I think all kinds of rubbish. I think of ideas for books, whether I have enough bread, how long the drying will take, whether I’ll ever be slimmer, how fat I am, whether I’ve got enough money coming in this month, how the Romanian entry for this year’s Eurovision was robbed, how many times they say “Fahmly” on Eastenders…
Of all of those, it’ll be the ones about my weight that stick and affect my mood.But I’m starting to realise that they don’t have to.
I’ve been reading books about how we can control our thoughts. We’re bombarded with thousands of different thoughts every minute, some fleeting, some which stick and rattle around in our brains. Some of them we feel like we have to act on. In my case, these are the pesky ones. Those and the ones that get trapped in my head and make me feel bad.
So, it turns out that you can switch thoughts off after all. And that fighting them won’t get you anywhere. What you have to do is just observe the thoughts. When you get an urge to raid the kitchen, even though you’re not remotely hungry, and that internal battle starts driving you crazy, stop arguing with yourself!! No, honestly.
Arguing with yourself isn’t going to help and the more you fight the thought, the louder it gets. You know that, right? According to some clever people whose books I’ve been reading, you can just ignore the pointless, nagging thoughts you do battle with, and not just the thoughts about food or weight. A lot of our regular pesky thoughts are just habits – reactions that we’ve had so many times we don’t even realise we’re doing it. Google ‘addictive voice recognition technique’ – you’ll see what I mean.
Those Pesky Thoughts
Can’t stop thinking about your ex? Worrying about bills and it’s 3 am? These thoughts make you feel like shit, don’t they? I know how it is. I’ve done all of it, the lying awake all night worrying that I’m not going to get any work this month, that I’ll not be able to make the rent, then I’ll be evicted or bankrupt and have to live in a box under a bridge. I’ve worried and fretted myself into a frenzy about my love life – the ex that didn’t want me, how mean my husband was, all the horrible things he did… Will I ever find a man? Will I be alone for ever….
…and there’s the biggie. I want a biscuit. I want something from the kitchen. I’m hungry. No I’m not. I want to eat. But I’m fat enough already…
It’s all in your mind
It’s only thoughts. They can’t make you do anything, and they don’t have to make you feel bad if you know what to do. I’m finding all these thought control techniques really fascinating stuff and I’m working on fighting them and teaching myself to separate the thought that pops up in my head from the action (going into the kitchen, hoovering up available carbohydrates and feeling grumpy afterwards) and from the feeling (stressed and anxious).
Stop and observe
Next time a thought pops up that you don’t want, try just observing it. So you see a headline about obesity and whether you like it or not, that inner bitch pipes up, “Fat people are gross” Instead of arguing, say to yourself, “Really? Well, that’s an interesting thought.”
The circuits in your brain aren’t used to that. It might take a few attempts, but eventually you can train yourself out of the beating yourself up cycle. The grass will start growing over that particular self-flagellating neural pathway as you get used to ignoring the snarky thoughts and treating them like pesky toddlers trying to get your attention by pissing you off. They are just thoughts. Observe the thoughts, say to yourself “Interesting words” and move on.
Likewise, the compulsion to eat/drink/smoke is just another type of thought, according to Jack Trimpey, who came up with AVRT. His views on addiction are controversial but I can see how they might work for a food addiction; you don’t HAVE to act on every thought that makes you want to over eat, you know?
Does it work?
I tried it myself the other day, all I wanted to do was stuff my face after speaking to my mum about the latest discussion she’d had with the hospital about my dad. I was in a really emotional state and my first impulse was to distract myself with food.
I bought the food, anticipated scoffing it all the way home, then told myself that I didn’t *have* to do it. I could choose to eat or not eat. There was no judgement if I did, but I didn’t have to. The thoughts making me feel desperate to get home and eat chocolate were just thoughts. They couldn’t MAKE me eat the contents of the carrier bag. For a while I went off the idea. The urge went away and I calmed down.
OK, so the thoughts came back and I didn’t manage to stop myself the second time around. But I reckon it’s worth another go. I’ve stopped a few ‘fat day’ thoughts in their tracks and told myself it’s just a fleeting thought, I don’t have to dwell on it, and you know, they do go away!
Worth a try if you’re an over thinker?