Beyond Burgers and Shame
A few years ago I killed it and lost 40 pounds in about 4 months.
I ate mountains of processed deli meat and hard boiled eggs because protein (duh) and processed light breakfast sandwiches, and sure some veggies, because veggies. I counted calories, I budgeted booze and I was SO proud. I honestly hadn't been that weight since I was in middle school.
To clarify, I grew tall early and am built husky, it's not like I was going back to 98 pounds. 163 pounds to be exact.
Fast forward four years. Maintaining! What if I let myself have a December off? I've trained my stomach well to figure out what 'full' is right?
Maybe other factors contributed, but either way I had gained almost 10 pounds in a month. Yikes! But I got this. Give me like month... or two... years. And 10 more pounds.
Here we are, August in the year of our lord two thousand nineteen and I'm 183 pounds. How have I gotten here? Is here really a terrible place? None of my shorts without elastic fit and that has to be some circle of hell. Why, after all the attempts and tries over the past two years have I not been able to stick to a calorie limit? I did this already! Why can't I do it again?
I believe the culprit for me, and many women [and men] is this: my brain in the form of an internal shame wizard, whom I have named Brenda. Fuck you Brenda.
The shame wizard in and of itself is not a concept I created. I will give that honor to Sirs Nick Kroll and John Mulaney and the writers of the show Big Mouth.
If you aren't familiar with Big Mouth or the shame wizard here's the idea: The show follows two boys and their friends as they go though puberty. First kisses, first pubic hairs, first boners, you get the idea. And everything is new and scary and funny but alas there comes a time when the kids learn that for some actions, they should feel shame. Thus the shame wizard tortures them for things they've done before (had a fantasy about their dad's secretary, had a pubescent mustache, etc) but didn't realize that they should add on this new layer of feeling like shit about themselves.
Brenda is my shame wizard. She is a bitch and she is persistent.
My encouraging voice who supports me and tells me I'm beautiful and able to make healthy choices and plan out strategies to have a successful week is drowned out by Brenda yelling, "Well you messed up again... couldn't have stopped yourself eating at 10 PM last night AGAIN? Ugh. Not like you even had any calories left for the day, you were a hundred calories under and now you're four hundred calories in the red. You literally do this. ALL. THE. TIME. And you know how much better you feel when you go to be without eating! No wonder your pants don't fit. Probably also the reason you're single. You know thinner women have more dating success. That's fact." STFU Brenda. You're literally helping nothing. In fact, I'd like to make the argument that Brenda's whole m.o. is to keep me paralyzed so she has company.
Evolutionarily speaking, she's trying to help me stay within group norms so I'm 'a part of the pack'. Shame, like guilt, clearly has, or at least had, a purpose. I'm supposed to behave in a way that makes others want to protect me. Feed my young if I die, be a worthy participant in the harvest. But now a days that model doesn't work. And while guilt is I did a bad thing, shame is I am bad. Huge difference.
So how do I fight Brenda?
First I tolerate, nay, thank her for being here. "Got it Brenda... thanks for trying to help me. It's not really working so I'm gonna need another way to solve the thing that's bothering me, but I hear you loud and clear." If you keep trying to run she will keep trying to bother you. Like that annoying coworker that doesn't get your aren't interested in their stories.
Second, I talk to myself/Brenda and then shift my focus. Talking to yourself is not weird, it's helpful. It's a practice of challenging, and ultimately changing, our relationships with our own shame wizards.
Often we immediately want to fight any bad/uncomfortable feeling. Guilt. Shame. Rejection. Loss. If we invite them in and sit with them for a while, acknowledge them instead of immediately trying to run away or pacify them by doing other numbing behavior they're not as scary as we think. As far as I know, no one has died from experiencing an emotion, no matter how much it sucked.
The method: Thank Brenda, think of something positive about your self, and shift your focus.
Good day- I am lucky enough to have a job where I can help people and make a difference, I haven't had a cigarette in years, I am an amazing cat mom, I took the time to Marie Kondo my closet. I am woman! Now I'm going to hit up pintrest for some lo cal snack ideas I can keep around and reorganize my favorite books in order of how bad I want to re-read them. *Shifting your focus to something that will help you reach your goal or take care of you is the best shift!
Bad day- I have that aloe plant that's still alive, I'm going to clean the old cups off my coffee table so my space is less cluttered and set a 5 minute timer to play that dumb ass phone game I'm so addicted to.
Point being, kindness to yourself matters SO MUCH. Do it. Say the nice thing. You're the only person you spend all your time with, you should be your biggest cheerleader.
No matter how much shame the wizard is giving, thank them, tell yourself something amazing, or at least positive, about yourself, and then shift your focus. If their goal is to make you feel worthless, your job is to not believe them. You wouldn't shit on your best friend right? Don't shit on yourself.
Taking time to sit for a bit with your crappy thoughts before thanking them and moving on takes work, and practice. In my opinion that is true self care. It's like going to the mental gym. You're not gonna get rid of your shame wizard in one visit, but the more you visit (i.e. practicing accepting, rebuilding, and redirecting) the easier it is to lift the weights.
In working though my own issues with Brenda, we have come to a much happier spot. One thing I've noticed that has helped me avoid seeing Brenda is making sure to regularly give myself meals that truly don't feel depriving. I find when I try and do three restricting meals a day to reward myself with wine, that immediately turns into a late night snack (I was good all day! I deserve this!... and I had big glass of wine). Where as if I let myself have a meal that's a bit more decadent I feel like I already had my treat for the day. And legit I'm probably less hungry then when I've had 1,700 calories instead of 1,200.
Now for the food part (boy you waited a long time). Beyond Burgers: I LOVE them. They're by far the best, most easily available gourmet veggie burger. Do I like impossible burgers? Yea, they're good. But for my money and for the level of availability I'm a beyond burger chick. They're 270 calories and that's enough (with a bun and avocado) that I often freak out at as a meal ruiner. I can easily talk myself out of 550 calories for the burger and toppings, much less anything on the side, but that's the exact kind of meal that mentally works for me. It's enough to be physically and emotionally satisfying and will keep me from feeling like I'm being restricted.
They crust like actual beef, they are fatty in the best way, and they look and handle like an actual burger. Light beer and a grill? Even better. If you've never tried them, I highly recommend them.
Whatever your shame wizard shits on you for, know you're not alone. We all deal with our own and their goal is always the same: Keep you feeling bad so they have company and you don't grow. Give them a name. Acknowledge them, sit with them for a minute, but let them know they suck, and you have better things to do with your time. They won't go away, but they will get quieter. And you will get louder, in the best way possible.