Oct 07, 2010
I think I have established clearly in previous blogs that there is a known pathway to break the emotional eating habit. It requires you to march through 10 specific insight steps, one by one, until you convince yourself, by your own experience, that you can handle whatever is stirring in your mind without using food as a form of medication.
It's easy for me to describe each of the insights. It is probably clear to you what each means. But understanding them is not the same as putting them into practice.
So how do we help you convert an intellectual understanding of the insights you need to an actual real-life experience that can serve you well for the rest of your life?
Think of it as a massive attitude change. If you are an emotional eater your working attitude is that food is a medication that is absolutely essential for your emotional equilibrium. The attitude change you want to arrive at is that food is simply food to be used for health and enjoyment.
Have you ever changed your attitude in a big way before?
Of course you have although you may not have thought about it in this way. There was a time when you worshipped your parents as gods who would protect you for a lifetime from all harm. You were totally dependent on them for your safety, which meant that you would never really have to take care of yourself. When you were eight or nine years old you thought that members of the opposite sex were weird creatures you could not imagine having babies with. Those are just two of the massive attitude changes that everybody goes through.
It’s hard to remember exactly how you felt before these attitude changes. The same will be true for your attitude toward emotional eating once you reach your goal. You will look back and hardly believe that you considered food, overeating, or binging as an essential way of maintaining your emotional equilibrium.
The technique we use to help move from an intellectual understanding of each of the ten insights into a life experience you can trust is simply to ask you to pause at the critical moment that you are feeling a strong urge to eat in response to an emotional stimuli. The pause gives you a moment to reflect. If you don't pause but simply respond to the urge there is no opportunity for insight because the thinking in your mind is shut down. The pause must take place in the midst of a strong urge in order to have a corrective experience that retrains your brain.
When you pause you will be in touch with what is being stirred up inside your mind. I can tell you that whatever it is you will be able to handle it. If you are an emotional eater you do not believe me. What you need is evidence that you can rely on. That can only come from your own experience.
What we do is we take you through the exercises in the Shrink Yourself program that allow you to gather your own evidence based on your own observations. You have to experience that you can handle whatever is coming up in your mind or in your life. You have to re-learn this is true many times before you will be confident enough in your new skills.
That's why the sequence of the 10 insights is important. You have to rebuild your confidence on a strong foundation. You have to prove to yourself that you have a strong, capable adult mind before you can let go of food as a safety valve.
So what is being stirred up in your mind that is so disturbing that you want to hide in food rather than understand and deal with the messages your brain wants to deliver to you?
The range of issues that can trigger an emotional eating episode is vast but most people have a limited and familiar personal list. That makes the task of learning how to cope with these things much more manageable.
Sometimes it's the feelings and thoughts that remind you of a difficult life problem that you don't want to face or have been facing but don't know what to do.
At other times it may be your perfectionism. There is a critic inside that can be harsh and persistent and you don't know how to effectively talk back to that part of yourself.
Sometimes it's not a problem or your critic but simply a feeling that is emotionally loaded because of your past life. Your sore spot might be that you're feeling misunderstood or unappreciated or overworked or being controlled by someone at work or at home. When those contemporary experiences ignite a painful relationship experience from the past, this threatens to flood you with confusion, and you turn to food to shut down your mind.
Whether it's a problem, your critic, or a sore spot, you can learn better ways of handling it than shutting down your mind with food.
That's the lesson that you have to totally absorb and integrate into your life experience in order to end emotional eating and control your weight.
There is no quick cure. Making a large attitude change requires time and effort. All we can offer you is a map of how to get there and exercises designed to help you have the critical experiences you need to get there as fast and as surely as possible.