As a food addict myself, I understand the knee-jerk reaction to reach for food when what you really need is to feed your soul. It’s when you use food to feed yourself in any way other than to satisfy a nutritional requirement that you go from “eating” food to “using” food. “Using” food can quickly become “abusing” food.
I had a conversation with a client that prompted me to focus this blog post on the importance of indulgence as you learn to control compulsive urges around food, and teach yourself to eat for nutrition rather than comfort.
One thing I know for sure is that we all want and need to indulge. After a long day of work or taking care of the needs of others, we feel like we deserve it. When stress levels are heightened or we face mounting problems, the desire to indulge is magnified.
Since what is happening in our external world is out of our control and stress and anxiety are going to be a part of our lives forever, my advice to my clients is the same advice I follow myself—indulge more to lose fat.
A big shift in my life occurred when I decided that I deserve to indulge, and rather than do so with self-destructive behaviors like binge-eating, I instead learned to indulge in ways that are good for my physical and mental health.
Rather than gorge on food to deal with stress, I’ll treat myself to talking to a friend on the phone. My old, destructive self would have binged on deep-dish pizza, thinking I was too busy to “waste time” chatting with friends during a busy week.
Instead of eating a pint of ice cream to soothe myself during a period of relentless work, I’ll let myself sleep an extra few hours when I have the opportunity. My former self would have felt guilty for sleeping 10 hours, thinking, “How dare I spend extra time in bed resting when I could be doing something productive!”
I observed that the more I indulged in time for meaningful relationships and self-care, the less I craved food.
The key is to understand that you need to be fed in different ways. Your body must be fed, and your soul also must be fed. When you sufficiently feed your soul the right way, the need to overfeed your body no longer exists.
My clients who isolate themselves from others, lack genuine connection with people, and have nothing to look forward to in life seem to struggle the most with food cravings and compulsive eating.
Fill your life with meaningful relationships and indulge in things like sleep, a massage, a long bath, time relaxing with a book or connecting with people you love. Enjoy activities that bring you comfort, joy, companionship, and happiness, and you will find that you won’t seek these things using food. You won’t need to fill yourself with empty calories to fill your soul.
The next time you have the urge to eat, ask yourself, “Am I hungry in my head (boredom, anxiety, etc.) my heart (loneliness, sadness, anger, depression, etc.), or my stomach (a genuine need to eat)?” When you’re hungry in your stomach, give your beautiful body healthy food that will provide your trillions of cells with nutrition. When you’re hungry in your head or your heart, satisfy your needs with something that will feed your soul, not your body. Learn to indulge more in constructive ways, and watch your urge to eat compulsively disappear.