Posts Tagged ‘bingeing’
Many people believe they are addicted to sugar, simple carbohydrates or other specific foods, because they crave them all the time and then seem to go crazy on a binge when they gain access to them. There is a good argument to support this belief in Dr. David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, which puts the blame on the food industry for developing foods specifically to create this uncontrollable preoccupation and compulsive eating.
Yet, having worked with many people who struggle with cravings, binges and a belief they are addicted to certain foods, I know the issue is just as much driven by subconscious factors as bio-chemical ones. I also know you don’t have to give up these foods to be in control of them, as he strongly recommends.
Dr. Kessler’s research findings conclude the reason people crave specific foods is the combination of fat, sugar and salt often used in those foods to stimulate dopamine in the brain, which feels really good. Once you’ve had a food with this combination that stimulates arousal, you’ll want it again and again. This is certainly an important breakthrough in understanding why people are irresistibly drawn to food that isn’t healthy and struggle to stop eating even when they are full. No doubt, the food industry has taken full advantage of this potent combination, putting them in processed and fast foods where you’d least expect to find them, to keep people coming back for more and boosting their profits.
One approach to dealing with this is to simply stop eating all types of desserts, packaged and processed foods, fast foods, and most restaurant meals, and replace them with healthy whole foods with no sugar, fat, salt or emotional triggers. And that will indeed eliminate the cravings, for a while.
But like dieting, very few people can stick with eliminating foods they enjoy long term without feeling deprived. While Kessler acknowledges this problem by suggesting you rewire your circuitry by creating unappealing images of the food, this doesn’t address the real issue of deprivation backlash and the need for food satisfaction.
A better way to address foods that are designed to trigger cravings is to incorporate them into a healthy diet, so they are balanced with other foods to create satisfaction. Satisfaction is an important element of eating, and you are just as likely to overeat in an attempt to reach satisfaction as you are when you are over-stimulated by too much satisfaction.
6 ways to control cravings and binges without giving up favorite foods,
1. Pay attention to how hungry, satisfied and full you feel. If you don’t know when you are satisfied physically or when you are full, you won’t realize you are overeating or appreciate how unpleasant it feels to get full.
2. Identify the food for what it is instead of calling it a bad food. Most highly stimulating foods, like cookies, are primarily a simple carbohydrate with saturated fat. It is harder to tell if it has much salt.
3. Balance this food with other foods that have complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats and lean protein. If you want a cookie, then the trade off is to not have simple carbs or saturated fat in the rest of your meal or snack. When most of what you are eating is really healthy, having a little less healthy food doesn’t throw off the balance or make it unhealthy.
4. Give yourself permission to have this food in moderation when ever you balance it with healthier foods. When you eat food you think you shouldn’t, it creates a feeling of guilt and reinforces the belief that you should be deprived of it. This fuels emotional and rebellious eating, giving the food power over you. To take back your power, you have to stop seeing the food as a guilty pleasure or a forbidden food.
5. Really taste this food to see how much you enjoy it. When you aren’t over-stimulated or concerned about being deprived, you can more easily focus on tasting the food you crave. Most people find it isn’t as good as they thought and that healthier foods actually taste better.
6. Focus on creating satisfying meals with healthier foods. The more you remove the charge of highly-stimulating foods by allowing them in balanced moderation, the more likely you’ll gravitate to choosing healthier ways of being satisfied without feeling forced or deprived.
This approach, which is the basis of Intuitive Eating, addresses the emotional and bio-chemical cravings for foods designed to get us hooked. The less we eat of these foods, the less the food industry profits from them.
Do you binge, but don’t purge? Do you overeat at night on a regular basis? Do you eat when you are stressed or to cope? Do you eat in secret? Do you feel like a sugar or carbs addict? Do you eat lots of junk food?
Are you good during the day, but bad with food at night? Do you overeat forbidden foods before or after a diet? Have you been on multiple diets, yet still can’t seem to make healthy food choices or stay in control around certain foods? Or do you have restrictive eating and cheat days?
If you said yes to any of these, you have an eating problem. That does not mean you have an eating disorder, but you may be heading for one if you don’t change the way you eat and your relationship with food. Those with eating disorders are diagnosed with bulimia, anorexia or binge eating disorder, which are severe enough to put one’s health in danger.
Julia never worried about having an eating problem. She’d done about ten diets by the time she was 30, and she knew she could always diet to get into her favorite little dress when she needed to. But as her work got more stressful and her boyfriend began needling her about losing weight, she started skipping meals during the day and bingeing at night, often alone. She couldn’t seem to control what it said on the scale, and this scared her. She didn’t want to lose her boyfriend, so she starting purging after dinner and weighing herself constantly to ensure she was losing enough weight. Soon her routine became the norm, until she landed in the hospital weighing under a hundred pounds. She was stunned to realize she had taken things so far. She never intended to become bulimic.
It is likely that more than half of all adults in the US have an eating problem, but it goes undetected and unreported. No one talks about overeating, night eating, stress eating, emotional eating, sweets or junk food eating as a serious problem, but those who have these food patterns know it isn’t healthy and often carry feelings of shame about the way they eat. Many are also at risk, like Julia, of shifting into eating disorder behaviors.
Sadly, dieting contributes to the problem, yet dieting is the primary solution people are given to resolve eating issues by well-meaning physicians, nurses, coaches and nutritionists. In research conducted nearly twenty years ago, it was determined that 35% of those who dieted became pathological dieters, and a fourth of these people would progress into eating disorders. Very likely those percentages are much higher today, which explains why specialized eating disorder treatment centers are seeing such an increase in patients.
So what are the signs you may be heading for an eating disorder?
1) You are continually obsessed with counting calories, your weight, or what type of food you are (or are not) eating.
2) You get on the scale multiple times a day to check your weight.
3) You believe you are never perfect or thin enough, and you must control yourself with more restrictions and diligence to reach that state of perfection.
4) You exercise excessively to compensate for eating or to punish yourself for eating too much.
5) You hate your body, no matter how thin you get.
6) You are ashamed of the way you eat and often eat in hiding.
You don’t have to progress into an eating disorder to get help. More dieticians, coaches like myself, and a growing number of psychologists are now skilled in treating eating problems, particularly emotional eating, binge eating and body image issues. It is far easier to resolve these issues before they become life-threatening, but you have to be willing to reach out for our help.
The good news is, eating problems are fairly easy to resolve. So don’t wait to get help if you think you have a problem, no matter how small you think it might be. You can eat normally, and you can be free of the shame you carry about your body and yourself. I know, because I used to carry that shame and struggled with eating issues for most of my life. I wish I had gotten help sooner. So does Julia.
You know you shouldn’t have that piece of cake, the Girl Scout cookies or the candy that is calling your name, but you just can’t help yourself. You just have to have some. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten more than you wanted and now you are feeling a bit full and guilty. Once again you just couldn’t seem to stay in control around food. Has this happened to you recently – like over the holidays?
Feeling out of control around food can happen to the best of us, and right now it is happening to a great many people who have tried so hard to stick to their New Year’s resolutions and are giving in to their forbidden foods. Succumbing to what isn’t on a diet is inevitable. The more you try to force yourself to resist something you want and believe you shouldn’t have, the more you rebel against that restriction. Have you ever noticed that when you are deprived of something, you want it all the more?
Rebelling is a valid emotional reaction to being deprived of your needs and wants. It isn’t just “what you resist, persists,” although that universal law certainly plays a role. It is the battle between your inner voices, where one part of you is determined to enforce the restrictions you believe are necessary, and another part of you rebels against that enforcement and doesn’t frankly care about your rules.
You can almost hear your inner child or rebel’s voice when you go for that cookie or candy saying, “I don’t care; I’m going to have it anyway. You can’t stop me”. That emotional part of you drowns out your parental enforcer voice that is strongly reminding you not to eat foods believed to be on the forbidden foods list. In fact, the louder and more controlling your enforcer gets, the more determined your “rebelling child” is to get what it wants. In the end, your rebelling child almost always gets the cake, cookies or candy, and usually in large quantities.
You may be thinking that the only way to control your behavior around food you shouldn’t have is to give your enforcer a bigger stick, but that only causes your rebelling child to act out even more and leads to bingeing. You’ve probably tried getting tougher on yourself to behave. Yet as hard as you may have tried, most likely your “good” behavior didn’t last and you succumbed and gave in. The more you beat yourself up for being “bad”, the more likely you continue that “bad” behavior.
The reason is emotional. If you harshly judge yourself and feel bad or guilty for eating what you shouldn’t, you will eat to push away the bad feelings, to prove yourself right that you are bad and to find a way of feeling good.
The way to be in control around food is to stop judging your behavior and foods. Instead of believing any food is bad, recognize that it is the quantity of a food that becomes problematic. If you love a certain type of cookie, give yourself permission to have it with a balanced meal and enjoy it. By giving yourself permission, you are taking care of your inner child’s needs and giving yourself satisfaction and pleasure. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, by giving yourself permission to have any food you want whenever you want it, you will find you don’t really want all that much of it. You’ve removed the power of the food and the enforcer’s role of trying to control you.
It is when you are depriving yourself that you are emotionally compelled to make up for being deprived. This is true whether you think you should be deprived of ever having the food again, will surely be deprived because of an upcoming diet, have just been deprived having stopped a diet, or were deprived in your past. Many people are overeating foods they were once unable to have, even as far back as fifty years ago. An older man in one of my audiences wanted to know what he could do about overeating desserts every night. It turns out he grew up in the depression when sugar was rationed and he seldom got desserts. He is still compelled to make up for having been deprived of the desserts he wanted as a kid.
This week, pay attention to the foods you are trying to restrict and notice how this affects your behavior. Then try giving yourself permission to have that food in moderation and see if you really want all that much of it.
Katharyn knew she was eating because of stress, but she wasn’t able to stop herself from going through her cabinets and eating one thing after another until she was sick to her stomach. She is not alone. Most adults are overeating at night, and the primary reason is stress. Are you one of them?
Stress is now such a big part of everyone’s life, and the more we put up with, the less we notice how stressed we are. As a result, you might not even realize that what is driving you to overeat, crave sweets and carbohydrates, or turn to food when you aren’t even hungry is chronic stress. You may be under yet another tight deadline, feeling overwhelmed, dealing with negative people, making do with less, anxious or concerned about things outside your control, or trying to do too much each day. And that is for starters. Extreme levels of stress are no longer determined by whether there are major upheavals in your life, but by the cumulating daily stressors that add up without being defused.
Once Katharyn was able to review what was happening earlier in the day from a neutral perspective, she could see very clearly the causes of her stress and that she felt deserving of a reward when she got home. That need to be rewarded for putting up with the stress is often how the overeating starts. It is easy to justify pacifying yourself with food when you have been put upon or had to tolerate an unpleasant situation. And once the eating starts, the food becomes a way to avoid thinking about what happened and to further repress the emotions of the day. Very often stress eating becomes emotional eating, where food becomes the coping mechanism and a way to avoid dealing with how the stress makes you feel or your unmet needs.
There are 5 simple steps to stop stress eating, which Katharyn used to stop bingeing when she got home after a long and often challenging day.
1. Become Aware of When You Do Stress Eating
One of the things Katharyn realized is she wasn’t fully aware of what or how much she was eating on the nights she snacked until she couldn’t eat any more. She couldn’t even remember what she had eaten, if she had enjoyed any of it, or when she started to feel full. It was a blur and a way to zone out and forget her problems.
If you aren’t aware of what you are doing at the time you are doing it, you have no ability to stop or make a different choice. Instead you are on autopilot and out of control. So the first step is to actually notice you are eating unhealthy foods, too much food, and getting full. Once you can really see this, you can also start to look at what happened during the day, which is driving you to eat this way. And you can start to notice how you feel physically after a night of eating poorly.
2. Don’t Judge Yourself
The point of gaining more awareness is not to harshly judge yourself. When you feel judged, you will actually eat more to push down those feelings. There are good reasons for why you are stress eating, and the only way to really identify and understand those reasons is to be objective and have some compassion for yourself. By standing back and being a neutral observer, you are more willing to get curious and start to see what triggers you to eat.
3. Observe Your Eating Patterns
With that curiosity, you can begin to see your patterns. You will begin to notice when you eat because you feel stressed, and if you pick different types of foods or beverages for different types of stressful events. Maybe you turn to soda at work when you are irritated or frustrated, but you turn to sugary foods when you feel let down or unable to do as you planned. Maybe you automatically want a drink after work to deal with your anger or frustration, or maybe you get home and binge out of habit and exhaustion.
4. Get Specific about What Triggers Your Choices
The more you observe without judgment, the more you can see exactly what is triggering you to turn to food or a beverage. It may not always be because of stress. There are 8 possible reasons for being out of control with food and drinking, and stress can be a factor but not always the full cause. For example, one common reason for overeating or making unhealthy choices is being mindless, and stress can keep your mind so busy that you don’t pay any attention to what you are eating or drinking until you have overdone it. Another reason is having unconscious beliefs, like you deserve a reward for working hard or having to put up with things. When you feel stressed, you may also be eating or drinking something unhealthy to reward yourself. A third common reason is distracting yourself from how you feel by eating or drinking something, which is classic emotional eating.
When you stop to really see what you are thinking or feeling, you can start to see what is actually triggering your food or drink choices, and you can also begin to notice if those choices leave you feeling all that great after you have had them. Most likely, you feel worse not better. You also probably haven’t solved the real issues that are making you feel stressed.
5. Create Strategies to Deal with the Stress Differently
Now that you are more aware of all the different things that are driving your choices, you can start to think of strategies to reduce the stress and get your needs met without using food or beverages as the crutch.
Katharyn realized that she needed to take breaks during the day, so she could get some down time and make sure she got balanced snacks and meals to boost her energy levels. She also noticed that if she remained calm when things were hectic, instead of snapping at people when they snapped at her, that everything seemed easier to manage. And she could see that a better reward when she got home was a cup of tea and playtime with her dogs, followed by a nice dinner and the promise of some time to read. When she did these things, she reduced the stress at work and at home, and she got more sleep and felt better able to handle whatever she had to deal with in her day. As a result, she no longer binged when she got home.
There is always concern about how much candy kids are eating at Halloween, but what about parents who consume nearly half of what the kids are bringing home? Candy is a comfort food for many of us, and when lying around in bowls and bags, it becomes a temptress greater than most adults can resist. Do you find yourself unable to stop when it comes to Halloween candy?
Instead of gearing up for a binge fest and worrying about how you are going to handle having all that candy around the house, consider what is driving you to overeat and crave it and then put some strategies in place to help yourself eat much less of it.
Some of the most common reasons people can’t seem to stop at a few pieces of Halloween candy start with feelings of deprivation. Candy for most people is considered junk food or a food they should not have, and for them candy is on the forbidden food list. When they eat it, they believe they are being bad and falling off their diet, so they have to finish it and get it out of the house to be in control. Then they strive to stay away from it until the holidays get underway and they find themselves right back in the same place, struggling to avoid the next round of bingeing on sweets and striving (but failing) to be in control. It is a never ending cycle that continues right through Valentine’s Day. Does this happen to you?
What does this have to do with deprivation? Everything. When you believe that you shouldn’t have something, you want it all the more. And the more you try to control the urges and deprive yourself, the more you obsess and overdo it when given the chance. This is human nature, and it is easy to see in children. We tend to forget that as adults we aren’t any different. Like kids we rebel against harsh rules and restrictions that are depriving.
We want our candy – or what it represents, but we are determined to apply willpower to resist it. This creates an internal battle between our Enforcer voice and our Rebel voice. Very often the Rebel wins out. But because of the loud Enforcer in the background, harshly criticizing you for what you are doing, you begin to feel guilt and shame, which triggers emotional eating and an all out binge. Next thing you know you’ve eaten more pieces than you want to admit and you feel uncomfortably sick.
What if you created an agreement with your Enforcer and Rebel voices by allowing yourself a bit of candy every once in awhile, agreeing that it isn’t forbidden and that if you really want it you can have it in moderation. Now you have calmed down the Rebel voice that will have a tantrum by overeating if it doesn’t get its way. The trickier voice to negotiate with is the Enforcer. This is because the Enforcer is the one that enforces your beliefs.
When your beliefs are black and white and don’t allow for some grey, then the Enforcer will instigate the Rebel. If you allow for moderation and satisfaction along with some guidelines for restraint, then the Rebel and Enforcer will both quiet down. If you also allow for throwing out the candy when the family has enjoyed it and had enough, everyone wins.
To put this in practice, try the following guidelines (or strategies) to help both the Enforcer and Rebel trust that their needs (meaning your needs) will be met. The first guideline is to eat candy along with a meal so that you aren’t eating it alone and driving up your blood sugar levels, which in turn leads to cravings. The second guideline is to pay attention to when you are satisfied or the first signs of feeling a bit full and stop eating. If you know you want some candy with dinner then make room for it instead of eating it when you are full.
Third, pick just 2-3 pieces of candy that you know are your favorites and savor them, so that you achieve satisfaction. And fourth, tell yourself that you can have more at your next lunch or dinner, so you know that you won’t be deprived and can still enjoy this once-a-year candy fest. After a few days, you will all have enjoyed having a bit of candy and you’ll be left with candy that isn’t your most favorite or you will be tired of it. Now throw what is left out. You won’t miss it, because you’ve let yourself enjoy it. And if that Rebel acts up, tell it that there is always more at the grocery store if it really wants to have it again before next Halloween.
Or you may have other ideas of what kind of strategy will work best for you. One that a few of my clients are choosing to do this year is to buy candy to put out that they don’t like, so going into the evening they aren’t finding themselves dipping into the candy bowl and setting themselves up to continue bingeing when more candy comes into the house.
This week consider what strategies you can put in place so you can enjoy yourself this Halloween without anxiety or guilt.
Recently I was eating breakfast at a restaurant with some friends, and across from us were a group of people who were quite overweight and eating huge piles of pancakes and waffles dripping in butter, syrup and whipped cream. One of my friends commented about these people’s choices and wondered how they could be so stupid to eat so much and make such poor choices when they clearly needed to lose weight.
It is so easy to judge people who are obese for not taking responsibility for their weight problem, but until you’ve walked in their shoes you have no idea what the real problem is. It might appear obvious if you see them eating huge portions of food or eating things that aren’t healthy, but these behaviors are a symptom of a greater problem that is not well understood or obvious – even to them.
The problem usually starts with dieting. Everyone who is obese has dieted at least once if not repeatedly throughout their lives. Restrictive diets all have two things in common: they are short term and they restrict what you can eat – usually most everything you love. Once the diet ends, whether as planned or because it was too hard to stick with, there is an insatiable desire to eat what wasn’t allowed and to overeat it out of a reaction to the deprivation. When you’ve been deprived, you have an emotional need to make up for that deprivation and a deep-seated fear of not getting this food again, because you know you shouldn’t have it.
In addition, the feeling of failure in not being good and in control after a diet ends errodes self-esteem and self-confidence. When someone feels guilty, incapable of success or a failure, they are even more likely to give up on being good and turn to emotional eating, especially sugary comfort foods, and tune out their awareness of what they are actually doing.
These aren’t conscious choices. They are subconscious triggers of behavior that lead to food obsessions, cravings and bingeing. You can know what to do and not understand why you can’t seem to do it, and this is particularly true when it comes to unhealthy eating behaviors and overeating.
In addition, most people are stressed out, working long hours, juggling many responsibilities and putting themselves last. This isn’t an excuse, but a reality. Instead of judging people for their poor eating choices and lack of activity or unhealthy lifestyle, the answer starts with empathy for their situation.
The next step is to help them take a look at these choices and come to understand what is driving them from an objective perspective. It is nearly impossible to take a closer look when they are self-critical and self-loathing. In fact, that is what leads to denial, because it is often too painful to deal with those feelings.
Instead, by being curious of eating behaviors without judgment, then it is easier to see what is sabotaging their choices and becomes a way to identify and address the subconscious thoughts and emotions triggering those behaviors. In doing so, they can regain control, be in touch with how they feel, and discover an easier way to create and maintain healthier decisions for the long term.
You hear it all the time; “I am being good this year and not going to have xyz bad foods, so I don’t gain any weight.” This is the time of year when people join Weight Watchers and go on diets, so they can stay in control during the holidays. For some it works, and that holds out hope for everyone else. For the majority it not only does not keep them in control; the guilt, deprivation and old familiar patterns lead to giving up on the idea and then really over indulging since they blew it anyway. By the time New Year’s rolls around, they have put on nearly 10 pounds – twice the average holiday weight gain. Have you ever done this or know people who have? What happens in January when the holidays are over? Does this process get repeated?
For Julianne (not her real name), this is just what happens every year. She promises herself she will be good at Halloween, but isn’t. Then she becomes determined to do better at Thanksgiving and doesn’t. This leads her to take more drastic measures and go on a more rigid diet before Christmas, restricting herself as severely as she can so she won’t gain more weight. Yet for reasons she can’t explain, she still blows her diet and can’t seem to stick with it as she should, and by Christmas Eve she is gorging herself on candy canes and anything sweet she can get her hands on. For the next seven days, she is in full binge mode, knowing that she starts her diet again on January 1st. And then her annual cycles of dieting and bingeing begin again. She is in her late 50s and ashamed that at her age she is still doing this. She wonders why she never learns and can’t get herself to do as she should. She wonders what is wrong with her.
Nothing is wrong with her. She was never taught how to eat normally or how to recognize what really drives her to make the choices she does. She just assumes she is bad, and the harder she tries to be good the more often she feels like she fails. Sound familiar?
So here are the 3 things she has learned in our sessions so far this year as she successfully navigates the holidays and all the food she loves to eat. She let me share this with you if I didn’t use her name, which I fully understand. Her lessons are a bit painful to face, yet they are fairly common.
1. She does not like candy canes. She was so obsessed with eating what she couldn’t have before her next diet began, that she ate food she didn’t even like. She realized she didn’t even taste her food or know what she really enjoyed, because she was driven by a greater need to get what she could while she could. Now she focuses on what really gives her pleasure and satisfaction, and she finds she doesn’t want all that sugar or to overeat. This has been amazing to her.
2. She has been dieting and bingeing every holiday since she can remember, and her mother did the same thing. Her mom still struggles with food and her weight. Dieting doesn’t work. She just believed it did and was the thing to do because her mother did it. She can choose her own beliefs now, and she is learning first hand that eating with consciousness of what feels good to her body is a better way to go through the holidays.
3. She was very hard on herself and that judgment caused her to overeat and choose foods she knew were bad for her, reinforcing how bad she was. It was a vicious cycle of self-hatred, self-restriction, rebellion and guilt that spiraled into food binges she couldn’t stop. She is learning to see herself with compassion, non-judgment and greater understanding. The more she does this, the less often she finds herself drawn into the cycle or wanting to eat food she doesn’t need.
You may see yourself in Julianne’s lessons or you may be getting other insights. No two people have the same internal beliefs, emotional reactions, subconscious drivers or backgrounds. Yet what most of my clients share is a belief in dieting to lose weight and that when you eat foods you shouldn’t have on a diet you are being bad. Yet they can never be good enough to reach or sustain their goal, so they give up and dig in. This holiday, consider doing what feels good to your body and your head, rather than striving to be good. You may just enjoy the food more and end up weighing less.
The holidays are coming. The holidays are coming! Soon you will be surrounded by lots of sweets, cookies and navigating holiday party foods and drinks. Are you prepared with a game plan to keep yourself on track without feeling deprived? Now is the time to put your strategies together.
You don’t have to wait until after you’ve overindulged on candy, eaten one too many cookies or gotten stuffed on appetizers. You already have hindsight from previous years, and you probably can guess when and what will happen again this year.
This is just what my client Jean realized when we started talking about Thanksgiving at her son’s. She was afraid of overeating as she usually does, and she could picture all the times and ways that was going to probably happen again. She and her husband always drove 4 hours south on Wednesday, stopping at the same great deli where they picked up sandwiches for lunch and lots of treats they would bring as their contribution before the big meal. Yet more often than not, they didn’t eat much of the sandwiches and would dig into the bags of treats before arriving. The next day they would arrive at their son’s around noon hungry and ready to nibble on the appetizers and have their first drinks of the day. By the time they headed out for the big meal at the club, served buffet style, she was usually starting to feel full. Then she’d eat a big meal and stuff down several desserts. The next day, they would have a really big breakfast to tie them over on the long ride home, and they would stop again at the deli for treats to enjoy on the way back.
Like Jean, you can probably describe what your Thanksgiving holiday traditions around food will be like, just as you can see what will happen this coming weekend on Halloween or what you usually do at a party or around a bowl of candy set out for anyone to eat. That gives you a great advantage, because this enables you to think about what you would do differently that would leave you feeling better and still feel like you got to enjoy the festivities. So pick a time that is coming up, and remember how you felt last time when you over did it. What would work better for you?
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Eat a healthy balanced breakfast the day of a big meal, so you don’t arrive ravenous and overeat because you are so hungry.
- Eat a healthy balanced snack before going to an event, so you aren’t showing up hungry.
- When faced with lots of appetizers, decide in advance how many you will have and be picky about which ones you really want. You may decide to just have 3-4.
- When you know you are susceptible to having a drink too many, have a glass of sparkling water after your first drink and then decide if you really want a second drink.
- At a buffet, first look at everything to see which things you know you really want and be picky. Use a smaller plate, and focus on getting a mix of protein, vegetables and some other complex carbohydrates.
- Have salad first if that is an option at a buffet.
- Save room for dessert, and then choose the desserts that are your favorite. Have very small pieces and really enjoy them.
- Allow yourself to have 1-2 pieces of candy a day if you really like it and it is calling your name from the candy dish someone put out near your office. This can replace dessert on those days.
- Buy Halloween candy to give out to kids you don’t like eating yourself.
- Pick out the best Halloween candy and eat a few pieces with your meals instead of having just candy by itself. That will minimize blood sugar highs and lows and reduce cravings. Give yourself a few days to have your favorite candy and then throw the rest out.
- Remember that Halloween candy can be gotten anytime. You don’t have to eat it all now just because it is Halloween.
Which of these sound like they will work well for you? Really think about the situation you will probably be in and what would feel best to you before, during and after. Then add in some other ideas and decide ahead of time which approach you want to take. As Jean discovered by creating her own strategies with me, she got to enjoy her Thanksgiving rituals in a way that left her feeling better physically and really good about herself. She was thrilled to discover she could stay in control and still eat the foods she wanted.
This week the topic was on subconscious eating and how to address those times when food seems to have all the power and you just can’t stop yourself from losing control. While everyone is feeling more in control with food choices and portions, they are still prone to over indulging and eating when they aren’t hungry from subconscious triggers. By knowing more about them and how to deal with them, they will be better prepared and more easily avoid getting triggered to eat out of control.
Your Behavior is the Tip of the Iceberg
It is so easy to judge your behaviors as good or bad, yet it is never that simple. When you over indulge, for example, the behavior may appear bad but that misrepresents what is going on. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but instead of understanding what drove you to have that behavior. Your behaviors stem from your subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, most of which you aren’t even aware of. All you see is the behavior; not all that lies beneath it. To change your behavior, you need to expose what is driving it, and that is what I spent the session explaining how to do.
The Behavior Chain of Events:
Situation —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —
When something happens during your day, your thoughts about the situation are determined by your beliefs (most of which you absorbed from others you thought knew best as you grew up but may not necessarily be in your best interests) and these thoughts often create feelings about what is happening, whether you realize they are there or not. If you are like most people, the next thing you know after experiencing a trying situation is you are eating something you don’t really even want or losing control around foods you know you shouldn’t have. That then triggers beliefs about your eating behavior, which leads to negative thoughts and emotions, which drives you to eat even more.
For example; if you experience something that you believe is unfair, your thoughts reflect that and you begin to feel annoyed or upset. But seldom is there an opportunity to express those feelings, so you find yourself turning to food to avoid those feelings and to feel better. But you know that isn’t good and you shouldn’t do it, which leads to feeling even worse and continuing to eat out of greater frustration, shame and guilt. This is classic emotional eating, which I refer to as emotional repression since it works to keep you calm and your feelings under control – as in pushed out of consciousness. The problem is the emotions are still there, unresolved and ready to be triggered again.
As I shared with the groups, emotional eating is a term people use to cover many different aspects of subconsciously-driven eating behaviors, and it helps to separate eating driven by beliefs from those driven by emotions or to recognize when it is a combination of both.
Dealing with Beliefs Eating
If you overeat because you subconsciously believe you must finish everything on your plate, this would be a type of beliefs-driven eating behavior. There is no emotional component to it. Another example is eating food because you don’t want to throw it away or you want your money’s worth. Very often the beliefs you carry are those you got from other people or the media, and when you really stop to evaluate those beliefs will find they don’t serve you.
Does it really make sense to eat until you are sick to get your money’s worth or to skip meals to save your calories for dinner, which creates blood sugar lows and usually leads to night-time bingeing? Or does it make sense to overeat or eat food that makes you feel sick to take care of someone else’s feelings? Just because you perceive pressure to eat, doesn’t mean you have to eat or that the other person cares as much as you think.
You can change your beliefs once you identify the ones that don’t work for you. You can decide to create a new belief, like if you are done eating and can’t keep food as leftovers that throwing away food may be the best option.
Dealing with Emotional Eating
There are two primary types of eating that are driven by emotions. One is emotional repression, as I mentioned earlier. The other is when your emotions represent a reaction to having been or currently being deprived of food you want. This I call restrictive rebellion, where one part of you (the inner parent – holder of beliefs) enforces your dietary rules and the other part of you (the inner child – holder of emotions) rebels to get its unmet needs addressed. As most of us know, our emotions usually win one way or another, and often it is by going out of control with food.
The way to address these is to understand what it is you are feeling and what it is you need (to address those feelings) that don’t involve food. So if you are angry about something, determine what needs to be done to address what created that anger and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger, instead of repress it. And determine if there are additional emotions beneath the anger that need to also be addressed. The idea isn’t to dig up the past, but to identify what you feel and need now. In my book that goes along with this program, I go through the exact steps on how to do this.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Learning about subconscious eating and specific examples of belief- and emotionally-driven eating was eye-opening to people in the groups. As several of them said, they now had greater insight about themselves and their relationship with food, and it all made more sense.
Find out what else the participants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.
To participate on your own or in a group (3 more groups starting soon), check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
This week, I asked everyone to share a significant change in the way they were eating since starting the New You program, and to pick an area they had listed in their contest application as a major problem they wanted to solve. It was amazing to hear just how much had changed, and how easy it had been to make the changes.
A Change in Mindset
To date, they have been shown how to pay attention to their body’s hunger, satisfaction and fullness levels, the basics of nutrition, and how to balance all foods in moderation – as you’ve been reading in this blog. They have been encouraged to notice how different foods or beverages leave them feeling, and to stay conscious when they eat so they can remain in control. They have been discouraged from labeling any food as bad or criticizing themselves when they are challenged to pick healthy choices or in controlling portions.
They have not been put on a diet, been restricted in any way, or been told what to eat or not to eat. There has been no judgment about their choices, but instead a focus on feeling good physically and satisfied emotionally.
And the results within just six weeks are impressive, because no one feels pressured, forced or restricted. Instead they have changed their mindset and been given freedom to do what feels best and works best for them. With this approach, they have all easily, intuitively and naturally gravitated to healthier foods and beverages, low-glycemic balanced foods, smaller portions and more frequent meals. And they have done it by choice, not to win an award or to lose weight fast. Instead they have done it because it just feels and tastes so much better.
Here is a summary of what has changed during the past six weeks across the 4 groups participating in this New You 2010 program, including the contest group.
Portion Control is Now Easy
Nearly everyone struggled with portion control and wanted a way to manage how much they ate, particularly at night, when entering the program. When they first started paying attention to when they started to become full, many found it didn’t feel good and others discovered they had no idea really what fullness felt like.
Now, everyone has easily shifted to eating when they get hungry and stopping before they get full, with perhaps a couple of exceptions during the week, and even then they almost never overeat by that much.
As several people said this week, they just don’t want to eat beyond the point they are satisfied and it has become easy to simply stop. They have found, whether they journal or not, that they are remaining conscious of their hunger and fullness levels when they eat, which is changing their behavior naturally. Others pointed out that by getting enough to eat during the day and not getting too ravenous before dinner, they are more in control and don’t overeat at night. Some noted they are easily taking food home when they go out to eat, which is something they never used to do.
Choosing Healthier Foods is More Satisfying
When most of them filled out their applications, they wrote about the struggle to make healthy choices and many of them shared they weren’t sure if they had or even knew how to eat healthy meals. So many of them had dieted, and sadly diets are seldom healthy.
Now they are gaining confidence that they know what is healthy and are making healthy meals and snacks. They have been experimenting with the foods they already eat, and finding ways to make them more nutritionally balanced with other foods or by finding healthier alternatives (such as whole grain vs refined flour pasta). They haven’t had to change the way they eat drastically. Instead they have made minor modifications and begun experimenting with new recipes. As importantly, they are combining foods in a way they find most satisfying, so they don’t feel like they are being restricted or being put on a diet.
Many of them shared how much they were enjoying their healthier choices and how much better they felt physically and mentally. They are discovering how to balance foods that give them more energy, last a few hours, and taste so much better than what they used to eat. In the process, quite a few of them are getting excited about cooking, trying new recipes and checking labels to make healthier purchases. Some are figuring out better ways to plan their grocery shopping and prepare foods more effectively.
And, many of them are finding they want more fruits and vegetables, so we talked a bit about ways to more easily and quickly prepare vegetables. We will also have Katie Habib, our personal chef sponsor from In Home Cooking, do a class for us on ways to plan and prepare vegetables in April or May.
Excessive Overeating and Bingeing Seldom Happens Now
As I explained to the groups early on, there is always a good reason for overeating and bingeing. The trick is to uncover the subconscious trigger driving you to eat when you aren’t hungry or are already starting to get full. The first step in doing that is to simply observe with curiosity when you overeat and not judge it.
Very often the cause is an internal battle between beliefs you are carrying about food (such as food you shouldn’t have) and emotions caused by unmet needs (such as foods you love and have been deprived of). The drive to overeat and binge can also come from beliefs about wasting food, eating everything on your plate and deserving a reward. It can also be the result of using food to repress emotions and using food to cope with what is going on in your life.
Nearly everyone had been doing excessive overeating to one degree or another, and now it is very rare. They are seeing what is triggering them and they are either changing their beliefs, acknowledging their needs and finding ways to get those needs met, or they are coming up with strategies to avoid getting triggered in the first place. Several shared how amazing it was to them that they no longer graze after dinner or have any desire to eat foods in large quantities. They might have a little something at night, but just a bit, and very often they are happier having it with dinner as part of their balanced meal. As one person put it, there just isn’t “any desire anymore to overindulge”. Others pointed out that because they no longer feel restricted or deprived and instead have permission to eat what they want in a structured way, they are perfectly satisfied and don’t go looking for more food.
Beverage Choices Naturally Healthier
A number of people had been drinking a lot of soda or alcohol, which we haven’t talked much about in the groups. For a few it was a big issue, and they have specifically worked to uncover what is driving them to drink so much and to come up with strategies to reduce their quantities. And that has worked really well. For the others, they simply found they didn’t want as much of it and started drinking more water or seltzer water instead. For them, the change just naturally happened because it made them feel better. And for another, what naturally occurred was a greater desire for a higher quality drink than for quantity.
Addictions and Cravings Seem to Have Disappeared
For those who felt they had carb or sugar addictions when they filled out their applications, none felt they had these now. The cravings have disappeared, and many believed it was because of their balanced food choices and their ability to enjoy a little of whatever it is they love as a part of their meals or snacks.
If they want a cookie, they can have one. If they want chocolate, they can fully enjoy it. And since they are no longer deprived or beating themselves up for slipping, blowing it or being bad, these once forbidden foods don’t hold power over them. Instead, they are eating to be satisfied instead of indulging to make up for what they can’t have or didn’t get to have in the past.
What is also making a big difference for a number of them is breakfast. In the past, they were eating primarily carbohydrates and mainly simple carbohydrates (such as a breakfast of cereal, milk, fruit and fruit juice), which was fueling carb cravings the rest of the day. Now, by balancing their breakfast with more complex carbohydrates, protein and fat, they aren’t spiking their blood sugars first thing in the morning, and the desire for carbs has dropped off.
The Changes Don’t Feel Like a Sacrifice
As one gal put it, “it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice” to make healthy changes this way, and that is why they are all being so successful. Simply by having awareness when eating, a simplified understanding of nutrition and the freedom to make choices that feel best, they are willingly and intuitively making positive changes they will easily maintain long-term. They don’t have to rely on willpower to do as they should, because there are no rules and restrictions – just common sense that feels good.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about their changes with food, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.
To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amada are the final four contestants, and their last challenge was going home for 60 days and preparing to run a 26 mile marathon. One of them will be voted off this coming week.
What they realized in going home was how much they had changed – and not just physically. At home they came face to face with some of the issues that led to their obesity in the first place. While at the ranch, they focused on physical changes and discovering how much they had let themselves go. Back home, they were seeing that it isn’t just the physical that has to change in order to really succeed. They have to address the underlying subconscious mental and emotional issues that drove their unhealthy behaviors and overeating in the first place.
While this episode was going on, a former Biggest Loser winner, Ryan Benson, failed to return to the reunion show held last week. He had regained most of his weight back and admitted to extreme fasting and dehydration during the show in order to win. And just a couple of weeks earlier, Daniel Wright, who has done the show twice, went home. Daniel now admits he struggles with binge eating and kept that hidden during the show. Most likely it was even worse when he got home, having been severely deprived for the past 10 weeks. Overeating or bingeing after extreme dieting and deprivation is normal, and no doubt many other contestants have found themselves over-indulging once back home. This may explain why half of the Biggest Loser contestants have regained most or all of their weight loss.
Programs, like the Biggest Loser, are failing to address the underlying drivers of obesity that each of their contestants will deal with after the program ends. This is a disservice to those who put their trust in the trainers and dieticians, as well as to those watching the programs. It simply isn’t a matter of extreme diet, exercise and weight loss to be a success and maintain weight loss. If it were, obesity would have been solved long ago.
What drives our behavior are subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and when it comes to food and exercise these are complicated and unique to each person. Binge eating, for example, can be driven by a subconscious rebellion against food restrictions, an unmet need that is soothed by food, a means of keeping unresolved emotions repressed, or a reaction to not getting enough food and being compelled to make up for that deprivation. The triggers for dysfunctional eating can come from nearly anything, and without understanding how to be aware of them, how to resolve them and strategies to limit them, they will continue.
Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amanda all hope to go home the next Biggest Loser winner, yet they also share a concern about their ability to maintain their weight loss when the show ends. They have every reason to be concerned, because they haven’t been given the tools and experiences they really need to change their relationship with food and fitness from the inside out.