For five years of my life, I’ve battled through my difficult relationship with food. I’ve fallen into the clutches of anorexia and binge-eating disorder and I’ve come through so I know just how hard it can be. I know exactly how it feels to constantly hate yourself for not being able to change your behavior when it comes to eating.

And for a for a long time, I didn’t have any answers.

I’d resolve to lose that weight that I’d piled on thanks to my eating disorders, only to fall flat on my face after a particular trying week at work, or a difficult emotional situation. Because I felt so bad about my eating habits, I’d punish myself emotionally, only to descend into yet more overeating. It was a vicious cycle without end.

But thankfully, these days I’m in control. I don’t follow any nutritional plan or exercise obsessively. Yet since my recovery I’ve lost an amazing 10 pounds. Almost effortlessly.

Today I’d like to share with you the exact shift in mindset that allowed me to return to a healthy weight without falling back into my old habits. You see, you don’t have to change your behavior to lose weight but your thoughts.  Let me explain more.

The Negative Cycle Of Overeating

At the very core of any difficult relationship with food, such as anorexia or comfort-eating is negativity and pain.

It’s the ever-present fear of being inadequate. The fear of trying to live up to some unrealistic ideal that you have set for yourself and then failing. The fear of not being pretty enough, or thin enough, or intelligent enough. And the fear of not being like for who you are.

And in order to escape this negativity and somehow numb your emotions, you turn to food.  Because you believe that when you eat, you’ll be able to silence the dreading thoughts. At least for a while. 

So when you’re feeling really down, you throw open the fridge and stuff practically anything into your mouth to help you feel better. Or when you’re out for dinner with your friends at your favorite Italian, you treat yourself to a serving of their tiramisu because you’ve had a hard week and you deserve it.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Because you know you really shouldn’t have gone and blown your diet like that. Again. That nasty voice in your head screams at you for being so irresponsible and eating so much crap.

‘You’re so stupid- you’ve gone and blown your diet again. You’ve ruined all of your progress, everything you’ve worked for has slipped right down the drain. You’re never going to shift that weight and you might as well stop trying now.’

And you trust this voice inside. You believe that it’s the voice of your conscious and has your best interests at heart and so you listen to its criticism.

You beat yourself up for being so stupid and you feel the anxiety, the feelings of worthlessness, self-hate and despair begin to rise. So you do what you’ve always done when you feel this bad: you eat.

You think to yourself: ‘Screw it, I deserve some PB. I will never be thin again, I hate myself, I need some comfort, let’s just have the whole jar.’

Now you don’t need me to tell you that this thought pattern will lead straight into the next round of depriving-bingeing-hating yourself from which it will be impossible to overcome if you continue as you are. You’ll never shift that weight and you’ll always feel this bad.

How Self-Compassion Can Help You Break Free

But there is a simple and effective way you can break free of the cycle of comfort eating and finally manage to shift those extra pounds. All you need to do is add some self-compassion into the equation. 

Here’s a great example. Imagine again that you’ve finished off that giant bowl of tiramisu and it was just as delicious as you expected. Just second afterwards, that familiar negative voice creeps in and tries to punish you for being so irresponsible and eating so much crap.

But this time, instead of engaging in the tirade of negativity, you are compassionate to yourself.

You accept the fact that you didn’t follow your usual healthy routine and that it is okay. You know that this isn’t going to ruin all the hard work you put into your diet. It simply is what it is: a dessert. 

Then you go to bed and wake up motivated and start your day with a green smoothie, none the worse for having indulged a little. (Obviously, I’m stereotyping here a little, but I guess you get the idea.)

The secret to success is clearly the ability to become more compassionate towards yourself.

Treat yourself with just as much compassion as you’d give your best friend. You wouldn’t change your opinion of her based on the dessert she had last Friday, would you? (Unless, that is, “dessert” equals your boyfriend. But that’s a whole other story!)

If you tap into the pool of infinite grace and you become compassionate towards yourself, you’re far more likely to actually get where you want to be, whether this relates to your weight or the rest of your life.

For me, accepting that life doesn’t always work out as planned and being that bit kinder to myself has helped me to shift that extra weight, and has also me to make the mind-shift towards a more compassionate and self-loving life.

And since I was able to stop the spiral of negative thoughts I wasn’t forced to silence them with food, which led to losing all of that weight that I’d previously found impossible to shift. 

Because when you stop numbing your feelings, you’re much more likely to be able to listen to your body. Your body possesses so much wisdom and opening up and listening to her needs will give you all you need for a healthy and successful life.