If you get a quarter from someone with a cold, you can "catch" the cold from the quarter. Even if the infected person is long gone, you can still get sick from exposure. Did you know that emotions carry the same risk, even when the person is not in your presence?
You can feel people's needs and demands and they can create emotional and physical confusion in you, especially in close relationships, and even with people you haven't seen in ages (like your mom who you've been meaning to call). I'm sure you have many stories of feeling uneasy, only to find out that someone close to you was in trouble or simply down.
You may be treating someone else's anger, depression, anxiety or even hunger, by eating! Food is a drug. Long before we could go to Walmart and fill a prescription, we gravitated to certain plants and foods to treat illness and discomfort. For example, a dose of starchy, sugary food will medicate your brain for depression -- the old serotonin boost -- while expanding your thighs. That's why we tend to crave these things when we feel low.
As children, we learn to have good boundaries and a clear sense of who we are separate from other people's feelings and expectations. However, though some of you did have a healthy childhood that would foster that (I may have met this person once), many of you, like myself, are human sponges for other people's feelings, expectations and needs.
This Can Make You Fat!
When you practice good boundaries, you can quickly reverse this problem. Here's how:
- Notice when hunger begins. Not when it overwhelms you, and not mid-bite, but when you first feel "peckish".
- Notice what else you are feeling at the same time. Notice who comes to mind and where your attention wanders.
- Stall, by drinking a sip of water and imagine filling every atom of yourself with a healthy, happy you. If you don't even know what that feels like, it's time to start using your intuition to find out. Pretending you have what you envy in others is a good way to start.
- Put yourself on alert for those people and feelings that creep back into your attention and find methods that work to get them out.
- If you know someone who's having a hard time, especially if it's your best friend, someone you love, someone you're romantically involved or related to, make a practice of experiencing them outside of you and not "in your heart." Not only will you be able to help them with more power and perspective, but you will stop reacting as if you were them (and stop medicating it with food).
- If you live with a person who's in distress, make an inner space and an outer space (like a special chair) where you can go to repossess yourself.
- Have you ever noticed skinny people and heavy people often team up in couples? One person is eating for the other person's hunger! Filling yourself with the feeling of being you is a good way to make a healthy energetic line and it is good practice to maintain individuality in your relationships.
- In Israel in the '80s, an experiment was done to see if a group of people experiencing a "goal" could affect the outcome. The experiment was a success. What does that mean to you? If you are part of a group that supports your goals, you're more likely to get them, even if you participate from a distance. That's why on my fan page and Twitter account, I set a goal for the group every day to work on together. There is power in numbers.
- Your beliefs about yourself formed in early childhood actually become genetic and behavioral reality. Notice your feelings and memories as you set new goals and deal with them by challenging them.
- The subconscious directs your actions long before you make the conscious decision to do something like eat that cake or watch The Marriage Ref instead of exercising. Have an action ready to battle those subconscious, knee jerk, belly-expanding impulses.
If you can master your body, with something as difficult as eating -- which unlike many activities you are programmed to do to sustain life -- you can master any relationship, audition, interaction or challenge. It is good training for life!
Laura Day is the "New York Times" best selling author of six books, including her most recent, "How to Rule the World From Your Couch."