I am awake, but my eyes haven’t even open yet. Yesterday was bad. I messed up. Today - today is the day. Today I am going to be really good. I am not going to let what went down yesterday happen again. I am only going to eat this and do that.
Today I will be my best.
When there are days when you’ve felt like you were unable to control what you put in your mouth, it is not crazy to seek to counter that feeling of out-of-control with a strong sense of policing and management around food. The disconnect from a sense of control around food naturally sets the tone for desiring the opposite – total control. The discomfort that comes from feeling powerless seriously S-U-C-K-S.
However, there is some news, when it comes to this cycle:
The pattern between being the out-of-control-person with food and the highly-managed-and-regulated-person are merely opposite sides of the same coin. They have you stuck on the same shitty island!
It is incredibly easy, and for our culture, quite normal to go back and forth between these two obsessive behaviors. I say obsessive because both sides are filled with a strong preoccupation with food, the body, and the policing and management of both. The obsessive behavior merely goes back and forth from one side of the coin to the other.
Some may stay on the highly controlled side of the coin for certain periods of time, but for those with a susceptibility to being on the out-of-control side of the coin, the hardcore managed and policed side is often unsustainable.
[To note: When I say “managed and regulated,” I am by no means referring to all other eating-beings who don’t fall out-of-control. Many “normal eaters,” which we will get to in a second, don’t feel out-or-control AND simultaneously are not required to manage or police themselves around food.]
So - “normal eaters” aside, even if you could make your way to the highly-controlled and policed side of the coin and stay there, is complete preoccupation with food and body management disguised in a slightly different outfit still worth it? Yea, you might feel less guilt and shame (which I realize is huge), BUT the obsession and preoccupation with food and your body would not change, and the fear of continuing to eat the way you have been would likely shift to a fear of “falling off the wagon.”
Even if you change its outfit, fear is fear.
All this being said, the key is getting off the highly policed/out-of-control island. In other words, completely letting go of that two-sided coin and stepping into a new way of thinking - a new paradigm.
Instead, balanced and non-obsessive behaviors are the intention. This, however, is not black and white in the way that the out-of-control today and will be in control tomorrow coin is. This is where the “turtle wins the race” mentality comes into play. It takes more practice and a hell of a lot more work, self-compassion, and paradigm shifting, but it is worth it.
Okay. So how do we stop policing ourselves as a way to balance feeling out-of-control? Start with these few things:
1. Consider that "normal eaters” aren’t perfect with food either. I hate that term, but language is limited, so we're going with it. Normal eaters, or in other words, people that don't obsess to the point of food policing or compulsive behaviors around food sometimes overeat too. They have days when their cravings are stronger, when they have an extra serving or two, or when they also eat their sugar, simple carbs, and chips. They have days when when they eat unconsciously, and when they eat chow-mein out of the box two hours after breakfast.
Normal eating includes eating imperfectly! So you don’t need to feel out-of-control anytime you eat some “naughty.” And the answer to being occasionally “naughty” isn’t complete perfection.
2. Remember that the fucking island sucks! As you may know, the fantasy of being in control 100% of the time and eating perfectly is in fact a fantasy. And policing yourself sure isn’t the magical answer your out-of-control self has been waiting for. If it was, it would have already worked!!!
3. And most importantly, practice catching yourself thinking about tomorrow being “better,” or thinking about what you will or won’t eat based on what you did or did not eat. When these thoughts arise, pause, take a few breaths (seriously!), and remember (this is huge!): the idea of controlling what you eat based on what you already ate is a GIGANTIC part of the control/out-of-control cycle. It snowballs on itself. Grabbing for regulation in order to make up for something that already happened the hour, day, week, or even years prior is going to create the shit storm that keeps you going back and forth from one side of the coin to the other.
When "I'll be better tomorrow thoughts" arise, instead choose to practice listening to yourself and what you want when hunger arises; not what you should eat. The "should" creates the policing that pushes you into out-of-control.
You're not alone,
and you are loved.