When life feels hard, painful, or overwhelming, we all have coping mechanicisms, ways we care for pain, stress and vulnerability.
One of the most popular coping strategies is food. We may eat to soothe painful feelings, like loneliness, fear, anger, or sadness.
We may eat when we hurt and long for comfort - for a warm, nurturing presence to understand us, to 'get us' and 'hold' us.
We may eat to soothe anxiety. Our bodies feel agitated, our minds are racing, and we feel overwhelmed by too much to do or too many feelings. Eating is a primary way we try to calm ourselves when we're distressed.
Food works - temporarily
Food does work, for a bit. It temporarily soothes the panic and helps us feel better. But it doesn't really work. The feelings of relief don't last, don't truly satiate us, and don't give us what we really want or need.
But we often keep trying!
When we get caught in overeating
You may read diet book after diet book, trying to gain a measure of certainty so you know you're eating the 'right' foods.
You may feel stressed about what to eat, how to eat, or how to stop eating.
You may fear holidays, restaurants, and get togethers because once you start eating, everything goes sideways.
You may wonder –
how do I
trust myself to have a healthy relationship with food when I've never
had a 'normal' relationship with food?
When overeating overtakes your sense of self
The relationship you have with food can start to color everything , seeping out to filter how you see yourself – your whole being.
You see yourself through the lens of an 'overeating self.'
This often leads to shame and isolation - feeling broken, deficient, or like a failure.
It can lead to self criticism, where your frustration at the situation comes out sideways, at yourself. This is the inner voice that says, "Why aren't you doing better?" Or, "This is all your fault."
It also creates a lot of urgency, a panicky feeling of, “I need to fix this right now.”
When the attempt to heal makes things worse
Because these feelings are so painful, we often put a lot of energy and effort in trying to help ourselves 'get better.'
But the shame, frustration, and panic seeps into the healing process. Pushing ourselves often makes it worse. And the shame and panic makes it hard to learn, grow, or feel into what's needed.
This is often when we throw our hands up in the air, feeling helpless, or hopeless. We may feel stuck, like there's no way out, and give up.
The way out
There is a way of out of overeating. But it's not a path of demanding or forcing growth.
It's a path of befriending all the tender life that drives us to overeat in the first place.
It's only when we become curious about what's under the overeating that we can soften the fear, criticism, and shame that we feel about using food for comfort, soothing, and stress relief.
The answer is relationship
To soften patterns of overeating, you start at the beginning: how you relate to your very struggle with food.
Instead of feeling shame, self criticism, self blame, and panic about overeating, what would it mean, instead, to feel acceptance, warmth, compassion, understanding, and peace?
This is the difference when we focus on relationship instead of doing the 'right thing' to correct the behavior.
With relationship, we feel encouraged and supported, like we have our own inner Mr. Rogers at our side, helping, encouraging, and guiding us.
It's a sense of, "It's okay that you've struggled. I know there are good reasons why you turned to food. And this can change. It's going to be okay."
How relationship leads to change
Relationship is like soil: what holds the healing you long for.
The changes you want to make with food are the seeds that you plant in this soil.
And the overeating is like a tree that needs pruning, where what is 'dead' and no longer working is pruned out while what is trying to grow is given support and nourishment.
When we heal our relationship to our pain, then we can approach our coping strategies - solutions that may have worked at one time, but don't work now - with the things they need to change.
We can start to steer ourselves in a different direction - but without the forcing, panic, criticism, and demands.
3 tools that nurture healing
The good news: the same tools that help you build this nurturing soil also help you prune out the overeating. I've found three things in particular that help:
Understanding the primary emotions that drive overeating
There are a few primary emotions and key ways we use food to self soothe, care for stress, or to soften feelings of overwhelm.
When you learn how some of these basic drives work and why you get stuck, you can soften the blame that says, “It's all my fault.”
Softening shame, judgment, and self blame
When you struggle with any kind of compulsiveness with food, it's easy to feel frightened by it.
Because it feels so scary, there's often a
lot of self blame and frustration – a feeling of,
can't I get my food under control?”
But in truth, there's something very tender underneath the food: some vulnerability that's asking for understanding and care.
Moving into the heart brings softness, compassion, and forgiveness for the ways you've cared for overwhelming pain, confusion or stress with food.
This softness is what allows the pain underneath your
'overeating parts' to feel safe enough to be touched, grieved, and
When you combine insight with compassion, rather than feeling like a victim of food, you feel empowered: like you're standing in your strongest self.
There's a feeling of emergence and new life: step by step, with the support and help I need, I can get there.
To do this, you bring in play, ease and support. This reduces the load on the limbic system, moves energy, and creates space for the growth process.
Playfulness and distance soften the anxiety, stress, and urgency about needing to fix your relationship with food. There's more space to care for the tenderness that arises, and it feels less personal – you feel less victimized by the food.
The perfectionism about needing to get it 'right' softens, and food doesn't feel so life or death. It becomes something that feels workable and possible, with room for trial and error.
Relating to food rather than getting stuck in it
If you can create some healthy separation with your relationship
food, and nurture a space of compassion and listening, then food - and
all the feelings that it arises for you - can be something you're
to, rather than
getting stuck in
That's how the Heart of Food can help. Rather than looking at food as something you need to fix right now you'll learn how to relate through the heart, where there's light at end of the tunnel.
You'll get daily, bite sized support to help you create a different relationship to food.
Here's more about what's included:
- 28 videos to help you make sense of your relationship with food
- A downloadable PDF transcript of the videos that you can read, mark up, highlight, and write on
- 5 practices you can use in your daily relationship with food
- Recordings of 5 Q&A webinars where folks asked questions about food
You can learn more about the course and sample the course materials below. You can also hear from former students about how our courses have helped them.
Not sure if The Heart of Food is the right fit for you? Please email us with any questions - we want you to get the right fit for you.
StartDay 1 - Bring love into your relationship with food (3:55)
StartDay 2 - Everything belongs (5:15)
StartDay 3 - The caring presence (5:47)
PreviewDay 4 - The deep belonging to be found in failure (5:08)
StartDay 5 - Expanding the field and opening to possibility (4:48)
PreviewDay 6 - Moving from the head to the heart (4:58)
StartDay 7 - Softening into the vulnerability that lies under frustration (7:54)
StartDay 8 - Inviting in the "unlived life" - befriending the grief underneath judgement (7:14)
StartDay 9 - Translating insight into behavioral change (7:51)
StartDay 10 - Opening to gratitude (5:57)
StartDay 11 - The love that brings in "no" and rest (5:08)
StartDay 12 - The waiting time - what's born in the silence (6:16)
PreviewDay 13 - Softening the urgency to fix (7:24)
StartDay 14 - Softening resistance with connection (6:41)
"My time with Karly's kind, encouraging, occasionally self-deprecating, humorous and loving voice was very healing for me. She gave me practical tools, planted phrases for showing myself support, lent tips for building a supportive environment around me, and
led me in a very inviting and non-threatening way through a kinder re-framing of my developmental wounds.
[Karly's] combination of maternal warmth, self-kindness, down-to-earth humor, and theoretically-grounded cognitive behavioral approach delivers a holistic and intelligent healing experience, different from those who gloss over attention-starved psychic wounds with repressive positive thinking and irritating generalizations.
Karly's focus on integrative thinking, embracing ambivalence, acknowledging pain, caressing neglected parts of my psyche, and 'being the adult in the room' provided an encompassing platform that helped me immensely."
- Jenn Lindsay, USA
"Best money I've ever spent. Seriously. Nothing about my food issues has ever made sense before - - until now.
My thinking is changing a little every day, and your teachings are a balm to my soul. I often find myself weeping because you "get me." And you are right; the material is so deep and life-changing that I desire to go over it again and again.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Karly."
- Cindy, USA
About Karly, the course creator
Hello! I'm so glad you're here. I’m Karly, your guide through the course. I help highly sensitive people who struggle with shame, sugar, overdoing and perfectionism and who yearn to create a kinder, more compassionate relationship with themselves.
There's a deeper story that lives underneath the surface story of your struggle, and this story is both more true and more merciful. It's this story that I help midwife into being. There is so much beauty - and so much tenderness - that lives in and underneath your struggles.
Growing human(kind)ness, the name of my website, means to soften self criticism and shame, and to claim the wholeness that is our birthright. This work arose from two things - from my own experience with 20 years of multiple eating disorders, chronic depression and anxiety, and from bearing witness to others' stories of challenge, growth and rebirth.
I teach classes, write books and courses, and speak to groups.
I offer this teaching in service to all who feel the shame of human stumbling and who yearn for wholeness, and a desire for a more compassionate and connected world. Underneath all my work you'll find a love for the human heart.
I live in Austin, Texas with my husband Patrick and our family, two dogs, a very frisky cat, lots of dust bunnies, and beautiful oak trees. I love good stories, good music, good food, good words, lifting heavy things, and long walks.