Sometimes, there’s great fear put forth about why the rules are in place: Don’t go there! Watch out! Be careful! Never, ever, ever go down that street! Worry about this! Be afraid, very afraid!
This is the attitude I heard, and began to adopt starting pretty young (childhood): Be afraid. Be very afraid of food. Certain types of food are bad and evil. Sugar, candy, bit-o-honey, bread, chicken skin.
People are easily susceptible to overeating, gaining weight, being fat, being ugly, being rejected, appearing as weak.
You must be very, very, very careful NEVER to go down that road, and control yourself…..lest you fall into rejection and have a black mark on your soul.
But I’m not kidding.
In this mindset, we get fixated on needing to appear successful and show up beautiful and forever eat the “right” and “good” foods.
The comparison becomes intense. It’s vital I look a certain way, in order to be safe and connected and seen as a good citizen, good family member, good daughter.
The problem is, it’s a fairy tale, and no way to live when it comes to food and eating, if you want to enjoy yourself.
It’s so important to question this bitter and frightening story that food is a dangerous mine field, and put it to rest.
You can regain your sense of inner peace and personal authority.
Who would you be without the belief that some foods are against the law, you need willpower, you have to control what you eat, or there’s something horrifying about eating? What if there was no Law Book or Bible of Eating and dieting?
What I discovered, is as I remained calm and questioned what I most feared about eating, about food, and about life outside of food and eating….I found laughter, curiosity, peace, and power (in a good way).
Without our stories about food, eating, emotions and ourselves and our potential (to fail, especially) we find eating peace.
There’s very mild fear, exciting fear (amusement park fear) and there’s horrifying fear.
Some of us are fans of the first type of fear while others are not, but none of us really enjoy the second type of fear, when the volume is turned up to a ten on the emotional level.
I used to be so against fear, I’d do anything to set the world up so I wouldn’t feel it. Including not leave my house.
The problem is, something wise within knows you can’t ever be guaranteed to be “safe” if you define safety as not feeling strong emotions, not feeling threatened, and not every getting sick, hurt, or dying.
All those things will happen. They mostly already have.
And why is fear so very important to study when it comes to our strange or off-balance eating behavior?
Because it’s present more often than we realize when we eat in ways that don’t feel peaceful. Fear, in many forms. It could be anxiety, worry, upset, nerves, discomfort–large or small.
It arises out of our fearful thoughts about eating (and really about life).
Fear-inducing thoughts go like this:
I’ll never get to eat this again
I might be hungry later
I’ll miss out on something pleasurable
I’m too fat
Stopping is sad, disappointing
I don’t want to think about “x” and I will think about it if I stop eating
Thinness isn’t safe
The world is a dangerous place
people can hurt me
I need more sweetness in my life–this moment is sour
there’s no easy way to find rest
I hate that there’s no guaranteed safety
I have to store for a “rainy day” (bad things happening)
I am not safe
If I stop eating, I’ll have to do things I don’t want to do
I need to grab it while I can–pleasure is scarce
These are thoughts distilled down to basic commentary in the mind we have going about food, eating and our bodies.
And they don’t feel good.
But here’s the good news: they’re not even true.
That’s why they’re creating FEAR in the first place!
Step One: look and see the fear. Become aware of how your thinking is creating a sensation or experience, no matter how small and fleeting, of fear.
When we question our thinking, we can see other ways of thinking and being with food that aren’t threatening.
One of the greatest contributors to off-balance food, eating and hating your body is fear.
Not only does everyone feel fear at some points in life, but we also feel afraid of fear!
At least that was the case for me. I felt afraid, and I also felt afraid of feeling afraid.
Good heavens, that’s a hard orientation to have towards fear. I had to run, hide and duck constantly!!
The way I did that of course, was to eat. Secretly, quickly, sneakily. I didn’t eat out in the open (if I did, I was very, very careful).
But my fear itself caused a huge resistance to looking at fears, whether I felt terrified or even only a little nervous.
I wanted to either put my head in the ground like an ostrich and try not to think fearful thoughts OR I wanted to run, eat frantically, and isolate.
I really did not feel anyone would ever understand me or care about me if they really knew me and my fears.
When I felt listened to, accepted and loved anyway, that’s when I began to feel more free with food and eating and my body image. I no longer felt worried about being rejected and cut off, or that love would be withheld from me.
What do you feel afraid of?
I’m reading and listening here.
I’ve created an anonymous survey where you can feel comfortable answering questions around fears and dreams, and inner conflicts. It means so much for me to read what you share.
Your answers contribute to all of us accessing the peace we all crave so deeply, especially around compulsive eating behavior that seems so persistent and crazy and disappointing.
To answer the questions, click HERE. Very grateful for your honesty and sharing.
Sometimes feelings are so chaotic and wild, we feel crazy as they ride through us, along with all our thoughts that caused the feelings in the first place. Feelings seem to cause distress, turmoil, upset and fatigue.
Then, we often want to eat. Whether hungry or not.
(Or smoke, drink, clean, work, gamble, etc).
Escape from the feelings! Change the channel!
But what if you’re treating these wild and moveable sensations in the body like their the enemy, or something you shouldn’t be experiencing?
Long ago, when I was first healing from truly dreadful off-balance eating, I discovered there were a few feelings on my list that I never wanted to feel. Ever.
Aloneness or solitude I could handle. Sadness, that was OK. Anxiety was uncomfortable but not the end of the world. Excitement or nervous anticipation was partially fun. Disappointment I thought I could quickly recover from.
But deep anger, resentment, fury, rage–these I judged as horrible. Only mean people have those feelings. Bad people.
Fear was also too uncomfortable. I felt nauseated, couldn’t sleep, short of breath. I’d do anything to get away from fear! (Including eat when not hungry).
Humiliation was the worst of all. Feeling ashamed, or guilty that I did something wrong or someone disapproved of me. Ugh. It was the worst of all. Then I really wanted to hide in my house and eat sweet things, so I felt sweeter about the world. (It never worked for long term).
Something that helped immensely over time, was taking a look at feelings I disliked the most….the ones I considered ENEMIES….
….and judge them, using The Work of Byron Katie.
Is it true you’re a bad person if you experience fear, or anger, or shame?
Look at those other people over there, acting terrified, or rageful, or deeply self-effacing. Gross. So unpleasant, and unattractive.
Can you absolutely know it’s true it makes someone a BAD person if you experience these human feelings?
No. Reality includes all these feelings. It appears to be a part of the human condition.
How do you react when you believe something’s awful and bad?
I avoid it. I try to get away, stay away, and crush it within. I try not to be angry, fearful, or shameful….ever, ever, ever.
If I DO experience these feelings, I eat.
I don’t ask anyone for help (they’ll think I’m bad, too). I don’t have any other outlets. I try to control what can’t be controlled. Feelings.
It’s a ton of work. I have to stay home a lot, and not be exposed to other people.
But who would I be without this thought? Who would I be without this belief that having these uncomfortable feelings makes me BAD? (Or anyone bad)?
You can look at that other person who’s feeling big feelings you don’t like and see what you’d think of them without the belief they shouldn’t be expressing that feeling.
What would this be like?
I’d be feeling these terrible feelings, like riding a roller coaster, and letting them run their course–even hearing their message. Honoring what they have to say. No getting over them.
Allowing the feeling to be here, and allowing me to be a human being feeling it, without judgment.
That feels like freedom.
Turning the thought around: feelings (anger, fear, humiliation) are GOOD to feel. Not bad. It’s only my thoughts about these feelings that are bad, not the feelings themselves.
When I began to live this way with my feelings, even just a little bit, guess what happened to the urge to eat? It relaxed.
It was no longer necessary to stuff in food aggressively with anger. It was no longer necessary to panic with ice cream in bed. It was no longer necessary to shamefully buy something I liked to eat, and eat too much of it in my car.
In the Eating Peace Process, we spend an entire module or segment of the program looking at how to work with feelings.
Especially the ones we resist or hate.
Who would we be without our stories about feelings?
Two live calls per week and many presentations you’ll listen to on your own, this course offers you a structure to thoroughly look at your relationship to food, eating and your body from every angle. To read more about it the Eating Peace Process please visit here.