Ever found yourself craving food when you weren’t hungry? You decide to have just a bite of some of those homemade brownies in your kitchen that you haven’t allowed yourself to touch. It’s just one bite, no big deal, right? But then one bite becomes five, and then you’re covering the brownies in nutella, and then going through your cabinets and fridge finding whatever other forbidden foods you can snack on now that you ‘blew your clean eating’ for the day. Soon you’re eating combinations of things that don’t even make sense, and 15 minutes later you look around the kitchen at your path of destruction, wondering….”How did this even happen?”
It’s crazy, right? What started as one innocent little craving for a bite of a brownie soon became a free-for-all binge on whatever food wasn’t nailed down. And we can’t figure out how to get out of the trance. It’s as if our brains block out the experience of the binge so that we don’t have to think about the thing we’re judging ourselves so harshly for. But that doesn’t lessen the shame storm that follows.
It’s an all-too-common scenario for a binge eater (or anyone who’s ever experienced the inherent backlash that comes with any restrictive way of eating). This was my life for a long time. I tried so desperately to be good with my food. I wanted so badly to stop craving sugar altogether. I had no idea what it felt like to have a “bad” food in front of me and NOT freak the f*&# out.
Anyone who has ever struggled with food and body will tell you that slowing down and getting curious is one of the most important things you can do to heal yourself. It’s also one of the most difficult. Like with any compulsive behavior, your brain just automatically jumps to the thing that you’re most used to using to cope. In this case, it could be eating emotionally to avoid negative feelings, compulsive exercise, or adhering to a new restrictive diet plan whenever you’re “feeling fat”. It’s very difficult to pull ourselves out of the compulsive head space when we’re so used to going to that place. But, again, this is where the transformation takes place if you give yourself the time and patience to be inside the discomfort.
So, let’s do a little practice, shall we?
The next time you eat, really take the time to be slowwww with this practice:
Sit the hell down with a plate of food. If you often find yourself standing at your kitchen counter, hoping no one sees you stuff that bite of forbidden food into your mouth, then sit down with your food, and make sure it’s in an actual dish.
Take 3 deep, intentional breaths before beginning your meal. This will feel annoying. Compulsive eaters just want to get their damn eat on, right? Just know that this is all part of the practice and it’s normal for slowness to feel uncomfortable.
Look at your food before you eat. Smell it. Think of the love and care that was put into your meal; someone picked the fruits and vegetables, harvested the wheat, extracted the oils, etc. You put your own love into it, even if all you did was pop it in the microwave.
As you begin to eat, make a point to put your fork down between bites. Take a breath between each bite and ask yourself how full you are. Know that you can always go back for seconds or thirds if you want them, and also know that you don’t have to finish everything that’s on your plate. Your body is not a garbage disposal.
Once you’ve finished half of what’s on your plate, ask yourself how hungry you are and how much more food you want to eat. This isn’t an exact science. You won’t know that you need exactly 2.5 more bites of your sandwich. The point is just to get an idea of whether or not you’re still enjoying your food. Hint: If your food no longer tastes good, you’re probably satisfied!
As any negative thoughts come up, question them. If your inner mean girl is telling you that you’re eating too much or don’t deserve to eat, take the time to question her instead of eating through the thoughts. Ask, is this true? What can I do to help myself feel more calm- something that will help me grow as a person?
The point of this exercise is to get yourself to be curious about the thoughts that arise when you eat. If you’re a binge eater, you’re used to plowing through your feelings with food. So you never give yourself the chance to heal from the difficult emotions that we all as humans have to experience. Instead, you leave yourself both with your original difficult emotion PLUS the unbearable shame of the binge. Not fun.
Again, this exercise will likely feel very uncomfortable. Here is what I want you to really take away: If you find yourself wanting to eat past the point of satisfaction, you’re allowed to do that. This is not another strict eating plan that you have to adhere to. However, it’s important to take the time to question why you want to keep eating. What feelings are you avoiding? What is it about the discomfort that you don’t like? Why is it more comfortable to eat in secret than to sit at the table with your slice of pizza or cookie?
Just. Get. Curious.
And see what comes up.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What have your experiences been like with binge eating? What is it about eating quickly, while no one is watching, that comforts you? What sounds difficult about being slow?