What do you do after you lose your mind and end up overeating? Do you head to the gym, starve yourself for a few days or just let bygones be bygones?
Have you been blaming your weakness for falling headfirst into the ice cream, the bag of chips or the plate of pasta? Hating yourself isn’t going to help you feel any better. I’ve learned that self-compassion is actually the best antidote to bust down your binges.
So if you’ve been judging yourself for regaining weight and overeating, you’re only adding insult to injury. To break the cycle of shame, you have to tap into more self-compassion.
Your Binges are 9-1-1 Emergency Calls to Look Beyond the Food and Get Honest with Yourself
As author and emotional eating expert, Geneen Roth teaches, you need to know that there are really good reasons why you are overeating and unless you are willing to look beyond the surface, get honest with yourself about what’s bugging you and deal with those conflicted feelings, your patterns of overeating will continue to challenge you.
I’ve spent a lot of years and wasted a lot of tears worrying about my weight for vanity’s sake. I wanted to look sexy and cute and be perfect and I thought that being thinner was the answer to all my problems. Consequently I wasted nearly 35 years watching my weight yo-yo up and down and dealing with intense mood swings.
Having a husband who adores me at any size has always been a mixed blessing for me. Due to a history of weight issues, sexual and verbal abuse and being devalued by men, my trust issues often sabotage my 29 year marriage.
It was only the last 10 years or so when I realized that it’s my issues with feeling safe and receiving love that inhibit my willingness to accept and appreciate Angel’s adoring affection.
I grew up in a home where my alcoholic and rageful step father, Jorge sexually abused me for years. And he did it right under my mother’s nose. It seemed like every moment he had a chance, whenever Mommy’s back was turned, he would make a grab for me. To this day, I still don’t know if she ever knew what was going on. My mother struggles with bipolar and depression and more often than not, she acts more like a child than my mother.
I was 16 years old when I let the secret out of my abuse and told my step mother, Rosie and later my father. They were both so horrified and they urged me to confront Mom.
When I did she said that I was lying and she didn’t believe me. She went back home to Florida to be with Jorge leaving me feeling so stunned and hurt. That began a long period of being estranged from her.
I’ve done a lot of work reconciling those years of abuse, living with mom and Jorge. I can’t even remember her presence in our home, just Jorge. I still have a lot of remaining anxieties that come from my memories of living under so much chaos and fear.
The thing about Jorge was that he was like two different people. He could be really sweet and kind. He cooked us all amazing meals and we danced and it felt good being like a family. He was always so loving and adoring with Mommy. It made me happy to see them together. But then after he drank beer, he turned into a monster.
I remember so many nights watching in horror as he would beat my baby brother with a strap yelling and calling him names. Mommy stood beside him saying, “Papi, stop it.” She was as weak as a kitten. No match for the hurricane force that she chose as a husband.
The thing that messed with my thinking so much is the fear of never knowing when something is going to happen. Watching Jorge change personalities in an instant terrified me and left me with the belief that I can never let my guard down.
For decades my insecurities enslaved me. In the early years of our marriage, Angel used to drink. He was always very different from Jorge, but there was that part of me always looking for evidence of a coming storm.
For years I was consumed with fear that Angel would leave me for a more beautiful, thinner woman. Now I realize that the more real threat to our marriage is me not feeling safe and unconsciously pushing him away.
Back in 2006 I made the decision to stop dieting for myself as well as my daughter. I realized that my body image hangups were affecting her self-esteem. I tried intuitive eating and attempted to eat in response to my body’s natural hunger, but because I was so unwilling to deal with my stress and trust issues, my cycles of binging and restriction led me in and out of weight gain.
In 2008 I discovered that I could apply tapping, a stress-relief technique to reduce cravings and question phantom hungers, I shared what I learned with other women in my Losing Weight without Dieting programs (currently known as Lovin’ the Skin You’re In). They had instant success in combining the intuitive eating with the tapping, but I refused to use the tapping for myself and my weight continued to spiral upwards.
Back in December of 2014, chest pains pushed me to the brink of readiness to finally confront the fears and anxiety that had prevented me from being healthier and thinner. During that time when I was doing a lot of tapping on old unresolved emotions, my life transformed.
These were some of those changes:
- My marriage of 25 years got back it’s spark
- I developed a closer relationship with my son, PT (Paul Thomas)
- I found peace with becoming an emptynester
- I forgave myself for getting into debt and acting irresponsibly with money
- My strained relationship with my mother began to heal
- I got really comfortable with being totally transparent and painfully honest in my life, work and relationships
- I increased my prices and raised my coaching rates
- I let go of my perfectionist tendencies
- I stopped feeling stupid around technology and discovered it was fun
- I became crystal clear about how to verbalize my value
- my self-confidence soared
My eating was so different then. I was working with a friend who was a nutritionist and learning how to eat to manage my blood sugar. I was consuming a lot of protein and vegetables. She encouraged me to keep a daily journal of what I ate and to count the calories. It felt crazy because I knew I was going against my own message of eating whatever I wanted, but I was willing to learn more about it.
I was surprised. It wasn’t hard like dieting. Although it may have seemed like dieting, it didn’t feel it. Susan’s premise was to factor in the calories of cheat days and offset that with what she called, “skinny days.”
Compared to my decades of trying desperately to lose weight by restriction, self-hatred, and punishing workouts, it was pretty easy and painless to release nearly 28 pounds of excess weight just by choosing to take excellent care of my body and making a concerted effort to love myself and demonstrate self-respect by setting boundaries for myself and others.
Since I no longer feel the pull to seek validation outside of myself as frequently as I used to, I don’t get on a scale with any frequency. But several weeks ago I noticed that my stomach was disappearing and I wanted to see how my weight had changed over several months.
After getting on the scale and seeing 206 pounds, I panicked. In a split second I realized I got way too close to my first goal of 203 and my ultimate goal of 180 wasn’t too far away. It scared the daylights out of me.
I generally have ice cream and other goodies in the house and it’s never been a trigger to overeat for me unless my stressload is through the roof. But that day, almost to the minute of seeing how my weight dropped so radically, I ran to eat whatever was on hand. Little by little the overeating started creeping back up in my life.
One day a couple weeks ago after facing a trifecta of disappointments, the voice in my head shouted, “Get the ice cream now.”
So I ran to the kitchen like my pants were on fire to pursue the ½ gallon of Black Raspberry ice cream I purchased the day before. That moment I was completely and utterly vulnerable and within the next 24 hours I ate the entire ½ gallon. I’ve never done anything like that before. I felt so shocked and disappointed in myself.
I’d like to say it was delicious or I loved every minute of it, or I don’t regret it and I’m okay, but that time it was different, I felt shameful and out of control.
My head is still spinning a little bit and my mind hasn’t had a chance to wrap around what happened to trigger a binge of such enormous proportion for me. But I do know that pummeling myself to the ground when I’m already down is not the answer and it won’t make me feel like getting back up anytime soon.
Ever since then I’ve been on a roll eating more, reinsulating myself with the safety blanket of feeling the need to protect myself with my old fat. The Type A part of me feels mixed emotions about that, but I am dedicated to loving myself right now no matter what, lovin’ the skin I’m in.
Rather than giving into and accepting the old habits of hating myself for the overeating, I decided to take a no shame/no blame approach and be more self-compassionate with my body.
Not only because it feels so damned good loving myself at any size, but also because doing so has been the secret to my success in being able to release nearly 28 pounds of excess weight effortlessly over the course of a year.
To me, I equate releasing weight with letting go of the pains of my past and allowing my body to feel safe connecting with my sexual and sensual side and putting my memories of being sexually abused to rest once and for all.
So recognizing how I value my body’s unconscious attempts to insulate me from living in fear of being preyed upon, I chose to explore what was really triggering the emotional hunger that has been driving my appetite beyond it’s former comfort zone of eliminating grains, reducing sugar and eating less naturally.
No More Vanity Weight Control for Me
I refuse to plow back into doing workouts unless I feel excited and playful around the idea of moving my body more. I will not push myself into doing anything that doesn’t feel absolutely and positively comfortable and in line with feeling safe.
In receiving nutrition coaching by my friend, Susan L. Holmberg, who is a nutritionist, she showed me how to manage my Prediabetes by teaching me strategies that made eating to manage my blood sugar levels so easy. The most valuable of them was to prepare food in advance and to plan for times when I needed a quick grab and go meal after losing track of time whenever I get swept up in the joy of writing.
I’m still choosing to be mindful of eating to balance my body’s blood sugar levels. But right now all efforts to continue to ‘lose weight’ for vanity’s sake seems so hollow and meaningless because moving onward toward this new level of living as a more vulnerable and thinner Andrea is too scary a prospect to handle at this tumultuous time in my life.
Now I get it. I’ve got some more inner work to do in terms of allowing myself to feel safer receiving more love, appreciation and money, being intimate with my husband and being more expressive and building more self-trust in my life and in my business.
Taking my own advice of what I tell my clients, I’m not even going to think about modifying any behaviors that would help me eat less, until I can find more peace with my bigger body again. Can you relate?
Could you use some direction and support to help you find a dose of your own self-compassion? Tired of feeling sorry for yourself and thinking you’re just a victim? You’re not a victim, no matter how painful your experiences. These are the gems that have made you who you are. I want to help you to discover the joy of owning that power.
If you’re struggling with feeling out of control around food, caught up in a cat and mouse game of guilt and shame, I’d like to teach you a way to have a peaceful and easy relationship with food.
Click the link below to join a free Google Hangout with me. We’ll be talking about how you can use self-compassion to bust down your binges.