Fighting the inner demons!

Part 3 of my journey to health and wellness – both physically and mentally

I started writing this blog back in November 2021. I was going to change the title, as I feel I am in control and able to deal with those inner demons. But I have decided that I want to explore this and hopefully provide a little insight to others that may be struggling with their own journey.

Life is never going to be a never ending love story of bliss, sunshine and walks on the beach. It is going to be chaotic, stressful, sad, frustrating and any other somewhat negative adjective you want to throw at it. But as the saying goes “C’est la vie”!

Inner demons are personal and different to each individual. We likely share some similarities, but like a fingerprint, there is a uniqueness about them.

Let me start by uncovering what the inner demons are – and I am not talking about diagnosis of such things as schizophrenia, or other such mental health issues, instead I am talking about those voices in our head that hold us back from greatness, from being a better version of ourselves.

Such things as what hinders my ability to improve my self esteem, why do I lose weight, then add it back on again – the inner demons that I allow to take over, and let me fail at something.

In many cases these can be attributed to learned behavior. This could be something from childhood, a survival technique to protect ourselves from environmental situations (no, not the weather, but our social environment).

For me, some of my inner demons are connected to childhood trauma, abuse, and other traumatic events that have occurred in my life. I don’t really want to unlock that pandoras box in this blog, but as I continue, I will provide some comparisons to some of those events and how they shaped some of my life, how I am now dealing with them and what I plan to do as I continue this journey to both physical and mental wellbeing.

Let us think about food for a moment – well maybe a bit more than a moment! When I was a child I had a very healthy appetite, I was also very active. I didn’t need my mum to tell me to “Eat all your dinner, else you don’t get pudding”. Oh no! I loved (and still love) food. Sunday roasts were a favorite meal of the week, and at a pretty young age, I was eating the same size Sunday roast as my dad (I shudder at this today!). My parents didn’t stop me, why would they? They already had a picky eater in my brother. Me? I loved trying new things, I loved all vegetables, especially brussel sprouts! There were no inner demons during this time of growing, they came along much later. But those early years did impact how those inner demons developed.

Roll on a few years, learning to cook for myself and my family was something I loved. I enjoyed making a meal from just a few pennies, I became pretty good at it. When you are on low income and need to provide for your family, you become pretty clever at all the different ways to use a potato. Back in the 80’s and 90’s potatoes were cheap, so they became the foundation of our meals. Some folks may remember those Bernard Matthews rolled roasts (I shudder at the thought of those these days). They were a cheap alternative to a turkey / chicken, which were things we would have on only special occasions.

Bernard Matthews Rolled Roasts

My weight issues didn’t appear until after I was married. Many people will say “that is contentment” – I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was far from contentment eating. But it was comfort eating. My environment wasn’t the best, and I found myself cooking to satisfy others, and I myself would turn to “junk” and other comfort foods (be it KFC, Crisps or multiple helpings of Mac and Cheese, or just whatever I could make from ingredients I had to hand). Portion control was non-existent, and in fact it would be many years before I actually learned about this.

Then there were the fad diets – remember the cabbage one – oh boy, I managed that one for about 3 weeks! I used to love cabbage, but wasn’t reunited with it for many years.

Jump forward to 2019!

I had some bad news from my doctor in July 2019 – not only was I obese, but my bloodwork showed some worrying signs that I was heading for a stroke.

As mentioned in prior blogs, you will know that I chose to give a plant based diet a try for a few months in order to see if I could improve my health numbers through my diet, rather than going on various medications for cholesterol, fatty liver, kidney issues and a few other possible ailments. It was a true wake up call to my health.

I had been feeling awful for a while. I was suffering with gum and tooth problems too, which are an indicator to other health issues. Bottom line – I was a mess!

I was doing well with my new eating lifestyle, and I decided to stick with it. But just because I am plant based, doesn’t necessarily mean it is all healthy!

Over time, I realized that many of the foods were almost as unhealthy as non-plant based foods. The type of processing, and some of the ingredients left a lot to be desired.

I digress – let us get back to the inner demons around food…

Different types of hunger

Dealing with different types of hunger can be a battle all of its own. We have different types of hunger, some being true hunger, while others are in our thoughts – those inner demons. Some food looks so good, others smell amazing, whether it is sweet or savory. So how do we challenge ourselves and determine what is real hunger and what is assumed hunger?

the most common types of hunger are “mouth” hunger and “stomach” hunger

Stomach hunger is known as “true” hunger – you body is telling you that it is time to fuel your body. This kind of hunger may not happen at your scheduled eating times, much like a baby, your body just knows it needs nutrition. On my own journey I am learning how to hear my cues for eating. Sometimes I eat breakfast at 8am and other times it is 10am. My senses are more tuned to what my body is telling me. It takes time to be able to recognize this true hunger (and not just your belly growling at you). We have been conditioned to have our meals scheduled around our days and our work. Stomach hunger is not necessarily associated with senses / emotions – that is more your “mouth hunger”.

Mouth hunger can be triggered by such senses as sight, “ooh look at that amazing cheesecake, my mouth is salivating” or smell, such as standing in a bakery for a loaf of bread, and then the smells take over and you leave with pastries, dinner rolls, sourdough bread, semolina bread and a baguette… recognize this in yourself?

Physical hunger can also be “hormonal hunger” – the “growling gremlins” (Grhelin, hunger hormone) and leptin (fullness hormone), which of course are closely associated with the physical hunger. The idea is to keep Grhelin satisfied, otherwise this can cause stress, dizziness and even fainting spells if not kept in check. Leptin is the hormone that signals that you are full – and many of us tend to ignore this, especially when our plates still have food on them, or that plate of yummy nachos still has a few crumbs left on it.

So how do we bring ourselves to rely on our bodies to recognize the signals?

It is something we have to relearn. Mix up your meal routine. Maybe take a day where you don’t eat at your set times, but instead focus on what your body (not your mind) is telling you. That could include skipping breakfast, or lunch. Oh my! Did I just mention the absolute “no-no” – missing breakfast? The meal that fuels you for the day? Yep! I did. Sometimes our body is just not ready for breakfast at 6am / 8am (or whatever time you have conditioned yourself to eat breakfast).

Now this isn’t necessarily the inner demon talking, but the conditioning of your mind over the years (except those baby years of screaming for milk…or pushing the bottle / boob away…babies just KNOW!). Your inner demon may be telling you that you must eat breakfast at 7am, because otherwise you will want all the pastries in the bakery at 9am if not.

The idea is to train your mind, and those voices, and listen less to them and more to your actual body.

The other inner demon is your “inner critic” – oh you know the one…. You decided on a salad for lunch, and there…across the room is someone tucking into a big juicy cheeseburger and fries…they are “perfectly” slim…. your inner critic is both cursing them and at the same time is lamenting that can never work for you.

Do your recognize any of these?

Life is so unfair

They don’t have to work as hard as me to be able to have that burger

I will never reach my goal

We need to train our inner critic. We are only seeing one meal that person is eating. They may have been on their own journey, and decided on a once in a year treat. We don’t know their story, and furthermore, we are all individuals with our own stories and journeys. Key here is to not look at what others are doing, instead focus on ourselves. Easier said than done!

Example for me – I have friends around me dropping weight so “easily”, and there is me on a damn plateau! I am doing all the right things, and my inner critic is trying to tell me that I am not as good as my friends, I must be doing “it” wrong. Erm…doing what “wrong” exactly? Life?

The comparison inner demon is strong in many of us that are on weight loss journeys – it is quite normal to compare ourselves, but we need to teach ourselves that we should focus on our own journey. We need to own it, be accountable for what we can control.

Self sabotage – and social media sabotage is one of the worst inner demons we have, and one of the hardest to control and let go of.

How many selfies does it take to get “the one” that you think is acceptable for social media? (Yup that was me!)

20th selfie to get that perfect “fit for social media” pic

Social media is a place where we try to create (or curate) a shinier versions of our real lives. Ever been proud of posting that perfect photo of completing a 5K, and then your best friends, cousins aunt posts her amazing half marathon finish (and she is 30 years older than you!)? Did it just make you feel so deflated?

Or you reached a weight loss milestone, and then you see a friend post that they reached their goal in record time – damnit! Why can’t that be me?

Yes many of us a guilt of the self sabotage, and social media plays a huge part. So how do we tackle this one?

It is a bit like peeling the layers of an onion. Now of course people don’t want to see all your “warts”, but those that know you, and support you, also know what real life is about.

So go ahead, post that photo of your with your hair a mess, no makeup and sweat dripping off your eyebrows and down your cleavage after a workout!

No makeup and all sweaty

In summary – there are a lot of things in life that will try to knock you off kilter. Real life is chaotic and stressful. We have to accept this, but we can work on our own selves and take responsibility to better deal with certain situations, especially those that tend to make us reach for that big piece of cheesecake. It takes practice, and it takes willpower – and we all have it, we just have to find it inside of us. And we don’t put it away when we reach our ultimate goal – oh no! We bring these good habits into our lives forever. What is the point of doing a year of yoga, reaching our goal and stopping yoga? We have to be ready to change our lives.

I will leave you with this question to mull over – What do you want your life to look like in a years time?

Being able to climb the subway stairs without getting out of breath?

Feeling comfortable at the beach?

And how long do you want to be able to do that? a month? a year? Oh…the rest of your life!

Take back control. Don’t wait for “next week” “next month” – there is no time like the present to start on a journey and take life-changing actions – however small you start.

I am still on my journey towards my weight loss goal, and then there is the “maintenance” journey beyond that…but today I am focusing on the things I can control, and denouncing those inner demons IS within my control!

Thanks for reading my blogs, I hope that my journey can help others to realize that we all the power within us to make the changes we want to see

Published by laurah66

Born and raised in England - moved to the US in 1998 - traveled all over. Animal lover, love to knit, write. Enjoy music, cooking, and since 2021 I have changed my lifestyle to include exercise as a priority in my life. I believe in humanity

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