Monday, November 08, 2010

*heaves a big sigh*

Well, look at that! Another year of hard-out study is over and I can ..... do all that other stuff that's been slinking along in the background! This time next year I will be just finishing my bachelors degree, which will make it a nice, even 10 years from start to finish. Then I have to decide where to take it next in terms of post-grad. The big question is - do I want to actually become a practicing Psychologist (another 2-5 years study, depending on what sort of Psych I wanted to be)? I will make up my mind about this next year.

When I decided to take up my studies again, I had the option to complete my Health Science degree either with or without a major, and to keep my options open, I chose a Psychology major. At first, I really wasn't sure about it, and spent at least an hour a week wondering if I should ditch it and focus more firmly on the hard sciences. However, last semester I finally began to gel with it and connect with the idea of Psychology - what goes on in our minds determines our behaviour and our subjective experience of life. The reason I chose Psychology was that my first choice (Nutrition) was not available to extra-murals (fancy word for distance education students). And, as I run a business, I do need my study to fit around Sana Direct, not the other way around. Last semester I began to get into the final year papers and, once I got into Health Psychology, I started to see how this all links into things that really make me tick, like healthy lifestyle. Health Psych is a relatively new branch of Psychology - the first text for it was only published in 2002. It deals with things like the effect of (for example) stress on the body and mind and then, from the other angle, the effect of (for example) being obese or having a chronic condition, on quality of life. For instance, instead of seeing an overweight person, possibly with a binge eating problem, and taking a focus on their behaviour ('you need to eat less and exercise, here is a diet plan, go do it!'), we would take a step back and think about 'why' this person overeats and can't get motivated to move their butt. We would look at developing coping mechanisms for the stress in their life, time-management, self-organisation, self-concept, personal relationships and look at what in their environment might need to be changed. I know from my own experiences that if everything in your life upsets you, and food is the only outlet, then it is very difficult to change your overeating in the long-term. You have to deal with the context.

Now, what I am NOT saying is that a person cannot eat well and look after themselves even when life is crapping on them. Now and then, shit happens, and you deal with it, preferably without falling into a comforting pile of carbs. I am not saying that adverse circumstances are a worthy excuse to not even try - because keeping up your health under such conditions can, at least, keep one thing moving in the right direction. But, what I am saying is that if your job is toxic, say, you are being bullied, or you are in a abusive relationship, or you just have a personality that makes you perceive life as somewhat trying, then part of your getting healthy plan needs to involve dealing with that. This could be by developing a new attitude/coping techniques, or by removing yourself from the situation. I have done this myself.

I was once working in an office with a man that, for personal reasons (i.e. I knew certain aspects of his history that he would rather pretend didn't exist), wanted me out. He was undermining everything I did, taking credit for my work and blaming me for his mistakes. You know the sort.. very charming on the outside and deeply nasty on the inside. Daily he would insinuate that I was useless and I would hear him outside my office window going on and on to other people about how useless I was. During this time my binge-eating escalated and, no matter how many plans I made, every attempt to curb it failed. One day, in a moment of clarity, I was looking at his mean little face (he was saying something demeaning, I can't even remember what it was), and I just packed up my laptop and left. It was drastic action, and I had a few grave moments of self-doubt, but immediately the bingeing became much less and then stopped. After a few weeks of futzing around, I got myself re-organised and life started to chug along in a much more satisfying manner. This is Health Psychology in action - dealing with the problem by also tackling the context. Something to think about if you are having issues getting your behaviour under control. Consider yourself in context. You are not just a machine that eats and exercises.


As part of my Health Psych paper, I did a literature review on Binge Eating and Binge Eating Disorder, which was very revealing. You can see the quick communication poster that accompanied this massive review here. I have to say, my poster design skillz aren't really up to what I envisaged in my head, but it's probably interesting reading for anyone that has or used to have Binge Eating issues.


  1. You nailed something that I've been saying for some time. Yes, we have to short out our shit; but that doesn't mean we can't take some positive steps to improve our health/lose weight in the meantime.

    Nice to hear it confirmed from someone who knows what they're talking about. ;)

  2. Ooh, and welcome back to blogging!

    Hope you're having a celebratory glass of something now that all the hard work is behind you.

  3. Yes, there's a kind of fine line between understanding that you have stuff to sort out and using that stuff as an excuse to check out from self-responsibility.

  4. Hey Sara - Yay for finishing studies! Now you get to chillax a bit I hope. I liked your post and I think your comment above hit the nail on the head.


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