I was a big kid. Really. I weighed almost as much in the 4th grade as I do now, and, well, I was shorter. (I’m traveling today or I’d post a picture).
Because of this, for most of my life I completely overanalyzed everything I put in my mouth. My mom just wanted the best for me, of course (as we tell ourselves as adults), so she thought it was important to say things like “are you sure you want to eat that?” every time I picked up a cookie. (Note, this “Are you sure you want to do that?” theme affected more than just my food decisions! Could never run a business with that as a pervasive thought.)
As an adult, I did fine at rationalizing her behavior, but I somehow couldn’t let go of her judgment in my mind. From the time I woke up until bed I was thinking about what I was (or wasn’t) going to eat that day.
When I finally learned about techniques for changing thought and behavior patterns, I decided to go to work on that. I hated the way food consumed me. So I went to work remembering WHAT HAPPENED.
In a workshop this weekend one of my participants asked me, “Can you really let go of the old tapes in your head?”
Yes. For good.
And I told her this story about how I released my old relationship with food.
Today, I don’t think about food unless I’m hungry. Some days I even forget to eat.
On the whole I don’t eat any better than before, maybe worse – I never read labels or deprive myself. I just eat semi-healthy, semi-whole food with some McFlurries mixed in. But the thoughts about food are gone. The constant evaluation in my head – gone.
So how did I make that change?
I remembered WHAT HAPPENED & I rewrote my story.
When I was 4-5 years old or so, we lived in an apartment above my grandparent’s garage. My mom was single and working, and I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She taught me how to “go visiting” to all the ladies on the street. Sometimes on my own I’d go visiting – 5 little grandmas all in a row, and they all wanted to give me treats and cookies. It was awesome. I pretended I hated it to my mother because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but I loved it.
Then, one day, when I was heading out “visiting,” my mom pinned a signed to my shirt, which said, “Please do not feed me.”
In that moment, all my power to choose went out the window. I also decided there must be REALLY something wrong with me that I needed a sign like the animals in the zoo!
That was the old story I was carrying around – liking food was shameful. Eating was wrong, or at least wrong for me. Other people were OK, but not me.
I carried that with me all through high school and college. In college I spent a year on a diet of essentially, licorice, potatoes with fake butter, and fat free turkey. (We didn’t know about carbs then).
But eventually I changed my story, and created another interpretation. It was challenging to imagine another interpretation for this event that didn’t involve, “There’s something wrong with me.” But I did it. (Read about the technique in this week’s newsletter here).
I thought up dozens of other interpretations for what happened until I was able to laugh at it. I shared my different stories with someone until they could also laugh at it, and then I could release it and move on. At a minimum, it became easy to laugh at the fact that I was allowing this stupid thing my mother did 25-30 years earlier to influence 80% of my thoughts! Now that is funny.
And with that, my habitual, obsessive thoughts about food were gone.
If you’ve got recurring, obsessive, critical thoughts, I encourage you to give my newsletter article a review and then rewrite your own WHAT HAPPENED story. Find a safe place and/or person with whom to share, and decide to work through it. You won’t be sorry!