Overeating

Overeating is a complicated affair.

Personally, I find that it happens to me when things are really challenging in my life. Part of me believes that I need more food and that it will help soothe me or satisfy some craving I have.

But what occurs instead is that I gain weight, experience painful acid reflux, and have very poor-quality sleep. You’d think these results would be enough to prevent me from continuing to overeat.

They aren’t. They don’t.

Another part of me enters the picture. I think to myself, this has to be easy to resolve, I’ll just eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks and treats. Surely, this will make things better for me.

And perhaps this would be true if the part of me that wants to overeat wasn’t resistant. But it is.

There is a constant war of sorts between periods of control and excess.

I find it strange that while on vacation, I give myself permission to eat whatever and whenever I want. This of course leads to weight gain, but never as much as I would have anticipated, probably because my activity level is so high. So, maybe if I maintained this same level of activity after vacation it would be okay.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t work for me.

I ask myself, what’s really happening here?

I am struck immediately by one obvious answer. I am at peace on vacation. I don’t have hundreds of things I’m thinking about and feel the need to accomplish. I’m not emotional taxed on vacation.

This leads me to another observation and a more important set of questions.

What other reasons are contributing to my overeating? Are they emotionally based? Are they resolvable?

Am I hung up with my looks and how I see myself? Am I thinking about how others see me? Do I seek or need or want their approval? And if so, why?

To a degree overeating feels circular to me. There is a cause-and-effect riddle that faces me and asks to be addressed.

I’m tired of the game and want answers, so I decide to plunge in. I realize everyone’s situation is different and that you’ll want to substitute your own emotional clues, if mine don’t make sense to you. But it might prove helpful to read along and adjust where necessary.

For me, I believe overeating is emotionally based and arises inside me from different directions.

Judgements. The judgement process might begin with others, but over time I find that unless I’m very careful, I internalize others’ views and criticisms of me.

Comparisons. Whether initiated by others or ourselves, any form of comparison is damaging and unfair. We are all unique people and have our own paths to travel.

Ideals. Self-created or adopted from others, having specific ideals of exactly how we ‘should’ look, act or feel is extremely limiting and offers us no true way to feel good about ourselves.

Having considered these words, I am now more aware of their emotional impact on me and sense they are driving some of my emotional weight and desire to overeat.

If you give yourself a chance to sit and listen to your emotions, body, mind, and spirit, perhaps you’ll discover some reasons of your own.

In my next post I’d like to offer you one possible way to release any emotional weight you carry, whether from overeating or another source.

What If There Were No Mirrors

I was struck by this question recently. What if there were no mirrors?

I’m guessing that we could still see ourselves in other surfaces like water or shiny metal objects, but the essence of the question was more about not being able to see our reflection at all.

Some practical things popped into my head. It would be pretty hard to comb your hair, shave your face, put on makeup, or fish an eyelash out of your eye, if you couldn’t stare at your reflection.

Then there were some other considerations. You couldn’t check to see if your tie was straight, if your clothes were on just the way you wanted them to be or…well, you get the picture.

And as important as these things might be at times, there was something much deeper in the question.

What do we think when we see ourselves in the mirror?

If you chose to answer that question right now, what would you say? Would it be a physical description that you gave or something more meaningful?

Can you look at yourself in the mirror for any length of time, say two minutes or would that be too uncomfortable?

How much judgement jumps into your thoughts when you see yourself in the mirror? Too old, too young, too tired looking?

Do you hear others voices in your mind when you catch a glimpse of yourself? Voices you would prefer not to hear.

It seems doubtful to me that we are all comfortable staring at our reflections and that it’s reasonable to think we’d see something we’d like to change about our appearance.

So, what if there were no mirrors, would that change this dynamic? Would we be willing to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and be satisfied with how we ‘think’ we look?

The funny thing is, we can do that now.

We can ignore any of the critical thoughts and judgements we place upon ourselves and those that others pass along to us. It may not be easy to let go of these recurring patterns, but it is possible. Not only that, it’s also very beneficial.

I attended a workshop once where the presenter asked each of us to stare into a mirror, and while looking deeply into our eyes, say “I love you” to our reflection. When asked how we felt about this exercise, each of us reported that we felt very uncomfortable.

Why?

That’s an important and eye-opening question to attempt to answer. It’s entirely likely that our answers would vary, but perhaps one reason is because we’ve become so conditioned to accepting our faults and failings, which are often reinforced by others, that we don’t acknowledge our innate goodness.

Sometimes we may think that we have do everything perfectly in order to be loved, by others and by ourselves. It makes me wonder if looking at our reflection in the mirror brings this to mind.

So, let’s pretend for a minute that there are no more mirrors. You’ll have no direct way to see yourself except through your own inner reflection.

To me, that’s an intriguing thought. It shifts focus from outward appearances to inner ones. What do we value about ourselves? What kind or compassionate acts define us? Who do we intend to be in this world? Are we centered in love?

And it gives us an opportunity to decide what sort of reflection we want the world to see.

I’m going to try to remember this the next time I see myself in the mirror.

Lessons or Experiences

From the folks I’ve talked to, there seems to be a consensus that school is focused on learning specific lessons. The expectation appears to be that the student does not know anything, so must be taught by the teacher. Further, it is assumed that the teacher knows what would be valuable for the student to learn.

The closer you are to educational systems, the more you realize that it’s all about the curriculum chosen. There is no way that any one teacher or any one student could know all things, so choices must be made and priorities decided about what to focus on in the classroom.

Inevitably, certain events and facts get lost in the shuffle. And then, there is the tendency to slant important details to suit whoever is in charge.

A glaring case in point was demonstrated to me during one of Maureen’s and my vacations. We visited Vancouver, Canada (absolutely gorgeous, by the way) and were fascinated to discover an enormous mural depicting a series of skirmishes that resulted in Canada winning a major battle against the United States. We looked at each other and asked ourselves, “Didn’t our textbooks say that we won that? We could have sworn they were quite specific on that point.”

Hmmm?

Well, no matter. I mean, it happened so long ago. What difference does it really make?

Perhaps, if it were an isolated instance, it wouldn’t matter. But it has ramifications far beyond which side actually won, because it’s unclear if there is a definitive correct answer, so what level of trust can you put in any of your lessons?

Along with many others I know, I come across events in my life and one of my first reactions is to wonder if there is a ‘lesson’ in it for me.

In school we are taught to learn our lessons. If we fail to do that, we’re told, we’ll need to repeat the class, UNTIL we’ve learned our lesson. This is potent stuff, unless you like summer school.

One trip there was enough to cure me. Who would want, after a very long school year, to spend the hot summer in a stuffy classroom trying to relearn a subject you didn’t like in the first place? No one, that’s who.

Here’s the real rub for me.

This whole idea of having to learn our lessons gets carried over into the rest of our lives. When faced with dilemmas and problems that don’t feel resolvable to us, I often hear people say to one another, “well, I guess you’ve haven’t learned your lesson yet.”

Beyond this not being the least bit helpful, it perpetuated the idea that there is one correct answer, and clearly, we’ve missed it.

I’d like to offer an alternative thought for your consideration.

Suppose there are NO specific lessons for you to have to learn. And, of course, this means there are no lessons you have to repeat until you get them right.

What if life is just a series of experiences? Simple experiences, without right and wrong answers. Without implications or attached judgements? Would that change things for you?

When I shift away from ‘lessons’ and focus on ‘experiences’, it makes a powerful difference to me. I can let go of worrying about getting life ‘right’ and open to the treasure inside of each of the experiences I encounter.

I admit that sometimes I have to dig deeply to uncover the treasure, but I’ve found it is always there waiting for me.

Perhaps if you give this shift a chance, you’ll find all of the treasure you are searching for. I certainly hope so.

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Release From Self-Made Prisons

I was shocked to discover that the United States of America has over 2.12 million people in prison, the most of any nation on earth. This is even more astounding when you consider the US has a population of less than 24% of China or India, the two largest countries in the world.

This got me to thinking about prisons in general.

I admit, being sent to prison is one of my greatest irrational fears. The idea that I would not see all of those I love and have my freedom restricted for an extensive amount of time, is an intense and upsetting feeling. Knowing I haven’t done anything to deserve going to prison plays no part in this equation.

And yet, I wonder, am I not in a prison of my own making? Aren’t we all?

I listen to my own words and the words of others and what I often hear is self judgement and recrimination for actions we have taken or for actions we feel we should have taken.

What we tell ourselves can create some pretty high walls and some very strong doors. And the light that gets in may be too dim for us to see well.

The words we use to describe our lives are extremely important. They can provide us freedom or send us to our own internal prison.

According to the dictionary, prison is a place where inmates are confined and denied a variety of freedoms under some ruling authority. If a crime has been committed, the result may very well be incarceration in a prison with a loss of freedom until the sentence has been served.

But what about when we commit ourselves to a self-made prison?

When we deem our actions to be worthy of judgement, we may lock ourselves away, convinced we deserve to be isolated from the world.

Our mistakes might be minor or major, but they result in the same action, a prison sentence of our own making. We can be so hard on ourselves and may tend to focus on our infractions, rather than on their resolution.

So many things could be made ‘right’ by expressing sorrow for our actions and apologizing, then taking some action to make things better. When we fail to do this, we strengthen and extend our internal prison sentence. Our inaction holds us in place and our suffering continues.

There are ways out prison.

One is parole, where a prisoner receives an early release after agreeing to abide by certain conditions. And, the other way is a pardon, which is an act of being forgiven for an offense or error that has been committed. The proverbial ‘get out of jail free card’.

In both of these cases, it is the ruling authority which has granted the action of release, one with conditions, the other without.

What about us and our release from our own prisons? Can we open ourselves to the realization that we can be forgiven for our actions or inactions? Can we allow ourselves some latitude to live a free life, seeing our mistakes and yet letting ourselves off the hook? Can we find ways to make amends and clear the way forward?

How wonderful it would be to accept our own pardon and free up space inside of our self. Imagine what you could do if you released all of your guilt and shame and fear. What an enormous sense of freedom it would bring. Who knows what could be done with all of that beautiful open space? I hope you accept your own pardon and live a wonderful life.

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