One of the traits that people with emotion-driven overeating tend to have in common is that they speak to themselves extremely unkindly. In fact, they speak to themselves in a way that they would never speak to another human being.
“You stupid, fat cow.”
“I hate myself.”
“I’m so disgusting.”
These are just some of the abuse-bombs that people typically launch at themselves. If you do the same thing, please don’t beat yourself up (about beating yourself up).
It’s not your fault.
You may have received a plethora of negative messages in childhood and, consequently, are treating yourself the way you think you deserve. Or years of failing diets, bingeing and weight gain may have decimated your self-esteem. Or both.
However, if you want to resolve your overeating issues, you can’t afford to speak to yourself so negatively. It simply doesn’t work. If I thought putting themselves down helped my clients to recover from their problems, I’d say “Do it. Really stick the boot in. Go for the jugular.”
But it doesn’t help. If you’re too busy castigating yourself for your perceived wrong-doings you can’t hear what’s really going on within you. If you stop spewing venom at yourself, and instead adopt a curious and concerned approach to your behaviour, you stand a much better chance of understanding why you eat the way you do.
Talking to yourself in a supportive way doesn’t mean you strut around thinking you’re all that and a bag of chips – I know that being perceived as arrogant is a major worry for people who overeat.
What it does mean is that, while you still hold yourself personally accountable and treat others well, you also treat yourself with kindness, compassion and respect.
Right about now you’re probably thinking “but I can’t treat myself with respect when I’m so overweight. I’ll be nice to myself when I’ve lost weight and look OK. Then I’ll behave as though I’m valuable, but I can’t before then because I’m so fat”.
But our worth as human beings is not determined by how we look. Or how much money we earn. Or what car we drive.
The sooner you can truly believe this the better because healing your relationship with food requires you to look after yourself, emotionally and physically. You can’t look after yourself if you tell yourself you’re worthless. What we don’t value we don’t look after.
Everything you say and do to yourself has an impact on your self-esteem. You get to choose whether that impact is positive or negative. You can hurl abuse at yourself or you can offer yourself empathy and understanding.
I’ve tried both ways. The former kept me stuck. The latter helped me move forward.
The fact is we don’t bully ourselves into resolving our issues with overeating. Nor do we shame ourselves or scare ourselves.
We don’t hate ourselves into change.
The more time we spend making ourselves feel bad, the more we reach for food to make ourselves feel good.
So please pick yourself up on the brutal way you speak to yourself. Apologise. Correct it. Move on. Be your biggest supporter rather than your greatest critic.
No doubt it will feel unnatural and uncomfortable to begin with but that’s a good thing.
Change is uncomfortable.
The world can feel like a very different place when you relate to yourself with respect and compassion. In addition, if you do manage to quieten down your inner bully you might just hear a small, vulnerable voice within you that says “I’m tired” or “I’m lonely” or “I’m scared.”
And that may be a clue to the real emotional need that you’re attempting to meet with food.
Here are some ideas for being kinder to yourself.