Sometimes Awareness is All You Need

I couldn’t ignore it.

I was eating potato chips in front of the TV four nights in a row.

Monday, it was while watching Dancing With The Stars.

Tuesday, it was while watching The Voice.

Wednesday, it was while watching Survivor.

Thursday, it was while watching How to Get Away With Murder.

By Friday, I felt physically gross and bloated.

Instead of being mad at myself or judging myself, I chose to be compassionate.  I decided to do some journaling to find out what was going on.

I asked myself two simple questions.  The first one was: “What feeling are you trying not to feel?”

The answer was “sadness.”

The second question was: “Why are you feeling sad?”

Then the floodgates opened.  I was feeling deep sadness because these are the shows I used to watch with my Mom.  She passed away nine months ago, and I miss her every day.  Now that these shows are back on the air for the fall season, it feels a little lonely watching them by myself.  I miss discussing the performances with her.  I miss her reactions, her laughter, and hearing her opinions.  I just miss her presence in the room.  My goodness!  No wonder I was eating chips in front of the TV night after night.  I didn’t want to feel how sad I was.  I didn’t want to acknowledge the heartbreak of her absence. The crunch of the potato chips was effective in temporarily distracting me from feeling my feelings.

But the feelings we try to suppress are still there.  They remain until we address them.  And we can’t address them until we are aware of them.  That’s why asking those same questions I asked myself is so helpful.  Sometimes just the awareness of what we’re feeling and why is all we need to shift it – and also shift the suppressing behavior that accompanies it (overeating, overspending, overdrinking, etc.).

Once I understood why I was doing what I was doing, I chose to have a big cry and let it all out.  Last night, I was able to watch The Voice without the desire for any snacks.  I still missed my mom, but my hands were now free to clap for the contestants instead of being elbow-deep inside of a potato chip bag.

If you are noticing a habit or pattern that you think doesn’t truly serve you, take a moment and ask yourself these questions:

“What feeling am I trying not to feel?”

“Why am I feeling _____?”

Once you become aware of why, know that you don’t need to try to change it right away.  Focusing on trying to “fix it” can just be another way to avoid your feelings.  Instead, take a deep breath and let yourself acknowledge your discovery.  Sit with it and treat yourself with compassion as you come to understand what was driving your actions.  Again, sometimes awareness is all you need for the feeling to dissipate and for the suppressing behavior to end on its own.

How to Create Calm During a Storm(eat)

Storm eating, otherwise known as binge eating, is when you are fully aware that you are eating and want to stop, but you feel like you can’t.  Shameful thoughts often follow storm eating, which tends to make it worse and can set you up for repeating the cycle.

Circumstance:  Binge
Thought:  I’m out of control
Feeling:  Hopeless
Action:  Eat more to distract from feeling hopeless
Result:  Repeat overeating cycle

Does this sound familiar?

The tools to use in this situation are awareness and compassion.  There is a reason you were overeating and I’ll bet you can trace it back to a need to care for yourself in some way.  You’re not bad.  You’re not a loser.  You’re not any of those names you call yourself.   You’re just a person trying to make yourself feel better, but the action you’re taking does not ultimately work.

Here’s a tool to help stop the cycle.  During a storm eat, you are already aware.  Practice taking that awareness up one notch by actually tasting the food you are eating.  Take a deep breath and actually taste the next bite you take.

Feel its texture in your mouth.  Is it crunchy?  Mealy?  Smooth?  Greasy?

Feel the temperature.  Is it cold?  Hot?  Room temperature?

Taste the flavors.  Is it Sweet?  Salty?  Bitter or astringent?

Notice how a sense of calm begins to wash over you within only a few bites eaten with this extra awareness.   Don’t be surprised if you decide that you don’t want to eat anymore.  Or you may still keep eating, but I invite you to continue practicing the tool of tasting the bites you take.  This extra awareness seems to calm the storm.  Try it out and see for yourself.

Either way, be sure to give yourself acknowledgment just for using the tool.  This is really important!  Let me show you why…

Circumstance:  Practiced tasting bites during a storm eat
Thought:  I just showed myself that I can totally do this!
Feeling:  Confident, empowered
Action:  Don’t overeat
Result:  Cycle not repeated

Why does the eating cycle end when you think good thoughts?  Because your thoughts create your feelings and when you create good feelings, you’re not going to try to numb out or escape from them, right?  Good feelings don’t need to be pushed down with food, so cultivate as many good feelings as possible.  If you need help in learning this skill, private coaching may be the next step for you.  Click here to set up your free 30 minute mini-session with me.  I would love to help you learn this and many of the other tools I have in my tool box to end the emotional pain you feel around food, your weight, and/or your body image.  I look forward to hearing from you!