We eat to avoid discomfort. And then we feel great discomfort having eaten far too much: physical discomfort and psychological discomfort. So then we eat more to try to drown out the psychological discomfort, which adds to both the physical and psychological discomfort.
And by the way, the issue that was causing the original discomfort that we were trying to avoid, still hasn’t gone away!
You’re all too familiar with that scenario, I’m sure.
So what’s the solution?
I was talking to someone this week about her eating challenges. One of the things she said was: ‘this is so hard!’ I replied that it does take practice, commitment and intention – and…
‘It also takes willingness to be uncomfortable.’
I reminded her that chaotic eating is uncomfortable. Judging yourself is uncomfortable. Feeling miserable about what you’re doing to yourself is uncomfortable. Being overly full is uncomfortable. Not meeting your needs appropriately is uncomfortable.
And not eating when you’re not hungry, is uncomfortable.
You can choose which version of uncomfortable you want to feel.
The discomfort of not ever changing your relationship with food and your body, is a pain that doesn’t really go away – at best, you just keep distracting from it with more food, or other things. The discomfort of truly meeting yourself without resorting to food you’re not hungry for, is like a ‘good pain.’ It’s like the pain you might feel when you’ve moved your body in new ways, and muscles you’re not used to using, have been engaged. And it doesn’t last long.
But unless you’re willing to go there… into that discomfort, you will not discover what you’re trying to avoid.
You can do it afterwards – after the binge, or the unconscious overeating… and that definitely does help a lot. This way you’re bringing awareness to the event after the fact. You realise what feeling you were avoiding; what need you tried to meet with food. You work through other ways you could have responded. You imagine yourself doing that, next time.
And then over time, combining this ‘post-mortem’ with the more formal practice of mindfulness meditation, you become better able to enter into that moment of discomfort in real time.
Because it must be said… in order to change your behaviour, you will at some point need to be with that discomfort in the moment it occurs.
Explore it there and then.
Give it room.
Give it a voice if it needs one.
Tend to it.
That is when the behaviour changes.
Do you want to stop struggling with food and eating?
I help my clients create a joyful and sustainable relationship with food and deal with their eating issues. Learn more about hiring me as your coach.