When I was working at the Fruit Stand, I had an incredible mentor, who not only helped me become a better salesperson, trainer, and facilitator, but also inadvertently helped me through some of my depression and anxiety during the days of my eating-disorder-disguised-as-veganism.
Whenever we’d meet, he’d let me vent about the things in my life that weren’t working: my bad roommate situation, my job stress, my exercise addiction, my food troubles, and on and on. And after he’d listen, he’d look at me pointedly and ask, “So what are you going to do about it?”
And I’d pause, and then take a deep breath before plunging into all of the excuses for why I couldn’t make any changes, why I was stuck, why I was limited by time, money, and circumstance.
When I’d finished ranting, my mentor would allow the “poor me’s” to linger in the air before dissipating into silence–and then he would ask, “And how’s that workin’ for ya?”
The reason I mention this today is because it’s a simple little question that I think we’re often too afraid to ask ourselves when we’re caught in the throes of disordered behavior, diagnosed or not.
Do you feel like you’re constantly bingeing on sugar, a slave to that extra bowl of cereal, or desperately shoveling down fruit-and-nut bars at 3 pm to avoid blood sugar crash?
Do you have horrible stomach aches, indigestion, gas or bloating while eating certain foods that are staples in your diet, like grains, legumes, or even eggs?
Do you feel like you absolutely have to exercise, and if you miss a single workout you’ll be in a horrible mood for the rest of the day?
Do you feel like you’re stuck in your disorder (bingeing, purging, starving, exercising, dysmorphia, etc. etc. etc.) and nothing you can do will ever, ever bring you out so why bother?
The “poor me” response:
I need sugar to avoid a blood sugar crash. I can’t help it. I really love my Clif/Luna/Kind/etc. Bars, and I couldn’t imagine giving them up. I’d stop eating that extra bowl of cereal but it’s the only thing I look forward to at night…
I’ve always had stomachaches–this is completely normal. It sucks, but I have IBS/indigestion/acid reflux, so what can I do but pop a pill/not eat and hope?
Exercise is the only thing that makes me happy. Exercise is the only thing that keeps me from getting fat. Exercise is the only thing. Period.
This is who I am. This is my identity. I’ve talked to a nutritionist/personal trainer/psychologist/psychiatrist/health coach/OA group and nobody’s ever been able to change me.
And to all of that, I respond:
How’s that workin’ for ya?
The reason that I bring this up is not to castigate anyone, but rather to make myself accountable.
I’ve had a very rough couple of months since Paleo F(X). Besides getting hit by a car, I’ve had other stressors enter my life (read: I’ve allowed other stressors to enter my life), and I’ve fallen into some really bad behavior patterns in terms of my eating.
As a result, I’ve started to struggle with my food/sugar addiction, depression, and anxiety again.
I know what I could do to fix the problem (stop eating the problem foods, stop isolating, avoid triggers, meditate, etc. etc. etc.), but I’ve been giving the “poor me’s” freedom to roam through my thoughts instead.*
And how’s that been workin’ for me?
Well, to put it bluntly, I feel sick, stressed, sad, and out of control. I’ve been repeating ED’s whispered phrases (“you’re fat, you’re ugly, you disgust me”) out loud every time I pass a mirror. It’s not workin’ for me.
So what am I gonna do about it?
I’m going to take a good look at my situation, identify the parts that suck, and then get the hell out.
Does your current lifestyle mean you’re surrounded by your addictions (sugar, exercise, foods to which you’re sensitive or intolerant, people who trigger you or bring you down, etc…)? Are you waiting for someone or something (a different diet, a new exercise plan, your trainer, your doctor, your pastor/rabbit, your parents, your friends) to change you?
Here’s the thing: nothing’s gonna change until you do. So…
You have two options: you can keep going the way you’re going (poor me!) or you can get the hell out.
“How’s that workin’ for ya?” is the phrase that lit the fire under my ass and made me move to California (to change my living situation, my financial situation, and my career path).
“How’s that workin’ for ya?” is what made me realize that veganism wasn’t workin’ for me (bloating, weight gain, horrific acne, amenorrhea) even though it was supposed to be healthy.
“How’s that workin’ for ya?” is the little phrase I’ve held onto to help me refocus in times of stress and disorder.
It’s a phrase I need to repeat more often as I stop struggling with myself and start making healthy decisions again.
It’s a phrase I’ll leave you with as you start your week. I encourage you to look at your bad habits, your excuses, and your “poor me’s.” Take an inventory. And then, as honestly as you can, see if you like the answer to “how’s that workin’ for ya?”
And if you don’t, then step one is to identify:
“What’re you gonna do about it?”
*Don’t let the labeling fool you: free-range “poor me’s” are no better than conventional and grain-fed “poor me’s!”
PS On a totally unrelated note, my friend Billy Abel is releasing his very first album, and today marks the kickoff for his first tour. Billy is the kind of person who doesn’t wait for dreams to come true–he makes them happen, and it shines through in his music. I urge you to check out his stuff and then, if you like it, support him by picking up a copy of his CD in one of the following ways: