All Day Cheesecake Binge

“You mean I can eat anything? Like…there aren’t any rules?? But, if I let myself eat whatever I want, I’ll just binge on cheesecake all day!”

chhThis is a common reaction when first hearing about liberated eating, and I understand. It can sound dangerous at first. But liberated eating isn’t primarily about food at all – it’s about being whole-heartedly and fully alive. It’s about getting what you really want.

And that changes everything.

Eating what you and your body want can sound like an invitation into one long food fest if you’re thinking from the old diet perspective. Those of us who have a diet history can, at first, assume that the wanting is only about tasting. We have a difficult time even knowing what we actually want for ourselves, imagining what level of energy and strength we could be feeling in our bodies – because food has not been about feeling great and having energy; it’s been about restricting.

It’s been about behaving and denying and depriving.

No wonder we come out of dieting acting crazy around food!

Eating from a place of liberation – or mindful, intuitive eating – is an open door into a fascinating adventure of self-discovery. It’s an invitation to truly take time with yourself again – to consciously listen. Listen for what kind of energy your breakfast gave you this morning; for what lunch choice would feel good in your mouth, in your stomach and also in your energy level this afternoon; for how alert and alive your current daily menu is making you feel. As we practice tuning our ear to our body, our innate vitality, our sense of well-being, we can begin to explore new foods, new ways to move, to think, to play, and new practices that will give us what we really want.

Nobody really wants non-stop cheesecake.

When you’ve lived under the tyranny of dieting, you have to give yourself conscious permission to make your own choices again, to learn to trust yourself again, to believe you can indeed make life-bringing decisions for yourself, instead of mindlessly obeying someone else’s diet rules.

Most of us also have to do some major adjustments in how we speak to ourselves. We can begin to move from saying things like “You better not eat that!” (in a snarky, accusing tone) or “I guess I should choose that” (in a sad and victimized tone) to saying things like “I feel like something warm today for lunch” (in a kind and comforting tone) and “I’m not going to get the cookie today because it made me feel sleepy yesterday afternoon”(in a knowing and confident tone).

Tone matters. A lot.

Notice there is a direct connection in these mindful choices between how you feel, how you want to feel, and what, when or how you decide to eat. It isn’t about should. It is about feeling great right now and this afternoon and next year. It’s about lovingly caring for yourself.

After years of dieting it takes some practice to begin to be lovingly at home with yourself again.

To pay kind attention to yourself again.

To listen carefully to what you actually want for yourself.

Dieting has marched us away from our true selves and into a demanding prison camp. Mindful and intuitive eating liberates us from this tyranny, nurses us back to health and then asks with curiosity and sincerity “What do you really want for yourself? And what will it take to make that happen?”

That is where a coach can come in handy for a while to help you make the transition – someone who can help you uncover what you want for yourself (rather than telling you what you need to do) and will say with full confidence “I’m with you and together we’ll figure this out.”

So “You mean I can eat anything? Like… there aren’t any rules??”  That’s right. No rigid rules that lead to inevitable shame and disappointment.

“But if I let myself eat what I want I’ll just binge on cheesecake all day!”

Fear not. As you begin to discover and acknowledge what you really want you’ll begin to live more and more plumb with yourself and your deep desire to be fully and richly alive.

Go ahead…begin to trust yourself. You are trustworthy.

Go ahead…dare to admit what you truly want for yourself. You can have it.

Go ahead…trade shame producing rules for some wise guidelines and your own intuition.

And if you need some help, I’m all yours.

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…

How To Uninstall Your FOOD ALARM!!!

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.

firealarm2Think 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:

  1. Stay intuitively connected to yourself so you can notice your intense feelings.
  2. Acknowledge having the feelings.
  3. Name the feelings. Knowing what they are makes them less daunting.
  4. Remember your strength. You don’t have to fear these old feelings – look them in the eye and stare them down.
  5. Trust that you can change/release/outlast them.
  6. Remind yourself how you love to feel in your body and mind.
  7. Share your journey with those who understand. Sharing helps you solidify your victory and encourage others on the same path.
As you choose peace and liberty the old food alarms will go off less and less, and will eventually be virtually silent. There will come a time that you marvel that food felt like such a BIG HAIRY DEAL.
That day is coming. Trust yourself and this beautiful mindful process…

I've Been Electrocuted! (By Vanilla Oreos)

stressYesterday I had an electrifying experience; only a person with food issues will understand.

After my workout I remembered we were out of milk. I ran in the store to get a gallon and on my way to checkout I passed a display of vanilla Oreos. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was tired. As my eyes landed on the golden packages all neat and inviting I literally felt a jolt – a jolt of desire, a jolt of wanting lots of crunchy sweet cookies and creamy icing in my mouth – one after the other.

In the old days that cookie-shock would’ve set off a crazy chain reaction:

1. Buy the Oreos
2. Hurry to the car
3. Rip open the bag
4. Eat several in the parking lot
5. More on the way home
6. Either:

a. Finish them off and throw away the empty package at a gas station
b. Take the rest home and hide them for later
c. Put them in the pantry and hope no one asks who ate most of the cookies

7. Feel sad, weak and deeply regretful – hopeless to change myself, my weight, my food addiction
8. And then of course, THE SHAME. Believe I have a terrible secret…no one knows how hooked and hopeless I am.
9. Isolate myself from others, at least emotionally – not able to be fully available because I am preoccupied with my food, my fat, my failure.
10.  Plan a very extreme diet – NO MORE COOKIES – OR SUGAR – FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, SO HELP ME GOD. AND I MEAN IT THIS TIME.

Does this sound familiar?

But here’s what happened yesterday…

I felt the old feeling and was surprised by it. I haven’t felt that impulsive/compulsive shock of desire in a very long time. That unexpected jolt was my reminder. Oh yea, even now – years later – the old deep neuropathway is still occasionally triggered, especially when I’m tired, thirsty and hungry.

But now.

Now I’m not under its spell. I have power. I have years of healing and positive food experiences under my belt. That jolt is just a feeling – an old worn out feeling attached to a distant path. I can keep walking because I know now that when I do I won’t even remember those cookies by the time I get to my car. The loving choice to keep walking is not hard to choose anymore.

PLEASE KNOW THIS:   The old path may never be erased completely (ask an ex-smoker if he doesn’t occasionally think an after-dinner cigarette would be pleasant) BUT, over time it will diminish to the point that it almost never raises its ugly head. Yesterday was a rare experience. In fact, were it not for sharing it with you now, it would be long forgotten.

So what do we learn:

  1. Over-confidence is dangerous. On some level, we will always need to remain diligent and aware of our tendency to use food in a way that takes us away from ourselves.
  2. Healthy self-efficacy is powerful.  We can be, and should be, confident that we can and will indeed live with food in a beautifully peaceful way. It is no longer our enemy or our biggest thrill.
  3. Real lifestyle change (and healing) is a process – and worth all the effort it requires. Devotion to changing your food-life and health – in mind and body – is more more more than worth the effort, time, and expense you invest.

Walking past those Oreos was empowering. They’re just a sweet treat – a dime a dozen. And I have plenty of delicious things to enjoy at home. Things that will serve me and my dreams.

Feeling free of mind and strong in body, feeling full of vim and vigor IS GOLDEN!

Life is too rich, too full of meaning and beauty to remain lost in our old food, fat, failure focus. Now we have the knowledge and support we need to gain our freedom – the liberty to live this one amazing life whole-heartedly present.

Uninstalling the Food Alarm, those emotionally charged feelings toward food, is part of our journey of change.

Look to the future, dear liberated eater…it is bright and comfortable and free. The work you are doing is good and true.

 

If you need support on your journey – or aren’t even sure where to start – check out our online Liberated Eating community. We’re walking this path together – keeping each other strong and encouraged – and we would LOVE to have you join us!

Click here for more: https://theliberatedeater.com/workshop-and-beyond/