Dieting, Isolation and Criticism’s Self-Doubt

One of the interesting symptoms of OCD is the need for reassurance. You seek it from yourself or others. I think this one symptom, which I never realized I did until the past year, can be crippling. I feel like it’s somewhat rooted in self-doubt and lack of confidence. But, also anxiety and the need to be perfect.

I have sought reassurance in many areas of my life. People sometimes see it as my ability to be honest and even vulnerable. But, really, it’s just seeking reassurance I’ve done or said the right thing. Or am justified in being frustrated, standing up for myself, or setting boundaries. Strangely, generally my intuition is spot on. Yet, somehow it never reassures me enough to not need reassurance the next time!

Diet and exercise can be a somewhat isolating experience. When I first got into working out, I was one of my few friends and family who did so regularly. Others either didn’t understand it or mocked it. When I started running, really no one I knew ran. There were a few “fun runs” but mostly they were just 5K races (or marathons) that were meant for charity purposes. Maybe for illness research or an occasional, rare holiday race. Now, there’s almost TOO MUCH connectivity for me.

When I first started working out, I wished a friend or two did my workouts so we could talk about them. I stumbled upon a chat room for the set of workouts I did, and it was fantastic. Well, until the diet talk started and I realized I wasn’t dieting “correctly.” But that connection with virtual friends who could discuss the workouts, offer suggestions for a struggle, or ideas for making a workout more challenging was fantastic for me. The diet stuff eventually made me feel a lot of doubt. And I started limiting how I talked about food.

Now there are an endless number of ways to connect about a diet or workout. But those groups, in my opinion, are steeped in judgement and competition. People seeing who can be the best, do more, or pick apart others. Unfortunately, I never feel adequate. And I also feel the extreme dieting, which I used to never know about, is EVERYWHERE. And competitive exercising, who can lift more, run farther or faster, do more pullups, do more deadlifts, deadlift more, deadlift faster. It’s endless.

So how do you find the support group you need? I’m not sure. I really struggle with finding healthy connection, and even question WHY I need it at all. Why can’t I put my head down and just do what I enjoy? A variety of workouts, not one specific plan. A variety of food, not one specific plan. It’s like I need reassurance I’m doing it right or well enough.

In fact, writing this post, and the entirety of this blog is my need for reassurance. It’s as if I feel like I push the idea out into the great wide abyss, it somehow validates I’m doing the right thing.

But the other side of things is I know there’s no one way to be healthy. I’ve preached this since I found my way out of the paleo rabbit hole. I know some people can probably do paleo OK, eliminating the foods that bother them, and not getting extreme or judgmental. In fact, as part of my attempt to “immerse” myself in some triggering environments, I went to a paleo group today. I expected it to be worse than it was. There are always some level-headed people in every group. But also some judgmental assholes. When I’m not in a certain way of eating, I can see the level-headed people for the real leaders in the group, and the assholes as the unhappy progress killers. (This is not unlike work. The encouraging people who want progress are the natural leaders. And the people who judge everyone or make it harder than it needs to be are the ones the leaders have to lead.) It’s interesting those assholes have louder voices I give more credence to when I’m not just a casual observer. Good takeaway.

However, it seems no matter what I do, I need someone to tell me I’m doing a good job. I’m going to work more on reassuring MYSELF. Not by doing checking or reading to reassure me, but simply appreciating the things I’ve wanted to do that I’m doing. For example, I’ve been walking 2-3 miles most days. That was my general plan: walk 2-3 miles most days. So on days I walk, I need to be proud of my accomplishment and say, “Good job, me!” On days I don’t walk at all (unusual) I need to say good job for taking a break and not burning out. On days I walk but don’ t go two miles, I need to realize my goal was MOST DAYS. And walking even a mile is an accomplishment. And no matter what I do, I’m still walking 2-3 miles most days. So great work!

Same with diet. But it’s far more complicated to be as clear with my goal. since setting food goals is harder, but also induces more and more complexity and obsession. So I’ve started to set less “this is good, do this so may times” and work toward intuitive eating. Right now, the things I’m working on:

  1. Be aware when I’m talking diet rhetoric to myself. Counting calories, thinking a food I want is “bad,” or trying to eat less. Simply acknowledge these thoughts and let them go.
  2. Eating for satisfaction. What will satisfy me the most? This isn’t about eating protein to stay full. It’s being aware when I am hungry (or full), and thinking about what will satisfy me. I also have to be aware of NOT eating when I just want to eat something I’d planned to eat. This can be more complicated as I prepare more and more foods I want to try or am looking forward to. But I’m working toward simply eating when I’m hungry, and only eating the meal that sounds satisfying.
  3. Branch away from “weight loss foods.” For example, I used to try to eat the lowest calorie thing, even if it didn’t taste good. And often those foods didn’t satisfy me. Instead, I’m trying to be more adventurous with cooking, or even eating out. Try new dishes, and explore different cultures. It’s hatch chili season, so I bought some chilis, and made some dishes this weekend. I also wanted to try making gyoza, so I put together some gyoza this weekend. I also want to make falafel. So I’ve researched some recipes and want to make falafel, fattoush salad and tzaziki.  I’m excited to try new, interesting foods. So sometimes this makes me want to eat even when I’m not hungry. But being intuitive about it, realizing the food won’t disappear tomorrow if I don’t eat them today, and that it’s OK to make foods, not like them, and move on without being a failure. Often a whole recipe is cheaper than a single dish at a nice restaurant. If I ordered a restaurant dish and didn’t like it, I’d move on. So I’m trying to explore more, take more risks, and really enjoy eating again.

Right now, these are my goals. A few of my “friends” mocked my attempt to eat intentionally. Saying intuitive eating is just another diet scam, and the only way to lose is to exercise more, and eat less. But, let’s be honest, that’s a short term solution, at best. So why not try something new? Why not try some variety? Why not really try to eat things that are satisfying in my soul?

The hardest part is going it alone. Having a hard time connecting with others over my journey. But just as I’ve chosen a life single, rather than getting married and having children, and have had several jobs that I’m the only one in the role, often charting a path that’s better than the person who gave me the job saw, I truly enjoy those journeys. So, why can’t I can also take this path alone? Friends who are real friends will be excited I’m trying more adventurous foods. I’ll keep moving forward, keep adapting and changing, and I have faith that I will eventually find my way. Despite feeling more isolated. And I’ll overcome my self-doubt and work to quell the need for reassurance.



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