In my work helping people break free from Abusive Eating™ and other destructive, health and vitality-robbing behaviors, I find that there are commonly underlying feelings of unworthiness, or being unlovable and not good enough. These feelings frequently arise from being abused in some way: physically, sexually, or emotionally.
Identifying with the negative feelings that being abused creates, and believing them to be true, leads to engaging in destructive behaviors like Abusive Eating™ and the negative self-talk that perpetuates it. When we criticize or judge ourselves, reinforcing the idea that we are somehow wrong and undeserving, self-hatred and despair flourish, taking over our perception of reality.
All of this harshness and negativity at some point becomes too much to bear so we do whatever we can to distance ourselves from those thoughts and feelings as quickly as possible. Often that means a quick right turn to food because for a brief moment in time, we get a break from the mind and the relentless scolding of the inner critic.
Food will distract and it will soothe, but it doesn’t make us feel better about ourselves. In fact, it will make us feel worse: physically from overfilling the body with food it didn’t want or need, and emotionally because now we feel bad about overeating and the feelings of being unlovable or scared or worthless are still there.
The only real remedy to stopping this insanity is to start with compassion and kindness toward yourself. Compassion for all the pain and suffering you have been through. Compassion for all the times you abused yourself with food – because if you could have done something other than eat to manage those feelings and stories, you would have. Compassion for the innocent inner child who is still suffering, and compassion for the adult self who just stuffed food into her mouth mindlessly. This is the beginning of turning years of self-hatred and abuse into self-love and self-care. Start with compassion and kindness toward yourself.
What happens to your body when you send even one thought of kindness or compassion to yourself? Try it now and notice as your body begins to relax, soften and open. Your external world might not change, but your inner world does immediately. Over time, one thought of kindness or one compassionate embrace of your self leads to another and another and before you know it, as you relax and let go, you experience a direct connection to the joy and sweetness in life. Now you are connected to the source of love, peace and stillness that reside in you. And that, my friends, can never be robbed from you again.