Is it hard for you to relax? Do you keep yourself busy doing ten things at once always thinking about your next project? For many people, one way to stay busy is bingeing on food.
Change your relationship with productivity
As Deepak Chopra once said, we're human beings, not human doings. Often, to change our relationship with food, we must change our relationship with productivity.
Miranda, a type A personality
Miranda, was always in a hurry. She had a lot of energy, mostly because she was highly caffeinated. She also considered herself the queen of multitasking. For Miranda, that meant putting on Netflix, sitting on the couch with her laptop, cell phone, magazines, and a big bowl of popcorn.
Miranda was obsessed with popcorn and always trying to find some low-calorie equivalent to movie popcorn. While Miranda watched TV, she also checked her email and social media, read magazines, and ate popcorn–all at the same time. She considered this “chilling out and doing nothing.”
Then Miranda started seeing John, an artist who was into yoga and meditation. Miranda had reservations, but she really decided to give meditation a try. John lit candles. They settled on pillows. John told Miranda to focus on her breath and repeat over, “I am calm. I am relaxed. I am happy.”
Meditating for the first time
Miranda closed her eyes. She thought to herself, “I am calm. I am relaxed….”
Her next thought was, “I am bored. This is boring. When's it going to be over?”
Instead of meditating, she thought about what she’d eaten that day and counted fat grams and calories. She thought about the difference between kettle corn and regular popcorn. She considered whether the fiber in popcorn made it healthy. Instead of releasing stress, Miranda meditated on popcorn, fat grams, and the calorie-burning possibilities of yoga.
She and John kept seeing each other, she kept on meditating. Usually, her thoughts were about dieting and losing weight. And then one day she didn't think about any of those things. She just let herself be let her mind finally relax and begin to wander.
Letting yourself be
That's when she started thinking about her father, who had abandoned the family when Miranda was six years old. Miranda hadn't let herself think too much about her dad. And as a result, she never processed that loss.
She always told herself she was better off without her father and that she didn't even remember him that well. Her stepdad was more like a dad.
Interestingly, Miranda's best memory of her father involved going to a retro movie screening of Willy Wonka and eating popcorn.
Miranda thought she liked eating popcorn when she watched movies or TV because a lot of people associate popcorn with movies and TV shows. It turned out that unbeknownst to her, it was also a way of feeling connected to the father she lost.
Avoiding hurt and anger
By focusing on her weight by being busy, she avoided the hurt and anger she felt about being abandoned by her father, feelings she never allowed herself to recognize. She had carried those emotions throughout her life, but they remained out of her awareness, under the surface, and staying busy helped her avoid them.
Only when Miranda stopped focusing on dieting and allowed herself to “be” did those thoughts and feelings become available to her.
Bingeing to distract from uncomfortable states of mind
When you're a human doing, you may focus on accomplishment, productivity and multitasking as a way of avoiding difficult emotions, the way Miranda did. Also, eating gives you something to do. Bingeing can function as an activity to distract from uncomfortable states of mind.
Our society over values productivity and accomplishment. And, if you grow up in a culture and a family that is primarily or solely interested in what you're doing, accomplishing and achieving, you learn to value yourself by being productive. Your accomplishments become the basis of your self-esteem. It may seem as if what you do is who you are.
Socrates once said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” What did Socrates mean by that? It means that staying busy keeps us from ourselves. Staying busy prevents us from appreciating connections with people. It keeps us from enjoying the quieter, reflective moments of life.
It means that if you don't take the time to smell the proverbial roses, your life will be empty and may feel meaningless.
Doing serves as a distraction from your emotions. Doing takes the form of working all the time, going online all the time, going to the gym, running errands, having the TV on all the time seeing friends every night of the week, thinking about what you need to do next, making lists thinking about calories, macros, and the number on the scale.
The state of “being”
On the other hand, the state of ‘being” puts you in touch with your emotions. Being means being comfortable by yourself, being okay with being alone, being able to be alone without feeling lonely, staying aware of thoughts and feelings, and being able to comfort and soothe yourself with words instead of food.
Remember how Miranda thought she was bored? Boredom is about wanting to do something. The way to alleviate boredom is to do something to do an activity and be active and productive. If that doesn't change your mood, or if you often feel unsettled when you're not doing something, then maybe you're not really bored.
What is an umbrella emotion?
Boredom is what's called an umbrella emotion. An umbrella emotion like boredom covers up other feelings such as anxiety, sadness, anger, feel, fear, guilt, and so on. Miranda thought she was bored, but she was actually anxious about being alone with herself and alone with her thoughts.
The key to change is allowing yourself to embrace your humanity instead of focusing on productivity. When you can be with yourself and process whatever emotions may come up, you won’t use food for comfort or distraction.
Keep in mind that the only way to get rid of feelings is to feel them. When you feel you will heal. Remember, also you are not what you do. Think about what kind of a person you are and what kind of a human being you are. Are you a loving person, an honest person? Are you kind, generous, loyal, understanding, compassionate, and helpful?
Being a human being is about enjoying the journey, not just the destination. When we focus on accomplishments and forget to enjoy the experience of living, we can easily become burnt out and binge for comfort, distraction or as a way to self-soothe.
Instead of always striving for more, take some time to appreciate what you have and live in the moment. What will you do today to enjoy your life and be a human being?
For more on how to create a kinder relationship with yourself and escape food obsession, so that you can truly live your best life, see my bestselling book, The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating. Available worldwide on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats.
If you’d like me to read it to you, the Audible version is available for only $11.99 or one credit if you’re a member.