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Four proficiencies are essential for becoming a “normal” eater. In one way or another, I’ve blogged and written about them all before, but here they are together so that you can see which of them you might be missing. These proficiencies are skills in coping with stress, practicing self-comfort, finding purpose and enjoying pleasure. None of us was raised to excel in all these areas, yet they are crucial for having a positive relationship with food and living your best life.
Coping with stress:
We all have stress in our lives, but it need not overwhelm us nor drive us to eat mindlessly. First off, we need to accept that no matter what we do, there will be times when life is not in our control and this can cause us to feel crummy. By accepting this truth, we go a long way toward reducing stress. Stress management skills include ending perfectionism, practicing excellent self-care, asking for help, problem-solving rather than worrying, being realistic and viewing challenges as opportunities.
If we’re fortunate, we learn self-comfort in childhood through being soothed when we’re upset. Self-comfort is not self-pity. Its purpose is to re-regulate a dysregulated nervous system. It includes crying to release body tension, venting, leaning on others, being soothed by others, distraction, and self-talk that calms us down and helps us feel that everything will be all right. It is based on having self-compassion and an understanding that when we’re upset the last thing we need is to yell at and be hard on ourselves.
We all may have different beliefs about the meaning of life. Whatever those beliefs are should lead us to finding purpose in life. Healthy purpose is not done to please others, but to nurture and expand ourselves. It’s a way of engaging in life that makes us feel good about being us. Some dysregulated eaters seem as if they’re waiting for purpose to find them. Never happen. Others are obsessed with finding “the one, right” purpose. There is none. And spending your life finding purpose is not purpose. But, you’ll know it when you find it.
Oddly, the public often thinks of overeaters as hedonists, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. On the whole, they are people who are uneasy with pleasure and unsure about whether it’s okay to feel it. Pleasure makes them feel naughty or self-indulgent or guilty. So, to seek and enjoy all sorts of pleasures (and stop viewing food as the only acceptable one), you may need to revamp your belief system on the subject. Until you learn to value pleasure in its own right in its many diverse forms, you’ll be stuck running to the cookie jar when what you’re really seeking is joy, fun, delight, mindlessness, and creativity. I guarantee that expanding pleasures will reduce unwanted eating.
So, there you have it. Stay curious and not judgmental as you consider which of these proficiencies you’re lacking. Think about how to improve in each area. Small changes make a big difference. Alternately, maybe it’s time for a major overhaul and making big changes that you’ve been thinking about for a long time.
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