A few months back I was working with a client who was struggling with night time eating. She would share during our sessions that once the TV was on, it was tough to not do the stand up, get a snack, sit down, eat it, stand up, get another snack, and repeat cycle.
To begin working on this, we removed distractions and created a guideline: This client could eat at night as long as she’d turn off the TV (or pause it) while she ate. Slowly, she began eating more mindfully. And she didn’t even have to leave her cozy recliner. 🙂
As she got into a routine of eating mindfully, she noticed that over time, she began eating less. She’d stand up just twice to get a snack, instead of five or six times. Eventually, she’d only get a snack if she were hungry, and other than that, she’d just enjoy her show and alone time in her favorite spot.
Eventually, eating without distractions became such a pleasant experience, that she’d stopped craving food while watching TV. The two – watching TV and eating – where no longer simultaneously related.
Through this experiment, she had a lightbulb moment go off…
She realized that she used to not participate in certain events because she knew in the back of her mind that if she stayed home, she could eat whatever she wanted, without anyone knowing.
It was a sneaky little feeling…
Someone would ask her to do something, she’d think about it, remember that she could stay home be cozy and snack on whatever she wanted, and she’d choose to do that instead.
She realized that she was missing out on her life… JUST so that she could stay home and eat.
We dove deeper into this to figure out why she would rather stay home and eat (when she could do that anytime) than hangout with the people she loved.
A few things came up:
- She realized she DIDN’T give herself full permission to eat what she wanted anytime
- She realized she sometimes was tired and just wanted to stay in but didn’t know how to give herself permission to say “NO” to others
- She realized that she had made food more special than other things in her life
From here, we worked to put food back in it’s place – to make it something which was highly enjoyable, but not the MOST enjoyable thing in her life.
While watching TV, if she wasn’t hungry but began to think about food, she’d consider: Am I simply getting tired of this show? Is it losing my attention? Am I feeling bored and needing a distraction? And she’d allow herself to do something else.
Or, she’d simply think through things like: Am I trying to make this show MORE enjoyable by eating food at the same time? Once I’m done with the food, will I have REALLY made watching TV that much more enjoyable?
(The answer would usually be no, and she’d be able to move on and engage with her show, trusting that it was enough.)
When people would ask her to do things in the evenings and she’d begin to think about food, she’d ask herself: You know you can have any food you want, anytime that you want it, right? Would it REALLY feel as good as you’re thinking it would to stay in tonight and eat? You can eat ANYTIME.
She began to peel back the layers and think about the real reasons why she wasn’t participating fully in her life. She began to give herself more permission around food, and she began to participate more fully in her life.
Even if that meant saying NO to something simply because she wanted a relaxing evening in the house.
I’m curious! Do any of you relate to this? I know I do!
When I used to be deep into dieting, it would seem like a fun/sneaky/rebellious place for me to say no to something and know in the back of my mind that I could stay home, veg out, and eat whatever I wanted (binge) as soon as I was alone.
No one would be home, no one would know… and I could eat WHATEVER I wanted. I would build it up so much in my mind – I hadn’t learned the proper techniques, which I now teach in coaching, to step back, get to a calm place in my mind, and make a choice that would feel good.
It was appealing to stay home and let go of my food-rules because I was always trying to be SO GOOD around everyone else (and, most of the time, myself too.)
The reprocussions of eating didn’t feel SO bad when I’d realize that I’d only have to deal with myself feeling bad about my choices after – no one else would have to see or know. I could get through THAT by planning to eat PERFECTLY the next day. I’d justify binge eating in this way.
Yep! Done! Let’s do it!
Little did I realize at the time… This wasn’t about “being good” or “being bad.” This was about physically feeling awful, and mentally feeling controlled by food. THAT’S why this plan of staying home and eating a TON of whatever I wanted and then being SUPER good later didn’t feel good.
That, plus the fact that I’d verbally bash myself afterwards. Ah, you feel so sick…! Ah, WHY do you do this? You KNOW it doesn’t feel good, ever! And would tell those close to me: I feel so fat. I need to diet. Why am I so out of control. UGH! That is the LAST time! Keep me accountable!
This used to be such a pattern for me… bingeing and restricting. It truly sucks the life out of you, doesn’t it?! Have you ever struggled with this? Are you currently struggling? What does this post teach you moving forward?
Binge eating is TOUGH. It’s such a distraction from our everyday life, isn’t it? Just like food rules and thinking about food all of the time is… It’s HARD to climb out of these cycles, but it’s so possible. Just read some of these success stories to encourage you.
Today, “binge” is not even a word in my vocabulary unless I’m talking about helping someone else out of this place. I literally have NO reason left to binge. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, I’m highly motivated by my desire to feel good…
I’ve learned to take care of myself in ways that are best for me (I’ve learned the importance of self-care with intuitive eating – read more here), and I feel great about the fact that I have full range over what I choose to eat. I’m not bored, I’m not restricted, and I feel healthy. I feel HAPPY most of all.
Six-years ago, I would have LAUGHED if you would have told me I’d be saying this. ^ But, it’s true. There’s hope for all of us!
Share your thoughts on this post with me in the comments!
Authentically You, my online course which teaches you to give yourself permission to let go of rules/should’s and come alive to YOURSELF opens for enrollment next Monday. The course starts on 1/23 and runs for 8-weeks. If you’d like to join, put your name on the waitlist here.