I love working with women who compulsively overeat. There is a reason why I love this work so much, because the results are very tangible and easy to notice. A shift in eating patterns tells me that the problem – whatever it was – is gone! And the shift is always obvious; they feel motivated to eat healthy with no struggle. It just becomes naturally easy.
And because the problem is gone, the guilt, resentment, fear, some anxious feelings of uncertainty, stuck-ness, or whatever is there, it is so much more than just eating that improves. The life takes on in so many amazing directions. Relationships, new jobs, money, businesses, everything improves. And this is, if I may add, the most exciting thing to watch. To me, as an observer and co-creator of it, it is just so satisfying to watch!
I ask myself whether these women would ever come and see me, or anyone else, whether they would spend money time and other resources to improve their lives if it wasn’t for the pain of weigh gain or compulsive eating? Would they have the courage to share their secrets with a stranger if it wasn’t for the desperate need to get the eating under control?
Would their lives be as good as they are now, after they are free and feel empowered and more centred, more in control, and so much happier, if it wasn’t for the earlier fear of getting fat, fear of getting unwell and the pain of struggling with the eating-obsession?
The eating issues are simply an indicator that there is something deeply troubling you emotionally ready to be changed. And when it does get change, the eating shifts and so do million of other things all around you. I can’t lists all the ‘miracles’ I witnessed or was told about; the relationships that come out of nowhere and prove to be the best ever, the nasty bosses that get an early retirement, clarity about the future directions, businesses taking off, children being conceived and many more. because the inner tension, the negative belief or some other internal hurtle gets resolved.
Case Study 1: Sarah
I remember working with a Sarah, a lady in her 40s who came to see me because she was depressed, couldn’t sleep and was clearly numbing her anxiety with regular nightly binges. She was putting on weight, trying different diets, then putting on even more weight. Until she could not sustain any dieting regime for longer than a couple of days after which the binge would inevitably happen again and again and again.
We worked patiently with Sarah until she started feeling much better. But she would still chastise herself for her ‘fat and ugly body’ way too often And when she did, the binges would come back. She was as cruel to herself as she was kind to everyone else. A lady with a huge heart, a heart that was regularly broken and beaten to a pulp by her own mean words.
I am feeling better! She told me after the 5th session. I am not depressed any more, I am not even anxious and I sleep much better, she told me, but I don’t think this is working because my eating hadn’t change! She was angry and desperate for change, but her routine self-reproach wouldn’t change.
It took us another couple of sessions for these habits to soften enough for the binges to subside. But once they did, the results were amazing! Something clicked inside of her mind, and she started motivating herself differently. Rather than pushing harder with criticism, she relaxed into a kind acceptance of how she was now.
The extra weight was just a gentle reminder – like war scars – of the battles she no longer wanted to fight. And even though there were moments when she feared that things may never change, the importance and urgency of losing the weight was gone. And the binges were gone too!
Why is self-kindness so hard to master? I am not sure.
For Sarah it was changing the way she thought, the story she was telling herself about how much time she has left to really enjoy her life. And it took a decision, conscious as well as much deeper decision that she can start enjoying it now, before she gets slim, before she gets super healthy, before she gets her perfect body back. It took firm acceptance that, even if she never gets her perfect body back, she WANTS to be be happy anyway. And when she really meant it, the eating issues stopped.
And while she knew intellectually that loving herself is the way, only by experiencing it she understood the depth and logic of it. As her life started taking new directions, new interest, new people, new relationships coming into her life, she felt almost grateful for the earlier pain. She told me that she would have never tried to do anything if it wasn’t for her shame of carrying the extra weight.
Does it make us shallow to care more about how we look than how we feel? Maybe. But if that gets you to transform your life, let be it.
Part 2 comes tomorrow.