What do you do when food calls your name and you just don't have the strength to say "No?" It's entirely up to you, but I've learned that trying to control my eating without confronting what I'm feeling, is a promise of pain. When facing an uphill struggle, it's like being at the top of the roller coaster, there's nowhere to go but down. If I'm in that vulnerable place, I willl eat and question the reasons why, later. As I tell my clients, "there is no shame in overeating. Sometimes it's the best that you can do.
Bust down the cycle of food shame by forgiving yourself for overeating
Earlier this week I ate way too many of the milk and dark chocolate crisp fudge-filled hearts that have been sitting in the box on my kitchen counter. And today along with having a past its prime chocolate eclair ice cream bar in the dead of winter, I also ate the chocolate-covered marshmallow heart I asked my hubby, Angel to buy last night. Let's just say chocolate is my drug of choice and lately I've been doing a bit of emotional eating. Can you relate?
Normally having chocolate, chips and ice cream so accessible in my home wouldn't make me flinch an inch. More often than not, I’d have a bite or two or maybe even a serving and feel so satisfied that I’d walk away without a second thought. I could never have done this during the years when I was dieting, because I would have felt too deprived not being able to eat all the food until it was gone. But I have long ago welcomed back my old forbidden foods, and no longer fear them. The pride that I feel when I walk away and leave them more times than not, swells my heart. Excess food rarely tempts me anymore because I don't try to control what I eat. I put my efforts into managing the stress in my life. When I do overeat, I frame the episode with compassion because I see the reasons for the overeating from a broader perspective. Seeing the bigger picture makes it easier to treat myself with more kindness and love enabling me to break the guilt and gorge cycle of needing food to feel better. Over the course of the past year I’ve released nearly 25 pounds of excess weight by switching my focus from self-hatred and fearing food to more self-love and facing my feelings.
I won't lie. It's been tough going through so much transition in such a relatively short space of time. I’ve managed to triumph over my depression and get past the rage connected to grieving the sale of my home, my daughter leaving for college, becoming a semi-empty nester, exploring the problems in my 26 year marriage, confronting financial issues, coping with a betrayal and rejection by a once beloved parent, legal hassles, health issues and the chaos that comes with relocating and starting over. Through it all, I’ve championed my way forward, a single baby step at a time, using a wide variety of energy coaching and stress-relief techniques to consistently take the edge off of my anxiety.
But lately in the midst of a re-emergence of a looming family crisis with my mother's bipolar and depression that’s been wearing me down for months, my nerves feel raw and frayed. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m anxious. I feel worn to the bone. I’ve been as strong as I could be for months. But now I recognize that there's nothing I can do, but accept mom as she is. I'm vulnerable and I just want to exhale and take a break by numbing my feelings. I'm not ashamed to admit my weakness and I'm okay with it. I just want to eat my way through the crisis and not have to face it head on. I know that by being self-compassionate and looking at my binge and realizing that this is a signal that I'm at my breaking point, the pendulum will swing back in the self-care direction after I've got a bit better of a handle on this whole thing. My best advice to you is when you catch yourself going for the food, realize that there are really good reasons why you're overeating. Then when you get your second wind and you're feeling strong enough, face the fire and do whatever you need to pull yourself through it.
Have you ever felt like you were in a food ditch? Here are some tips that have helped me short circuit my binges. See what may work for you.
Prioritize self-care. Compulsive overeating is your body’s way of attempting to satisfy your unfulfilled emotional needs. Put yourself first by doing something that you can look forward to each day. Spend a few minutes curled up reading that book you want or cuddling with your kittie. When you're facing a crisis, you will be stronger if you work to increase your endurance. Get as much rest as you can. Eat to fuel your body, and manage your stress often. I spend time grounding myself with meditation and use several different energy coaching methods to handle my stress before it gets out of hand. I am particularly fond of using Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, Ho'oponopono and The Z Point Process. I use and rely on these techniques in my own life and I share them with all my clients because they work like magic.
Be prepared. With so much to juggle, it’s easy to lose track of time. Do yourself a special kindness by setting aside time each week to shop, do some food prep, pre-cook and package or freeze meals or snacks in individual servings. As often as you can, have foods you love on hand. Know that if your fridge and life is packed with clutter, and things you don’t enjoy, you’ll gravitate towards whatever food will give you instant gratification.
Have Hummers on Hand to Avoid Binging on Beckoners A hummer is a food that you often enjoy eating, pretty much anytime, something that makes you feel good from the inside-out. My favorite hummers are lightly scrambled eggs, grilled chicken, homemade chicken noodle soup, toast with butter, peppermint tea with milk and sugar, oatmeal, rice pudding, cream of wheat, fruit and cottage cheese, cereals, applesauce, yogurts, honeydew, watermelon, and bananas.
A beckoner is a food that you may consider a passing fancy, something that you want in the moment, but you don’t want to eat it all the time. For me a beckoner is chocolate. On occasion I also like different types of chips.
Stop punishing yourself. Do you beat yourself up after a binge? I used to do that too. All the time. Here’s what I learned from 34 years of dieting. If you shame yourself for overeating, you’ll continue to trigger your body’s stress response which will only make you feel more desperate to eat. The next time you overeat, at any point when it feels right to you, talk to yourself in a gentle and soft voice and treat yourself respectfully with tenderness and love. By creating a calmer and quieter space during this very stressful time, it reinforces a message to your brain that you are supporting yourself and you’re safe. It’s like taking the air out of a balloon. The binge quickly falls flat and the pressure to overeat dissolves.
Look beyond the food. Prioritizing weight loss as a goal when you're facing an emotional crisis is a total waste of your time. To get your equilibrium back you have to relieve yourself of the emotional load that's bearing down on you. When you notice that you are overeating, take an attitude of curiosity and kindness to dig beneath the surface and uncover what is bugging you. Realize that the old habit of beating up on yourself and getting obsessed about what you are eating is a familiar distraction which threatens to keep you ignorant and unwilling to recognize what's really at the root of your stress. Know that your food craving is a temporary substitute for what you really need. It’s not about the food. Sometimes it’s love. Maybe you need to grieve and your biggest crave is to release the weight of your tears. Other times it’s needing more courage. Maybe it’s your soul’s yearning begging you to give voice to your feelings or to confront those uncomfortable situations, stand up for what you believe in, and allowing yourself to be more loving and vulnerable so you won’t automatically rush to put up walls around your heart. Maybe those vulnerable times are about being terrified of taking a risk, moving past the fear of rejection or any other number of scary things that we all face.
Forgive yourself There will always come a point in your life when the stress of whatever you’re facing is more than you feel you can handle. In those tough times the only thing that you can do to start over is to forgive yourself for not being perfect.
Take responsibility for what you can and let the rest go When you get caught up in chaos, be mindful of the fact that your vulnerability will have the upper hand. Whatever negative and overwhelmiing emotion you feel will seem more intense because your increased cortisol levels make it impossible to think and see clearly. If you notice yourself in a space of blaming and resentment, thinking that everybody has to change, it's a signal to you to work on changing yourself. When you change your perceptions and take responsibility for whatever you can, people and circumstances will seem to shift. Do what you can to stay grounded and work on taking responsibility to change what you can. Don't try to control or change others, just do you.
Accept where you are. Sometimes all you can do is be okay with yourself in the moment and to acknowledge how far you’ve come and that’s more than enough. A new way of thinking about the role of food in your life especially during a crisis is as a pacifier. In the same way that you may not have thought twice about giving your child a pacifier and putting in their mouth when they were upset, eating extra food may be the pacifier you need to face that battle that's in front of you. Compulsive eating is just the messenger letting you know that you're facing a challenge that feels overwhelming. Don't compound the pain by putting yourself under more pressure to stop the eating. I urge you to go deeper and explore what's really behind your FAT talk. Look at the Feelings, Actions and Thoughts that are prevalent in your life and explore how those might be causing you to feel upset and reach for food when you're not hungry.
Can't seem to pick yourself up out of depression or pull your head out of the fridge? Let me help you to break the cycle of self-hatred and shame that comes with blues and binging. You don't need a new diet, just a shift in perspective. Join a community of women dedicated to supporting you on the road to making peace with food and friends with your body. Click the image below to learn more and become a member of my new FB group: 30 Days to Lovin' the Skin You're In