Did Halloween (candy) send you in a downward spiral?
Have you ever had one of those days where you told yourself “just one” homemade chocolate chip cookie wouldn’t matter? Yet it led to eating the leftover Halloween Reese’s Cups in the work kitchen to munching on pretzels all afternoon?
A client I’ll call Rebecca came to see me last week. She was in a slight panic that she was sliding backward on her progress. After taking Truce with Food, she’s been eating and exercising really well for about a year. While she hadn’t “reverted back to all my old bad habits, I am frantically eating while preparing dinner. Again.” She thought she was “over that.”
Here’s how I coached Rebecca to work through this habit.
To start, we flipped the metaphor from a downward spiral to a spiral staircase.
You have the choice to see “bad” habits as an opportunity to travel upward, seeing yourself and habits from a new angle that will more deeply reveal why you self-sabotage.
I asked Rebecca what changed in her life (note: not her plate) when this habit returned. She said the novel she’s been working on was well-received by an agent. In fact, the agent read several pages and wants to see more.
Let’s look deeper.
When we discussed the process involved in securing an agent and then publishing her writing for public consumption, Rebecca was excited and unsettled by the inherent vulnerability in each step of the potential process along the way. The agent might not like the entire novel. There would be criticism, albeit constructive, inherent to the writing process. If it does get published, what criticism will she receive from the public? Could she handle it? What will all this mean about her as a writer?
I helped Rebecca see she wasn’t regressing around her food habits. Rather, while walking up her spiral staircase, she tripped on a detail of one of her stories around her writing career.
Her psyche (and yours) is always trying to heal. Her “bad” habit was a symptom and a metaphor to ground her into feeling relief from the unsettling feelings in one of her dis-eased stories.
Rebecca and I discussed Tara Mohr’s Playing Big book, which reminds us that all women doing substantive work will receive criticism. And that the criticism tells us about the person providing feedback, not the work itself. We also got clear on why Rebecca chose to become a writer (she left a lucrative career to pursue her writing). Writing feeds her imagination. The meaning in the creative process fulfills her. She realized these reasons are independent of the outcomes along the way.
Connecting her eating to a personal story of hers now up for revision, Rebecca chose to consciously and courageously walk up her spiral staircase of wellness by working to embody a new story around her writing career.
Rather than any eating tweaks, we created rituals to proactively ground Rebecca. One ritual included adding a green smoothie and music to dinner preparation.
We also created a ritualistic boundary around her writing time. Rebecca is now ending her writing time 15 minutes early to be able to calmly walk to get her kids at school. Before she was always debating whether to work up to the last minute, should she drive, and the mental back and forth made her feel scattered.
Both these rituals create comfort and safety during such a transformational time, for both her career and her psyche.
If “bad” habits have suddenly returned to your life, look to what has emotionally changed for you. What rituals will enable you to not talk yourself out of your feelings but rather, witness them (that’s all your feelings crave)? Can you allow your feelings to have their moment? Like a good cleansing rain, they are making way for the sun to gloriously return.
A spiral staircase is the metaphor I use all the time for health and weight-loss. We never arrive at perfect health or eating. What is the best healthy next step will change. However, being willing to see things from new angles promises to take you to the views that are the most breathtaking.
To new angles, insights and awe,