Gain Self-Care Skills, Lose the Weight. Despite our best intentions, many of us find ourselves routinely overeating at meals, snacking mindlessly or binging occasionally. Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, is the author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual. She is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Life Coach with twenty plus years of experience helping over eaters stop dieting, heal their relationship with themselves and their bodies, lose weight and keep it off. If anyone can help us from piling crackers in our mouth while watching The Shahs of Sunset, it’s her.
The truth is a little overeating here and there isn’t really anything to worry about. But when we turn to food so often that our health is at risk or we are significantly overweight, there may be more to our eating than meets the eye. Compulsive overeating can become and issue if you don’t take action to prevent yourself doing it soon, we recommend you have a look at ways to help you cut back or even speak to a GP who could help!
Let’s face it—eating, like mating, is an incredibly pleasurable act. We all love to eat, and enjoying food beyond simple sustenance is a normal part of life. With stressful lifestyles and an abundance of delectable foods available to us 24/7, it’s easy to turn to food to meet many of our emotional needs. Food is an easy, quick-fix and a great distraction; it’s non-demanding, comforting, soothing and exciting.
If you find yourself regularly eating when you’re not hungry, grabbing unhealthy snacks or eating beyond full, something is most likely out-of -balance somewhere. There’s a disconnection fueling your overeating–you’re turning to food because you don’t know how to truly nourish yourself and meet your needs. Perhaps you’re eating more food because there isn’t enough love, attention, intimacy and care coming your way. Maybe you’re turning to food because there isn’t enough pleasure, joy, passion or purpose in your life. Perhaps you’re craving more nourishing friendships, better sex, more money or success, downtime, free time, or ease. You’re overeating to fill up before you feel empty again.
Clearly, eating more food will not rid you of the experience of scarcity and bring about an abundance of what you desire in life. The good news is that you can curb your emotional eating and learn to nurture yourself without using food by mastering the following five self-care skills. These skills will help you pay attention to your mind/body signals and take the best care of yourself.
- Skill #1 Establish the Habit of Self-Connection. This means “going inside” and identifying your emotions and needs rather than turning to food for comfort, soothing, distraction or excitement. Ask yourself: “How do I feel in this moment?” After you identify your feelings with three word statements, for example “I feel sad” or “I feel overwhelmed,” ask yourself “What do I need” or “What am I truly longing for in this moment?” Once you’re clear on what you need, see if you can access a wise, nurturing voice within that can soothe and comfort you and help you meet your true non-food needs.
- Skill #2 Catch and Reframe Self-Defeating Thoughts. While you’re inside, catch any negative, critical, pessimistic thoughts you’re aware of. These kinds of thoughts do a lot of damage and they can trigger emotional eating. For each negative thought, see if you can think of a more positive replacement thought. For example, “I’ll never lose this excess weight” could be reframed into “I’ve lost weight before and I’m sure I can do it again.” Positive thoughts create hope which can quickly curb emotional eating.
- Skill #3 Make time to grieve significant losses and disappointments. When our lives have been filled with pain and suffering, we need to set aside time regularly to grieve. When we can’t make meaning out of loss, we risk becoming bitter, resentful, and hopeless. Our desire to emotionally eat or numb out may be a signal that some pain, old or new, needs releasing. Grieving involves taking the time to retreat to a safe space, revisit the loss or disappointment and allow yourself to feel all the associated emotions. Cry, scream, rant, stomp—it’s all part of the grieving process. The more you practice this healing self-care skill, the quicker you’ll be able to discharge emotional pain and get back to balance.
- Skill #4 Practice setting nurturing limits with yourself. The majority of emotional eaters have one thing in common: their childhoods did not feel predominantly nourishing. Even if their caregivers were kind and well intentioned, most emotional eaters did not receive the kind of dedicated, loving attention required to fully develop the self-care skill of setting nurturing limits by delaying gratification. Before you eat for emotional comfort, see if you can:
Stop: slow down, and make the conscious choice to delay gratification for ten minutes while you ask yourself what you’re feeling and needing
Say to yourself: “I am willing to be uncomfortable for ten minutes so that
I can reach my goals. I can set a nurturing limit and stick with it.”
Remind yourself: “I can endure discomfort for a short while. It’s not root canal!”
- Skill #5 Practice unconditional self-acceptance and self-love. This translates into self-talk that is positive and affirmative. Try praising yourself every day for small accomplishments and speaking to yourself with kindness, especially when you’re disappointed in yourself. Unconditional self-acceptance includes self-forgiveness and this means adjusting expectations of yourself and compassionately making room for error. There are always reasons why we behave the way we do. Often, when we are unable to forgive ourselves, it may be because we still need to grieve the losses or disappointments associated with perceived mistakes or failures.
You can address the disconnection that’s been robbing years from your life and lose the excess weight once and for all—you just need to gain self-care skills.
Based on the new book The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual ©2012 by Julie M. Simon. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com
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