Let me tell you about Bonnie.
Bonnie has had a lifelong love/hate affair with sugar.
She loves eating sugar, and hates what it does to her body and her health.
Bonnie came to me wanting relief from what she called her “food addiction.”
For Bonnie, food was her “go to” thing. She’d go to food to cover up painful emotions, so she wouldn’t have to feel them – at least while she was eating. “Whenever I couldn’t find comfort, I’d find it in food,” she said.
She’d also go to food to celebrate – for special occasions and whenever she had company. This pattern started way back in childhood, when her mom would serve an abundance of food and sweets whenever company came over.
As a result, she gained a lot of weight.
Bonnie had done a lot to overcome her food addiction. She’d read books, gone for counselling, attended support groups – and while she made much progress and grew in many ways, food still tripped her up.
She joined a weight loss program, and was successful at losing weight, but now she felt “at constant war” within herself. There’s a part of her that says “it’s okay, go ahead and eat that, you deserve a treat” and another part says “no, you shouldn’t eat that, you know it’s not good for you and you’ll put on weight again.”
“If only I could stop that inner war,” she said, “I imagine that I’d have a lot more energy, and I’d feel light and joyful.”
Here’s What Bonnie Did to End the Inner War
When I started working with Bonnie, I taught her a simple technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), also known as tapping. When she first tapped while focusing on her sugar cravings, the cravings went away completely for 5 days. When the cravings returned, she tapped again – and again, the cravings went away for another 5 days.
Bonnie could have continued EFT tapping to manage her sugar cravings for the rest of her life, and it would probably be effective – but pretty darn tedious!
The thing is – it’s not about the food. It’s about what’s driving Bonnie to eat food and sugar in excess.
So we needed to address the underlying issues, the things that drove Bonnie to eat sugar. The “drivers” included unpleasant emotions, past events, and beliefs about herself.
First, Bonnie noticed that she turns to food, and especially sugar, when:
· she feels overly tired.
· her feelings have been hurt.
· she gets upset, angry, or anxious.
In addition, she discovered that she:
· believed she couldn’t stay away from sugar because she’s never been able to do so in the past.
· was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to create those “feel-good feelings” that she got when eating sugar and would have nothing else to dull her anxiety, fear, anger and hurt if she stopped eating sugar.
· was anxious about binging on sugar on her upcoming holiday at the “endless buffet of desserts.”
· believed that she was valuable only if she was taking care of someone else.
· felt guilty that she had been a working mom and not “there” for her children enough.
· felt guilty that she didn’t spend enough time taking care of her parents, felt that she couldn’t give them enough.
Here’s What Happened
One thing at a time, over a series of sessions together, Bonnie acknowledged all these emotions, past events and beliefs that were keeping her “going” to sugar and food, and released them from her body with my guidance, using EFT and other body-centered approaches.
· She’s finding other creative ways to “feel good” without eating sugar.
· She knows that she can use EFT tapping whenever she’s feeling tired, hurt, anxious, upset, or angry – to prevent a sugar binge.
· She is more discerning about when it’s appropriate to take care of others (when they’re very young, or sick, or in crisis) and when she can let go and allow others to run their own lives.
· She freely chooses to find healthy ways to offer support to others, instead of trying to fix their problems for them.
· She no longer feels guilty for being a “working mom.” She now sees that her children turned out okay, and she now believes her children when they say she’s a good mom.
· She no longer feels guilty for the amount of time taking care of her parents. She has more compassion for herself, and believes that she did the best she could for them at that time.
· She ate well and healthily on her vacation, with almost no cravings. The inner struggle, the raging “inner war” food, was gone!
Bonnie has come a long way in just a few months, and she’s well on her way to leaving her inner war with food a thing of the past.
The Lesson in This for All of Us
We don’t have to be sugar or food “addicts” to experience what Bonnie did. We have many ways of comforting ourselves to avoid feeling painful emotions – like overworking, keeping busy all the time, compulsive shopping, overspending, excessive “screen time” (watching TV, surfing the internet, playing computer games). Almost any activity can be an escape to dull the pain we don’t want to feel.
These activities in themselves are not harmful, but when done with an unconscious intention of avoiding pain, they have harmful consequences to ourselves and others, including: loss of closeness and quality in relationships, loss of health, fatigue, depression, and financial challenges.
When we become willing to face our pain head-on, fully acknowledge it to ourselves and to one other person, and learn how to release it effectively – change happens. We exit the pain-avoidance cycle and enter the realm of emotional freedom, which brings us more energy, more self-compassion, and much more ease and joy in living.