your body will almost always win a tug of war with your mind. Sort of like not being able to hold your breath past a certain point. It’s true. It’s reptilian.
To outwit your crazy body, you have to anticipate it’s needs and meet them before they take over. Sort of like planning ahead so your child doesn’t have a tantrum in a store. I know that if I don’t eat enough protein during the day, my body will be tantruming around 5 p.m. and I will eat just about anything. Any resolution I had made to eat healthy is GONE – and I mean GONE. Frosting out of the can? Why not! Handful after handful of Honey Nut Cheerio’s? Can’t stop! A bag of chocolate chips? No problem! A quart of ice cream? Seems like a good idea!
Same thing goes for Christmas. When we are in the middle of all of the buying, and the wrapping, and the planning of parties, and the fretting over making the whole darn holiday thing fun and happy, our resolutions to “relax and enjoy” the holidays are GONE. I overheard myself telling myself – “as soon as you get this done, you can relax.” (Yes – entire conversations go on between myself and myself that I completely ignore as well.) I know I am going to feel like an exhausted pile of “shouldda, couldda, wouldda” the day after Christmas if I don’t do something different.
How to avoid this? I suspect there is no big solution, other than disappearing to Bali for the month of December. Maybe next year.
My, personal, plenty-perfect solution has to do with first stopping to notice all of the times I am not doing what I say I want to be doing. When I catch myself, I am going to try to figure out what the underlying need is and try to meet it more positively. These are two very small changes I have made:
1. Yesterday, when I was feeling particularly yucky about eating all kinds of stuff I didn’t want to be eating, I cooked up some of my favorite Chicken Marbella (a Silver Palete recipe first introduced to me by my friend, Carolyn) and packaged it in individual servings to eat for lunches this week. For this to work for me, the food has to be something I really like and will look forward to eating and is ready to eat in 2 minutes flat. If it isn’t, I will just ignore it and eat a whole plate of Christmas cookies for lunch.
2. I am sick and tired of thinking about buying stuff, but I can’t stop trying to figure out what to buy for friends. So, I decided I was going to be DONE worrying about finding a gift that reflected each individual friend’s special interests and qualities. I decided to get my friends something that reflected my special interests and unique qualities. Isn’t that nice? Actually, it isn’t as selfish as it seems. I realized that anxiety over gift-giving is really about my need to let my friends know I care about them. Sharing something I like – a potted amaryllis or beautiful notepaper – along with a heartfelt note telling them I appreciate their special qualities would satisfy my need and release me from some of the stress I was feeling. And, maybe it is all about my needs after all…because now I will be a much nicer person to be around, which actually makes other people happy. Particularly, my children.
I will let you know when I think of more plenty-perfect solutions, but for now I am feeling pretty good at outsmarting my reptilian brain just a little. Sort of like when you successfully distract a 2 year old from the candy at the grocery check out line. Little, plenty-perfect victories make all the difference.