Over the past few weeks some people have been asking me specifically about the habit of over-eating and how to stop it. Some people end up making themselves sick afterwards. Others just feel awful.
I'm not an expert in this field. I have no experience in being an over-eater.
BUT there might be a few things I could say that may help, and I came across a specific over-eating counselling website today which has some free resources available. Links are at the bottom of this article.
1. Sit and write about it
Overeating can be a complex issue, and what to say about it can depend on the person. The first thing to explore is what overeating provides for you. Write honestly, knowing no one else will see your words, about how overeating helps you. What is good about it? You are probably thinking about what’s bad about it all the time, but beneath that we often have reasons and beliefs about what our habit is giving to us, how it is benefitting us in some way.
If you just write honestly, without judgement, from inside yourself and all of your uncomfortable feelings, you might start to find some revelations. People will say different things. One person for example could find that over-eating gives them a sense of pleasure. They could say it gives them comfort, or love, or a distraction from their life. Nourishment, perhaps.
Whatever you end up writing down, keep writing until you feel as if you are empty. Then review. When you read about what this habit (or any other habit) gives you, then it can become clear what you feel you are lacking.
If you feel it gives you pleasure, that means that there is little pleasure, and perhaps a background sense of pain in your life. If you feel as if it gives you some kind of energy, then it means you are losing or being drained of a lot of energy in other areas of your life. If it gives you love, then you feel unloved. If it gives you rest, then you feel strained throughout the day.
Once you see what you are trying to get from the habit, begin to look at how this can be addressed. If overeating gives you a distraction from painful thoughts, then what is required is that you no longer remain in a conflict with your mind. By looking through this website and any other material that resonates with you, you can begin to feel the background sense of peace which is there when you are no longer in conflict with the thought streams that flow through the mind.
Perhaps it gives you love. Love is felt to be inside of us when we no longer believe it is somewhere outside, in people or in things. Perhaps secretly something inside of you hates itself, and it wants to punish itself for something. The list of possible reasons could be endless, but the first step is uncovering them, and then seeing that usually what you feel as if you lack, is already inside of you, and is seen when the attention is not flooding out into the world to try to get it back.
2. Don’t take it to be who you are
Quickly an identity can be formed in the mind of "I am an over-eater." If you make an identity out of it, it will be harder to shake, because the identity will want to survive and avoid dissolution. When the urge to over-eat comes, when the energy surges and contracts, don’t assume it is who you are. It is an energy, one that may carry a strong sense of identity, but it is still an energy that comes and goes. It may have become stronger through repetition and habit, but when you no longer take it to be who you are, there is some space around it. You don’t summon it to come, it comes by itself, so is it really who you are?
3. Don't fight the urge
The urge to overeat, or the urge to engage in any harmful habit, is itself a painful and uncomfortable urge. We want to get rid of the urge, so to get rid of it we engage in the undesirable habit. Our engagement with the habit is not actually for the sake of doing it, it is to relieve ourselves of the urge, of the desire. This is all rooted in resistance.
Instead of fighting and resisting the uncomfortable urges, let them be there. You don't have to do anything about them. Just sit back and let them be there. Once you let them be, you don’t have to keep hold of them with your attention. Give them space to be, to do their own thing. They live off of your interest and resistance.
4. Notice the habit to beat yourself up
The cycle with many people is to engage in a habit, and then afterwards regret it and feel awful about it. I think that this feeling awful afterwards is part of what attracts the habit and starts it off in the first place. Sometimes we have an energy inside of us that loves to condemn itself, loves to feel bad and hate itself, and engaging in a particular habit is a justification to do just that. In the midst of the painful aftermath, the painful mental self-torture, detect if something is actually enjoying it, actually addicted to it. Does the painful aftermath serve you? Does it stop you from over-eating in the future? Probably not. It just creates pain for a while. Neutrally noticing how futile something is inside of us, means that it can drop off without us seven wanting it to, because it no longer has a value for us.
The cycle of resistance to yourself or your habits can go on forever. You can break the cycle by first accepting yourself and where you are. This can feel difficult, because we are trained to resist what we don’t like, and to focus on negatives so that they might go away. But all that does is enlarge what we don’t want. If you are fed up of resenting yourself, just experiment by seeing what it is like to accept yourself in every aspect, no longer resisting any aspect of yourself. This has the power to heal the darkness inside, and still leaves space for energy to flow into new areas. Acceptance is not a restrictor of energy or action. It is actually an opener for these things.
If anyone wants to go deeper with this or needs more help, you can comment below about how that little writing exercise went for you, what you found and what you discovered. Since the questions I've received have been quite general, this response is quite general. But if you want to add anything more, perhaps I could be more specific.
Check out this website I stumbled across today. I can not endorse the content as I have not used it other than browsing what it offers, but for some people it might be helpful. The social media pages certainly look helpful - Facebook and Instagram.