Build the muscle to change a mind
Yesterday my husband and I had friends over for dinner for the first time in forever! And it was awesome!
My husband is a great cook and he loves to do it. But when we have company he usually makes things I can’t eat. So I either eat the parts I can, and supplement the rest of my meal, or I just eat my own food.
Last night my husband made pasta, so that was a no-go for me. And the fancy sauce he made was also not one I could have. But I cooked up some of our homemade Italian sausage, which is a personal favorite of mine. And he made, for lack of a better term, an Italian salsa for bruschetta as an appetizer. And while you probably already know, I don’t eat bread, I did get to have the salsa itself which was super delicious.
I am grateful that I no longer look at the things I can’t have as “missing out.” My dinner was delicious. And guilt-free. But that took something. It took a conscious choice to take control of my own brain and stop certain thoughts. To recognize them, and stop thinking them. To change the channel. And that did not happen today. It happened a little at a time over years and years.
If I have one piece of advice for people who want to start abstaining from their drug foods, it would be to understand the nature of their own thoughts. It would be to become aware of how much control we each have over our thinking, which seems, at first, like something we have no choice in.
I am a completely different thinker than I was when I was eating compulsively. I had been thinking a certain way for 28 years when I finally put boundaries around my eating. I had worn certain paths in my brain. Certain thoughts necessarily lead to other particular thoughts. All of those thoughts, all of the paths they created, led directly to the foods that made me feel miserable and out of control.
It takes something to leave the path. It takes a kind of bravery. It takes a kind of fortitude. And it takes practice. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t start being able to do 100 push-ups. You do a few with bad form and much heavy breathing at first. But you get better and stronger every time. And if you do it regularly, you build the muscles to the point that a push-up is second nature. Your body remembers. It knows.
I also understood that I was never going to get anywhere different while I was walking the same paths. If I wanted to change the way I ate, I had to change the way I ate. If this seems like an obvious truth to you, let me assure you I tried for many many years to change the way I ate without having to change anything. I quite literally wanted my cake and to eat it too.
When I got my eating under control, people who went before me told me to change my language. Not to call things “favorite foods” anymore. To remember that they were poison to me. To refer to them as such. To stop romanticizing them. To stop thinking of them with longing. To stop thinking of them at all. To build that muscle.
So much of changing my life was in changing my mind. One thing at a time. One word at a time. One wishful thought at a time. And the gift of changing my mind about sugar also gave me the option to change my mind about other things. To know that the thoughts in my head were not “me.” They were merely thoughts. And I was in control of all of them, because once upon a time, even when I was really bad at it, I was willing to change my mind.