Life gets so hectic that we sometimes feel we can’t possibly keep up with everything. If we don’t keep it all straight then who will? When I get caught up in these thoughts I am bound to grab handfuls of comfort food before even realizing it. I am soothing myself to make up for overdoing it. If I were an alcoholic then it would be a drink “to take the edge off.”
When I was in my early 20s and trying to make sense of the obsessive behavior I had toward food, I attended Overeaters Anonymous. It is the same 12 step program that Alcoholics Anonymous is founded on as the root of all addiction is basically the same. A substance or damaging behavior is used to cope with life and leads to devastating results. I learned too many essential life skills to count from the wonderful people I met in that group. One of their catch phrases is H.A.L.T which means don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. This means we must care for ourselves. We have to make it second nature to take care of our own needs as we would for a child or other loved one. The twelve step program taught me to find activities that are a healthy alternative to binging such as (a bit cliche, I know) take a bubble bath, go for a walk or polish my nails. Yes, these things are good but when life is really slamming into you there usually isn’t the opportunity for a bubble bath break. This leads me to the most profound lesson I’ve learned yet.
For those of you fortunate enough to have discovered and read Eckhart Tolle’s books or followed his online lessons on Oprah.com broadcast via Skype, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t then that’s not a problem as it is sooo simple. Whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious then take your focus off of what is going on around you and focus on your breath. Become aware of only your self. Are your muscles tense? Has your breathing been shallow? You’ll be surprised at the state you find yourself in. Do this for 30 seconds or 2 minutes, as long as it takes to become relaxed, calm and aware. You can close your eyes or gaze at a certain object. It’s okay to observe the sounds and activity around you but don’t react to it. Your only concern for that moment is you. Breathe deeply and slowly while relaxing all your muscles. The more fully you give yourself to this process the more everything will change. Your cravings will vanish and the situation you thought was so bad a few minutes before will seem much more manageable. Or you’ll have new insight on how to handle what was so troubling.
As you get used to this method of dealing with stress, you’ll look forward to the wonderful sense of peace it can bring you. And that, my friend, is even better than a bubble bath.
There are two types of people. Those who can handle any food in moderation and those who just can’t. Learning which one you are is the most important part of the battle to achieve your ideal weight. I love the idea that I could eat a bite or two of whatever food I’m craving and then move on, no worse for wear. This is the best approach for those who are unhealthy or overweight because of falling into bad habits or because of a lack of nutritional knowledge. Bethenny Frankel focuses on this principle in her book Naturally Thin and in the audiobook The Skinnygirl Rules. Her motto is, “Taste everything, eat nothing.”
My very favorite portion control book is French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. She describes beautifully the art of making each meal really special. The presentation can make even a lone apple seem decadent. Mireille stresses the importance of eating the very highest quality food obtainable. Buy the freshest with the least processed ingredients. I think we all know by now that we really are what we eat, so do you really want to eat cheap, over processed garbage?
Using the best ingredients is absolutely worth it, skimp on something else. This approach is about getting maximum enjoyment out of small, wonderful and satisfying servings of food. Deny yourself nothing. You won’t get fat from one bite of cake.
Now, there is the second type of person. I am included this group.We struggle with our weight because we get so much darned pleasure from eating. If a little tastes good… There is no way on earth you could put a plate of french fries in front of me and ask me to eat just one fry. I know there are people who can do such a thing, I’ve even seen these mythical creatures and I am in awe of them. I just can’t relate to this behavior. Eat one broccoli floret? I can do that. Eat two bites of beans and save the rest for later? No problem! But if I feel much too excited about eating a certain food, I can’t even have it in the house. I had to accept the fact that I simply can not handle certain foods in moderation.
I’ve been seeing Jeff Garlin (comedian best known from Curb Your Enthusiasm) on T.V. a lot lately promoting his book called My Footprint. He says that he lost his weight by treating unhealthy foods such as fast food like an alcoholic treats alcohol. It’s all or nothing and like me, he must completely abstain. I haven’t read the book yet but I love the message he is spreading because I suspect much of our overweight population has similar issues.
In which group are you? Can you satisfy a craving by simply taking a bite or two and walking away. Or do you have a deeper emotional connection to food? If you aren’t sure then ask your family and close friends as they may have a clearer picture of your behavior than you.