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The Past and Overeating

Too many disregulated eaters spend too much time thinking and talking about their binges and times of overeating. Honestly, think how much energy you put into an event that is long gone. In order to recovery from eating problems, you will have to extract what you need from the experience and move on immediately. Here’s why.

Everything we think about gets encoded in our minds, imprinted in memory. The question is why you would want to imprint the memory of a binge. I meant it, think about it. Is there a purpose in returning to the scene of the crime again and again or are you on automatic pilot without even thinking about the harm you’re doing yourself.

There are only two reasons that merit recalling the past: to revel in pleasurable memories or to improve thoughts or behavior in the present. If you have positive memories of getting married, receiving an award, attending your kid’s graduation, enjoying a second honeymoon, cruising the Caribbean, seeing a great movie, hearing a terrific concert, being spellbound by a lecture, or spending time visiting with a friend you love, you will receive pleasurable from recalling them over and over. That’s how memory works. Think about something wonderful and you feel wonderful. Reason two is about trolling the past to improve the present. If you are about to retake a test you didn’t do well on, you might want to think about what went wrong the first time to improve your score the second time. If you were the cause of a serious car accident, it would be worthwhile to examine what you did to cause it so you don’t total another car. If you nearly fell on the ice a minute ago, it warrants your attention to figure out why so you continue to walk with safety.

Now let’s take a binge and see whether it deserves the attention you give it. Was it so enjoyable that you want to keep recalling it? Might examining it help you not repeat it now or in the future? Yes, but only if you are recalling it to assess what you could do differently. Is it worthwhile to think about the binge if you’ve already mined it for information? No. So any memories reruns of bingeing beyond learning from them are intentional torture and voluntary misery. Why on earth would you allow yourself to continue to think and talk about your shame and guilt and disappointment in yourself? That’s like beating yourself over the head with a mallet. It hurts and is totally unnecessary. You can stop your thoughts if you work at it. They will go away if you don’t engage with them. And you’ll feel a whole lot better. You can’t change your past, but you can change your present.