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The Things We Say: Diet Shame 101

I participate in some closed groups on social media, and it makes me sad to see people berate themselves because they feel like they are “failing”. They ate something they weren't "supposed" to eat.  They didn't follow through on an exercise plan. They didn't keep their promise or their word.  So the self-shaming begins....

  • You can't do anything right”
  • What is wrong with you?
  • You are never going to get this”
  • This isn’t going to work for you, nothing works for you”
  • You are an "f" up”, followed immediately by “you always have been” and/or “you always will be”

If you are anything like me, you have probably said this stuff or similar versions of it to yourself too.  It is heartbreaking.  

Take a minute and let me lead you through an exercise to better understand the impact I am talking about.  Think about a child, maybe one of your children or a niece or nephew.  Now hold the image of that child in your mind for a moment.  Let’s imagine this child is learning to read or write, or perhaps ride a bicycle or jump rope.  Sweet, innocent little face – trying to learn something new, venturing out, putting themselves out there.

Whatever it is, they are not going to do it perfectly the first time, and they will be frustrated but also excited and determined at the same time.

Now – I want you to imagine saying the following things to that frustrated, vulnerable little child.

  • “You can't do anything right”
  • “What is wrong with you?”
  • “You are never going to get this”
  • “This isn’t going to work for you, nothing works for you”
  • “You are an "f" up”, followed immediately by “you always have been” and/or “you always will be”

How does that feel?  How does it feel to speak those words to them while they are feeling vulnerable?  How do you perceive they feel while you are saying those things? 

 

Pause…..really take the time to feel those three perspectives of emotions.

It's a hard exercise. The thought of speaking that way to my son when he was learning something new makes me feel like crying even now.  

Yet haven't we said those words over ourselves while we were learning to change foods or implement new lifestyle habits? 

There are a couple of things in play here.  In the field of addiction and recovery, people generally think treatment measures fail because people go back to their old lifestyle of drinking and drugging.  However, the truth is that they are not ready to change. They are in what we call the contemplative phase; they’ve encountered some trouble - work, home, health, legal or financial - but they aren't fully convinced that complete change is required.  There’s enormous effort spent trying to figure out ways to stay in or near their old familiar lifestyle without the corresponding consequences.

Similarly, then… how can I eat cake, cookies, ice cream by the gallons and yet be healthy and be at the weight I want?

The reality is something has to change – you know this, of course.  The foods, the quantities, the time of day you are eating right now have you in your current dress size and present health status.  Perhaps you have been contemplative for a long time; perhaps you are ready to be fully convinced.

First... 

  • Forgive yourself for all those times you attempted to change but honestly weren't really ready yet.  
  • Forgive yourself for all the crazy, mean, restrictive things you put yourself through and then judged yourself harshly for not maintaining them.
  • Forgive yourself for all the things you didn't know, things like:
    • diets don't work
    • scales are the worst measure of health or weight loss success
    • alienating complete food groups is hard to sustain
  • Forgive yourself for all the weight you have lost and regained.
  • Forgive yourself for your current health status. 
  • Forgive yourself for all the things you have said to and about yourself, your food choices, your size, etc.  

Extend patience and grace to yourself.  Consider this a learning opportunity, an investigation into what’s possible when you are open, honest and willing with yourself.  

Some years ago, I was learning how to manage co-dependency and there was a teacher in my life at the time who would say, "isn't that interesting".  

No matter what drama I brought to her about my husband, his girlfriend, his lies, my current financial situation, my feelings about it all…her response was always, "isn't that interesting".  Let me just say I wanted to slap her.  I thought it was the most ridiculous response on the planet. 

Yet “isn't that interesting” has since become one of my favorite responses. 

If I made a poor-for-me food choice, I became curious about it as opposed to berating myself over it.   Curiosity and an honest inquiry allows me space to be open to a solution, rather than perpetuating the problem. 

Let me tell you a secret, all that beating ourselves up we have done only digs us further in the hole, it doesn't pull us out.   

I would also ask you to take a real assessment where you are in making habit changes.  Are you still in the contemplative stage, perhaps thinking you might want to change?  Are you experiencing some negative consequences due to lifestyle choices such as health, weight or other issues?  Be honest with yourself – are you still looking for ways to stay the same yet still achieve the success you desire? Be honest with yourself – not judgmental of yourself, just honest. 

What would need to happen for you to be willing to adopt a “whatever it takes” mindset?  I am always hesitant when I say “whatever it takes” in relation to food changes because to me it sounds like yet another rigid, pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps challenge. 

For me and for those in my group, “whatever it takes” means:

  • being willing to ask yourself better questions
  • releasing the need or the right to judge yourself or your choices
  • being open minded and willing to try new things which can include being uncomfortable at times
  • seeking out joy, pleasure, excitement, and adventure in places other than food. 

Today I would ask you to look at yourself in the mirror and say something sincere and kind.  Look yourself in the eye and find three things about yourself that you like, value, appreciate about yourself.  If you don't know what they are, ask a friend if they would share what they appreciate about you. 

Listen, this donkey didn't get in the ditch overnight, and he isn't getting out overnight.  This is about consistent shift, a millimeter at a time some days and that is okay!  

Okay, go have fun today!  Do something that brings you pleasure, makes you laugh and truly happy.  

 

 Tammy Marshall is a dynamic and passionate Speaker, Writer and Christ Follower, Tammy works diligently to provide tools for her clients to experience emotional freedom and end their suffering.

At age 14 Tammy knew she was to help others “get out” but didn’t know exactly what that meant. But after overcoming her own addictions at age 25 and walking out the journey of emotional eating, co-dependency, etc. she began to work with others to “get out”. Today not only does she understand what it is it to get out of a damaging lifestyle, belief system and mind set but has created a method to teach others. She is the creator of The UnEmotional Eater program.  She is a certified EFT and AAIT Practitioner utilizing leading edge technology to resolve suffering.  She is committed to shining the truth of God’s love into every lie planted in a person’s life to steal their identity and their joy.    

 

 

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