Self-sabotage and recalcitrance

By Leota Harriman

Usually I feel this column almost writes itself, but not today.

Since this time last week, I’ve been thinking about what the topic should be this time, and I’ve grudgingly come to the conclusion that I need to write about the ways I am sabotaging myself.

losing it 10479560_10200719015734685_127122919960664457_nI’m not too keen on that. It’s personal, although I’m willing to bet that a lot of you have the same kinds of issues. That’s why I will write about self-sabotage, overeating, and the other ways that I short-circuit my own hard work.

About two weeks ago I started a 21-day challenge using essential oils and protein shakes. I like the protein shakes and the essential oils really do seem to reduce my appetite. Sounds great, right? Sounds like a recipe for success.

But over the years I’ve noticed that whenever I’m close enough to knock on the door of success with my health and fitness goals, I stop myself in my tracks. I do this by self-sabotaging behavior like overeating.

The 21-day challenge brought this behavior to the forefront of my mind because it takes a lot of discipline to have a shake for breakfast and lunch, with only low glycemic index snacks (meaning nothing sweet) in between. I’ve done a good job of sticking to the program.

Until those late night hours, when I scour my kitchen looking for anything snacky. And at that time of night, my definition of “snacky” is pretty liberal.

A few years ago, my son asked me what he could do to help support my goals to get healthy and fit. I told him he could eat the food that I need to eat, and not ask or expect me to cater to his desires to have things like cookies around the house. I already knew at that time that anything sweet after 10 p.m. around my place just didn’t stand a chance.

He said he would support me, and he has. Even when my kitchen is a barren land where only raw vegetables and uncooked beans and whole grains can be found, he hasn’t complained. Even though I almost never bake cookies anymore.

I should also note that I have made great strides in this area. My purpose here is not to beat myself up, but to explore how I continue to derail myself. I hope that if I shed enough light on the subject, the magic wand will swish over my head and I will be free of the fetters imposed by my own mind.

Recently I hung out with my 4-year-old grandson, which I do on a regular basis. The light bulb did go off over my head this time, though. That’s because I recognized myself in him.

“Can we get some donuts, Grama?” says he.

“No, Greyson, we can’t get some donuts,” I reply.

“Why not? I love donuts!” he says.

“Me too,” I say, “But donuts are not nutritious food. We can only eat them once in a while.”

Later: “Can we get some ice cream and cookies, then?”

“No, we can’t get some ice cream and cookies,” I say.

“Why not? I really want some!” he says.

“Because we need to eat real food, not just ice cream and cookies,” I say.

This dialogue is non-stop with him sometimes. When I realized that I could substitute my name for his in that conversation, I was pretty surprised.

I know that in order to care for my grandson properly, I can’t feed him ice cream, cookies and donuts 24/7, even though it would make him happy. I know that his growing body needs healthy, nutritious food. I am not afraid to say no to him even though he might cry. I know what is best for him when it comes to what he eats.

It’s a bit different with myself, however. For one thing, I have decades of practice in getting my way, something Greyson doesn’t have. I know how to rationalize, to bargain, to cheat, and to steal from my own success. You could say I’m an expert at it.

At its root, my journey toward fitness and health has been about learning how to care for myself. Learning how to say no to that recalcitrant childish voice that just wants the damn cookies. Learning how to set limits and enforce discipline on myself.

Good health calls for more than exercise, although exercise can clear the way for lots of improvements in health, like a reduction in the risk of heart disease or diabetes.

I don’t eat a lot of junk food. I’m a good cook, and I make nutritious meals, from scratch.

For me it is a simple matter of overeating, and that overeating is part of a larger pattern of self-destructive behavior.

It isn’t easy to overcome the habits of decades, but I’m committed to the process. I can’t say I’m thrilled about sharing this. I don’t like to admit weakness, and the ways I don’t get the job done. But I feel that to improve my life, I must face the reality of who I am, today.

Here’s the good news: A year ago, none of this would have been possible for me. I would not have written about personal issues in the newspaper, published a photo of myself in a swimsuit, or danced in a parade. Getting healthy is a process and I’m willing to do what it takes to make a lifelong change.

If you know of anyone who has gone through this process successfully, get in touch with me at 505-286-1212 or find my group on Facebook, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to feature their stories here.