Okay folks, we’re coming to the end of this series of Natural Eating Q&A articles and today I want to focus on releasing all or nothing thoughts.
This week, we have a little twist on the theme, with a specific focus on how our learned helplessness and the irrational, all-or-nothing thinking that’s at the root of it, makes this process of recovery so much harder and longer than it has to be. In fact, if you put even a few minutes of effort a day into catching the all-or-nothing stories we’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks, and responding as I suggest, you will see an immediate – I mean immediate – shift in your anxiety level and in your focus on food and use of food to cope. Not only that, but those stories just won’t come up anymore. You’ll never have to hear them again!
So, here is one common all-or-nothing story that will come up as we are trying to experiment with Natural Eating but are still more unconsciously engaged in The Diet Mentality and Learned Helplessness. Catching these stories in any of the ways suggested below will lead to less Diet Mentality and a much greater feel for Natural Eating (waiting to eat until you’re hungry and freely stopping when you are comfortably full).
All-Or-Nothing Story #1:
“If I forgot to check in before I binged, there’s no point checking in now.”
Approach# 1: 4-7-8 Breathing
Stop. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts. Hold your breath for 7 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.
Repeat X 4.
Breathe in and out regularly for 3 breaths, then repeat: in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8 X 4.
Approach #2: The Drill Sgt. Dialogue
If we were to stop and ask our Drill Sgt. what his intention was in saying, “If I forgot to check in before I binged, there’s no point checking in now,” he’d say something like:
“We’ll, you’ve already overeaten. You may as well just binge your face off.” (Here, he’s well under way with the all-or-nothing thinking.)
Then we could ask: “What’s important about me just ‘binging my face off?’”
Our DS would reply: “Because you’re going to have to restrict tomorrow (notice the all-or-nothing Diet Mentality – He doesn’t offer you the option of just waiting until you’re hungry to eat again which is just simple common sense – No, instead, you have to suffer and restrict to “make up for” the binge. You’re still in the diet – binge – guilt cycle of the Diet Mentality here), so you may as well enjoy it now.” (If you can recognize that that is simply Diet Mentality thinking at this point, all you have to do is say, “That is the Diet Mentality, and only keeps me stuck in binging and feeling crappy about myself. I will just wait until I get hungry to eat again and my body will be fine.” (Truly, it will. Try it and see.)
But assuming you’re not quite there yet, we’d continue with the DS Dialogue and we’d say: “And what’s important about me just enjoying it now?”
DS: “Because you may as well get some enjoyment out of life!”
“Ahh! So, Drill Sgt., when you say I may as well binge my face off because I’ve already screwed up the day, you’re really saying you want me to get some enjoyment out of my life? I really appreciate your intention in trying to support me to have some happiness, and, when you encourage me to do something that you know really isn’t in my best interests and that I will feel sad and uncomfortable about later, that’s really not helping me to enjoy life. Would you be willing instead, when you notice I’m overeating, to simply say: ‘You’re full, that means you’ve had enough. You can always have more later, when you next get hungry. Let’s stop eating now, and if we’re upset about something, let’s sort it out using a tool that will actually help, like the List of Stressors!’” (Great idea DS!!)
Then all you have to do is keep having this conversation any time you feel compelled to keep eating because you believe you’ve already had too much. You’ll only need to do this a few times before it’s just an automatic thought and you don’t feel as compelled to keep binging if you’ve eaten a bit much.
Approach #3: The List of Stressors
- I notice I’m using food to cope because I’m eating more than I’m hungry for: Time to do a List of Stressors. Here is an abridged version to give you a sense of it. There is a detailed explanation of the List of Stressors and handout for this tool as part of our web program materials if you don’t have it already.
- I ask myself: “Prior to me binging, what was I just thinking or what just happened?” The answers to this question should be able to be one or two words only – if they are longer, you’re now writing out stories not just listing your stressor(s).
- And what was I telling myself about that person or situation and about myself? I list all those stories, leaving about 6 or 7 lines between each one.
- Then I go back and address each story adding “and that means” to the end of the story and continuing to add “and that means” to the end of each statement until it feels like I can’t go any further. I do this for each story on my list of stressors.
- Then I ask myself, for each initial story (#3) and each subsequent “and that means” statement (#4), is there any all-or-nothing thinking in that story? In other words, am I telling myself that something is absolutely true or absolutely going to happen and it’s the only way it could go when I actually don’t have proof of this? If I don’t have absolute proof – not just assumption, not even just past experience, but absolute proof that anyone would agree means the same thing, I am in all-or-nothing thinking.
- Then I ask myself, “What else could happen?” “What would I like the outcome to be?”
- And, “What can I do to create the greatest likelihood of that desired outcome?”
- If there’s any part of you that isn’t feeling peaceful just ask yourself: “What needs to happen in order for me to feel peaceful right now?” And see what comes up. It won’t be “Eat,” I assure you.
Approach #4: Natural Eating Handout Review
If you have a copy of the Natural Eating handout – you will if you’re in our web program or are a client of one of our therapists or have attended any of our workshops – post it front and centre and read it over when you start feeling like your thoughts and actions around food are getting out of control.
You will instantly feel more grounded and realize how The Diet Mentality had a hold on you for a moment. Then, if you’d like to find out why, you can use one of the above approaches to look a little deeper. It’s well worth it to look just a bit beneath the surface. It’s the difference between a band aid solution and your complete recovery.
Also, if you’d like to learn how to use these tools with greater ease and confidence and understand your own inner process with them, it takes only 4 or 5 sessions with one of our counsellors. Just so you know.
Have a great week.