Overcoming addiction with self-love… Is it possible? A student asked me if accepting the body would help him change it? Loving his belly exactly the way it was, made a fear pop up that he might not change if he would accept and love it.
Inspired by this question, I made this YouTube video that answers the question whether self-love helps to conquer addictions, and in short, my answer is that yes, cultivating self-love will help you to overcome your addictions. But that’s not all of the story…
For more, watch the video on how self-love helps you to overcome addictions or read the short version of the answer I wrote to my student below here:
“I totally understand your question and concern!
I wondered about this myself for a long time. How can we still aim for improvement if we’re aiming for acceptance at the same time?
I feel that acceptance is always about the Right Now. So it’s about accepting what IS. And it’s not about accepting something that might be, like an even fatter belly 5 years from now. I do say: Accept and love what IS Right Now, so accept your current belly.
Something else that IS Right Now, however, is your wish to be leaner (non-addicted) in the future. And so that’s also something to accept and love.
And something else that IS Righ Now is also your fear to keep having this belly or an even fatter belly in the future. And that’s, again, something to accept and love right now.
With this Now as your starting point (acceptance and love for 1) your belly as it is right now, 2) your wish for a leaner body in the future and 3) your fear of an even fatter belly in the future) it seems a self-loving thing to me to let your belly be the way it is right now (nothing you can do about that now anyway)…
ánd to take your own wishes and fears lovingly serious and see if you can take some steps to start working toward a future that you feel you would prefer. Because it’s sweet to yourself to try to create the life that you think will make you happy!
So maybe this could mean finding some healthy diet changes you can enjoy, or some sport you can enjoy, or seeking out therapy for problems you have that make you want to overeat as an escape from them.
In addition, you can also try to love any possible future version of yourself. So you might like to first imagine a good case scenario in which you have lovingly taken your own preference seriously and you have achieved to get a leaner body. Probably easy to love that possible future version of yourself.
Less easy, however, will be to love a possible future you who has tried to take measures and change life around, but who has just gotten a fatter belly. See if you can send love to that “failed version of yourself, it deserves love too! That version of you has tried and is still loveable for being a human being living a life of challenges and failures. That version needs your love! Try to send it.
Another future version of you whom you might like to send love is the version of you that has come into acceptance and love for the belly, and who hasn’t even tried any more to change anything about that. Maybe that version of you has grown a fatter belly.
Awww but it’s still YOU!! Still a human being with emotions. Don’t hate him for not having tried hard enough. Love him for having learned so much acceptance and self-love. And love him for not having tried hard, that… actually… a quality too!
But, of course, there are more possible future versions than we can even imagine right now.
So why not see if you can send unconditional love to any possible future version of yourself?
Just for the fact that it’s you and you want to love any possible future version of you! And all these possible future versions are human beings with emotions, in need of self-love, facing challenging in life… and trying to make the best of it based on the best they know how and can do… ! So from a place of recognition and understanding, send your love to your future self, in whatever way this person will turn out to become.
Hope this makes sense!
Okay, that’s for self-love (sorry I’m really focused on that!). But your actual question is that you just want to change your body, and will self-love help you do that?
Personally, I think self-hate is something that makes us overeat (even more). Addictions are never stand-alones, they are ways we try to cope with our unwanted emotions.
We can’t handle feeling irritated by our family members? We start to drink. We don’t want to think about our past trauma’s? We numb ourselves with weed. We don’t want to feel the fear of our goals failing? Let’s eat some food.
(These are real examples I have seen around me, and my biggest addiction, actually, is eating, and I eat more when I’m feeling stressed or depressed.)
Your addiction (eating) is probably fueled by many problems you will all need to address in order to really solve the addiction. Because you see,
The addiction is just a symptom.
It shows us that there’s something really wrong and we’re trying to make ourselves escape from that for a moment and feel better by eating.
A really interesting research I want to refer to, just to make this whole point clearer is one carried out in the ‘50 or so. They gave lab rats the choice between a bottle with normal drinking water and a bottle of drinking water with cocaine added to it. The rats kept choosing the cocaine until they basically died from it. The researchers then concluded cocaine is an addictive substance.
Later on, however, in the ‘70s or so, some researchers did a very similar research with a very different outcome. Again they gave lab rats the same choice, but this time, the rats were put together (instead of solo) in one huge cage with enough nice food, comfort, and play materials. The rats kept choosing for the normal drinking water and remained in good health. Why? It might very well be because they weren’t lonely, uncomfortable, and bored!
(Here’s a short video you can watch on this research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg )
So you see that what we call ‘addictive substances’ are only addictive when we have problems that we’re trying to get away from and ‘solve’ by making ourselves feeling better with a substance that’s actually not making us feel better in the long run and that doesn’t actually solve anything. Like eating unhealthy and too many foods.
Overcoming Addiction with Self-Love
So solving an addiction is not as easy as learning to say no to the addictive substance. Self-discipline might get you a long way, but you’ll still be solving only the symptom of all the problems that actually underlie your addiction, and you’ll need to keep up this continuous fight with yourself all the time until you actually solve the root problems.
When you’re exposing yourself to self-hate because of you still eating to much and having a fat belly, you’re just adding to the bunch of problems that are making you eat in the first place. Now you’ll have another emotion you want to get away from your self-hate.
We live in quite a difficult world. There’s a lot of stress around. Not enough money, wars, traumas, too many stimuli every day through the internet, advertisements, news, busy traffic … you name it.
No wonder we are like those rats that keep choosing cocaine. We’re all addicted to something! If it’s not cocaine or food, it’s porn, gaming, smoking, or even work/productivity/success or gaining status. Please please please, give yourself some Compassion for facing such a difficult and very intense challenge!
If you can start out with giving yourself compassion (here’s, by the way, a guided Youtube meditation I made on self-compassion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3qYMveADQo) and loving yourself the way you are now, that’s at least one problem less to have to face.
You deserve your own support! And thát will help you in facing all the problems that you need to sort out to finally need less overeating to soothe yourself. Ánd the whole healing journey will become much pleasurable and more effective if you can love yourself through it. I wish that for you!
Let me know if you have any further questions.
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