“Shackles On, Shackles Off”
There can be nothing more powerful than the cycles you can get stuck in. The good intentions and efforts you first take to stop the painful experiences with food turn out to be the very behaviors that contribute to the same problem spinning round and round and getting worse. It is an exhausting and confusing circle of what seems to be good solutions, but ultimately takes you back to where you started. Yet, it’s the start that holds the key. As someone once said about breaking the vicious cycle of binge eating: “shackles on, shackles off!”
When you step back and really think about what scares you more when approaching food, is it losing control and binging, or it restricting yourself? Take a moment now to truly consider your answer. Which one scares you the most? Is it binging or restricting yourself?
I am going to bet that you chose binging as your response and for good reason. Losing control in a moments time and finding yourself in a whirlwind of overconsumption is beyond scary. It also leads to tremendous feelings of shame and guilt, as it always does. But, what if I were to tell you that you’ve had it the wrong way the entire time and that the opposite holds the key? You should actually be afraid of restriction and fear it. Giorgio Nardone, an expert in strategic therapy and in the treatment of eating disorders said so eloquently “fasting is dangerous” and you should “fear fasting.”
WHAT? You might be wondering why I would ever want you to “fear” something so strongly, but this is definitely for good reason. When you restrict you are ensuring with 100% certainty that you are going to binge. Although you focus on the shame and pain of the binge, the actions that are causing it are actually in the restriction. Restriction does not have to mean that you are starving yourself like someone who is struggling with Anorexia Nervosa is doing. It can mean so much more than an act of depriving yourself something you want to eat. In this sense, restriction can be an attitude towards something, such as eating outside 3 meals a day is unhealthy and will cause weight gain, or it can be a belief, like allowing something sweet will lead to taking down 3 Snicker bars. It can simply even be one negative thought about how much you ate for dinner the night before to trigger a reaction in you to abstain at your next meal. The message you send to yourself automatically (but unconsciously, most likely) might sound something like “I should eat this or I should not eat that.” The subtext of that message is always pull back with food and be very cautious with the very next thing you put in your mouth. Ask yourself at this point, do your thoughts about food and eating begin to decrease or intensify?
How does restriction serve you knowing all of this?