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When it comes to compulsive overeating, it seems the prevailing opinion is that people who overeat do so because they are miserable, lonely, stuffing feelings, etc. Just the other day I read a quote from an author on this subject: When asked why women overeat? She replied, “Because we’re miserable.”
Many women I talk to, myself included cannot relate to this as being the sole reason for overeating. After twenty-five years of talking to people through my chiropractic practice and spiritual counseling, I’ve discovered that “miserable” comes in all shapes and sizes and, so does happiness.
For me anyway, it’s been a breakthrough to discover that when it comes to compulsive overeating, it is about the food and, it’s not about the food.
First, I’ll elaborate on why it is about the food. I had a conversation with someone last week about diet programs. When I shared with her that I was feeling not to eat certain foods, she told me that I shouldn’t deprive myself and that I just needed to learn to eat everything in smaller portions.
Now, for the average eater, portion control is most likely the way to go; however, can you imagine saying to a cocaine addict, “You need to learn how to portion control that cocaine if you want to get over it.” Ludicrous, right?
And then we’re told to eat the “lite” versions of our favorite foods, as if that’s going to cure the habit. When I was a smoker, smoking the light version of my favorite cigarette did not lead to knocking out the habit.
As I pondered on the conversation about deprivation, I realized that now that I have quit the smoking habit, I never feel that I’m being deprived of cigarettes. This stimulated ideas on looking at deprivation from another perspective.
So I began to ask myself, “Am I depriving myself of pizza, pasta, tacos or ice cream? Or, am I really depriving myself of feeling light and experiencing freedom?
And then on a worldly note, recently I entered a store filled with the most beautiful clothes. While there I thought again about deprivation. I recognized that by indulging in the foods that keep me addicted, I am also depriving myself of wearing the beautiful clothes that I want to wear.
The question becomes, “What am I really depriving myself of?”
I had a light bulb moment when I learned more about food addiction, and realized that the foods that I love to overeat are in fact, addictive. This food addiction arena is so confusing because, we all know that with substances like alcohol or drugs, we can stop the behavior, but with food, we have to eat. I’ve been observing that the foods that are addictive are not even “real” food.
I’ve begun to notice how I feel when eating raw fruit and vegetables compared to how I feel when I overindulge in addictive foods. I’ve also begun to notice that most of the foods I eat addictively, I don’t even like all that much! What a rude awakening that is! Ha!
Just this morning I went to a store that had samples of food. Usually I don’t eat those samples, but this morning there were samples of my drugs of choice: tortilla, cheese and guacamole! Within moments of eating what was literally two bites, the addicted feast beast within started chattering: “I want more of that!”
I thought about how prior to eating those two bites, I had not been thinking about food at all, but once I indulged in my hit of cocaine, I wanted more. As I drove home from the store, I literally had to talk myself out of stopping to buy more of that sort of food.
One of my patients talked about the same thing recently. The day after eating three bites of one of her children’s dessert, she said to her husband that she should not have eaten it. He asked her why as he pointed out that three bites are not going to make her gain weight. She replied that it wasn’t about gaining weight, but that now she’s craving sugar.
Many of us were brought up on sugar-coated cereals, macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, and the like. Imagine if you were brought up on drugs and alcohol, and then as an adult you’re told that you are addicted to these substances because you are lonely and miserable.
One time I actually stayed on a low-carbohydrate diet for a month and to my amazement, I had no desire to eat at night, or to overeat at all. That’s when I recognized that compulsive overeating has a lot to do with blood sugar imbalances. My eating habits entirely changed until I once again attempted to portion control my drugs of choice.
So in many respects, I’ve discovered that it is about the food. And, it’s not about the food. Let’s talk about how it’s not about the food.
Recently I spoke with several women who have struggled for a life-time with these issues. They too could not relate to all the voices telling us that we are eating because we’re miserable and unhappy. Certainly as a consequence of overeating, one may begin to feel guilt, shame, weak or not good enough. But what came first? It becomes a vicious cycle.
So as I’ve said, food is most definitely a factor, yet on the other hand, there is still something going on within that propels us to return to our drugs of choice. When I finally gave up smoking it was only because there was something I wanted more, freedom from that habit.
Healing food addiction must take place on two levels: On the level of form, which is the choice to not indulge in certain behaviors or substances; and the spiritual level, which is asking Spirit Within to reveal what needs healing in me. I have been working with these approaches and it seems that I come to ever increasing understanding of myself and why I do the things I do.
In general I live a rich and full life. I love my life and, I love tasty food and wine, so I guess if I’m going to have an issue, it could have been a lot worse! Ha! Nevertheless, I have felt frustrated and confused due to really wanting to change this pattern of overeating, and not being able to do so.
The other day I was driving to work and listening to an audio on NTI Luke that was about judgment and willingness. As I listened, it was if Spirit whispered in my ear, “Sheryl, give those judgments about yourself to Me. Give your willingness to lay your self-judgments aside.”
I stopped the cd, and took a moment to do just that.
I am willing to give these
judgments about myself
In gratitude, I rest in your
I felt release in that moment. Then I popped the cd back in and heard Love respond:
I bless you with My gratitude each time you give Me
but the smallest measure of your willingness,
for each small measure is like fertilizer;
it is useful to Me in the healing of your heart.
(NTI Luke 13:1-9 v18)
I felt in that moment and feel again now, the Presence of Love in my mind and I feel such gratitude for this healing taking place in my heart. Have you made judgments about yourself today? Stop, and give a little willingness to lay them aside.
There’s a passage in A Course in Miracles that has really spoken to me of late: “Remember, then, that whenever you look without and react unfavorably to what you see, you have judged yourself unworthy…”
Self-judgments are spoken from the voice of unworthiness masquerading as you! When focused on changing things out there, we’re really only focused on our thoughts. The Good News is that we can change our thoughts!
In that same section of NTI Luke we are told:
“It is your thoughts that have made you suffer. And so, if you would choose freedom, you must also choose freedom from your thoughts.
“This is why I have come. I am here to teach you to lay down your thoughts, to loosen yourself from your bindings, and to straighten up and walk in joy and gratitude instead.”
There is a sense of freedom in seeing that our suffering comes from our thoughts about our circumstances or conditions; but we may then move into wondering why the “problem” still seems to be staring us in the face. The “problem” will remain as long as we continue to think about it in the same way. Tomorrow will look like yesterday when we continue to think the same thoughts.
Healing occurs in the present moment. In this moment:
Willingness and resistance cannot coexist.
Acceptance and self-judgment cannot coexist.
Self-love and self-hatred cannot coexist.
Love and fear cannot coexist.
Awareness and compulsion cannot coexist.
I cannot be awake and asleep at the same time.
In this present moment I can bring awareness to what is occupying my thoughts.
In the moment that I am willing to give my thoughts to the Source of Healing, in that moment I rest in willingness, acceptance, love and awareness. Now is the time for healing. The antidote to unworthiness, guilt and fear is, Now.