Something you might want to consider as you leave behind diets and the effort to control, and step into curiosity about your eating behaviours, is something I’ve come to call ‘points of vulnerability.’

What are ‘points of vulnerability’?

If you’ve been becoming curious for a while about how you eat, why you eat (when you’re not hungry) and what your triggers are, then you may have noticed some patterns.

Perhaps you realise when you’re travelling, you’re more susceptible to compulsive overeating.

Maybe having very full weekends and then going straight into your work week, is a point of vulnerability for you.

It may be certain situations, times of the year, your period, or being around certain people that makes you more vulnerable. There are some obvious ones, like festivals (Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Ramadan etc.) and big events, like weddings.

Points of vulnerability are specific trigger points in your life that you can recognise as a pattern – and that almost always lead to overeating.

Why it’s good to know

I’ve said in other places, that trying to avoid triggers is futile. And I stand by that – because life is peppered with them – it would be impossible to go anywhere or achieve anything! Learning how to be in a healthy relationship with ourselves and the content of our lives (aka triggers) is extremely important – not just in order to make peace with food, but to live balanced, empowered, contented lives.

And yet – there may be patterns to the situations in which overeating occurs. And it’s good to know about these because it could point to a strategy you can employ to meet your needs in more satisfying ways.

Strategies

For example:

One client realised that every time she goes on holiday, or returns from holiday, it’s a point of vulnerability (POV) for her. She feels tired and stressed. She hadn’t realised this before – but when she did, we worked out ways she could manage this period of time in a way that was supportive of her. It involved marking on her calendar, in advance, ‘POV’ – so she’d know how to prepare. She decided to make sure she had enough water to drink; that she was eating satisfying meals consistently; that she planned in the time to pack and unpack, and that she gave herself time to ‘land’ – both at her destination and when she came back home, instead of launching straight into doing.

Another client realised that her POV was having weekends that were very full, and then going straight back into her work week with no downtime in between; no space to really decompress. She also noticed that on these weekends, with all the busyness, she didn’t prepare nourishing food – which was when she realised she needed it most. As a result, she looked at her calendar for the rest of the year and marked in ‘POV’ on the weekends that she had full commitments. She also then blocked out weekends before and following those events so she would have time to rest and decompress. In addition, she made a note to prepare meals in advance for the weekends when she would be based at home, but at an event.

Another client recognised that she was really really tired when she got home from work with her 2 young children in tow. Her first port of call was her kitchen – to shore up energy for the dinner-bath-bed routine – and then enable her to do a few more hours of work. When she recognised that her point of vulnerability was those moments of transition from ending work to starting the evening routine, she made a decision to take a minimum of 20 minutes to herself, as soon as she got home before doing anything else. This made a huge difference to her energy levels which meant she was better resourced to eat when she was hungry (instead of for a short-term energy boost). It also had a positive effect on her mood, focus and willingness to do the extra work.

Knowing your particular ‘points of vulnerability’ enables you to plan self-care – ways to support yourself so that you’re less vulnerable and more resourced – which will mean you’ll be less likely to eat compulsively.

Obviously, you can’t do this for everything, but if you’re noticing patterns where you can think of a few strategies that will support you, then that’s helpful, don’t you think? I recommend you think further than the particular strategies – think about how you will support yourself to implement them – otherwise they may be just another ‘good idea’ that is forgotten. I find putting strategies into the calendar really helpful. Telling someone in your life about your strategy, especially someone who is likely to be around when you’re at your POV can also be very supportive.

Ready to heal your relationship with food?