How long would you give a child to learn to walk? As long as it takes would be the obvious response. You would not berate the child for failures, bumps, or bruises along the way. What would happen if you gave yourself that same luxury when it comes to achieving a body weight that makes you comfortable?
You may assume that by being hard on yourself when you “mess up,” you are giving yourself the kick in the behind that will magically get you to stop self-sabotaging behaviors. However, the opposite is more likely to be true. When you can open your heart to yourself and give yourself love and compassion for your struggle with food instead, you can begin to relax and take an honest assessment of your situation.
As long as you take a hard stance against yourself, you will find yourself bracing against the inner onslaught and rebelling against your inner critic. Ironically, this inner critic wants the same thing that you deeply desire—to be healthy, happy, and at your ideal weight. It believes that you need “tough love.” The problem is that your inner child needs gentle love and compassion to change deep-seated, negative behavior patterns—not more criticism. She (or he) may appear to be compliant when the critic shows up and starts spewing advice regarding your latest chocolate binge, but in reality she is very likely cringing inside with shame and regret. Unfortunately, these negative feelings begin to spin into the type of emotional pain that all too often sets you up for the next binge.
Take a look at the cycle. Perhaps there is an incident that triggered you. For example, your mother-in-law criticized your cooking, you exchanged some harsh words with your spouse, or your 12-year old flunked his science exam. As you ruminate about the situation, you begin to feel uncomfortable. Before you even realize it, you are finishing off a bag of chips left on the counter. As soon as you become conscious of what you are doing, your inner critic forges in, full-steam ahead: “What is wrong with you? You are so weak! You said that you were going on a diet this week. You cannot stick with anything!”
How do you feel when subjected to this type of internal attack? Ashamed, humiliated? And what do you do when you feel embarrassed and low? Chances are you just throw in the towel and agree with your critic’s assertion that you deserve to be fat, and nothing will ever change for you.
What would happen if you broke the cycle with a new response to mistakes that are bound to occur on the road to permanent weight loss? Imagine a new scenario with a much-preferred outcome. An event occurs in your life that is upsetting to you. Perhaps you discover that you weren’t invited to a local social event, and you feel rejected. In this new scenario, rather than ignore your feeling or judge the situation, you simply respond to it.
You feel the feeling of rejection in your body.
You may become aware of the inner voices that accompany this feeling and write them down. Perhaps you write down the following sentences:
“I’m always alone.”
“My only friend is chocolate.”
“I am going to treat myself to a candy bar so that I’ll feel better.”
When you have the opportunity to observe your thoughts on paper like this, you gain perspective. You can begin to recognize the voice of hurt. Some obvious examples of unrealistic thinking are saying words to yourself like “always,” “never,” and “should.” When you hear these words, you can begin to notice that inner pain is alive and operating in the moment.
Let go of any judgment about these thoughts and words. If you can accept the fact that pain is a part of the human experience and you are simply experiencing your share, then you can let go of any desperate need to “fix” it. Just sit with it.
Your thoughts are not who you are. They are simply a manifestation of the inner pain that is activated in this moment. Witness your strong urge to drown the pain and the incessant mental chatter with your drug of choice—food. Notice that you do have a choice. This is your opportunity to break the vicious cycle of self-sabotage.
As you listen to the negative voices urging you to indulge in chocolate or sugary, fattening food to deaden the pain, create an internal mental image of this dark, hurtful, and fearful energy. Perhaps it is nothing more than a big cloud of smoke. Stand up to that voice of pain, and tell it that you are not listening to it anymore. Tell that voice that you are not succumbing to its fear-based thinking. No matter how solid the fear feels, it can only be dissolved in the presence of true strength and self-care.
Now feel your own body. Send some appreciation and mercy into your being. Breathe into your chest and belly fully. Notice that you are separate from that negative thinking. It is not who you are—it is simply an energy passing through you. This energy actually feeds on your reaction to it. By disengaging from it, you stop it dead in its tracks. Now is the time to give yourself love and support.
In the energy of love, both pain and fear dissolve.
You cannot get rid of discomfort, but you can submerge it in a higher vibration of love, rendering it lifeless. Hold yourself the way you would hold a small child. Ask yourself: What are you needing? If you are hungry, take a moment to hold an inner picture of various food choices, and see which one will actually support the health of your entire system—mind, body, and spirit.
If you are not physically hungry, take this opportunity to let your inner child play. Go for a walk outside. Turn on your favorite music and enjoy the thrill of moving your body. Go out and smell the flowers—literally. Celebrate this day and your inner victory.
It’s only by releasing your old way of responding to pain that you can begin to embrace something new.
Beating yourself up for getting it wrong just isn’t going to work. When you take space for yourself and give yourself the love your being craves—while at the same time redirecting old, harmful behaviors—you slowly learn to relate to yourself in a new way. You can truly begin to rejoice in the preciousness of your life. Be patient with yourself. In the same way that every baby who is physically healthy learns to walk eventually, we do ultimately learn from our mistakes as long as we stay focused on a new, positive outcome.