Make the decision to learn about and heal your issues with food and eating.
By Patricia Bacall
How it works
If you are unhappy with your body size or the way you eat, you will be shocked if I say, food is not the problem. It’s not! Food is healthful and delicious and meant to be enjoyed. But if you use food for any other reason than to fuel your body and satisfy hunger, then you are using food for things that it is not meant to solve. So food is not the problem, it is your inability to deal with life’s stresses and your negative emotions without using food to suppress your feelings. By using Vivation to resolve these negative feelings you can feel comfortable around food, be able to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full; enjoy the food you eat, create your ideal body, and enjoy increased happiness, satisfaction, well-being and creativity.
By using Vivation to uncover and heal the deeper issues regarding food and your body, you can completely change your relationship to food and eating. You will learn to view food as something pleasurable that you eat when you are hungry to fuel your body. You will learn to avoid using food as an all-purpose solution for everything from loneliness to boredom. You will be able to eat anything that you love and enjoy, in the right amounts for you, without feeling guilty or ashamed. By learning how to feed yourself with things that are self-loving and nurturing, you will stop eating more food than you need, lose weight, reach and maintain your ideal weight without dieting or deprivation.
When you begin to experience freedom from overeating and compulsive behavior, you will start to discover how much more creative energy you have to spend on constructive projects.
Why Diets Don’t Work
Many people are unhappy and dissatisfied with their body or their weight, feeling that their life would be different, somehow better, if they could only lose ten or twenty pounds. Most think the way to achieve this is to stop eating or go on a diet. Even if the diet is initially successful and the dieter loses weight, the “diet mentality” is being created. That is, all problems can be solved by restricting your food intake and losing a few pounds. Success at dieting allows the dieter to avoid the deeper issues that contributed to their negative self-image in the first place. When you make the decision that “my body is somehow not right,” weight loss brought about by dieting is really only a temporary bandage over feelings of low self-esteem, which will surface later in some form. By losing weight, you think of yourself as “good.” But if you don’t lose weight, what is the other option? In most people’s minds it means that if you gain that weight back, you are “bad,” and this negatively affects your self-esteem.
Diets really never work in the long run, and put the dieter on a path that leads to more frustration and self-loathing. Diets don’t work, but most people think that this is the only way to change their body or lose weight. Once they go off the diet, most people gain back all the weight they’ve lost plus a few pounds, because they have decreased their ability to utilize their fat stores by training their bodies to live on less food. Your body doesn’t know the difference between “dieting” and “starvation,” and tries to save its fat stores for the next “famine,” so you store more fat after going off a diet.
In addition to the havoc that restrictive eating does to your metabolism, diets bring an additional dismal and dysfunctional element to your life: compulsive eating and bingeing. Dieting and compulsive eating are two sides of the same coin, because dieting causes compulsive behavior through restriction and denial. The more restrictive a diet is, the greater the binge-type behavior you will indulge in. When you restrict your eating, as on a diet, there is a “rebound” effect, that is both physical and emotional.
So, the vicious cycle of restriction, denial, self-loathing, shame and hope starts. The person goes on a diet, experiences “demon hunger,” loses control of their eating, gorges themselves with food, feels self-loathing and disgust, is ashamed, vows to do better, starts the restricted eating plan again, loses self-control, etc. The destructive cycle goes on and on, resulting not in a thinner body, which was the original intention of the diet, but a person who feels like an overweight failure, because they didn’t have the “self-control” to make it work. The diet didn’t solve anything and created many more problems. The unfortunate aspect of it all is the emotional, physical and psychological havoc created by an idea that doesn’t really work in the first place.
When you make your body wrong for being the way it is and make an attempt to change your body through restricted eating, there can be several possible results:
- You are initially successful at losing your excess weight, but when you go off the diet you slowly but surely begin to gain it back. You feel disgusted with yourself.
- You can’t stay on the diet, continually find yourself eating the “forbidden foods,” lose respect for yourself because of your “lack of willpower,” beat yourself up, and vow to get greater control of yourself. The more you try to control yourself, the more “out of control” you feel. This only serves to make you even more upset and miserable, thinking of yourself as a failure.
- You are successful at restricting your intake of food and lose some weight. However, by not having food to use as a buffer against uncomfortable emotions, these feelings begin to surface. Subconscious fears start to come to the surface and cause you to make conclusions like, “What’s so important about being thin anyway?” or “He only likes me for my body.” You end up gaining back all the weight you’ve lost because you are sabotaged by your unresolved emotions.
Give up dieting forever.
You can achieve your ideal body through positive motivation to reach your goals and by being gentle, loving and nurturing with yourself. As you start to examine your values through Vivation, you will be making food choices and lifestyle changes based on positive things that you want for yourself. You can create the body you want based on your positive goals and giving yourself what you want, not only in the area of food or eating, but in the larger arena of your life. It is rare to achieve a positive outcome from a negative motivation; if that were possible, the most negative people would be the happiest, and it just doesn’t work that way.
By using Vivation, you can uncover and heal issues that are keeping you from having the body and life you want. You will begin to see the reasons that you use food, and how that has served a purpose in your life. You will change your thoughts and behavior with regard to food, eating and your body, which will bring about changes in your body as well. As you realize that you deserve to go after and have all the things you want in your life, your focus on food and eating will change. Food will not be as important to you, because you will not be using it to try to solve issues that can’t be solved with food.
Make the decision to learn about and heal your issues with food and eating.
How it works
By mastering the skill of Vivation, you will realize that you are the one in control of your life, and that includes what and when you want to eat. Your appetites and desires are valid and should not be subject to the opinion of anyone. You can enjoy deciding how you will take care of your desires. You need to make the decision that you will never again punish yourself for the way you look by denying yourself food again. Acknowledge where you are at right now and take responsibility for your life and your body being the way that it is. Start to make changes based on accepting that reality. To use an old phrase, this is the first day of the rest of your life. You can start to make changes based on what you want for yourself, now and in the future, instead of being at the effect of the circumstances of your past. If you realize that you have been using food to avoid being sexual, for example, heal your fears about sexuality, instead of using food to avoid the issue.
You feel your emotions all over
To some extent we all have the ability to focus on and supply that which our bodies are asking for. This is one of the things we learn in order to take care of ourselves. Sometimes, somewhere along the way, our feelings get mixed up or distorted. Some feelings can be so uncomfortable that we learn to ignore them, so as not to feel the pain that is connected to them. And sometimes we get out of touch with what we really want and need, and try to fill that need with things that don’t work. You can see how people become sex addicts or use shopping to try to fill a need within themselves. Most people call these feelings “urges,” and go through life trying to satisfy their urges, believing that their satisfaction is what will bring them happiness. But the satisfaction of our desires are not the way to bring about lasting happiness. Rather than try to avoid the feelings, we need to change the way we relate to them so that they are not causing us discomfort.
In relation to compulsive overeating, here’s an example: Someone who has unresolved feelings of guilt regarding sex may avoid being their ideal weight because they want to avoid the entire issue of promiscuity. Looking good and getting attention may bring up such uncomfortable feelings that they use food to buffer themselves from the world and literally cushion themselves from the pain of exposure.
Feelings effect you in other ways, too. Let’s say your mother has always encouraged you to eat. Every time she invites you over to dinner you eat more than you want. Perhaps you are afraid that if you tell her you don’t want more food, she will be upset with you, and you are afraid of her disapproval. So you continue to overeat in her presence, because of unresolved feelings or fear. If you are upset with yourself for eating more food than you would normally, you can effectively distract yourself and avoid the issue of your feelings about your mother.
Here’s another example. If you have an argument with your mate, and you feel anger, resentment, and frustration, you might have the urge for an ice cream sundae. If you indulge in that sundae, you might never get to resolve those feelings of frustration, which you are deciding not to feel by eating the ice cream sundae. If you allowed yourself to experience the feelings of anger, resentment and frustration, you would be more in a position to do something about them. If you never allow yourself to experience the feelings by eating ice cream every time they come up, your feelings are dictating your actions. So the feelings never get resolved, they simply get suppressed, and are there waiting to be activated the next time your buttons get pushed.
When you are aware of the feelings, you have the option of acting on them directly to resolve and heal them. However, sometimes you don’t know what the feelings are, and many compulsive overeaters feel all of their feelings as hunger, even pleasure and excitement.
As an example of how we sometimes sabotage our best intentions, perhaps you relate to food as the “forbidden fruit,” because anything that you or anyone else tells you that you can’t have, you naturally want and crave. Tension arises because of your feeling conflicted abut eating. Much of your time and energy is used in this endless cycle of negative thinking. This also detracts from your sense of well-being because you’re constantly reminding yourself that you’re not okay the way you are.
Eating becomes dangerous, and you become obsessed with the idea that every time you go to nourish yourself, you are waging a battle. Even if you are victorious in controlling your appetite at this meal, there’s always dinner with friends, that sumptuous buffet, desserts, or that cute little donut shop down the street, beckoning to you to fill that void.
So food becomes both exciting and dangerous, something that you flirt with and use to distract yourself from other issues in your life. You neglect developing yourself in other ways to become a balanced human being. Food keeps you focused on your body as ornamental and keeps you from dealing with other issues in your life. You can talk endlessly with your friends about food, dieting, and exercise, but it doesn’t help you solve your negative issues with your body. Dieting becomes an end in itself, where you feel successful if you lose weight, and despair if you don’t.
Here’s an exercise: Imagine that your body size and shape are frozen in time. There is nothing that you or anyone else can do to change their body. You can’t work out to grow more muscle or burn fat, and there is no such thing as dieting to change your body size. You simply have the body you’re given. Finish the following statements:
“If I could never change my body size or shape, I would…”
“What I would do differently is…”
You eat for all kinds of reasons other than hunger, and this has served you in a variety of ways. You eat to be social, mealtimes are also family gathering times. You eat when you’re in pain, to soothe or sedate yourself. You eat to celebrate events, and you eat to reward yourself. Can you remember if you’ve ever used food as a reward for putting in a long day’s work? Or you may try to boost your energy when you’re bored. Do you use food to avoid looking honestly at yourself, or to avoid certain feelings? You may notice that you eat to avoid feeling emotional pain. If you know that the way you eat is not helping you to feel good about yourself, start looking at the ways in which you use food to change the feelings that you label “hunger.”
Some people feel guilty if they don’t want to eat food that is being offered, so they eat it anyway, hungry or not. Many people eat when they want to “be good to” or treat themselves. If you feel sad, lonely, or want to avoid feelings of boredom, food can be a comforting friend. Food can act as a sedative and soothe you when you’re feeling angry or upset. Binging and its aftermath of self-hatred can effectively distract you and keep you from dealing in an effective way with a situation in which you’re undecided about what to do. But food doesn’t really solve any of these feelings or mind states, it just temporarily changes your experience. If you think about it, you can probably think of a few times that you’ve eaten when you weren’t hungry, as we all have.
Vivation allows you to “be with” your feelings
How do you begin to get in touch of the entire range of emotions that can exist at times when you think you’re feeling hunger? You can begin by recognizing that emotions can masquerade as the desire to eat. Start to pay attention to your internal cues. This means that by using the Third Element, Awareness in detail, you will start to really focus on the feelings in your body to determine if what you are feeling is hunger or some other feeling that can’t be “fixed” by food. In order to do this, let yourself feel the feelings in your body that you normally would feed in order to make the feelings go away. Instead of going immediately for the food, ask yourself:
- Am I feeling real hunger or is this something else?
- Do I need to tell someone something that I’m upset about?
- Do I need to call a friend for some support and encouragement?
- Do I want to cry?
- Do I want a hot bath or a hug?
- Do I feel deserving of a reward?
- Am I eating to please someone else?
You won’t always be able to tell exactly what is going on with you at the moment, but try to begin to discriminate between the feelings, just for a couple of minutes, the next time you feel like eating. You may be surprised at how quickly you start being able to distinguish between feelings of boredom, anger, sadness, and real “stomach-being-empty” hunger. As you start to get in touch with your natural sensations of hunger, you will find that you won’t need to eat every time you feel something in your body. You will begin to recognize that certain feelings can’t be healed by food, food only covers them up temporary . The feelings will still be there, so using food is really only a distraction in the moment. Give yourself some time and space to find the feeling that is asking for attention and “be with” that feeling by doing some deep breathing and relaxation while you’re feeling it. Instead of immediately going for the “quick food fix,” spend some time with yourself exploring the urge.
Look for a way to soothe yourself by giving yourself compassion and permission to have that feeling. Tell yourself that you understand and accept yourself, and that there’s probably a good reason you feel as you do. Be on your own side. Notice that you would probably have compassion for someone else if they came and told you about it, so have compassion for yourself. Stop being down on yourself for having that feeling and the feeling with which you’re struggling will begin to loosen its grip on you. By learning to “be with” them, you will soon start to notice that the feelings are patterns of energy that can flow through you without your needing to do anything to make them go away.
Some other Fourth Element, or integrative statements that you might use are:
- I’m open to this feeling teaching me something about myself.
- The feeling I’m having is very human, I guess I’m pretty normal.
- I’m really glad this feeling isn’t worse.
- I can relax even with this feeling.
- Isn’t it amusing that this feeling usually causes me to want to eat?
- What a curious experience to notice that this feeling makes me want to eat.