The single biggest question people bring to coaching is some version of ...
Why can't I stop emotional eating?
Which is followed by some version of ...Why do I feel so out of control around food?
Trust me, I get it. It just doesn't make any sense. We are all intelligent, resourceful people who are able to get things done in so many different areas of our lives but when it comes to food we can feel powerless.
It was the same for me. For years it seemed like the harder I tried to stop stress eating at night, the worse my emotional eating got.
The only thing that seemed to work was to not focus on it too much which meant that it didn't get worse, but I would still struggle.
Since I've become a coach I've found there are a few reasons why emotional eating can feel out of our control, especially when we try to stop.
One of the reasons it's so hard (and there are a few) is a weird bias in your brain called IMP.
IMP by name, imp by nature - turns out IMP it works like an imp in your brain literally backfiring any attempts you make to resist thinking about something. It stands for Ironic Monitoring Process, which sounds like meaningless technical jargon, but in fact explains why when someone says "Don't think about a pink elephant" .. wait... you've already pictured one, right? You rebel.
The reason you do this is that you have to think about what you're avoiding in order to avoid it. Makes sense, right? The problem is the more you try to suppress urges the more you wire them in. So, the more you try to suppress urges, the stronger they get.
So, how do we actually avoid doing or thinking about something without making it worse?
Very good question. The answer is simple. We allow it to be there, but without reacting to it in any way.
The tricky part is that we have to learn to allow it to be there without ...
You can use some questions to allow the urge to overeat to be present without trying to change or avoid it.
-What does the urge feel like in your body?
-Where is it located?
-When does it show up ... and when does it stop?
-How does it change with time?
You'll be surprised to find that urges to eat will pass given time and that they aren't as urgent as you might have thought. And if you allow 50- 100 urges without responding you'll find the urges lessen.
Have a great week!
Want to talk? If you are finally ready to stop the food obsession and walk away from food that doesn’t serve you and finally, have your mental space back…then we can make that happen with a step by step plan, today!
Book a call and let’s talk.
We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes and we’ll a deep dive into your relationship with food. We’ll get clear on:
Is fear of a ‘no fun’ future keeping you stuck overeating?
Whenever I try to make the smallest change to my eating long term my brain freaks out, telling me that deciding not to have a treat when I get home means I'm choosing a 'blah', 'boring' life with zero pleasure.
It's just the tendency of our brains to treat any change that involves short term discomfort and make it mean that discomfort will last far out into the future.
That's because our brains lie to us to keep things safe and familiar. Basically, they are hardwired to seek pleasure, avoid pain and do what we've always done. This is what psychologists call the Emotional Triad. And while it kept us alive when food was scarce, now food is plentiful it's what's keeping many of us trapped.
I see this a lot when clients think about removing processed foods like sugar and flour from their diets. They know they feel better when they stay off sugar and flour but they don't continue because of the fear they feel when they imagine years of deprivation.
“But I really love x,” they say, “I couldn’t imagine a future without it.”
The thing is, what I've found is, tastes change surprisingly quickly when you give them the chance. Quit sugary and fatty foods and you'll soon find them too sweet and too rich. And you can still enjoy them occasionally as a treat.
Our brains are surprisingly adaptive when we ask more of them. It's like we have the most powerful computer in the world and we never program it, instead, we just let default cultural programming run. And so we get the default results of our culture - over 60% of us are overweight /obese and eating emotionally.
-Happy? Celebrate with a treat or a drink
-Stressed? Take a break with a snack
-Need to wind down? Go see what's in the fridge.
I was a big sweet food fan, in particular, baked stuff. As the day at work rolled and the stress mounted I would be thinking of a trip to the bakery on the way home or during a break. But now it doesn’t even occur to me - I find that stuff too sweet. A bite or two, and I can almost feel my blood sugar spiking.
Advice to keep your brain from freaking out is to focus on the short term.
Literally, program your brain. Tell your brain reassuring things to keep it focused on the short term...' I’m just giving a different kind of eating a try'...' I'm doing this now, the future will take care of itself'.
Given time, it's possible to completely change your desire to overeat even if, like me, you have been an emotional over eater for decades.
Don't worry about the future and just think about what you can do now.
Have a great week!
I just wanted to write to you to say that there’s no right time to start. We all like to think that there will be a perfect time to start but let’s get real. We’re all busy and there’s never a perfect time.
If you want to stop emotional overeating start today.
If you want to lose weight start today.
The sooner you start the sooner you put the struggle behind you.
If there’s one thing I wish had happened now that I have put the struggle with emotional overeating behind me for good it’s…
I wish I would have started sooner.
Because these days ice-cream is just ice-cream.
Just last night I was having dinner with friends standing at the kitchen counter scooping boysenberry coconut cream ice cream out of the container and I noticed after not only that I didn’t feel like any, it didn’t even occur to me to eat any. And I had zero mental drama about the ice cream.
There was no emotional charge at all. That's when I realised I actually happen to have three containers of coconut ice cream in the freezer. One with berries, one plain that’s nearly empty, and a backup. I was not particularly aware of their existence in my freezer and they do not sometimes mysteriously call to me as they did in the past. They are just stuff in my freezer. Not only that I realised I have four bars of chocolate in the cupboard. Unguarded. Un-obsessed over. Just sitting there because my favourite 75% and 80% dark chocolate were on special and a couple of special ‘fancy’ Perugia were also half price. So there they are, four bars of chocolate… just sitting there. NOT CALLING TO ME AT ALL. When I think back to a few years ago this is basically, miraculous.
A few years ago the emotional charge of ice cream and deciding whether to have it or not would have been all-consuming. Not having ice cream would have left me feeling deprived. There would have been the white knuckle resisting eating them and then giving in and eating a whole pack.
But now there’s no more stress eating. No more shame and no more feeling out of control and no more wondering what is wrong with me and why can’t I be more like other people.
But the thing is, I now know most people overeat. Nearly 70% of us are overweight and a third are obese.And in my job as a market researcher, I knew why it's normal to turn to food. I spent years interviewing people in-home and in-depth uncovering the underlying emotional drivers that make products feel irresistible.
It was when I learned to reverse the marketing-saturated cultural programming I finally broke free. Anyone can do it. It’s a simple process - you could become a normal eater within days or weeks.
So, if you are finally ready to stop waiting, act now. There are still a few mini packs of two sessions for $99. I absolutely know you can do this. And now’s the perfect time. You don't have to let more time pass struggling on your own.
Have a great week!
Today I was talking to yet another person who was telling me about how their last diet was going great and then 'suddenly' it stopped working.
We’ve all this story before. As an overeating and weight coach, I hear it all the time.
Around about the end of the story the person telling the story usually says something like “I just fell off the wagon”, like I know the wagon they are talking about and it’s just super easy to fall off it.
The thing is we all do know this wagon and we all fall off it - a lot.
There’s only one problem. There is no wagon to fall off largely because the wagon is a metaphor and we can’t fall off metaphors. So at this point in the story, it’s worth pointing out there’s no actual wagon.
Me: “You do know there’s no wagon,right?”
Him: “So what happened then?”
Me: “Something came up that tested your resolve, that you weren’t prepared for, and you gave into that.”
I explained more. “Basically there was a situation that you had a thought about, which created a feeling, that led to you taking the action of quitting your diet.”
“If you can find the thought and change it, you can stop quitting. It’s that simple.”
He said “So, basically it’s like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy” and I said “Yes. It’s exactly like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.”
The thing is with cognitive behaviour therapy or any other thought work - If you are not using this, it’s working against you.
If you aren’t aware of the thoughts and feelings that are driving your actions they will be unconsciously driving your life. And in a marketing-saturated culture, this means you will be overeating and drinking.
The choice is whether you choose to be aware or not.
So if you think about the last time you broke a resolution or a food plan. It may feel like it was involuntary but if you take the time to think back to the occasion where you went off plan you can actually map out the thought that led to the feeling which led to the action. Once you have this mapped out you can change the thought.
It’s got four parts ...
So, a typical chain reaction might go like this
Notice how those thoughts feel reasonable but they aren’t aligned with the action you want to take?
Now if you are quick enough to catch the thought you can begin to challenge and change it to something that makes you have the feeling and action you want to have.
Remember the marketing culture is designed to meet our needs with consumption at any point in the day. If we want to push back against always eating or drinking we need to challenge the thoughts that make overeating possible … one by one.
Try identifying the thoughts that come just before overeating and once you have you’ll see that it’s so much easier to stop being controlled by them.
Need help applying this? Book a free session with me and I’ll help you with the thoughts that are driving your overeating. You can stop overeating today. (Remember, there’s no wagon.)