NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
If you recognise yourself in this, the good news is that your level of self-esteem is in your own hands, at least to a very large extent. Understanding the problem is the first step, but many people get stuck there because they assume that self-esteem is an unavoidable consequence of their childhood experience. Do you think that your level of self-esteem is cast in stone, and that nothing you do in the present time has any impact on that?
It’s not that how you were treated as a child doesn’t have a huge impact on your self-esteem. Maybe you were given the message that you just aren’t good enough. Or your ideas and interests were acknowledged, and your unique qualities recognised. Perhaps you were raised with strong demands: never to appear lazy or stupid, never to make mistakes. Or to be successful or slim?
Loss of control with food – periods of overeating or binging – are in a great many cases directly related to a loss of esteem. It might have begun with a poor exam grade, a bad business decision, or a fight with a friend. The dent in esteem leads to familiar ideas that you’re not worth bothering about, so why take care of yourself, why eat healthy food, why aspire to any degree of self-control? This is precisely when any addictive desire feels most compelling.
The solution is in acknowledging that once the mistake has been made there will be some degree of regret. What you do have control of is whether you continue to reinforce it – or whether you begin the process of restoring your self-esteem. One of the most exciting things about addictive behaviours, especially eating, is that this source of self-esteem, the one that lives within your relationship with food is (at least potentially) entirely within your control. So the exam still got a poor grade, the effects of the bad business decision continue, or the friend continues to alienate you. There may not be much you can do about these. So you either live, at least for now, with this hateful situation and perpetuate the lower self-esteem by overeating. Or you live, at least for now, with this hateful situation and take control of one area of your life that can begin to make a positive impact on your self-esteem.