Today’s post is another from alum Lisa Ann Citarella. We were supposed to have her authorship up on the blog today, but somehow that fell through the cracks. But we’re letting you know to expect more from Lisa as she shares her experiences moving to a better place with her eating and herself.
This morning I threw away $32 worth of half-eaten binge food. Salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy—you know the kind. The food that makes you feel good while you’re eating it and guilty when you’re finished.
Now don’t get me wrong—when I have been desperate, I have created a binge out of vegetables and whole grain bread. There’s something about that certain type of food, however, that casts an awfully powerful spell.
I Realized What Had Triggered Last Night’s Binge
Last night, for example, I had no thoughts of bingeing when I entered the grocery store. I would say that I actually felt fairly confident, in a pretty good mood. One sight of the cookies on the sale rack, however, and the impulses were zooming down the familiar grooved pathways in my brain. I did not even know I was upset, but my brain was already conjuring ways to numb me. It was only several hours later, when I began to surface from the food haze, that I realized I had been emotionally running from a comment a friend had made about my weight earlier in the day.
There were many spots along the road to last night’s binge at which I could have made a different choice, short-circuiting my familiar behavior pattern. I could have
- thrown the food out once I got home.
- not bought it in the first place.
- knowing I was in a vulnerable state of mind, chosen to go grocery shopping on another day.
- addressed the situation with my friend, explaining that his comment was upsetting (arguably the most effective choice).
Any of the above-mentioned strategies would likely have worked to prevent me from bingeing last night. In order for me to make the choice to use one of them, however, I needed a crucial tool.
My Tool For Binge Eating Prevention: Mindfulness
It is a tool that I was introduced to at Green Mountain: Mindfulness. Mindfulness is another way of saying self-awareness. When you are engaging the world with a mindful attitude, you are fully present—not composing to-do lists or rehearsing conversations with a different person than the one with whom you are currently talking.
The core tenet of mindfulness is doing one activity at a time, completing engaging your thoughts on that task. Contrary to our Western mindset, people are generally more productive when working mindfully than when multi-tasking.
Had I been practicing mindfulness when I was in the grocery store, I would likely have noticed that I was headed down a familiar track to an unpleasant destination. This awareness would have created a hiccup in my thoughts; I could have made a different choice.
Being mindful is not solely a mental exercise, however.
On the contrary, practicing mindfulness creates a state of being embodied. To do this you’ll want to engage all your senses, including that voice of intuition or wise mind.
- Had I been doing so while I was speaking with my friend, I would have been aware of the way my stomach flipped after he mentioned my weight.
- If I was being mindful in the grocery store, I may have felt my pulse beating faster as I piled binge foods into my cart (or my cheeks flushing as I told the cashier about the non-existent birthday party for which I was buying treats).
- Had I been listening to my body once I started eating, I would have heard it say, “stop, I’m full!”
All of these were clues. Last night, I missed my body’s efforts to let me know something was wrong. I was too busy trying to drown out my emotions.
Like Waves, Emotions Are Fluid
At this point, you might ask, “assuming that I had heard all these cues, what was I supposed to do? Just sit there and feel upset?”
Well, to some extent, the answer is yes. Sitting with and accepting our emotions, just as they are, is another component of mindfulness. Going to Green Mountain was the first time I had allowed myself to do that. And, contrary to my fears, I was not swallowed by sadness. I did not drown in loneliness. I was not engulfed by pent-up anger.
What I discovered was emotions are fluid. When I gave them space to breathe, did not push them away or judge myself for feeling that way, they moved through me like waves. And after the wave crested, I was able to see the beauty of the ocean as a whole.
Finding Serenity In The Chaos Of Our Lives
Mindfulness is much easier to practice in the serenity of Green Mountain than in the chaos of our lives. When I remember to do so, however, it brings some of that serenity into the chaos. It was being mindful this morning, recognizing how awful my body and mind felt when emerging from my food coma, that gave me the motivation to throw away the leftover food and start again.
And it was when I looked at my Green Mountain binder that I remembered I do not have to wait until Monday to “be good” with my food. I can take one small step to care for myself today.
After all, “something is always better than nothing!”