Whether it’s overeat, or restrict, or purge, or yell at the kids, or call that guy, or get to work late, or skip your meditation, or drink coffee, or put something on your credit card that you can’t afford, or shop on eBay, etc. you likely fall prey to the late night promises as a way to try and feel a little more peaceful about the day you’ve just had and a little more hopeful about the day to come.
You are sincere. You absolutely mean it when you make that promise to yourself. But, within a few minutes or a few hours, maybe as soon as you open your peepers, the promise is toast and you’ve assured yourself you’ll start with that particular behavioural change “tomorrow.
Now, this doesn’t exactly reassure you. You’ve heard this from yourself before. You know yourself well and you know that unless some sort of miracle happens you’re going to have a day of seeing yourself compromise your integrity / break your promise and then make the same promise that night followed by another day of diminished self-trust and inner security as the promise is neglected once again. It is this cycle of making commitments and then breaking them with just the slightest provocation that triggers that lovely inner companion, the Drill Sgt., to begin his litany of self-contempt and condemnation.
If you could find a way to do two little things your life would change immeasurably – I promise. And if you’re not ready or able yet to do both, pick one! It will make a world of difference.
Make promises at night that you have reason to assume you’ll be able to keep. In other words, if you’re binging every day don’t promise you won’t binge unless you’ve actually got some new tools in your personal tool kit that you can use and that you know will work to make it so you won’t need to binge. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure which diminishes your self-esteem and leads you to need to use food to cope even more. You’re better off not making any commitments or rather, committing to being compassionate, loving and gentle with yourself when you do binge. That’s a promise worth making that will make a world of difference because you take the guilt and shame out of the “diet-binge-guilt” cycle and that means there’s less urgency to restrict and therefore less need to binge. It’s a very healthy and significant step to be compassionate with yourself when you’re using food to cope.
In the morning when you remember you’ve made a commitment to behave differently but you don’t know how you’re actually going to follow through or you feel drawn, within 5 minutes of waking, to break that promise, try this: Rather than focusing on the thing you promised you wouldn’t do ie. binge; ask yourself “Why did I make that promise?” “What was I hoping to achieve in changing that pattern of behaviour?”
And see if the answer to that question doesn’t help you to make a new and more honoring choice or at least tone down the magnitude of the old one (ie. you may have a smaller binge if you keep in mind that the reason you promised not to binge today is because you’re tired of feeling heavy, bloated and lethargic after binging and you’re tired of hearing from the Drill Sgt. about how fat and lazy you are.).
At the very least, I guarantee you, asking the question “What led me to make that promise last night?” will help you to keep in mind your overall goal from a more compassionate place and will bring the focus to the underlying issues you’re seeking to heal instead of just continuing to focus on the food or the coffee or the shopping or the guy.
There is an entire chapter in my book “Food is not the Problem: Deal With What Is!” called “Compassionate Goal Setting” that looks closely and clearly at why we set ourselves up to fail and how to set goals that are reasonable and honoring and that lead to success.
Give these two suggestions a try and if you find them helpful, pick up the book for more tools or call or email for a session. You deserve a life that’s free from harmful coping strategies and negative self-talk and you can create that, just like I did, with some new tools and a little support.