Let’s Break The Cycle!
Sharon is a bright, successful woman who sits across from me on the couch. Seeking help after many years of compulsive eating, she states emphatically: “I’m the definition of crazy, Dina. Doing the same thing and expecting different results, huh?”
A single woman in her 30’s, she is married to her career. She works 10-hour days and returns to a beautiful but empty home. She’s perpetually too busy to date, too exhausted for friendship and too absent for a pet. On her way home from work each night, she starts to feel that familiar ache in her belly, a hunger that (she believes) is too painful to allow herself to feel.
The Publix cookie aisle is where she seeks the balm for her loneliness.
“I’ll just have a couple when I get home. I can eat these in a reasonable way like a normal person,” she lies to herself each night. Inevitably she finishes the box and feels horrible, stuffed and sick. She sleeps fitfully and feels hung over and ashamed the next morning. Promising to do better, the cycle continues the next day.
“What are you afraid will happen if you just don’t have that stuff in your home?” I ask.
“Well, I don’t even want to go there…”
The I-work-hard-and-I-deserve-to-binge-on-cookies mindset~ which views binge eating as a “reward” for hard work and a comfort for emotional pain ~ is a self-perpetuating cycle. Because weight and body image problems inevitably result, this coping mechanism is like putting on concrete boots. “I can’t speak up at work or seek another job. No one will hire me at this weight.” “I can’t even think of dating. I wouldn’t want to be with a man who is interested in a fat me.”
Extra weight only reinforces the core belief that you are defective and hard to love.
If you can relate to Sharon, try the experiment listed below.
- For a week, try to break the cycle by NOT buying the cookies (or other binge food).
- Realize that you can survive the feelings that you are trying to numb with food.
- See what happens. You might have a good cry. You might get angry. This is important information about your life!
- Write down what you discover. What do you really need and want in your life? You might hear yourself saying, “I deserve better that this lonely life. I need fun, laughter and human connection!”
- This realization and the feelings that accompany it can be used as energy to move you in a new direction.
- When you discover what you REALLY need (as opposed to “cookies”) then you can start to think about ways to actually get the things that will meet the need.
If you find yourself getting stuck at any step in this process, seek help! Sometimes there are buried, unconscious beliefs (e.g. about self-worth, about your feelings) that need to be uncovered and explored before you can break the cycle.
You are worth the effort it takes to free yourself from binge eating.