It's Not About the Food

Simple Steps to Meet Your Needs instead of Eating Them

By Jan Henrikson

So you’re a Pig. Sound a little harsh? It is! Yet it doesn’t compare to the way many of us heckle, shame, and rant at ourselves when it comes to food and our body. “I’m so fat, I can’t stand it anymore. Why am I eating this bag of chips? Help! I’m hopeless.” Repeat that kind of language every week for a few years and it feels like the truth. How much enthusiasm and cooperation can you expect from a body that is talked down to all the time?

According to Sylvia Haskvitz, MA, RD , and author of Eat by Choice, Not by Habit, paying compassionate attention to the way you speak to yourself is the first step in creating a lasting, joyful relationship with your body and the food in your life.

“Compassion is as vital to our health and well-being as any nutrient,” says Haskvitz, CNVC certified trainer and founder of the Eat by Choice Movement, which is dedicated to helping people expand their capacities to make healthy food choices.

Cultivating conscious, compassionate choice is Haskvitz’s passion. She believes a compassionate relationship with your body can help you break your cycle of emotional eating and the body-bashing that often accompanies it.

Say you’re stressed out. All you can think about is chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. “I need it!” you tell yourself. You’re about to dive into that one pound bag of peanut M & M’s. Haskvitz suggests you pause for a moment and eavesdrop on yourself. The Pause, even for a few seconds, gives you a chance to listen and choose. What words are you feeding yourself? “I have to have it! I’m out of control. It doesn’t matter anyway. I have no will power.”

What emotions are inspiring that self-talk? Are you anxious about work? Lonely because your friend moved away? Overwhelmed about a move? Check in again. What do you need? Reassurance? Nurturing? Fun? (Chocolate may feel like a desperate need, but it is actually a strategy to meet another need.)

Instead of badgering yourself, “You could give yourself what the NVC process refers to as self-empathy,” explains Haskvitz. “It may sound like this: ‘I’m stressed out and overwhelmed. I want some relief. Chocolate may satisfy my need for nurturance. But I really want to consider both my emotional needs for nurturing and my body’s needs for health. How can I meet both needs?'”

Then, rather than mindlessly popping mouthfuls of anxiety, you might choose to call a friend for support. Or, you may still decide to eat some chocolate, only now you’re choosing consciously. You savor each bite. You might even find yourself satisfied after a few M&M’s rather than eating a whole bag and wanting more.

Like anything else, the Pause takes practice. The key is that now you have a choice.

“The more conscious you are, the more you’ll be in choice in every moment,” says Haskvitz. “The more ways you find to meet your needs, the less likely you’ll be to eat mindlessly in moments of stress.”

So, if you’re ready to befriend your body and the way you eat, instead of fearing it:

  • Pause and apply compassion.
  • Eavesdrop. What words are you eating? Are your words loving? Encouraging? Fearful? Blaming?
  • Tune into your feelings. Are you angry? Excited? Bored? Anxious?
  • What do you need? Comfort? Adventure?
  • How can you meet your needs? Go hiking with a friend? Read a bestseller? Sleep?
  • Finally, celebrate. Each conscious choice, no matter how small, is a step toward more aliveness. One bite at a time.

Explore this topic more with Eat by Choice, Not by Habit by Sylvia Haskvitz, or contact Sylvia at 520-572-9295 to learn more about one-on-one coaching to transform your relationship with your body and food.

Jan Henrikson is the editor of Eat by Choice, Not by Habit written by Sylvia Haskvitz. In between writing, editing, and coaching other writers, Jan eats as joyfully and mindfully as possible