I want to start by expressing my heartfelt gratitude to all the medical professionals (both frontline and behind the scenes) currently working, at great personal risk, to care for the sick. I’d also like to thank all those carrying out essential services – collecting our rubbish, stacking the shelves, delivering our orders – for their hard work and dedication at such a difficult time.
Thank you. All of you.
The rest of us are playing our part by staying at home in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. And it seems that some of us are struggling with the lockdown, while others are enjoying it.
Whatever you’re feeling at the moment, there may be some valuable personal learning, especially if you’ve noticed changes in your eating behaviour. So, rather than seeing this as a time of enforced isolation, could you view it as a chance to reflect?
Has your eating improved?
Many of you who struggle with binge eating have a side that likes to issue orders from the moment you wake up (as this post about The Drill Sergeant explains). This side bosses you around constantly, has very high standards and zero regard for your wellbeing.
However, as a result of lockdown, you simply can’t rush around in the way you’re used to. The lockdown order has come from an authority higher than The Drill Sergeant – the Government – so it can’t argue and can’t issue commands in the usual way. Effectively, you’ve been given permission to step back from everything and take a breather, perhaps for the first time in years.
With the pressure off, many of you are reporting feeling more at peace. Life has calmed down considerably and, as a result, so has your eating. Notice the benefit to your wellbeing. This is a strong indication that the way you usually live your life isn’t making you happy, and your binge eating is a reflection of your unhappiness.
When lockdown is lifted and life returns to some sort of normality, how are you going to ensure you maintain some peace in your life? How will you stop The Drill Sergeant (or The Foreman, The Boss, The General or whatever you might call it) from taking charge again? Things don’t have to go back to the way they were if you don’t want them to.
Life is about balance, not about constantly achieving at the expense of our health. You don’t need the Government to give you permission to take a step back. Give yourself permission.
Has your eating got worse?
You’re bound to be feeling a lot at the moment. If you live alone, any sense of loneliness and isolation may have intensified. If there are cracks in your relationships, they can be brought into focus when you’re stuck at home with family members. You may be isolating with people who are toxic or abusive. These are all reasons why The Comforter – the side of us that likes to step in and tell us to eat to avoid our feelings – may be around a lot.
Research shows that putting feelings into words helps to decrease their intensity, as this article explains. Decreasing the intensity of our feelings helps us to handle them more effectively and from there we’re more likely to be able to work out what we truly need to feel better.
So this is a good time to ask The Comforter to back off so you can explore what you’re feeling. It may be something relatively small like you’re restless or bored. Or it may be something big like admitting to yourself you dislike being at home all day with the kids, or you regret your choice of partner.
Often, we avoid exploring our feelings because we believe it means we have to take some sort of action. But we don’t. It’s OK just to explore and consider your options at a later date.
Your feelings don’t go away when you turn to food. They’re simply delayed until the binge has worn off. Eventually you’ll have to binge again to detach from them. Again, your eating behaviour is an indication that something in your life is making you unhappy and needs to change.
Give yourself a chance to explore what that might be.
Although this is a time of social distancing, it doesn’t mean we have to feel distant from ourselves and others. Isolation and disconnection are not the same thing. Here are some ideas to help you feel closer:
Connect to yourself
Take a moment to reflect on what’s important to you and what’s not. When all this is over, what do you want to retain in your life and what will you let go of? Plan the future you want when lockdown is over, according to what feels right to you.
Connect to your body
If you want to resolve your issues, you need a relationship with your body. There are fantastic online resources for yoga, pilates and other ways to help you feel more connected to yourself physically. Also, exercise is a great way of alleviating anxiety, as this article explains.
Connect to others
Connection is an antidote to isolation. Just because you can’t hang out with people doesn’t mean you can’t reach out. Technology allows us to connect virtually whenever we feel like it. Many people are taking advantage of virtual meeting spaces, how about you?
Lockdown doesn’t have to halt your process of recovery. In fact, I think it has a lot to teach us about binge eating. If you allow yourself, you could use the time for self-reflection and personal growth. Ultimately, what you learn could help you move forward in understanding both yourself and your eating issues.
Stay safe everyone.