I want to share with you something that came out of a client visit a few days ago. Obviously for confidentiality reasons I won’t share personal or detailed information about her case, but I do want to share how we made sense of what she was feeling at the time. I believe this chain of events is relevant to all of us in some degree so I hope you find it helpful.
Making sense of how you are feeling is the best way to know how to move forward. When you can identify what has lead you to feel ways you would rather not feel or behave in ways you would rather not behave, you can then work with the problem at it’s root rather than put a band-aid on the feeling or the behavior. Take a look at this chain:
1. Loss of connection with self, your intuitive signals and your needs leads to…
2. Poor body image, negative self-talk, comparisons to others, preoccupation with what others think about you, assumptions, judgments, isolation and feeling lost in the world leads to…
3. Emotional distress or worsening of mental illness (depression/anxiety/OCD, bipolar disorder, et) leads to…
4. Emotional eating/disordered eating/eating disorder behaviors – or however your emotional distress may manifest itself, disordered eating being what brings individuals to me. (side note – mental illness and emotional distress impact hunger and appetite, so this outcome is due to physical and emotional changes.)
As I said, while it’s easy to put a band-aid on any of the links in this chain, ultimately a loss of connection with yourself is the root cause. There is great power in staying connected - It is much easier to challenge negative thoughts about yourself or negative actions by others when you are connected to who you really are. It’s very likely that on any given day, situations may arise which tempt you to seek approval or answers from the world. The key to avoid this destructive chain of events is to seek safety by staying connected to yourself. I would encourage you to practice a keen awareness to when peaceful feelings leave and fearful feelings take their place. This is the tipping point. Allowing disconnection to happen is the first step down the pathway outlined. It’s much easier to make amends to yourself at this point then when you are at disordered eating behaviors. While you may believe that changing behaviors around food is only about changing behaviors around food, it’s actually about staying connected to yourself and your intuitive signals. Hence why I love Intuitive Eating and self-care plans. Any good self-care plan would have that as the ultimate goal – to keep you connected to you.
I would encourage you to identify what it feels like to feel connected to yourself. Write it down. Make a list. Keep it somewhere you can see it if that’s helpful for you. Words like peaceful, content, trusting, hopeful, faithful, loving, connecting to others…may help to get you started. Next, identify what it feels like to be disconnected to yourself. Again, write it down. Make a list. Keep it somewhere you can see it if that’s helpful for you. Words like fearful, distrusting, isolated, lacking confidence, anxious, depressed, negative, judgmental…may sound familiar.
Now, identify what regular practices keep you connected to yourself. For example;
- Setting an intention
- Repeating a mantra
- Positive affirmations
- Scripture study
- Deep breathing
- Avoiding diets or lists of food rules
- Embracing the principles of Intuitive Eating and practicing Mindful Eating
- Regular physical activity - moving your body in a way you enjoy that fosters connection and feeling able-bodied
In the world we live in, we have to fight to stay connected to ourselves. Make the conscious decision each day to stay connected. Because after all:
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD