On the coffee table were dozens and dozens of empty candy wrappers. A shameful reminder of just how much she ate. Her belly felt so uncomfortable. She even tried eating more, to numb away how sick she felt. If only that worked. Instead, Mary felt worse. She curled up in bed, hating herself for how bad she felt and filled with worry about the consequences. Her mind was racing.
This is a catastrophe. What I did was wrong. I’m going to gain weight. I need to fix this.
Fueled with fear, Mary would respond to such a binge like a project. The very next day she promised herself, she would have a plan, goals, checklists and ways to hold herself accountable.
I’ll be better. I’ll be more in control. I won’t binge again. After all, I’m working on my new weight loss project.
This was serious work. It needed a lot of her attention and energy. Because in her mind, Mary did something wrong and lost control, this was her way of getting it back.
Nothing else mattered.
All because of 30 Hershey Kisses.
Those Kisses took on a story of their own. By eating them, she was going to gain weight, get really fat, look pathetic and feel disgusting. (Her sick, bloated belly confirmed this story.) Worse, the consumption of those 30 Kisses made her worthless and unlovable.
For Mary, a made up summation of many of my coaching clients, binge eating and overeating become a call to action. Bugles sounding, war flags waving overhead, they ready themselves for a grisly battle. “It’s time to make a change,” they proclaim. “I can’t take this any longer.”
But instead of regaining a sense of control, instead of getting back on the wagon, they find themselves continually binging. Hopelessness and raw fatigue set in when they realize that they’ll never, ever, EVER win the war. The rigid dieting and restrictions they worked so hard to enforce have only backfired.
What if, after overeating or binging, you didn’t beat yourself up?
What if you didn’t believe the story that the sleeve of Oreos you ate made you pathetic and worthless?
What if you didn’t feel the need to jump on the next cleanse to punish yourself for your sins?
What if you said, instead, “So what?”
What if you welcomed in some lightness around the whole experience?
Oh, I know what you’re thinking.
If you’re not beating yourself up, then you must be giving yourself permission to overeat.
If you aren’t punishing yourself, then you must be okay with treating yourself this way.
If you aren’t more disciplined, then you will never lose the weight you want to lose and worse, you will even gain weight.
This is a big leap. Beating the crap out of yourself is all you may know. But beating yourself up never creates positive action or results. Deep down, you know this to be true.
“So what” is a step toward forgiveness. “So what” is also a powerful step toward taking responsibility.
When you say, “So what,” you aren’t saying, “I don’t care.” In fact, when you say, “So what,” you care more than ever. Because you know that to move yourself forward, you need to let go of the meaning you have been making from your binge. “So what” is part of your recipe for positive momentum, and a way to pivot into something new.
Trust in love and compassion. Try it on and see if it fits. The only thing you have to lose is what is holding you back from loving yourself and your life.