Self soothing strategies for binge eaters, and for people who feel rejected
13 Strategies for self soothing
These are particularly for you if you experience urges to binge eat, or to obsess over romantic partners
- When you feel an urge coming on, to binge eat or to text that guy or girl you’ve been obsessing over, stop for a second. Just stop. Just for a second. Enough time to read this list, or to try one of the steps. You can carry on your binge/texting later if you want to.
- Stop and notice exactly what thoughts you are having and how you might be feeling. Are you thinking ”I don’t care, it will be fine! Stuff it!” Ask yourself, gently, what experience were you having that made you so uncomfortable you wanted to stuff food inside you or reach out to another person? Begin to take note of these experiences.
- Think of your binge eater, or obsessed part, as a child you care about. Think of you as an adult who is trying to comfort and soothe the child. What kinds of things would you say to this little girl or boy, to reassure them. Would you say ”Stuff you, I don’t care about you! I don’t care how you feel!” What are they going through and what do they want to hear? How could you be kind to them?
- Is there someone you can ask for support, connect with or talk to, before you start eating or obsessing? You can also ask friends to list all the things they like about you. If you can’t contact anyone when you need them, think of a person you feel safe with. Think about what they would say now and practice letting their positivity, or soothing, in. You may wish to set up supportive structures around food or romantic relationships. For example, could you eat with friends or relatives, instead of alone? Or could you hang out with someone at a time when you would normally be feeling low or agitated?
- Think of a place where you’ve felt safe and remember it, call it up. Research suggests that imagining something can be just as powerful as actually experiencing it. Experience in your imagination and in your body, what was it like to feel safe and happy there?
- Is there a word or phrase that can give you a moment’s respite in difficult situations (e.g., choice, breathe, you’re worth it, etc)? Call this up and practice remembering what it feels like, and the effect it has had on you in the past.
- You can use an elastic band on your wrist, a reminder on your phone, or a post-it on your computer or fridge, to remind you of any of this.
- Start making a list of non-harmful strategies for self soothing (e.g., spending time with people who like you, spending time with people or things that make you laugh, phoning a friend, going for a walk, pampering yourself, reading, listening to music, finding time to relax, watching a film, reading something that really interests you, doing something new, etc.)
- During a response to an urge, see if you can identify with the moment. In the case of food, identify the taste of food. See if you can eat more slowly and savour every second of it. See if there are moments of displeasure in the taste. Mindfully notice every taste, bite and swallow, and how this affects you. If you can’t do that, notice how fast you eat and what that does to you. What thoughts do you have ? What physical and emotional experiences do you have? This can all be done with anything in the moment. How are you as you sit down and watch TV? Mindfully notice your response to any stimulus.
- Take a really small step in the right direction. In the case of binge eating, do this instead of promising yourself you will go on a strict diet. Research shows that taking small steps is a lot more effective than deprivation or trying to do too much at once. For example, include a little more of something healthy into your diet. Water for example. If you don’t like water, you could try to find a way to make water palatable to you. Try warming it up, adding ice, putting it in your favourite container, fizzy water, or water with lime, lemon, cucumber, ginger, or mint. Try healthier liquids like coconut water or vegetable juices. In the case of dating, what structures and boundaries could you put in place that give you space to move but help you to feel protected? Like, using a dating app at a certain time of day, while making sure you do something nice just for you each day too.
- Stay bodily, physically, energetically with your feelings and be kind to them. This may help to shift the experience from the immediate situation to where the feelings come from. With your hand on your heart, ask yourself what is it you really need? Do this even if you can’t provide the solution. Eventually this practice will help you to address the need.
- Once you’ve identified what feelings or experiences you might be squashing, take steps to address the particular feeling or experience. For example, you may feel angry that you’ve been overlooked by someone, that someone was rude to you, or that you are the only one who ever cleans the kitchen! All of these relate to self esteem and how you communicate your needs. Begin to explore these needs and how they can be communicated. Internet research is a fantastic thing for this. And sometimes you may need professional expertise to help you.
- We’re diving deep now! Notice that, when you are obsessive about food, or another person (or tv or the internet etc.) you are kind of unavailable and may be dissociated. Be interested in how your body does this and what it’s like for you. How might this be affecting your whole life and relationships?
One or more of these approaches may work best for you, so don’t feel you have to do them all at once! These are strategies that may take time to explore and develop. Gradually implemented into your daily life and practice they will help you change your harmful habits and improve your life.
Want to go further?
Sometimes it helps to have an expert to help you explore and implement these experiences.
Ask me about my Stop Binge Eating Programme, or my 8 week coaching programme on finding love.
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