Mindfulness, Mantras & My Dirty Little Secret
If you know me, you know I am a very analytical thinker and my mind moves very fast. Under normal circumstances I can easily assess a situation and move from conclusion to execution very quickly. Once I make a decision I move on it and my mind begins working on the next task at hand and I don’t usually slow down enough to even recognize what I’ve decided, I just go on. This is for the most part works for me, but unfortunately it also easily enables me to develop a very bad habits (coping mechanisms actually) that I didn’t even realize I was doing. Because I think so fast and I’m a problem solver I ‘deal’ with stuff (stress) by executing my coping mechanisms and move on. Cuz I’m an adult, and stuff happens and we handle it. Or so that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
But if we are real with ourselves, anything we use to escape our pain that seems to work we can start to rely on it. And if it really works we maybe start to pull it out of our toolbox more often, like even when we are happy. Definitely when we are scared, but maybe even just a little nervous … meh, maybe just a little uncomfortable. And before we know it we now have a really, really, bad habit.
Put the fork down and back away from the table ...
The struggle is REAL
I think I realized I was stress eating about 6 or 7 years ago when I started to find myself walking across the street from my office to the 7-11 and buy chocolate after my monthly meeting with a very nasty supervisor who made it his lifes mission to publicly humiliate me on every conference call. He hated me, everyone knew it, no one knew why but there was no denying he was gunning for me every chance he got.
I would hang up the phone after that meeting and literally fly across the street, buy a snickers and inhale it in 3 bites before I reached the end of the parking lot. And honestly, I felt a lot better. And hey, what’s wrong with some chocolate once in awhile? “Need a snack? Have a Snickers” Right? No biggie.
Well, as you can imagine life did what it does and stress grew and instead of learning how to handle it I would wolf down something, anything, and I would feel better. Before you know it I needed something to chew on to help me think when I needed to noodle a problem. Had a bad day? Chocolate chip cookies - or brownies, I’m not picky, I’m good like that. Holidays a little stressful? Cranberry bread! Baking is LOVE people!
So I ate and soothed. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Over time I learned how to be present and eventually recognized that I was a closet emotional eater and was hiding it from everyone including myself. Mindfulness helped me to be aware of what I was doing when I was doing it, but with that came the shame and then the frustration that I couldn’t seem to stop it. This habit was so ingrained and it WORKED so stopping it was next to impossible. I hated that I was doing this. I was gaining weight and unhappy so being the fixer I am I cleaned up my diet, practiced mindful eating, I eliminated trigger foods and worked really hard to kick this dirty habit. Unfortunately at that time I didn’t realize I needed more to beat this than just eating the right foods.
Life began to get even harder as it does when you go through seasons of tremendous pain and pressure and all of a sudden I was stress eating every single day. I became depressed and ate some more and the cycle expanded like a perfect, destructive storm. I changed tactics and worked on self love and acceptance and tried to accept what was happening to my body as it grew but deep down I was so ashamed. And as most destructive habits do, this one was starting to become evident to everyone as I got bigger and bigger and I wasn’t able to keep that closet habit a secret any more.
And then one day it happened. The heavens parted and I was gifted understanding, pieces started to come together and all of a sudden I was empowered to put a stop to this shameful coping strategy. And I must, must, must share it with you!
Mantras with a Twist
I have been using mantras for years to rewrite thought patterns that I want to improve. Most of those mantras are Bible scriptures or positive statements like, “I can do this” when I feel fear rise up. But recently I heard someone use mantras a little differently and it this new technique combined with mindfulness has been life changing for me.
Instead of repeating a mantra that is just designed to change my perspective I am crafting mantras to change my behavior. For instance, when I feel stress rising and my body starts to move toward the kitchen in search of food for comfort, because I have developed awareness of what I’m doing I can catch myself before I get there and I say one of these mantras to myself first. Granted these work because I have made them for myself, they resonate with me on a deep emotional level. You can do the same by doing some reflection and creating ones that speak to you, but here are a few to get you started:
Don’t let what you want now, prevent you from what you really want
I recognize this pain I feel and I let it go (I envision it leaving my body) I am ok
I forgive ______ for hurting me, I release him/her I don’t need food to soothe me
I breathe out pain, I breathe in peace, eating is not the answer
Food is nourishment for my body, not a pain killer
This simple change in wording has been monumental in helping me stop the pattern of emotional eating that I came to rely on so heavily. I’m almost afraid that the simplicity of this will overshadow its power. The real key here is resonating with these words on an emotional level because it is emotion that drives the coping mechanism of eating to soothe. When I connect my heart to the words I can change my emotion from fear, pain etc. to control, strength, compassion and power.
Why is this important? Because I’m beyond pissed that I gave that ignorant supervisor so much power over me that I stooped to hurting my own body. I’m even more angry that I started using that pattern of behavior to let more and more people, and things do it too.
I started this post by saying, “if you know me” and if you do you know that I’m a lioness. I am incredibly strong in spirit and I don’t play nonsense. Yet somehow, one little man changed my life, and I let him. Just the thought of it and my spirit rises up and plants a firm NO right there. NO MORE. Yes there is pain, yes there is fear, but I don’t cower to it and I certainly don’t need food to soothe it away. NEITHER DO YOU.
I hope this post inspires you to use this technique to discover and stop emotional eating or any emotional coping mechanism you use to mask your pain. If you do, share with me and let me join you on your journey taking back your power as I do the same. For me this battle is won, it's over, it's just a matter of time before it's evident to everyone else but until then it's my exciting little secret each time I use it.