When we overeat, we’re caught in a fight or flight state. Something in our bodies, minds, brain screams, “Danger, danger, danger!” and we eat to escape this fearful place.
The food/sugar (or drink, or internet, or TV, or compulsive email checking or …..) becomes our surrogate for safety, nurturing, soothing. We feel the ouch, the pain, the fear and almost instantly we crave something to soften it. Some part of our brain thinks, “A candy bar would help right now,” and with this thought, we feel relief: Ah – I can make the pain go away!
So we eat. We feel better for about five minutes. Then we feel hopeless as we realize: oh. The pain is still there. It didn’t go away after all.
My challenges with craving have centered around a quest for the perfect body and overeating – two things that are opposing goals and yet share the same root – a fear, a terror, that this moment is not enough, that I can’t handle it, and that I need to either soothe my way through it or perfect myself to handle it. My craving is a grasping. It’s a leaning forward, an adding onto, as I reach for something other than what I have right now so that I can feel safe.
Unhooking from our compulsive patterns means quieting this inner voice that says, “Arm yourself!” This is feeling safe, secure, whole and complete. It also means quieting the voice that says, “I’m not enough.” This is also feeling safe, secure, whole and complete. We feel safe, secure, whole and complete when we realize two things: I am enough. And this moment is enough.
Try it. Pause, close your eyes, and gently tell yourself – right now, in this moment – in this very one – I am okay. I have what I need. I can handle this. I’m enough.
I know, dear one – this can sound like denying reality. When we’re caught in traffic or when we’re stressed out about our child’s/partner’s/parent’s behavior or our finances or ….. – it is hard to believe we are okay. It can feel kooky to remind ourselves that we’re okay. (Karly, do you not see my 2 year old having the tantrum in the Target aisle???)
And yet we are okay. We’re breathing. We’re here. We may be uncomfortable, we may not like what’s going on around us, we may not like what someone else is doing, and we are handling it.
In this moment I have what I need.
I love Rick Hanson’s phrase of “I’m alright right now” to remind me that I am okay, in this present moment, without having to add to it with comfort food or the comforting lure of attaining a perfect body. I can accept the messiness of life – including the tantrums, the stress, the discomfort, the crazies – and be with it.
When we tell ourselves, “I can handle this,” the stress softens. We move out of fight or flight and into capability. We don’t feel like we HAVE to have the cookie to be okay, because we are reminding ourselves that we already are okay. We foster our inner resiliency, which Dr. Gordon Neufeld says is the essence of self esteem – “Come what may, I have what I need.”
We can be with it. We can be with it, beloved, without eating it; without running after pleasure or running away from pain.
We can be with life, in all its beautiful mess; in all its permutations. Yes, dear one, your heart is big enough.