I’m revisiting my success story and plan as I start a new round of Maintenance FANS. It’s not really much new, but the emphasis on different things shifts over time. Do things shift because of where I am, or is it seasonal? Like when I started maintenance I was really focused on attitude and mental issues, but it was also winter then. Then I came to a greater appreciation of fitness and body composition. Now I’m back to focusing on diet and physiology.
I’m not sure if Emotional Regulation is really the biggest part of Maintenance of if I just think about it the most. I do feel like it is the aspect of maintenance people have the least ability to find out as much as they want from the internet, like they can about nutrition and fitness and to some extent attitude. (I think that attitude can be an external thing, though the decision to seek an attitude boost is an internal decision that can be made into a habit.)
Emotional regulation can be an issue for compulsive eaters (a significant but perhaps not complete overlap with weight loss maintainers) because many have used food to suppress emotion. I confess I watched an episode of Extreme Weight Loss, and they focus on the drama of big revelations to break cycles of addictive or dysfunctional behavior. While such big breakthroughs can be instrumental, it doesn’t take earth-shattering revelations or major paradigm shifts to deal with weight. I believe it is necessary to acknowledge small day to day feelings. Doing so validates self-worth.
One obstruction of acknowledging emotions could be the acceptance of some emotions. We might feel uncomfortable with anger or regret, for instance, either due to negative experiences with other people’s emotions or from common aphorisms that say we shouldn’t feel this or that emotion. Most such aphorisms, if taken in full context, probably go deeper into how such emotions can be understood and lived with. “Suffering arises from attachment to desire” might suggest it is wrong to feel desire, but it is one small statement out of the whole philosophy of Buddhism.
Just laying our emotions bare is not living with them. One might just as well plow dirt and then wait for the elements to turn it into a productive field. We do not simply listen to our emotions, but engage them in productive dialogue. If there are problems that can be addressed, we do so. If problems cannot be addressed, we can acknowledge that they are not our problem. I believe many people who suppress emotion do so not because they are naturally unfeeling, but they might be oversensitive to emotion. I can sometimes get overwhelmed with feeling upset over something happening on the other side of the world or even in a different time. Our news and social media bombard us with things to care about which we may not be able to do much about.
Then there’s things we can do something about. If such a thing is causing emotional distress, it probably needs to be looked at from every angle. Sure there might be someone in your life driving you crazy, but is it possible you are putting undue focus on that? I have an inordinate number of siblings and at least one of them is always doing something that I disagree with. But I can be grateful for every one of them. I have friends with few or no siblings and they find my family life to be fascinating even if it’s sometimes exhausting. It is very rewarding to be part of a huge family. And would I really want any of my siblings asking my opinion on everything they do? Would I want them to treat me that way?
There will be negative emotions we simply need to accept. There may not be another way to look at them. But if we have examined them thoroughly we can put them away without suppressing them. We have used our mind to deal with them instead of using food. And the next time they come up, chances are they will still belong where we put them.