You know the situation. You get home from work and the only thing you can think of is: Need. Food. Now. Without even taking off your shoes, you head to the kitchen. Your boss really annoyed you today, dumping that deadline on you at the last minute. How dare he? You head for the fridge and eat whatever's there in an effort not to think about what happened. To not feel the discomfort that's creeping up and all the fears and doubts that accompany it. You eat to go numb. To take care of yourself. You eat because your mind thinks this is the best way of protecting you from painful thoughts, feelings and sensations.
What's happening in this situation is something I have experienced many times. I call it: Keep Calm and Eat.
Keep Calm and Eat is the mind trying to protect us in the best way it knows how. For many of us, food is soothing, it is a distraction, and when we are physically stuffed with food, we can focus on that discomfort or the guilt that inevitably accompanies such binges, instead of the painful thoughts, feelings or sensations we try to eat away.
Keep Calm and Eat is often the best way we know to take care of ourselves.
"Keep Calm and Carry On" was coined during World War II at a time when the focus was on survival. Its modern day offshoot, Keep Calm and Eat, is also about survival. Survival because at its core, the message behind Keep Calm and Eat is: What I am feeling is not OK and I have to do something to not feel this way anymore.
Yet what if whatever you are feeling, no matter how uncomfortable or painful, IS OK -- simply because this is your experience in the moment? What if you allowed whatever you are feeling to simply be there without trying to fix it, get rid of it or change it?
Making room for difficult feelings, urges and sensations allows them to 'flow on through' more fluidly than when we struggle with them or try to push them away. We don't have to like or want these feelings -- simply to allow ourselves to feel whatever is showing up for us in that moment. To fully experience the fear, the guilt, the anger the self-doubt - to face it full on and breath into it -allows us to realize that we are actually strong enough to face and deal with whatever is asking to be met.
By doing this, you allow yourself to open up to a sense of being fully alive in the here and now. Because life is not about 'keeping calm' or feeling good all the time -- it is about being truly alive -- even if that means fully feeling the discomfort and pain of your day rather than trying to stuff it down with food.
So next time something happens and your mind starts urging you to just Keep Calm and Eat, you have a choice. Will you allow yourself to open up to the discomfort and be truly alive -- or will you use food to try to shut yourself down?
"Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough." - Ernest Hemingway
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.