When was the last time you used the phrase, “I fell off the wagon,” or something similar to indicate to yourself that you had failed to control yourself? Chances are, if you are a chronic dieter, you’ve used the phrase recently and often.
How did it make you feel to have fallen off the wagon? It probably felt a lot worse than falling off an actual wagon. I know that back when I believed in the “wagon” the few scrapes and bruises I would have incurred by actually falling off a wagon would have hurt less and healed faster than the pain of falling off the food wagon. Falling off the food wagon was admitting failure – again. It meant that I was bad and needed to be punished.
Today, I know that there is no wagon to fall off of. The proverbial wagon you speak of is not real. This is true because in order to have a wagon, your goal has to be one of the following:
1. Navigating some food plan that was created without regard to what your body’s needs are at the moment it is asking for nourishment. Or,
2. That you should toughen out certain emotions without using food even though it has been your lifelong coping mechanism.
If you are believing in a wagon, these are the goals driving the actions.
Your real goal is to accept what is going on in any situation and do your best to stay connected and aware. Let’s say you are having a difficult moment. Something is coming up for you with your thoughts and emotions and it is driving you to eat. Having an all-or-nothing goal leads you to the following conversation with yourself:
When your mind goes there, you have no opportunity to ask yourself what is coming up for you or what you may actually be needing. The stress of trying not to fall off the wagon shuts down access to that part of your brain which can help you stay present and aware to ask. If there is no wagon to fall off, the conversation can go something like this:
So, you see, if there is no wagon that you are trying desperately to stay on, you can spend your energy giving yourself the compassion, understanding and space you need to start feeling your feelings and determining what you actually need. Save the wagons for hayrides and start showing up for yourself.