“On the last day of my trip, I went down to the restaurant and got myself a healthy breakfast. And I felt great. I really do enjoy healthy food. Why didn’t I do this throughout my trip?” my client asked during our session.
What I helped my client see more clearly was that healthy breakfast was her choice. And when we are in choice, eating in alignment with our goals is easy.
However, throughout her grueling trip, even though she requested gluten-free to support her body, what came was rice and more rice. From our work, she’s clear vegetarian meals don’t work for her.
Now, she could have asked for chicken or salmon to balance out this meal for her. That was Option C, beyond don’t eat the food or just eat what’s there.
But, asking for more of what she needed triggered her story (because our stories aren’t about the food). Because our stories originated to protect us emotionally, we choose from three stress responses.
If you think of fight, flight or freeze from a physical protection standpoint, the emotional equivalent is compete, avoid or accommodate to manage psychological risk.
In her case, it was the avoid pattern of asking for what she needed. This self-protective internal dialogue said, “They’re trying to be helpful with the gluten-free. It’s just easier to eat what’s here. You don’t want to be high maintenance.”
In other words, she wanted to be the good girl. In avoiding, she only saw two choices in front of her, neither of them satisfying.
This lack of choice led to her needs not being met, she ate food that made her tired and hungrier. And then her story concluded, “Chuck it F@#$ it” because there would be some fantasy time when it would be easier to be healthy.
What our culture at large calls self-sabotage is actually self-protection from the risk of exposing our vulnerability. And our story manufactures a lot of faux vulnerability because our story was painfully true in the past. As a result, our inner protector wants to dot its I’s and cross its T’s. All your overthinking is really just you trying to anticipate every angle of risk.
The compete, avoid and accommodate patterns protected us brilliantly many times in our past. They also got us the belonging, recognition and ease we imagine weight loss will bring. So why reinvent the wheel?
Because now, these patterns create black-or-white thinking, which causes us to battle food, fight our bodies, and overcomplicate and exhaust ourselves when we step out of our comfort zones.
These patterns don’t allow us to see Option C: to get what we really want, for our health and life. If you’d like to learn more about your “default” protection mode when it comes to eating and stress, take my quiz here. Being able to name “I’m avoiding” or “I’m accommodating” enables us to see what we are unconsciously choosing and gives us a new choice in how to respond.
I’ll be back next week to give you the powerful elixir that helps break up these patterns on their own!