Just as physical hunger is the signal for us to eat, and thirst is the single for us to drink water, loneliness is a signal for us to seek connection. Unfortunately, what keeps so many people stuck from seeking the connection and support they need is shame. Shame is the belief that inherently there is something wrong and broken with us and therefore we are unworthy of true love and belonging. This differs from guilt, which is a signal that we have acted out of alignment of our values. While guilt says we’ve done something bad or wrong (that could be changed), shame insidiously tells us we are bad or wrong.
The cycle so often goes like this for food and so many other addictive-type behaviors:
Feel intense loneliness and shame —> binge eat —> isolate oneself and feel more lonely and shameful —> continue binge eating
I’ve seen from my experience and that of my clients that feeling out-of-control with food in itself is painful. Add on top of that feeling like you’re alone and the only one struggling with the issue and the experience can be excruciating.
Last year, I attended a talk by Allison Kinnear, the owner of a Voice of her Own and an amazing coach for women leaders. In her talk to busy, high-achieving women, she spoke about the importance of self-care to fuel yourself. I find for my clients when they prioritize their self-care not only do they feel happier, more energized, and calm but inevitably those around them get to benefit.
There was one particular exercise Allison led the participants through that I particularly loved. It was an incredibly simple question that I think can help you distinguish between when a habit, such as eating, is beneficial for you and when it is detrimental.
One key question to begin healing your relationship with food is:
I’m sitting her in a coffee shop where I just enjoyed some tea and a cupcake (gluten-free for me ;), having fully enjoyed experience of eating. To think, in the past I feared cupcakes and would avoid them at all costs…
Flashback to 2013….I remember a particular morning I woke up, feeling bloated and disgusted with myself. I had binged the night before going completely mindless with food. For me, binge eating started as an occasional occurrence in middle and high school, but once I started my first year of college, it had become an daily nightmare. I was in my 4th year of college at the time, which had been incredibly stressful with the number of classes I was taking, trying to balance my extracurriculars and social life, and uncertainty about my future career.
I look back with compassion on the writings of my younger self. I wish someone could have told her that overcoming binge eating wouldn’t always be a linear process. There were some days I would learn a new concept or tool and do really well my eating. “Yes!!! Finally! I’d tell myself… this is the answer.” Inevitably, the new “diet high” would wear off and I would be back to where I started. Then I’d beat myself up and wonder if something was wrong with me or even binge to escape the sense of unworthiness I felt.
Looking back, I wish someone had told me to be gentle with myself. After all, I was doing my very best. I wish someone had told me that change and healing isn’t always linear. At the time, I think it’s something I understood theoretically but didn’t fully embody especially having come from a culture and expectation of “Straight A’s” all the time.
So let me tell you this, if you struggle with the dieting-binge eating-repeat cycle, there is nothing wrong with you. You just need a better understanding of yourself and your biology.
So whatever your relationship status, I invite you to use this Valentine’s Day to prioritize the most important relationship of all, your relationship with yourself! After all, even if you are in a relationship or not yet in a relationship and looking for one, you will still always have your relationship to yourself that will serve the basis of how you connect to and relate with others. Make today a day to practice self-love.
So how do you do this? Here are 3 practical ideas on how you can show yourself love today:
Often times, the traits we accept and don’t accept are related to what our primary caregivers and society told us was acceptable and unacceptable. In fact, this is often what I see in my client work and with my own journey – that often times the difficulties we have in moving forward reflect some unhealed parts of us that are calling for our attention.