Q & A series: #2) How can I stop the urge to eat everything in sight?
This post is a part of blog post series in which I'm answering questions you guys have sent me until I head out on maternity leave later this summer.
Ready for the second question?
Let’s dig in!
How can I stop the urge to eat everything in sight?
This is a question I get asked quite often…
And I soooo get it! I use to think that food has control over me and that my problem is that I just don’t have enough willpower. My solution was restriction - I didn’t allow any ‘fun foods’ in to my house and avoided eating certain food groups. Little did I know I was making ‘my problem’ even worse.
Cause here is the thing…
When you label food as good or bad and you don’t allow yourself to eat all foods, these foods gain power over you.
Say I told you: Don’t think about the pink elephant.
What have you just thought of?
The pink elephant…
When you tell yourself you can’t have something all of the sudden that's all you can think about and so you start seeing 'pink elephants' (aka donuts, pizza, brownies...) everywhere!
I really want you to know that nothing is wrong with you, you are not weak, or broken or lack willpower. The only problem is that you're approaching the problem with the same thinking that got you there (rephrasing an Albert Einstein quote here). Instead of trying to ‘fix’ the problem externally (by restricting more) I would like to offer you a new approach - try to address this internally.
What do I mean by that and where do you start?
Let go of the all or nothing, black or white diet mentality.
Let go of external restrictions, even if they are done ‘in the name of wellness’. This is perhaps the scariest and most challenging step you can take because you'll feel like you’re letting go of something that gave you a sense of control. What would be really useful here is to dig deeper and try to understand where does this need to control come from? What are you afraid will happen if you let go of rules/restrictions?
When I work with clients on this, we take it one step at a time. Don’t expect change to happen overnight - ease in to it slowly. Perhaps make a food freedom list (food you restrict, which you've identified as ‘bad food’) and try introducing one food every week or two, or even once a month - find a pace that works for you.
Be patient with yourself and remember - you are probably rewiring a pattern that was formed over years and maybe even decades and that can take time. If it feels hard, if you’re having second thoughts about whether all this is even working and perhaps you're tempted to try another diet or food rule it is useful to remind yourself you have tried restrictions before and it didn’t work. Whenever that sneaky voice in your head tells you to give up, say to yourself: "I've already tried that before, now I'm allowing myself to explore something new."
Explore your thinking and behavioural patterns around food.
Why are you doing certain things?
Are your eating habits a result of external influences (magazines, the voices of your parents, diet/wellness trends, food rules...) or are you able to listen to your internal signals (like what to eat, when and how much to eat)?
Are you making food choices mainly based on judgment (thinking about food in terms of good or bad)? For example - maybe you allow yourself to have certain foods only if you exercise.
Challenge and confront your limiting believes (If I eat___ I will ____).
Ask yourself how is restricting foods or following certain rules has been serving you?
For example - if you are restricting your portions during the day, you might notice that you are overeating and grazing at night.
Asking yourself these questions, watching your behaviours (without judgment!) will teach you a lot about yourself on so many levels. You might find out your eating style is what Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (authors of Intuitive Eating) refer to as the ‘Waste-Not Unconscious Eater' - eating which is driven by the value of food and is triggered by ‘free food’ - not wanting to waste food. When you dig deeper you might find out that your mom always told you to finish the food from your plate for example.
Being aware of your behaviour patterns and where they come from is the biggest and the most important step you can take towards lasting change. With this awareness you can start rewiring your brain, challenging this behaviour one step at a time, simply by asking yourself questions before you act.
For example, if you are tempted to eat a free sandwich at a work meeting pause and ask yourself: Am I hungry? How would I feel if I eat the sandwich? How would I feel if I won’t eat the sandwich? Will I feel deprived? And finally what I call the ‘golden question’ - HOW DO I WANT TO FEEL?
I also love this flowchart by IMMA eat THAT -
As much as it’s important to work on the ‘food stuff’ it is essential to develop a self care routine alongside. This is something I’ve learned through my own experience and working with clients - our relationship with food is usually not about food, it’s always about something deeper. Self care helps you establish a better more intimate relationship with yourself so food isn’t an escape or something to hide behind
I encourage you to take time to redefine what health feels like for YOU and get clear on what truly matters to you. Pleasure, joy, peace are all important elements for your wellbeing.
Is restricting and depriving yourself allow you to thrive in that way in your life?
Remember: You don’t have to eat perfect to be healthy.
Courage, surrender and lots of support are so important on this journey. Trust will come along the way!
If you have more Q’s feel free to send them over!
Lots of love,