People often think that they should stop emotional overeating so they can lose weight and finally be happy. I always tell people you don’t need to lose weight to be happy, in fact, it works better if you are happy with your body before you lose weight. Loathing can only get you so far on any diet plan, then there’s the crash and binge.
I personally believe the only reason to stop bingeing and emotional overeating is because bingeing and dieting function as distractions. We overeat and binge to avoid unwanted feelings. And the ultimately the diet-binge cycle provides a distracting sideshow that stops us from moving forward with our lives.
I remember when my days were planned around food. Either what I would be eating through the day or what I would allow myself to have at the end of the day. Honestly, so much of my mental energy was spent on diet and food I hardly had time to think about what I really wanted outside of stopping overeating and losing weight. Plus, everything I wanted in my life was delayed until after I got this binge thing under control and yet my days were filled with thinking about food.
So many clients come to coaching feeling absolute stuck in the cycle of dieting and bingeing just like I was.
It wasn’t until I stopped using food as my “go-to” to avoid emotions and learned to process them that I really got a handle the problem and lost weight for good.
Frankly, the real benefit was not getting past the shame and embarrassment of bingeing or even losing weight, it was the time and focus I got once I learned to manage my mind and emotions around food. All of a sudden I was using that same energy to move forward on my business, my social life and my family.
I was no longer putting my life on hold till after I got this overeating thing handled. I just didn’t think about food and the urge to binge was completely gone.
And this is true of anything we use as a distraction, whether is a drink at the end of the day that turns in to more than one or two leaving you tired the next morning, or the Netflix binge that has you scrambling to catch up with all the things that you should’ve got done. It’s easy to spot when we are in an over-consumption distraction loop because there’s always that sense that we are out of control and powerless to stop it.
Managing our thoughts around food is the key to change. I never thought there would be a day where I could honestly say “It’s only food” and mean it. That I could go to a restaurant and look at the menu for an option that fits with my plan and not feel deprived. It’s just a non-issue now. Sure, I still have foods just for the flavour but they are planned and I never have that sense of deprivation around food because I have taken the time to explore and manage the thoughts I have around food and to work on changing them over time.
An exercise that you can use to begin to understand your relationship with food is to use the prompts below to understand how you are thinking about food today. Make sure you answer each of these questions quickly and honesty so you can see the thoughts that are running your relationship to food. If you take the time to write down the answers on paper it’s even more powerful in revealing your thinking to you.
The last prompt should tell you a lot about what you are thinking prior to a binge, so take note of that one in particular because that is one of the thoughts that is driving your urge to binge.
Notice if you have conflicting stories about food. Some positive and some negative. You might think food is ‘love’ and food is bad at the same time. It’s this conflict that leads to us feeling like we are actually eating against our own will. The thought that food is bad drives us to limit food, while the thought that food is love drives us to binge.
Until you really take the time to look at what is in your mind you can’t begin to create thoughts that are in alignment with how I want to think, feel and act around food?
Ask your self how do I feel when I think that ‘food is love’ when you are considering stopping overeating? Most likely, it makes you feel ‘deprived’ or something similar. Now notice how you act when you feel this way? Again, if you are like most binge eaters you’ll find this feeling is what drives your bingeing.
It sounds crazy but it really is this simple. Thoughts create feelings which drive our actions.
By identifying the thought you can begin to work to change it. And by changing the thought and you will begin to be able to change the feeling and action. Do this enough and you will be able to change your relationship to food for good. And most importantly you will be able to get on with more important things in life than constantly obsessing about food.
Remember, if you need help applying these strategies I offer a 20-minute online mini-session where I am happy to coach you through an issue you have around your eating for free. It ’s zero obligation just so you can get to experience the power of coaching first hand. Zero sales pressure and as always I promise you will get value.
Have a great week,
Hi, I'm Lydia Pattison.