Hope, Guilt, and Ending Overeating | TMOHP Episode 034

We really can’t talk about how to end overeating or break cycles of emotional eating without talking about guilt, self-blame, and hope. 

Is it safe or fair to hope that you really can change your eating?

Is it really all your fault that you haven’t “fixed” this by now? 

Is the self-blame you’re dragging around helping or making things worse? (Spoiler alert: you already know it’s causing problems.)

And honestly - can anyone ever truly understand enough to help you?

Should you trust someone to help - or should you just buckle down and “do the work” (even if you’re not sure what the work is)?

What I cover in this episode:

  • How guilt and self-blame create vicious cycles
  • How you may have been shamed or guilted by “experts” you hired to help you and how they may have given you a false map of the change process
  • How to escape vicious cycles caused by guilt and self-blame
  • How to get clearer on what will work for you

Featured on the show:

  • Your Missing Peace is my 16-week program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Go here to learn more.
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something that’s completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

Episode Transcript

One of the things that does not get talked about enough when it comes to what it takes to end overeating or emotional eating, or to make peace with food is hope. Deciding to try to stop overeating or emotional eating or deciding to create peace with food, to learn how to do that… This requires an investment, an investment of hope. Deciding to try to change- it requires allowing yourself to believe in the possibility of creating that change. It means taking action. It means risking trying. And for many people deciding to try to change your eating means the risk of failure or the risk of not succeeding one more time. And if you decide, if you make the decision to work with an expert, deciding to work with that expert, to make those changes also requires an incredible investment of hope. And also one of trust. 

Working to make changes, particularly when you're working to make changes with your eating, it requires allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Because when we're changing, we are stretching. When we're changing, we're stretching, we're growing outside of the boundaries of our current comfort zones. We're stretching, we're learning to do, and to think in ways that aren't our familiar, our comfortable, our habitual responses, we're learning how to do things differently. 

And we're probably going to feel uncomfortable and awkward at times, right? When we're trying on these new things is a vulnerable position. So working to make changes requires an investment of hope. And when you bring someone on board to help you, that requires that an investment of more hope, but also an investment of trust. And yet, if you have any kind of history with emotional eating and overeating and trying to make changes, you probably have some emotional baggage related to your past attempts to make changes. And some of that baggage that you're probably carrying probably includes feelings of guilt and feelings of self-doubt. And we need to talk about what contributes to these feelings and also how they might be holding you back from getting the results that you want to create now. 

So let's start by taking a giant virtual highlighter pen across your mental space and highlighting the fact that guilt and self blame are not helpful.

Guilt and self blame are not things that you earn. You should feel guilty, right? They're also not things that you deserve. You don't deserve the self blame. Guilt and self blame are not helpful. They are not things that you earn. They are not things that you deserve. And if you find yourself wanting to argue with me about that, about whether it's helpful and whether you deserve to feel guilt and self blame, then take this on board… In one place, at least in this argument, that's irrelevant because the truth is guilt and self blame take up all the space. They do not allow you to have room for growth. If you are stuck in feelings of guilt and self blame, when it comes to the way that you are eating your relationship with food, emotional eating that is happening. If you are stuck with these feelings in this place, they are taking all the oxygen in the room. There isn't room for you to grow and to change. Because guilt and self blame are a dead end. The jury has spoken. It has been decided. It is your fault. You did something wrong. You need to stop doing the things wrong, and then presto, it will all be fixed. 

If what you have been trying to do was going to work. It would have worked by now. Guilt and self blame keep women stuck in cycles with overeating and with trying to change their overeating by working harder, it's like a hamster wheel. Visualize a hamster wheel where you have this wheel that is taking you nowhere. It is guaranteed to take you nowhere. And if the message is simply try harder, work harder because it's all your fault you didn't get anywhere on this vicious cycle that you're on- then you're going to just spend way too much time burning yourself out and further eroding your hope and your belief in yourself by running faster and faster on the hamster wheel. Guilt and self blame are not helpful.

Here's another thing you do not deserve guilt or shame or blame. This is an artifact of diet mentality. Diet mentality is based on a standard of perfection that you are supposed to achieve. Diet mentality is based on a one size fits all approach that you are supposed to somehow make work for you. Diet mentality creates this idea that failure is your problem. That there is this set of steps out there that will only work if only you match yourself to these steps, you take the step, that if these steps aren't working for you, it has something to do with your willpower or your discipline or something that is wrong with you.  

Within diet mentality the idea is that any kind of failure is your problem. And it means that you just need to start over and hit it harder, again. It's another version of that hamster wheel that I was talking about. Now, there is another problem- it's a bigger problem, which is when you get somebody to help you. You decide to work with a specialist, you bring somebody on board to help you get where you want to go to get the results that you want to get in changing your relationship with food. When you hire an expert who is also tangled up in diet mentality, and this whole hamster wheel approach, things get even worse. This is not your fault. I cannot tell you how many clients that I have worked with, who bring to our work a history of working with other so-called experts who have left them feeling guilty and ashamed because the plan that the expert wanted them to follow didn't work for them.

There is a huge problem with people who call themselves experts in this field, shaming and guilty, their clients. Getting mad at you if you don't follow through on the steps that they want you to take. Judging you if you're not taking action. Blaming you if their plan didn't create results for you and telling you, “oh, well, if you had only tried harder,” or “you obviously didn't do it,” or “there must have been something inaccurate about the tracking that you were doing,” or “you must not have reported this honestly,” or “you must be doing something wrong.” 

Unfortunately, it is all too possible that in the past, you may have worked with somebody who was approaching change and the idea of your changing with a false map of what change looks like and how change works. Here is the truth- most change, especially when it comes to changing your eating and your relationship with food, most change is not this one shot deal. Where you learn about something and you just do it. Where someone gives you this food plan or this workout plan and you say, “oh, thank you” and you just implement it. And like magic, everything works. Or, where you just don't do it because there is something wrong with you. This is not how change works. Change is a process. The change process is messy. This is one of the reasons that the Missing Peace program follows you and provides you coaching over several months and why my private coaching programs start at a minimum length of six months. Change is messy, and there are stages of change. A lot of what we think of as that final result, a lot of change happens- think about it as like beneath the surface, beneath the water, like an iceberg, right? 

So to go back to that professional that maybe you have worked with in the past, who you went to get a food plan or to help you lose some weight or to help you stop your emotional eating. There are things that need to happen before you can follow a plan. And this is assuming that the plan they have is perfectly fitted already to you, to who you are, to your strengths, to your preferences. Often there are beliefs or behaviors or feelings that you need to work on before you're going to be able to follow that plan. Even if that plan is the plan that fits you. 

Here's another thing about change that doesn't fit in the diet mentality idea of here's a plan, make it work, or there's something wrong with you. Ambivalence. Feeling both ways at once wanting to do something and at the same time, not wanting to do it. Ambivalence is normal. You know, what's also normal, good days, bad days, high motivation days, low motivation days. Most importantly, and I'm going to talk in all caps here for a minute, but most importantly, there is no one plan that works for everyone. I don't care who this expert is. I don't care how many people this expert has helped. The only way to find your relationship with food is to be open and curious, to be willing, to learn about what works for you, what feels good for you, and also what doesn't work or fit. And also there is no perfect or perfect progress or perfection in a peaceful relationship with food. You do not get it right all the time, whatever right is. So unfortunately it is likely that you have been exposed to diet mentality, and also to experts or expert advice, or expert books that you have read, who have helped you believe that you should feel guilty, or you should doubt yourself, or you should have doubts about your ability to change. Because that's how diet mentality works or doesn't work, because it doesn't work, right?

You deserve better. Change is a process and you deserve an approach and if you choose, an expert who takes into account these complexities. So let's start there, take a deep breath and take another deep breath and then let in the possibility that the guilt and the self blame, and maybe even the shame that you might feel because you're still overeating or emotional eating. Take a deep breath and let in the possibility that this guilt and these feelings aren't helpful and they aren't necessary and you deserve better. And if you've had a bad experience working with somebody, I just want to say- as a client, it is not your job to make the coach or the counselor or the nutritionist that you hired feel good about themselves or good about their plan that they're offering you. If you have hired someone to help you, their job is to meet you where you are and their job is to help you discover what will work for you.

So take another deep breath and remind yourself that guilt is a dead end. It just leads to a lack of hope. And it just leads to feeling bad. Here is the way out of the guilt dead end- it's the way to escape the guilt trap. And the way out is asking “why?” You might start by asking a question like, “why am I still eating?” Now in this practice of asking why, I want to point out something really important, in this practice blaming yourself, giving yourself as the answer is not only not helpful, it is not allowed. So we're going to put that answer to the side. 

Why am I still eating? Ask yourself? Why didn't that plan that I tried last summer- why didn't it work? Why didn't working with that fitness pro get me the results that I wanted? Don't blame be curious. What do you know about why? How was it less than an ideal fit? Why did the habit that you were trying to St make stick? Why did it not stick? Why was it boring? Why did you not like it? Or what did you not like about what it was that you were trying to do. When and why did your motivation fade? Whatever you know about that thing that didn't work, that you were trying to do- ask yourself again, “why?” Why didn't it work? What was it about it? Why this question, “why?” gives us information. The question why helps you pinpoint the things that you need to know. The question “why?” can help you to start to build something better. Something that fits you, something that works for you. 

You can also use curiosity. And this why question, if you've had those kind of helping relationships that weren't really helpful that didn't work. Ask yourself, why wasn't it helpful? Get out of self blame and guilting yourself and ask yourself questions. Like why, what was missing? What did I want more of? What did I really want less of? What didn't I appreciate? What didn't work for me? What kind of help will feel more helpful? Asking questions, asking why kinds of questions curious questions helps you get clearer on what you really need and on what you really want. Asking questions helps you move away from oversimplifying things by blaming yourself and then getting stuck in a guilt trap that makes it harder to change. Asking questions gives you a clearer picture of what has happened in the past. And asking questions of yourself will give you the information you need to rebuild your hope. To grow your confidence, because you know more, you know yourself more, you can see what was missing, what you needed more of. You can start to build a map that fits you better. 

And as you ask these questions, and as you rebuild your hope and as you grow your confidence and your ability to discern what you need and what doesn't work for you; you're also going to get better at identifying the kind of professionals that can actually be helpful to you in the future. So before we end this episode, say it with me, guilt and self blame are at dead ends that just keep you stuck on the overeating hamster wheel. They take you nowhere and you absolutely deserve better. Not only do you deserve better, but removing the guilt and the self blame or substituting curiosity is absolutely the way that you end the vicious cycles and the way that you start to create real, meaningful, lasting peace with food.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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