Do you sabotage yourself with food?
Do you love food too much? Do you find yourself eating more than you want, or not being able to stop snacking? Do you find yourself bingeing on foods, unable to stop until the whole box, a block or a packet is gone?
Well, you are not alone, the relationship with food that women have today is not pretty. Despite it being 21st century, looking slim and attractive still feels like our passport to happiness and fulfillment. And we know all about calories, right? So we try to stay in control and show restrain. In the world filled with abundance of easy to access foods. Not easy, right?
Paradoxically, the more we try to be in control, the more we get caught in the destructive cycle of losing that control altogether. We end up feeling trapped, obsessing about food, overeating, bingeing, dieting and then bingeing again.
Why does it happen?
Of course there are social, cultural and other reasons why our relationship with food is –collectively speaking – messy. But we can’t change the culture overnight. We can’t change media and pressure on women and the abundance of low quality foods.
What we can change is our personal relationship with ourselves. We can change our mental habits, thoughts, perceptions and feelings. This much we can do. And if you feel trapped, this is probably the best thing to do anyway. Because taking charge is a perfect antidote to feeling trapped and out of control.
I have a simple formula, if you overeat or binge eat (or can’t stop snacking all day long), there is some serious discomfort inside of you that you are trying to silence. What is it that you are silencing? Confusion? Judgment? Boredom? Guilt? The rage against someone who just wouldn’t do what you want them to do? The rage against your body because it let you down? The rage against yourself for being so weak and hopeless?
Paradoxically, rich, sweet, fatty, salty foods make you feel some relief from this rage, at least for a moment. In some crazy ways, it makes you feel better, despite the dire consequences. And this momentary relief is the pay off from bingeing. Even though the price you pay for it is high and brings more rage.
But it is not illogical or crazy to look for relief. When you live with a lot of internal stress (from all the criticism and beating up on yourself), with a pressure inside of you building up, you need a pressure valve to let some of the steam out. Otherwise, you would explode. I know it is not how you want to deal with this pressure, but in the meantime, this is how things are.
This is why I refuse to see binge eating as a mental illness. I refuse to see it as pathological. There is nothing abnormal or pathological in reaching for relief. Rather than think of it as pathology, I see binge eating as an indicator. An indicator pointing out that there is some serious stress created by your thoughts, your perspective on things, your way of seeing yourself and others, and your inner dialogues. Once you change the mental reasons for the stress, you will stop using food that way. It really is that simple.
So if you binge or overeat, it tells you something. It tells you that, whether you are aware of it or not, there is some negative, painful stuff going on in you. It creates sensations in your body; tension, tightness, gnawing, heaviness, rigidity. It creates confusion and mental restlessness. And it makes you want to eat and eat and eat…
If you are not sure what I am talking about, watch yourself and your internal dialogues. Watch how you talk to you. What you talk about and who you talk about. Experiment with thinking thoughts that are full of judgment against yourself. Watch how your body responds, how heavy and rigid your chest or your stomach become when your thoughts become tense. Can you feel?
And if you still unsure what I am talking about, observe things and people around you. What bothers you most? Sometimes it is this one person who just doesn’t get it, no matter what you do. They don’t accept you, or they do something you disagree with vehemently. You want them to stop. You want them to change, you want them to listen, but they won’t. And you can feel the tension that it causes in you. But is it really them, or it is what you think they need to do before you can feel better? Did you put yourself at their mercy?
Or maybe it is not about someone else, but about you. You are angry with yourself, your mind or your body for letting you down. You remember painfully in every waking moment how hard you need to try to change it. And you beat up on yourself for failing over and over again. You feel powerless and broken and hopelessly out of ideas, but never giving up. Never ever. Because giving up would mean a complete failure.
If it is just about you, the inner war may be less obvious to you at first. But the tension in the body is worse than ever, because you can’t fight yourself without paying the highest price. Of feeling devastated and exhausted and dejected and so painfully alone. Fighting yourself! Just think about it.
So how can you stop?
Well, you won’t like what I say at first. Because you were trained, you were made to believe that fighting is the way to go. But it is time now to give it up. To stop fighting and start accepting. To stop pushing against what bothers you, and start embracing what you want.
You direct your attention to things every second. In your thoughts, you either try to move away from something unwanted or move towards something wanted. It is the first one – fighting with what you don’t want – that gets you trapped. Have you noticed that the more attention and time you give to trying to escape what you don’t want (being fat, being criticized, feeling trapped, confused, lonely, unloved, misunderstood, unaccepted, rejected, weak, out of control, wrong and useless) the more obsessed you become with those things?
Keep asking yourself, what is it that is calling me? What do I want to move towards? Feeling better, feeling more at peace with myself and my body, feeling loved and accepted, feeling beautiful and sexy? What is it that you want?
Rather than moving away from things that bother you, guide your thoughts towards things that you want to achieve, and make them as broad as possible to start with; talk about how you want to be and feel, rather than how many kilograms you want to lose. Allow yourself to connect to those feelings, those states of being. How would it feel to be happy, to be at peace with food? How would it feel to be more at peace with everything, even your reflection in the mirror.
When you start your mind will be fighting still. It is used to going the other way. It seem fearful to leave the ‘problem’ side of the equation. What if it gets worse? But you know it cannot get any worse. Your mind will fight and will frustrate you. It will take time to change the habit of thinking. But if you stick to it, the results will come.
When working with a client, I take these mind’s fears seriously, but question them until they seem ridiculous (because they always are). Once the mind can see how silly and illogical its fears are, it will let them go. Reluctantly, at first, but it will give them up eventually. It wants to feel good as much as you do. It was never standing against you, it was just doing what you instructed it to do. Time to write a new set of instructions.
Just keep redirecting its attention to where you want to go with your life, to what you want to achieve, to what you want to move towards. You have been trying to move away from things for a long time now and it turned into an uphill battle. Time to shift the focus and practice the new habit. What is it that you want to be and feel?
It will change your life.
In my next post I will share an exercise with you, that will help you to stop bingeing for good. Stay tuned.