When my daughters were little our bedtime ritual included reading a book, saying a prayer, checking under the bed for monsters, tucking them in like a mermaid, and taking their emotional temperature.
This practice first started when I noticed their little minds spinning instead of winding down for the night. I asked if there was anything they wanted to talk about, but they were at a loss for words, even though it was apparent they were wrestling with something. I persisted until my eldest confessed, “I don’t know where to start – everything in my head is like a jumbled room.” I told her to pick up one item in the room and talk about it, and then another, and then another until the room was clean. After a brief pause, her thoughts, worries, and questions came spilling out in fits and bursts, and since then ‘Jumbled Room’ has been our code word to deal with emotional clutter.
What else do we hang on to that affects our mental and emotional health? For some it’s bad habits, or grudges, or an unbending mindset. For me, it’s my fat and my ‘stuff’. I’m an organized hoarder with OCD – I inherited this from my mother who hangs on to everything “just in case”. Her basement, dubbed ‘the warehouse’, is the quintessential jumbled room. I understand her need to hang on to these items because she grew up with very little. She has a hard time parting with anything she spent hard earned dollars on… her clothes from the 70’s, our toys when we were little, even the bomboniere from every wedding attended. In her case, her jumbled room doesn’t stress her out, the thought of clearing it out does.
However, clutter does stress me out. I like to have everything in its place – my stockpile of water bottles (labels facing forward), my canned goods (stored by type), my spices (arranged in alphabetical order), even the hundreds of books in each of my libraries (main floor: blog resources; den: scripts, books on writing; basement: novels, inspirational books, and kids’ books) – it gives me peace of mind knowing everything is where it should be.
Whenever my house is a mess it means my mind is jumbled. And when my mind is jumbled, I become mentally, emotionally, and physically paralysed. I don’t know where to start to regain order, so I procrastinate, and when I procrastinate, I eat. Hmmm, I guess that makes me a procrastinEATER. After a binge I hate myself because the house is still a mess, and I’ve ingested a trillion empty calories. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps me moving, but gets me nowhere.
Apparently researchers have found a link between obesity, OCD, and hoarding (Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 2008;22(2):243-252), and while I’m not the type of hoarder you see on reality shows, I still identify with the need to hang on to certain things that others might find useless, from my angel figurines to my love handles.
Ironically, I’m a spring cleaning junkie – it’s the High Holy Week in my OCD calendar. The moment I hear the first robin chirp, I take everything out of closets and cupboards and pile them in the centre of the room, determined to scrutinize the necessity of each item once and for all. And when I say ‘once and for all’, I mean year after year after year, and this year was no different.
I’m always enthusiastic when I set out on this task. I feel like an organizing ninja ready to attack the consumeristic fat that weighs me down. But what invariably happens is that I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tchotchkes that I end up ignoring it by burying my head in the fridge.
The same holds true when I step on the scale. Losing over 100 lbs is a monstrous undertaking – I look at the number flashing on the scale and get overwhelmed, so I deal with it the way I always do… avoid it until something forces me to take action, like a reunion, or an undesirable medical diagnosis.
This year, equipped with all that I’ve been learning and applying on my 12 in 12 journey, I finally took my own advice, I looked at my jumbled basement, picked up each item one at a time, and dealt with it.
I gave myself permission not to be perfect, but to aim for progress.
And little by little, I achieved the results I hoped for.
I asked myself two questions for every item I handled: (1) do I need it? and (2) do I love it? If I answered ‘no’ to one of these questions, out it went, and as such, I got rid of more stuff this year than in years past. This little pile, which I affectionately call “The last 10 lbs” is all that remains to be dealt with, and that’s okay – progress, not perfection!
I realize that the same principle applies for weight loss. I can only get rid of the body clutter one pound at a time, and that can only be achieved if I ask myself similar questions before I eat something, (1) do I need it? or (2) if I love it, will it help me, or harm me?
When taking on any insurmountable task the old adage “Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, life’s a cinch” makes perfect sense, and for those of us struggling with our weight, I’d venture to add, “Bite by bite, we’ll get it right.”
To view my Week 21 food journal, click here.