The answer is not another diet.
It’s that time of year again. You promised yourself that 2019 would be different. You’ve probably tried at least one new diet and exercise program. Keto. Paleo. Vegan. Gluten Free. Pescatarian. Fasting. Cleanses. You’ve worked hard at it but you may have already given up, or you’re miserable trying to stick with it. You may be irritable, even depressed. You’re thinking, “I can’t take this anymore,” or “what’s wrong with me,” or “everyone else seems to be able to do it,” or “I must have no willpower,” or “I’m a failure.”
You think you’re alone because it looks like everyone else on your Facebook page is having success. You hate yourself. You want to give up. You may have started isolating, refusing to attend social events so that others don’t see your body. You turn to food for comfort, and the cycle begins anew. You feel stuck.
When your go-to for comfort no longer serves you.
The stress of cyclical dieting, weight fluctuations and self-criticism add fuel to on an already raging fire. That’s because stress itself alters your hormones and intensifies your urge to eat. Stress literally changes the chemistry of your body. If you are constantly ‘shoulding’ yourself, your stress only amplifies: “I should eat a salad without dressing for lunch,” or “I should cut out all carbs.” This kind of self-restriction creates a stress minefield. Hating on your body with constant fat talk: “my thighs are huge,” or “I look like an elephant in these pants,” steers you away from the self-care you need.
You are not to blame for these feelings. There are good reasons that you feel them, and you have the power to do something about them. The answer to your eating, weight and body image problems isn’t another diet. The answer to these problems is stress reduction. To initiate a reduction in your stress, you need to learn and implement specific tools to help you change your behaviors.
The first step to overcoming food fear is learning to be kinder to yourself.
Changing your self-defeating behaviors around food involves a multi-pronged approach that includes increasing awareness of the underlying reasons you turn to food. When you try replacing judgment and self-blame with curiosity, you create space for your emotions: those things you’ve been avoiding while you’ve been busy with family and career. When you develop a sense of self-compassion and connect to your values, you can move toward what truly makes you happy while letting go of perfectionism.
Self-compassion takes practice to master.
Recovery from emotional eating, binge eating, compulsive eating or loss-of-control eating will not be easy, but it is entirely doable. In learning to change your eating behaviors, you are going to find inner peace, deepen your relationships, and feel more fulfilled. When you no longer constantly think about food and hate on your body, your stress level will decrease dramatically.
The ability to live a more joyful life is within your reach.
So, what can you do to reduce your stress now? Here are four practical actions that you can do now. Once you begin these, your mind and body will follow.
- Take a serious look at everything your life— I mean everything. What are you doing that is causing you stress? Write a detailed list and color code it. What is necessary, and what could you potentially put on hold to give yourself some breathing room?
- Create a safe place for yourself both at work and home. It could be a corner of your bedroom or family room, or a chair facing a window in your office. Put some items that make you feel good in that space: an inspiring photo or quote, fresh flowers, or an aromatherapy candle. Spend a few minutes there every day.
- Start a daily mindfulness practice. It doesn’t have to be for thirty minutes. Start with five minutes a day, preferably in the morning before things get busy. If you enjoy nature, try a mindful walk in your yard, neighborhood or park near your office. (Parking lots can even work in a crunch.) Consider this practice to be like taking your prescribed medication.
- Reach out to someone in your life and tell them how you are feeling. Opening up to someone you trust can bring an immediate sense of relief.