How the bingeing unwinds and new life emerges
When I tell people that healing a sugar addiction or overeating is an internal process, they often wonder – how does this inner healing translate into weight loss, eating less sugar or a healthy relationship with food? It’s a good question – and one that entails exploring what drives food compulsion in the first place.
We like to think that our behavior is logical, rational or driven by conscious thought. But much of our behavior – particularly compulsive behavior like overeating – is driven by emotion, impulse, and unconscious needs and desires. An internal approach brings these bits up to the surface.
They need to come to the surface so you can come to the still point of change; so you can stop doing the same thing over and over (overeating, binge eating, bingeing on sugar) – while expecting a different result. Until this becomes conscious – until you feel the futility that it isn’t working – it’s very difficult to change.
So healing is not about cutting out the overeating or managing the compulsive food behavior. It’s a shedding, an unwinding of what doesn’t work (the food compulsion), and then a creating – new patterns, new ways of relating, and new ways of responding to your needs, feelings, thoughts, imperfection, and to your very struggle with food itself.
This new life is what you see on the outside: a different way of responding to the impulse to seek comfort in food. By relating kindly and compassionately to the triggers that drive you to overeat, sugar binge, or numb out with food, you slowly, yet powerfully, unwind these ingrained patterns.
However, this doesn’t happen overnight – and it doesn’t happen without some messiness. As it unwinds, true healing often can – and does – look really, really messy on the outside and feel really, really messy on the inside.
Most of us learn by trial and error – mostly by error. We learn by what doesn’t work. It takes tremendous patience and kindness to allow these old ways of responding to your impulse to binge to fully unwind to their still point, where you stop trying to make what doesn’t work, work. And then it takes tremendous patience and practice to support the new life that is emerging in you: when you’re able to fully feel the impulse to binge on sugar or overeat and not act on it.
We tend to feel and see this messiness and think we’re failing or going backwards. How wrong we are! We need different, softer eyes to see that this, indeed, is growth: this messy unwinding and clutzy rebuilding. What helps is a guide, a way of making sense of the healing and how it’s moving. As you heal your overeating or sugar addiction, try sorting your healing into 2 categories:
Inner healing: This is the inside stuff – absolutely essential but easy to discount because it’s not as measurable as the pounds on a scale. Here’s how it can appear:
- changes in how you talk to yourself
- changes in how you relate to your needs (instead of shaming, minimizing, editing or suppressing needs, you’ll open to them)
- changes in how you relate to your feelings (greater acceptance of all feelings and a willingness to feel them)
- changes in what you think or believe about yourself
- changes in your expectations for yourself (more gentleness and compassion)
- less perfectionism
- more self forgiveness, levity, and self acceptance – especially for those parts that you most dislike
- less shame about your overeating or weight struggles
- greater feelings of belonging – feeling no worse or less than others
- less having to rush to fix yourself
This inner healing lays the foundation, the ground work, for outer healing.
Outer healing: As you experience these shifts in your inner life, you can expect to see changes in your external behavior and habits – particularly with food. This growth may appear as:
- changes in how you eat
- changes in what you eat – what I call having an adult vs. a child’s relationship with food
- a softening of the compulsive seeking for a perfect diet
- a softening of feelings of resistance or deprivation because you have to make choices about what you eat
- an ability to accept and integrate limits with food (where you’re able to tell yourself no, stop eating after a meal, or honor your body’s signals when you’ve had enough)
- an ability to eat a treat food, savor it, and stop rather than having a treat turn into a binge or a vow to restrict the next day
- changes in how you care for your body – i.e. – not using exercise as a form of punishment or as a way to soften anxiety, but as a way of caring for your body
- changes in how you care for your feelings
- changes in how you respond to your needs – honoring them rather than minimizing them and then feeling resentful later
- changes in how you care for stress – reaching out for help or healthy practices rather than bingeing or lashing out at yourself
- an ability to stop doing what doesn’t work rather than doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result
- an ability to learn by trial and error rather than looking for a perfect answer and then trying to implement it perfectly
- an acceptance of mistakes and failure as normal and necessary
- reaching out for help and support for others rather than hiding, isolating, or pretending you have it all together
- weight loss
It’s a lot, isn’t it? No wonder it takes time!
There are 4 things that are helpful to know about healing a food compulsion:
- Outer healing is the fruit of inner healing. The above lists speak to growth and maturation – not merely habit change. If you focus on supporting the internal healing, the outer healing will unfold.
- Transformation is different than habit change. Because we’re talking about growth and not just habit change, you can expect to see this growth hold true across all areas of your life, and not just with food.
- You can’t force growth. As my mentor, Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, when the conditions are met – when there’s rest and room for growth – it’s spontaneous. The opposite is also true – you can’t force yourself to grow. Forcing growth only causes suffering.
- You aren’t in charge of your growth. It sounds counterintuitive, but you can find deep, deep rest when you surrender your very healing to something greater than yourself. Because you are a part of the web of life, you can trust in your healing and unfolding. You can trust in it because you’re not trusting you, your ego, your personality, to heal your overeating – you’re putting your trust in something deeper: into the growth process, which is Nature, which is Life, which is the Divine itself.
Something deep in you is doing the growing and changing. I invite you to trust this as you trust the sun to rise in the morning and the cycles of the seasons to unfold and the flowers to bloom in spring.