I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve been really into working out; I’ve been into weight lifting, kickboxing, step classes, running, the elliptical. Then life would, at times, get busy and I would fall out of my routine and my workouts were more infrequent. But for the past 20 years I’ve been a pretty regular gym goer. A few years ago, I had a back injury that I worked through with physical therapy, but when I started a new job, my old back problems were aggravated and since then I’ve had a hard time with hip and back pain.
Working out for the past two years has been very difficult for me and lately I’ve noticed that I don’t want to go the gym. I just haven’t felt like working out and I started to get very frustrated with myself. So, the other night, I had to sit my feelings over this. Why is that I don’t feel like working out even though I need to? I know it’s important for my overall health and that I need to keep up my routines to keep my core strong to manage my back pain. As I sat with this, I had to be honest with myself, sometimes I do things that physically hurt me. I’ll still go to my kickboxing class, which I really enjoy but I know isn’t the best thing for my back. I’m not always doing the best things for myself when I go to the gym, I sometimes get overzealous in my workouts when I want to feel strong or get my endorphin rush. Because my underlying injury is still causing problems for me and it hasn’t been corrected, I’m still in pain. So, I’ve been avoiding going to the gym because my workouts usually hurt. There’s a valid reason why I don’t want to go, I haven’t been lazy; it’s that I don’t want to be in pain.
When we don’t understand where things are coming from, we can start to beat ourselves up if we’re not doing things we think we should be doing. Many of us do the same thing with food. If you keep trying to lose weight and you get frustrated with yourself, because you can’t stick to a food plan or you’re bingeing at night, it will probably keep happening until you see there’s an underlying reason for it. What’s in your life that’s leading to your struggle with food? What pain are you not recognizing? Are you happy in your relationships? Is work really difficult so food is a crutch or comfort at night? You might think you’re not strong enough, you don’t have enough willpower and you’re not disciplined enough to overcome this thing with food. But it’s not that you can’t overcome it, it’s that food might be playing a specific role for you and helping you avoid dealing with other things in your life that feel uncomfortable or unmanageable.
This isn’t really different than me avoiding the gym because my back hurts. When we think we’re not strong enough, or not disciplined enough to control our eating it could be that we’re not recognizing that there’s uncovered pain we’re not addressing. The food and the eating is just a symptom, a signal trying to get our attention so we can address what’s off in our lives. Our urge to eat might really be us crying out to address what’s uncomfortable or painful.
If you’re continuously having the same struggle with overeating or bingeing, have some compassion with yourself. If you’re always going for food at night when you’re not hungry, can you identify what it is that you’re really craving? If you’re snacking at your desk at work, might you be eating because you’re overly stressed? If food is controlling your life, what is it trying to tell you? Until we notice and address that the eating is really a symptom of some unidentified pain, we’ll continue to struggle. Just like I’ll be in pain and have a hard time doing exercise until I find the right help to address my back problems.
If you think pain might be a factor in your overeating or binge eating, contact me for a free consultation.