an Inner Shift

Uncomfortability is a major skill in freeing yourself from food compulsion. It is a major life skill full stop.


...And resisting it is very common, because chaotic eating is a way to avoid discomfort, which you have most likely programmed into your brain as a coping strategy for life.


What Is Uncomfortability?

A client coined this term during a session one day, and with her permission, I stole it! It has two meanings:


MEANING #1 The ability to either put up with discomfort (usually emotional - but could be physical) instead of eating it, or to channel difficult feelings and release them...instead of eating them.



*Doing a crossword or sudoku when you are bored instead of eating (and making sure you not only buy a puzzle book but take it with you when you might need it)

*Journalling about your anger/grief/insecurities instead of eating


*Cravings Busters


*Talking to/ emailing the person you have a problem with instead of eating


*Any strategy from the Feel Good NOW Handbook instead of eating


*Doing something creative when you feel unhappy instead of eating (drawing, collaging, scrapbooking, playing music)


*Meditation or breathing exercises when you are stressed instead of eating


*Reconnecting with old friends/ organising a social event / join an online dating site when you feel lonely instead of eating


*Just running an extra minute when you are starting to get tired


*Stepping out of the restaurant/freshening up for a couple of minutes when you are hungry and the food is about to arrive instead of asking for more breadsticks


MEANING #2 The daily practice of developing uncomfortability will make discomfort less scary and easier to cope with, in the same way that the experience of walking or running a mile every day goes from very difficult to easy the more you do it.


This creates a powerful ability to achieve your goals and pursue your bigger ambitions in life, a ‘lifeability’ if you will.This is the end result and second meaning of uncomfortability.



Develop uncomfortability and you learn lifeability.


As you know, the ‘tagline’ and core mission of my coaching is Reclaim Your Life From Food. Can you see how developing uncomfortability is such a key part of this?



Above I have given a few examples of coping or channeling strategies for discomfort. I know that these will be helpful to you, but that is not the whole story. Because we resist uncomfortability, we require constant awareness and daily action to develop it.

Here is how to develop uncomfortability:


Are you willing to embrace uncomfortability? You need to consciously say YES or NO.

Be aware that your experience around eating will have been uncomfortable anyway. So the REAL question is:

Which kind of uncomfortable do you choose - because it's one or the other:

(a) continuing in eating compulsion, self-sabotage and useless guilt - and never really changing. This discomfort is permanent.


(b) a more intense discomfort initially as you stand up to your old patterns. But as long as you use the tools I give you and keep on keeping on, this discomfort gets less and less the longer you say YES to it.

So...which do you choose?



You may need to look to documentaries (any maybe films - but be aware that the plot can be distorted for the purposes of tension etc) and biographies to inspire you.

Start with this podcast on The Failure Olympics

I will add examples to this page as they occur to me.



What are your favourite eating (and drinking) coping mechanisms for emotional discomfort? Make a list. For example: visiting a particular cafe that sells a specific comfort food, a Friday night drinking session after a stressful week, grazing on others’ leftovers when clearing up dinner plates, an extra junk food ‘treat’ you eat on the way home from doing a big grocery shop because you are so tired, arranging to meet a friend for coffee who always eats junk and so green lights your chaotic eating, leaving out food on display in the kitchen that you can graze on without realising because you never sit down and relax at home, developing a habit of drinking a lot of tea/coffee at home because it gives you the opportunity to graze on any available food nearby.

In my experience, awareness doesn’t all come in a blinding flash of revelation. You will probably add to your list over time. For example, it took a few weeks for me to realise that when I am brainstorming ideas for my podcast, I go into a kind of manic creative mood during which I will blindly hoover up any food that is sitting on view. I am often not aware of what I am doing. So one strategy for developing uncomfortability here is to make my kitchen as mess free as possible.

Food compulsion is like a politician that is desperate to cling to power. You elected that politician (for very good reasons) but now, like the British public voting Churchill out in 1945, it has served its purpose, you are ready to manage without it, and is time to vote it out. And, like any good democracy, you have that power.

(By the way, when I was fact checking this analogy, I found this article that was quite interesting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/election_01.shtml) I had fun replacing the words ‘Churchill’ with ‘compulsive eating’ and ‘peacetime’ with ‘reclaim your life from food’ 🙂 It does not read that smoothly, but the metaphor is really powerful, so who cares?!


Howver great uncomfortability sounds, you will resist it. One of the reasons people generally do not persist with New Year’s Resolutions is their resistance to uncomfortability.

Accepting this resistance is humbling. NB acceptance is NOT the same as complacency. It is more a case of agreeing it exists in order to do something about it.


Next, define specific examples of actions like I did at the top of this page that will help develop uncomfortability. In session we will agree on the most important one as your check in action with me.



My anecdote of tidying away mess in my kitchen to prevent grazing is an example of this.

Are there any habits you need to set up or changes to your home or work environment that are necessary to remove opportunities for comfort eating?

One very common example is meal planning and food shopping. See the Menu Boards page for more on this.

Changes you need may conflict with others’ desires (such as a workplace cookie jar). This is a separate issue that we can discuss in your sessions.

These environmental and organisational changes become action steps themselves - add them to your list.


The reason you resist uncomfortability and the common sense examples given at the start of this page is that to the compulsive part of your mind, it feels unsafe. However miserable your eating problems make you feel, your Cavebrain sees that you are still alive every day. It knows nothing of the freedom that awaits you on the other side of uncomfortability; what lifeability is. And even if it did know, it would not care because it only cares about your survival.

So you have to prove to Cavebrain that journalling your grief, or tidying your kitchen to avoid grazing, or a three minute run to channel your rage are OK for your survival.

And you do this by simply doing those things - over time. Cavebrain gets the message eventually, and the discomfort evaporates. Until then, it is a case of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

You start off small. For many clients I give them seemingly super easy check in tasks like taking 5 minutes for themselves after dinner, or 2 box breaths before every meal.

Small also means ‘not too many’. It can mean ONE action. In fact, at the start, it probably will be just that. Too much challenge means overwhelm and rebellion.



If you have not already created these affirmations in one of your coaching sessions, you will soon! Essentially, these very specifically crafted statements instruct your subconscious to accept both the actions decided in step 4, as well as beliefs that serve you better.



If you use food to numb difficult emotions, positively channelling and releasing them will put food out of the job of emotional regulator. It needs the sack! We will discuss this area in your sessions.

You keep on chipping away at your resistance. Rinse and repeat. Your capacity for uncomfortability will grow, and one action step becomes two, then three. You can tackle bigger challenges in life because you are learning to either sit with discomfort or channel difficult emotions. The success you want in life comes packed along with more challenges. But as Mark Maron said, problems don’t disappear - we just swap them for better problems. Warren Buffet has money problems, and so has the homeless man down the street. Whose money problems would you rather have?