The Comfort Menu
In lesson one we went through the kindful eating cycle. I suggested that change becomes possible when we’re able to accept painful emotions instead of judging them as ‘not ok’ and trying to fight them. Maybe you’ve tried this out?
Noticing and naming painful emotions can be helpful in this shift. In order to work with our emotions we first need to feel them. We might not have much practice at registering emotions in our bodies – for good reason. As a first step to working with emotions it’s important we feels safe. Later we’ll explore how compassion can help us feel safe enough to work with painful emotions.
Another thing that can help is having a comfort menu. This is a list of things you can turn to that comfort you. Sometimes comfort is distraction, sometimes comfort is soothing or treating ourselves, sometimes it’s expressing emotion, or connecting with people, pets, the earth, it might involve touch, sound, scent, it can be focused attention and more besides!
Can you write yourself a comfort menu of ten or more ideas. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- watch a comedy
- watch a weepy
- cuddle the cat
- stand outside under the night sky
- text a friend and arrange a zoom dance together
- have a shower with fancy products
- do a jigsaw
What’s on your comfort menu?
Here’s something to think about: would someone who feels at ease with food ever comfort eat?
This video goes into some of the theory for building a 5 Senses Toolkit. This has room for chocolate, but apparently not ‘for a gallon of ice cream’. Just to say, if you need ice cream, you need ice cream, that’s not to be argued with.
“What are the dashed lines for at the top of the scale on the teach sheet?”
Well spotted! Most people find that when life is easy to cope with it suits their mood and energy levels if they stay between their 4 and 7. The dotted lines illustrate this range.
What I’m highlighting is “all things being equal, keeping within approximately 4 and 7 supports our wellbeing in the round”. Of course sometimes things are really really hard. The dotted lines are also there to make sure I mention that the range works for most people. It’s not for all people all of the time. Maybe you aim to keep yourself in another range because that’s your everyday living well range. You don’t need anyone’s permission or endorsement to do this, but in case it’s helpful to hear all the same – that’s fine.
More on Body Signals and Sensations
Being able to recognise hunger, fullness, and satisfaction helps us directly when it comes to making sense of our eating.
There is also a more general sense in which getting in touch – literally – with our felt sense, even beyond hunger and fullness, helps us respond appropriately to what’s going on in our body. ‘Reading’ our bodies like this helps us trust ourselves at a deep level. When we feel able to trust ourselves we feel safe. When we feel safe we can think more clearly and act in keeping with our intent more often. We are more able to speak kindly ourselves when painful emotions or thoughts surface. If we have experienced trauma and are activated we are more able to ground ourselves.
All this means that noticing and naming body signals is an important part of the groundwork that supports us in feeling more at peace with food and safe in our bodies.
There’s several different ways we can connect to, and work with, body sensations and I’ve given three activities here. We’ll return to this in the next lesson and consider more examples.
- A 3 minute body scan audio clip
- Emotions O’clock – Can you ask yourself “How am I feeling?” a few times on the hour throughout the day. Here’s a list to help you find nuance.
- Breathe in for the count of five, breathe out for the count of five (or any number that feels comfortable). Practice a few rounds of this a few times a day. It can help us feel more present with ‘now’.
Each of these activities strengthens body awareness. Over time this helps us trust our body as a valuable source of knowledge. We’ll consider other influences in later lessons.
What did you learn about food restriction from the magic biscuit activity?
Who is more likely to ‘tidy up’ the cake even if they’re super full – the dieter or the person who isn’t dieting?
Let’s imagine I really fancied some cheese toast but didn’t let myself eat this. Maybe I thought it was too fatty, or salty, or high calorie or whatever. Instead I ate an orange. How would I feel? What might happen next?
I think I’d feel dissatisfied and deprived.
I might eat several oranges – and then some cheese on toast.
Here’s a scientific fact: no amount of oranges will fill a cheese on toast shaped hole.
Fancy that? Well, you can give yourself permission to eat food without categorising it into good or bad, or should or shouldn’t. If you fancy it, it’s ok to eat it.
This is eating with attention, or by attunement.
When we eat what we fancy (also known as legitimising foods) we are less likely to eat with abandonment.
Here’s a few pointers on tuning in and making sense of emotions, eating and body signals.
Last week we discussed words that come from restricting food (diet mentality) and alternatives. You can revisit this using this list if you like.
What are you hungry for?
This is one of the questions on the hunger-o-meter teach sheet. Next week we’ll go through ideas for how to figure out what we really fancy eating.
If it sounds useful you could spend some time thinking through what you might be hungry for, aside from food, that you might use eating as a substitute for.
How does it feel to ask yourself the question? How would it feel to ask someone for help if you needed it?
A Reminder to Go Gently
Remember, some of these questions might land deeply and feel unsettling. It’s fine to be unsettled – we need this for change to happen. It’s also true that there’s a point at which we can be too unsettled to engage with learning, which clearly isn’t helpful. We need a steady place in ourselves to return to (the body awareness exercises will help with this) as we adjust to new ways of being with food, emotions, knowledge and so on.
The most important thing for the learning and healing that’s happening here is that you explore your feelings and beliefs. This means being able to engage, and this means pacing yourself. Don’t worry about doing everything that’s suggested, amount doesn’t matter. It’s more important that you can be present with whatever you do, even for a short time and even for a tiny amount.
Last question, what are you looking forward to? Have you got any treats planned? If not, now is a great time to put something in your diary!
See you soon ~