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This week we are sharing an excerpt of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, therapist and life coach. She offers four habits that will address the true causes of overeating and weight gain.
Most of us find it challenging to love ourselves unconditionally. Excess body fat, cellulite, acne, and body parts we believe to be too big, too small, or too flabby are, after all, not easy to accept. We may wish we were smarter, funnier, younger, more driven, entrepreneurial, or athletic and find it hard to make peace with the areas in which we believe we fall short. It can seem nearly impossible to stop disparaging ourselves with critical comments and judgments. But through this disparagement we deny ourselves the love and kindness that is our birthright. Self-rejection and self-condemnation trigger both hopelessness and powerlessness. These states are not motivating, and they lead to depression, resignation, isolation, and emotional eating.
Self-affirming commentary consists of statements you make to yourself that are unconditionally supportive and positive. No matter what a situation entails, you always support and encourage yourself — this means stopping the shame-and-blame game. You can practice this by praising yourself every day for small accomplishments and speaking to yourself with kindness when you’re upset with yourself. For example: “I’m proud of myself for cleaning up the kitchen today,” or “I like the way I handled that phone call,” or “I exercised once this week; that’s great — it’s more than zero.”
Habit #2: Adjust your expectations.
Most of us rarely check in with ourselves and explore what we expect from ourselves or a given situation. It’s generally when we feel a sense of disappointment, anger, frustration, or sadness that our unstated or unconscious expectations come to the foreground. This is the time to get clear on them and adjust them if necessary.
When our expectations are too low, we may feel disappointed in ourselves and our lives. Adjusting our expectations by setting them higher may leave us feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or pressured. Conversely, when our expectations are too high, we feel constant pressure to do or be more. Perhaps we expect too much of others as well and are often disappointed in their behavior. Adjusting our expectations by lowering them a bit may leave us feeling disappointed, inadequate, unexceptional, ordinary, or less motivated. Tolerating these new, uncomfortable emotional states will help us actualize our potential and create emotional balance.
Habit #3: Use comparisons for inspiration and motivation only.
We all compare ourselves to others. We do it automatically and on many fronts: our body size and shape, attractiveness, youthfulness, possessions, accomplishments, lifestyles, and even relationships. Comparisons work best when they are win-win; comparing yourself to others in a win-lose way is often nothing more than a deeply ingrained bad habit. You can begin to break the habit with the realization that you are on your own unique path. You are not in competition with anyone. Your goal is to be the best possible version of you.
When you observe others with attributes, bodies, accomplishments, families, friends, or things you wish you had, make the choice to drop the habit of making any comparison to yourself; just notice whatever it is you like or admire. View their beauty as you would artwork that you enjoy. View their accomplishments with respect, as you would those of a Nobel Prize winner. Allow yourself to be inspired and motivated.
Habit #4: Forgive yourself for perceived mistakes and failures.
Self-acceptance demands compassion, and that means forgiveness. It begins with allowing yourself to experience and express your emotions regarding perceived mistakes or failures. Perhaps you regret not giving your best in a relationship. Maybe you feel sad and ashamed for not taking the best care of yourself. Most likely you were doing the best you could at the time. Telling yourself that you should have done better, and then beating yourself up, keeps you stuck in purgatory and fuels your emotional appetite.
Take some time to explore the reasons you have for not forgiving yourself. What do you fear would happen if you forgave yourself? Make a list of the things you haven’t forgiven yourself for. Next to each item, write “I forgive myself completely.” What emotions come up when you write this? Forgiving yourself may not take away the sadness you feel about something, but it’s an important part of healing.
If you began using food long ago to compensate for the acceptance, love, and nurturance missing from your life, now as an adult, you can and must choose to love and accept yourself unconditionally and nurture yourself in nonfood ways. You don’t need to wait until tomorrow, when you will lose the weight, get a face-lift, find a boyfriend, or land a better job. Loving yourself means giving yourself the support, kindness, and compassion you need and deserve today.