Freedom with Food

for healing difficulties with food…for transforming body concerns


Preparing for slips

When starting out on any long journey, it’s important to be ready for times when things don’t go according to plan. And the journey of making changes to eating patterns is no exception. There’s no doubt that if you are learning to reduce the bingeing in your life there will be times when you have a full-on binge; or if you are wanting to stop grazing, there will be days when you graze as much as you ever did. For many people the habitual response is something like: ‘I’ve blown it. I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to...’ whether this response is experienced in thoughts or expressed in giving up. Because of how our neural pathways are built, the pull to respond like this is stronger if you grew up around someone who 'modelled' this kind of response by using it themselves in what they did or said; and it gets stronger each time it is used.

Luckily, we also have a different kind of experience to draw on. When a baby is learning to walk, its first attempts always involve falling over. Instead of giving up at this point, it tries again, through trial and error gradually learning how to balance. A graph showing the baby’s progress wouldn’t look like a straight line to achievement but a zigzag one-- the same as a graph showing successful changes to eating patterns. Everyone who learned how to walk, learned not through avoiding setbacks but through treating them as learning experiences. And strengthening these neural pathways in your mind are likely to be key to achieving what you want now.

Take time to consider the following questions:

From what you know of yourself, in what way might things not go well with changes to your eating habits? How are you likely to respond internally, in what you think or feel? And externally, in what you do? In what ways is this response useful to you? In what ways is it not useful?

If you decide that this habitual reaction is not useful, how did you come to learn it? The answer might be: from watching others; or perhaps there was a way in which this reaction served you in the past; or perhaps there were important times in your life when there was no other option than to react like this.

What would be a helpful response these days? Is this a response you are already able to make in other areas of your life, for example, if things don’t go well at work? (If so, you can imagine yourself applying this reponse to food and see how that goes for you. If not, you can try imagining responding in a positive way to making a mistake in another area of your life first, and see how that goes for you.)

Take action
Write down a plan for how you will respond when things don’t go well with food, and be ready to use it. Your plan may include:

any emergency action
what you plan to say to yourself, and how you will respond to any habitual thought reactions that don’t serve you
what you plan to do, and how you will turn away from any habitual behaviour reactions that don’t serve you
anything else you need to remind yourself of at this time
the support you ask for from others