WHY many approaches fail with food issues
Updated: May 1
Answering the question; why does nothing I try work?
When you have made the decision that you cannot go on as you are any longer and things must change, what do you normally start with? If you are, or have been looking to resolve your unwanted thoughts, feelings or behaviours, then you most likely have come across the following ways to fix to try and fix them:
Starting the latest quick fix solution, trick or hack
Controlling what situations, you put yourself in
Avoiding known triggering foods, people or places
Changing your eating habits with new food rules and restrictions
Starting the latest miracle diet or fitness plan
Distracting yourself with exercise or self-care activities
Paying to see a chiropractor or massage therapist
Going to the doctors to get prescribed medication
These are all examples of an external approach. This is where you are focused on managing things in your environment in an attempt to resolve what is going on inside. This forces you into ‘management mode’ rather ‘resolve mode’ and will only get you so far before you start to feel worse again!
The truth about these external approaches
Here’s what happens when you follow a quick fix, tip or trick to try and resolve your problems.
1. It’s acts as a band-aid. Believing you’ve been given a secret trick or hack gives you false hope - but hope nonetheless. However, what is lurking under the band-aid is left untouched and able to continue to sabotage you no matter how many band-aids you use.
2. By focusing on the external you are handing over your control and your power to something outside of yourself. The only thing you are truly in control of is you. Focusing on these things which are outside of your control, all it will do is increase your anxiety levels and make you feel even more out of control.
3. Looking for external solutions, tips, tricks, and hacks stops you from making a proper commitment to getting your life back. As a result, you avoid your fears, avoid making decisions and choices for yourself and put off facing the reality of how you are feeling and what your life has become. Constantly hunting for more information, tips and tricks will keep you just dipping your toes in the water but never truly fixing the problem
For the majority of my Eating Disorder I felt powerless, weak and out of control. I spent most of my energy trying to avoid foods, people or situations I knew would trigger me and throwing myself into work and exercise to escape my overwhelming thoughts and feelings. This was utterly exhausting and I felt like I was not focusing on getting better, I was just trying to keep my head above water day in day out. Guess what? I made very little progress trying to manage what was going on around me, rather than listening to what was going on inside. There was so much unpredictability and it seemed impossible to be able to tackle or distract from every single trigger. I was always on edge and fearful and I got stuck in the mindset of placing excuses on my triggers if I ‘had a slip up’.... “being alone all evening made me binge”, “I had to go to the gym all eve to get rid of all my stress from work today”.
I am a great believer in if something is not working you change it, rather than waste time and energy struggling. So, after a year of this approach I set out on a mission to try something different as I was fed up feeling powerless and out of control. What I began learning and practicing was an entirely different approach to tackling my eating problems. This involved getting to the core of why I felt stuck and just couldn’t seem to let go and then learning strategies from the inside-out, rather than the outside-in. The first thing I noticed by doing this was that I started to feel more in control, I was less reactive to what was happening around me and so much more focused and determined. This shift was an essential step towards permanently changing my whole way of being- something which happened fairly quickly once I changed my attitude and approach.
Your new internal approach
To create permanent change, you need to shift focus from what is going on around you e.g. trying to control people, places and situations to what is going on internally, addressing your emotions, thoughts, urges and reactions. This is where you will have most control and can have the most impact.
If you have been using food to control your inner state of being for a long time, this has most likely left you feeling vulnerable, fearful and out of control. This is why it can feel scary to think about change, because this has been your crutch to help you cope with life! Take this away and this is like taking away your protective armour! The truth is, it is not that you are afraid of losing your eating behaviours, you are scared of losing the only way you know how to cope with your emotions and what is going on in your life.
Trying to take away your eating behaviours without resolving the core of what is driving this behaviour, or learning to manage your emotions from the inside, the changes will not be long-lasting and this is when you may find yourself jumping back and forth between progress and relapse.
Just consider the idea that the way we can overcome most challenges and issues in our lives is to shift our focus and become aware of the underlying thoughts and feelings which trigger our problem behaviours.
Once I made this shift from external to internal, what became clear was that I was obsessed with my weight because I didn’t feel good enough… I believed that being skinnier people would pay me more attention, like me more and I would stand out.
So, the real reason I was focusing on controlling food and obsessing over my weight was because I didn’t feel good enough.
Whatever your reason is, this is where you need to focus in order to create permanent change. Rather than focusing on your surface issues, the food restriction, hating your body, worrying, anxiety, feeling out of control, the real question to ask yourself is; “what is driving me to behave in this way?” If you have been feeling powerless, out of control and like all your efforts are being wasted, this is not your fault. The approach you have been following has most likely been an external approach. This is where you are placing the majority of your time and energy into resolving environment or behavioural problems e.g. letting go of food rules, stopping calorie counting, working on body image, structured eating etc. However, this can lead to burn out and exhaustion if the core issues, the things which are driving that behaviour are left unaddressed.
Want to know more about this new approach? Watch below:
If you are ready to really get under the hood of the car and learn a way which will help you break free from food & the scales once and for all, sign up to my next UNLEASHED workshop; I will walk you through the exact steps, I took and which 100s of women have gone through to permanently resolve their struggles with food and start showing up, speaking up AND standing out in their life.