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Body Image and Natural Eating Q & A

Original Owner - D Sharon PruittQ

… I loathe looking in the mirror, gross out at changing my clothes. Can’t stand being around people. Hate even being touched!

My eating disorder looms, waiting to pounce at any given moment. I think I’m calm but then the moment I walk in the door (usually after work), I binge on whatever I see even though I’m not hungry!!!

I have been trying ‘natural eating’ and hate it. Instead of having an easy & calm relationship with food, I spiral into extremes. Without food ‘rules’ I rebelliously indulge in foods just to prove that I am free. I end up eating food that makes my PLA rise to a 10 on my stress scale. I know my diet mentality is controlling me and I guess I just don’t believe I will be ‘slim’ eating this way.

I am unmotivated and depressed. I feel trapped inside my room looking out on everyone living life normally but I just cannot join in. Too scary!

I am back to the beginning again and wonder if I’ve made any progress at all!

Sorry to be such a downer. This has taken everything in me just to express this much. But I am drowning and have nowhere else to express it. The people closest to me don’t ‘get it’ and just want the nice me. Can’t give it to them and I feel horrible.

I’m supposed to be together right? I’m a mom and a wife and have a respectable job and even teach Sunday school…. but I just want to scream swear words at everyone, especially my Drill Sergeant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A

I can totally relate to those feelings of loathing and disgust, frustration and fatigue. It’s a very depressing and overwhelming place to be.

The reality is, if we’re feeling anything other than peaceful, we have needs that aren’t being met (or we’re remembering events when needs weren’t met or imagining future events and that they won’t be). Our knee-jerk reaction has been to start focusing on food and on our body when we feel anxious or insecure. That’s our training in life:

“If you just look like X, all will be well.”

“If you just don’t eat Y, you will be good, and all will be well.”

We’ve bought in to the story that we have to look a certain way or only eat certain things in order to gain the approval of key people, or any people for that matter. And we are so desperate to achieve that state of acceptance that we aren’t interested in taking our time to find balance and a sustainable lifestyle with exercise and with food. We want it now.

Of course the irony is, it takes forever to achieve a sense of peace, security, and balance in your life when you try and achieve it through restriction and body image focus, and it takes such a short time to create true balance in your life (which always includes being a natural weight for your body) when you just eat naturally (eat when hungry, stop when comfortably full) and respond to your emotions and needs in respectful, life-enhancing ways.

We do need approval now. We all do. But restriction, binging and purging to get it will never work. That path only leads us to feel more loathing for ourselves and more insecure around others every single time. It hasn’t worked for you as a path to security, self-love, peace and happiness so far and it will never work. Ever.

And any time we start to think that overeating or restricting are what we “need” to do, we are not in our rational mind, we are in our all-or-nothing thinking and we need to stop and check in about what it is in our lives that might be triggering stress for us.

When we say, and again, I completely relate to this experience, that we are “trying” natural eating, what that really means is “I’m legalizing binging, until my Drill Sgt. jumps in, and he will, because I really still believe I need to restrict. I still believe I can’t trust myself around food. I still believe that I can’t trust my body to know what it needs and how much it needs.”

Natural eating just is. You’re hungry, you eat, you’re full, you stop. It’s natural. There’s nothing to try. It’s the layers and layers of diet mentality on top of your natural cues and your natural response to them that are causing you stress and frustration and triggering you to binge and purge. Those layers can never be removed by focusing on what you’re eating or on what your body fat ratio is that week.

They can only be shed when:

  1. you prove to yourself that any restriction; any eating when you’re not hungry; and purging; and critical thoughts of your body; are just your learned approach to “handling” stress, and
  2. you learn some simple steps to handle your stress and solve your problems in life in more mature and respectful ways.

If you’ve set yourself the intention for a day to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full and at some point in that day you realize you’re starting to want to binge, or you wake up in full-fledged binge mode, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do natural eating. You did eat naturally, until whatever point in your day saw your stress rise beyond your current ability to handle it, triggering your anxiety and your diet mentality coping strategy kicked in with thoughts of what you should/shouldn’t be/have eaten, and therefore whether you should just binge and purge to “take care of it.”

It’s the diet mentality that is the problem. It’s the story that restriction is necessary and will solve anything that is the problem.

Imagine if you were able to remind yourself immediately, whenever you started to feel stressed about food or about your body in any way, that that’s just your coping strategy talking and it means you’re feeling anxious or insecure about something (other than food or body image); at the first niggle of stressful food focus, you rallied to your side and looked deeper into what was causing you distress.

Immediately your focus on food and body image would release, you would know it’s just smoke and mirrors and not the real problem and you’re not interested or willing to distract yourself with coping strategies any more, you’re ready to see and to solve what’s really bugging you.

That’s true freedom. That’s what you’re here to learn to create for yourself 24/7 (Actually, you’re here to get to a place where the thoughts of food in that old restrictive, judgemental way, don’t even arise. That will come. Let’s first focus on getting you to the place of recognizing food and body focus for what it is, a sign, a symptom, and not the problem in and of itself).

So, give yourself a big hug from me and from all of us here in the group. We care about you and know how you were feeling, firsthand.

Your whole approach to yourself, to life and to food and body image will shift when you get that any focus on food and body that is stressful is just a coping strategy. Its whole purpose in your life is to distract you from something that’s stressing you out that you believe you can’t do anything about.

Your natural step then, each time you notice those old thoughts or behaviours around food kicking in, will be to ask yourself, “What’s really going on here? Separate from food and body image (which are just coping strategies anyway), what’s stressing me out and what can I do about it?”

You will not get hooked. You will not spiral, and your self-esteem will grow and grow as you not only see yourself handling life in ways that demonstrate confidence and self-respect, but also see yourself not using food to cope because you won’t need to.

Realizing that we’ve shifted out of Natural Eating and back into Diet Mentality is one of the most important things, but also one of the hardest things to do in this process because we’re so accustomed to feeling anxious and crappy about ourselves and food we often don’t notice it when it sneaks back in. It’s so familiar it doesn’t register. So we think we’re “trying natural eating” but really we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed because we’re stressed and we’re in diet mentality to try and cope.

It is fundamental to you and your freedom from this annoying behaviour that you do whatever you can to help yourself remember that any feelings of judgement, loathing, stress, anxiety, etc. around food are diet mentality and not natural eating.

Then, whenever you come to and realize you’ve slipped back into the diet mentality or missed a stress cue, or two or 10, instead of letting the Drill Sgt. beat the crap out of you and depress the hell out of you, you can simply remind yourself:

It’s a coping strategy. There is no value in focusing on the food because that isn’t the problem. It’s the way I currently deal with stress and it will only change when I can show myself that I can handle life in other ways that are far more life-enhancing and respectful.

And how do you prove this to yourself so you can really trust that food is not the problem?

Ask yourself, whenever you notice you’re eating when you’re not hungry, or not allowing yourself to eat as much as you know your body needs to be well:

1. What might just have happened, or what was I just thinking that might have caused me to feel anxious or insecure?

2. What are the stories I’m telling myself about that? (and that means…and that means…)

3. Is there any all-or-nothing thinking in that?

4. What are some other possibilities? How else could that story go? What other stories are also possible?

5. What, if any, action would I like to take/do I need to take in order to feel truly peaceful about this issue?

6. Breathe.

Posted in: 2010, CEDRIC Centre, newsletter, Tips for Natural Eating

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3 Comments

  1. sue September 18, 2010

    When I stop and try and tink what is really going on, I cannot get to what the problem is. Its like an elastic band, I just get snapped back to food. Its as if I dont want to know the problem, I just want the food.

    reply
  2. Michelle September 18, 2010

    Hey sue
    We all really truly believe that food is the problem when we begin this process.

    And no matter how long we feel we’ve been “trying” natural eating, if we are eating more than we are hungry for, or not letting ourselves eat when we are hungry there is, without a doubt, some underlying stressor triggering us to feel anxious.

    Dig deeper than just a surface scratch and you will find it and prove this to yourself. Then the question ceases to be “what’s wrong with me?” and instead becomes “would I rather stay stuck or would I rather be free?”

    Dig a little deeper and you will see immediately that there is always a reason, separate from food and body image, that you are eating when not hungry (or restricting). That is why it is called a coping strategy. You are using it to help you cope with stress. Only now it’s taken on a life of it’s own.

    Look deeper and you’ll quickly resolve your triggering stressor and your use of food to cope in one fell swoop.

    Hugs to you sue! It’s good to hear from you.
    M

    reply
  3. Tera September 28, 2010

    I find that there have been so many years of dieting and so many ‘rules’ that contradict each other, it makes it difficult to make choices in what to eat.

    Good carbs, no carbs, eat a fat/protein/carb in each meal, don’t eat within 5hrs, eat small meals throughout the day, no sugar, low sugar, low fat = more sugar, full fat is better……..it goes on and on!!

    I need to get to a place where I’m eating because my body needs fuel. I’m not there. I just found this blog/site and find it to be very interesting and look forward to reading more.

    Thanks

    reply

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