Friday, March 03, 2006

the importance of the pause

Someone on the conscious eaters list reminded me of the importance of the pause when I posted about trying to do something different. She wrote:

When you have the urge to eat when not hungry, delay acting on this impulse for at least 15 minutes. The best way to spend these 15 minutes is in quiet inward reflection with your eyes closed because this is when you will get the greatest insights into yourself, but even if you spend the pause running around in circles in the kitchen, you must pause.I'm reading a really great book called "First Things First" by Stephen Covey (author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"). I was very interested to see that he also made a big point of the importance of pausing between impulse and action, and he wasn't talking about anything related to eating. He identified it as a core skill needed for individual growth and development, for becoming a better person.You don't go from acting instantly on the impulse to eat, to never acting on non-hunger eating urges in a binary way with nothing in between. Children learn to crawl before they learn to walk. You learn to not act on non-hunger eating urges bit by bit, and the very first step is to pause. If you can't pause, you can't forego acting on the urge at all. You have to pause before you can stop.You must pause between non-hunger eating urges. It's possible - anyone can make the decision to wait 15 minutes before acting on the urge to eat, and when you do, you exercise a "muscle" that, in the future, will allow you to stop acting on these impulses altogether.

Don't be so sure that you fully understand the reasons behind your non-hunger eating. A primary reason that people eat when they feel upset is to avoid full knowledge of what is upsetting them - it's a huge distraction.It's easy to say you eat, for example, because your co-workers are bothering you, but that's not the whole story. The feelings that are triggered inside you by another's behavior are all yours, and are based on many factors - often originating in old issues that you haven't fully resolved. There's an expression from the recovery world that expresses this well: "If it's hysterical, it's historical." If someone is doing something that really gets to you, it's probably pushing a button.It's not enough to know that your co-workers (for example) are pushing a button. You need to know what the button is. It's the "button" (so to speak) that you need to surface and deal with. This could be profound self-doubt, discomfort with your own anger, or any number of other things. That's the level of "why" you need to get to to resolve this.It doesn't sound like you are sitting with the feelings when you have the urge to eat when not hungry - allowing a pause between impulse and action. Are you? You need to sit quietly, as I wrote to Emma in a previous message, and see what comes up. Allowing a pause between impulse and action is absolutely crucial to recovery in Normal Eating.(1) It's the first step towards not eating when you're not hungry, and(2) It's the time of discomfort when you will get the most important insights into what's really going on with you. As soon as you act on the impulse, the underlying causes become much harder to access.Pausing is crucial!! The first "reason" that pops into your mind is almost surely not the whole story. If it were, you wouldn't still have the urge to eat with the same intensity, because one of the main reasons for wanting to eat - to hide from the real reason - would be gone.

So, the next time I feel the urge to eat when I'm not hungry, I am going to pause -- sit or lie down with my eyes closed for 15 minutes and just see what comes up. Last night was great -- I had a small shredded beef bbq on a bun, a very small bit of cole slaw, some grapes, and a very small dish of pumpkin pudding with fat free whipped topping. I was satisfied -- not too full. Okay, well I still was tempted to eat more, but didn't. I was hungry by 9 o'clock, so had a 100-calorie bag of popcorn -- not because it was 100 calories, but because I was honestly craving popcorn. It tasted sooo good! I was actually still hungry after that, but went to bed.

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