My work is manageable compared to the rest of my team. I have nothing to be worried about with my friends. I still make time for the gym. I don’t have anything to be stressed about, right?
I didn’t think it was possible for me to be stressed because there’s no single element my life to cause it. One night, after finding the bottom of a package of Oreos, and not feeling full or tasting anything, I told myself to check again. I mentioned it a long time ago, but I’m terrible good at realizing when I’m stressed or overwhelmed—or recognizing my own emotions in general. (Ironic, because I pride myself on reading others.) This time, it took realizing that I can’t taste food to realize the problem. (No, I don’t have Corona.)
It’s review season for at work, which means that we’re constantly preparing a document for some senior leadership review. I wouldn’t the longer hours if I knew what I was doing… but it’s been six months in this role and I still spend most of my energy figuring out how to do seemingly simple analyses. I didn’t believe work could be the cause of the problem because I still feel like I’m not pulling my weight on the team. I want to help, but I’m still struggling to figure out how, and it’s causing tension in myself. Every time someone asks me to do something, I scramble to figure it out, and drive myself crazy wondering if I’m having an issue with a system, catching another person’s error, or if I’m doing something wrong. There’s literally no way to know. I can handle any volume of work, but if I don’t know how to do it, I’m stuck. This results in two types of eating: procrastination and as an escape.
I eat as a form of “micro-procrastination.” For example, someone asks me to send them a data pull. I try to figure it out. If I can’t, and I don’t think I should ask for help, I’ll suddenly –not coincidentally—get very hungry. If I knew how to do the task, I would do it immediately and move on with my day. I get hungry and eat as a way of giving myself a task that takes priority so that I can avoid the task I don’t know how to do. This happened yesterday. I was asked to write a few sentences for a meeting and I had no idea how complicated it would be or where to start. I ate 600 calories worth of chocolate and had to prevent myself from eating even more. I eventually realized that the information for the sentences didn’t exist, and it would’ve only taken me five minutes, so there was no need to panic. How was I supposed to know before? (Other than the fact that they won’t give me anything I really can’t handle…)
I also eat as an escape. I’m a control freak. I like to know what’s going on and make decisions. I’ve always seen that as the way to be successful. It’s exhausting and I need an out, which is one of the reasons I used to be overweight. I felt like I had to control so much of my life that I didn’t want to have to control what I ate. I ate huge volumes of unhealthy food because it made me feel better in the moment—Or I thought it would. I don’t do that as much now, except for situations like this where I feel like I have no control and I need an outlet. I don’t feel full or even taste the food because I’m “eating into an abyss,” or at least that’s how I describe it. I’m looking for an escape. Although, this is even more silly because I won’t regain control by being out of control with what I eat. Eating seems like a great solution, because it makes me feel good and it’s fun, but I’m never going to find what I’m looking for in my food. I never thought about the fact that I don’t get any control back by eating whatever I want. Sure, it’s an escape, but it doesn’t have a chance to give me what I want.
If I’m craving an unhealthy food, there’s probably a larger issue. Unfortunately, by the time I have a craving, it’s probably too late. I need to recognize the cues that come before cravings if I’m going to solve this issue. I spent so many years of my life trying to be like Bree Van der Kamp from Desperate Housewives and suppress emotion (It’s my favorite show to this day. It probably saved my life.) I succeeded in suppressing the emotion, but in all the wrong ways. Of course, I’m human, so the emotion still exists, I’m just incapable of recognizing it until it’s too late. I should have taught myself to control emotion in a constructive way rather than suppress it.
I googled “how to reduce stress” and “reduce cortisol” at least 10 times last week. Most of the answers I found were to exercise, which is useless to me. It’s not possible to exercise more than I already do. Someone told me to go for a run… I know I should, but I’m not that desperate yet. As with difficult things, there is no catch-all solution. I’ll definitely feel worse if I don’t make a change though. Maybe it was from stress, but I randomly hit a trap bar deadlift PR of 270 last week after only a few hours of sleep and no breakfast. Imagine how much I could do with proper preparation.
I notice that I get PRs in certain types of stressful situations. If I have a lot going on but I’m still eating and taking my time at the gym, I can channel the energy into the weights without realizing it. Maybe I can be more mindful about channeling the energy and releasing it. I also tend to write in my journal like crazy when I’m in this state of mind, I write and write and write and my words mean nothing. It’s like a pinball bouncing around in the machine without scoring.
I started making a list of every tiny task I have to do from responding to an email to creating a report. At least I don’t have to keep everything in my head this way, and I can check things off the list. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m learning that nobody does. I still have the urge to eat in procrastination, and I can’t always control it, but being aware helps.