One of the most ironic things about those of us who use (or have used) food to cope is that we’re very smart. We’re also very intuitive. We’re also very trusting and as such, very vulnerable. This above all else means that if we ever hope to be truly free of binging or purging or restricting and any stressful focus on food, we need first and foremost to learn to listen to and respect ourselves about what we’re feeling and needing, and we need to absolutely trust ourselves to respect those feelings and the messages they contain about our needs at that time. We are not fools, and try as we might, we cannot pretend that we’re okay when we’re not or that something isn’t bothering us when it is.
Your anxiety, your depressed feelings, your insecurities, and any need whatsoever for food to distract or nurture you will reduce drastically immediately any time you’re willing to stop and listen and respect your own feelings and needs. And the best part is that the more you do that, the less anxious and overwhelmed you’ll feel overall. Life gets easier. And the healthier your relationships get, and the more confident you become in them, the easier it is to deal with the ins and outs of life and the more ridiculous it seems to even consider eating when you’re stressed or forcing yourself to not eat or to throw up to deal with a frustrating situation.
It is an irrational choice to manage stress with a substance, and that is why you can’t find a solution to your problem when you focus on food. Food isn’t your problem. There are no diets, no commitments to not eat certain foods, or to only eat at certain times or certain amounts that will solve the stress you’re dealing with at work or in your relationships. A real-life problem requires a rational solution, not an irrational one or a band-aid at best.
But what if you don’t believe you’re capable of handling the stress in those real-life situations? What if you’ve been told, or you’ve told yourself, that you are stupid, incompetent, not good enough, doomed to fail….?
Would it seem like there was really any point in staying present with yourself and figuring out what’s really going on?
Would there be any point at all in looking for a solution to a problem that you’ve already told yourself you can’t manage?
Nope. There would only be value in distracting yourself from that stressful situation that you’ve assured yourself (or been assured by others) you can’t handle.
But what if that story that you can’t handle “stuff” or that certain problems have no solution that will truly make you feel better, is a pile of crap? And what if you already have all the proof you need of that fact by just being shown how to look for it (and you were willing to do so)?
While I always trust in a person’s ability to grow and heal, I am also often moved to feel sorrow for how ferociously we smart, intuitive men and women cling to our old belief that we are flawed and doomed to fail and thus we are unlovable and can only hope to skulk through life, flying under the radar so as not to attract attention and therefore bring on the criticism that we are absolutely certain will come.
I completely understand why we think that way from my own healing journey. I get that it is our past experiences of unmet needs coupled with our interpretation of events that have painted us a derogatory picture of ourselves that has now become the lens through which we see the world and our place in it. I know this because that was my truth and the truth of each of the many hundreds of men and women that I’ve personally supported these past 17 years to rid themselves of their eating disorders (which really aren’t “disorders” at all, just your best efforts at coping with life).
And while I am supremely confident in the ability of each person to overcome this harmful and erroneous perspective of themselves and the world around them, I do find there are times when I wish I could wrap you all in my arms, rock you gently and say:
“It’s all right. You are safe. You are loved. You have the right to take up space. You have the right to ask for what you need. You have the right to feel and to express those feelings to others (respectfully of course). You are not responsible for the feelings and needs of others. You are not obligated to do anything you don’t want to do, no matter what. And if you just take the time to listen to your feelings and the messages they convey about what you really need in any moment, you can and will be successful at whatever it is that brings you joy and passion. You will have happy, healthy, truly intimate relationships, and you will be safe and loved within them.”
I can promise you this. If you just allow yourself to explore reality rather than the story that runs rampant in your head, I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be your life experience in a very short period of time.
It takes a lot of effort to keep erroneous beliefs in place. You have to work at it. It’s tiring and stressful, not to mention harmful to your health.
If you’re using food to cope, it is a given that you’ve been sold a bill of goods; some ocean front property in Arizona has just been handed down to you. How about this? Instead of stressing about how long it will take you to pack and how you’re going to find the time to maintain that property so that other people think favourably of your homemaking skills, how about developing some critical thinking skills and asking yourself first if that property even really exists? And on the very, very, very slight chance that it does, even if only in someone else’s mind, how about asking yourself if you are, in any way, obligated to move in?
You can’t change the things that have happened to you. You can’t change the hand you were dealt. But you can learn to ask yourself if you’re seeing the cards clearly. In my experience, when we see our cards clearly, we see that even if others have tried to bluff us by telling us we’re holding two’s and three’s, the fact is, the whole deck is wild! The hand you’ve been dealt can truly be anything you want it to be. That’s reality.
Whatever you tell yourself is true becomes your truth. How you perceive yourself and the world around you IS your reality. But your perception can be changed very easily and quickly when you have good tools and learn to become a critical thinker.
And if that dear old Drill Sgt. in your head just chimed in with: “Yeah, that’s true for everyone but you chicky-poo. You’re the one-in-a-million who really is broken beyond repair,” just ask him:
What is your intention in saying that/what are you trying to achieve in saying that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that? And what is important about that?
Learn how to gently and lovingly challenge your thoughts. Learn how to step free of the stories that keep you stuck feeling insecure and anxious and believing that there is any benefit whatsoever to eating, restricting or purging to cope with stress.
Turn on the light in that dimly-lit room and see for yourself that what looked like a beast about to strike was just a coat tree and an umbrella! We’re here when you’re ready.