On a regular basis, I hear things like,
“When I start eating certain foods, I feel like I can’t stop.”
“I’m so good during the week but on the weekends I lose all control.”
“I can never just eat one cookie…”
Most of the women with whom I work are confused, overwhelmed, and feel like they’ve lost all control around certain foods. Some even say that they’re addicted to food. But how can any woman not feel that way when we’re all just trying to tread water in this diet and weight-obsessed culture that we live in?!
We bounce back-and-forth between eating our salads and steamed veggies to diving face first into spinach artichoke dip, barely breathing as we inhale it.
We then berate ourselves for having no control and being failures, punishing ourselves right back into the same old restrict, binge, shame cycles that we convince ourselves we’ll someday master. And why wouldn’t we if no one has ever taught us any different?
Restriction Leads to Bingeing
Bingeing is a completely normal response to restriction, so your and feeling out of control and wanting to eat everything in sight means YOU’RE NORMAL, and you’re body’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing– keeping you alive!
See, what most people have never been educated on, is that our bodies are WIRED to fight back when they feel deprived. So what may seem like a simple 500 calorie deficit to us puts our bodies on high alert- it’s literally a microtrauma to your body, no joke.
It’s response? To ramp up hormones that tell us to eat more, which means cravings for high fat, high sugar, calorie-dense foods. When the body needs more fuel, fast, it knows that it can’t get concentrated energy from fruits and veggies, which is why all you’ll be able to think about is chips, burgers, and cookies.
The Mental Toll Restriction Takes
We’ve all played that little game where someone will tell us not to think of a pink elephant and then that’s, of course, all we can think about. While silly, what it’s demonstrating is essential for all of us to understand- as soon as we tell ourselves we can’t have something, it’s all we want. And when we do eventually eat it, we tend to feel out of control because we’ve given that particular food so much emotional power.
So, let’s say you tell yourself, that you’re not allowed anything sweet. What do you think you’re going to think about? Sure, cutting out sugar to an extent may be a beneficial move for your health, but telling yourself you CAN’T have any is like pulling back an bow and arrow. You can hold that tension for a little while but eventually, that arrow is going to fly in the opposite direction, relative to how much force was behind it.
Creating Allowance, Regaining Control
People confuse allowance and permission with eating anything and everything whenever they want, but that’s not what I’m saying. The point I am trying to make is that all foods fit. When we give ourselves permission to eat the things we want, knowing we can eat them again, they begin to lose their emotional charge. Overtime, we begin to view them as normal, everyday foods, so that when we do eat them, we feel more in control.
Eventually, you may even find that certain foods you thought you loved or were even “addicted” to start to lose their appeal. This happened to me when I started eating pizza regularly. I never used to let myself have it so when I did, I would take down at least six big pieces at at time, and then feel HORRIBLE, physically and mentally. I’d convince myself that I had no control and wasn’t allowed to eat it every again; but guess what that only fueled? The same vicious cycle.
Fast forward and while I still love me some pizza, I can stop at a couple slices because I know I can have it again whenever I want. As a result, I don’t need to jam in as many pieces as possible in one time because I don’t know when I’ll get it again.
Please understand that this is not something you decide to do and it just happens. Just as you wouldn’t go to therapy one time to fix a troubled relationship, overcoming any type of disordered eating pattern or beliefs is no different.
Be patient with yourself and understand that this is a process; one that comes with ebbs and flows. And one that I promise you is worth your time and effort.
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to call or email with any questions. And if you feel like you’re addicted to food or feel out of control around it you can learn more here.