Overeating, binge eating, or sugar addiction are not character flaws, but misguided attempts to care for unmet needs: in particular, basic needs for safety, connection/attachment, unconditional love, mirroring, emotional validation and “holding” (what helps us regulate intense emotions.)
When these needs aren’t met, it’s like trying to breath underwater: you can only live without oxygen for so long. Eventually you have to come up for air.
When you finally “give in” to the food you’re craving – to a binge, to overeating, to emotional eating – you’re essentially coming up for air. You’re trying to fill those unmet needs.
I’d like to share a different way of caring for those needs so that you don’t rely on food to fill them. Instead of turning to food to nurture you, I want to help you create a deeply loving, nurturing relationship with yourself. This relationship is the container for all growth.
This relationship is critical because many of us have developmental gaps and wounds that we carry from childhood.
As a child, did you:
- discount, edit or minimize your needs
- feel that you were too sensitive or too much
- feel overly responsible for others’ feelings and needs
- feel empty, disconnected, insecure, like no one was there
- feel criticized or not enough; unworthy of love
- long for empathy and unconditional love
- feel overresponsible, that everything was your fault or should be in your control
As an adult, do you find that these patterns continue in your relationships with food, your body, loved ones, money and your own precious self? We often internalize the messages that we received in childhood, and these voices become our own inner dialogue. We treat ourselves as we were treated, and the cycle continues.
This where our inner work comes in. And yet this is the work that most of us don’t want to do.
In my life, I turned to diets, weight loss plans, and well meaning attempts to get my food stuff “together” because I wanted to feel in control of the pain that simmered inside. It was how I avoided doing my inner work. I didn’t want to open the door and feel all the muck inside.
And yet the only way I found progress with food was by opening that door and feeling all the hurt. I sat with my muck and did the uncomfortable work of healing my relationship with myself.
Dear one, if you’re struggling with food, what you most deeply need is not another diet. What you most deeply need is a loving, gentle, kind relationship with yourself.
A self loving relationship gives you:
- a safe, secure, internal refuge that’s always available
- the deepest rest of unconditional love and empathy
- the safety/connection to care for intense feelings like anger, fear, or sadness without being overwhelmed by them or eating them
- feelings of inner peace – feeling whole and enough
- a nervous system that is calm and at rest (you move into the higher regions of the brain and out of fight/flight/freeze/feed)
- stronger impulse control
- the ability to respond, validate and attune to your needs and feelings rather than minimizing or diminishing them
These things help you change your behavior with food – and they simply help you feel better, period!
This loving relationship is your life raft – what helps you thrive, and not just survive. In many ways, when we heal from overeating we’re reparenting ourselves. We replace critical, shameful, fearful ways of treating ourselves with loving, nurturing, warm, validating ways of relating. We relate to our needs, feelings, and all our many selves with greater love, acceptance and kindness. Yes. It’s being the loving mother to our own hearts.
As this loving inner parent cares for all the hurt, messy parts of you, your need to binge or overeat softens on its own. In its place, you’ve found true refuge: the connection with your deepest, wisest self.
Wanting more hands on help?
- The Binge Rescue worksheet is a tool to help you soften the intense urge to binge. Use it before you overeat, after you overeat, or any time you’re struggling with intense emotions that need attunement and validation.
- If you’re looking for help in befriending the needs underneath your desire for food, I recommend Heal Overeating: Untangled. Untangled helps you foster a loving relationship with your overeating – what both softens shame and creates a supportive container for growing out of it. Learn more here.
- If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy this post on the healing power of loving your overeating self.