I often hear from my overeating clients that they wish they could get motivated to take better care of themselves. They ask me “why is it that I can’t motivate myself to eat better and exercise consistently? It shouldn’t be this difficult!” While the answer will vary from person to person, one thing that I notice across the board is the lack of an inner nourishing voice.
When we are raised in loving, nourishing environments, we naturally develop a kind inner voice of our own. This voice is there to soothe and comfort us, reassure us, gently push us and set nurturing limits when needed. If our caregivers have been critical, shaming, neglectful, or even over indulgent, this voice doesn’t develop properly. Instead, we tend to have an over-developed, harsh Inner Critic and an ever encouraging Inner Indulger.
When its time to set nurturing limits with ourselves, like stopping eating when we’re near full , having only a serving size of a junky treat or getting up early to exercise, the voice we hear may be either the harsh and punitive voice of the Inner Critic (“You know you shouldn’t eat anymore–you’ll never lose weight this way”) or the childlike voice of the Inner Indulger (“You really deserve a reward for enduring such a hard day–let’s take out that pint of ice cream and dig in.”) or both.
These voices do have a proper place in our life, but when they are the main voices we hear, they get us into trouble. When your internal world is full of negativity, criticism, doubt and shame, you’re going to do anything you can to soothe and comfort yourself. And your well-developed Inner Indulger is always on board for a quick fix.
The urge to overeat will be with you until your inner world is a more soothing, peaceful and hopeful place to hang out. So how can you begin to develop an inner nourishing voice? The best place to start is to adopt what I call a Zero Tolerance Policy for self-abuse. This will help you turn down the volume on the Inner Critic. Adopting this policy means that you acknowledge that:
- You are emotionally abusive to yourself at times,
- You don’t deserve abuse no mattter what mistakes you’ve made or which perceived flaws you have and
- You’re willing to stop abusing yourself TODAY.
Once you’ve committed to stopping self-abuse, you’re on the road to recovery. Now you can begin to develop and strengthen a kind Inner Nurturer voice to counterbalance the Inner Critic and Inner Indulger and put them in their proper places.
If you haven’t had much exposure to nurturing voices, you’ll need to “borrow” a voice to start with. Think about who in your life is or has been nurturing. If you can’t think of a soul, how about a tv or radio personality. Psychotherapy is a good place to get exposure to a nurturing, empathic other.
Make your commitment to the Zero Tolerance Policy today. Each time you find yourself abusing yourself emotionally STOP and remind yourself of your commitment. In that moment, say something kind and loving to yourself. Anything will do. Try on statements like:
“I’m a good person and I don’t deserve to be criticized.”
“I’m not willing to be unkind to myself in this moment.”
“I deserve unconditional love and acceptance, especially from myself.”
You deserve only love and kindness–it is your birthright. As you begin to feel more loved, accepted and nourished by your own voice, the urge to overeat will diminish.
Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT. If you have a question or topic you would like to see addressed in this blog, go to http: //www.overeatingrecovery.com.