Many people have a fraught, even adversarial relationship with food, and if this is true for you - I’m glad you are here. Before we dive deeper, it is important to know that having trouble with food is not your fault. In fact, there probably have been times in you life when food has been a source of comfort, a friend, and perhaps it even saved you in some way.
We all live in culture that insists that dieting is the answer to the problems in life. You probably already know this is simply false, but you may not know where to begin to help yourself end this destructive pattern of chronic dieting and weight fluctuations. The reasons you have for needing food to cope is not your fault, and recovery is absolutely possible!
Don’t Go it Alone
Secrecy can shrink your life considerably and steal your sense of connection with others. Most people who struggle with food feel very isolated, as the feelings of shame can make it difficult to connect with others. In fact, you may feel that you don’t deserve to be loved at all, thus further distancing you from the experience of intimacy. I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend or family member and if you feel safe, you can share a bit of your struggles. Shame recedes in the light of day, and a first step in healing may be for you to shine a soft light on your struggles, and talk about it.
Practice Self-Compassion to Diminish Feelings of Shame
Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself throughout the day. By noticing patterns of self-talk, you are gaining invaluable information that we can use to empower you to be kinder to yourself, especially around food, eating, and body image. Forgive yourself for being imperfect by telling yourself things like:
“I am doing the best I can, and it’s enough.”
“I am entitled to food, regardless of my body size or shape.”
“My body is a good body, right now. It protects me, holds me and keeps me safe.”
Trying to silence the bullying thoughts can be very challenging, particularly if you are accustomed to speaking to yourself this way. Sometimes, adding in some kinder thoughts is good place to start. By recognizing that you are only human, and that despite your perceived failings, you still deserve food, respect, and kindness.
Consider the Idea that Dieting May Harm You
By attempting to control what, when, and how much you eat, you inadvertently set off a biological and psychological chain reaction that can be profoundly counterproductive and even harmful. That’s because avoiding particular foods that you perceive as “bad” only makes them more powerful and alluring, and most people end up bingeing on those same forbidden foods. Furthermore, trying to control how much and/or when you eat creates a disconnect from your body’s hunger and fullness sensations. This could mean that you lose sense of when you are hungry, only to find yourself overeating because you are starving when you finally eat. For many people, dieting actually leads to weight gain, not weight loss. If you can listen to your body’s messages about hunger, fullness, cravings, fatigue, and energy - you won’t need external rules to tell you what’s right for you, because you already know.
Stop Judging Your Food Choices
Along with the same lines of granting yourself compassion and forgiveness, you can lean in to your curiosity about food choices and actions, and begin to ask your body what it craves. Because judgement breeds guilt, shame, and sense of moral failing, my hope is that you will instead try to gently wonder about your hunger, fullness, and the types of food that you are drawn toward. As you end your judgments about food choices, you will find that food will have less power over you as you give yourself unconditional permission to eat what is desired when biologically hungry. Food is a profound metaphor for life, and as you learn more about your hunger (both physical and emotional hunger), you will learn more about your true self, and what you desire. With this empowering information, you can find freedom, peace, and satisfaction with food and body, and create a life that is meaningful.
Think of Your Body in New, Empowering Ways
Chances are that if you are struggling with food, you also struggle with body image. It’s nearly impossible to think of food without thinking of your body. Rather than focusing on your perceived imperfections, remember all of the extraordinary things that your body does for you everyday. It allows you to have experiences - whether it be walking on the beach, hugging your child, sleeping in, or laughing with a friend. All of your five senses are held within your physical self - you can see a wide smile on your friend’s face, you can smell coffee brewing in the morning; you can feel the embrace from your child; and you can hear the music of laughter. None of these things depend on how your body appears. Self-consciousness (what you image others are thinking of you) can be a thief of joy and pleasure. The antidote is to remind yourself that your body is a good body right now; it is literally and figuratively the pulse of life.
If you’d like to learn more about making peace with food and improving body image resilience, please call 971-240-8965 or email me to schedule an appointment. Together, we can look closely at your thought patterns that keep you stuck in shame, and approach healing with compassion.