As I grew into my teen years and into my early twenties, I often struggled with food issues. For as long as I can remember, food has always been in the back of my mind. No matter the time of day, I was always thinking about my next meal. I hated it. The hardest part about it was that I had to face my struggles three times a day. I constantly wondered how I was going to win my battle against, what I called, “My Food Addiction”.
As you know, I have won my battle and my mission now, is to help others with theirs.
Today, I would like to share with you a blog post that I have recently found on MindBodyGreen.com. In the post “I Used To Eat Instead Of Feeling My Emotions. Here`s What I Know Now”, Anette Sloan talks about her struggles with emotional eating. This story touched me because it is very similar to my own. I really connected with her story and thought that you may like to read it as well. So, here it is:
I Used To Eat Instead Of Feeling My Emotions. Here`s What I Know Now
By Anette Sloan (MindBodyGreen.com)
Willpower is defined as “control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one`s own impulses.”
When I read that definition, I can feel my body begin to constrict. My shoulders tighten and a knot forms in my stomach. I clearly have a negative association with this word, and for good reason.
During my late teens and most of my 20s, I struggled with food. To the outside world, I presented myself as someone who was very healthy. In my mind, “healthy” equaled “virtuous.” I set strict rules about what I could and couldn`t eat, and in order to follow my rules, I self-prescribed heavy doses of willpower.
Predictably, it didn`t take long for me to start feeling deprived. As this sense of deprivation wore me down, I began to secretly eat the foods that were “off-limits.” During these times of “cheating” on my healthy eating plan, I figured that I`d already broken the rules so I might as well go all out. Before long, I developed a full-fledged binge-eating problem.
I felt incredible shame around my eating challenge. I beat myself up for being a “willpower weakling.” I thought that if only I could exert more control over my impulses, I could eat the way I thought I should 100% of the time. Despite my challenges with it, I still believed that willpower was the answer to my problems … I just needed more of it.
Today, I`m grateful to report that I no longer struggle with food. And it`s NOT because I finally figured out how to make willpower work for me. The key to my healing was my realization that there is no such thing as a willpower problem. In situations where we think we have a willpower problem, what we`re actually facing is a problem of not being present.
When I finally figured this out, my reaction was one of immense relief. I wasn`t a failure after all! I was simply one of the majority, a person who wanted to numb feelings of discomfort rather than actually feel them.
My next step was clear: if I wanted to heal, I had to learn how to be present with discomfort.
As difficult as this seemed, I was tired from years of struggling with food. I threw out the old self-prescription for willpower and wrote a new prescription: for presence.
As I practiced being more present in my day-to-day life, I started to let go of my strict food rules. Instead of using willpower to force certain choices, I learned how to be present with my body and what it wanted to eat. When I found myself reaching for food when I wasn`t hungry, I stopped and asked myself, “Am I seeking to numb right now?” If the answer was yes, I took a few deep breaths and tried to figure out what I didn`t want to feel. Then, instead of numbing my feelings, I gave myself permission to actually feel them.
Over time, I become much more self-aware. I realized that my eating challenge was life`s way of bringing attention to the areas in which I needed to grow. As the idea that a positive reason lay beneath my struggle took hold, I began to forgive myself for years of self-abuse. With forgiveness came the opportunity for self-love.
I can now say with 100% sincerity that I`m grateful for my years of struggle with food. Without it, I wouldn`t have experienced this series of powerful lessons:
- There is no such thing as a willpower problem. There is only the problem of lack of presence.
- When we learn how to be present with discomfort, we develop greater self-awareness.
- With greater self-awareness, we`re able to tap into the deeper messages behind our challenges.
- When we learn the deeper messages behind our challenges, we can apply them to make profound changes in our lives, starting with self-forgiveness.
- The act of forgiving oneself is a powerful act of self-love.
- Self love is a gateway to healing.
- With healing comes gratitude and a newfound understanding that our struggles help us evolve into better versions of ourselves.
Goodbye, willpower, and good riddance. Hello, presence. I`m glad you`re here.