Self-care Is Not a Part-time Job
If you’re like many dysregulated eaters, sometimes you take care of yourself well and sometimes you don’t. You know, you get psyched for and engage in self-care and then either gradually or suddenly give it up. Beyond this blog, for a fuller picture of understanding and stopping this yo-yoing pattern, read my book Starting Monday.
When you feel 100% deserving of effective self-care, you don’t need to push yourself to do it. You do your best for your mind and body all the time. Sure, occasionally you may need to remind yourself to get to the gym or brush your teeth before falling into bed exhausted. But most of the time, self-care, including eating behaviors which are healthful, are generated from a deep love for and valuing of yourself.
Ever wonder why your self-care behaviors start and stop? One reason stems from how you were treated as a child. So many of my clients had parents who were loving and caring one moment, then critical and hurtful or neglectful the next. These clients felt lovable when they were treated well and unlovable when they weren’t. Although far from the truth, this is the fluctuating meaning their young brains made of these polar parental reactions. The truth was that something got triggered in parents to act lovingly or unlovingly that had nothing to do with the worth of their children. But these children often grew up, due to poor or inconsistent treatment, not feeling lovable all the time. Hence, they play out that same scenario in how they treat themselves now.
Also, many dysregulated eaters had parents who struggled with taking care of their own selves effectively. For weeks, Dad might hit the gym religiously three times a week, then go only occasionally, and eventually stop going at all. Mom might go on a diet and lose weight, then return to binge eating and gain it all back. Your parents may not have realized that they were modeling inconsistent behaviors for you, but they were. They’re not to blame, as they were doing the best they could, but it was poor self-care they were modeling nevertheless. You may even think that on-again-off-again patterns are the norm, treating yourself well for a while, then slacking off.
To engage in ongoing positive self-care, don’t badger and bully yourself with words such as “should, must” and “need to.” This will only make you want to rebel. Better to offer yourself compassion and be curious about your conflicting ways of treating yourself. Better to give yourself self-love all the time and grow to love yourself thoroughly and deeply. With the utmost self-love comes unwavering self-care.