gratitude

How to Slow Down

how to slow downThe other day, one of my clients and I were discussing her impulses. She vibrates at a very fast level. She’s got a lot on her mind, a lot on her plate and she does everything fast. Like really fast. This includes eating too much too fast and letting it turn into a binge, having sex with people without getting to know them, drinking too much too fast, and falling in love with people before getting to know them and then being stuck in heart-wrenchingly painful one-sided relationships with people who don’t love her the way she thinks she loves them. Now don’t get me wrong, her impulsive side has helped her to be very successful in life. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s successful and she’s got lots of great friends who love her. However, she sometimes finds herself in the middle of something that she doesn’t quite want to be in because she leaped in too quickly. Certainly this happens with binge eating, she will kind of snap out of it to find herself in the middle of a binge, but it’s also other things in life, a trip up to Tahoe with people she barely knows, finding herself drunk and in bed with a guy who she met earlier that evening, being $5000 in credit card debt due to the purchase of a very expensive purse that she really didn’t need, but really thought she needed in the moment. This inability to take life slow, though certainly exciting in the moment, makes life more difficult on the other end. There are ways to simply slow down and not get caught in the cycle of undoing a mess that you’ve somehow found yourself in.

 

1. Recognize that the sense of urgency is fake. There is very little in life that has to be done immediately. Is it possible that you will regret for the rest of your life not buying those Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes  that were on sale for only $400.00? Possibly. But probably not. When it’s something like this, walk away for at least 24 hours. If you don’t have 24 hours, if it’s a one-day sample sale, walk away for 2 hours and give yourself some time to think about it. There is very little that you actually need. Most purchases are driven by desire and want, which is fleeting.  Debt however is not.

2. Don’t sleep with someone that you don’t know when you’ve been drinking. Seriously. Just don’t. Get a number give a number and if it’s meant to be, you’ll meet up again when you’re both sober and you can figure it all out in a more clear-headed way. If he or she doesn’t call you later, you can imagine how they’d be if you had slept with them.

3. Take a week to not give any yeses. Instead of saying yes immediately to any requests, give the answer, “give me 24 hours to think about it.” Then, take some time to think about whether or not you actually want to do what is being requested of you.

4. Try to give thanks before eating. This doesn’t have to be about praying or saying grace. It could be as simple as thanking the earth for growing the lettuce you’re about to eat or thanking the salmon that you’re about to eat. Just taking a moment to express gratitude.

5. Slow down while you’re actually eating. Try implementing mindful eating techniques during meals so that you can eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.

6. Stop your mind from chaining together cause and effects and long stories that aren’t true. Anxiety is caused by taking what ifs, stringing them together and then following the path to a disastrous end. And it all happens in an instant. What if I leave the house, get hit by a car, wind up in the hospital paralyzed for life, have no one to take care of me and die alone?  Your mind can be a very dangerous neighborhood, so tell it to slow down and to help you stay in the present. Imagine a giant stop sign telling you to just stop the irrational thinking.

What ways can you practice slowing down?

Try talking to your food!

natalie dee drawing archive: aug 2006

What if instead of being afraid of food or trying to control food or yourself, what if you made friends with food? What if he who was once the enemy became your friend?

If you have an eating disorder, you probably notice that a lot of what you deal with is fear. Fear of food, fear of parties with food, fear of being out in the world,  fear of what people think of you, fear of how you look or how other people see you, fear of being liked or not being liked, fear of being good enough, fear of pain or emotional hurt, fear of gaining weight, fear of losing weight, fear of fat, fear of eating, fear of not eating…

But what if you disempowered the fear of food by making friend with it?

The other day, a client of mine was telling me that after every public speaking event that she speaks at, she sits down alone  and eats an apple because she is so revved up and the apple helps her calm down. She said, “I know it’s just an apple, but still, I’m using food to dampen my feelings…”  But here’s the thing. Food IS nurturing.  It keeps you alive and nourishes your body. I asked her what it would be like to smile at that apple and say, “thank you for sitting with me and helping me to decompress after my event,” and then enjoy the apple.   We then took that a step further and discussed what it would be like to talk to her food all the time. Like say, “hey brownie, I really want to eat you, but I’m afraid you might lead to a binge…” and then listen to what the brownie had to say. Maybe it would say, “I think that today I’m going to lead you into a binge, so maybe you should just avoid me right now,” or maybe it would say, “Yes, sit down and eat me slowly, I’m not binge food today,” or maybe it would say, “Eat half of me now and half of me later!”  Or whatever it is.

This is obviously another exercise in mindfulness and intuitive eating, but it’s a fun way to embrace your food rather than fear it. It’s a way to think about what you’re putting in your mouth and a way to learn to create limits and boundaries around food.

So, next time you are ready to eat, sit down and check in with your food, “are you what’s healthy for me right now? if not, what do you think I need?”   Food is something that is here to sustain and love you. Your body deserves love and the food that you eat should be loving.  Try it!

 

The Grief Of Recovery

Saying goodbye to an eating disorder isn’t easy– that’s an understatement. There is a giant grieving process that goes along with it. When you decide to let go of binge eating, you are letting go of something that you feel has been a best friend, a lover, an ally, always there when you need it, always consistent. Letting go of that is certainly challenging. There will be a big part of you that just doesn’t want to give that up. Food can be more reliable than people. It will always elicit a similar  response, it’s always there, it’s always comforting. Of course, you know that these comforts are no more than temporary, and sometimes not even that. So, being ready to let go of binge eating and bulimia can be a humbling experience as you begin to delve into your recovery and understand more about who you are outside of this eating disorder.

These changes won’t just be challenging for you, they will be for anyone around you. There will be a mourning period when you let go of your old ways of being. As you go through the stages of grief you will find that the people around you are going through their own grieving process as they don’t want to let go of the “old” you.

For you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: I don’t need to do anything different. My issues with binge eating have nothing to do with anything other than willpower. I just have to stop eating and I’ll be fine. Once I lose the weight, my life will be better.
  • Anger: This is ridiculous. Life seems really hard all of a sudden. I have all these uncomfortable feelings. I don’t know why I had to stir up all of these emotions. There was no reason to do it. I hate this. Bingeing is better than sitting with these emotions.
  • Bargaining: I think that I can reasonably go back on a low carb diet and lose the weight without having to go through all of this recovery bullshit. If I just start now, I’ll lose the weight and everything will be fine.
  • Depression: This is never going to be better. I’m always going to be stuck in this disease.
  • Acceptance: What I’ve been doing for all these years, dieting and bingeing and purging and starving and eating my emotions hasn’t worked. I’m in the same exact place as I was when I began. Maybe even worse because now I have to deal with my eating issues too.   I’m going to try and let go and surrender to my recovery and take care of myself emotionally in a way that I haven’t done before. It will be challenging, but in the long run, my life will be better for it.

For people around you, the grieving process might look like this:

  • Denial: Great! She’s starting another diet again. I’m sure that it will fail miserably the way all of her diets do. Whatever, there’s no reason for me to be scared, nothing is going to change. She’ll be eating nachos with me the second I see her.
  • Anger: What’s wrong with her? When I asked her to do me this favor, she refused. That’s not fair, she has always done the things that I’ve asked her to do. But now that she’s in recovery she’s trying to take care of herself? That feels really bad. Where am I? Why is she neglecting me? If she is taking care of herself, then who will take care of me?
  • Bargaining: Maybe I’ll take her out to dinner to a meal that I know she usually binges on. I know that she won’t be able to refuse and then things will be the way they used to.
  • Depression: Things will never be the same. I lost my best friend. I’m alone and lonely and I have no idea who I am.
  • Acceptance: Just because she’s taking care of herself doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of myself. If she’s really my friend, I will feel happy for her, not threatened and jealous. I understand that it has been a hard transition and change for me, but as I support her in her recovery, I can also support myself in being more independent. Without food and favors and resentment between us, our friendship can be more pure and deeper.

Hopefully this won’t happen, but unfortunately, there is a possibility that  you might lose one or two friends in the process of recovery. Those are the friends that were so invested in you being sick because it gave them a sense of who they were or even made them feel better about themselves. They are unable to accept that you are getting better. Those friends who you lose deserve  compassion because they are uncomfortable in their skin and need you to be sick to feel better about themselves rather than working from within and taking care of themselves. Though you can feel compassion, you don’t need to take care of them. That’s an inside job.

Think about what your grieving process around recovery looks like. What are you leaving behind? How will you cope with that?

Focusing on the Negative

So much of eating disorders is fueled by focusing on the negative. By negative, I mean what we don’t have. There is always this sense of “I would be better if i were thinner, if I had more money, if I had a boyfriend, if I had a baby, if I had new car, if I had a nose job, if I had a big house, if I were popular, if I had better clothes…” etc. etc.

When  Zen Buddhist Monks work toward detachment, they practice detaching from their wants. When we attach to our wants so vehemently, we leave little space for enjoying what we have. This causes a great deal of suffering. “I am sad because I don’t have __________________ (fill in the blank).”

The problem here is that when you obsess on what you don’t have, you will never be happy. There will always be something that you don’t have. This doesn’t mean not to have goals and aspirations. This doesn’t mean to settle. This means that you can love yourself and enjoy your life as you’re working toward your goals. You can’t wait to enjoy your life.

A great practice is spending a few minutes each morning having some gratitude for what you do have. Some people make a morning practice of writing a gratitude list. This helps to bring the focus away from what you don’t have toward what you do have.

For instance, rather than, I hate my body, I should be thinner. “I am grateful for a body that works.”

Rather than,  I wish I could afford to buy a house. “I am grateful to have a home to live on and I can make it into the home that I choose it to be.

You know the drill!