Don’t do it. You do not need those cookies. They’re not even that good. [Eats cookies.]
Why did I just do that? What is the matter with me? Why do I always do this?
It does to me, because I did this for so long. Even now, I catch myself and have to stop and reframe what’s happening so I can make a good decision. And the fact that it’s now a decision and not an impulse is the critical point I want to make here.
There’s a big problem with going from fighting the urge to binge on cookies and then feeling like a loser when you do. And it’s not so much that you chip away at your confidence, even though that’s certainly true. The real problem is that you miss the opportunity to figure out what’s really going on, learn from it, and change it.
There’s a no-man’s land that happens between bingeing and judgment where real change can happen. But we don’t let it happen, because we go straight from eating to shaming ourselves.
You’ve heard it said plenty of times that you learn by making mistakes. I mean, don’t you drill this into your children? They come home from school with their paper all marked up, freaking out that they didn’t get 100%, and you patiently tell them “Making mistakes is how you learn.” (Side note: it’s insane to me that my third-grader gets a letter grade. There are 10 questions on her vocabulary quiz, and if she misses four she gets an F. Anyway.)
Sadly, we’re not this patient and wise with ourselves. But if you want to change your bingeing behaviors, you have to figure out what’s happening between trying not to do it and shaming yourself after you do.
I have a trick I use to help me be more aware, because awareness is the key to everything. It’s my 30-second rule, and here’s how it works.
When you’re about to mindlessly eat something or have an overwhelming urge to binge on something, wait 30 seconds. Then — and this is important — go ahead and eat it.
If you wait 30 seconds and spend that time trying to summon all your willpower not to eat it, you’re just going to feel bad about yourself when you give into the urge and do. And then label yourself a loser.
So wait 30 seconds, knowing that you’re giving yourself a pass to eat whatever it is you’re trying not to, and then pay attention to what happens. When you let go of the resistance that comes with trying not to do something, you can be present and aware.
Keep a notepad nearby, and write it all down. Notice what you’re thinking while you’re eating and right after. Write down how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally. Doing this helps you in two major ways:
1. It helps you change how you think. In the 30 seconds that you wait before you binge, you’ll be able to ask yourself questions like, “Do I really want this? Why do I? Is it because I’m [frustrated/sad/bored]?” and “How will it make me feel if I eat it?” Your answers will help you decide what to do.
Paying attention to what you’re thinking helps you change your behaviors. If you notice that you’re mindlessly shoving cookies in your mouth because you’re in a huge hurry and stressed out, you can start slowing down and taking your time, which will help you feel calm and present — and therefore less likely to binge.
2. It makes you feel in control. Taking even just a few seconds shows you that you’re in control of the situation. And feeling this way makes it so much more likely that you’ll be able to stop yourself from bingeing.
However, being in control also means that you may decide to allow yourself to binge. And interestingly enough, this actually decreases your desire to do so. That’s because bingeing is usually driven by a feeling of being powerless to change your circumstances. So when you take charge by pausing, even if it’s just for 30 seconds, you’ve put yourself in control. And you’ll probably decide that you don’t really need to eat anything.
By he way, it’s totally fine if you choose to eat the cookies — because making a conscious decision to do so is completely different from zoning out and feeling like you can’t stop yourself. And always remember this: it’s not what you eat, it’s the way that you eat it.
What foods to you tend to binge on, and when do you binge on them? How would waiting 30 seconds before you do change the whole scenario? Leave a comment and let me know.
You have to actively engage in a habit if you’re going to learn how to change it. You have to know what’s not working and why. Your ultimate goal is to learn to eat differently, not to never eat certain foods. And if you skip straight from doing to judging you will stay stuck.
Give yourself just 30 short seconds. You’ll not only change how you eat, but — more importantly — you’ll take control and change how you feel about yourself.