One of my absolute favorite quotes by one of my absolute favorite women. This is a quote I come back to again and again in my personal life and with clients in my nutrition practice.
Life itself is the proper binge. – Julia Child
When it comes to struggles with food and eating, there’s a tendency to look to food as the culprit. But in reality, our complicated relationship with food often mirrors struggles in our personal life. Emotions, insecurities, and personal history are deeply entwined with eating behaviors. Someone who feels out of control or powerless in life may seek to exert control or power over their food or weight. Feelings of inadequacy or low self-worth may lead someone to restricting food or not engaging in self-care, deeming themselves unworthy of these basic needs.
Using the same lens, it can be a helpful metaphor to view binge eating as a way to physically satiate an emotional hunger. But of course, if food isn’t the problem, food isn’t necessarily the answer. In this case, it’s your soul that needs nourishment. With binge eating, you’re craving emotional satiety, not physical satiety. And when the emotional hunger is satisfied, there’s less of a need for food to fill the empty spot.
Do as Julia Child suggests – binge on life! Consume every moment until you’re bursting at the seams. Soak up every moment, taking in as much life as your body can physically handle. Figuratively speaking, suck the marrow out of life!
Here are four ways to binge on life:
1. Nurture a mindfulness practice
If you struggle with anxiety, a common dual diagnosis with eating disorders, you’ve likely spent more than a good chunk of time stressing about the future or rehashing the past.
Stop for a moment and observe your surroundings. Chances are the present moment is quite pleasant – you are comfortable, safe and all your basic needs are met. There may even be little bits of beauty around you – fresh flowers on your desk, a bright blue sky out the window, a beloved pet at your feet. When your thoughts are trapped in an imaginary future or wrapped up in a past you can’t change, you’re missing life in the present moment. Nurturing mindfulness with meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices allows you to actually live in the present.
Keep in mind, mindfulness is a practice, not something that gets turned on overnight.
When I first started to practice yoga and meditation, I was frustrated by my lack of progress after what felt like a long time and a lot of effort. I was a mindfulness failure, destined to a life of anxiety and distracting negative thoughts. That is, until one day when I was walking my dogs and suddenly spotted a beautiful white flower blooming in a neighbor’s yard. Next to it, I noticed a weathered brick walkway to their backyard, with little bits of fluffy moss popping up between the bricks. Then I looked up and saw the brightening morning sky, how the sun’s rays cast a warm golden glow over the clouds. I spent the rest of my walk noticing the little things I hadn’t seen in all the years I had walked the same route with a brain consumed by anxious thoughts and a lengthy to-do list. It was just a walk around the neighborhood, but in that moment, I felt full.
2. Do something that scares you
Last week, my sister-in-law celebrated her birthday by skydiving with a group of friends. As she described her emotions, going from heart pounding fear to exhilaration to joy and appreciation, I thought to myself “wow, that’s living!”
Of course, there’s no need to skydive or bungee jump or walk a tightrope across an active volcano to face your fears. Think about overcoming the fears you face in everyday life, the ones that hold you back from living life to it’s fullest. Something as simple as striking up a conversation with a stranger, mindfully savoring a fear food or allowing yourself to be vulnerable with someone you love and trust will build confidence and allow you to appreciate life in it’s fullest.
Fear is uncomfortable, but it’s also a powerful reminder that you’re alive and that living is a good thing. You’re scared because you have something to lose, and sometimes we need a reminder of that.
3. Connect with another human being
As a species, humans are social creatures. Early humans survived by banding together, cooperating, and forming communities. Social connection results in a flood of dopamine, a powerful reward and pleasure hormone. Literally, we are genetically hardwired to seek connection.
Having an eating disorder is isolating, especially when you’re trying to hide it. Even if you’re surrounded by others, you may feel completely alone in your pain.
Challenge yourself to connect on a deeper level with another human being. Put down your phone and turn off the distractions. Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Be genuine and empathetic. Share what you feel comfortable sharing. Recognize the pain and suffering that is part of our common humanity.
4. Feel the negative
Life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. So unfair, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic button that could shield us from ever feeling pain? What if we had complete control over life and could craft each day to be easy and carefree?
On the surface, this sounds tempting. Who wouldn’t want to live each day, happy and free of hurt? But our pain is there for a reason – without it, how could you truly appreciate and experience joy?
Without seeing the ugliness in life, how can you see its beauty?
No one likes to feel uncomfortable. The natural reaction to pain is to numb it – with food, self-harm, restriction or simply powering through and ignoring it. Let yourself feel the pain. Acknowledge the negative thoughts and feelings and let the pain sink in for a bit. This might mean crying. It might mean screaming into your pillow. It may even result in an angry journal entry or email. But once you let yourself feel the pain, it will pass.
In your attempt to make the most of each moment, don’t fall into the trap of creating an image of someone living their life to the fullest rather than actually living your life to the fullest. Bingeing on life isn’t about the “Instagram-able” moments. It means reveling in and soaking up the every day – the moments that can’t be captured with an iPhone and filter. It’s then that you will you finally feel full.
Image Source: Flickr