I Pigged Out!!! Now What?!?

Let’s assume you’ve gotten off the exhausting diet/binge roller-coaster and you’re now building a sane relationship with food. You’ve been practicing waiting on hunger, choosing food that satisfies, savoring it fully and stopping when you’ve had enough. What’s not to love?! You’re feeling good in your body and mind and you intend to continue living this way.

Then, the holidays hit.

What’s felt pretty balanced begins to feel messy and confusing again. Food is everywhere – and not just any food. It’s special food…food most of us have a long, tangled, emotionally-charged history with.

So, what do we liberated eaters do when we stumble back into old patterns?

Unlike our old dieting days, overeating doesn’t have to send us tumbling into a shame-filled downward spiral. This time we can actually redeem our stumbles. In fact…

We can learn more from doing it wrong than from doing it right.

Let’s take 3 Logical Lessons from the “Normal” Eater’s Playbook:

I. Relax, everybody overeats sometimes. Normal eaters don’t catastrophize overeating. We don’t have to either. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that this is not the end of the world. You’re not “bad” because you’ve overeaten. You just feel bad.

II. Don’t punish yourself. Normal eaters don’t chastise themselves after they’ve overeaten. No extreme diet, exercise or cleanse is required. This foundational difference is one reason normal eaters don’t continually swing between eating too little and eating too much.

III. Go right back to what was working. Normal eaters are in sync with their body, so feeling uncomfortable elicits a natural response – not an emotional knee-jerk reaction. They may take a walk, skip the next meal or not eat till the next day. They may prefer lighter foods after a heavy meal. This isn’t about penance; it’s about listening to your body which is naturally seeking balance and health.

We have plenty of ways to remember to eat mindfully and joyfully this time of year – and – its mighty good to know that an overeating experience doesn’t have to hijack us or our holidays.

Mercy opens the door to wisdom, peace, and balance – three things we’ve been hungry for for a long long time.

 

*Thanks to TOMKAT Studio for the delicious photo

How to Stop Overeating in 5 Minutes or Less

Overeating is a changeable pattern. It’ll take about 5 minutes…5 minutes of kind, curious reflection each time you’re not happy with how you’ve eaten.

Hang with me here. This is big.

Change starts with realizing something new. Realizations often come after we’ve stopped to think a bit. The new insights we gain influence new behavior, which brings more insight, which leads to more new behavior and on and on it goes. It’s a beautiful upward spiral.

Over time you rewire the software in your brain and the old patterns are over-ridden by the new ones.

To rewire our compulsive or habitual overeating, one of the most powerful things we can do is take a short timeout right after things haven’t gone the way we wish they had…

EVERY TIME* you overeat stop for a few minutes and:

1. Forgive yourself. No self-condemnation. No harsh judgment or shame. No “What in the world is wrong with me??!!” None of that. That just gums up the works, creates a downward spiral, and keeps you stuck.

2. Turn this overeating experience into something of great value to you. Instruct your mind to be quiet. Sit still a moment and become completely aware of your body. Be curious. Notice how you feel, and where. Focus on the sensations that feel uncomfortable.

3. Ask kind and helpful questions. Does my stomach feel bloated and heavy? Do my clothes feel tight? Do I feel tired and lethargic? How is my energy level? Do I like the way this feels? How would I like to feel next time? What could have changed this outcome? At what point might I have stopped eating that would’ve made this a good experience for me?

4. Connect the bad feelings with the overeating. Connection is powerful; it keeps us from being short-sighted.

We’re smart. We don’t touch hot stoves anymore. But dieting has blinded us – it’s caused the normal act of eating to become emotionally charged. When it comes to food we aren’t operating out of our usual innate wisdom. But we can. And we can feel vibrant, energized, and nourished after we eat. That’s not too much to ask.

Research shows that in most cases it takes about a year to rewire our thinking; maybe longer if our food struggle has been in place for decades. That’s certainly true of my story. The good news is, with a little help, we can create the change we want to see – 5 quiet minutes at a time.

*Of course I don’t mean literally EVERY TIME. Perfection isn’t necessary or possible but lasting change will take true consistency.

Photo by Niklas Rhöse on Unsplash

 

3 Powerful Mindsets That Bring Food-Sanity To Holidays

When it comes to food, what’s happening between our ears is much more important than what’s happening on our plates, because what we believe determines our behaviors.

This is never truer than around the holidays.

Let’s take a look at 3 powerful perspectives that’ll help us navigate this time of year well:

I. Choose a connoisseur mindset. It’s OK to be picky. Food is everywhere so it makes sense to be choosy. Thinking like a connoisseur helps you identify what will satisfy you most. Don’t love canned green beans? Don’t eat ‘em. Being intentionally discerning cuts down on eating a lot of food automatically and unnecessarily.

BIG PAY-OFF: As you choose the foods that really jazz you (rather than choosing what you should eat or just eating everything because it’s there) you will naturally enjoy it more and eat less.

And here’s something really cool: Liberated eaters say that as their mindfulness grows so does their  appreciation and awareness of all the other good stuff too – holiday feelings, sounds, smells, sights, and the people they’re with.

That’s a win-win!

II. Choose a journey mindset. Becoming a more mindful, intuitive person (which is what liberated eating is about) is not like flipping on and off a light switch or falling on and off a wagon. It’s a true pilgrimage – a life-changing journey of self-discovery.

BIG PAY-OFF: Having this mindset keeps us focused on our discoveries and progress rather than getting hung up on inevitable mistakes and then harshly condemning ourselves for them. This relieves us of the pressure to eat perfectly, which isn’t possible or even necessary.

It also keeps us from doing that crazy thing I used to do: Trying really hard to “be good.” Eventually “blowing it.” Starting to plan the next Big New Year’s Diet, which led to over-eating my way all the way through November and December.

Sound familiar?

III. Choose to be gracious with yourself. Overeating sweet potato casserole doesn’t make you a bad person; it just makes you feel bad. If it happens, let go of berating yourself.  It. Will. Not. Help.

If self-criticism worked, we would’ve all been thin a long time ago.

BIG PAY-OFF: People who step off the food-shame train and give themselves grace to be human open up fresh, new space to learn and change, permanently. They begin to see what’s happening with a clear head and can begin to build the lifestyle they really want.

Grace also allows us to have a sense of humor – and that makes everything better.

So there you have it.  Savor. Discover. Forgive.

Imagine what these holidays might be like if you decide to walk through them as a gracious connoisseur on a holiday journey…

This One Thing Can Change Your Holiday Eating

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Turn off the All-or-Nothing thinking.

I know this may sound too simple but really, y’all, this is HUGE…

This old insidious leftover symptom of dieting causes us to eat more than we normally would, and then feel weird about how we ate it. It’s a soul crushing joy-sucker.

This one mind-shift changes things drastically.

We’re all familiar with how we inherited our All-or-Nothing compulsion. We started dieting to lose some weight and the next thing we know:

  • We’re eating everything we can before each diet – saying goodbye to all the things we love which we shall never eat again!
  • We’re avoiding each “fattening” food like it’s the plague – all the while longing for exactly what we cannot have. Making certain food illegal gives it far more power over us than it deserves.
  • We’re bingeing on “bad” food after each diet and feeling weak and guilty about it – but at least we’re enjoying the old favorites we’d missed (making them even more special).
  • And then of course there’s a nice big helping of shame. Shame over not being able to stick to the diet perfectly, even though it’s not humanly possible. Shame over feeling out of control with food once we think we’ve “blown it”.

Then add some excessive food anticipation to the desperation about the deprivation – and WHEW!

All. Or. Nothing.

NO “non-diet” food, or TONS of “non-diet” food.

Enter Holiday Season 2016. All-or-nothing thinking can really kick up during the holidays. It yells at us to just go ahead and give upuntil after the new year. Go ahead and eat it ALL until January 2017 and then start that New Year’s Diet.  Again.  Just like last year.  And the year before that.

But.

What if?

What if this year is different?

What if we changed the channel in our brain from All-or-Nothing to Savor-Some-Things? A liberating idea…

Now, imagine it’s January 2017. 

The holidays are over.

What if you look back and see that you’d thoroughly enjoyed a few thoughtfully chosen pieces of your favorite Halloween candy? Or what if you’d savored one fun-size treat* every day for the entire last week of October? And what if enjoying those treats hadn’t led to eating ALL the candy because you remembered that forced deprivation was over. Forever.

What if you looked back and remembered a lovely Thanksgiving Day? You had one perfect piece of Aunt Deloris’s chess pie (my favorite since I was 8). You’d thoughtfully fixed a plate of what you wanted at Thanksgiving dinner. Not everything – but all your favorites. And you savored the meal and the day and the people. You felt a bit fuller than you normally do after The Feast of Thanksgiving, but there was no guilt. No harsh judgement. Just an observation.

What if, over the course of the Christmas season, you remember feeling relaxed and reasonable most of the time? You deeply enjoyed your favorite Christmas goodies now and then. And you’d really enjoyed Christmas dinner too.

And what if you had felt no guilt about eating these rich foods? In fact, you felt grateful. And blessed. You experienced the beauty of savoring – which is also honoring. It enriched you and your holy days.

What if you looked back and saw more peace around food this year?

And what if, when you did eat more than you wished, you said to yourself “Hmmm. That didn’t feel good. I would of felt better if I’d eaten less. I’ll remember that next time.” And what if you didn’t beat yourself up?

What if this year you focus on eating more slowly and mindfully than last? And then next year it gets even easier – more and more relaxed and mindful with each passing year…

What if this is a beautiful journey after all?

Not a battle.

A journey of discovery – not just about food, but about ourselves?

And what if you decide to love yourself through it? To take a deep breath and trust that all will be well, even when it’s messy.

 

 

*Side note concerning sugar: I work with some liberated eaters who have decided not to eat sugar. This is not about dieting or deprivation for them – but a personal choice after exploring and finding what works best for them, right now.

How Can I Stop My Emotional Eating?!?

iiiGreat question! For those of us who’ve struggled with food, eating can sooth raw emotions, numb pain, distract, entertain, befriend and comfort – temporarily. And of course, therein lies the rub. As much as we want comfort in the moment we also want to feel good in our body for life. 

I received this concern in an email just yesterday: “Liberated Eating works great for me…until I get sad/lonely or overwhelmed and then I just don’t care. I keep sabotaging myself and regretting it. What can I do?”

Can’t we all relate! The good news is there are many effective strategies for dealing with this. Here are just a few, in no particular order:

  • Take 5  Emotional eating tends to be automatic. It’s a well-worn pattern and our default go-to. But what if you asked yourself to wait just 5 minutes? You aren’t saying NO, you’re just saying WAIT. A speed bump of sorts. While you’re waiting, check in. How are you feeling? What’s going on? Having a better understanding of your feelings takes you from the crazy free-fall to some solid ground. Even if you end up choosing to eat anyway you’ll have a better understanding of why. This breaks the mindless auto-cycle and sets you up for making different choices next time. Remember, we’re in this for the long haul.
  • Have 2 in your queue – Have 2 comforting choices in your tool belt at all times. Go ahead and pick two things that make you feel better. Have these tools ready when you need them. When you’re uncomfortable and i-don’t-care-right-now is screaming loudly in your head, you can say something like this to yourself: “I feel ________ and I just might eat, but first I’m going to do one other thing that I know comforts me. I’ve got real choices here.”

You might listen to three favorite songs, take a 10 minute stroll, call a friend, play with a pet, enjoy a bath, ride a bike, do some coloring or read something fun. The trick is to have effective options ready when you need them.

Choices are powerful. We’re building new coping skills and giving ourselves the option of being comforted in a way that we will not regret later.

  • Exchange EITHER/OR thinking for BOTH/AND thinking We tend to think we only have two choices. I either “eat right” or I binge. I’ve either been good or I’ve been bad. That’s the old diet mentality talking. Actually there are a lot of options between these two extreme points.

Rather than eating a ton or not eating anything you could decide to comfort yourself with food and enjoy it completely – no guilt, no regret – just straight up “I’m eating this for comfort right now and I’m going to enjoy it”. This is permission to both hold to your mindfulness and eat for comfort.

If you keep your liberated eating mindset intact you can enjoy your comfort eating experience. Perhaps one bowl of ice cream will do the trick instead of standing in the kitchen eating out of the carton. As we leave all-or-nothing behind the old default setting will dim.

  • Take the 20,000 foot view – Seeing the big picture is enlightening and encouraging! True lifestyle change is not a straight line. In fact, it’s supposed to be bumpy. As we keep practicing, stumbling, learning, and recalibrating things will get smoother.

Imagine going way up high and looking down on your life-long food journey – you will see that the “mess-ups” get less intense over time; they get farther and farther apart; they don’t knock you for a loop like they used to. In time, the stormy seas settle down to sunshine with occasional waves.

In the beginning we may fall back into old patterns regularly, but this is not failure; it is the rightful path of true change. It takes time to exchange old patterns for new ones.

If we don’t understand how change works we can think we’ve failed each time we haven’t been “perfect” – which of course leads to despair and probably another binge. Get comfortable with messy. I’m 15 years into recovery and occasionally I still eat like I used to, but now I think “Hmmm, wonder what that was about?” instead of “OH NOOOO, I’m a big fat failure!!!”

So please, give yourself room to be human, to be in process. In fact, let’s take it a step further; how about we relax and enjoy this journey for what it truly is:

an amazing, meaningful, adventure of discovery!

Let us know your favorite strategies…