I thoroughly enjoy workplace celebrations—retirements, birthdays, departures and awards. We break the day, conspire to purchase gifts and knickknacks while the honored staff blows her nose in the bathroom and pause to acknowledge one another as entities beyond our prescribed and neat roles. Fantastic!
What gets tough is negotiating celebration foods with one’s wellness plan—particularly if one has issues with over and emotional eating.
Last week I had cake. Not a problem. I repeat: Not a problem.
Last week I had cake; ate half of my staff member’s thank-you cake by picking at thin slice after thin slice. I kept dodging the inscription so that when she returned the next day, she would at least see thank you and her name. Few hours later, the remnants were a “thank” and an eaten into “you”.
This happened on the last of four consecutive days of five-hour workshops with 45 local Delaware County high school students on career exploration and college prep.
I lost it—composure. I pulled out the all-natural Breyer’s ice cream, went to the top of the microwave and devoured my staff member’s going-away, vanilla-frosted chocolate cake from Genuardi’s
My stress management routines were no match for the crashing that landed on the fourth day after all the students had left.
Workplace wellness is a different beast than wellness in the safe haven of one's home. At home, I have my wellness tapes, cedarwood Japanese incense and only fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the fridge. Add that to only having water, tea and cherry juice to drink. I couldn’t go wrong even if I wanted to there. At work, however, it is a battlefield.
There are going to be work lunches, coffee and sweets and farewell parties at our offices. We have to become squirrels and stash away healthy alternatives as our go-to when times get rough. Stash in desk draws, work refrigerators, closets, cabinets and the list goes on.
Stashing healthy alternatives at work usually does not cross our minds because we think of only buying food for our private lives. Well, the private and public are connected and will spill into each other. We must support our wellness everywhere. I would even argue we must have greater vigilence in the workplace due to the fact that it is where most of our stressors lie.
On a second note: Really, eating cake and ice cream at any celebration is not an issue in and of itself. Usually, with food, the issues lie not whether it has too many fatty contents or carbs but in what we bring to it.
My mom is teaching me this over again.
We echo back to each other that nothing is in insolation. All comes from somewhere, is connected to something.
Last night, while parked in Center City, plugged in my earphones and returned my mother’s call. In listening to my latest wellness stories, she recounted a litany of questions:
1. Do you eat when you’re not hungry? (YES!)
2. Do you go on eating binges for no apparent reason? (I go on autopilot while eating and often do not remember what my food taste like.)
3. Do you have feelings of guilt and remorse after overeating? (I tried to hide the cake in my office’s refrigerator.)
4. Do you give too much time and thought to food? (I think about food every hour.)
5. Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone? (I sneak into my office’s kitchen, leaning on the counter with my back to the entrance and grab a pretzel or Tootsie roll when no one is paying attention.)
6. Do you plan these secret binges ahead of time? (I do.)
(Questions from a list of 15 by Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org)
And the list goes on. I replied yes to all of the above.
My mother followed essentially with, “me, too.”
Nothing is in isolation. As my mother struggles with anxiety, I struggle with anxiety. As I struggle with overeating, she struggles with overeating. Our struggles have been passed down.
How do we break generational bondage? How do we disrupt these patterns of disharmony?
We start by calling the kettle black.
You cannot fight what you do not identify. Otherwise you could be chasing the winds looking for water.
By eating cake, I did not tarnish my increasingly healthy diet. With all the fruits and vegetables I intake thanks to Juice Plus+, my body has become an efficient toxin-eliminating machine that processes out the occasional poor dietary choice I make in less than a day. A slice or two of cake and ice cream would not even show up on any measure of my body also due to working out every day for at least 30 minutes.
Cake is a food not the issue.
Every other night my mom and I talk about wellness and a group that she introduced me to: Overeaters Anonymous.
In elementary school or high school or college or as a young professional, the day my mom and I could talk frankly about weight, wellness and being whole could not arrive soon enough.
Anxiety runs deep in our family. We have for generations used food to medicate. Call the issue what it is to its face—an issue—something in need of addressing.
Eating half of that cake and a third of the ice cream made the following stark for me: Although I have adopted a healthier lifestyle through working out and supporting my body with more fruits and vegetable via Juice Plus+, I have left a realm untouched: Anxiety.
In this society, mental illness, depression and anxiety are stigmatized. It is something we sweep under rugs and, thus, do not handle in healthy ways. I have known for years that I have issues with anxiety and paralysis. I have not dealt with it well. The dis-ease will appear on the surface. In this case, it was through food.
Food is my wellness barometer. What is yours? I know my progression to wellness by how fast I eat, when I eat, what I eat, with whom I eat and where I eat. What is your wellness barometer?
I am still in the dark about and have a long way to go regarding unpacking why I over and emotionally eat. What feels reassuring is that I know my disorder has a stem. I have a buddy to take this journey with me: Mom.
Next Monday, I am attending the Overeaters Anonymous meeting with my mom in New York. She invited me.
More than inviting me to a support group, my mother has taken a scissors to our generational pattern and instructed me to keep cutting.
"Common Reasons for Overeating" by Christopher Jacoby
This Wellness blog is to share the author's trials and triumphs in becoming more present and centering her daily routines around health practices that build from the inside out.
It is her hope to spark dialogue and resource sharing as well as encouragement for those newly embarking on their journey toward healing all over.
(This is a personal blog with resources for educational purposes only.)