We all have ways of caring for ourselves – coping mechanisms – that look really, really messy on the outside. This may include overeating or sugar bingeing. It’s easy to label and judge them as bad or wrong – “I should know better. I should be able to manage life differently.”
This self judgment – so painful – leads to strategies to eliminate the “bad” parts of ourselves. We try to “cut out” the impulse to binge, we see it as an enemy to be conquered and fight against, we may look at it as something that needs to be controlled and employ all sorts of tactics (white knuckling, weighing and measuring, and more) to stop it.
The problem with this approach is that we’re fighting against ourselves. We’re trying to heal by eliminating a part of ourselves. How can we feel whole when we feel split? In my experience, we can’t.
Even if the outward behaviors are helpful – for example, most people find structure (a rhythmic way of eating with boundaries around certain foods) helpful with food bingeing. But if these structures are based in fear and control, they don’t last and don’t feel good. We go back and forth, around and around in circles, and feel very frustrated.
I’d like to offer another possibility. Instead of cutting off parts of ourselves and making them wrong, what if we included them in the circle of self compassion? What if we stopped looking at them as the enemy and saw them as parts of ourselves with unmet needs, who are hurting, who want to come home and rest in our unconditional love?
What if we looked at the drive to binge as a cry for love? What if we looked at it with love?
I think of the pull to binge as a small part of me, a scared little girl, who’s crying out for help. She’s feeling caught, vulnerable, small and separate, and the pain is too much to bear. It hurts, oh how it hurts, so she pulls away from the pain, like a hand pulling away from a burning stove. She pulls away and soothes herself with food.
She’s not trying to cause me pain by bingeing; she’s trying to protect me from it. Her intentions are good, even if the impact of her actions isn’t ultimately helpful. This isn’t a reason to bash her; it’s a call to care for her.
The impulse to binge is based in kindness. Self protection. It’s a “sign of the love we bear for ourselves,” as Sri Nisargadatta wrote.
Turning towards this impulse with love, with care, with non judgment, asking it, “Sweetheart, tell me all about it. What are you wanting to tell me?” is how we gently redirect it from the food, the fix, the flight and into the love of our beautiful, beating hearts – where healing is possible. This is where the wound can rest, knowing it’s safe, secure; at home. This is where we find the ability to soften the binge, to care for ourselves differently.
This was beautifully expressed in this survival prayer from a reader, Estelle, who offered to share her poem here with you. May we all find the love of compassion for every part of ourselves. May we all be free from food suffering.
Ode to the Survival Machinery….
-pain and discomfort are guaranteed in life.
-my body is hard-wired to interpret discomfort as possible danger
-my body is hard-wired for fight, flight, freeze and fuel up when
-an urge to grab, hoard and prowl for more is how my body reacts,
how my body is programmed to go fending for me…..
Thank you, Survival Machinery for intending to protect me from
Thank you for the hypnotic focus on getting what feels desperately and
Thank you for the intensity that pushes and propels me.
Thank you for the power that is unwilling to be stopped……..
I acknowledge you.
I become willing to embrace you.
I breathe into you–now in this moment…….
Please feel yourself held and surrounded by love
Your intention is heard, your intention is honoured…..
Are you willing to be heard? are you willing to be honoured?
Are you willing to trust in the truth of that love?
Now, in this moment?
Is there room for something bigger?
Now in this moment……….
Stop, breathe and let yourself be held……