Do You “Collect” A Certain Type of Food?

We humans have a habit of gathering stuff around us.

Most of us gather stuff for a variety of reasons:

  • security
  • as a way to “keep score”
  • to avoid boredom
  • to blend in
  • to stand out
  • to avoid loneliness
  • to feel joy
  • to feel excitement
  • to feel “treated”, “pleasured” or “doted upon”
  • as a reward
  • to look good
  • to avoid looking bad
  • to feel comforted
  • to be distracted
  • to not feel, period (i.e. numb out)

Most of us spend a lot of our time just looking for things to fill us up for these reasons and many others. In my case, I’ve used food many, many times in this way.

Initially, when I was anorexic, food was my control mechanism. As my anorexia morphed into binging, then chewing and spitting and binging and purging, food became a way to have or experience the things listed above.

It seems like for some of us, as we grow older into adulthood, that life suddenly doesn’t really look like we thought it would as kids. As children, we had big dreams of what we would “grow up” to do, be or have. We pictured knights and castles, private jets and beaches, mansions and pools, fun and freedom. Somewhere after going through the motions of school, university (for some) and then figuring out how to make a living…our realities started to look different than those original dreams.

Not only does the gathering of stuff (or the hang-ups around food) bog us down with more psychological weight, all of this stuff is contrary to the freedom that’s inherent within all of us.

We try to fill our feelings of disillusionment, sadness, loneliness or boredom with stuff (or food). We buy one more thing, or we eat one more bite. We get creative in our attempts to fill this void.

You know how it feels to clean out your desk or a closet, discarding all the things you don’t need now and getting organized? There’s a sense of accomplishment, freedom and peace. It’s like you can finally think again. You can move ahead now because the clutter has been removed.

Applying This Metaphor To Food

Taking that metaphor deeper into your relationship with food, what would it be like to discard all the food that you don’t need right now? What if your refrigerator–and your belly–were only filled with the food you needed to be balanced, energized and focused?

When all the clutter is removed, you create space for something new. With food, when all of the excess is removed, you create a space for a new way of relating to food. You create a space for something else to fill you up.

You make a place for other things, like joy, adventure, creativity, beauty, play, intimacy, discovery…a new romance, juicy sex…fulfilling moments with family…

When you’re bogged down with stuff, stress or self-judgement, these things can’t come in to fill you up. So food becomes a way to do that instead.

There are two actions that you can take to start making a space for something new:

  1. Clear out what’s no longer needed
  2. Try something new

To clear out what’s no longer needed–in this case, excess food that doesn’t authentically make you feel energized and satiated–start by grabbing a box, going through your pantry and putting in all the excess. In your fridge, use a box or a bag that you can’t see through. Put all the food in the box/bag that isn’t actually needed.

Move the pantry box into a closet or somewhere out of the way. Put the refrigerated food in the bottom shelf, to the back. The idea is to move this stuff out of sight, out of mind.

Go for 3 weeks, only taking out of the box or bag if you realized you packed something you absolutely need. At the end of 3-4 weeks, donate the box to a local community food pantry or throw it away. If you haven’t used it in a month, you don’t need it.

By putting things first into a box, your mind doesn’t stress that you’ve thrown away something you forgot you needed. You still have everything, just in a different location. After 3-4 weeks, you can be confident you don’t need anything from the box…and you can let it go.

Next, it’s time to try something new. This can be going out to shop and buy a new piece of clothing you’d normally not purchase (then actually wear it). It can be going to a local tourist attraction you’ve never seen. It might be visiting a friend for a long weekend. Maybe it’s going to a movie and out to dinner by yourself. Perhaps it’s going to a park on a sunny afternoon and reading in the grass. You might call that special someone you wouldn’t dare have reached out to before.

Staying In the ‘Now’, Not The Usual Routine

The act of doing something new puts your brain into a creative, receptive state. Your attention is focused in the present, because you’re not in a predictable routine. New ideas, insights or connections have the opportunity to bubble forth.

This has been one of my #1 strategies for crawling out of my 13-year eating disorder: clearing the clutter (physical or mental) and allowing for something new to take its place. Many times it involves changing my physical state before my emotional state follows. So I’ll plan a trip and go away for a weekend or a couple weeks, or I’ll go stay a night with a friend. Sometimes it just means picking up to work from a local coffee shop instead of my usual home office.

Where do you collect clutter? Is there a type of food that you collect? Understand I’m not saying it’s bad to “collect” comfort foods. For me, I still collect sugar free candy and gum. I may always collect something like this. But the insight is in having the awareness that I’m doing so – and noticing the energy I’m putting into collecting it for some reason.

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.

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