The biggest thing that I have learned from having such a complicated relationship to food and my body is that habits hold far more power over us than we give them credit for. It is hard to separate the guilt and shame from the act of negative behaviors. It is frustrating to want so badly to behave one way and then find ourselves still doing the same behaviors as before. You hold more control than you know over your choices. Here is how to tap into that control and start to break away from negative food behaviors to find a sense of peace again.
The “zombie” state. Think of it like your alter ego around food and your body. Many times when make a poor choice that we know deep down does nothing to serve us lovingly, we go into “zombie” mode. It is like a switch is flicked and we completely tune out. All our energy goes towards engaging in the negative habit. It may happen when you innocently take that first bite of chocolate cake or have a few pretzels. The next thing you know, you polished off every morsel and you think you mine as well polish off everything else in the house. Awareness plays a huge key here. If you are on shaky ground with certain foods that set you off, make note of those foods. Take it seriously. Be present with them. Then, when you are faced with the choice to eat them be specific with your plan. Take out the exact amount you want to eat. Write that number down on a piece of paper. Take your cookies and the piece of paper to a table, not the couch. Eat the cookies while looking at that number and say out loud, “I am in control. I am having this many cookies. I will not eat anymore than this because this is the amount I have mindfully decided is the perfect amount for me. I do not need or desire anymore than this.” What you have just done is put a mindful action into a situation where you normally go into “zombie” mode. You have told your body that the habit is going to change from here on out. It may not happen at once. You may still go back for more cookies, but you have stated your purpose with those cookies and your body hears you. This is the start of creating positive relationships with certain foods.
Forbidden foods fuel our negative habits more than help us overcome them. I went through a period of time where I felt like I could not have tortilla chips in the house. Every time I ate one, I wanted to finish the bag. I thought that the best thing I could do for myself was just not have them in the house anymore. The problem with that? I did not want to go through life without tortilla chips! I wanted to be able to eat them in a controlled manner without the zombie coming out. By removing the chips from my home, I was making them a forbidden food. I was not practicing any kind of mindfulness or peaceful eating with them. I was removing the problem without facing it. Would I make it another fifty years never being around anther tortilla chip again? Probably not….especially with the amount of margaritas I drink!
The focus here has to be on the fact that I did not want to go through life without tortilla chips. I had a similar problem with ice cream. It was a major binge food for me. I got to a point where I just could not allow myself to eat it anymore. The difference here was that I did not care that much. I enjoy ice cream, but my desire to eat it does not trump my risk of eating an entire tub. I hardly touch ice cream now and I am fine with that. It is when we forbid foods we really do not want to give up that we set ourselves up for failure. You do noting to equip yourself for the day you do face that food again. Hello binges! Instead, get in touch with those foods that cause you temptation to over eat. Decide which ones you can live without and which ones you can’t. The ones that you want to be able to keep in your life, those are the foods you now have to build a new habit around; a new relationship with. A positive friendship with. You do not need to banish them from your life forever. You need to practice enjoying them without negative behaviors associated with them. That starts by eating in a controlled situation (like at your table) with no distractions (Get that cell phone far away from you!) and your focus being completely on the food. It is harder for the zombie to appear when we are practicing conscious eating.
If you have built up memories of being out of control around a food then the moment you put that food in your mouth your brain sends a signal that says, “Oh, here we go. Get ready to go crazy. This is that food she eats a ton of.” Your body releases all the signals to have you binge. It is expecting the binge. In order to counteract this, you must being putting the opposite action in place. You must start sending new signals to your brain that this is a food you do not binge on. You want your brain to believe that you have control over this food. When that happens it will stop sending signals to the body to gear up for the binge by tuning you out, increasing your hunger and even making your mouth water so hard for it.
Your body is programmed to binge on these foods because originally your emotions programmed you to binge on them. Even when you no longer desire to binge on them emotionally, physically your body is expecting it. This is why it is so hard to get a grip on your poor habit. You have set yourself up to physically rely on it. Our bodies remember everything we do. We can trigger all sorts of negative responses out of them without even realizing what just happened. The more positive experiences we can build within the cells of our system, the easier it becomes to stay on a positive path. Rather than withhold and forbid foods from your life, practice creating new and uplifting experiences with them.
Remember that this is all a learning process. See nothing as a failure but as an experience bringing more insight in to your relationship with food and yourself. Victories do not just come from triumph but from failures as well. Your ability to gain control and peace with yourself and your food is more than just being able to handle the actions of eating it. It is about allowing your inner self to really heal. Your urges to make negative choices come from a need to feel safe and secure. You can’t just bypass the negative experiences and expect to get to a place where you feel that. You need to triumph through those negative experiences with absolute faith that you will come out the other end more whole than before.