You won’t become a “normal” eater without internal struggle, and I mean tons of it. You know, those head-banging conversations you have with yourself that go like this: I really want it but I know I shouldn’t eat it, and I’ll feel so much better if I take care of myself but it’s so hard, I don’t know if I can except if I don’t learn how I’ll have food problems forever. Or like this: I hate being afraid to eat but I can’t stand the idea of gaining weight, but I know that a few pounds won’t really make me fat except I’m scared that if I start eating I won’t stop and soon I’ll be big as a house.
These inner dialogues may make you want to scream, but they’re absolutely essential for growth and change because they shake you out of your comfort zone. Do things mindlessly, the way you always have, and there’s no tension to promote change. Rattle yourself and allow internal conflict to spark and you get a little conflagration going. Fact is, sometimes you have to light a fire under you to take off in another direction! Everyone hates these struggles, but you need to have them to change your thinking and behaving. Sure, being pulled in two directions is downright disturbing, especially if you believe you always should know what to do or are afraid to make a choice because it might be wrong. Now’s the time to stop considering choices “right” or “wrong” and start viewing them as nothing more than useful learning experiences. Either you’ll feel good about your decision or feel badly and learn for the next time. You win either way!
Whenever you struggle, feel unsure, or torn, you’ve got your foot in the door to change. Thrashing through an issue is how you get unstuck. Struggle long and often enough, and the healthy you will win more battles than it loses. And winning more battles means laying down the neurological tracks to reinforce new habits. Every single struggle is important, even the ones in which you give in and abuse food, because you’re getting used to the process of challenging yourself and considering other ways of behaving.
Granted, constantly challenging yourself can be frustrating and exhausting. You have to eat, so the only time off from the battle is when you sleep. That’s okay. Every internal struggle builds muscle for the next time. Sometimes you’ll even struggle over whether or not to struggle. The point is to stay conscious and remain engaged with your inner tension while making each and every food decision. Make internal struggle over food decisions a given. Your biggest enemies will be complacency and hopelessness. Keep them at bay by approaching each conflict with curiosity, neutrality, and optimism, and remember that every choice is a chance to do things differently.