Dieting has installed a food alarm in most of us. Years of deprivation, hyper-control, “good” and “bad” foods, bingeing before and after each crazy diet, shame, confusion – the whole dieting scene has made food feel like a BIG HAIRY DEAL! When we’re dieting we can’t be around it without alarms going off.
Think very loud and annoying fire alarm. The minute you get in the vicinity of …say…donuts. Biscuits and gravy. Pizza. Birthday cake. Foods we used to consider “bad” stir up all kinds of intense and conflicting feelings – desire, danger, fear, shame, pleasure, weakness. Just because we’ve decided to leave dieting behind doesn’t mean our old feelings go away immediately. It will take some time for these stuck feelings to settle down to normal.
But they will – and a peaceful power will take their place.
One of our most important jobs as liberated eaters is to do the intentional work of consciously normalizing our feelings toward food.
Imagine you walk into a room and see unexpected donuts and the alarm goes off in your head. If you are aware of what’s happening you can acknowledge the rising feelings and begin to talk them back down. This conscious process is extremely powerful. You and your brain are amazingly capable of being reasonable when you have a clear eye and a bit of confidence.
Let’s look at how this might play out:
Beth walks into a morning meeting and follows the smell of coffee. Her eyes fall on several open boxes of fresh donuts. The alarm begins to clang in her head. An old feeling of forbidden deliciousness makes itself known. She’s had a satisfying breakfast but the sight of donuts makes her mouth water. Desire creeps up as the people around her pick up their sweet treats. These donuts are still warm they say.
Beth has been on her liberated eating path for about a year – she is not on a diet. She knows she can have any donut she wants, but she isn’t hungry, and she knows she will not feel good about eating gratuitously. Experience tells her this. She can feel the push-pull happening and the whole time the food alarm is getting louder and louder. Danger Will Robinson!! In her brain she hears the bargaining begin. “What if I just eat one?” She senses some old anxiety – the beginnings of a slightly out-of-control feeling that smacks of dieting days.
This is the point where it’s extremely powerful to see and name what’s going on. This has nothing to do with donuts at all. This has to do with past feelings about donuts, and a long history of either denying herself of them completely or overeating them. All-or-nothing was a failed mindset, long abandoned as a liberated eater.
Because she has many positive eating experiences under her belt now and the understanding support of people she trusts who are on this same journey, she sees exactly what’s going on here and makes her next move with confidence.
She lets her high executive grown up brain have a little talk with the 3 year old who’s screaming I WANT DONUTS!
Her inner dialogue goes something like this:
WOW…I am feeling a lot of feelings right now. I feel agitated and drawn away from my peaceful place, and I know why. I remember this old war. But I am no longer on that battlefield. I am free. Free to eat a donut. Free not to. I feel good in my body and perfectly satisfied right now; nothing in me wants to jeopardize that.
She sits down with her coffee and a feeling of freedom.
YOU ARE EMPOWERED AS YOU:
- Stay intuitively connected to yourself so you can notice your intense feelings.
- Acknowledge having the feelings.
- Name the feelings. Knowing what they are makes them less daunting.
- Remember your strength. You don’t have to fear these old feelings – look them in the eye and stare them down.
- Trust that you can change/release/outlast them.
- Remind yourself how you love to feel in your body and mind.
- Share your journey with those who understand. Sharing helps you solidify your victory and encourage others on the same path.