Sheila just started a new diet. She has been “good” all day, had a healthy breakfast, a big salad for lunch followed by a power walk and had an early balanced dinner. It is now 2 hours after dinner and she finds herself in front of her refrigerator, scanning the shelves. She takes the salad she prepared for tomorrows lunch thinking, “it’s a healthy meal, mostly vegetables, can’t do much harm by eating that.” After eating the salad, she’s back for more. She heats up 2 frozen pizza slices from her freezer thinking, “I didn’t really eat a big dinner, I will eat better tomorrow.” After eating the pizzas she starts feeling heavy, congested and full of guilt. To quiet those feelings down she eats some chocolate. Feeling completely disgusted and defeated, she goes to sleep thinking: “What just happened? What went wrong? I started the day with such good intention, why did I ruin it?”
Sheila is an actual client (name has been changed) and the above story actually happened but she is not alone. I personally experienced many days and nights like that and have listened to thousands of women with similar stories. Can you find yourself in Sheila’s story?
Whatever you call it
They all spell the same thing:
Feeling out of control in the presence of food.
It’s as if something or someone else takes over your brain and you eat in spite of your plans and best intentions to do better.
Compulsive eating has its roots very deep and for many of us it started very early. It is often a cyclical pattern, there are times that we feel we have conquered it and there are times when it flares up again. It ties into our life’s stories and what we have been taught about food. Some of us have family patterns of over-eating, we have leaned it from our parents and other family members. Some of us used food as a friend when we could not cope. And some of us were given food as an expression os love.
Whatever you food story is, it is important to uncover it.
I encourage you to journal on the following question:
What have I learned from my family about food?
When did I start over-eating and why?
What will I have to feel if I didn’t eat?
No matter how long you have struggled with compulsive eating, you can completely heal and transform this pattern.
Diets don’t work for compulsive eaters even though they are often suggested as a solution. They actually trigger the patterns of overeating and just make things worse.
Being hard on yourself does not work either. When you are in the midst of your struggle you need hugs, love, compassion, understanding, encouragement and hope, not harshness.
To heal from compulsive eating you will need to address the following areas:
There are certain foods that trigger overeating patterns, like processed and refined empty calories. There are other foods that help your body heal, reduce cravings and promote balance, like whole unprocessed foods. For best results learn to create meals that have a balance of nutrients, flavors, textures and colors.
Your overeating pattern is triggered by feelings and thoughts. Learning to recognize them is the first step. Allowing yourself to feel them is the second. One of my clients who have completely transformed her relationship with food told me she had learned to tolerate her feelings. She allowed herself to feel sad, lonely and depressed and just “sit” with those feelings. Whatever you are feeling, it is ok, let yourself feel it. Stuffing the feelings down with food will not make them go away, they will still be there. Feeling your feelings will not kill you and you will not go crazy, on the contrary, it will free you.
Listen to your body
Your body can be your biggest guide and friend on the road to healing. It has an inner mechanism that gravitates towards health, vitality and joy. Your body does not like to be heavy, congested or addicted. It thrives when you are feeding it foods that give it life and it will give you many signs that will lead you to find the right foods for you. So learn to listen to your inner messages and not to outside diet books.
Perhaps the most important part of your healing is to make sure you surround yourself with the right support. Family and friends that are positive and understanding. Co-workers that do not sabotage you. A daily structure and schedule that supports your healthy efforts. A group where you can feel safe to share your experiences, struggles and triumphs. A health coach who can hold your hand and guide you in all of the above.
The healing journey can take some time so please please be patient and gentle with yourself as you learn and grow. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to help and support you any way I can.
Share your food story and experiences in the comments below.