Your rate of recovery from your stressful relationship with food depends on your readiness for change. For example, I have worked with many people who have struggled for years, even decades with overeating, restricting and/or purging, and within 5 or 6 sessions, they are transformed, feeling clear, purposeful and trusting in their ability to no longer use food to cope. Yet others may take a few months or a year or two to get to the same place. And that’s perfectly fine.
There is no right or wrong way to move through the healing process. It’s a completely personal experience and the length of the healing journey depends on many factors but the most important thing for us all is this:
What is the most important thing to you? Is it your ability to respect and respond to your feelings and needs? Or is it the acceptance and approval of others. If honoring yourself and doing whatever it takes to create peace and freedom from the stress of food focus 24/7 is the most important thing to you when you enter this healing process, it will go very quickly for you.
If however, your primary goal is to be accepted and approved of; to not hurt, offend, upset, disappoint, or push anyone’s buttons, and to not impact existing patterns of relating between you and anyone else in your life, your healing process will naturally take a little bit longer if not a great deal longer. This is because any time you’re basing decisions on what you can have, do or be on what others might think, feel, say and do, you’re engaging in a pattern of relationship called Co-dependence. And Co-dependency is the pattern of behaviour that, more than any other, leads to the use of food to cope and keeps it firmly in place.
Co-dependency simply defined is: Feeling responsible for other people’s feelings and needs. (This does not apply to dependent children.)
If you have chosen to feel guilty and responsible for other people’s feelings and needs, you will need to use food (or drugs, or alcohol, or shopping, gambling, isolation and/or procrastination) to cope with your feelings of anxiety, frustration, depression, hurt, disappointment, anger and shame. For anytime you take on responsibility for someone else, you are stepping outside of yourself and your own feelings and needs. You are in essence saying to yourself: “This person is more important than me. When they are happy, when our relationship is secure, when they give me permission to focus on myself without any potential risk to our relationship, then I will consider my own feelings and needs first.”
“But I don’t choose how I feel,” you say. It may not feel like that to you consciously, but in reality, it’s true that you choose how you feel and it’s also true that you teach people how to treat you. No one can “get away” with anything in relationship with you that you aren’t willing on some level to allow. And whether you’re consciously or unconsciously permitting the people in your life certain ways of talking and behaving that undermine your sense of acceptance, or safety in the relationship you come away feeling frustrated, insecure, hurt, and anxious. The end result? You use food to cope: you overeat; you restrict; you purge; you diet.
The Main Barrier to Freedom
To be completely free of food and body image stress you have to be willing to look at and heal the real problem. For many men and women the real problem is their intense need to be accepted and to feel safe in the world and in their relationships. The need for safety and acceptance is a natural and normal human need, but it’s the way you’ve been taught to go about getting these needs met that isn’t working. No matter what kind of relationship you’re in, whether it’s a romantic relationship, parent-child relationship, career, friendships or any other relational dynamic, if you use food to cope it means that you are preventing yourself from being all that you can be and you are giving your power away to others.
But you can’t allow your life to be ruled by the needs and feelings of others or by your need for their acceptance and approval any longer. It hasn’t worked yet, and it never will. The good news is, no matter where you are on your path, you can make changes now toward the life that you want – if you’re ready and willing to make the effort.
At The CEDRIC Centre we teach you how to really and truly get your need for safety and acceptance met and how to deal with the stress in your life in ways that do not harm you or your relationships with others. Imagine no longer feeling the need to use food to cope with stress and the painful feelings of fear and rejection. Imagine your stress level being greatly diminished, replaced by self-acceptance and the solid inner knowledge that you’re safe in the world; that you actually fit in.
If you’re ready to get off the food and body image emotional merry-go-round and improve the relationships in your life, it’s definitely time to try a new tack. Join me in person or on the phone for some individual support; come to one of our intensive and transformative weekend workshops or pick up a copy of my book “Food is not the Problem: Deal With What Is” available for immediate download or for hard copy purchase through our website.
Life is short, but it can be amazing when you live yours and not someone else’s.