Your most important relationship
I was driving to work. It was 7:15am on a Tuesday.
I had meetings starting at 8:00am and was booked back-to-back for most of the day. I brought my lunch but couldn’t quite figure out, looking at my calendar, at what point I could actually eat it. I had three high profile projects in various stages of development to shepherd forth and a meeting with the CEO to walk through one of them that afternoon. Also on my agenda – getting my daughter to a doctor appointment, transferring money between bank accounts, and oh… Christmas shopping. Right. Someone is going to want a gift.
As I drove past one fast food place, I thought, “I love their breakfast sandwiches… I should…”
The next block, I passed a family restaurant and remembered the ad I had seen on TV just the night before about breakfast all day and a new steak and eggs deluxe something or other. What time was my first meeting?
Two blocks further was my favorite coffee shop. They have an egg and sausage wrap that’s really quite delicious.
The cravings continued to tease me until I reached the office. No, I didn’t stop. And it wasn’t because I have amazing willpower. It was because I wasn’t hungry.
I realized this when I passed the coffee shop but before reaching yet another family restaurant with bursting omelettes of goodness and syrupy french toast. I wasn’t hungry because I had eaten breakfast before I left the house. With coffee. Logically, I couldn’t justify taking the extra time to get to the office or the extra calories.
But I *felt* hungry.
Meet Sheila. She’s a gremlin.
That was my stress talking. Let’s call her Sheila. Sheila, my stress gremlin, wasn’t just talking. She was screaming. And twisting and biting. She was throwing quite the fit and crying, “Pay attention to me! Feed me!” And I very much wanted to listen to Sheila. I wanted to calm her down, help her find a happy place to settle in and not worry so much. Poor Sheila was so uncomfortable and it seemed the only thing that might settle her was a juicy, fat-laden, carb-heavy steak, egg and cheese bagel sandwich. With some hash browns. And maybe another coffee, extra light with two sugars.
I usually drink my coffee black, so when I’m throwing in the added junk, I know that’s Sheila making the decisions.
What stopped my car from turning into any of the beckoning parking lots and drive-thrus was rational thought. Rather than feeding Sheila, I needed to take some time to figure out just why I thought I needed food. I sat in the office parking lot for a few moments and applied some lipstick. A quick mental inventory told me that my 2pm meeting was a group call with another person presenting, so I could get lunch in at that time. Mental note: do remember the mute button; no one needs to hear you chewing. Ever. Two of my high profile projects were already in flight. The next step on one was a simple check in with the rest of the team to gauge progress. The next step on the other required me putting slides together and time was already booked on my calendar to devote to that. I was prepared for the CEO meeting and have no control over his reactions, so no use worrying over that. My daughter’s appointment was close to the office. And the Christmas shopping… well, that’s the fun part. So at the end of my mental inventory, the heavy burden of stress suddenly felt more manageable. I had a plan. I had it all along.
For me, a few moments of rationalization helped skew my day – and my diet – in a more positive direction. Perhaps for you, there’s a different process – meditation, self motivating pep talks, looking at photos of something you love… what it is that brings you mentally back on track and helps your own Sheila find a happy place? In my office, I keep a photo of my kids from a road trip we took over a year ago. They’re standing in front of The Alamo, smiling and relaxed. When I am feeling harried in the office, I purposefully pause to study that photo. That’s my mental reminder of why I do what I do… and that mini mental break is often enough to shake loose the coils of drama or chaos and allow me to regroup with purpose.
Our relationship with food is more habitual and more impactful than we think. In fact, most of the time when it comes to our relationship with food, we don’t think. That’s a bigger problem… because
our relationship with food is reflective of our relationship with ourselves. Tired of the adage, “your body is your temple”? Fine. Make it your Ferrari. Make it your tiki hut. Make it your little black dress, red shoes or any other icon that you feel represents your best “you”. Be Wonder Woman… or Cat Woman… or Xena the Warrior Princess… or any other figure you choose. Research has proven that if we preface a food decision with “Would Xena eat this?” our choices tend to reflect what we believe Xena would choose. We can and do indeed mold ourselves after our icons.
If you know me well, you know I’m not saying you should never indulge. I have never been known to turn down dessert. Or potato chips. Especially not potato chips… But as much as I love the potato chip, I love me and the life I live enough to say no – not all the time, but often enough. And believe me, each and every decision point is just that… a very conscious decision. And some days, Sheila gets her way. (But then it’s not just a handful of potato chips… it’s the bag. And some hot, crispy tater tots… maybe a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to top it off. Sheila can be a very hungry girl.)
Food is certainly an easy way for us to privately examine and really dig into how well we love ourselves. I’m not suggesting we all adopt radical diets nor that everyone should be a certain weight or maintain a particular BMI. What I am saying is that if we take a moment to be more mindful of what we put in our mouths, we’re being more mindful of not just of how we’re treating our selves, but why.
When you can answer the why, you can break through to any goal you set.