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  • 3 Ways to Handle Difficult Conversations for Overeaters

    Let's get you off that wheel

    A client recently had this common problem: She was expecting a difficult conversation with a difficult person. Anticipating the conversation, and the person’s behavior, was making her anxious.

    And anxiety - surprise! - was causing this client to eat out of control.

    This is a familiar cycle for all of us. It looks like this: 

    Unpleasant event (present or future) -> anxiety -> eating -> temporary relief -> painful physical effects -> shame / anxiety -> repeat, etc., repeat.

    To simplify even further, we could say there are basically three parts to this cycle, and thus three options for interrupting it. There are events, there are feelings, and there actions we take. Which result in more events, more feelings, and more actions. 

    (Some people call this cycle “karma.” I’ve been around that wheel myself perhaps 9,237 times. Ugh.)

    1. You can attempt to control the conversation (event) to control the anxiety (feeling) to control the overeating (behavior). This strategy has a success rate of about 0%, I would guess. Life is a series of uncontrollable events - many of them undesired.

    2. You can allow uncontrollable events - that’s called participating in shared reality, and it’s a smart approach. You can then attempt to control the feelings that follow. This too is kind of a losing proposition. Feelings can be ignored, squished, distorted, indulged, amplified, transmuted or simply experienced as they are - but they cannot really be controlled, because they can’t be prevented or extinguished.

    3. Or, you can take control of your eating. This is a solid strategy with a great chance of success. Events can’t be controlled. Feelings, contrary to belief, can’t be controlled. The real locus of control is our behavior. 

    You could have the worst conversation in the world. A cop could come to your door and tell you your kid was in an accident. Your husband could tell you over morning coffee that he’s moving to Australia - alone. Your landlady could call and say she’s sold your apartment and you need to be out in two weeks.

    Anything can happen, and you can still decide that donuts will not be your response to catastrophe. How do you do that? How do you simply change your behavior?

    That’s what we do here. We replace chaotic eating with a flexible-but-structured approachWe take control of our eating by dismantling the binge habit.

    What happens next is that we find better ways to work with unpleasant events and tricky emotions. In the absence of chaotic eating, better options appear as if by magic.

    Titelprent van het pamflet: Iamertiens Oft Aventuersche berouw Clacht gedaen aen den Ouwe trouwe Geus, 1619, anonymous, 1619, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

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