she picks up the baby and she holds the baby tenderly in her arms.
Your pain, your anxiety is your baby.
You have to take care of it.
You have to go back to yourself,
to recognize the suffering in you.
Embrace the suffering, and you get a relief.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Immediately after a binge, you’re probably pretty hard on yourself.
You might say mean things to yourself like, “Why do I always do this?! I’m so weak! I never do anything right.”
This is the opposite of ideal recovery behaviour after a binge. Further shaming yourself only pushes you deeper in the hole. So, what if, instead of beating down on yourself, see if you can — just for a second — have some compassion for yourself. Whatever that THING is that you’re using food to escape from is probably pretty painful. Your pain is not small, I’m sure.
And the physiological drive to seek pleasure over pain, and to numb our pain with pleasure, is real.
We are not greater than our biology.
But we do have free will.
We have the opportunity to make the choice to feel our pain. And we don’t have to be soldiers about it. We can take our anxiety and our pain and hold it in our arms like a baby, and just be soft with it. You deserve your own tender understanding and compassion.
Of all the people in your life, you deserve your compassion first and foremost.
It can be really hard. For me, at least, self-compassion can be very difficult to access sometimes. But the good news is that no matter how many times you mess up, you get a chance to try again. You get to exercise free will. So be easy on yourself in this crazy, messy life, okay?
You’re doing the best you can.
And I think you’re doing a fantastic job.
Keep practising feeling your feelings
If you want to stop eating more food than you know you want or need, then you know what to do (amongst other mindset work): Stop, Tune in and Feel.
I mention this in almost every blog because it’s one of the most important tools.
But do you ever wonder what using this tool looks like, exactly?
Here’s an example of what this can look like from start to finish:
It’s 7 p.m. on a weeknight, and I’ve finished my evening walkies with my dog. Before that, I had beans and cheese on toast for dinner
It perhaps wasn’t the healthiest option, but I wanted it, so I had some — and I didn’t eat more than I needed. I was satisfied — lucky me.
After getting my PJs on, I sat down on my sofa and the desire for chocolate hit me.
Chocolate. Sugar. Creaminess. I want it. Now.
But it’s 7 p.m. and my brain fights back at me. “It’s too late for sugar and chocolate! It’ll turn straight into fat since you’re done moving for the day!”
The desire to eat when you’re not hungry is either always caused by a restriction of any kind (emotional and/or physical) or/and a feeling that you’re not feeling.
Since I already ate exactly what my body wanted, I haven’t been restricting in any way or dieting and I wasn’t hungry, this desire for chocolate served as a little “you’re not feeling your feelings” alarm system.
I knew what I had to do: Stop, tune in, feel.
Depending on how tolerant I’m feeling, I’ll set a timer to create boundaries around my practice. I aim for 2-10 minutes.
On this day, I set my timer for 5 minutes. Then, I sat back on my sofa and asked myself, “What am I feeling?”
There are two ways this can go.
As soon as I lie back and ask myself this question, loneliness hits me like a truck.
Suddenly, the sadness and anxiety around being alone floods over my body.
I try my best to stay open. I am surprised by the feeling, and now I make room for it to exist.
For these next 5 minutes, it’s just me and my breathing and my loneliness, each loosening its grip on one another.
After a few minutes pass by, the feeling has lost its power. It hasn’t gone away, but I can feel it losing momentum.
When the timer goes off, I don’t really want the chocolate as much anymore.
Yeah, sure I would enjoy some chocolate but I know that ultimately it is my choice. I have the power to decide if I would like chocolate or not. Even though I’m not hungry and I know the craving is coming from my brain, not my body. I want to avoid feeling lonely and to seek pleasure for a few minutes. Nobody is stopping me, not even myself. I have full permission to eat whatever I want.
This time, I chose to honour my body by not eating when I’m not hungry.
This is the ideal situation.
There’s another way this can go, though.
After lying back on my sofa and asking this question, nothing comes up at first… So I continue to lie there, trying to make space for my emotions.
With each breath, I feel like I’m inflating a bubble around me, and in that bubble, my feelings are gaining more room to breathe and exist.
But after a couple of minutes, I started to feel edgy and uncomfortable. I don’t want to look at my real emotions.
Logically, I know that my edginess probably has something to do with loneliness or boredom (because there my Achilles heel emotions), but I just don’t want to deal with it right now.
Today, I’m not feeling my strongest, and I don’t have the strength to own my pain. I want to escape, and I want that damn chocolate.
So when the timer goes off after 5 minutes, I get up from my sofa, walk into the kitchen, and grab some.
I don’t eat a whole lot, but I have some. This permission is a critical step in this process!
Don’t skip it.
Because if I resisted the chocolate after feeling my feelings when I still really wanted it, I would have ended up binge eating even more of it later.
By honouring your cravings after the process of feeling your feelings, if that’s what you still really want, have it.
Permission is the antidote to compulsive eating. Seems backwards, but I find it true time and time again.
Although it would be nice to never overeat ever again, that’s not possible, in my opinion.
It’s not about perfection. There will be days where we feel our feelings and we still want the chocolate (or whatever your go-to food is) after.
It’s important to honour this craving because denying yourself will only lead to bigger binges.
Some days we will have the tolerance to fall into Situation 1, but we can’t expect it to go that way every time.
There will always be days where we aren’t feeling tolerant, and we fall into
Situation 2, and that’s okay!
Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
Talk to yourself the same way you would talk to a child.
You wouldn’t call a child a weak, fat idiot would you? You’d tell the child to try again, and remind her that she’ll probably do better next time. Well done for trying!
So, when you end up at Situation 2, be gentle. Simply let the day go and try again next time.
In the early stages of giving up dieting, you may fall into Situation 2 more often than you’d like.
With practice, you will slowly develop the courage and emotional tolerance to end up at Situation 1 most of the time.
It’s a process and a practice.
If you would like help on your journey to food freedom and body confidence then I’m waiting with open arms. Click the button below to arrange a chat with me to see if coaching is right for you.