Ok, let’s be honest – we’re all a little masochistic at times when it comes to judging ourselves. When we’re going through challenging experiences, we often make them worse by piling judgment on top of an already painful situation. This can certainly be true when it comes to eating habits.
Whether it’s deprivation and calorie counting or binging and overeating, disordered eating habits are often coping mechanisms. There’s usually some sort of underlying emotional issue that we don’t know how to deal with – so we use food as a proxy. We count calories to feel like we’re in control, or to attain the “perfect” body so people will like us, for example. Or we may binge to try to fill deeper needs that have gone unmet. And then (here’s the kicker, folks), we feel ashamed about the way we eat. So not only are we feeling depressed, stressed, unloved, etc. – we’re berating ourselves for coping with those feelings the only way we know how. It’s like topping the crappiest cake ever with a layer of even shittier icing.
Over the long term, of course, it serves us better to find healthier ways to handle our challenges — which require us to face the deeper issues at play. But as long as you’re judging your own behavior — rather than accepting yourself — that will never happen. If you’re unprepared to, say, see a therapist, you shouldn’t beat yourself up for turning to food as a means of dealing with your internal drama. It will only add fuel to the fire and make it even harder to move forward. Here are three ways to avoid criticizing yourself about the way you eat:
Come as you are. To quote the timeless wisdom of Kurt Cobain. This is about starting (and accepting) where you are right now. When you binge, count calories, etc., consciously tell yourself that it’s ok, there’s nothing to feel bad about — it’s what you need right now and you’re doing the best you can. Yes, it’s a temporary fix, but you’re doing it because you’ve got some really complicated emotional stuff you’re trying to deal with — so it’s understandable and forgivable. By the way, forgiving yourself for your eating habits doesn’t mean you don’t want to change them — in fact, it means the opposite because you can’t change if you don’t forgive yourself first. So when you notice the negative self-talk, just ignore it — redirect your attention and tell yourself, oh well, whatever, nevermind.
Gold stars! Every time you binge or find yourself counting calories or avoiding meals, take a few minutes to do something nice for yourself — even if it’s only watching a silly video on YouTube. It may seem counterintuitive to “reward” yourself for behavior you want to change. But the deeper emotional issues that lead to disordered eating often stem from feelings of unworthiness. And those feelings are only intensified when we berate ourselves and jump down the rabbit hole of distorted thinking and self-criticism. So break the vicious cycle.
Listen to your needs. If you want to stop judging your eating habits (or anything you do or feel, for that matter), you need to start believing that you deserve better. You deserve acceptance from others and from yourself — and you shouldn’t have to apologize for taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling tired, it’s ok to turn down a dinner invitation — it doesn’t mean you’re an antisocial bitch. It means you’re learning to respect and love yourself — which is precisely what will help you grow and make positive changes in your life.