A. The Permeating Level of Anxiety (your constant companion of low grade dis-ease or distress) and/or
B. Wanting to eat or actually eating when you’re not hungry. (Those of you who use food in a more restrictive fashion will want to note the times that you’re not allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry).If you allow your conscious awareness to frequently be drawn to either of these cues throughout your day you are then in the perfect position to take action on what it is that is triggering you to either feel anxious or to want to eat when you’re not hungry. The tool I would recommend most once you have that conscious awareness is this: Ask yourself: “Where is the ‘all or nothing thinking’ alive in me right now?” You could also ask this in this way: “Where is the all or nothing thinking in the thought or experience I just had?” In other words, what am I telling myself right now absolutely has to look or be a certain way OR ELSE!? If you can’t identify it by simply asking within take the time as soon as you can to sit with a pen and paper and ask yourself: “What are all of the things that are going on for me: Past; Present; and Future that might be impacting me right now?” Then you will ask yourself for each one: “Where is the all or nothing thinking in that situation?” Inevitably, if you’re feeling anxious or using food to cope, the all or nothing thinking is there and it will reveal itself if you check in. If you have checked in in this fashion and the all or nothing doesn’t seem to have appeared it’s time to share your list with someone like a self-aware and safe friend or your counselor and ask them to locate the all or nothing thinking that is alive in you around those issues. It will be there. If you can’t find it on your own it’s only because you’re so accustomed to the all or nothing approach to situations it doesn’t stand out for you as anything amiss. So, that’s my suggestion for how to pare down all of the skills you’ll learn or have learned on your healing journey. There will be lots of times when you’ll want to bring other tools on board and have the time and consciousness to do that, but for now, whenever you feel like you need a quick jolt of the healing process locate the P.L.A. or the use of food to cope and then identify the all or nothing thinking beneath that. And what do I do once I’ve found the all or nothing thought, you ask? Well, in most cases, simply by becoming conscious of it it dissolves and you’re then left with a sense of release and the thought: “Okay, what are some other ways this scenario I’m imagining could happen?” And you naturally start to seek alternative solutions or outcomes. If you don’t feel the release it’s because you aren’t willing to allow yourself to really see your thinking as all or nothing. Instead you’re saying something like “This is how it is, there is no alternative!” ie. “I must have this house spotless by 6:00!” Or “I must get this assignment done today!” Experiment with this for a while and you’ll prove to yourself how much the all or nothing thinking impacts your anxiety level and your use of food to cope and how you are always able to find an alternative solution if not many. And remember, give yourself the gift of asking others to illuminate other possibilities. If you’re new with the awareness of all or nothing thinking, or if you’ve been using it as a coping strategy for some time, as most of us who use food to cope have been, it will be second nature and therefore, pretty slippery to catch! Please feel free to print this article and share it with others or carry it with you to reference. Let me know how it goes. I really would like to hear your experiences. Love Michelle
The most important tool in your tool box is going to a combination of growing self-awareness and self-compassion. Being able to stop and check in, to see what is happening in your life that is triggering your desire to use food to cope is the first step in breaking the cycle. Without self-awareness, making different choices is not possible. The second major tool, self-compassion is so important because without it, we tend to use the information we gain through self-awareness as another club to beat ourselves’ up with. These two tools form the foundation that your recovery is built upon. Self-compassion means giving yourself permission to be human, to make mistakes, to not know, to be confused, to lose your patience, and loosening the grip of perfectionism. We are all made up of the same stuff, none of us has it all worked out, we all struggle with finding our way and making sense of it all. As one of my favorite teachers once said, “Wouldn’t it be just great if we all admitted to being lost and confused and not having it all together?” It is so refreshing to hear things like this, because our tendency is to compare. To imagine that others have it worked out, and that we are the only ones struggling and having difficulties. But the truth is, life just keeps unfolding, almost without regard for OUR plans, OUR desires, so it is better to learn how to surf rather than endlessly trying to stop the waves. Self-compassion doesn’t mean doing whatever that little child part inside of us wants to all the time. Self-compassion or basic friendliness towards ourself is simply a recognition of our finite, human fragility. It is recognizing that we are equal to others in this regard. We ALL struggle, we ALL experience loss. None of us is immune. We really are all in this together. Take it easy with yourself. Go slow, be gentle.