As emotional eating expert Melissa McCreery says, we need a mix of “quick and dirty” strategies and long term strategies to shift a pattern of overeating or sugar bingeing.
Quick and dirty strategies are so crucial because, as Viktor Frankl pointed out, the window of opportunity between the stimulus (I want to eat the donut!) and the response (Binge!) is quite small. Neuroscientists measure this window in seconds.
Anything we can do to lengthen our response time helps us counter the instinctual response of the stressed brain saying, “Soothe me!” (I once heard a longtime AA member say that “each year in AA equals another second of response time.”) This is why support is so crucial – it extends our window of response time.
I want to share one of my favorite “quick and dirty” strategies. This comes from another Carllie, a delightful New York city woman who’s taken several classes with me. Her dedication to becoming sugar free has continually inspired me. As of 2011, she’s been sugar free for several months.
Here’s one of the tools that helped her when she was feeling stressed and wanting to eat sugar:
In her own words, “This is kinda corny but it WORKS. I decided at the beginning of this challenge [attempting to become sugar free] that I would need help in case of an emergency. So…..I thought about having a FIRST AID KIT for just that occasion. The thought began as a joke but I made it real. I made a kit for my house, my car and there is one in my office. I used empty white baby wipe containers and peeled the labels off. I put a red cross along the top to look like a real first aid kit.”
Carllie put all kinds of helpful “emergency items” in her kit, including:
- Chinese stress balls
- a CD of peaceful meditation music
- Powerful affirmation cards about strength and courage
- Her written personal goals or mission statement
- a small inspirational book
- a list of 4 people she could call….(2 people agreed that she could call at any hour.)
- cute stickers that say “Believe in yourself.”
- Pictures of family
- a picture of a butterfly (a reminder of transformation)
- ear plugs (She can relax by listening to her breathing)
- A little bottle of essential oil (to stimulate the senses)
- a timer (To create a safe space of 10 minutes to chill out)
On the flip top of the kit, she wrote, “This too shall pass.”
I find this idea powerful. What would you put in your first aid kit? Some ideas I had were:
- A picture of ourselves as a small child or baby (to remind us of our innocence)
- Photos of loved ones (to remind us that we’re not alone)
- Prayer beads, a rosary, a mandala, or a written prayer
- A protein filled snack (almonds come to mind)
- Rescue Remedy
- A cue card with EFT tapping exercises
- Cards or letters from loved ones
- Something soft, soothing and cuddly
- Written instructions for the Damage Control Tool from Emotional Brain Training
Here’s how this kit worked for Carllie:
“I keep the one in my car behind the drivers seat so I see it every time I get in the car. I had a real rough day the other day and I sat in my car and just sat in frustration. I am not really used to that because when I am eating tons of sugar I don’t naturally feel frustration. It made me uncomfortable but I was grateful that I was even feeling. I took my box out… popped on the meditation CD and I literally felt the calm wash over me.
The good thing about having so many options is that usually only one or two are really needed at a time of crisis. The first time I was stressed the music helped me. The second time I called my sister and she said that me calling her for advice actually helped her. How cool.”
I love how a “first aid kit” can not only help us find that pause, but also connect us with our intentions, our goodness, our hearts, our courage, and each other.
I’m off to make my own kit!