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I’ve blogged on this subject before, which warrants a frequent revisit. Many of you are not reaching your “normal” eating or health goals because you’re not consistently following the guidelines for changing your thinking and behaving around food. You then become disappointed because you’re not making strides as quickly as you’d like to and feel like giving up. I don’t say this punitively, believe me, but facts are facts: The more you practice a behavior, the more it will stick as a habit. Doing a behavior inconsistently—one day, then not the next, or one week on and one week off, will get you exactly nowhere but frustrated. So, here are my suggestions:
Eat without distraction. I stopped telling clients to do this at every meal because they insisted that doing so was impossible, so I dropped down to suggesting that they do it at least once a day. I found that this doesn’t work. So, set an intention to eat mindfully and without distraction at every meal. When you can eat alone in a private space, do it. I can’t tell you how often I ate in my car—and occasionally in an empty restroom—when I was learning to eat “normally” just to get away from people and distractions and focus on taste, chewing and body cues.
Learn effective strategies for relaxation. I often recommend deep-breathing (there are simple apps for learning and practice), yoga, chi gong, stretching, tai chi, and meditation. Right this minute, choose one. Do something every day that will help you relax overall and that you can use in a pinch. Most troubled eaters are poor at emotional management, especially at self-calming. Make a list of soothing things to say to yourself when you’re keyed up or upset—then say them over and over until you feel better.
End negative self-talk and practice self-compassion. Listen to how you speak to yourself and stop saying anything unkind or negative. How? Pay attention to everything you say to yourself, stop the thought (or words), and replace it with something kinder. People, this isn’t rocket science. Make a list of loving phrases and practice saying them all day long. Do not let an unkind self-thought remain in your brain. Stop and replace it.
Enjoy more pleasure. Seek out activities which bring you joy, serenity, and make you feel good inside and out. If food is your only (or one of a few) go-to’s for happiness, you’re going to continue relying on it. Sure, finding new activities may take planning and effort, but that’s what is necessary. C’mon, is finding more pleasure truly a hardship?
If you’re not doing the above, you’ll continue to be frustrated by wrongly thinking that you’ll become a “normal” eater any time soon. It simply won’t happen unless you make it a major priority, perhaps the major priority in your life right now. And, if it’s not at the top of your list, you’ve got a problem with self-care and self-love which may only be turned around by therapy.
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