In this month and week of love, I’ve been thinking about unconditional love, and what it would mean to love every part of ourselves – including those parts that we most dislike. Yes, this includes the overeating, bingeing, or sugar addicted self.
If you’re anything like me, loving these messy, messy parts may be some of the most healing – and challenging work – that we do. Because loving the parts of us that we think are bad, wrong, or “shouldn’t” be there goes against all human nature. And because of this, it is a powerful act of forgiveness, mercy, and love.
So this Valentine’s Day, this is the question I offer to you: What would it mean to open your heart to all of you – including your overeating self? I know this sounds painful, but there’s a hidden promise. The mystery of this journey is that in forgiving, loving and understanding your overeating self – the parts of you that feel broken – you find, paradoxically, wholeness.
For more on the how of this, please enjoy this excerpt from the new Heal Overeating: Untangled workbook on loving the overeating self.
The deepest pain of overeating
The deepest pain and suffering is not your eating habits or even your body itself. The deepest pain is the mental anguish – the shame, regret, and anxiety – you feel about how you eat and what you look like. It’s what your body, the food, or your eating habits represent that causes the pain. I love how Irish poet and writer John O’ Donohue says this: “Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless.”
And yet this is hard to see. We look at our bodies – and if they’re not the weight we want them to be – we really, truly think they are the problem. Same with habits like overeating – especially if it’s causing some havoc in our lives. So we focus on eradicating what we believe to be the “source” of our suffering – our eating habits or the body itself. We try to lose weight, change how we eat, and do better. But it doesn’t work, because the source of suffering is not in the food or the body.
The source of suffering is our minds. We suffer because of how we judge ourselves.
This self attack is a form of war. When I was overeating, I looked at my current, overeating, overweight self as “bad,” and the future me – the me who finally had all her stuff together in food, weight, and life – as “good.” I was always trying to move from bad to good, but I never “arrived.” All this did was exhaust me from trying.
I’d created a battle inside, a giant split, where my good self was fighting against my bad self. My energy was consumed by it. Worse, I’d cut myself off from love, from the very source of healing itself.
The wisdom of your overeating self
By calling my overeating, bingeing, bulimic, and sugar addicted self wrong, I was telling myself that “who I am can’t be trusted.” I didn’t trust the part of me that wanted to overeat.
But here’s where it gets really interesting: this part of me, far from being untrustable, had a lot of wisdom – yes, wisdom. I kept trying to shut this wisdom up by “shutting up” my overeating. But it was like trying to dam a river. This deeper, wiser part of me would not be silenced. Thank God.
When I got quiet and asked my overeating self, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” this is what she told me:
- I feel lonely and disconnected. I want friends who know how to listen.
- I want to play.
- I need rest. Why do you push me so hard?
- Stop trying to make me perfect.
- Stop minimizing my feelings. Stop making me wrong for feeling what I’m feeling.
- I want to say no. If you don’t let me say no with my voice, I’ll say no with a candy bar. I’ll say no by eating a truckload of @*($!^!P#* candy bars.
- You will never meet everyone’s approval. Stop trying.
- You will never make people who don’t like you, like you. Stop trying.
- You will never please the hypercritical people in your life. Stop trying.
- Feed me when I’m hungry. Please stop trying to eat like a bird. You’re not one. Embrace my appetite. I have a hearty one.
- It is not my job to feel other people’s feelings for them.
- I want to love what I love. I want to be my own person.
There’s more. For space reasons, I’ll stop here. But I’m amazed at what my overeating self has to say – in fact, I can see how I’ve misjudged her.
She’s not my enemy, she’s my ally. She points out all my unmet needs, all the ways I don’t validate my basic needs and feelings and then use food to care for the pain of my void. (And for this, my overeating self plays the “bad guy” in my life, the part of me I’ve disliked the most…. Hmmm.)
Now I invite you to try this exercise for yourself. (It feels really good to get it out!) If your overeating self had a voice, what would he or she say?
Wanting more hands on help?
If this article speaks to you, you may be interested in the Heal Overeating: Untangled program, of which it’s a part. Untangled includes a 200 page workbook and 12 audio sessions to help you create a loving, compassionate relationship with yourself so you can softly heal the emotional roots of overeating and gently lose weight.
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