Using food as a crutch
Hi friends. Welcome back. Okay. So today, what are we gonna talk about? We are talking about a concept that I go over quite a bit. It’s a concept that I started thinking about, um, very early on in my journey when I was trying to figure out my overeating and the concept is using food as a crutch. Now, before we go any further, a lot of times people don’t like this language, right?
They kind of flinch at. Little bit of the idea, um, that they could possibly be using food as a crutch. So if that’s you stay with me, hang in there. I wanna talk to you about not only why that can happen and how easy it is to happen, but also explain why you might not like that language and why I think it can be useful.
So the first time that I tried to step overeating was probably. Sometime in my teens, really? It was a first of many times. Right? Well, anyway, it was in those kind of early days of trying to figure out my overeating and figuring out what was going on that I wrote for the first time in a journal or like a diary I would call it probably more of a diary.
And it’s so fascinating to go back and look and see where I was back then. But I rode. About food, being a crutch and not knowing why it was a crutch for me or how it had come, that I felt like I needed it as a crutch, but identified pretty early on that I relied on it in a way that, you know, I really didn’t like.
And so I mentioned that this language often makes people bristle a little bit, you know, that. You probably don’t like to think that you use anything outside of you as a crutch, much less food and alcohol. And I think that’s because so many of us, right. Myself included for a long time. Really do not like the idea of thinking about the idea that we need help, right.
That we need support, that we need assistance, that we need anything to lean on or to aid us or to help us out. I think that is why, um, I think that that is because we don’t wanna ever believe that we’re weak in any way. And that is what the language of a crutch suggests. Now I’ll tell you. The same time that for a lot of my clients who initially really don’t like this language and resist it, they will, at some point usually during a session that it actually really resonates.
So they don’t like it. They don’t want to acknowledge it. But there’s a little piece of them that feels like it might be true. And that’s because they will often tell themselves that a situation will be so much easier. They’d feel so much more comfortable if they could have cookies and ice cream. Right.
And that, without it. They feel uncomfortable or they feel like they’re missing out. They feel like they’re unable to relax. And I always work with people to help them understand what are the situations that food and alcohol helps you? What are the situations in which it makes you feel more comfort? Does it make you, does it make you less uptight?
So you become more social and more outgoing. Does it help take the edge off after a long day at work or a long day of being a parent? Does it help you forget about what’s bothering you or stressing you out, or what’s kind of like nagging at the back of your mind that you don’t really wanna think about?
- Does it help you sleep or does it help you stay. I think that that’s always really interesting. The sleeping part is that I work with people who are on both sides of that spectrum. Right. Does it make you feel less alone or just less bored by what you’re doing at the end of the day or what you’re doing on the weekend?
- Does it help you have difficult conversations with your partner or family members or does it just even help to be around them? A lot of people will talk to me about how the holiday or a family get together would be, you know, they think unbearable if they didn’t have sugar and alcohol to kind of like, you know, smooth the rough EGE edges.
So there’s all these different ways that overeating can help you. Right. It can help you make you feel more comfortable in many more ways than just what I’ve listed now. Okay. And most of the people that I work with do not want to focus on that. They don’t wanna focus on the benefits or the positives, even if they wanna change or cut back, they don’t wanna look.
In fact when they wanna change or cut back, they think that the most important thing is to focus on the negatives. They are sick of the inflammation, the bloat, they’re sick of their regrets. They’re sick of feeling unhealthy, and they just wanna remind themselves of all these negative pieces of the puzzle.
And that’s what I did for a long time. You know, I was. Very good at writing long lists of everything that I regretted or every way that I felt terrible or everything that I was embarrassed about. And I thought, you know, okay, if I can just write all this down while I’m in the moment of feeling terrible about my overeating, if I can just write it all down and just remind myself over and over again about all these negatives, that should be the thing that will help.
But here’s the thing I did that for a very long time and it didn’t work. Didn’t work. And for a very long time, I wanted to ignore that there were a lot of benefits, a lot of positives for me, when it came to overeating for starters, I was a terrible self critic critic. Just terrible. I think a lot of you can recognize that in yourselves and for a very long time, I didn’t even understand that I was being overly critical of myself.
I didn’t, I didn’t even get that. I thought that when I was listing what was wrong with me and what I needed to improve and what I was unhappy with, I was just stating the truth. Right. I saw that as factual. And that was one piece that food really helped with, because it was one of the times when I was, you know, when I was overeating that I was able to quiet this internal self critic.
Also, I didn’t feel so critical of myself when I was eating. I didn’t feel so judgmental of myself, like in the moment. Another reason I really felt out of my element was that I really felt out of my element in social situations. Right. I had no idea how to coexist. The anxiety that I felt, I didn’t know what to do with any of that anxiety.
I felt totally out of my element. And I just wanted that feeling to go away and eating and drinking really helped put me at ease in those situations. It really turned the volume down on the anxiety that I felt. I was also fixated on doing everything perfectly, right. I wanted to get, you know, stars for everything.
And so I created all these impossible standards for myself, like in my life with my achievement, right. With school, with education. But also with my appearance, I created a lot of impossible standards about how I should look and trying to be perfect. And I had no idea how to give myself a break under the weight of so much pressure, so much pressure to do and look perfect.
And that’s where overeating came in. It allowed me to step outside of that perfectionist box that I had built for myself. Right. So they were a lot of benefits for me when it came to overeating benefits that I really didn’t like to acknowledge, but they were. When I tried to stop overeating for the first time as a teen.
I had zero plan to cope with my self critic, my anxiety, my reliance on perfectionism. Right. I had no idea what to do with these things. And these were all things that overeating gave me a little relief from. These were all things that cookies and ice cream seemed to be the perfect remedy for. And so the whole time that I was trying to stop overeating, I felt like I was missing out because I really wanted to overeat.
I really wanted those benefits and I had no idea how to make headway on the issues that overeating was helping me with. I had no idea how to make head. On being a terrible self critic or feeling a lot of anxiety or being a perfectionist. And I think that that is so common for so many of the people that I work with.
We get really fixated on this idea that it’s just about how much we eat. Right. It’s just about cutting back. It’s just about taking a break from sugar and flour. It’s like, you know, it’s just like we’re counting. We think it’s a numbers game. It’s not a numbers game. It can be a numbers game in the, in the sense of, you know, cutting back on the number of serving.
So it was a numbers game. In that sense, it did keep me from, you know, eating an embarrassing amount. It did keep me from feeling regretful the next morning, but it did not keep me from feeling like I was missing out. And it did not help me at all, dealing with any of the things that overeating was really helping me with.
We all have this fixation, that the cause of our problem. All of our problems is overeating and that that’s a problem. And what I want is for you to start thinking about it in a different way. And so that the cause of your problem or problems is not food it’s that food is helping you in some way that you don’t really know yet how to help yourself in this way.
It’s making you more comfortable in certain situations it’s getting rid of something it’s benefiting you. The only problem is that no one has ever showed you an alternative means to get. These things, no one’s ever shown you an alternative means to feel less uptight or to comfort yourself. Alternative means to unwind or help you forget about what’s bothering you, right?
To help you stay asleep or to help you stay awake or to help you feel more confident, or to give you permission, to let loose, to deal with loneliness, right. Or to deal with boredom, to help you have difficult conversations. So we unconsciously teach ourselves that food can help us in all of these situations.
And then we find that for whatever reason, we decide that we wanna cut back or we wanna take a break from sugar and flour, maybe because we don’t like the results that we’re getting. We don’t like how we feel the next day. We don’t like what we do when we’re overeating. And we decide to take a break or decide to cut back and all of a sudden.
We are faced to face with these things. These areas of our life, that food is helping us with that. We have no idea what to do. right now, you have to remember that your brain is always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. And when I’m talking about pain, it’s not just physical pain, right? It’s not just hurting yourself physically or stubbing your toe.
It could be also the discomfort from negative emotions. When you feel lonely when you feel shy, when you feel anxious or insecure or uptight or vulnerable or stressed, you know, whatever it is just plain uncomfortable, emotionally food is the quick and easy fix to feel differently. And if you turn it over, If you turn to it over and over again, to make a specific situation like socializing or meeting people or getting home from work or a part of your life, more bearable, basically any negative emotion that you don’t like experiencing your brain will learn that having food solves a problem.
This will become, especially tricky to shake if you don’t have other means of solving these problems. And that’s what I mean when I talk about food as a crutch, because it’s essentially solving a problem for, for us that we just don’t yet know how to solve on our own when I was a teenager and I was writing in my diary about food, feeling like a crutch.
And I don’t have something to take the edge off of what is going to be a difficult and challenging. This is the cycle that so many people get caught in and understanding how food can become a crutch. And also that it means absolutely nothing about you. It does not mean that you are weak.
Right. Okay. So just to recap, it’s all about looking at the benefits of your overeating rather than the negatives to understand how food can become a crutch. And if you flinch a little at that language, I get it. A lot of people do, but it’s important to understand this. And it’s important to understand that if food has become something that you rely on in certain situations or when certain emotions or certain discomfort appears, there is nothing wrong with you.
That’s actually the best information that you can have if you wanna go about changing it. But you need to look at that and you need to understand that question moving forward, what you need are new ways to solve these problems. And that’s all about the work that I will talk about in these episodes, all about the work that I do with my clients.
It’s why this work is so much bigger than just about overeating. It really, really is.