One of the practices I teach to heal the roots of overeating, binge eating and sugar addiction is grounding: giving yourself regular, rhythmic self care so you feel nourished, vital and strong.
When we go through a difficult time, we often need more grounding. When we’re feeling under stress, we typically need more grounding. We also need extra grounding when going through a cycle of change, and this includes dietary change, like eating less sugar, healing a pattern of emotional eating, or swapping processed foods for whole foods.
You also need more grounding when you’ve gained weight or if you’ve returned to habits of overeating or binge eating. This may sound counterintuitive, but weight gain – or a return to a binge eating habit – is often the result of increased wounding, isolation, or emotional turmoil.
In many ways, food can be a coping mechanism, how you care for the pain and stress. So receiving extra grounding and extra support is crucial.
The shadow side to self care
This is all well and good.
And … there’s also a shadow side to grounding. This can show up whenever we’re trying to implement self care in our lives. We may turn pushy with our grounding, using it to force change. We may put it on a time table: If I exercise, I have to lose 10 pounds in 1 month. We may use it as a bargaining chip: if I do all these things to care for myself, then I’d better darn well get the results I want. I want my weight, my moods, my life, my income, and more to cooperate *exactly* as I want them to.
Oh, my friends, bargaining mind is a recipe for suffering.
I’ve seen this at work in my own life. This past year has been a difficult time for me. My grounding during this time of loss and challenge has meant rest, care, lowering my expectations, and even, yes, gaining weight. Gentle yoga and walking are all the exercise I’m doing right now as doing more takes me out of balance.
On the outside, this looks messy – and, honestly, flabby. And yet here’s what I learned: there’s grace in opening to what is and not what I want to be. In this hard time, I’ve opened to the sorrow that is as a part of life as joy. And most of the time, I feel okay about the extra weight, even though I’m at my heaviest weight in 14 years.
Judging loss as bad
We tend to see life’s losses through the lens of judgment. In our youth, success, and appearance obsessed culture, we look at things like weight gain, ageing, sickness, or loss as a failure, as something “bad.” As something we should’ve been able to control.
What if we softened some of this judgment? What if we recognized that loss and change aren’t something we need to control?
Life shows up on the body. Our weight – or any change in our physical selves – is merely a symbol of the ongoing cycle of change and impermanence. It’s something that is so much bigger than us. The fact that our bodies are impermanent is merely part of being a human being, part of being alive on planet earth. It’s deeper than this: it’s one of the ways that we belong to the earth and to the web of life.
The fact that how we love and live shows up on the body is not something to judge, but something to embrace, and care for. All our tender impermanent humanity is not something to try and control, eradicate or look upon as a character flaw, something about which we feel guilty. It it something to revere.
There is a season of everything. Sometimes we go through loss and pain. How human of that to show up on the body. How normal.
Perhaps Stevie Nicks said it best: “Can I sail through the changing ocean tides/Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
Freeing ourselves from judgment
How do we cope with life’s changes and impermanence? How do we cope with life’s seasons, with the ups and downs?
I think it starts with a fresh perspective, and a radical acceptance. We carry so much fear about needing to control life. To have it go according to our plan. We are so afraid to look messy, untogether, unglued, not coping “well,” whatever that means.
We typically don’t bemoan a pregnant woman’s weight gain, because there’s a “valid” reason for it. In fact, it’s necessary to preserve the life of her unborn child. Yet we criticize weight gain for other reasons – a medical crisis; a death, a loss; a hard year; a bankruptcy or divorce; a painful, difficult childhood that created a habit of turning to food for nurturing.
But what if we saw it – on some level – also as somewhat necessary? Perhaps the weight gain is how our minds and brains preserved functioning. If you suffered from childhood trauma or abuse, your turning to food may have been what got you to where you are today. As messy as it may appear on the surface, the weight may have been a gift.
Finding a caring, wise response
With this fresh perspective, we can offer ourselves mercy and loving care. In my case, I went to a Macy’s sale and bought myself 2 pairs of pants in a bigger size. I also bought myself new underwear, for there’s nothing more uncomfortable than tight underwear.
This was a kind, kind thing to do for myself instead of trying to squeeze into too small jeans and underwear. In accepting what is – my larger sized body – I’m not punishing myself for being human, for having a hard year, for needing rest, for feeling the sting of loss.
I’m going to take a nap today. I might go for an afternoon walk as the sun just peaked out. I might call my grandma or a friend because I’m feeling lonely. And I’m going to make soup for dinner, something healthy and comforting.
All of this is only possible by releasing my wishful thinking: by accepting where I am, not where I wish I could be. All of this is possible only by opening to my inherent neediness, and my need for care, help and support. All of this is only possible by being honest about my limits.
Self care is love in action
Grounding is a concrete way of showing ourselves kindness. It’s a responsive dance of, “What do I need now?” and answering with honesty, wisdom, kindness…and willingness when the answer is “rest” and not “burn off that extra weight.” It’s letting go of shoulds and trusting the unfolding of our path.
Self care is not about guaranteeing externals, but is a force of love arising from internal wisdom, an internal desire to embody this love in our daily lives.
For years my biggest fear was gaining weight, or looking flabby. Here I am, sitting with both. And unlike before, I’m not using it as ammunition to turn on myself. I will not make war against my own heart, or my own body. When I bought myself bigger pants – and no, they are not dowdy fat pants, they are compassion pants, stylish and lovely – I stopped the war.
This freedom – the freedom to love myself unconditionally – is something I never found, even when I was at my thinnest. It’s the real reward. As Cheri Huber asks, If you face your deepest fear (feeling unlovable, fat or like a failure) and discover it’s not true, what else do we have to fear?