I've had my fair share of out-of-control-out-of-body food episodes. My fair share of moments when I just. cant. stop. eating. And, for the longest time, I blamed only myself. (Note: this rarely helps.) Since then, I've learned there are 4 really important things to know if you can't stop eating - or if you tend to turn to food for distraction.
1. When you can't stop eating, it's got very little to do with food.
Instead, when you can't stop eating, your "out of controlness" has everything to do with what's missing in your life and what's not aligned to the life you want to live. As author Alexandra Jamieson says, “our soul’s to-do list is showing up as your cravings.” Next time you're craving a specific food (especially in response to a specific situation), take a moment to relax. What are you feeling in that moment? What do you want to be feeling instead? What little actions can you take to start feeling that desired way without food?
Another food & lifestyle expert, Katie Den Ouden, also shares some powerful wisdom about food. She says, “Our cravings are simply indicators signaling a deprivation of what we do truly need and desire.” She continues to explain that we actually crave what those certain foods will make us feel and experience in life. “For example, I don’t desire croissants, I desired indulgence and pampering. I don’t desire cake, I desire celebration and freedom.”
2. It's important to accept everything you think is "wrong" about yourself.
Think about the times you typically run to the fridge in a frenzy. Or the times you literally can't stop eating. Are you trying to numb a certain feeling? Are you looking for comfort? Are you reaching for love? Are you searching for happiness or peace? Are you trying to relax?
Many times, we reach for food to "fix" our feelings or to make us feel better about ourselves/our situations. It's natural for us to use food to force our bodies into a state of relaxation. It's one of the easiest ways to do this since we digest food in the relaxation response as opposed to the stress response. When we overeat, our bodies are forced into relaxation so that we can digest & ultimately survive. Although it's a natural response to stress, we know it's still not the ideal way to feel better.
For a long while, I tried to fight the fact that I felt unsatisfied in my job. It was a great job, with great pay, great people, a great balance, and great benefits. Because of this, I thought there had to be something wrong with me to feel unsatisfied.
How could I possibly be unhappy?
What is wrong with me?
I must just be lazy.
I bet there isn't any work I'd actually enjoy!
I just don't want to work.
I'm such a fool if I give this up.
One day, I decided to finally acknowledge everything I was feeling about my job. I accepted that I didn't enjoy my work as much as I wanted to. I rejected the idea that I should enjoy it. I let go of the external pressure and finally listened to myself. I acknowledged that I wasn't sleeping at night, that my acne was getting worse by the day, that I had bumps randomly appearing on my neck, and that my skin felt as if it was crawling.
We are great just the way we are. We can be accepted, loved, and cherished just the way we are. And that acceptance starts with us. Nobody will fight as hard as us for our right to this.
3. Acknowledge all your feelings and thoughts, without judgement.
Similar to the above tip, we want to acknowledge our feelings and thoughts, no matter how irrational, "stupid", weird, or annoying we think they might be. If you feel it, that's ok. If you thought it, that's ok. Because at the end of the day, you are not your feelings or your thoughts.
I'm not irrational even though I had an irrational thought.
I'm not bad because I ate a cookie.
I'm not needy because I want attention.
I'm not stupid because I fear taking the next step.
I'm not lazy because I don't like my job.
As you give light to your feelings, thoughts, wants, and desires without judgement, you can focus on solutions to your problems. Say for example you want more attention in a relationship. Can you admit to yourself and your partner that you desire more of his/her time...even at the risk of being called needy? Or do you go after his/her attention by picking a fight the next time you're together? (I've been here more times than I can count.) When you give light to your needs without judgement (for example without labeling needy as bad), it's easier to remove the labels we give emotions and objectively recognize that there are better ways to receive the attention you want. (The quickest way is to give some.)
As we can acknowledge our feelings and thoughts, especially the ones that make us want to run to the fridge, we start to realize that it's usually not food we're seeking, but rather a little more TLC in another area of our lives.
You might need...
To read a good book.
A talk with a boss.
A career change.
Quality time with a loved one, family member, or friend.
To go on a date, put yourself out there, take a risk, or learn something new!
You won't know what you need until you listen to your body and acknowledge what you're feeling. It might be hard to hear, but you can handle it. You deserve to be truly taken care of. As author Mark Manson says, "Emotions are not a choice. Behavior is."
4. Eat every time you're hungry.
It's simple, but it's important! Our bodies do not know the difference between a self-imposed restriction (diet) and an environmental restriction (such as needing to go into survival mode because food may not be available again for a long time). If you're hungry, nourish your body.
If you want to keep chatting, or dive deeper into why you can't stop eating, consider joining The Wellness Boulevard.