Oh, no . . . You suddenly realize that you are well on your way to eating more than you had intended. Maybe it's a meal that you've already eaten too much of, or perhaps an unexpected binge. How do you stop? It is not going to be easy, and that is certainly an understatement, but it is possible to find a way to put the brakes on. Use these five steps and discover your inner power to say "no" to food and "yes" to a happier, thinner life.
Step A. Wake Up!
People who use food to feel better often report overeating when they are in a time-out or food trance. This trance provides an escape from inner criticism, difficult emotions, or stressful life situations. The first step is to find some way to wake up from the trance. No matter how intense your food craving, or how much you have already eaten, you have to snap back to reality before anything else can happen. There is no one proven guaranteed way to bring your self back to conscious awareness. You will have to experiment with several different ways to grab your own attention. Below are some suggestions that may work to bring you back into the here and now:
o Walk to the nearest mirror, look yourself deep in the eyes, and say hello to yourself.
o Talk aloud to yourself. Call yourself by name and say, "wake up."
o Shake your head to clear out the cobwebs.
o Take a deep breathe and say to yourself, "I am okay now. I am fine now. I am in control now."
o Plant visual cues in your kitchen. For example, place a special blooming potted plant on your kitchen table. Looking at it might remind you of your potential to bloom and prosper.
o Tape your baby picture on your refrigerator. Look at how pure and happy you are. Decide that you want to feel happy and eating is not the way to get there.
List a few methods you can think of to bring yourself back to living in the present moment:
Step B. Listen to Your Thoughts
Now that you are awake, stop for ten seconds. Consciously notice the thoughts running through your head. Separate yourself from your thoughts. Just listen without judgment or without trying to stop or change your thoughts. Notice what your thoughts are saying. Are you worrying about the future or reliving the past? Are your thoughts critical and self-sabotaging? Are you thinking in black and white, or believing the worst always happens to you? Perhaps your thoughts are something like this:
o Look at what you've done now.
o Everything that you've worked for is now undone.
o It's going to take so much longer to lose weight now.
o Since you've eaten this much, no reason to stop now.
o What the heck, you've already failed.
o Might as well enjoy it now that you've given in.
o "It's useless. There is no point now in stopping.
Once you hear your thoughts, stop, and acknowledge them. Talk back to them with a non-confrontational style. Something along the lines of, "Yes, I hear what I am saying to myself." Just notice your thoughts without agreeing or arguing with them. You are not required to agree or disagree with them. Simply hear them as an observer. Take a moment and notice the feeling that goes along with the thoughts. Observe where in your body the feeling is, and see if you can identify your feelings or beliefs.
Step C. Breathe
Now, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose, allowing the breath to go deeply into your lower belly. Breathe out naturally. Feel yourself breathing. Allow the breath to enter the area of your body that is holding onto the feeling from the step above. Slowly release any tightness or constriction in your body. Let go. Breathe. Relax.
Step D. Compassion and Forgiveness
Talk compassionately to yourself. No matter what has happened or how much you have already eaten, begin speaking kindly to yourself. Yes, I can hear the protests already: "How can I talk nicely to myself when I've just blown it? I hate myself for what I've done." Beating yourself up will not improve your situation or create the overall success you want. Being critical only serves to maintain and reinforce status quo. One episode of overeating will not affect anything in the scheme of things. Choose criticism and you learn nothing, move nowhere. A lack of self-supporting self-talk will lead to negative emotions, decreased motivation, and will turn one episode into an ongoing event. Choose compassion for self and you move forward.
Even if you have already given in to the craving, now is the time to remember your dreams, relocate your desire, and be clear about your direction. Positive thoughts, even in the face of a setback or disappointment will reinforce your destination. It is up to you, and you alone, to make the choice to strengthen your goals and your determination.
Here are some examples:
o I forgive myself for what I have done.
o Now is the time to begin again. I do not need to wait until tomorrow.
o I haven't failed. The only failure is failing to learn something from this experience. What have I learned?
o I am back in control now. I can choose my response from this point forward.
List a few sentences or quotes that will begin to bring calmness and control back to you:
Step E. Success Tape
If you already know that you have regular episodes of cravings, overeating, or binge eating, you might consider putting a positive self-talk speech on tape. Buy a small, easy to carry digital tape recorder and prepare a self-motivation tape for yourself. The next time you are about to give in to your craving, you can pull out your recorder and hit the play button. You can even use your motivation tape if you are in the middle or the end of overeating. Below is a example of what your pre-recorded self-supporting message might sound like:
"Hello! I see that you woke up from the trance you were in. Congratulations. That's something new. Now that you are back in real time, notice what a good job you did of waking up when you did. You are really putting in the effort to learn these new skills. I am proud of your determination! Yes, I can see that you are disappointed in your actions. It's okay to feel disappointment. It's also okay to forgive yourself. So, close your eyes and listen closely. You are a wonderful person. Yes, you overate, and it's not the end of the world. In truth, it was just one meal. Everything is going to be okay. Remember your goal and remember how good it feels to know what you want. (Fill in your goal). You can do this. I have faith in you. I love you."
Food cravings are not only tough to resist, they are also a typical experience for most people attempting to lose weight. The good news is that by planning ahead you can take action when you need it most. Follow the five steps above and give yourself the tools for permanent weight loss success.