These past few weeks I’ve been fine tuning the new workbook for my overeating program, Heal Overeating: Untangled.
As I’m deeply immersed in the writing process, I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly heals overeating. I had an insight today that I wanted to share with you, as I believe it will bring relief and peace to your heart.
But first, a story.
I recorded the audio sessions of Untangled while I was going through the hardest three years of my life – a time when many, many areas of my life unraveled – and a time when I went back to overeating. I felt discouraged and frustrated – I thought I was over my food “stuff” by now! I also felt embarrassed – didn’t I know better?
But this hard time proved to be a time of tremendous healing and growth. I’ll get to that in a moment (and how it relates to your needs!), but first let me share some important details.
- During this hard time, I moved twice – the last time across the country to a place I’d never seen – and lost the tight knit community I’d called home for the past 13 years.
- I financially hit rock bottom. We sold our home and liquidated all our assets while accumulating thousands of dollars of business debt. Think lots and lots of stress.
- My closest personal relationships were in turmoil, including my marriage.
- My children were hurting from the moves and the loss of their community, and much of this pain was directed towards me, as blame and anger. (I was the reason for moving.) Rather than feeling nurtured by my relationships with my children, I felt depleted. It was like getting punched by a punching bag every day.
- My dear, sweet family was in turmoil. Lots of acting out, conflict, and strained relationships. Home was no longer a refuge.
- I spiraled into a deep depression and had panic level anxiety nearly every day. I felt stigmatized and isolated because of the depth of my pain, and felt unsafe sharing my hurt with many of my close friends and family. In fact, I felt deeply hurt by loved ones whose attempts to help me felt judgmental, condescending and pitying.
- Because of this, when I moved into a new city, I felt shell shocked and raw, which made me feel even more reluctant to reach out to others and to make new friends.
- On the inside, I was feeling tremendous guilt, shame, self blame and judgment about my hard time, my depression, and for going back to food. So there was no refuge inside my own heart, either.
When I put all these pieces together, I see this commonality: There’s no safety, no connection or belonging. My basic human need for contact and closeness is missing. There’s too little refuge, either within or without.
This theme is also what I hear from my coaching clients and from the men and women in my classes:
- I wish I had a partner.
- I feel so alone.
- I feel so lonely.
- I feel like I don’t have friends.
- I feel judged.
- I feel empty and hollow inside.
- I feel ashamed.
- No one understands me.
- I feel so isolated.
- I feel like it’s all my fault. (Self blame.)
- I feel like my hard time is all my fault. (Self blame times two.)
In the absence of contact and closeness, in the dearth of loving relationship – especially in times of pain and stress – we seek out the closest substitute: food. We seek out food because we can’t thrive without belonging and connection. It’s impossible – we’re not designed to live without it. It’s like trying to breathe underwater. Eventually we need to come up for air.
We may try to live without it – and fail. We typically call this will power. In fact, when we say “will power,” what we’re usually referring to is this: our attempt to will away, tamp down, and discipline (read: suppress) our innate need for connection. But eventually our will power gives way, because the pain becomes too much to bear.
Of course! Because the pain is too much to bear. We aren’t meant to suppress this basic, human need. We’re fighting against our very make up.
My friend, overeating is not due to insufficient will power, discipline, insight, or even personal growth. Overeating is a measure of this: how well our basic, human needs for connection and belonging are met. When these needs are met, we can say no to the food. When they aren’t, saying no feels like breathing underwater.
Please let yourself rest in the mercy of that statement for a while: Overeating is a measure of how well our basic, human needs for connection and belonging are met. Can you see how the overeating truly, truly is not your fault? Just writing these sentences brings me to tears, because it releases 10,000 pounds of shame about how I should’ve done better. Do they do the same for you?
So if our need for connection and belonging is driving our overeating behavior, then loving relatedness, not will power and discipline, is the key to healing. It’s the ground floor that makes habit change possible.
- How do you relate to yourself?
- How do you care for yourself?
- Do you feel safe within your own heart?
And how do you relate to others? Do you feel safe with other beings? Do you have refuge?
It is by healing these relationships that we heal our relationship with food.
In Untangled, I’ve written a map for healing – the map I’ve used to heal my relationship with myself. It’s how I’ve healed the shame of I should’ve known better, the shame of, “It’s all my fault,” the shame I’ve felt for my very human needs themselves. It’s how I’ve found a place of refuge and safety within my own heart. As I created greater safety inside, I also felt safe to create belonging outside with others. It’s a positive feedback loop.
If this idea speaks to you, I invite you to explore this program for yourself. In my experience, we can’t change any “bad” habit without the soil of connection. It’s the container within which we grow. But with this connection, we feel like we have what we need. We have what we need so we can grow – so we can grow out of habits like overeating.
Wanting more hands on help?
- I’ll be hosting a free call next week where you can connect with others who are also using Untangled – so you can nurture your relationships with others as you also nurture your relationship with yourself. (Stay tuned to the newsletter for call details. If you’re not a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up here.)
- My new, 200 page workbook on healing the shame of overeating is nearly done. It complements the existing audio sessions of my Heal Overeating: Untangled program. Learn more at http://healovereating.com/untangled/
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