I have an amazing life coach. I hired her a couple of years ago when I was going through a very rough time in my life. In one of our first sessions together, as I was spilling out all the wrongs that were happening to me (yes to me – I saw myself as a victim,) she cut me off and said, in an amazingly direct way said, “Honey? You know what your problem is? You don’t love yourself enough!”
WHAT??? “Of course I love myself!” I shot back. “In fact, people often comment that I have great self-esteem and confidence. Those things come from loving yourself!” But she was just starting on me, on a journey that would last two years. “Honey, you’re not listening,” she said. I didn’t say you don’t love yourself. I said you don’t love yourself enough.”
Wow. That stopped me cold. It never occurred to me that I didn’t fully love myself, but I knew something had to be right in that statement, because it just hurt too much to hear it. If it really wasn’t true, it wouldn’t bother me at all. Like if someone accused me of being purple with orange polka dots, that wouldn’t hurt – it’s simply not true. But this hurt. Bad.
Over the coming months, I went to work on myself. I put aside everything else – desires to achieve, accomplish, acquire more, look great, gain publicity … and just read and read about how to love yourself more. And an amazing thing happened. I quit overeating. Not that I ate huge amounts before, but I certainly overate almost every day, defined as eating when I was not truly hungry. As I began to love myself more and more, I didn’t want to overeat. I wanted to treat my body and my spirit better. Sugary foods started sounding awful. What an amazing discovery!
But then, when life started to happen again and another hard time hit, I began hitting the vegan cookies again, and overeating. My great friend (whom I won’t name here – she’s somewhat well-known) had not eaten an unhealthy bite for years, yet hit a really rough period around the same time, and started downing treats and fatty foods like nobody’s business. As we discussed this we had this amazing discovery: It’s a blessing when you start to overeat.
Here’s why: Most of us have overeaten for years – every day we eat more than we need, downing salty crackers, chips and sugary treats, eating half a bag of cookies or chips before we even realize that we have opened the bag. We are absolutely unconscious - unconscious of what is hurting our hearts so badly that we are overeating so much. In this state of unconsciousness, we turn to food (or for some people, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, etc.) to numb us from experiencing our pain. We simply don’t love ourselves enough to face what is hurting and deal with it head on. When you love yourself enough, you will face things head on, knowing that you will get through whatever it is, and grow from it all.
When you begin to overeat, you will start to recognize it for what it really is – a hurting heart that needs to be heard and loved. Perhaps you are fearful that someone you love is going to leave (or that it’s time for you to leave them) and you will be all alone. Perhaps you are fearful that you are not good enough in some way. Perhaps you are supremely angry about something, and not letting yourself acknowledge that anger. Perhaps you feel wronged, and are not speaking your truth to the person who wronged you.
Nowadays, when I overeat for a meal, it’s no big deal – perhaps it was just too tasty and I couldn’t stop myself from going back for seconds or thirds. But if I’m overeating for 2 or 3 days in a row, I sit on my meditation cushion and ask myself over and over again, “OK Sarah. What’s hurting inside?” Usually the reply back is, “Nothing! That’s the weird thing about it - nothing’s wrong at all!” But if I sit quietly and just ask over and over, “What’s hurting? What’s hurting? What’s hurting?” an answer will all of a sudden appear from nowhere. That’s usually when I’ll burst into tears, or scream out in rage over something that I was completely unconscious about, until I started overeating.
So after 39 years on this planet, many of them baffled and upset over the mystery of why I overate, I finally embrace my overeating. When I overeat, it’s a sign that I am not right; that I need to sit on my meditation cushion and love myself enough to go deep inside and face whatever it is that is hurting or upsetting me. When I’ve faced it and dealt with it, not only am I done overeating, I am also at peace with whatever was causing me to hurt in the first place. And I feel amazing. Ahhhh, the beauty of overeating. It’s simply a sign to wake up and be conscious … and to love yourself enough.