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Emotional and Compulsive Eating

Picking Apart Addiction

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“It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour.”
Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

For decades I have been looking at my eating problem the wrong way. I was looking to control the behavior. To curb the action. But, that has never worked. As the above quote from Dr. Mate explains, it is more than just action.

With that in mind, I have had to be really honest with myself about what food was soothing (and still is?) after all these decades. What did I need relief from? Fear, anxiety, pain, trauma? All of the above.

So, how do I move forward acknowledging that my problem with food is really a problem with misdirected soothing?

“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”
Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Acknowledge the past. Live in the present. Believe in the future.

If You Have Kids, Nephews, Nieces or Work with Children, I Beg You to Watch This!

Teach Every Child About Food – Jamie Oliver

Filling Voids

I learned in the last year that when I take certain foods out of my diet I have to find healthy alternatives. Every food void is an opportunity to stick an even worse replacement there.

This week has been another teaching lesson for me. I recently cut out sugar unless it was fruit form. I have been using Stevia and honey quite a bit but I had a reaction and totally cut it out leaving a pretty big void in my diet for sweet stuff. I thought I could replace the Stevia and honey with fruit, but I seem to have been going on a trend of eating processed cereal for sweets.

Now we all know how high calorie cereals can be. And I have perfectly good rolled oats that I can eat. But everytime I look in the cupboard I see the processed cereal and convince myself I can just have a bowl. It’s becoming way too frequent.

I will not lie, the processed carbs and sugar tend to make me feel good when I eat them. However, when I get through the bowl and my blood sugar level subsequently drops, I feel horrible. I regret eating the cereal even though it was absolutely wonderful when I was eating it. I feel bad because I’ve eaten up quite a bit of my calories that I could have used for just plain better stuff (like dinner).

So I’ve got to be mindful of how I cut things out and how I move forward in filling that void. I caught myself pretty early this time. It’s only been a week. Thankfully tracking my foods really helps me look at what I’m doing in both the short and long term and helps me see a snapshot of my progress and my relapses.

No matter whether I have to lose 7 or 70lbs it’s still a struggle to find balance day to day and do the right thing. I will be battling this till the day I die but I also know that putting better food in mouth will end in better results for longevity than giving into every food whim I have and living an obese life.

I’m still struggling, but at least I am aware and have the opportunity to change course.

Compulsive Eating, Chocolate and Self Compassion

Staring down a bar of Chocolate, I knew I was in trouble. I was cleaning out our tea cabinet and found the bar stashed between two boxes of tea. The intent, no doubt, was to conceal it from me since I rarely drink tea. And the strategy worked well for months leading up to that day. The expiration date on the wrapper was 3 weeks away.

I told myself I could portion the bar out over those 3 weeks. That I could pace myself instead of giving in and consuming the bar in hours. That I had learned how to portion my foods and monitor my cravings during almost a year of weight loss and focusing on fitness. And in that stream of thought, I had made a grave mistake: I tried to logic my way out of compulsive eating by pretending I was cured.

No surprise it did not work. That chocolate bar and I had a love hate power struggle for about two hours. I had slipped back into my old compulsive eating cycle: eat, feel good, assess the caloric damage, feel bad. But, back then, I would have thrown in the towel and continued to eat until I was sick. But I did not do that.

Something felt different this time. I wasn’t feeling doomed. I was not feeling like a failure. I was able to carve out some compassion for myself which created emotional distance from my behavior and provided an objective look. In that space, I realized I could not logic my way out of compulsive eating  because it is emotional. Instead, I had to logically assess the situation and devise a way to prevent it from happening again.

I logically tore apart the scenario step by step: the chocolate bar made it’s way into the house, I am a recovering compulsive eater and chocolate is one of those foods I compulsively eat. Seems pretty straight forward. No blame, no shame, just a chain of events assessment.

My first step was to prevent exposure to chocolate bars in the future and request they be hidden in my husband’s car or kept at his work. I am absolutely blessed with a compassionate and non judgemental husband who is willing to entertain most of my requests to promote my recovery and health in general.

After that day, a chocolate bar has not made it’s way into our house. And I have not had to confess to my husband about a remorseful two hour fling with a chocolate bar. I think it’s a win-win.

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