It’s All in My Head

What a mind game this is for me.  Eating healthy.

Some days I have it.  Some days I don’t.  The mental aspect, I mean.  The piece that really makes the difference for me.

When I shared, some time ago, my desire to be normal with my eating, this was a piece of it.  And some days that piece is a square peg that won’t fit into a round hole no matter how hard I try.  But some days that piece fits together with all the other pieces and completes the puzzle with little or no effort.

Recently, I had a few very easy weeks.  I didn’t know why and I didn’t question myself.  I just accepted that the switch had flipped and I was not only eating well and less, but the mental aspect was there.  My thinking was… well, I don’t know what my thinking was.  But I know what it was NOT.  And it was not obsessing about food or feeling deprived or anything along those lines.

This past week, however, my thinking was labored.

So, because I often get caught up in over-analyzing things, I have spent some time wondering what changed.  What’s different.  And how to get back to where I was.  Because I like that mental place better:)

I think it started with my trip.  Some of the off-plan things I ate.  And over-snacking on the plane.  Which in and of itself was not really so bad.  But when I got home I brought with me some travel snacks that I don’t usually keep around and my mind kept visiting them.  And wanting them.  And I suspect the stress of some things going on at the time was contributing even though I was not consciously thinking “I am stressed so I want to comfort myself with food.”  And I didn’t feel well, either allergies or a cold, something off.  I wasn’t drinking as much water or eating as many vegetables.  I didn’t even exercise as much as usual.  It was all sort of slipping, just a bit.  Not enough to worry me that I was on the road to “out of control.”  But enough to set of a little alarm in my head.  Ding, ding, ding, you ding dong.  (Oh now I am thinking about the chocolate cake Ding Dongs!)

I like myself better when I am the person whose head is on straight about eating.  I like life better.  I want to be back at that place that was feeling great and filled with optimism and almost, dare I say it, easy.  I’d like to say I know exactly what to do to get there.  But what I know is that it really isn’t about DOING anymore, it is about thinking.  And being.  Which in turn lead to the doing.

Once upon a time I thought that I just needed to DO it.  Me and Nike.  And maybe, some days, doing it is enough.  But my new paradigm is about what is going on in my head as much as what is going into my mouth. I keep reflecting back to the few recent weeks when I felt different.  Felt good.  Felt right.  Felt close to normal.  And that feeling is what carried me through the days of eating well, not the other way around.  Maybe it’s a chicken/egg conundrum.  The action vs. the mindset.  But it sure feels to me right now that my mindset is the missing piece that keeps the puzzle from completion.  That the mental aspect is driving the other aspects instead of the other way around.

As I sit here and write this, and ruminate, and speculate, it strikes me how often on this journey I have changed my thinking.  Let’s say I have “evolved” my thinking.  Puts a more positive spin on it, I think.

My husband has forever been espousing that exercise is mostly a mental game.  Clearly, the other components of healthy living are, for me, as well.  So time to get my head in the game again.  And out of the food gutter.

Did I make sense here?  Any mental game playing in any aspect of your own life?



Filed under emotions/emotional issues, making a change, optimism

68 responses to “It’s All in My Head

  1. Honestly? The mental part of all this wears me out, so I just ignore it. Or tell myself I’m ignoring it. Maybe one day I’ll actively work on it, but for now I’m okay just being as I am. Mostly. 😉

  2. JourneyBeyondSurvival

    STress. Does it to me every time. I think identifying it is crucial!

  3. Oh boy, this is a deep one! And goes right along with what is rolling around in my head to post later today. How I wish I could get to the place Cammy (above comment) is and could just ignore the mental part. But for me, the mental part controls it and like you, I’ve made strides, but still have a long way to go in identifying the way to nip it in the bud that words for me.

    • Karen

      And what really slays me, if I think about it, is that once upon a time I didn’t have all this stuff going on in my head. Or with my eating. Sigh.

  4. It’s hard to get back in the game if you are mentally somewhere else. Lack of sleep, travel, anything that breaks routine always does it for me. It takes a week of more vigilance and planning to get back in the groove for me!

    I also do not have snacks around the house when I’m not thinking straight!

  5. Yup, the mental part is…well…mental. I think it’s vital to get yourself mentally in the right place and it sounds like you’re a bit like me – if the bad things are there then you can’t help thinking about them and wanting them and craving them and that makes it that much harder to have a good, easy week.

    Some people will advocate a little of what you fancy but I am the other way, i say avoid what you know you can’t have and then you won’t consider it as temptation because you never have it available.

  6. Well. I’m glad…and sorry…to say that I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    Here’s what I want to know that I don’t: What makes the diffeernce happen!?! !! Really. I had a perfect week until Saturday. P.E.R.F.E.C.T. It was as you described. easy. nice. like a genly flowing steam. nice. peaceful. I know I said nice twice, but it WAS nicee.

    Then, turbulent water. And I feel like I’m overwhelmed by it. And the whole time I was in the nice week, I kept thinking, what is making this so EASY? Why is this so pleasant? Why don’t I feel deprived.

    I didn’t think the deprived part at the end of the day. It didin’t even occur to me to think it earlier. And I’m telling you, I was only eating between 800 and 1200 calories a day for a week.


    Uh-hmmm. Okay. I’ve just done a poor rewrite of your postt, but I want some commenter somewhere to give me the answer! :} Paleeeeaaase.


    • Karen

      I know! And by that I mean “I don’t know!” I did briefly ask myself what was different when I was cruising along. But then decided just to accept instead of questions. And motivation sometimes is here and sometimes vanishes. I don’t get it. Sigh.

  7. Okay, so let me ask you this…can you identify a patter of feeing in control versus not? I definitely notice that MOST of the time I am in a good place with food. Then, there’s a few days each month, generally right around the time I am supposed to get my period, when I am hungrier than normal (and crave more carbs). I used to be more out of touch with my body and just assumed that on those days it meant “I can’t control myself.” And it’s because I was eating more overall and yeah, there was a mental component of that…using food to cope.

    But the thing was…it was NOT all in my head. Part of it was physical imbalance and it was my naturopath who got to the heart of the problem. I have come to understand that our bodies can be just enough out of whack to make us feel like we can’t control ourselves around food.

    Food for thought.

    • Karen

      Interesting. I know that monthly timing thing was not at play here. But I do think a big part of it was just having some “healthy” food in the house that I don’t usually have and so I kept thinking about it and then when I ate it things escalated. There is a reason I don’t usually keep that stuff around!

  8. I’m where KCLAnderson is – and then I try to do what Cammy does and not make judgments about it. Each second of each day doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t receive a daily grade. It’s how things are over time that is important. Maintenance and progress isn’t linear, at least, not for me, and I’ve decided to have faith in myself and just be okay with that.

    • Karen

      It is sooo not linear! Maybe my problem is that I am a very linear thinker:( I love how you say you have faith in yourself. That might be something for me to work on.

  9. For me Karen. it all is mental because it is what I tell myself in my head that gets me doing what works for me. If I want to get too far off track, it is the mental that grounds me…. that “willingness” to do it – my mind saying it is worth it… we are all different & I hope you find what gets you to those feel good days!

  10. KCLAnderson(Karen) said what I was thinking. I’m with you: there are times when everything clicks and flows, and other times…well…”other” times.

    And I liked what Roxie says about not making judgments about what you did. State it as a fact. It happens. It will happen again. Clicking and flowing will happen again, too.

    • Karen

      Ah yes, but just when I think I have it all under control, sigh, I am reminded that I don’t. And maybe “control” is never going to be part of this.

  11. Ack. I wrote this long and elequent…or rambling…rerspose and it got lost.

    Basically, I said, “Me, too. and I want to know how to get nice and easy back, please.”


  12. Your statement: But my new paradigm is about what is going on in my head as much as what is going into my mouth.

    Karen, this is 100% true. If we get our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, etc. in order/healed/worked through/etc., only then can we really move forward and allow eating healthfully to come naturally.

    • Karen

      What is interesting about your comment is it brings home to me the idea that a lot of this process/journey/whatever-we-call-it ties in with our personalities. I can see you and your words in this, from what I have learned about you in your own posting. And you are, IMO, clearly a thinker:)

  13. Does this week of frustration happen to be a week that is in a normal monthly cycle? I know that all bets are off during that one week, then I can relax and be who I want!

  14. sunnydaze

    It really is just a mind game, isn’t it? Mindless eating, eating when we’re not hungry…

    • Karen

      If I did not think about the head games, and only about the action, that one little thing would be the key for me: only eating when I am truly physically hungry. Sounds so easy. Not.

  15. Dawn@LightenUp!

    Isn’t it odd…I always do my best with eating when I’m mot stressing or thinking about it. I’m with you!

  16. I love all the responses in your comments! I am sorry I don’t have anything new to add but to appreciate the sharing!

  17. It’s nothing BUT a mind game. It’s just that sometimes, the mind part is unconscious (subconscious). But Grace is also right; any type of stressor to your body (which includes but isn’t confined to the mind)…you’ll be ‘off your game.’ Traveling, even somewhere fun, is a stressor to the body. (whether by air or car.) I’m sure by the end of the game you’ll be back on your game. Heck, just ruminating about it is a step or two back in that direction. You are doing great! 🙂

    • Karen

      Thanks, Sunny. And already, just a couple of days later, I am almost back on track. I would love to say totally back on track, but I am trying to be honest with myself. I still find that I eat some healthy snacks when I am not truly hungry. Working on it:)

  18. Jan

    I believe the major goal is for one’s way of eating to be as ingrained as the muscle memory of riding a bicycle. Doesn’t mean we won’t get shaky at times on 2 wheels, but we can effortless stare down a Ding Dong (toss it away in my case), walk past ice cream without cringing, have emotionally trying times without yearning to lean on unhealthy foods, and generally glide through the rest of life eating and breathing and moving and loving.

  19. I found all the over thinking I have done lately has hindered my weight loss 😦 That’s why right now I’m like okay it’s not about losing weight, it’s about being a healthy person, any weight loss is just a bonus now!

    • Karen

      I think I agree. But for me part of being healthy is thinking like a healthy person. I’m certainly not there yet.

  20. For me it’s always a mind game first and foremost. Physiologic factors can influence my efforts, thinking and behaviors, but at the core it’s a mind game. You pose the elusive question, why then and not now?

    It makes sense to me that the travel and having less “control” over what food choices were presented alone would be enough to begin some hormone and neurotransmitter mediated physiologic changes – add in the subtler stuff about another child soon leaving the nest that, while positive, is still emotional…all probably played a role in the shift of your thinking.

    This will never be a linear journey – it’s fraught with all that life offers, and so being gentle with yourself will likely hasten the return of the easier days. You know I hear you and get it!

    • Karen

      Oh I am sighing heavily as I now think about the coming month that will all be filled with stressors as we get closer to my son leaving! But this week, despite more stress, I am not overeating because of it:)

  21. I get your post 100%. It is nothing BUT a mental game. Oh yeah, the just do it is out there. But really? Isn’t that just a mental game also? 🙂 If the mind is not involved, it’s not gonna work!

    • Karen

      I keep thinking, no pun intended, that if I get the mental piece all the rest will just fall into place. Sounds so simple.

  22. Ann

    I completely agree that where I am mentally has 99% to do with where I am health wise. It’s the absolute hardest part.

  23. Exercise is always so hot or cold with me and it is totally a mind-game thing. Now why I can’t stay on top of it I just don’t know.

    • Karen

      Oh you are not alone with that! What keeps me going with exercise is having someone to workout with. So at least when my motivation is lacking maybe my partner’s is not:)

  24. The hardest thing is making the decision to finally eliminate the trigger foods that cause this mental game to continue.

    As you know from reading my blog, I gave up snacking and processed sugars. Now I still will eat them if its part of my scheduled meal; otherwise, I don’t. Since doing this my mental state has become quiet, calm and its so enjoyable! I am no longer torchering myself of thoughts of food and snacking. Its not an option.

    • Karen

      I agree. And the foods that set me off were things I do not usually keep in the house but that are actually considered pretty healthy by most. For my trip I got a lot of snacks to pack since I knew that the time difference would make me struggle, as would having meals out of my control. I’m talking things like high fiber/low sugar cereal and protein bars and whole wheat crackers. They are all gone now:)

  25. It really is a mind game! I know this to be true. I don’t understand it myself.

    Why sometimes it is so easy to eat healthy and other times even if you are eating healthy foods (not junky carbs that create more carb cravngs) why does the desire to eat outside of hunger become stronger?

    I know for emotional eaters like myself, food is a comfort and way to soothe ourselves. I guess maybe it always will be something that has to be dealt with. Sigh!

  26. You really amaze me. To be able to consciously try and process all this is brilliant.
    As I was reading this, I was also thinking that you already do what I might advise someone else, or myself, to do, which is to have interesting things to do with our time… enjoy physical activity… use your mind for good…
    So, to read about your mental struggles unrelenting makes me so curious.
    What will it take? I would think you could just get on with your life now. You’ve done the work. You are basically at a healthy weight and you do exercise.
    What the heck is this dark alchemy that food can bring into our bodies? What is the need it’s fulfilling that no amount of wisdom or grace or good living can suplant?
    The more time I share with our fellow bloggers, the more I see that we’re all experiencing a very real phenomenon that can trap even the smartest, strongest people.
    I hope you slip into that easy flowing state again soon. Keep taking note of anything you can while you’re there. Maybe there’s a key somewhere.
    sorry this is so long…

    • Karen

      OMG yes!!!! What is it?! Why is it so elusive? And that weight thing… I don’t talk about it much because to me, so much of what we experience is shared regardless of how much we have to lose. I suspect that most who know me in real life would never guess at all the struggles I have in this are. Aaargh.

  27. Hi from SITS girls! I can totally relate to this. One week I’m doing really well. Excersizing, eating healthy, the whole 9 yards. Then the next week rolls around and all of my efforts go out the window. Its definitely a mind game that I’m constantly playing with myself, and I found that instead of counting all the calories I eat, I write down all the foods I ate that day. When I got back at the end of the day and realize what I snacked on, I’m more likely to not do it again the next day. It’s a slow process, but its starting to work! Fingers crossed it lasts!!

    • Karen

      I’ll cross my fingers AND my toes:) I made a change a few months back to tracking my food and it was eye-opening. But a lot of work.

  28. I like this train of thought, Karen. For me too, getting on a plane starts a chain reaction. I’ve even tried getting to the airport in time to search out some on-plan foods to either bring on the plane or eat before my flight. Yet, every time, they bring the snacks and my entitlement meter pings on HIGH, which then starts the ball slowly rolling down hill, even (or maybe especially) if I decline the snacks. Two flights (there and back) double the speed of the rolling ball. So finding some way to address the mental part of it, the stress, worry, anxiety, whatever IT is that brings up the entitlement stuff, is what is important.

    Also, I just think our lives are by nature not placid. We are not like a pond inside a deep underground cave, where the temperature and atmospheric pressures never changes (unless we are institutionalized on heavy meds). Rather, we are like a pond open to forces of nature, wind, rain, ice, heat, you name it. Waters in this pond cycle through times of calm and times of turmoil. That’s life. Maybe we just have to accept it????

    • Karen

      Yes, we need to accept it. But I also need to learn how to cope with it, adapt for it, and not let it control me. Sigh.

  29. I struggle with this too! Food has become such a focus for me, especially since having kids with food intolerance issues, nursing on a limited diet, and just plain wanting my kids to eat healthier, as well as my own desire to be back down to my ideal weight finally. Sometimes I find things are going well and eating is just second nature. But stress sure throws things out the window because I crave and obscess about food I feel is not healthy and want to avoid. In the end, I am trying to get back to moderation. Even the unhealthiest food is ok once in a while in smaller quantities.

    • Karen

      Ah, the “M” word. I don’t do moderation well. I wish I did. I actually have drafted a post that touches on that for next week but may not even publish it since I feel a bit like a broken record. I do wish I had fed my kids better when they were younger. Such picky eaters now:(

  30. Roz

    Hi Karen, what a thought provoking post. I guess everyone is different, but these thoughts will be part of MANY of our lives until our lives are over. But we take it day by day and do the best we can. Love your blog Karen! Have a good day.

  31. Karen, the only thing I see here is that your routine has changed. Speaking from recent personal experience, I do well when things are the same and I have my little routine going. The minute something changes, it completely knocks me on my rear and suddenly I’m left scrambling around trying to get back to where I was before ‘the change’. This is happening to me now. The thought of exercising and eating well is stressing me out right now because it’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve done it. All because of a mini vacation and the flu. You’ll get back there. So will I. Frustrating, yes – but we’ll get there.

  32. I believe there is a huge mental aspect to this gig. Sugar really pisses all over my mental health (sorry to be so blunt). I’ve been trying to figure out how I kept my head in a good place the entire time I lost 100lbs because it irritates that I keep playing with 20 now. UGH

  33. I certainly go through this! I will have a few days to a week where I am not really interested and thinking about food, and I love those days (few and far between, I might add). Then I’ll start over-thinking why I’m not thinking about food, and end up thinking about food… more than I should!

    • Karen

      Interesting, since you have been maintaining for so long now. I suspect I will always have to deal with this to some extent. Sigh.

  34. As someone who has had love/hate relationship with food since I was 14, I think the best way to approach a life style change is to go about it one day at a time. And the days you fall off the diet, my motto the next day is: get back on the diet. Just get back on. Keep telling yourself that until you’re on.

    • Karen

      And I can happily report I have been back on for several days now. And my mind is slowly getting back there. But oh how I wish I just could switch off thinking about food!

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