In this episode I will be discussing how shame which can start in childhood can impact your eating behaviors, self-confidence and self-acceptance.
1. Picture yourself at your family’s dinner table. Ask yourself which foods were “forbidden” to you and why. What emotion did you feel?
2. Next imagine a time when you felt shamed about your body or your size. What emotion did you feel?
3. Now go back to each situation in 1 and 2 above and do the following: Practice saying at least one encouraging statement in each situation. For example: “I am worthy to eat what my body desires” or “I am proud of my strong body.” The goal is to challenge the shame and instead of hiding because of it or binging to escape it, finding a way to have compassion for yourself and realize that you don’t have to be perfect to deserve compassion.
Why do I binge when I feel shame?
Hello everyone, it’s Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross, and today episode number 42. Why do I binge when I feel Shame, so we’re gonna be talking about this and more, so stay tuned.
Today, we’re talking about shame. And maybe you, like me, have experience, shame. And it’s one of the worst emotions you can possibly have in my book. Well, bingeing, obsessing about food and body dissatisfaction can all be ways in which we try to deal with our shame. But what is shame? Well, Brené Brown says shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience, that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. So shame is not just about we did something wrong and therefore we feel guilty.
That’s guilt when shame comes into play. It’s where we feel like we did something wrong and therefore we are wrong. We are a bad person. When you were a child, were you ever made to feel that something about you wasn’t right? Maybe it had to do with your size or something about your appearance. Or maybe it may have been how much you were eating or what you were eating. Or it may have been anything else about you. So, for example, that you were good in school or that you were artistic.
Whenever you’ve been shamed as a child, you may have come to believe that you’re bad or worthless. And then you develop an inner critic who tells you that you’re bad when anything goes wrong in your life, and then that younger or child part of yourself believes it. So the inner critic says you’re a bad person and the child part of you says, Yeah, you’re right, I’m a bad person. Shame can be so powerful it can make you afraid of making mistakes in any area of your life, and then that can lead to secrecy and perfectionism.
You know that feeling of where you can’t let anyone know that you have a flaw or they’re gonna know that you’re an imposter or that you’re a bad person. So why do we binge over eat when we feel shame? Well, because as I said earlier, shame is one of the most awful emotions to feel. And it’s hard to tolerate. Shame makes you feel like you just want to disappear. You know, it can feel like your heart is being ripped out from your chest or like you’ve been punched in the gut.
And most of us would do anything not to feel shame. So we turn to food. Now, maybe you have an experience, a lot of shame in your life, but if you have food and body image issues, it’s a good bet that you’ve experienced either body shaming or fat shaming or shaming in some way. I remember one of my clients, one of my eating disorder clients who was called a name by her own father. He used to call her Miss Piggy, and that made her feel really ashamed.
And so this was the beginning of her feeling that there was something really wrong with her, that she was flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Now, I’ve been working all this week, and interestingly, I’ve had a really rough week where I made a mistake and I felt an enormous amount of shame about it. And I’m I’m owning up to that now. It’s not an easy thing to own up to making a mistake like the one that I did.
However, I was. It took me a while to get out of that feeling of just like I just want to disappear. I can’t tell anybody about this mistake. I can’t, you know, share it with anyone. I don’t know where to go for help. Something’s wrong with me. You know, all of those negative thoughts. I don’t want to put those out on the airwaves for it for you to re-experience my shame. But none of us none of us can go through life without having some shame.
Now, I think I’ve said before that, you know, the Buddhists say that pain is part of the human condition. So that means that. Everybody in their lives at some point will experience some pain or some shame that’s been known for a long time, that people who ruminate on their failings and circumstances are more prone to depression. So, you know, if you keep going over and over in an endless loop in your head, oh, my gosh, I did this.
Something’s wrong. Why did I do that? How can I, you know, et cetera, et cetera, that can make you more prone to depression. And also strong negative emotions associated with self-loathing like shame contribute to feelings of social isolation. Like I can’t be around other people. There’s something wrong with me. No one will want to spend time with me. And also can cause feelings of helplessness. So this is this is the condition. And I know we’ve all experienced it and it’s not an easy thing to deal with.
We also know that being shamed in childhood can cause more severe bingeing behaviors. But the problem is that even though you may feel better for a short time after you binge or over eat, you may then feel more shame because you binged. So it puts you in kind of a vicious cycle of binge eating and then shame and then shame and then binge eating and so on. So experiencing shame, especially in childhood, can also be caused by abuse or childhood trauma.
But you know what? Shame. What it ultimately does is rob you of a sense of security and self acceptance. It takes away or eats away at your self-confidence and it can plague you throughout your life, especially if it starts in childhood. Now, the best way to deal with shame is through self-compassion. And we’re going to talk about that more in the next podcast episodes. So be sure you tune in for that. But I want to just define what what is the definition of self-compassion.
It’s being kind and understanding towards yourself, despite your mistakes. It’s learning to have compassion with yourself just the way you are. And that’s really important. In other words. Anyone can have compassion if they feel like, oh, I’m perfect, I’m this great person. But can you have compassion for the parts of you that aren’t so great in your mind or the parts of you that make mistakes or aren’t perfect? Can you accept yourself right now just as you are?
So that’s the question. So how do you know if you are stuck in shame and unable to feel self-compassion? Well, here may be, here may be some clues. First of all, if you try to. If you. If when you fail at something important, you become consumed by feelings of inadequacy. As I mentioned that I did earlier this week, then that’s a sign that you are in need of self-compassion. If if when you’re feeling down, you tend to feel like most other people are probably better than you are, more perfect, more happier than you are, then you’re in need of self-compassion.
When you’re going through a hard time, do you give yourself the caring and tenderness that you need? If you don’t, then you’re lacking in self-compassion. When you fail at something that’s important to you, do you feel really alone and isolated in your failure? I know that I do sometimes, especially when shame is involved. And sometimes I also tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong. And I can be very disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies and also intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
So those are all reasons why we need to use self-compassion to help ourselves. So here’s some examples of when you know you’re giving yourself compassion. First of all, when you try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of your personality you don’t like. When something painful happens, if you take a balanced view of the situation, like, well, I made a mistake. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person or I’m incompetent. It’s part of the human condition.
In other words, you can see your failings as part of the human condition as as the Buddhists say when something upsets you, if you try to keep your emotions in balance. That’s a way to give yourself self-compassion.
And then just trying to remind yourself that feelings of inadequacy are common. It’s not just you who often who often or sometimes feels inadequate. All of us do. So if you think that it’s that you’re the only one, you’re mistaken.
So that also just sometimes we think that the degree of shame we have is indicative of how truly bad we are. What’s truly wrong with us. So if we feel just an enormous amount of shame, then we are enormously bad. We have something really huge wrong with us, but it’s the opposite. We should try to learn to read the intensity of the shame as an indication of how much and how deeply we do care. Not a measure of how screwed up or inadequate we are.
So I’d I’d like to give you a little bit of an exercise, you know how I’m always encouraging you to write in a journal, record your motions, your responses to especially to what we talk about on the podcast, in your journal. So here’s an exercise that might help you to deal with some of the shame and to identify episodes of shame in your own life. So obviously, if you’re driving, don’t do the exercise now. Save it and do it when you’re you’re home and you can write it down.
So picture yourself at your family’s dinner table. Everyone’s sitting around the table. The food’s on the table. The whole family is there, just noticed how you feel. Look at all of the different foods that are being served. Are there any foods there that are forbidden to you? If so, why? Are there any foods that you’re told you can’t eat too much of or that you have to limit your intake of? And why? So ask yourself, what emotions did you feel as a child when you were having meals with your family and see if there was anything that you were made to feel ashamed of?
Next, imagine a time when you felt shamed about your body or your size. Where were you? Who was making you feel shame? How did you feel, what emotions could you identify in your body, was your flushing of your skin a heat? Tightness of your chest or your shoulders. Just get in touch with how that being made to feel shame, how that felt in your body. OK. So self-compassion, again, is about learning to have to be kind and understanding towards yourself despite your mistakes. So this is maybe giving yourself a little bit of a mantra or affirmation that you can say when you have an episode of shame come up for you and oftentimes current. Situations in your life can trigger past feelings of shame. So one of the affirmations that I use is something to the effect of, you know, I am a good person despite my mistakes. I’m not perfect and. This mistake, it is part of being human or this mistake is something anyone could make or you could say.
Everybody makes mistakes. I’m not the only one. Everybody has feelings of inadequacy. I’m not the only one. So those are ways in which you can try to reduce the amount of shame that you have. And my therapist taught me a technique called flooding, where, say, you have a really intense episode of shame, which I did earlier this week, as I mentioned to you. You can just what I noticed is every time when I woke up in the morning and every time I went to bed, I was going to bed at night, that shame would come up for me because my mind was idle.
I was distracted by other things and he suggested, just allow yourself five minutes to feel and say to yourself all the things you want to say, but set the clock. And when five minutes is up, you stop. And you do that in the morning and at night for five minutes. And then you’ll find, as I did, that over time you have less and less to say.
Once you get it out, so sometimes trying to avoid saying or feeling certain things, trying to push them away with food just makes the shame worse. And so it’s better to you can journal about what you’re feeling for five minutes. You can just run it your you know, your list, your litany of your inadequacy, adequacy through your mind for five minutes, but do it for five minutes as a practice and then stop and then again, do it in the evening if that’s time that you’re vulnerable and then stop.
So that’s another technique that you can use to deal with shame. OK. Next week, we’re going to be talking about another aspect of self-compassion, that self-compassion beyond food and body image in episode number 43. So please tune in. Be sure and leave a review for our podcast. I really appreciate all of you who’ve given me feedback about the podcast. If there are any topics you want to hear about, you can reach me through my website.
And I just want to remind you that we have another anchor program starting soon. The anchor program, as you may have heard, is a 12-week intensive program that’s a non-diet approach to binge eating, food addiction and emotional eating. I offer a free consult to those who want to find out if they’re a perfect fit for the anchor program. And you can schedule that consult on my website. Achorprogram.com. That’s a-n-c-h-o-r program. com. Just go there and click on the link to schedule your free console. I’ll be happy to tell you more about it. Well, thanks for listening. I look forward to talking with you next time. And please be kind and gentle to yourself. Thank you.