Cynthia Sass, M.P.H, R.D
Today a friend confessed that due to a major stressful situation she fell off the healthy eating wagon big time. It started with a drink, which led to some nibbling, which snowballed into a binge. After a lot of diligence since New Year’s day it was the first time in weeks she wasn’t “on track.”
As she asked for my advice she said, “I’m so ashamed of myself.” That, I replied, is a much bigger obstacle than the binge itself. In my experience shame has zero motivating power. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – shame generates more negativity, which can deflate self confidence and inflate self doubt. In all my years of counseling people for weight management I’ve never seen shame inspire someone or improve their chances of preventing another binge.
If you fall off track there’s a reason, and that reason is valid. In other words while you may not be happy that having a really horrible day led to a binge letting go of the shame and focusing your energy on the trigger is a much more effective strategy – one that feels self nurturing and can greatly improve your chances of success moving forward.
In my new book I talk about some of the typical emotional eating triggers – happiness, sadness, fear and anger. Most feelings are rooted in one of these four (e.g. feeling overwhelmed may be a form of fear, etc.) and once you understand what you were feeling and how to address your feelings in the future without turning to food you can break the cycle.
When I asked my friend what she was feeling that led to the drink (that led to ordering pizza and eating peanut butter straight from the jar) she said, “I was feeling so bad I just wanted to feel good.” That’s valid – there’s no shame in that! The solution is figuring out how to feel good without using a coping mechanism that interferes with your other goals (weight loss and health). Getting caught up in negative self talk and shame is completely counterproductive.
So if you find yourself in a slip up try not to go there. Ask yourself these questions:
1) What led to falling off track (what was I feeling? what was I seeking)?
2) The next time I feel that way what can I try instead that doesn’t involve eating?
Test it out. You may be amazed at what you discover!
Are you prone to shame or guilt when you aren’t “perfect?” Please share your thoughts!