Separating Rational & Irrational Thoughts

3975200_b34337dacbI had therapy last night and, as always, it was a great session with Dr. G.

Now I’m going every other week, and we’re building off each past experience every time we meet. I’m much more comfortable, and it’s awesome how she really “gets” me…and helps me “get” me, too.

Captain Obvious would say, “OK, but she is trained to do this, Melissa.” This much is true.

Still, I marvel at the thought of someone who can really help me see me for me, and accept me as I am, helping me to sort through my thoughts — even if they’re not about anxiety or eating issues — teaching me techniques I can use for the rest of my life.

One of the biggest things therapy has helped me do is separate rational and irrational thoughts. This requires thinking before speaking, something I’m not accustomed to doing.

That said, I’ve really been trying to think more before speaking … to make sure that my spoken (or written) thoughts are rational ones, to make sure I’m not putting demands on myself that are too high or unnatural.

This also means gauging my audience and thinking about them before speaking: be it at work, at a social function, amongst friends, or even here on my blog ….

Which, in a rather long-winded manner, brings me to today’s post about how I’ve been feeling about my body lately, an internal battle of sorts: accepting myself as I am, or struggling to re-lose these last 10 or so again.

Since I’ve been blogging all week about eating disorders and some shocking things that I learned this week, I really had to think long and hard with myself about raising the topic I’m about to discuss, because I fear it might appear to be a slap in the face of everything I am preaching.

(But please hear me out anyway).

In addition to that, knowing that my audience varies from ordinary women who are interested in hearing someone like me ramble, women who are interested in losing weight, women who are suffering from eating disorders, women at various stages of the disordered eating spectrum, and men who have found a place here, as well … it makes it more challenging to talk about this, today, especially.

The last thing I intend to do is create more body angst for someone else, but I’d be lying if I didn’t share what I’m going through at the moment.

So it’s my hope that you’ll read it objectively and see why it is something I needed to raise now, culimating this week of such serious, critical discussions.

I hope it will serve as an example of the struggles in my own mind about how I’m handling things: even with therapy, even with blogging, the internal battles don’t necessarily go away. We just learn to see past them, work around them, change how we react to them.

OK, deep breath.

Last week, I noticed something in the mirror that I’ve not wanted to admit for a long time: I am softer than I was, or than I want to be. More or less, I’ve filled out over the past three years — not a lot, just 10 lbs. or so but enough to make a visible difference.

(In the grand scheme of things, I know being soft is feminine and beautiful. I also know my husband has always loved me and thought I’m beautiful– regardless of my size — and that there was a time when he was concerned and thought perhaps I had gotten too thin (for me).)

When I first lost weight, I was able to see my ribs very clearly; now they’re there, but sticking out as much. My hips bones, I can feel … but they’re now covered by a little extra meat. And my waist — while always the narrowest part of my body, looks very straight these days.

Basically, the very cues that alerted me to my newfound “thin-ness” in 2004 and 2005 were starting to hide under flesh in 2006, 2007 and 2008. I realize these thoughts sound horrible, irrational, ugly, vain and … dysmorphic. Especially in light of talking about all these scary pro-ana sites, etc. this week.

Please understand, I don’t mean to imply “bony” is sexy or a “goal” to have; it’s absolutely not — that kind of thinking is destructive and dangerous, and not at all what I’d want to be promoting here. I honestly just wanted to look healthy back then, and was surprised at myself when I got a “high” from seeing those changes in my physical self; it became a “barometer” of sorts for me.

Last week it hit me that, in 2005 (then age 25) when I was at my smallest… I had a body that I really loved, and in which I felt confident; I’d worked for it and I’d earned it. And in 2008, it’s just not there anymore. I’m still me — and I wouldn’t say I’m not confident … but the body love is not there.

But nor is the desire always to “earn it” (and maybe that’s ok: therein lies the struggle).

The thing is, I have gained a little weight, and I can actually see it — rationally. And here’s the frightening part: it sometimes scares me — rationally.

But it’s embarassing to admit, especially here on my blog.

I mean, here I am, in public, trying to be a positive role model, overcoming disordered eating and anxiety issues, blogging about these things. I’m in therapy, working hard to not put an emphasis on a scale or on my reflection … trying to loosen up my exercise regimen, etc. Trying to do all the right things, including sorting out rational and irrational thoughts.

And yet the internal battle between “Yes, I’m ok where I am, I’m making progress toward acceptance” and “Oh no, there’s more of me to love now and that scares me; I want to lose again” is still there.

Moreover, it’s not in my head; the weight is actually there. It’s rational, it’s real. I can see it in photos (especially in my face). The scale says so, and some of my 6s are snug, especially at the hips (always my trouble-spot when heavy).

I’m not exaggerating or asking for compliments; it’s a reality I’m facing. I’m not saying I’m “fat” — that would be irrational; I’m fit and healthy. And I’m not saying I need to do something drastic. Again, that would be irrational.

But I’m acknowledging something big… admitting to you, my readers, that this bothers me in a way I really didn’t think it would … and the mere fact that it bothers me is most disconcerting of all.

Not that I thought I was “over” this form of thinking … but I guess maybe deep down I was hoping I was.

The truth is, I know why I’ve gained weight since the summer. It’s part of the trade-off of my vow to be be less obsessive.

For example, I’ve cut back on my crazy gym time (still exercising, but not forcing myself to burn X calories a session); I listen to my body if I need a rest day (usually once a week); I’ve stopped weight lifting (no time, tsk tsk); I’ve not been walking at lunch (too cold); I’ve been lacking on my abs work; I’ve been eating too many Points to lose (I know I can’t eat my Activity Points and lose, yet I still do); and I haven’t been eating as cleanly as I could — more bread and stuff than I used to eat.

On the plus side, I still journal, still weigh and measure my food, still exercise regularly. None of that has changed, except my attitude towards these things: I didn’t want to have an unhealthy perspective anymore, and I’m proud of the strides I have made.

I’m 29 now, not 25 — and though I lost successfully back in 2004, it was my first attempt at weight loss. Now, I’m an old pro at Weight Watchers, for better or for worse. And I’m four years older, so it’s not the same game. And it’ll only get harder.

So here’s my rational question to myself, as this is where I’m still torn:
Do I want to make the efforts again to commit myself to absolute strictness to get back there? And … more importantly, do I need to? Will losing 10 lbs. really make a difference?

Some days the answer is a resounding “NO!!” In fact, most days lately, it’s that resounding NO. I don’t want to be in that mindset that led to obsessive behavior.

But other days, like last week when I saw a reflection that didn’t please me 100% … (however irrational it may sound) I do wonder if I’ll be even happier with myself if I was back to my comfortable weight range vs. accepting where I am now.

It’s a daily struggle, and not one I take lightly. Deep down, I don’t want to have to make the trade-off; I like my healthier approach and don’t care to go back to my old mindset.

With Dr. G’s help to sift through these thoughts and my own experience with weight loss, I know I have the tools and the know-how to get back to my comfy weight; I just need to do it, keeping in mind all I’ve learned along this journey.

The realization last week was a big wake-up call. All the more reason to be a little more diligent without compromising my newfound outlook. The best of both worlds!

And so as long as there are more positive thoughts than negative thoughts — more rational thoughts than irrational thoughts — I know I’m making progress.

One day at a time.

How about you? How do you deal with weight gain without obsessing?


23 thoughts on “Separating Rational & Irrational Thoughts

  1. Hi Melissa – as always, great insights. I’m in the same boat as you: a few pounds from my lowest, still at a healthy, fit weight but can’t see those hips anymore. I’m actually surprised at how well I’m dealing with it, though. Most of the time, I have little desire to get back down. On weeks I eat sensibly and really let myself enjoy indulgences without feeling guilty, and also exercise sensibly (I suffered from exercise addiction that led to knee surgery), I’m fine with the extra pounds. I feel like “this is where I’m supposed to be.” On weeks I eat or drink too much, over- or under-exercise and don’t treat my body nicely, I get mad and feel like I should try harder to lose. It’s funny how treating yourself like a friend rather than a foe really helps with acceptance.

    My husband and I just started trying to get pregnant (I’m 28, he’s 30), and I know that if I’m too thin it will be harder. So I’m really trying to be OK with the extra few pounds (and hope that before long, they’ll turn into a few more extra pounds! 🙂

  2. Hi Alison and thank you – sounds like we’re in a similar situation except you are more at peace — I’m working on getting there. Recently I’ve been feeling those nagging negative thoughts, but talk to me in a week and they might have all but gone away.

    Best of luck to you! We’ll be in that boat in a year or so — definitely have that on the brain, which is why I need to be at peace with my body ASAP! It’s a tough line to walk; loosening up too much will lean to a gain — but being too strict doesn’t work mentally. BALANCE 🙂

  3. Great post this morning. I really appreciate you being honest and realistic about your own body image. I fear sometimes that people get the idea that I still do not struggle, because some posts on my blog are on “good” days and everything seems right. But the truth is I know EXACTLY how you feel, and lately I’ve been a little less “obsessive” and can tell a difference. I guess what helps is know that going in the opposite direction is no life, and I FEEL my best right now. I know that whatever you decide to do will be of a rational mindset.

  4. Thanks Jenny — I love your blog, by the way! Can I add you to my blogroll?

    So glad you’re feeling so good right now — that really helps. this experience really IS a winding road.

  5. Your topic really hit home today. I just recently started getting help myself and since starting the recovery process have noticed physical changes in my body (not just a number) and am terrified. At my smallest I enjoyed being “cut” as I was able to see the “goods” from training so much. But now, with a few extra pounds, I am struggling to reconcile this. But I guess that’s what it’s all about right? Reconciling one set of ideas with a new set of ideas.

    p.s. I’ve been reading your blog for months now and look forward to your thoughts each day. Keep up the amazing job!

  6. Thanks, Leila –I appreciate it a lot. I love knowing people are reading and engaged — that’s what I was hoping. And if we can help one another … all the better!

    EXACTLY — I liked my “cut” body (for me — not compared to a celeb) and now I, too, am struggling to reconcile it. Shifting our mindset, our paradigms. “Reframing” 🙂 LITERALLY.

  7. Hi LIss – I feel you about feeling softer. I’m exactly 10 lbs from my lowest too. For me, I see some upsides to that, namely bigger boobs! But mostly, it’s not a pretty 10 lbs.

    But here’s the thing. I know everybody says, “Love your body, love your body,” but personally, I think that’s the wrong approach. It’s making the same mistake we make when we try to get bony – thinking that looking in the mirror should have more than an incredibly tiny contribution to our self love. Self love shouldn’t be about loving what you look like, be it your flat stomach or your jelly belly, it’s about loving your whole self.

    I do love my body, for what it does for me: Feels sensations good and bad, takes me running, rewards me when i eat well or train physically, heals from injury, moves me through this world, etc. And most of all, I love my body because it’s me. I can look in the mirror, feel yucky about my thighs, and still hug myself and feel pretty glad I’m me, in my body.

    I’m not saying there’s some happy schizoid place where you HATE your body and love yourself. What I’m saying is that it becomes much easier to accept your body when you put your focus on loving yourself at a deeper level. I actually think that when you truly love yourself, it’s impossible to “hate” your body, even though you may wish it thinner. But it becomes like, “Eh, yeah, could be thinner. Oh well!” Know what I mean?

    The problem is, sometimes loving yourself can be even harder than dropping pounds. That, as much as the obesity epidemic, is why crash diets and ana-trends will always have takers. Physical change seems like the shortcut.

    One more thing: I”m not saying you hate yourself and that’s why you’re bummed at the mirror. NOOO! I’m saying it’s an issue of shifting focus. I’m also saying I go through the exact same up and down of it all.


  8. Sara, as always, you know just what to say — thank you!
    (And sadly, I’ve never had a chest to speak of — regardless of my size! Consider yourself lucky!)

    What a great point to bring up — loving our WHOLE self, not the sum of our parts. I could even liken it to not picking the chips out of my cookie but eating the WHOLE cookie. Wow — what a mindshift … thank you! That really helps a lot.

    And what a beautiful reminder of all the things our bodies (and minds) do for us.

    I really like your approach and think perhaps it’s time to really think that way — not talk about it, live it.

    And the thing is, I don’t even hate my body – I just know how good I felt when I was “at my best” — which happened to be my leanest. Though in retrospect, I’m at my personal best (career, life, marriage, friends-wise) now … isn’t that a better way to think of it, huh?! 🙂 Truly, things are great in every other area!

    It’s definitely a mind-shift, a paradigm shift. Reframing to love the whole, not just the body.

    Thanks, as always, for the encouragement. And it’s great to know we’re NOT ALONE.


  9. Don’t have much to add other than I am in a similar position and agree, it really is a mental battle between loving one’s self “as is” yet wanting to lose weight. I am now a few lbs above the healthy limit for my height and that terrifies me. It makes me depressed and anxious and for the last several months made me turn to food for comfort (causing even more gain) I am in therapy now and dealing with the emotional eating stuff. People say you can’t successfully lose until you are more at peace with youreslf and love yourself as you are but it is hard to get to that place when your body is at a place you are not happy with. And while I have dealt with ANA in the past I am not dealing with distorted body image now. My clohtes, pictures, and the scale all tell me I have gained a good deal weight. Have even gotten asked a few times if I am pregnant!!!

    One thing, you mention having stopped weight lifting. IME, lots of cardio and no weights can actually lead to being “softer” and can in some cases cause your body to store fat. I would say cut back on the cardio and add back in the weights. It does wonders for body recomposition.

  10. This is something I’m struggling with a lot lately, as I am trying to take off the 5/10 lbs. I put on from being injured (I try not to weigh, I get obsessed!). I wish there were an easy answer or solution! 🙂

    I get caught up in WHY I am doing this – for me, or for other people? Sounds crazy, I know…in my head I know I need to do it for me.

    It helps to remind myself that I just want to be healthy. Working out (but not obsesively), eating healthy, and no binges. It’s amazing how doing those 3 things has an effect on how I see myself in the mirror.

  11. Hi Lara, me too — a couple pounds above (yet otherwise totally ok) and it bothers me. But it’s a vicious cycle, as you note. I think there’s truth to that — if we just let it be, it might work. Hard when we’re hard-wired to be anxious, on top of it …

    I do know I need to get back to weights; I always feel so good when I’m doing them and I do have two nights a week I could devote to them (when hubby is at class — no distractions). I need to make that a priority and I need to do my abs at night again. Random ab-work while watching Larry King doesn’t help!

    Hi Holly, it’s so hard when you’re injured, I’m sure. My husband experienced that with his broken hand. He’s lost most of what he gained this summer, but it was hard for him — he’s super-athletic and could do nothing!

    That’s a good question: WHY? I know I’m only doing this for me; the world tells me I’m fine as I am, etc. But it’s in our heads.

    Exactly — we want to be healthy. That means moderation of everything … we can do it!

  12. Hey, liss, check out Mark’s Daily Apple for some weights-vs-cardio stuff. It might inspire you to step off the treadmill and get back into weights. He is pretty anti-cardio, other than short duration HIIT training. He’s also anti-carb, but you don’t necessarily need to buy into that. (Although i personally think it’s all more or less right on.)

  13. Ooh he’s on my blogroll — will check it out.

    And I’m still a Precor whore 🙂 No TM for me!

    I do need to do more HIIT for sure … I don’t do nearly enough intervals.

    I’m not anti-carb, but I do know I could eat less carbs and be ok. But I don’t believe in banning fruit or veggies or whole grains entirely so I’ll take a look and absorb what I can. 🙂 Thanks!

  14. nono, he’s not for banning fruits and veggies. just grains, and in particular, processed grains. and not “banning,” just avoiding as a general policy.

  15. Oh ok — I can latch on to that; it’s Core, clean-eating. I don’t usually eat white breads or anything refined (save for some sweets) but most of my whole grains come from oats, bulgur, ww pasta.

  16. I understand what you mean, I live the same battle every day, and as we can see, we’re not the only ones 😛

    I asked myself a lot of times if I’d rather enjoy life a little bit more and cut back on the gym and enjoying food, or if I’d rather be like I wanna be physically, but avoiding any kind of events with friends and spend all my time at the gym…

    To be honest, it depends on the days 😦
    Some days, I wish I’d be very fit and not being distracted by food. And some days, I wish I could just stop thinking too much and let myself live. But even if my deep in my heart, I know that I’m pretty ok the way I am, I still see myself not ok ENOUGH… because of what? Because of the little tummy I have because I’m human? Because of my thighs that look big, but are in fact, just really muscular? Because my body isn’t the type of body I want?

    I had a funny situation yesterday. On my dance team, we’re 14 young women, almost same age. We’re all healthy, but it was amazing to see the 14 different types of body when we were changing. Larger thighs, smaller waist, big arms, flat belly, fit belly, long legs, short body… Some look a lot smaller when they’re dressed, and for some, it was the other way. I just thought… even if I try as much as I can, I’ll never have the body of someone else. I have my body and I have to like it the way it is.

    I’m also very concerned about the rational/irrational thinking. I always said to my therapist, when I was seeing one, that there are 2 me.
    One very sensible, everything comes from the heart, who wants to have fun, and the other one, colder, strict and logical.
    I don’t know which one to listen to, because both make sense and both are part of me…

  17. Wow, that’s a great post Melissa. It’s still a ways for me, but I sometimes wonder if body image is something that I will always struggle with on some level. Where I am at now, I definately know that if the weight went up on the scale I would freak out completely — I have a long way to go. You see teh super thin models and think it’s disgusting seeing their bones jut out, but I still want to look like a super thin model, lol.

    It’s great that you are being so honest about this. And I hope that I get to the stage you are at, where I can put on some pounds and feel comfortable maintaining that weight if I want… or feel secure being able to lose those pounds in a healthy manner, without going overboard or being obsessive.

    Thanks for the post.

  18. Nikita, I loved this: “I asked myself a lot of times if I’d rather enjoy life a little bit more and cut back on the gym and enjoying food, or if I’d rather be like I wanna be physically, but avoiding any kind of events with friends and spend all my time at the gym…”

    Loved this — and can relate 100%. I struggle with this day by day.

    And what an interesting observation — I have noticed something similar at the gym. A girl whose body I envy ends up being kinda flabby when she isn’t fully clothed; or someone who looks bigger actually had a tiny waist or something beautiful. We’re often our own worst judges. One of the women’s mags sent a woman undercover into a gym locker room to investigate how women react to other women; bodies, etc — turns out everyone was eyeing each other up with the same uncertainty, hesitancy — we’re all human and perfect as we are — but we don’t always “see” it.

    And I often feel like there’s 2 of me, too. I think both DO make sense — in tandem. It’s not so much as an angel or a devil but rather a combined “human” on our shoulders maybe, and maybe it’s not so bad to be able to see both sides. So long as we don’t go in the extremes either way. Maybe use it as a self-balancing act?

  19. Thanks Sheena, I wonder that too, if it’s something we’ll always struggle with. I guess the thing is, I look at those models and think they’re horribly unattractive — bones are NOT sexy to me; it’s scary to me to be that skinny. But we all have our own thing, ya know? Personally, I envy the bodies of fitness models — not body-builders, but the women on the cover of Women’s Health are always built — not ripped, but lean and built. I think that is so beautiful.

    Yea, a friend encouraged me to be honest about it — she called it being 3-D and really showing all of me — struggles and all. And that encouraged me to think about it and decide to post or not. It took a lot of effort and writing this last night was hard — very hard. Add to it that my husband just wanted to cuddle!! So since our time together is so rare these days, when he fell asleep, I finished the post!!

    You’ll get there, I’ll get there … one day at a time 🙂

  20. I can’t remember how I found your blog, but I’ve been reading it intermittently for a while now, and I thought that maybe I’d actually comment for once. I am either a highly disordered eater, or I have an eating disorder (I’ve never been diagnosed), but for the sake of my family and boyfriend (but mostly, so that I don’t have to torture myself over every single bite I take), I’m trying to recover from these patterns with the help of my therapist. I find your blog so comforting because it’s easy to forget that others share the same struggle.

    As you say above, it’s one day at a time, but it can be very easy to forget that one small slip-up shouldn’t have to sabotage the whole day, or week. Anyway, I thought I’d introduce myself so that the next time I comment it doesn’t seem so random, and I also wanted to say that I admire your courage in starting this blog (and recovering!) in the first place, and that you will always get support from me if you need it.

  21. Thank you so much, Jenni. That means a ton. That’s part of what this book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters is about — the millions of women on the cusp of EDs, and how even though we’re not clinically diagnosable, we’re struggling. Thank you for your kind words — keep reading, and make sure to check out some of the HELP links … you’re worth it 🙂

  22. so i have borderline and it creates allot of irrational thoughts and i wish i could find better ways for things and such but i think my girl friend is going leave me or cheat on me… but i know there irrational

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