Can you write about over-eating? And I don’t mean eating disorders or people with actual medical issues, I mean people like me. People who eat as a way of coping with stress. I’m sitting here again at my desk today with a drawer full of unhealthy food and this really
has to stop before I start looking like the hippo my dragon mom is so worried about.
Tortured by Weight
You have my condolences on having the Dragon Mom. I’m sure she’ll whip you toward some material success but, as you note, she might kill your spirit in the process. You can’t manufacture kids to meet specifications, you can only cultivate their seeds in an effort to help them realize their potential. All else will carry the sort of tension that leads to one having a drawer full of candy.
Let’s start with your Mom. Over time she has implanted ideas in your head that you are not worthy as yourself and you must achieve certain physical or material or social status and then you will become worthwhile. But your Mom is crazy and she’s lying to you. She didn’t mean to be crazy or to lie but she absolutely is. But she’s doing it just as innocently as you are. She got taught to do it and now you’re learning it too, and if you’re not careful you’ll extend that to your potential children in the very same way, so I’m glad you wrote. Let’s stop this unhealthy manufacturing before it pollutes too much of the environment.
I’m not worried about your weight. If we get you mentally healthy your weight will become whatever is natural for you. If people outside of you want to judge that then the problem isn’t with your weight—their problem is their judgment. So forget about weight and focus on health. What’s important is that you’re experiencing stress. Your reaction is just a symptom. We don’t battle symptoms on this blog, we focus on root causes.
It’s highly likely that the sneaking of food (it is in a drawer, hidden after all) was also taught by your Mom or someone she influenced, like a sister. It doesn’t really matter what the specifics of the math is, but the formula is essentially the same: if your mom was made to be ashamed of her weight and to feel guilty about eating then she would hide her eating and in doing so she would subtly teach the behaviour to you. You likely hold the phone the same way as your Mom, you likely speak, walk and stand like her too. You’re likely to buy the same brands—or avoid them—for the very same reasons. So this action isn’t you, it’s what you were programmed to do.
Eating is done for nourishment and/or joy. You have the caloric and nutrient value on one side, and you have taste and social interaction on the other. So there’s nothing wrong with eating per se. It’s necessary, important and worthwhile. But you want to eat in a way that enriches your life and not in a way that detracts from your life.
What you essentially have is an addiction. Not to food, but to the act of eating. This is much more like smoking than you might realize. Nicotine isn’t why most smokers can’t quit. The chemical aspect is relatively short-lived, the problem is in their thinking. They have triggers that will cue them to smoke. Times of day, collections of co-workers or friends, locations etc. etc. Smoking is weaved into their lives and they feel odd and “wrong” if they’re not doing it. This “wrongness” is merely a reaction to a thought dead-ending. It’s an actual sensation. You can feel it, as though you have left something out. If you always drive with your seatbelt, it’s like when you go to a foreign country that doesn’t have them—you almost feel naked riding in a car without one after the habit is formed. We wouldn’t say I’m addicted to seat belts and we wouldn’t run out to find a seat belt dealer on some dark corner, but it’s really the same thing. I have something my brain is used to and if it’s not there it notes the absence and I interpret that notation as discomfort.
So it might be helpful to figure out what your triggers are. Work stress, maybe mirrors, maybe a slim co-worker, maybe even a phone call from your Mom. However you slice it, your brain is very selectively collecting information all day long, and something you collect incites you to eat. Maybe you and I walk down a hallway where you work and I notice the pattern of the tiles on the floor and you notice and analyze the weight of the girl walking in front of us and you use your thoughts to compare yourself (likely unfavourably) to her. Start paying more attention to your thinking and you’ll find your triggers. But you need to get into the habit of actually actively listening to the narratives that make up your ego.
Usually before someone can simply Be healthy they need to un-ego their ego by arguing it out of existence. This act is meditation. You see that you are not over-eating, you are free and you are choosing to eat out of a kind of mimicry and blind repetition. You need to recognize this freedom and slowly break the habit by doing otherwise. This can be done in a variety of ways—maybe your reaction to these motivating thoughts are always met with a debate. Maybe you substitute another behaviour like exercise. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as you’re breaking the unconscious pattern and challenging it, then you are rewiring the matrix in your brain that is this habit. You won’t be “getting healthy” though, you’ll just be “living differently.” The value judgments exist only in your consciousness—they are not things in and of themselves. Someone can eat creme pastries for every meal and die of heart disease at a young age, but if they enjoyed every minute of that then they got more joy out of life than most people do. There’s no right or wrong way to live, there’s just the way you choose and its consequences.
Can you see that you can’t sit there are try not to eat? Because that’s another way of thinking about eating, and that’s your actual problem. You have to change your thinking, not your eating habits. Otherwise you’re getting the cart before the horse. Simply put, you eat because you tell yourself to. You stop by telling yourself to do something else instead. Everything works that way. And yes, it really is that easy. The reason most people don’t try it is because they think the solution must be hard because they perceive that they have a big problem rather than a small thought issue.
I’m sorry your Mom got loaded with these crazy ideas and I’m sorry she downloaded them into you. I don’t even have to see you know you are divinely beautiful and worthwhile. You don’t need to achieve anything to be acceptable, you were acceptable when the universe deigned to collect a bunch of atomic-star-bits and assemble them into the energy-being that is you. Your existence alone is proof of your value. There is nothing you need from outside yourself, you just need to have a true sense of how miraculous it is that you exist at all. It’s a stunning gift that we all take so much for granted.
Eat because it tastes good. Exercise because it feels good. Enjoy other people’s company while you do both. But your thoughts about food and your thoughts about your value cannot be fixed by changing things in the outside world. Health is an internal issue. It’s a state of mind. And you don’t achieve it by wanting to be healthy because want is the core of the ego’s problem. You don’t become healthy, you realize health. You do that by refusing to think the thoughts of a person you are not. You are not the computer program your Mother programmed into your memory. You are the computer itself, and you can change your software whenever you become conscious that you are the hardware and not the software.
You are a flexing, changing, malleable, incredible being and yet you are talking as though you are some weak and fractured creature. This is a classic case of thinking small. Yeah, your Mom will still have her thoughts about how you look. But that’s her issue. She lives with those judgments. Let her have them. But don’t consume them yourself without checking to see how healthy they are. Because that’s about as helpful as a drawer full of candy.
peas. s 😉
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.