Most of us have access to a large variety of foods which allows us to choose nutrients in many different forms. But instead of finding ways to enjoy and eat more of this assortment, we focus on a diet or food plan that eliminates lots of the foods we love. And then feel guilty when we eat those foods.
When we blindly follow a diet or even a well thought out meal plan, we are missing important cues our body is telling us about what it wants and needs. Does this mean we can never plan meals and we have to “wing it” at every meal? Not at all.
The problem is, when we ignore our body’s wants and needs for a long time, we become blind to its needs. We use the diets, plans and latest fads to determine what should be eaten and how much we should exercise. We end up with insatiable hunger, and then overeat or binge. Then we blame ourselves or the diet or whatever feels good to blame.
But there doesn’t have to be any blame. Bingeing and overeating is not a character flaw, its not a genetic defect, its not ‘bad’, and it doesn’t decrease your value as a human being. But by giving it those negative attributes, we complicate it. We make it a struggle when it doesn’t have to be.
When we binge and overeat, our body is working its hardest to keep us alive. Its telling us it needs attention. And instead of listening to it, we listen to ‘experts’ who tell us what to eat and how much to move. Instead of honoring our body, we re-pay it for keeping us alive by hating it, being ashamed of it, and trying to starve it. No wonder we are out of sync!
Here are some things I did to ‘get in sync.’ You can make your own list or tailor it to yourself. Work on one thing at a time if you need to. Remember, this is a process, and there is no failure involved, only learning everyday.
1. Allow yourself to happen; to be. In the truest sense, ‘Be-ing’ is about not forcing anything. You don’t have to eat food you don’t like. You don’t have to restrict food you do like. You don’t have to force yourself to get up and go to the gym. You don’t have to feel guilty for not going to the gym. Once you allow your body the freedom to get what it needs, your body and psyche will start to sync, and you will be pleasantly surprised. When I used to make myself walk or run or go to the gym when I didn’t feel like it, I was telling my body that it didn’t matter what it felt like. I was widening the gap between my body and my psyche. By letting myself be, I now hear my body tell me when its time to move and I obey with pleasure -not pressure and tension.
2. Drop the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. This is one of the commandments of cognitive therapy. When you say “I should…” you set yourself up for feelings of guilt and blame when you don’t live up to your expectations. Stop having expectations about what you should and should not eat or about how much you should or should not exercise. I know this seems counterproductive and you think this will make you seem lazy and undisciplined, but this is a crucial step in healing. Trust me, you will not become a couch potato by being nice to yourself and forgetting the word ‘should.’ (And if you are a couch potato for a little while, be sure to get some good books or movies!)
3. Nix the Guilt. Once you stop saying the ‘should’ word, its easy to stop feeling guilty. This means when you are sitting on the couch, you don’t have to think to yourself, “I should be running, I’m such a lazy slob!” Instead, you can actually take time to really rest and reconnect with yourself and enjoy it. You can’t rest if you are feeling guilty for not taking a walk or not going to the gym. The funny thing is, as soon as you become okay with sitting, you will feel the actual nudge your body gives you towards movement and you will find yourself wanting to move willingly in an enjoyable way.
One way to nix guilt about eating is to stop categorizing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you think to yourself, “I should eat the salad” while you are really wanting potatoes and dessert, you set yourself up for guilt. So, stop trying to eat just what is healthy or ‘good for you’ and try to eat what you desire at that time. When your body can start to count on you to eat what it wants you will be surprised at how fast you learn what satisfaction with food feels like. This doesn’t mean you don’t think about what you eat, it means you don’t have to worry about what you eat.
4. Give your body a chance to heal. If you have been in the overeating/dieting/guilt cycle for any time at all, you may not be feeling your best emotionally, mentally or physically. Try nurturing your body the way you would nurture a sick friend. Pamper yourself, be nice to yourself, drink some water, rest, eat what you desire (knowing that you can do this for the rest of your life, not just now.) This will go a long way toward healing the rift between your body and mind.
5. Don’t let thoughts overwhelm you. Thoughts cannot make or break you unless you let them. Thoughts can be random and very often negative. You are allowed to think them and let them go, you don’t have to entertain them. It doesn’t matter what the thought is, what matters is how you react to it. To know if your thoughts are signals from your body, ask yourself, “Is this thought based on something I think I ‘should’ do or what my body really wants/needs right now?” Let’s say you have the thought, “I need to eat more protein than carbs,” but deeper inside you hear a tiny voice saying, “I want those potatoes,” -eat the potatoes. And eat them without giving a second thought to what you think you “should” be eating. You don’t have to force yourself to eat the protein. Food containing protein will become attractive to you when you need it. Don’t worry about calories or macros. Your body is smart enough to take care of you. Between your psyche and your body, things will work out without forcing them.
6. Focus on what is right with yourself. I’m here to tell you that if you begin to focus on what is right with yourself, the wrongs will diminish. When I worked as hard to cultivate the good things about myself as I did trying to overcome my food struggles, my perception began to change. The struggle diminished. I became happier and more successful in many endeavors. You will too. You get what you focus on.
7. Reframe challenges into positive events. This is sort of like focusing on what is right with yourself, but it includes focusing on what is right with everything you come in contact with. This may be hard at first, and you may think there are some situations that cannot be reframed into something positive. But if you are persistent, you will find the world to be a better place than you thought. Even if you don’t feel positive, just trying to name some possible positive outcomes of any situation can relieve stress you didn’t even realize you had.
New to the binge-free journey? Start here