A friend of mine once called it the “Halloween hangover” – when you wake up November 1st feeling sick to your stomach – and sick to your heart – after gorging on sugar Halloween night.
Ouch, it can be so frustrating.
Halloween can be challenging: it’s hard not to eat overdo sugar on a holiday that celebrates it and seems to offer it everywhere.
It’s easy to feel frustrated with yourself, and with the holiday!
Softening the frustration of making a mistake
When we make a mistake, it’s easy to feel frustrated, irritated, or angry with ourselves. These feelings often send us into fight or flight, into feelings of fear and alarm.
In the face of this fear, we become tight, tense, and rigid. We lose access to the higher regions of the brain where we can reflect, take in the whole picture, and think.
Our relationship with sugar starts to feel very life and death and urgent – there isn’t sufficient room to “walk the maze,” as my mentor, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, puts it: to learn by trial and error.
Softening out of frustration and into ‘this is really hard’
By contrast, when we make a mistake and offer ourselves self compassion, the urgency of ‘needing to fix ourselves’ begins to soften. On a practical level, I find that I can move into a space of greater self compassion when I shift from a stance of, “Why didn’t I do better?” to, “Oh, this is really hard!”
An approach of “this is really hard” acknowledges how hard something is – and also offers support and encouragement. It isn’t quite so personal, and we soften and relax a bit!
This approach feels much different to the body and heart – there’s less tension and tightness, and more room and space. In this space, there’s more kindness, more tenderness, and more awareness.
So being kind to yourself is not only merciful, it also creates room for learning, growth and change.
Compassionate support for a sugar binge:
If you’d like more support and help, here are a few more ideas on how you can care for your mind and heart after a sugar binge. I also share some resources that can help – both do at home courses and free resources – that can support you during this time.
Note – you also may need to care for your body after a binge – it’s important, too. However, it’s not my area of expertise. There are many good folks who do cover this territory, and I encourage you to get help there.
How to care for your mind:
- Bingeing is not about will power. We don’t binge to hurt ourselves. Neither do we binge because we don’t know better – this is not about knowledge or even skill. We binge to meet an unmet need or because of deep emotions that are stirred up inside us. (You may find this article helpful – What need were you trying to meet when you ate sugar?)
- We all have different “parts” inside – and their needs can be very different! Which part of you binged on sugar – was it your inner rebel, the part of you who says, “I want to eat whatever the heck I want?” Or your inner child, the part of you who wants to play and be little? Learn how caring for these parts can soothe the need to binge.
- Cravings are prime opportunities for connection – to connect with parts of yourself that are feeling afraid, small, powerless and more. By connecting to these parts of you, not only do you diffuse the intensity of needing to binge, but you embrace cravings as opportunities for intimacy, rather than something to be feared. Learn more about this healing approach to cravings here.
How to care for your heart:
- Be willing to open to a different perspective. What if your relationship with sugar wasn’t the enemy that you think it is? What if you could view things like cravings, binges, and the longing for sugar differently? Follow the links above to learn more about this shift in thinking.
- Be kind to yourself. You are not your bingeing, what you eat, or how much you weigh.
- Please don’t add guilt onto the pain you already feel. In Eastern teachings, this is called adding the 2nd arrow. While, yes, the 1st arrow – the binge – hurts, we shoot ourselves with a 2nd arrow when we judge ourselves for it. This only compounds our pain. We can’t always stop the 1st arrow, but we can choose not to nail ourselves with the 2nd one…
- Forgive yourself. As painful as it may feel, a binge isn’t the end of the world – it’s just proof of our tender humanity. As Jack Kornfield put it, “Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind?” If you’re caught in self blame, soften into your grief. Blame can be described as “a lazy form of grief” – when we blame ourselves, we aren’t feeling our more tender feelings of regret, sadness, or frustration. It’s by feeling these more tender feelings that the blame and judgment softens, and it’s, paradoxically, by feeling these feelings that growth occurs.
- Feel the futility of, ‘this doesn’t work.’ If I had to offer 1 practice for healing a sugar addiction, I would choose grief: it’s that powerful, from the brain level up. It sounds counterintuitive, but one of the primary ways we learn from our mistakes is by fully registering feelings of futility: that what we’re doing isn’t working. This can be hard, because it’s a form of death – a dying to what we’ve done in the past, or a dying to what we wish were different. Crying our tears – accepting what we can’t change (like the fact that no matter how much sugar we eat, it doesn’t give us the satiation we wish it did) is what helps us change. I invite you to read more about this process in the post, how grieving heals your sugar addiction.
- Soothe the voice of hopelessness – the voice that says, “I’ll never change, I’m a fat cow, or I’m a broken mess” is often a mix of frustration/self attack and despair – a collapsed feeling of powerlessness. I’ve found it helpful to reframe this despair as a trauma response, or a form of learned helplessness – not a character or psychological flaw. From this perspective, despair feels less personal, and there’s a greater trust that the feelings can shift and move. I share more about softening despair and moving out of self attack in Emerge: Create a New Habit.
- Hold yourself tenderly. When the voice of your inner critic rears up and you feel it tug at your insides, telling you all the things that are terrible about yourself – stop. Pause, slow down, and put your hand on your heart. You can offer yourself self compassion with a simple gesture. My friend Maureen taught me this phrase, a favorite of mine: “Sh, sh, I love all of me.”
For further reading:
- This page is full of resources, both on growinghumankindness.com, and from other sites, on healing your relationship with sugar
- This page has several helpful tips on overeating an binge eating
- This page focuses on cravings and how to care for them
- You may like this video post on befriending your “sugar binge devil”
- A blog post on softening the impulse to eat sugar
- Why feeling your sugar cravings more, not less, softens them
- You may enjoy reading this article on how to recover from a food binge.
Wanting more hands on help?
- If you’d like a gentle, compassionate program for the first 30 days on a low or no sugar diet, Emerge: Create a New Habit is for you. Emerge is intentionally different than any other sugar detox program, as it uses compassion, gentleness, and self kindness to change your habits with sugar. It’s not a ‘what to eat’ course, but a ‘how to support yourself into a new way of relating to sugar’ course.
Needing hand on help for binges?
- Sign up here to receive the free Binge Rescue worksheet, what readers say is our most helpful tool in the face of a binge.
- You can also listen to a recording from my webinar, Befriend A Binge, on how to soften the impulse to binge with self compassion and emotional support.