I’ve noticed that many women who are trying to heal their relationship with food think that at some point in their journey, they’ll be completely healed and never have a bad day of eating or restricting ever again. I’ve had days where I got caught up in that idea too. They either have an idea of how other “normal” eaters must live or they’ve have had such a long streak of good days that in this moment they can’t see how they could ever have an issue again.
They believe that they’ll never have another binge, that they’ll never be tempted to calorie count again, that they won’t see a fad diet or new product and be tempted to just try it once, that their weight won’t fluctuate at all, that they’ll never have another bad thought or thing to say about their body, that they’ll never feel bad about what they ate or didn’t eat, or that they’ll never overeat again.
None of that is true.
It’s not all glitter and rainbows when you figure out how to have a better relationship with food and your body. It’s not 100% smooth sailing.
Occasionally, you’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll have a whole month of daily mistakes! To be honest, I actually hate to even call it mistakes because these types of mistakes are normal for healing eaters! You’ll resort to old habits and old ways of thinking. You’ll feel like you’re sliding backwards rather than moving forward at all. You’ll think for a minute, that maybe you should give it up and just let yourself get really heavy again. You’ll want to rationalize the crappy food you keep putting in your mouth (I deserve this. I want it. I’ve been so good for so long. I really just buy it for the kids. etc) so that you can eat more of it.
Don’t worry, I know your game because I’ve participated in it myself. I’ve bought cookies “because John likes them” and then proceeded to eat 500 calories of them myself before he even saw them. I’ve eaten an entire 3 serving candybar in my car after a yoga class. I’ve rationalized skipping my workouts for a week or more because it was good to rest sometimes (and that rationalization also comes with extra eating too).
I know it’s kind of terrifying to learn that healing can look a bit like screwing up again but I promise you, for most, it’s part of the process.
So how do you determine if you are making progress (healing) or you are stuck in the same hell hole you were in in the past?
It’s how you respond when you get tripped up. It’s how long you let these slip ups go on before you get yourself back on track or ask someone else to help you. It’s whether you let a bad thought about your body pass on through or you decide to hold it hostage and indulge it and make it mean something. If you identify with everything I’ve written above, check out the questions I’ve written below and answer them for yourself to help determine whether your slip ups are a normal part of healing or if you may need extra support to progress.
Timing & Practice
-Do you fall off track for a day or two?
-Or do you fall off and can’t get back on track for a long time?
-Do you allow yourself to have a meal once in awhile where anything goes?
-Can you eat normally and thoughtfully after that meal?
-Do you practice emotionally healthy eating habits when you are eating well? (mindful eating, only eating when hungry etc)
It’s not a big deal to stop listening to your hunger cues for a meal or a couple of days and then get back on it. Problems arise when we stop listening to those cues long enough that the cues become foreign again or when we know we have absolutely no intention of getting back on it. Overeating one night isn’t going to set you back at all but overeating every night for a month or more might.
If you struggle to stop once you do fall off the wagon, you may need more support from an outside source (a coach might help) or may need more practice in putting mindful eating practices in place. When we practice emotionally healthy eating habits and do them over and over again, they become our norm, they become second nature. Think of muscle memory – when you do a sport over and over, even if you take a break from it, your body remembers the activity when you return to it (even if it’s been a long time) and you won’t have to work as hard as someone who is brand new to the sport. We get good at whatever we practice, so if you practice eating in a thoughtful way vs. eating in a disordered way, the thoughtful way will get stronger and when you fall off track, it will be brief, as you’ll have the muscle memory to right you again. Making an effort to practice your healthier eating skills is a sign you are healing. Choosing to not practice them because it’s hard is a sign we’re not making progress.
-When you go grocery shopping, are you buying items that you know you struggle with, under the guise that you have to because someone in your home likes them?
-Do you eat sparingly in public but plan to go home and eat more when you’re alone?
-Do the majority of your intentions around eating have to do with fueling your body or fueling an emotion that you do or don’t want to feel?
If you know full well that you are planning to eat the food, don’t pretend (even in your head) otherwise. Owning that you are planning to eat something that you know is troublesome for you is less problematic than pretending your intentions have nothing to do with your desire to eat. Lying to ourselves is a sign we’re moving backwards in our progress. Being able to call yourself on it so that you can step out of it, is a sign of healing. Create a habit of calling yourself out on your bullshit – if you can’t hide from yourself, there will be less desire to have these secret food habits.
-When you do slip up, what do you think about it?
-What do you think about yourself?
-If you think negatively about yourself, how long do those thoughts last?
-Do you hold onto them and allow them to become more than just a thought?
-Or do you allow them to happen and move on with your day?
It’s entirely normal for someone healing from a food issue to have a bad thought appear about their body or themselves once in awhile (and “once in awhile” is something you define). In some cases, daily thoughts aren’t a big deal. It’s really how we react to it that is the important thing. Negative thoughts that we intentionally play over and over in our heads become issues – issues that we turn to food to deal with so it’s best to not indulge them. You’re going to have negative thoughts about your belly, your weight, your thighs, your hair etc, every so often, so just let them pass through, like a train going on to the next station. There isn’t a “stop” at this station so don’t drive there to pick anyone up. Hanging around the station, looking for passengers to pick up is a sign we are stepping back in our progress. Letting the train and it’s passengers (thoughts) pass by to where it needs to go is a sign we’re healing.
Don’t be wigged out by the idea that you are going to screw up along the way! If you are legitimately practicing everything you’ve learned about managing emotional eating and not indulging in lying to yourself or replaying those negative thoughts, it does get easier and the mistakes you’ll make will be less of a big deal over time. You’ll recover from them faster and have more confidence that you can do this. You won’t have to think so much about eating intuitively, mindfully or thoughtfully – it will just be how you operate. And if you’re not practicing the tools you’ve learned (or don’t even know what those tools might be), there is help for you too – but you need to ask for it and you need to be willing to work! If you are – I have total faith that you’ll heal your relationship with food.
If you are struggling and want support – please contact me to set up a mini session.