I want to share a tool I discovered to deal with the guilt I felt about eating. But, before I do, I must digress for a moment and ask you if you have ever been in a relationship with a person that commits to doing something and then does not follow through? If you have, then you know that your relationship with that person weakens because with each breach of commitment, it indicates that they cannot be trusted. We are inclined to ask ourselves to overlook “small” things and not to be “too sensitive” or “needy” or “demanding”. We force ourselves to detach from our own authentic self and his or her appropriate feelings. We align more with the untrustworthy person than we do with ourselves.
What message do you think this sends us about our perception of our own worth and about our perception of the validity our feelings? Well, it simply reinforces that old story about you not being good enough or deserving enough of honesty and integrity in your relationships on all levels. It sets you up to expect relationships to lack follow through and to force yourself to accept less than you deserve and need in the way of trustworthiness.
I want to make you aware of the feeling you get when someone breaks a commitment, regardless of how small or large it is. It is the same feeling each time you tell yourself that you are going to eat a certain thing or not eat a certain thing, or that you are going to eat only a certain amount or only at a certain time and you don’t follow through on that commitment. You are breaching your own trust in yourself, undermining your own self-esteem and sense of safety within you.
Wait until you’ve done the deed and then belittle and berate yourself for hours maybe even days until you believe you’ve worked those extra calories off. Similar to what you might do when someone who breaks a commitment to you. I’m not saying that it’s okay to berate someone for not following through – nor is it okay for anyone to berate you for the same – there are many effective and relationship enhancing ways to speak to violations of trust and to set about the process of restoring the faith.
But, since many of us haven’t been shown these life enhancing ways of communicating, we are left with the old standards of anger, guilt and withdrawal. Either we rage at the other openly or passively; or we guilt trip; or we withdraw ourselves emotionally to make the point that we are wounded and feel unsafe. Again, neither is truly effective in resolving the underlying issue of trust with someone else or with ourselves.
To bring the focus back to food – if you’re going to commit to something around what you’re eating, when, how much and where, make sure it’s a commitment that you can keep. Make sure that it’s not coming from the diet mentality and that it’s not all or nothing nor should it be about losing weight. The focus needs to be not on what you weigh but how you came to weigh what you do. Decide what life enhancing, balanced and self-respecting measures you are going to incorporate into your day to day existence to attend to the underlying cause of your current weight and body image concerns.
With that focus the weight takes care of itself. With the diet mentality focus your body cannot find its own natural rhythm because you do not trust it to know what it needs and you are not listening to cues about hunger and fullness. If you were you would not need a “diet” you would only need to listen and respond to sensations of hunger and fullness, otherwise known as Natural Eating.
Let’s go back to the guilt factor. If you’re feeling guilty about what you’ve eaten or what you’re going to eat it’s only because you perceive yourself as breaking a commitment to yourself and you’ve just diminished your trust in yourself. The solution is simple, and it’s exactly the same solution you would ideally bring to bear if someone in your life were demonstrating a lack of respect and trustworthiness.
First and foremost, you only make commitments that you’re certain you can keep. In other words if you’ve been promising yourself every Monday for a year that “this week will be different” and it hasn’t been so, you may want to make a commitment this Monday to find out what’s preventing you from following through, rather than committing yet again to a pattern of behaviour that you’ve proven is too challenging right now.
Second, you prioritize your life in such a way that you are creating the greatest likelihood and ease of following through. For example, if you want to take a healthy lunch to work you need to decide whether you’re going to lounge in bed those extra ten minutes or get up and prepare something to take for lunch.
Third, if you see yourself not following through one day, stop and ask yourself what experience or thought has led you to set aside your commitment.
Fourth, remind yourself of the cost of these broken commitments to yourself: they keep you stuck in low self-esteem and mistrusting yourself in all areas, not just in the one area that you’ve compromised yourself.
Fifth, once you know what undermined your commitment ask yourself: “Is it appropriate for me to expect this of myself at this time given that I am having a hard time following through? Might I need to relax my expectations a bit so that I can begin to see some consistent follow through and build trust in myself?”
Sixth, make a new commitment that is truly realistic; i.e. rather than “every day for the next month I will…” how about “two times this week I will…” Then at the end of that week when you see that you followed through you will also be able to determine how much time that commitment took and if you really do have time to do it a third day the next week or perhaps need to just keep it at twice for now.
You will feel much better making commitments you can keep rather than commitments you’d like to keep but can’t right now. Take the time over the next while to discover what is truly reasonable and realistic to expect of you. Allow yourself to take a long term approach to resolving this issue, whatever it may be, and reassure yourself that as long as you see consistent movement forward you are far better off than the all or nothing approach.