This week (ok, ok, last week – I’m behind, so shoot me) I was tasked with thinking about why I’m over eating. Here is what I concluded:
I like food. It tastes good. Yum.
So, apparently, this isn’t good enough.
According to the Beyond Chocolate ladies (and they should know):
You may think of overeating as a destructive habit, as self-sabotage or as a ‘bad’ and unhelpful thing to do. And yet overeating mostly has a positive function. We use it to manage, to cope, to take care of ourselves. It often serves to alleviate distress of some sort, whether we are aware of it or not. The primary function of overeating is to help us in the moment and that’s a good thing.
Overeating has another function however – it overshadows everything else. Although it helps us feel better in the moment, we usually feel bad straight afterwards (or even before we’ve finished). We feel bad because we tell ourselves that we are weak, out of control, fat, lazy, greedy, stupid, bad, pathetic – fill in the blank. We are so busy beating ourselves up for overeating that we have no time or energy leftover to look at what is really causing the distress that we are eating to cope with or ignore. It’s easier to feel bad and beat ourselves up about overeating than to face other ‘demons’. Better the devil you know… as they say.
Beginning to see our overeating as a coping mechanism that we have developed for good reasons is the first step to stopping. When we are willing to acknowledge – with compassion and kindness – that we overeat as a way of looking after ourselves in the best way we know, and that we are working on stopping gradually, without forcing and pushing ourselves, something quite magical happens… and we finally have a chance to find another way.
Under strict instructions to not to try to stop overeating, but just to observe when you do (which feels weird enough as it is) I have been trying to pin down some of the reasons why I’m overeating. I’m not going to lie to you here – it’s hard. It’s a struggle to identify the root of some distress you didn’t know you were suffering from. Having eaten two pieces of home made madeira cake for breakfast (for breakfast! I ask you), I’m looking at this cake thinking ‘Here it is, mmm, it’s damn good cake… why am I not walking away after slice one?’. My brain mostly says ‘Because slice two will easily be as good as slice one’. I genuinely can’t identify an underlying distress right at this very minute, apart from the uncomfortable happening of forcing myself to examine my own piggery.
However, I have noticed one or two things. As a self-employed person with a finger in many-a-pie (ha!), I sometimes spend a whole day at home. I need to plan my day, a few hours on the computer, digging the garden from 3-4pm, fix bike etc and factor in time to do all the things I need to do. If I don’t, I fritter away the whole day doing sweet Fanny Adams and I eat a whole bunch more random stuff that I didn’t really want to eat. So I’ve vaguely concluded that I eat more when I’m being ineffective – I eat more to distract myself from the fact that I’m time wasting. So why am I time wasting?
Well, I have another theory on this. Sort of a theory – probably not fully formed enough to deserve the title ‘theory’ maybe more like a theorish. It’s something along the lines of getting frustrated when things don’t work out and so stuffing my fizog to either distract from the frustration or to really rub it the hell in but then, when things do work out, getting panicked and self-destructing by eating a whole madeira cake standing over the sink (I have never, ever done that). Sooo… I think I need to see a psychotherapist.
I eat when I’m frustrated, I eat when I’m scared something’s going well and I will have to ‘perform’, I eat to really rub in how rubbish I’m being, I eat just because it tastes nice, I eat out of habit and I so eat too much because I hate to throw things away. I also eat in case I won’t get that chance to eat that again – like the madeira cake – the kids are coming today I’M GOING TO EAT IT ALL OTHERWISE THEY’LL EAT IT ALL AND I WON’T GET ANY. They’re kids. I’m an adult (apparently) I should be able to deal with it. It’s just cake. I think I starved to death in a former life.
However, here’s an interesting example. Last night I cooked gorgeous spiced Moroccan meat balls with aubergine and tomato and after having a massive plateful and feeling full, I automatically went back to get more. But then I thought, why am I doing this? Do I really want to eat more? Yesterday I was offered a place on a Master’s course but Neil thinks we’ll break up if I do the course – he can’t handle being apart again for a year. So I’ve achieved something, but if I see it through I have to destroy something else I’ve achieved – my life up here, my relationship with Neil… Hell, it’s the whole frustration/achievement boiled into one horrible, skewed creative-destructive bonanza – I didn’t have any more but no wonder I wanted to drown my sorrows in meatballs.