At some point in your life, you may have found it necessary to self-soothe with food. And maybe, like me, you are ready to change that story. If so, it’s worth reading “Eating With Fierce Kindness” by Sasha Loring, M.Ed., LCSW. The book is all about changing eating behaviors through fierce kindness, self-compassion, mindfulness, loving-kindness meditation, and a technique called the RE-PAIR process for reducing emotional reactivity.
Sasha Loring defines “fierce kindness” as “the ability to strongly devote ourselves to changing thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that are ultimately not in our best interest, and doing so out of self-kindness, not self-judgment or criticism.”
Much like Green Mountain’s emphasis on self compassion, the author states that showing ourselves kindness is the first step to changing our body, our mind, & our behaviors around food. Research shows that negative self-talk, or as she likes to call it, “internal harassment,” keeps people stuck in old habits.
The author encourages us to use imagery to visualize our inner critics, our safe places, and our compassionate parts.
- My inner critic is a manager with a pencil behind the ear, and holds a clip board. He taps it from time to time trying to keep me on task.
- My safe place is the beach I visited while in Zanzibar.
- My compassionate part is seen as The Blue Fairy from a fantasy movie I saw long ago.
We’re invited to explore our safe places and to access our compassionate parts when the inner critic starts to bully. I do believe that stepping outside of these images helps me develop more objectivity to my inner dialogue.
But, the book really spends a lot of time focusing on the RE-PAIR process, a strategy to help you notice when feelings are triggered. It teaches you to acknowledge the story or message the emotions are telling you, and reduce the intensity that it may bring to you.
REcognize: Locate the emotions you are feeling using a body scan.
Perception: Hold on to the emotion to honor it, listen to its story, & practice breathing, before reacting.
Appreciate: Use loving-kindness mantras such as “May I Be Well” or “May I Hold My Pain in Compassion”.
Integrate these practices into your life.
Renew your commitment to honoring your emotions & stepping back from them, too.
For me, the most challenging part of the RE-PAIR strategy is being able to recognize your emotions within your body. Like most women who struggle with disordered eating, I want to be far away from my body, instead of connecting with it. I will go to great lengths to numb out any physical sensations connected with emotion, and I typically do so with food.
Luckily, you don’t have to sit with feelings for a long period of time. You can choose the amount of time you want to be with it. So, whether it’s for 3 minutes or 2 hours, you are in charge.
Last week I was struck by the intense urge to binge. I checked in with my hunger, and found no physical need to eat. However, something uncomfortable was rising to the surface. I decided to make this a game. I decided to ask how I might be feeling should I choose not to eat at this time. Initially, my inner critic told me that I would crumble into a million little pieces. It reminded me that I really did not have time to have a breakdown, and it might just be easier to eat a little something. But, my curious, compassionate part stepped in. It asked me to sit with the feeling and explore. I tried to hold this uncomfortable part in my heart and not be angry at it. This was hard, as I just wanted the uncomfortable part to go away so I could disconnect & numb out. Using compassion and curiosity, I was able to look at the situation with less judgment and really listen to the story these feelings had.
The story, like most, was a very old one, and did not really align with who I am today. Today I am a confident woman who is unique, smart and sassy. The storyline went back to a 13 year old, who was insecure, scared and socially anxious. I was able to understand the feeling of rejection, instead of going to food, my default coping mechanism. The rejection part didn’t fully go away, but it felt so good to acknowledge it, honor it, and then decide to set in free as best I could in that very moment.
Reducing the intensity of my feelings and choosing to take a break from them is the next step in my process to overcoming overeating.
I know I will continue to practice locating uncomfortable feelings in my body, honoring them, breathing, and then setting them free. With my Blue Fairy and Tanzanian Beach parts in my toolbox, I know it is possible.
If you’ve read “Eating with Fierce Kindness,” let me know what you thought!
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