Damaging Mindset #1
Not all food issues of disconnection become forms of eating indulgence – but they may become forms of food and eating obsession. There are those of you who follow your mindset of self-deprivation with a behavioural self-deprivation as well. For ladies who fit this description – instead of impulse eating, binge-eating, over-eating, mindless snacking etc. – you instead deny yourselves the comfort and enjoyment of food. This “sense” of deprivation feeds a need for a “feeling” of control. And you confuse the former with the latter. In other words, The emotional mindset behind this is that self-deprivation is subconsciously perceived by you as a way of ‘depriving’ pain and suffering – and if you are not careful this becomes how you try to control your life. This can become an obsession over behavioural control and at the extreme – this is how anorexia becomes a sense of control through physical deprivation, coupled with an immense fear or anxiety against body fat. Therefore not all food related issues of disconnecting from yourself lead to eating “indulgences.” Those of you who fit this category are also those to whom the whole idea of competing in the physique industry takes on an alluring appeal. – Especially since it is also based on control by rigid and regimented deprivation dieting.
Here's what to look out for: For ladies who respond to self-denial and emotional disconnection this way – you love rules. The first thing you want to know in a diet is what the restrictions are. You feed yourself emotionally not so much on what foods are allowed, but what foods are not allowed. In order to maintain your illusion of control you need to be told to cut out total food groups, avoid or give up this or that food etc. The more you can weigh and measure your own self-deprivation, the more control you “sense” you are exercising. But this is of course maladaptive behavior and an unhealthy mindset regarding food and food awareness. Eventually this mindset sabotages true and healthy emotional fitness - because the mindset behind it is based in fear and anxiety, which will always seek emotional relief.
And yet, in all of this - it is “feeling” that you really seek. And while this ‘denial and deprivation’ practice only deepens your food/eating issues; it replaces what is actually ‘out of control’ – with a faulty perception of ‘short term control.’ It is in fact a distortion of perception and perspective channelled and filtered via food. The connection to what is actual and real “feeling” is sacrificed for the mental realm’s sense of false control exercised through rigid rules around food and diet.
Eventually when you practice this form of ‘behavioural denial’ you will suffer for this form of self-disconnection. But the suffering just caters to and reinforces the self-destructive mindset. You convince yourself that suffering is honourable. Whole websites are built around this false-consciousness and false identity. People who adapt to this unhealthy mindset are told – and completely buy into the idea that “this is what champions do.” But this is NOT what champions do! Champions live in the realm of positive self-expression. They focus on what they want and who they are. They do not focus on what they cannot have and define themselves through that feeling of denial and deprivation. Suffering and sacrifice are qualitatively different emotional states.
Damaging Mindset #2
And as much as many of you may identify yourself in the above persona of the behavioural self-denial-ist and behavioural self-deprivation-ist – there is a sub group with food related issues who are behavioural indulgers instead. Whereas the self-denial person is overly vigilant about food rules and restrictions – you food indulgers are willing to let your guards down. Chances are high that more of you identify with this group. Instead of trying to always be “in control” like those who operate in the behavioural denial mindset – you behavioural-indulgers will merge with what you consider to be beyond your control or out of control - or you will rebel or numb away from any emotion that is just too intense (anxiety and boredom are common triggers.) If you identify with this type of mindset you don’t avoid social gatherings or parties. You show up but you respond to all the food cues around you by over-indulging in them. – Meaning you respond to the “cues” that is, not necessarily the food. This leads to a need for short term gratification of the intensity of the food-cue indulgence. So you end up eating indulgent food, if not right there at the social occasion then later on when you can do so in private. The intimacy of the privacy of eating, is also meeting a need for real emotional intimacy you also crave. If you identify with this type of mindset you know you tend to numb out the immediate emotional pressure of food rules – rather than to try to over-control them. Ladies with this mindset often eat in a frenzy. It’s like you think you will turn into a pumpkin at a certain time so you must eat fast and intensely while your mental/emotional guard is down. This represents the constant battle of the mental realm and its desire for ‘control’ with the emotional realm, and its desire of ‘want.’
What both above broad group categories are denying is the influence of perception of a need for “control” in your lives. Both groups are actually disconnected from your true inner self-control, both emotionally and conceptually. Therefore you try to “attach” to external forms of self-restraint – something you can measure yourselves against. And food is an easy object for that deflection.
However, in reality this does not have very much to do with “food.” It only plays itself out in food and diet regulation and then the absolute opposite of indulgence.
Lesson: So, the self-deniers “control” while the self-indulgers “numb.” And it’s possible to go through periods of being both types of emotionally disconnected personalities. These need not be mutually exclusive mindsets. But moving from one of these mindsets to the other is NOT ever progress. And this represents the absence of emotional fitness.
Even this short description of two common types of mindsets for food/eating issues can give you some solid ground to go on – where you can at least put yourself, identity-wise. And this is a good thing. The less “lost” you feel in this element of the inevitable question you ask yourself -> “why do I do this?” the greater is the likelihood that you can build strength and emotional fitness enough to then change and alter your faulty perception and perspectives. – The faulty perceptions and perspectives that are in fact fuelling your food or eating issues.
So the quick lesson here is one of attention.
When you want to discover who you really are, pay attention to how you act. Pay attention to what you do when things are going the way you want them to or expect them to. What are your emotions in these situations or circumstances? (e.g. calm, accepting, fluid, balanced etc) Furthermore, pay attention to what you value. Pay attention to how you spend your time and what you spend your time on. Ask yourself, “Do I take the time to pay attention?” - Because the word “pay” is used here in the very literal sense. These questions help you to find yourself. The goal is to become more self-aware of your perceptions and perspectives and how you are shaping them or allowing them to be shaped by outside forces. Then you will know and be more self-aware regarding paying attention to what and how you eat as well. Because these food/eating and weight issues are only an external reflection of your inner self-awareness issue to begin with.
Remember, all food/eating issues are awareness issues, not diet issues. You must discover whether you react to life, or whether you design your life. – and almost always anyone with food/eating issues is someone who ‘reacts’ to life, rather than being a person who self-‘enacts’ their life. (react vs. enact) You discover whether you seek to distract yourself or engage yourself. You discover if you seek escape or if you seek resistance by having your food issues. Most importantly you discover if you “feel” the world is better than you – and separate from you – or whether you are fully engaged in the world.
And then finally you will discover how your relationship with food reflects every single one of these things as well. You will know that your food/eating issues are mere reflections of inner issues taking on external form. Therefore you will also learn and know and truly absorb once and for all that the answer lies beyond body weight and body image. Answer the questions, “Where do I want to be?” But answer it separate from anything to do with food and body weight. Can you answer this question without mental or emotion reference to your food/eating issue or body image? The answer you write down will show you where you are at; and if the struggle has just become a comfortable place to live in your own mind, which in itself is a scary thought. Remember you can never truly be stuck if you are not really trying to get anywhere. Constantly asking yourself this question will mentally focus you away from the food issues and toward something more positive.
So, imagine a life free from these food/eating or body image issues and ask yourself where you want to be? That is the question to ask. The sad truth for some of you is that this question will be unchartered mental territory for you. And this shows you how enmeshed you are with your own food/eating and weight issues. As I always say - 'You don't have a food/eating or weight issue - you have a thinking and feeling issue about these things."
If any of the above resonates with you - I suggest you read my 3-book series: "Food Issues and You: Finally Facing Your Phantom Menace"