You ate several slices of pizza, and barely tasted them. You were too exhausted to get through your entire to-do list. You slept past your alarm and were late to work. Again. You couldn’t do your usual 20 push-ups. You’re becoming more and more anxious at the grocery store. You find yourself getting angry around the same time every day.
Normally when we overeat, when we aren’t as productive as we think we should be, when we do anything else we believe is wrong or inconvenient or frustrating, we judge and criticize ourselves. We bash ourselves. We ruminate. We feel regret. Buckets and buckets full of regret.
And we think we need to punish ourselves. And we do.
Why did I do that? I’m such an idiot! Why didn’t I just stop eating? That means I’ll have to put in more hours at the gym. I’ll wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow. No exceptions! I don’t care how exhausted I am! I did this to myself.
All this does, in addition to making our lives and ourselves miserable, is to stop the conversation. It shuts down any potential progress. We assume we did X simply because we’re morons and we’re clearly falling short. We’re not measuring up because there’s something wrong with us—not because there’s an important explanation or revelation that requires an important solution.
But really all of the above is information. It is information to explore. It is an invitation to delve deeper. It is an opportunity to better understand ourselves, our desires, our needs, our habits, our vulnerabilities. It is an opportunity to do something different next time. To make a different decision. To give ourselves what we actually need.
Why did you barely taste the pizza? Maybe you were starving and need to eat more often. Maybe you were restricting yourself but then couldn’t take it anymore. (Restriction usually leads to bingeing. It’s a cycle.) Maybe you were upset, and turned to food. Maybe next time you’ll find a different way to soothe yourself that will actually nourish you. Maybe next time you’ll focus on savoring one slice of pizza slowly and deliberately—and then consider if you’d like a second one and a third.
Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t. Either way, you’ll start savoring and checking in with yourself.
Why were you so exhausted? Maybe you were exhausted because you barely slept because you’ve been super-stressed. And you need to take it easy. You need to include more breaks in your day and reduce your to-do list. Because maybe it’s your expectations that need revising.
Why did you oversleep? Maybe you need to create a bedtime routine or a different bedtime routine to help you get sounder sleep. Maybe you keep snoozing because you don’t want to start your day. And you don’t want to start your day because a) you don’t like your job; or b) you’re struggling with some anxiety and depression; or c) you had too many glasses of wine the night before, which makes you feel terrible.
All of this is information. It is information that deserves to be explored. The next time you’re mad at yourself, the next time you’re bashing yourself, stop. Pause. And simply ask, “Why?”