Believe it or not, the biggest mistake emotional eaters make has nothing to do with food–but it flavors everything.
The number one mistake people make when they are trying to gain control of emotional overeating is that they get mad at themselves and beat themselves up emotionally when things don’t go as planned, when they have a slip, or when they overeat. Self-critical judgment is a dead-end place.
You tell yourself you’re “wrong” or “bad” or “hopeless.” You “screwed up” and you’ll have to do better tomorrow.
Like children, adults don’t thrive with punishment and negative words. And, as much as the get-tough-boot camp mentality may appeal to you, with that kind of frustration with yourself, you aren’t likely to lose weight.
Think about it. How often is the moment that you decide you’ve “blown it again” the very same moment you decide to go ahead and finish the bag of chips or the cookie dough or whatever it was you just got mad at yourself for eating?
Judgment and self-blame are negative, closed, restrictive places. They do nothing to encourage creative problem solving, optimism, resourcefulness–the very things you need to move forward in your emotional eating journey. In fact, when you pile on the self-blame and the guilt, you’re more likely to want to go to bed and pull the covers up over your head than you are to want to keep moving forward.
You’ll see much better results if you trade in the self-blame and instead, get curious about your hidden hungers and the reasons you are overeating in the first place.
Curiosity is the opposite of judgment. It’s the tool of problem solvers and it is one of the most powerful tools you can learn to use in making peace with food. Curiosity provides the power to ask questions that will open doors and propel you forward in a journey to take the power back from food and diet.
Curiosity allows you to see options and opportunities and new solutions. It’s the avenue for learning how to “do it differently.”
It’s impossible to be curious and full of self-judgment at the same time.
It might be hard to imagine changing old habits of self-blame and that feeling that you “deserve” to be hard on yourself, but my clients are amazed at how powerful that shift feels when they learn how to make it–and how much momentum it provides.
Three ways to use curiosity to take control of emotional eating:
Next time you are struggling with your eating or your weight, try on the following questions. Work to suspend judgment and approach the questions and your answers with curiosity:
- What do I know about what made today (this afternoon, this week) so difficult for me? What contributed to my struggles?
- If today was a difficult day, how was it different from yesterday which was a little bit better? Is there anything I could learn from the difference that I might incorporate into my life or routine?
- What was going on for me before I overate? What could I have done instead of eating?
Learning to let go of self-blame and embrace a curious mindset is a process – one I cover in-depth in The Emotional Eating Rescue Plan for Smart, Busy Women. You can get started using curiosity to take control of overeating and emotional eating today by taking the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and learning more about why food has so much power in your life.