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> Back to Healthy Eating Excerpts List

Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight

To Eat or Not to Eat, That is NOT the Question!

What if your nutrition has been fine? You did eat when you were hungry. You did eat healthy foods. But still, you find yourself in a wild search for "something". You find yourself obsessed with the question: "Do I want salt or sweet?" You want to eat. You feel driven to eat something. But, you know you're not really hungry. You know you ate your nutritious foods today. The old restrictive eating thoughts creep in. "I really should not eat any more." You descend into a war of willpower over cravings. You get caught up in the next question: "To eat, or not to eat?" It feels like that is the central conflict of your evening. Heck, when it is happening it feels like the central conflict of your LIFE. What is going on here?

Now, that is a good question! What is going on here? THAT is the question. How do you find the answer? It is different for everybody. It is different for the same person at various times. You need some tools to help you answer this question. When you are in the middle of a food craving, what is going on? When you're not hungry, and you're already nourished with food, there must be some other reason you are embroiled in the question: "to eat, or not to eat?" Focusing on that question may be your learned coping skill. It is a familiar, and ineffective, way to cope. You need some other ways to discover and cope with the real issue, which probably has nothing to do with eating.

Possible Tools (use the ones that seem right for you):

  • Talk to somebody. Even if it is yourself, talk to somebody. Out loud. It is important that you talk out loud so that you will finish your sentences. You see, when we think things through, we tend to jump from thought to thought without coming to the end of each thought. It is as if we assume we know the end of the thought and there is no need to finish it. When you talk out loud and hear what you have to say, you may be surprised at the end of your sentences. You may find some emotional drama going on inside of you. You may find some reasons for how you feel and what you do. Then you can take action to address what is really going on. (It is probably not about the food at all.)


Yes, I do mean ET, the little alien in the movie. ET saved Nancy's life. She was in an unbearable situation. She had no way out. She had no one to talk to. There was no friend who could possibly understand, no family available, no access to a therapist. Nancy was in a deep situational depression and she could not get out of the situation. A poster of ET was on her wall. She talked to him. She told him stories, feelings, ideas. He was there for her. She used these verbalizations to keep her head above water. She did not acknowledge to herself that she was feeling suicidal. She just wanted to be gone, to disappear. But she did not make plans to act on those thoughts. I truly believe that talking to ET was a major reason she held on until the situation did change.

Nancy eventually came to understand the situations in her life that caused the depression. Now, she knows herself amazingly well. She still gets depressed sometimes. I suspect she still talks to ET. And she keeps solving problems, one by one, so that she can build a life without unbearable situations. She is building a life that meets her needs.

  • Write. Sit in a peaceful place, get out your paper and pen, and just ramble. I suggest bulleted phrases. You can get your thoughts out fast and furiously. Let 'em roll out of your head and onto the paper. Don't scrutinize. Don't assess. Just ramble. This type of free association may lead you to some amazing awareness of your emotions or thoughts that could surprise you. It may lead you to some reason you are standing in front of the pantry concentrating on food. It probably will have little to do with food.
  • Try "just colors". If you don't like talking, and you don't like writing, you still need a tool to understand yourself. Often, I have worked with clients who feel uncomfortable with both talking and writing. I learned this technique from an ingenious woman who was seeking a way to express herself without talking or writing. She kept a notebook. It was not filled with paragraphs or bulleted points. Instead it was filled with art paper (the kind that holds up to water color paints.) She did write a brief topic line at the top of each page: "Friday, when I got home from parent-teacher night", "Saturday evening, early", "after gardening", etc. Then on the page were just colors. Whatever colors (or no colors, she often painted shades of gray) she wanted to paint. The colors swirled in wet melted puddles, or jabbed in jagged dry strokes, or dotted in crowds or alone. It was amazing. This notebook was a tool for understanding what she could not say or write. It was a tool for understanding herself. We did end up talking about the feelings, events, and ideas expressed on the pages. But it was just colors that opened the door. You can open the door to your understanding any way that you want. You deserve to be understood and tended, especially by you.

When it seems like the question is:
"to eat, or not to eat",
take a moment to ask a different question.
Ask: "What's going on here?"

Give yourself some time and use whatever tools work for you. Peek inside of yourself. Try to understand how you are feeling right now. Can you tell what triggered this feeling? How can you cope with that trigger? What do you need?

There are lots of questions. These questions are so much more effective than the old question about eating. Ask yourself questions that will help you fix your life. Do what you can to solve the problems that those questions uncover. Try to focus on your life, not your food. What about those times when, even after you have tended your emotions, you still want to eat?

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