Check if food has become your love substitute
If you overeat when you feel distress in order to change your state of mind, then food has become your substitute for the state of blissful comfort that babies feel when being nurtured and fed. That’s the unconscious origin of the urge to overeat and it is as primal as can be. In psychological terms, food has become a love object.
Turn your love firstly towards yourself to accept yourself completely and without judgement. Learn to appreciate others too. Extend the warmth of your love from your own heart to the lives of everyone around you. You’ll feel the difference immediately and tame the urge to stuff yourself with toxic comfort food.
Separating you from your food is like yanking the child away from the delightful cocoon of nurturing and feeding, destroying your private, secret sanctuary and exposing you to the unending turmoil of life. No wonder you hold onto your emotional eating patterns with such tenacity – the alternative is too scary and fearful. Suddenly our eating habits begin to make perfect sense!
That’s why it is time to introduce a measure of control into the habit. If the prospect of giving up such an important source of comfort is too daunting, make a deal with yourself to cut back. That’s right. Agree in advance exactly how much you will allow yourself and write down the amount. This is a contract. When you hit the limit, write down what happened. If you do not feel like the garbage treat on any particular day, make a note of it and describe how you were feeling. Keep your word. Respect that agreement. You’re on your way to much, much better things!
Essentially, all diet plans and fitness programs advise you to just reduce calories, increase exercise or do a detox according to some cherry-picked data they trawled from a scientific journal.
For dysfunctional eaters, however, maintaining this regime for more than a day, a week or even a month is simply impossible. The primal urge to eat is just too strong. Food has become a psychological tool, a way to avoid feelings that are too intense or anxiety-provoking. If you have not learned how to cope with your life and your emotions in a way that does not include overeating or incorrect eating, you will normally not be able to stick to any diet plan for very long. While things are going smoothly in your life you may be able to stick to your new eating plan but, when life presents a more serious challenge, you will inevitably turn back to your old reliable comfort tool of preference – food. Recognise that you are now doing something incredibly positive about it! Every step on the pathway counts. So take a small step. Then another. Be kind to yourself. Stop poisoning your body. Learn to treat it with a little respect and it will reward you with amazing health and vitality.
Using emotionally motivated eating to deal with feelings, however, creates a vicious cycle and a potential downward spiral. Food allows you to shut out the world and ignore your problems, forget your challenges and block out life’s unpleasantness – for a while. But when problems are left unattended they tend to become more serious. They get out of hand. This is scary and it makes you binge and overeat and then, on top of your original problem, you are filled with guilt and self-loathing too. And the cycle easily spirals out of control because then you need food to deal with the guilt as well as the original problem Yes, food can serve as a fabulous quick fix. It can bring immediate relief and pleasure, but it does not take long to see that one cookie, chocolate, sweet or fast food experience simply does not do it. You end up needing more and more to fill up the emptiness from living a life devoid of self-expression, real fulfillment and inner awareness and tranquility.
Take a moment to think about your absolute ideal life. How would you look? Where would you be? What would you be doing? Write it all down and then decide which of those images is the most exciting for you. Now take a step – no matter how small – to move yourself in the direction of that vision. Let your new vision become your personal goal. Refer to your new ideal lifevision every single day and take a daily step to make it a reality.
Emotional eaters have often struggled with this vicious downward spiral for years. In some cases for decades. It’s so difficult to change the cycle because simply recognising it does not help, nor does willpower. In order to change this deeply entrenched psychologically motivated behaviour, you have to go deep below the surface of your life and explore places that have never before been exposed to scrutiny in such great detail. You need make a serious evaluation of what’s happening in your life – you need to address whatever you have been trying to avoid by eating, and then you can arrive at a new response. That is the only way to break the downward spiral. That’s what we are going to explore together. And then we are going to introduce a great range of new coping mechanisms that can really transform your life.
Let’s start with a look in the mirror. Whatever you think you can see, I want you to smile at your reflection. It’s time to start adding some positive emotional acceptance to the decades of self-doubt and negative behavior. This is the first thing you will do when you step into the bathroom every morning – look in the mirror and SMILE! Gradually, you are going to learn to love yourself.
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