My clients who are compulsive overeaters often wonder, “Where am I going with all this?” “How will I know when I’ve arrived?” In other words, “What is my goal?”
If I had my way, I would wave a magic wand and instantly turn all my compulsive overeating clients into healthy eaters. Then I would quickly become rich and famous and not have to work for the rest of my life.
But, unfortunately, I can’t do that. And I haven’t found anyone else who can, either.
So, in the meantime, I help my clients move towards becoming healthy eaters.
“What is a healthy eater?” you ask.
Many people have researched healthy eaters and they all come up with pretty much the same profile. Healthy eaters eat when they’re hungry, eat what they’re hungry for (or as close as they can get at the time) and stop eating when they are full.
Sounds simple, right? In the 12 Step programs (like Overeaters Anonymous) they talk about things being “Simple but difficult.” Compulsive Overeaters who come to me for help can no more eat healthy than they can do a double back flip off a high dive.
But, healthy eating does serve as a goal in terms of what we are working towards.
Diets, of course, have a different goal. The goal of diets is to lose weight. And most assume that dieters will have to strictly monitor what they put in their mouths for the rest of their lives. I do not wish that life for any of you.
Healthy eaters eat intuitively, in that they do not spend a lot of time thinking and planning what they are going to eat (except, perhaps, if they’re cooking for a family or a group living situation.) They very naturally know what they want to eat, when and how much.
Some people have dubbed this way of eating “Intuitive Eating” to differentiate it from the diet style of planned, controlled, closely monitored eating.
Intuitive Eating can become an idealized goal for compulsive overeaters. It takes a long time to get there, and some overeaters may never be able to get there completely.
“Why set a goal I’ll never be able to reach?” you may ask. We often set goals for ourselves we won’t be able meet 100% of the time. Like always being kind to others or living in a way that’s friendly to our environment. Why do we do this, if we know that sometimes we’re going to fail?
Because setting such unattainable goals makes our lives more meaningful and helps us become better people. Because being kind to someone or Mother Earth makes us feel better about ourselves. Because constantly chasing our basest desires makes us feel yucky and gives us a sour outlook on life in general.
Of course, some people use high goals as a stick to beat themselves up with when they inevitably fail. I’m not recommending this. I’m suggesting, instead, admitting our mistakes, acknowledging no one’s perfect, noticing where we get off track, apologizing when we are wrong and moving on, trying to do better next time.
The same thing is true for Intuitive Eating. We work towards this goal, recognizing we will not do it perfectly and forgiving ourselves each time we mess up. But also noticing how much better at it we are than we used to be and how that improves our lives.
I wish I had that magic wand that could instantly change eating habits! First, I’d use it on myself.
Instead I offer compulsive overeaters a set of tools that will get them closer to this elusive goal of Intuitive Eating.
In a previous blog I discussed The Body Scan as a first step in sensing what is happening inside us.
In future emails I will talk about other tools I use: The Safe Place, The Bubble Exercise, Mindful Eating, and the four flavors of compulsive overeating listed in the acronym STOP (Samplers and Grazers, Traumatized Overeaters, Overworked Overeaters, and Picky Overeaters.)
These are all ways to help compulsive overeaters get to the Intuitive Eating goal.
I wish you well on this journey. It can sometimes be painful and difficult, but in the end, it is totally worth it.