Preparing for change means that we gather the information about what’s going on for us. We look for the patterns of thinking and behaviors that then lead us to more insight into how our relationship with food and eating is out of balance. Maybe eating has become a coping mechanism to help us handle or avoid things that are bothering us. Maybe it’s just bad habits. Maybe it’s what we were taught as a child (like “clean the plate”) and we have guilt if we don’t do that behavior. There are so many possible reasons (other than hunger) that get people started eating! I remind both my psychotherapy clients and my nutrition counseling clients in my private practice on a regular basis that we are all just trying to manage our world around us and the feelings we have about it. In one of the Addictive Disorders Studies classes that I teach at Oxnard College, we talk about the 5 historical themes of drug use (and food can certainly impact our body like a drug). The first one is that human beings have a basic need to cope or manage their environment and to escape uncomfortable situations or feelings. That is human nature – period.
During preparation for change, we need to gather as much information as possible about ourselves and our world around us. Practice being mindful and present every time we approach food. Notice and jot down the automatic thoughts. Notice the common themes. When we can make sense of our choices or behaviors then we can understand how we are really trying to get through something or deal with something. People won’t make a different choice if they don’t think there is one or they don’t think it will work or it won’t meet the needs they have. Once a person can acknowledge the way their relationship with food is helping (or trying to help) them, then we can start to look at the cause – what do we think/feel/believe that we can’t handle any other way than to eat? It is important to lay a solid foundation for change by putting the time and energy into fully exploring the current relationship – whether that is a relationship with food or with people or places or things! One step at a time. Now is the time for preparation. Then we can look at what skills do we need to learn and practice so we can make a different choice.
Putting the Pieces Together (So We Make Sense of Ourselves, Others and Our World)
Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD
Couples Therapy Ventura, California
©2014 Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD