Category Archives for "Self-Care"

woman surrounded by junk food

The 8 Major Obstacles to Overcoming Overeating

Several years ago I was trying to answer the question, “How do I do what I do?” It’s not easy to explain the making peace with food process (especially to those entrenched in the diet mentality), and it’s even more of a challenge to explain coaching in general.

There are several areas that I work with my clients on. And our work focuses on solving issues in these areas. These issues are in fact, obstacles that block people from making peace with food. So while this process is very different for each person, as is coaching, obstacles seemed to be a good way to describe the process and make it relatable to those struggling with food and body issues.

Here are the 8 major obstacles to overcoming overeating and making peace with food:

1. Lack of Foundation (Knowing Your ‘Why’): If you don’t know the real reason you want to achieve something, you will lose your motivation quickly. Building a foundation requires knowing your personal values and what you really want at a much deeper level than just, “I want to lose weight,” which only gets in the way and keeps you from making peace with food.

2. Diet Mentality: This is a huge obstacle. From a very young age, most of us have been taught how we should look and what we should and shouldn’t eat. At the same time, we are also taught that food is love, food will make us feel better, and we are a very food-centric society, with every celebration centered around the food. These conflicting rules and ingrained habits are what lead us to dieting, followed by overeating, followed by guilt, taking us back to dieting.

3. Learning and Applying the Basics of Mindful/Intuitive Eating: Many people start the process of intuitive eating only to find they have turned it into a diet full of rules and restrictions. It takes time to learn these principles and really apply them. Most of us, including myself, went back and forth between intuitive eating and dieting before it finally clicked and felt right. (But it’s worth it for a lifetime of peace with food!)

4. Negative Self-Talk: I think it’s safe to say that this is one issue that almost everyone wants or needs to overcome. The first step is being aware of it. Some people have those negative tapes playing all day long and they don’t even hear them, but the subconscious does. After being aware of it, the next step is to learn how to handle the talk. It’s my experience that ignoring the “voices” or telling them to go away won’t do it. Those voices are a part of you, so rejecting them, yelling at them to go away, or other similar strategies don’t work very well. Neither do affirmations where you say things to yourself that you don’t even believe. There are better ways of dealing with the voices and changing the self-talk to take a more positive tone.

5. Avoiding or Reacting to Difficult Emotions: Classic “emotional eating” is basically eating in response to strong feelings that you do not want to feel (conscious or otherwise). By “pushing the feelings down,” you get to temporarily avoid those feelings or the situations that are causing the feelings. Food can be used as a numbing agent, and when you overeat to the point of feeling sick or guilty, you can now focus on beating yourself up and planning your next diet, instead of dealing with what is really going on. The problem is if you don’t eventually allow yourself to feel your feelings and process them, they will always come back, often stronger than when they initially showed up.

6. Not Getting Your Needs Met: When you don’t feel your feelings, you are not going to be aware of what you are actually feeling (sad, angry, lonely, bored, etc). Therefore, you can’t identify what you might actually need (talking to someone, taking a walk, asking for help, etc.). In turn, when your needs are not met (and again, you may not even be aware of this), it is very easy to subconsciously turn to food because it temporarily fills the emptiness and creates a distraction. This is a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped without discovering your feelings, determining your needs, and getting them met.

7. Lack of Self-Compassion: Self-Compassion is an extremely important skill to learn. If we can’t be compassionate towards ourselves when we make mistakes or in times of difficulty, we end up in a place of judgment, “shoulding” on ourselves, and engaging in all kinds of negative self-talk. Using self-compassion allows for honoring our feelings, soothing ourselves, acknowledging we aren’t alone in these experiences and it brings us back to the moment and being mindful. This is a much better place than the past and regrets, or the future that we often put our lives on hold for, waiting for everything to be perfect. Research on happiness shows humans are happier when they stay in the present, regardless of their circumstances or emotions at the time.

8. Lack of Self-Care: Self-care is much more than lighting candles and soaking in the bathtub. It’s about taking care of your needs in several areas, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and wellness. It’s about creating a “balance” in your life – but balance doesn’t necessarily mean splitting your time and attention evenly among all four areas. It is about dividing your time and attention in a way that meets your true needs and desires and fits into your values (as determined when working on obstacle #1).

So there you have it – 8 major obstacles to overcome to stop overeating and make peace with food. You may already have some handled, and others may need more focus. This is normal. Take it at your own pace, learn along the way from your setbacks, and get ready to see not only your relationship with food improve, but other areas of your life as well!

just say no

The Magic Two-Letter Word That Can Change Your Life

 

Do you remember the first word you said as a baby? I certainly don’t, but I would bet that “No!” was probably one of my first words. Most babies are told ‘no’ often by their parents. This makes sense, it’s important to tell babies what not to do sometimes more than saying ‘yes’. We don’t want the baby to get hurt and the ‘no’ just comes out. Before you know it, you’ve got a toddler bumbling along telling everyone including the family dog, “No!”

As we’ve grown up, we use it to correct our own child’s behavior, or perhaps even the dog or cat. It’s in our vocabulary, so why can’t we say it when we want to turn down an offer, invitation or request?

If you have trouble saying no to requests made of you – especially those you don’t want to do – you aren’t alone.

Why Is It So Hard to Say “No”?

It’s hard for many reasons, including how we were raised and our culture, especially for women. We learned it’s good to be a helpful person. Helpful people receive positive feedback, which increases depending on how busy that person is. “She’s so busy with family and work yet she’s always the first to volunteer when the (school, church, club, neighborhood, etc.) needs help!”

It feels good to get positive feedback…in the moment. But what if you’re taking the time from your family or yourself to do something for someone else? Helping out when you can is appropriate and most of us hope in our time of need we can expect help from those we’ve been there for.

However, if you rarely say no, due to guilt or because you crave that positive feedback, it becomes a problem. Not only do you sacrifice yourself, but you also get labeled as someone who can always be counted on to help. You become the default helper – if no one else volunteers, everyone knows you’ll say yes.

Once you’re in this position, it’s tough to get out. But you can – it just takes saying, “No!”

Start Working Out That ‘No!’ Muscle

Learning to say no is like training a muscle – it takes a conscious effort to begin and become consistent. Similar to conditioning a muscle, you may experience some “soreness” or guilt, in the beginning. Over time it gets easier and you’ll find yourself using your ‘no’ muscle more often.

This is part of self-care. Self-care is essential for a balanced, happy life as well as keeping the important people in your life happy. Self-care helps maintain or build your self-esteem and it reduces stress. Using that tiny two-letter word when you mean it will have a powerful impact on your life!

Saying no to things that don’t serve you or fit into your values or priorities is an essential skill most happy and successful people work on consistently. They’re aware of how difficult it is to fulfill a commitment they’ve said yes to when they really wanted to say no. It leads to feeling taken advantage of or angry at the requester and/or themselves, which makes it even more challenging to follow through with their commitment. To avoid this, they keep their ‘no’ muscle in good shape!

To practice the skill of saying ‘no,’ I often suggest to a client to find an opportunity to say no during the week. They discover the temporary discomfort of saying no is much better than saying yes and having to deal with resentment, anger and often upset from family.

Saying yes to avoid conflict or to be a nice person (when you don’t want to) is a behavior that can lead to the use of a coping mechanism, such as compulsive dieting or overeating. This in turn leads to guilt and shame, which keeps you trapped in the diet-binge cycle. This will repeat as long as you continue to sacrifice yourself and say yes to things you can’t or don’t want to do.

No is a Complete Sentence

Learning to say no can also help if you tend to overeat due to stress, overwhelm, or other negative emotions. Reducing stress can reduce your mindless, automatic eating in response to not having your needs met.

Be aware of how you say no. Do you say, “no, but…” or, “no, I’m sorry but I can’t because…”? I’m not sure who first said this, but it’s worth quoting: “No” is a complete sentence.

Here’s how it looks: “No.” It doesn’t need an explanation or excuse. This is a big step and you can take baby steps towards simply saying no. It’s a great way of honoring your needs and will set a good example when you get there.

Still uncomfortable with the concept of saying no? Try this out while you’re strengthening your no muscle… when you’re asked you to do something that you don’t want to do, tell the person you want to answer them, but you need some time to think about it.

This works great when you’re worried you won’t say ‘no’ in the moment. Take time to put together what you want to say and how you want to say it. This way you’ll have an easier time saying no, rather than being caught off guard and unprepared.

As I was writing this, the show “Friends” came to mind. In the first episode, Joey asks Phoebe if she wants to help put Ross’ new furniture together and Phoebe, with a straight face, says, “I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” I think sometimes we could all stand to be a little like Phoebe!