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Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight

"The Food Cocoon"

There is a specific need that deserves specific attention. Sometimes, to meet this need, we use food. I don't mean just eating food, I mean wrapping yourself up in a food experience to insulate yourself from the world, or your family, or your problems, or something else. I call this the "food cocoon". To demonstrate this concept, I will tell a story from Carol's life:


Now in her early fifties, Carol is really making some changes. However, for DECADES she had been the main support for her very needy family. She had been the dependable one at work and often she was overloaded with responsibilities. Now, she is changing all that. No, it is not changing rapidly, but rather, it is changing gradually and comfortably, a little at a time.

Carol has added herself to the list of people who deserve her care and tending. Now, when there is a conflict of needs, she is likely to pay attention to what she needs as well as to what the other person needs.

Sometimes Carol feels on top of the world. It is so cool to watch this process. But, this is a process and as such, there are ups and downs. There are also times when Carol goes back to familiar exhausting patterns. Sometimes she is completely worn out. That is the time that I want to talk about here, the time when Carol can barely drag herself in the door at the end of an exhausting week.

On Fridays, Carol would gather up snacks and treats of food to take into her bedroom to watch TV. Her usually demanding and intrusive family had learned to leave her alone when she was in this kind of mood. At this one time, she was tired enough to let it all go. She used the food as an anesthetic. The food and TV would numb her mind and her feelings. She was in her "food cocoon". Nobody would bother her. No thoughts could survive the numbing neurotransmitters and the brain-sucking TV. She needed relief, and she got it.

The problem is that this relief had a very high price. The next morning, Carol felt as if she had a hangover. She had intestinal distress and even migraines at times. She felt awful about eating all that food that had no nutritional value, lots of unhealthy fats, and more food energy than her body ever needed. This was temporary relief and long-term misery. The food cocoon did not really work. The "food cocoon" was an illusion.

However, there was something REAL here. Carol's need for relief was real. That need was worth her attention. If she ignored her basic need for relief and just tried to use willpower to control her Friday night binges, she would be doomed to a wrestling match that would go on forever. When she paid attention to her need for relief, then she could work this out.

Are there other ways to get relief? One thing that came to my mind was the idea that Carol said, "my family knew better than to bother me when I was in this mood". Was her "food cocoon" the only time when Carol set firm boundaries and really let her family know that they MUST give her time and space to be alone? Could Carol get some relief by setting better boundaries with her family? As it turned out, that is exactly what did happen. Carol gave herself permission to chill out, have time alone, and enjoy her "constructive cocoon". Her belief that she had the right to this time alone helped her to be clear with her family and demand her own private time.

Once Carol had Friday evenings to herself (without the need to be anesthetized) there were other options available. Carol could do anything she wanted in her "constructive cocoon". What did she want? At the time that this manuscript is being written, Carol was in the middle of figuring that out. To begin with, she went back to her creative writing, began making special homemade papers with unique fibers and fragrances, and assembled artful bound books. Yes, she could do anything she wanted. And what a nice problem to have, tuning in and figuring out what she wants! It will be a blast to see what Carol comes up with next!


Think about your own life.

  • Do you use your own "food cocoon" as a refuge?
  • What needs of yours does your "food cocoon" meet?
  • What are some other ways you can meet those needs?

This is a much more constructive way to look at the "food cocoon". Don't try to control it. Put your energy into building a constructive cocoon that really does meet your needs!

This is a delightful problem to have!

Instead of focusing on how to control your food binges,
now you have the challenge of figuring out
what you really want, what you really need,
and how to give it to yourself.

Do you, like Carol, need to give yourself explicit permission to take time for yourself? When you give yourself explicit permission, your inner self will not need to steal away into a "food cocoon" as the only way to get away from obligations.

Or maybe you are not overextended. Maybe you have been stagnant and just can't get yourself to DO anything. It is almost like inertia has you stuck and you can't get out. You may be using your "food cocoon" as solace from the pain of your depression. When you just can't do anything, eating is at least an activity to break the boredom, without getting you into a real activity. It may help to think of an enjoyable, small, (really small), activity to do. The activity you think of must be enjoyable in order for you to find the motivation to do it. Also, it must be small, even tiny. Sometimes tiny steps are the only steps you are able to take. Value tiny steps. They matter. You matter.

Figure out what you really want,
what you really need,
and give it to yourself.

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