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Thoughts on Dysfunctional Eating


It's that time of year again, when beautiful and tasty treats abound, and many of us struggle with our relationships to food and our bodies and minds. I'm not talking about disordered eating here (Medical disorders such as bulimia, compulsive overeating, and anorexia nervosa require medical help.) but just dysfunctional eating. The kind of eating where you have 5 cookies instead of 1 and leave the party feeling bloated, guilty, and maybe angry at yourself. The kind of eating which instead of promoting a relaxed and happy December, leaves you asking, "Why did I do that?"

The first step is to understand that your behaviors make sense. After overeating, we tend to label our behaviors or even ourselves as "bad" or feel like we need to "get control over" ourselves. This ignores the point that all our behaviors arise from valid needs. From a very young age, we learn what works to settle our anxiety, build our confidence, alleviate our boredom, or soothe our loneliness. If food or other behaviors work once, twice, and then again, we are likely to adopt these as long-term strategies for navigating our needs. But because food can't actually satiate some needs, we can end up distracted by cycles of overeating and guilt, and those cycles can get in the way of further developing our life skills of self-nourishment and self-respect.

This holiday season, you might try committing to a practice of mindful eating, moving from a place of love and respect for yourself. These 7 essential activities can help establish a balance between the cookies and the self-reproach:

1. Hydration. Drink enough water throughout the day.
2. Deep rest. Good quality sleep as well as a brain-resting yoga practice.
3. Nourishment. Maintaining balanced blood sugar and avoiding sugar rushes and crashes.
4. Get your heart rate up with cardiovascular exercise.
5. Connect with nature through all fives senses.
6. Participate in right-brain activities: mindful movement, creative pursuits, music.
7. Elimination of tension. Laughing and crying are good for you.

Developing these tools can help you find a freedom that moves you toward ease and radiance this holiday season.


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