Great question! For those of us who’ve struggled with food, eating can sooth raw emotions, numb pain, distract, entertain, befriend and comfort – temporarily. And of course, therein lies the rub. As much as we want comfort in the moment we also want to feel good in our body for life.
I received this concern in an email just yesterday: “Liberated Eating works great for me…until I get sad/lonely or overwhelmed and then I just don’t care. I keep sabotaging myself and regretting it. What can I do?”
Can’t we all relate! The good news is there are many effective strategies for dealing with this. Here are just a few, in no particular order:
- Take 5 – Emotional eating tends to be automatic. It’s a well-worn pattern and our default go-to. But what if you asked yourself to wait just 5 minutes? You aren’t saying NO, you’re just saying WAIT. A speed bump of sorts. While you’re waiting, check in. How are you feeling? What’s going on? Having a better understanding of your feelings takes you from the crazy free-fall to some solid ground. Even if you end up choosing to eat anyway you’ll have a better understanding of why. This breaks the mindless auto-cycle and sets you up for making different choices next time. Remember, we’re in this for the long haul.
- Have 2 in your queue – Have 2 comforting choices in your tool belt at all times. Go ahead and pick two things that make you feel better. Have these tools ready when you need them. When you’re uncomfortable and i-don’t-care-right-now is screaming loudly in your head, you can say something like this to yourself: “I feel ________ and I just might eat, but first I’m going to do one other thing that I know comforts me. I’ve got real choices here.”
You might listen to three favorite songs, take a 10 minute stroll, call a friend, play with a pet, enjoy a bath, ride a bike, do some coloring or read something fun. The trick is to have effective options ready when you need them.
Choices are powerful. We’re building new coping skills and giving ourselves the option of being comforted in a way that we will not regret later.
- Exchange EITHER/OR thinking for BOTH/AND thinking – We tend to think we only have two choices. I either “eat right” or I binge. I’ve either been good or I’ve been bad. That’s the old diet mentality talking. Actually there are a lot of options between these two extreme points.
Rather than eating a ton or not eating anything you could decide to comfort yourself with food and enjoy it completely – no guilt, no regret – just straight up “I’m eating this for comfort right now and I’m going to enjoy it”. This is permission to both hold to your mindfulness and eat for comfort.
If you keep your liberated eating mindset intact you can enjoy your comfort eating experience. Perhaps one bowl of ice cream will do the trick instead of standing in the kitchen eating out of the carton. As we leave all-or-nothing behind the old default setting will dim.
- Take the 20,000 foot view – Seeing the big picture is enlightening and encouraging! True lifestyle change is not a straight line. In fact, it’s supposed to be bumpy. As we keep practicing, stumbling, learning, and recalibrating things will get smoother.
Imagine going way up high and looking down on your life-long food journey – you will see that the “mess-ups” get less intense over time; they get farther and farther apart; they don’t knock you for a loop like they used to. In time, the stormy seas settle down to sunshine with occasional waves.
In the beginning we may fall back into old patterns regularly, but this is not failure; it is the rightful path of true change. It takes time to exchange old patterns for new ones.
If we don’t understand how change works we can think we’ve failed each time we haven’t been “perfect” – which of course leads to despair and probably another binge. Get comfortable with messy. I’m 15 years into recovery and occasionally I still eat like I used to, but now I think “Hmmm, wonder what that was about?” instead of “OH NOOOO, I’m a big fat failure!!!”
So please, give yourself room to be human, to be in process. In fact, let’s take it a step further; how about we relax and enjoy this journey for what it truly is:
an amazing, meaningful, adventure of discovery!
Let us know your favorite strategies…