By Cheryl Wasserman, MA, LPC, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor
How do you feel about yourself after you discover that you polished off a bag of potato chips when your intention was just to “have a couple”? What do you say to yourself when you try on the jeans that fit great just a few months ago and the zipper won’t proceed upward due to excess flesh?
These are times when we are likely to beat ourselves up by yelling at ourselves, grunting our disgust and vowing to solve this problem once and for all by going on, yet another, starvation diet.
We believe that we need to be harder on ourselves. We, obviously, can’t be trusted on the same street with food, so we need to restrict ourselves. We need to be angry at, distrusting of and rude towards ourselves.
In reality this approach does not work. It actually sets us up for failure. We can only tolerate deprivation so long and then we rebel and break ourselves out of this self-imposed prison. We immediately run to the nearest fattening food and start shoveling it in before the prison guard finds us and throws us back into prison.
What works? Mindfulness works. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to what is happening in our mind and body with an attitude of inquisitiveness, while letting go of judgment.
We thoughtfully look at our history with food. Perhaps we see that overeating has been the best way we have found to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps it has kept us company when we were lonely or bored.
We try a new approach which involves offering ourselves kindness. Research has shown recently that self-kindness allows us to stay motivated in order to make long term behavioral change. Self-kindness is not self-indulgence. It is being able to set appropriate boundaries with ourselves when it comes to food because we care about our own well-being and health.
Many overeaters use food to calm themselves. For whatever reasons, it is their default behavior when anxiety takes them over.
Beginning to slow down and offer themselves kindness and compassion rather than a cupcake, helps to self-soothe by creating inner calm. This comes as a result of feeling cared for, listened to, safe and connected which leads to being emotionally relaxed. When relaxed in this way, a calm internal environment is created. In this open space, wise and creative food choices become obvious.
Published in The Healthy Planet, September 2011 Issue. A publication of St. Louis' Green & Healthy Living Magazine.