Have you ever taken a dog for a walk? Sometimes they pull you forwards really quickly, and sometimes they stop for ages.
This is what it can feel like with bingeing and restricting.
We are bingeing frantically, or controlling tightly.
Why is it that the middle ground is so hard to find?
What is the middle ground for you? What does it mean to be balanced with your eating?
When I used to binge eat, I simply couldn’t restrict, even though I wanted to.
I was never a restrictive eater in terms of quantity – but I did used to limit which types of food I would eat, and this is a type of restriction.
But you see, the thing was that when I was bingeing, I was telling myself I shouldn’t. I had the idea that restriction, self-control and willpower were what I needed. But I felt I was lacking in these seemingly important skills.
I used to ask myself:
“Why can’t I control myself?”
“Why am I eating this way, when I know better?”
“Why can’t I stop eating – am I a food addict, have I got a major problem?”
Every time I tried to manage my eating and control myself, it never worked and I felt a 100 times worse each time.
You don’t need self-control or willpower
This is what I learned after many years of trying to force myself to ‘behave’.
We get taught in school that we must study harder, and when we graduate we are taught to work faster, and longer and better. To do this, we need to push ourselves.
This is a left-over, macho way of thinking from corporate capitalism.
It probably didn’t work in school for you – and these attitudes are not going to work with your eating.
If you had a child or a pet, and you wanted it to do something; do you think shouting at it, wishing it was different, bemoaning how useless it is, and punishing it – would get you the results you wanted?
No. That never works.
If you want a child or an animal to go along with what you want – you need a good relationship with it.
This means you listen, you’re open, you’re flexible, you encourage, you demonstrate what you want and you give love when they make a mistake. You always show them you believe in them.
This is how you need to be with yourself.
Are you self-compassionate?
You might think that love, acceptance, kindness and self-compassion are too soft. They aren’t important enough skills.
But what if your boss didn’t believe in you, or what if your friend always mocked you, or what if your partner had no belief that you were a good person – how would that make you feel?
Would you be inspired to create, achieve and succeed?
In the gym, if we push too hard, we can break.
It’s the same with your eating.
You have to stop pushing so hard. This is how you’ll find balance.
I know this is annoying to hear, because you might want in the moment actions (and I’ll give you a few here) but this is the foundation you need to build in order to find that balance between restriction and bingeing.
Things to do:
Each evening, fill in some journal prompts that will help you accept yourself and give yourself some kindness each day.
At the start of the day:
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down for a moment. Put your hand on your heart and try to see if you can hear it beat. Recognize that your heart is working to keep you alive. It doesn’t care what you look like, it’s there for you. Give it some appreciation, and thank your heart for doing what it does.
Choose one meal a day that you can try this experiment with.
Make sure you do NOT promise yourself, or tell yourself how you will eat. Do not set any rules for this meal time. Your aim with this meal is to be interested in how it feels. Do you like this food? Is it tasty? How does it make you feel?
Do not punish yourself for eating. You must allow any feelings to come up.
Write down anything you feel. Remember: Be that kind person to yourself. There’s nothing wrong with how you’ve eaten – I promise.
I have eaten so much food in the past, and such weird combinations! I’ve binged and my weight has changed – but in the end, it all worked out because I learned how to stop being so mean to myself.
I have stayed the same weight for many years – and that’s because I believe my mindset is balanced. I am always interested in how I feel, and I care about myself. I want to treat myself well because I’ve come to really appreciate who I am.
I sometimes eat chocolate for lunch, I sometimes eat very light meals, and sometimes I will give myself a break from heavy foods and go to bed early after a light soup. The next day, I listen to myself again.
Do you think you can start being kinder to yourself today?
Are you ready to start believing that you need to stop focusing on food and control, and start to be kind to yourself?
The goal is not perfect eating – the goal is a good relationship with yourself.