I'm writing to you mid-bite of peanut butter drizzled smeared rice cake. I'm somewhere in between hating myself and really just not giving A FAHK because eating really just seems like the only tactic I can come up with to feel anywhere close to better. Sure, I have all of the coping mechanisms in the world at my fingertips. I should and could be journaling. I should and could be taking a walk. I should and could be drinking water (hold up, let me take a swig).
But here I am, snacking post-snack, trying to fill myself up, convincing myself it's fine. But it's not really fine. And I'm not really hungry. And as I come out of my fog to realize that my pursuit of fullness actually has to do with issues completely unrelated to food (i.e., I'm overwhelmed and need a distraction, I'm looking to procrastinate, I'm stressed and looking for comfort...), I find myself able to pick up the remainder of my snack and put it away, because this hunger I'm feeling ain't about eating. (BRB, I'm gonna go put this back).
Whew. Has it ever occurred to you just how often we eat as a means of coping or avoiding other, unpleasant and downright challenging parts of our lives? Like, how much less would we consume if we were better equipped to stare our struggles in the face and actually DEAL with them rather than fill the gaping holes by stuffing food down our throats?
That may be an aggressive description for some of you. But seriously, this is what we do to ourselves all the time! And even when we unveil the illusion and face the truth, it is still tough to not engage in these behaviors. It takes MASSIVE amount of self awareness, desire for change, and willingness to feel HELLA uncomfortable. It requires actually feeling what is coming up for us instead of stuffing our feelings back down under a layer of chips and salsa. It requires taking a moment to discern whether you are actually hungry or if your desire to eat stems from something else. And that, my friends, is freaking uncomfortable. I've been working on it for years and you all just caught me with my hands in the cookie peanut butter jar. (Nut butters though... AMIRITE?!)
In the holistic health coaching world, we like to address our clients' issues with food by teaching a school of thought that focuses on a different kind of food altogether. We call them Primary Foods, and believe it or not, these foods are not ones that you can eat.
Primary Foods can be found off of your plate. They are your relationships, your spiritual practice, your physical activity, and your career. An imbalance or a deficiency in your Primary Foods is often the cause of an unhealthy relationship with your secondary foods, the ones on the end of your fork.
So, here's an example in my own life, because I luuurve guinea pigging myself out for you guys. Currently, I have a major imbalance happening in the career portion of my Primary Foods. As in, work and working has taken over my life and I create very little time for just being. I'm either AT work, working at HOME, or WORKING on work so that I can work. Granted, this is an unusual time for me. I have a fulltime job, I am in school becoming a health coach, I am setting up my business, and I am dedicating time to developing this blog along with a slew of other writing projects. I am WORKING on a lot. And DUH, this is causing a major wave of overworked exhaustion and resentment to set in. After a long day of working hard, I come home overwhelmed and with more work to do along with a never ending list of chores and tasks to simply keep my life running, and I find myself seeking out ways to enjoy myself, to give myself a little serotonin boost before I crash face first. And what is the most accessible/instant/EASY method I have at my disposal? Eating. So then I start to eat, and because I'm finally enjoying myself (and getting a nice little dopamine surge in my brain), I don't want to stop, and before I know it, I've had a snack attack and my pleasure has suddenly morphed into pain.
So the hunger that I am striving to fill by eating actually has little or nothing to do with food. And, tough as it is sometimes, it is up to me to recognize the pattern and implement some OTHER coping strategies ASAP, before shit gets CRAY. Luckily, I know what to do to break free in moments like these, and when they do occur, I can usually extract myself before too much harm is done.
Most, however, don't have that level of awareness/presence of mind/desire to pull themselves up and out when they are struggling. They fall victim to these destructive and disruptive patterns over and over again and convince themselves that the problem is with them, that they can't be trusted around food, that they are failures and can't lose weight or eat normally to save their lives. And unfortunately, this cycle of self loathing and despair often lead right back into the cycle of binge eating.
The key is finding a place to break the cycle. To jump in at a point where we can pinpoint dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives and to feed ourselves with Primary Foods that fuel us, that give us confidence and satisfaction and excitement and joy, so that when it comes time to eat, we're pleasantly surprised to realize that while we're excited to do it, it isn't the main event in our day. We're so full from the pleasures of living complete lives that food is just another means of keeping us going, not our emotional lifeline.
Our relationship with food and eating is pretty freaking complex, as you can see. There is so much more to hunger than meets the eye, and if you're struggling with overeating/undereating/just eating in general, it may be time to take a closer look at your primary foods to see what in your life may be causing the conflict in your relationship with food. It's not easy, but I promise you, life is so much better when food takes a backseat to actually living.
Need some accountability/counseling/support, or know someone else who might? Leave your information in the comments below or send me an email at CoachStephS@gmail.com to see how we can work together to create balance and harmony in your life surrounding food.