The Comparison Trap and Food Cravings

How many times have I looked at another woman, or another website, or another person’s home and compared myself to them?

comparing-ourselves-to-othesHow often do I look at others to see how I measure up?

The unfortunate thing is that, if I’m doing this, it’s mostly when I’m in a funk already. I’m doubting something about myself, whether its my body, business, home, friends, or lifestyle. So I look outward to the world for validation–but naturally, what I’m REALLY doing is trying to prove that I’m right that I’m not measuring up.

Of course, I can always find evidence that I’m not as beautiful, successful, affluent, creative, etc.

When I’m on this path, it’s a journey straight into a rabbit hole. 

Once I look for evidence that I don’t measure up, then my ego gets the satisfaction of being right and I can comfortably do what I have always done: beat myself up, feel frumpy and inadequate, get depleted and/or give up.

Then I get to continue the pattern that keeps me playing the same old game in my life, which keeps my habits in place and my behaviors safe and comfortable.

My ego gets to win by being right, and I get the grand prize of feeling lousy, uninspired and stuck.

Guess how much I want to take care of myself when I’m feeling lousy, uninspired and stuck?

Am I really going to be motivated to seek out the best quality food I can find, savor and delight in it and eat what feels like “enough”? Or am I going to go for my usual evening overindulgence, eat until way past “comfortable”, feel bad about myself and go to bed knowing that once again I ate like a vacuum and have no hope for changing my relationship with food?

A Recent Example

I noticed this pattern recently when I was traveling and visiting a friend. In a new city, I was delighted and excited to see new shops, people and art as well as spend time with my girlfriend.

I had arrived feeling great about myself, how far I’d come compared to a couple years ago when my energy and attention was monopolized by thoughts of food or binging when no one was around to see how much I was eating.

But as the days passed, my feelings shifted. I was noticing the way other women I saw on the streets dressed, trying on clothes when shopping with my girlfriend and not liking my appearance, and comparing how I approached eating to my girlfriend and her husband.

I didn’t realize that was happening until I returned home and noticed how compelled I was to say “hell with it” and eat foods that I had weened myself from. For two days, I ate more than usual and avoided looking in the mirror. I surfed social media sites for hours, I didn’t feel compelled to make art or call friends or go out hiking.

I know myself well enough now to get that if I’m being persnickety or gossipy, or if I’m feeling rebellious towards the rituals I’ve created that inspire me…something’s up. What I hadn’t connected was how much the comparison trap was keeping my focus on things outside of myself, causing me to be distracted and disconnected.

When old urges to eat junk or eat way more than I intended came up, I didn’t want to resist and do the things I new to do to stay present and let them pass. I was in “screw it” mode.

Catching Ourselves

Had I not been working so hard to help other people overcome their own urges, I may not have caught myself as quickly. But my gut (pun intended) was telling me something was off, because I’d left for the trip in a great space and came back critical and rebellious.

Sometimes it’s obvious what’s driving your compulsions to overeat, but sometimes you really have to zoom out to find the source.

And it can seem completely unrelated until you find it. It may take some time to find it, and it may take talking about it with someone you trust or writing down a list of stuff that’s been bugging you and when it started.

In my book, Binge Eating Breakthrough, I talk about how to handle the urges when they come so you can overcome the cravings to binge or overeat. It’s been my go-to strategy to break through my habits. But the next step is figuring out what triggers your animal brain to cause those darned urges.

If you’ve already read tons of books, tried various diets or regimens and understand the basics of psychology and motivation…but you’re STILL are finding it hard to eat the way you want to…

It may be in your blind spot. It might be an invisible script that runs in your head that you tell yourself, and you may not even know why you started telling yourself that.

It may be that argument you had 8 months ago with your friend that caused a rift in the relationship, brought distance between you and created a wave of negative emotions.

It may be the way your partner isn’t responding to your flirtations or desires to make love the way they used to.

There’s good news and bad news here.

Bad news first: the bad news is that the urges to binge or overeat regularly don’t necessarily go away forever. They will show up less frequently, but they’ll still pop up.

Good news: the good news is that you can develop skills to be able to notice when it happens, know how to manage the urges and then look at what’s going on to resolve the problem at the source. And you’ll get better and faster at doing this.

This time for me was a couple days of feeling frumpy and critical and noticing my eating behaviors to catch it and nip it in the bud.

How you can” nip it in the bud” depends on what’s going on for you and what works for you to get leverage on yourself.

What do you think, off the top of your head, triggers you to feel self-critical?

If you want to learn how to break through your habit of overeating or binge eating, my Binge Eating Breakthrough ebook is for you. You'll learn powerful tools and distinctions to be able to understand and overcome your urges to eat more than you want. You'll also learn step-by-step strategies for managing your cravings and feeling control with food.

If you want to explore deeper, my Feel Free Around Food program builds upon the foundation outlined in Binge Eating Breakthrough by helping you to increase your understanding and awareness of your motivations, get past your personal barriers to achieving your goals and how to "get leverage on yourself" rather than beating yourself up with guilt and shame.

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