Friday 27 April 2012

What do you choose: discomfort or food?

"Choose discomfort over resentment." Brene Brown (via Geneen Roth who posted it on Facebook). Choose discomfort over resentment... Choose discomfort over resentment... I've been turning this phrase around in my head ever since I read it this morning. And I know just how often I choose resentment over discomfort and the huge impact it has on my life and on my eating. 
When I choose to give Evie a lift all the way to fencing club instead of dropping her off at the tube, which would mean I could take the time to have a bath or do nothing much for half an hour,  I am choosing resentment over discomfort. Saying NO to my daughter just feels too much like the lifetime of NOs I heard from my own mother and I can't bear the discomfort, so I choose resentment. 
When I spend the the only quiet hour of the day, the one just before I go to bed, with Ben because he really wants to spend some time with me, he hasn't seen me all day when really I want to curl up in bed and read my book or catch up on an episode of The Great British Menu, I am choosing resentment over discomfort. Saying NO to him, doing what want, pleasing myself rather than everyone I live with is just too damed uncomfortable. So I choose resentment. "Why does he have to be so demanding and needy" is a much easier, more familiar place to rest.
When I spend the day dashing from one place to another, clients, shopping, Fairy Hut, pick ups and drop offs, packed lunches and cooked dinner... and, yet again I don't make time to stop for a sit down lunch for myself, I am choosing resentment over discomfort, again. I can't risk disappointing another, I cannot bear their disapproval. I have to do it all and strive for perfection. I have to cope and make it work. I have to. It's so much safer and more familiar to stick with putting myself last and disapproving of myself. So I keep driving myself and staving off the discomfort of being a fallible, average, unique - but just like everyone else - human being. I want to be special and maybe if I do everything for everyone one they will think I am? The discomfort of not being special enough is just too painful. 
I am more comfortable feeling a low level of pissed off resentment "I do everything in this house, I never have a moment to breathe, if I just stopped it would all go to pot, how much do I have to do before I can stop? Do they love me enough yet? Have I done enough? Am I good enough now?" Of course I never say any of those things out loud, I'm far too proud and keen to kid even myself that I am not resentful or close to overload on a daily basis! I prefer not to admit any of that, even to myself. And yet it's my theme tune. In one way or another it's what I tell myself when I choose resentment over discomfort. 
Is it any wonder that food is such a good friend? Always there. Always available. Never demanding or expecting anything of me. There to provide a moment of respite. A moment of escape. The perfect plug for all my resentment, for all the contempt I feel for myself when I live in fear of discomfort. Dependable. Predictable. Soothing. Reassuring. My best friend food. 
These days I am opting for discomfort more and more. And while sometimes staying with discomfort is so painful, I wish I could escape from my body and be swallowed up by the floor, sometimes it almost feels good! Yesterday when Ben asked me if I would make him a sandwich to take to work (with a puppy dog look, mixed with criticism that I do it for the kids so why not for him?) while I was rushing around at 7am, doing five things at once, so I could get out of the house on time, I stopped for a moment and said "No, I'm sorry Benj. Not today". For a moment the look of disapproval and disappointment on his face felt like the most uncomfortable pain. I felt it with my whole body. I interpreted the look on his face and his cold, curt "Ok, fine" as "If you don't love me enough to make me a sandwich then I don't love you". And that is sooo uncomfortable. And what I have discovered is that it's bearable. The discomfort is ok. If I can catch the urge to fuel the feeling of discomfort with recriminations of my own "you should be more generous, come on, you could have made him a sandwich, it's not much to ask, no wonder he feels that way, he's right, you really don't care about him enough" etc. When I catch that Gremlin and shut it up, I don't feel uncomfortable for very long. And I don't end up feeling resentful. I don't feel like a doormat. I have given myself the message that it's OK to disappoint another to be true to myself. And that feels so, so, so good, a bar of chocolate doesn't even come close. 
"Choose discomfort over resentment" could be the strap line of our new book and workshop: Beyond Temptation. It's what Audrey and I have been working with, personally and professionally for the past 6 years; how to manage everything in our lives which is uncomfortable, without succumbing to the quasi irresistible temptation of food. 
I will continue to choose discomfort over resentment and numbness, today, tomorrow. Whenever I am willing. One day at a time. Discomfort is my new best friend. Sorry food! 


  1. Thank you very much for this Sophie. A brilliant post. Denise x

  2. So so so so true. Thank you for reminding me that if the beds don't get made and all the washing done and ironed on my one day off in weeks, and if the family come home to the mess they left it in for once, the world will not fall apart. And having made time to have a lovely breakfast in bed with a book instead, I find I'm not mindlessly eating chocolate biscuits while I resentfully do the ironing. Which is probably what I would have done if I hadn't just read your post. Thanks again.

  3. This is a fantastic post and really resonates with me and I am sure countless other women. Thanks Sophie!

  4. This resonates with me so much. Thanks for writing this.

  5. Yes, thank you, Sophie, I am a real people pleaser - sometimes I have just felt that my life was all about choosing who to disappoint, and I - and my needs - were out of the question. I know that people-pleasing can make them dependent and helpless and if I'm resentful it will come out somehow, and at the worst time. But at least I'll have been "good" - and then food or drink makes it all right! - NOT!! - discomfort, her I come.

  6. This is a very challenging concept - I suspect it is easier for men than women to say 'no', as girls are brought up to please and put themselves out to please others. I am also discovering the power of discomfort and saying 'no' sometimes and then NOT eating my way out of the discomfort .... thanks for articulating it so well.

  7. Thank you for your honesty, Sophie, and for such a powerful reminder of the importance of self-care. I'm lucky enought to have my sister and my Mum working on this with me for the past couple of years - it's great to have people to remind you and check on you from time to time. When I catch myself putting myself under unnecessary pressure, I ask myself what I would say if a good friend was doing the same thing.

  8. This is such a great post, thank you. Really resonates, spot on Sophie!

  9. I'm really glad this post resonates with you all. Thanks for taking the time to post your comments. Have a good weekend.

    1. Another fantastic truth Sophie :) You have such a way of saying just what I know inside! Last year having chosen resentment over discomfort far too many times I became really ill. I just could not take the strain any longer. I had to start learning discomfort came first, just like you are discovering. Saying "No" is one of the hardest things to say to those we love, but it really does enable you to "taste the freedom!" It is liberating, if not comfortable, but very exciting actually and anything to help us women feel good about ourselves eh?

  10. I had to comment on this from a slightly different point of view... For me personally, the discomfort is the physical discomfort I feel when I try to sit with feelings rather than eat my way through them. I quite often eat during the day if I'm tired but know I still have to work, this in turn leads to me resenting myself for eating and then I go through the cycle again. I find it difficult to sit with my my feelings, I find the big knot in my chest just horrid and I eat to push it down.

  11. I really understand what you are saying Anonymous, about the discomfort of sitting with your feelings. That's what the new book we have been writing shows you how to do. When we learn to manage our feelings, we have the tools to choose not to use food to stuff them down or numb them. Sadly a bit too complex to outline in a brief blog post - the book comes out Sept 6th - hope you'll find it helpful.

  12. Wow this is fantastic thank Sophie :)

  13. Sarah Wright, Guildford1 May 2012 at 13:59

    Your e-mail came through just at the right time and I want to thank you so much for posting it.
    I have been working with the beyond chocolate priniciples for a few years now and was really in control for ages until 11 weeks ago when I had my 2nd son and all the old familiar comfort eating behaviour came flooding back.
    I was unsure how to re-gain my control, and then your e-mail came through and reminded me that I don't have to eat everytime I feel bad. In just 4 days I have turned a corner, and finding myself turning to food a lot less already.
    Can't wait to receive your new book. Thanks again.
    Sarah Wright (Massive fan!)


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