Food can have immense pulling and magnetic power. When I wanted food, I WANTED it, and nothing could stop me from having it. Remember the TV advert of the sugar puff monster bursting through his clothes, well, that was me. There was no rational thinking such as, "what's going on that you want to eat a packet of biscuits and a family size packet of crisps?" There was no time for such reflection, just a desperate and urgent need to eat. A client similarly described her habit of "floating" through the evening "inhaling" and "hovering" bits of food, but not really eating. Here are 3 beliefs that can entice you to keep munching:
"If I can't see progress on the scales, then it doesn't count"
A firm focus on numbers, such as calories, points, the number of pounds you've lost (or gained!), can be quite a narrow view of your progress. A rigid focus on numbers can be very much linked to a diet mentality, where you're either 'good' or 'bad', in control or out of control. It's all very black and white, and one foot wrong and you're arguing with yourself, "Damn, I haven't even lost a pound! I'm having some cake". Have you noticed that restricting what you eat is almost always followed by an incident of overeating or bingeing?
Each habit or pattern that cannot be counted in numbers, such as no longer binge eating, being less self-critical, slowing down while eating, feeling more confident, having more energy, all reveal a more balanced picture.
"What's the point? I might as well keep eating"
What is your response when faced with the pull or enticement of food that you tell yourself that you shouldn't eat or don't deserve to eat? It may be, "What the point? I may as well eat the slice of cake. I've been this way for so long. Not eating it won't change that". Ah yes, those familiar feelings of helplessness and resigned acceptance. It is like telling yourself that you have no choice but to eat. Eating is your thing. Eating is what you routinely do when faced with a difficult situation or a difficult interaction with a family member.
"When I WANT food, I have to have it"
There have been times when I've put down the phone after a difficult conversation and wanted to eat everything that's not nailed down. Eating can be a way of letting go of the reins, a way of relaxing. It might be how you cope when feeling overwhelmed by life, as Claire, a 35 year old mum-of-two explains, "It's not like I have huge difficult decisions to make that are incredibly stressful. They're just small, trivial things, like paying bills, making calls. But it's all of them together. I just feel overwhelmed, and so I'll have a few crackers and cheese before I make that phone call". Claire had accepted that she had no choice but to mindlessly eat, which left her feeling disempowered and out of control around food.
• You Do Have A Choice!
Now I remind myself and my clients that you DO have a choice. To pause before reaching for food and make a clear and defined choice, "Yes. I'll have a slice of cake and enjoy it" or "No. I don't need it right now. Maybe later", but definitely not "what's the point, I might as well eat it". Most people do not have a weight or food problem, but they do have a self-care problem which is manifested through their weight and eating habits. Consciously pausing and slowing down before you reach for the packet of biscuits and asking yourself, "Is this the best way to care for myself right now?" means that you are putting yourself in charge and instead of mindlessly rushing to food and eating to escape.
• Hit your pause button
When I pause and ask, "Am I really hungry?" the answer is usually, "I feel overwhelmed by work" or "I'm afraid things won't work out". Focusing on food cannot fix this these concerns and anxieties. By pausing before eating you are giving yourself the opportunity to make an informed decision and are becoming aware of your needs. This means that you are taking the reins back and taking charge of your needs. It's a world apart from feeling out of control around food.
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