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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Lussing

How Shame and Guilt Perpetuate Your Struggle with Food

If you haven't watched my video training 'What is Binge Eating & How Do I Stop?', or heard me speak, or worked with me, you may not realize that your struggle with food survives in a cycle.

Here's that cycle:

1) You overeat, binge eat, or eat something that was outside of your food rules or something you didn't 'want' to 2) You feel guilty and regretful, you ask yourself why you ate it, you wonder why you can't control yourself, and you generally feel pretty shitty and shameful for not being able to stick to your word, again

3) The discomfort of feeling that shame and guilt is too much and action feels like a good way to get relief, so you take action by deciding that tomorrow is a fresh start, writing a list of all the foods you will eat, or the foods you WILL NOT eat, telling yourself that you won't do that again, tightening the reigns, recommitting to be more in control around food

4) Time passes, and after using up your willpower you're left with desires for more stimulating or state-changing foods. You stay strong but begin to feel deprived. Maybe you're eating less than you need to and your body is actually deprived physically, or maybe all your rules are impacting your psyche and you're left feeling emotionally deprived by having your freedom to eat what you want taken away

5) This deprivation builds up and cravings and urges and desires are strengthened. These food thoughts grow and grow until you can't say no anymore, and you open the floodgates, throw away the rules, feel a sense of freedom, and eat. Maybe you binge, maybe you eat the cake you've been resisting, or maybe you spend the weekend eating everything on the 'foods to avoid' list

And there you have the cycle: Deprivation leading to Urges & Cravings leading to Overeating leading to Guilt & Shame leading to Re-Committing to Restriction & Food Rules leading to... and on it goes.

There are 3 main places where you can exit this cycle.

1) You can choose to do away with food rules and restriction, and begin navigating the world of intuitive eating, choosing foods that make your body feel good, over foods that you believe are good for weight control.

2) You can use a variety of tools to manage urges and cravings, including eating more during the day to calm your survival instincts, using thought work to understand your cravings, and adding an energy calming technique such as 'tapping', or EFT to help ease the anxiety of cravings.

3) And, you can choose to experience your reality differently after an eating episode than you previously have been. Instead of beating yourself up, or feeling guilty and shameful, you can choose not to indulge in those habitual thoughts and emotions, and instead take each experience as a learning opportunity.

Perhaps you've heard of the Growth Mindset vs. the Fixed Mindset. A growth mindset means that you see each experience as an opportunity to learn more for next time. You see yourself as capable of continuous and infinite growth, and use that perspective as a way to be compassionate and curious about your actions and feelings. You use that perspective to decide what you can learn and take forward with you for next time, and you recognize that the experience you just had simply means you haven't found peace yet.

'Not yet' is a key mindset shift that is needed. It's the opposite of "I suck, I can't do this, why am I so out of control around food, I'll never end this struggle, screw it." Those are the words of a fixed mindset- one that sees the results you have now as a measure of your capability. A fixed mindset is one of being defeated, and unable to see a potential for growth and change. A fixed mindset sees your capabilities as fixed, unable to change or evolve. It sees a NOT, where a growth mindset sees a NOT YET.

Most people can identify with beating themselves up after they don't follow their food plan or rules or commitment to not overeat or binge. Most people think the shame and guilt will somehow inspire them to change. Most people subconsciously think that with enough negativity they'll be motivated to take positive action, but that's generally not the case. The negativity that people feel is exactly what keeps the cycle going. Negative emotions lead you to want to take immediate action in order to relieve the discomfort, which in this case is the recommitment to control and food rules and plans. But your struggles with food will not be healed by a new food plan. Your struggles with food are part physiological, part habitual and part emotional. A new diet or the belief that willpower and control can work is simply setting you up to fail again, and again, and again as the cycle goes around and around. It is not your way out. There are many ways to exit the overeating cycle, but the one you can take action on right away is challenging yourself to NOT throw a pity party for yourself after you eat in a way that doesn't line up with your goals. Instead, consider what you know to be true about your habit. Consider what thoughts would serve you. Consider what beliefs and emotions you'd need to cultivate in order to feel differently about overeating. Consider what else you could do instead of getting yourself in a negative spin. Shifting those emotions and deciding to be more curious and compassionate about your struggles is one thing you can do right away which has the potential to break the binge and overeating cycle. Ultimately, the kinder to yourself you are, on this journey, the sooner you'll be able to find peace.

If you recognize that healing your relationship with food and finding that peace you've been craving is something you cannot do alone, then please reach out for a free Discovery Call. I can help.


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