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Expand Your Skill Repertoire

If you think of your eating problem in a new light—as a coping problem—your goal will then be to improve your skills in order to reduce unwanted eating. To grow these skills, you need to understand what life skills are, which ones you’re already using successfully, and which ones need work. So, a little about life skills to get you started.

Barring dumb luck, in terms of evolution, people with flexible, varied life skills do better than those whose are narrow and rigid. Makes sense: the rigid problem-solver uses the same strategy to no avail, while the flexible problem-solver tries this or that until something works. Most of us have a style, a preference for how we deal with difficulties—by turning to others or going it alone, focusing on a long-term goal or taking things as they come, jumping right in or cautiously circling around a problem, using our heads or our hearts. As adults, our response has become fixed, but we can always add to our skill repertoire. Better to have many tools in your tool box than just a handful.

For example, some folks research solutions like crazy, an effective strategy for some situations, but not the right match for every circumstance. The same goes for people who believe they can tackle all problems head on and triumph by sheer force of will. That’s great way to approach some difficulties, but not all of them by far. Whatever approach you’ve found success with is the one you probably use most often because you’re most comfortable with it. But how about the times it hasn’t worked and you’ve given up because it’s all you know? Remember, the choice is not one way or no way.

Think about your narrow ways of coping. Maybe you have only one good friend and are afraid to make others, even though when she’s not around you feel lost. Perhaps you’re always overly cautious or, alternately, charge blindly ahead without thinking first. Are overly dependent on others’ help, or insist on doing everything on your own. Ask yourself Dr. Phil’s favorite question: “How’s that working for you?” Too often, even if a strategy doesn’t work, we keep repeating it until we give up, when what we need to do is to try another approach or several other approaches.

Consider what you need to do to increase the number and variety of skills in your repertoire. Initially, you’ll be uncomfortable doing this kind of stretch. Rigidity feels good in the moment, but is never life-enhancing. Taking new approaches may feel weird at first, but with repetition, they’ll feel more automatic and comfy. Plant the seed in your mind to try out new skills whenever possible. So, what will you do differently today?