Identifying Shortcomings is a Start
I am still working on the book "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth. Confession, I put off reading this because I expected it to be written in a testimonial type manner "Praise The Lord! I found Jesus and now I'm not fat anymore!" On the contrary, this is my favorite of hers so far. I learned that there are two types of compulsive eaters, Restrictors and Permitters. Restrictors calculate and plan and research and believe that if they could only deprive and restrict enough, they can get thin and being thin will miraculously make them ever-happy. Permitters, on the other hand, are the ones who think every moment is a chaotic rollercoaster of emotions, so if I live in a daze I won't have to acknowledge or feel them. I am a permitter. I am going to eat because it's there and looks good and temporarily makes me happy. I'll think about restricting myself tomorrow or Monday.
I still struggle with some concepts, but I'm coming around slowly. The main concepts to ending the compulsive eating are:
1. Eat when you are hungry. This is tough for me. I am so in old grooves with this. For instance, last weekend, when I got home from work, I was famished. Headache-stricken from stress and not eating for about 6 hours. My husband was at the gym and I didn't know how long he'd be, so I ate a large chunk of cheese. When my husband arrived home about 15 minutes later, my family decided they wanted to go out to our favorite chinese restaurant so we went. I wasn't full but I wasn't hungry. I ordered anyway and ate half a plate of General Tso's tofu before pushing my plate away, uncomfortably full. Why did I order and eat when I wasn't hungry? Habit? Fitting in? To avoid feeling left out? It tasted good (a little over-spicy, I'm a total wimp when it comes to spicy food), but it wasn't worth feeling so full, which happened because I also didn't follow the second concept.
2. Stop eating when you've had enough. Enough, she says, is a point where you want more but you don't need it. Your stomach isn't growling and it's not stuffed. I didn't listen to my stomach that night. And I felt physically uncomfortable. This is going to be the toughest one to obey. Food tastes good.
3. Eat the exact thing you truly want. Here is a place I got a little confused. She talks of eating cake for dinner or a chocolate bar at a luncheon. However, this book explains it a little clearer. I was taking this to mean I should eat whatever I want to taste with my mouth, or what I enjoy the sensation of. The clarification comes finally, in that the true statement isn't that we should eat what our minds want, but what our bodies want to eat. I think this is based on how a certain thing makes our body feel. I've been noticing that a good majority of the day I end up felting too full, dazed and slow, always tired. My joints have been aching so much and my breathing feels labored over the smallest things. I don't like how it feels. Frankly it scares me.
4. Sit down to eat, cars not included. It makes it you realize that you are eating, taking in calories and helps keep you in the moment more. I never realized how often I eat standing up. While I'm fixing myself or my kids some food, I'll nibble on a little of this, little of that, and that doesn't "count" as food because it's not a meal, I'm not sitting down. I eat standing up at work sometimes too, because I have too much to do (working off the clock is a nasty habit I need to break) or I eat while hovering over my phone, out of sight of customers.
5. Eat in a quiet space with no intentional distractions. I'm hugely guilty of this. I cannot just sit down and eat, I have to be looking at something on my phone or reading or (the most pleasurable and mind-numbing), watching TV ( I rarely get a turn on it, so I usually have to watch my boys playing games or watching videos, but it's still a distraction. I also do a lot of eating while tending to everyone else's needs, listening to my husband tell me about his adventures or endlessly fixing food for my kids etc. A lot of times, my kids will see me eating and ask for food in the middle of my meal, and sometimes I tell them they need to wait until I am done eating (they eat like teenagers, usually it hasn't been but 20 minutes since they last ate) but most of the time, I get up and fix them food, eating my own food standing up in the kitchen usually on my phone. Anything but attentive to my food/eating.
6. Eat with the intention of being in full view of others. I suck at this one. But I'm slowly getting better. I know it's because I'm attaching shame to the food, but that is a patterned groove of conditioned response someone passed down to us years ago. Someone we looked up to so we took their opinion for truth. Food is not in and of itself good or bad, it is JUST FOOD!
7. Enjoy your food, eat with gusto and experience the pleasure. In order to really do this, you have to be aware and attentive and in-the-moment, not distracted or in a daze.
So that's where I am. There is an exercise she lays out for inquiries, sort of like the questions I was asking myself in an earlier post. Just think of something you don't know the answer to and ask yourself. For example, what is hurting me? And let the answer flow from you without thinking. For me, an image comes to me as soon as I start asking the questions. It takes time, and despite her recommendation to do it for 20 minutes a day, some days I just don't feel like digging in the wound so I try to meditate or do some gentle stretching instead.
I think I'm ready to start putting some of these into practice. I'll let you know how it goes!
Hope you are well and finding your path to happiness!