I received the following question last week. It describes a problem I know you may struggle with, so I’m answering it here:
“My biggest problem is trying to stop eating when my body has had enough. Once I start, it is very difficult to stop until I am miserably full. It just feels so good to eat… but it’s getting worse. Do you know how I can control this monster inside me?” –Kim
I know this feels like a huge challenge, Kim. And it is. But others overcome it and with patience and perseverance, you will, too.
Here are five things you can do that will help:
1. Surrender to Your Higher Power
Ultimately, it’s not about “controlling” that monster within but learning to welcome and release your feelings without numbing them with food.
Here’s the thing: Your feelings can’t hurt you. It’s what you do with your feelings that either hurts or helps you. As with any addiction—and being unable to stop eating when you feel miserably full is an addiction—you feel powerless to stop. When such a power overwhelms you, you need to turn to a power greater than you and your addiction to food.
Begin each day with this prayer:
Please help me be kind to myself and my body today.
Give me the strength to find loving ways to comfort myself without turning to food.
Help me notice and respect my body’s cues so I stop eating when I feel full.
Help me fill myself with my own love.
With daily prayer, you create space for Divine thought to enter your mind, and Divine strength to enter your heart, so you can stop hurting yourself with food and make a different choice.
2. Learn Your Body’s Cues
Once you surrender this problem to a power greater than you, your main job is to learn your body’s signs of hunger and fullness.
Use this scale:
1 – Starving. Feel light-headed and shaky.
2 – Very hungry. Hard to concentrate.
3 – Hungry and ready to eat.
4 – Not hungry yet, but beginning to feel hungry
5 – Neutral. Neither hungry nor full
6 – Comfortably full. Satisfied.
7 – Very full. Feel a little uncomfortable
8 – Uncomfortably full. Clothes feel tight around waist.
9 – Very uncomfortably full. Almost feel sick.
10 – Overly full. Stuffed and numb. In a “food coma.”
What number corresponds with how your body feels right now?
Write this scale down on a 3 x 5 card and review it several times daily. Especially before and after each meal, rate your hunger/fullness level. The goal is to stay in the green zone of the scale–between three and six.
3. Eat Mindfully
Whether you’re eating a meal or a snack, take your time. Eat slowly. Pause between each mouthful. Periodically put down your spoon or fork. Take time to savor and enjoy what you’re eating. No multi-tasking: turn off your TV, computer or smart phone.
As you eat, make a point to tune in to your body. Notice how your body feels and use your scale to rate your level of fullness. Do the best you can to stop eating when you reach number six on the scale.
Now, sometimes you will be able to do this with ease. But for those times when you can’t, read on…
4. Tame the Monster
When that “monster” inside is roaring and you’re caught in food’s grip, it’s very hard to stop eating. That’s the addiction.
Even though you’re wrestling with a monster, do your best to pause and check your body’s fullness level. While this might seem like a small action, just checking in can save you in these powerless-feeling moments.
Notice your fullness. Feel it. Ask yourself, “Do I want to keep eating or do I want to stop?” This helps remind you of what you’re doing and the consequences if you continue. It also creates space for the whispers of Divine guidance to reach you.
If you decide to stop eating because you’re comfortably full, congratulate yourself for listening to your body’s cues.
But if you still want to eat, tell yourself, “I feel full and I choose to eat anyway.” Turn helplessness into conscious action so you realize you’re choosing to eat even though you feel full. Because when you feel it’s a choice to keep eating, at some point—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point—you’ll choose to stop.
Sure, I could tell you all the activities you could do to soothe yourself instead of eating—write in a journal, pull out a craft project, squeeze a foam ball—but you probably know that already. I’m not going to sugar coat this: Once you’re on that slippery slope, yes… it’s hard to stop overeating.
There’s no magic formula, except for this:
5. Forgive Yourself
The remorse and shame you feel after overeating harms you more than eating does. Overeating is not a sin. It’s a way of coping when painful feelings grip you and food is the only way you know to soothe yourself. But because you’re reading this, I know you’re open to finding other ways. And you will.
Self-forgiveness is a soothing balm for your soul. Miracles happen when you release guilt and shame. Once you stop beating yourself up for overeating and fill your mind with reassuring, kind thoughts—the same way a loving mother speaks to her hurting child—you transform. And as you transform, food no longer holds power over you because you’ve discovered the power within you.
What would your Higher Power say after you ate so much you felt sick? Talk to your Higher Power when you’re stuck in shame and guilt about overeating, and I bet you hear something like this:
“Darling Kim, it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can. One day this problem will be gone and you’ll see how much you’ve grown because of it. I’m right here beside you, guiding you. You’re not alone. Now let this go. All is well and you are safe.”
What about you? Will you practice these five steps?
(Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1plePvh)