Isn’t it amazing how faced with a food decision, all your finest motivation and most ardent desire to care for yourself often fly right out the window? To combat this problem, I recommend that you anticipate and write down what you want to say to yourself in potentially difficult eating situations so you won’t be at a loss for words and forget how abusing food is not what you really want to do. Here’s how.
On one side of a file card, put the rules of “normal” eating. On the other side, develop a mantra or set of words or phrases that will reach you when you’re about to make decisions about eating or weight. Jot down some thoughts for the next time you think that weighing yourself would be a grand idea, even though you know that whatever the scale says will cause a negative ripple effect. Compose a few lines for how to make food choices when faced with a tempting array of items at a restaurant, what to do when you’re frazzled or drained returning home from work and tend to head toward the fridge, how to put down the food when you’re full or satisfied, or what you want to say to yourself when stress or inner turmoil has you primed for a binge.
Here are excerpts from messages that clients and students have created for themselves so that they’ll have the right wisdom to keep them on track in the moment.
It’s a delusion that I’ll feel better after raiding the refrigerator and I’m not delusional
I always feel terrible after I weigh myself—if I’ve lost weight, I feel entitled to eat more and if I’ve gained, I’m so bummed I eat to console myself.
I can sit with this craving. It’s just a neural impulse and I don’t have to give in to it.
I’m done now. Food won’t make me feel better. It will make me feel worse.
What’s so hard about feeling what I’m feeling? I will sit with it. I don’t have to use food to cover my feelings.
If I’m hungry, I can eat. If I’m upset, food definitely isn’t the answer.
I feel so good about myself, so proud of myself, when I do what’s healthy for me.
Well, you get the idea. I advise writing a few strong phrases or sentences and spending time crafting exactly what you want to say. Make sure it counters the arguments that the disregulated eating part of you will be zinging your way, and that your words are kind, compassionate, hopeful, encouraging, and rational. No threats or “shoulds” allowed. Tailor your words to your specific problem situations. Read them over often enough and soon you’ll have them memorized so that they’re internalized and arise automatically.