One common misconception is that if you love yourself now, you’ll stop going for what you want and become a lifeless vegetable. I find this is far from the case. At certain times, choosing to love your body now might mean to stop the striving and fighting especially if you realize it’s not working for you and isn’t getting you closer to what you truly want in life. At other times, choosing to love yourself and your body might mean challenging yourself to work harder to move towards what you truly want.
So how do you practice loving yourself and your body even if you aren’t yet where you want to be with food? Here are 3 ways to start practicing today:
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.
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.
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.
I remember being in a job interview when the interviewer asked me:
“What is your greatest weakness?”
I’d smile back, so pleased to answer the question I know how to answer so well:
“I’m a perfectionist….I set high standards for myself and others. I achieve a lot but then can often get frustrated if things aren’t going as planned.”
Well, the part I’d withhold is the depth of the frustration - how this inner perfectionist never ever is truly satisfied. How even if I achieve one thing, the goal line keeps moving further and further. How sometimes this inner perfectionist makes me take on more than I can chew or say that I don’t want to complete something or deliver because I’m/it’s “not ready yet.”
While perfectionism can be great to help us to strive and achieve more, on the shadow side, perfectionism can be maddening. It can cause us to hold impossible expectations for ourselves that are more about keeping us safe and protected vs. driving us to grow. In this way, perfectionism in fact is an insidious coping mechanism that can stop us from realizing our goals and full potential.
If you relate to this at all, make this your new mantra: