I'm going to let you in on a secret:
Positive thinking often makes you feel worse, not better. When you feel bad, you're more likely to eat for comfort or distraction. That's how positive thinking can actually cause disordered eating to worsen.
Here’s an example of a true story (based on my grandmother Bette's life):
Just weeks after Bette's wedding to Roger, a drunk driver ran a red light and struck them in the crosswalk. Roger was killed instantly. Bette’s spine was broken. Doctors did not expect her to walk again.
Bette proved them wrong. She worked hard and walked out of the hospital on crutches. During the next weeks, well-meaning friends urged her to stay positive.
· You’re lucky to be alive
· Focus on your new life and don’t think about the past
· Focus on the good and not the bad
· Stay positive
A friend came over for coffee and exclaimed, “How wonderful to see you up and around. It’s a miracle!”
Bette ate a slice of coffee cake, then another. Finally she put down her fork and burst into tears. "It's no good," she wept. “I can't stop thinking about Roger."
“Look on the bright side,” said her friend. “It could have been worse. We could have lost you, too.”
Her friend urged her to "stay positive."
“I am positive,” Bette said. “Positive that I miss my husband.”
What’s this got to do with your relationship to food?
If you dismiss your true thoughts, emotions and reactions in favor of looking on the bright side, you are pushing away your truth. If something bad happens, there may be a silver lining, but the bad thing still happened.
Forget trying to "stay positive" when things are tough
The only way to get past the challenges and losses of life is to deal with the bad stuff. You can’t think it away, drop it, ignore it, or stuff it down.
Yep, the only way to get rid of bad feelings is to feel, express and process them.
Bette cried and raged and felt her grief. That’s how she was able to finally get past the pain and say, “I miss Roger. And I’m glad to be alive and walking, literally.”
Think realistically (not positively)
“I gained 20 pounds. But I shouldn't’t worry about such trivial things. People are starving in Africa so I have no right to be upset. I need to be more positive."
That's not helpful. Instead, think along the lines of this:
“I gained 20 pounds. I feel powerless and out of control. It’s really painful and upsetting when my clothes are tighter. I’m going to pay more attention to why I’m eating, to what’s eating “at” me, so that I can reverse this trend. But in the meantime, it sure is challenging.
Yes, people are starving in Africa but their pain does not minimize mine.”
Step One: Acknowledge your experience
Step Two: Validate your emotions
Step Three: Comfort yourself with words
When you acknowledge what you truly think and feel, even if it's painful or upsetting, you can deal with it and heal. But when you ignore it by "staying positive" it will continue to eat at you (yes, I used that expression purposefully).
Remember, you're not alone. Together we will make peace with food!
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Want even more support on your journey? I can help! Imagine feeling FREE of food cravings and being at peace, all without dieting (yes, it is possible)!
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