Overeating and the void
Overeating is a double pain.
Pain 1 is whatever drives us to overeat in the first place. I call this the void.
Pain 2 is the excess weight which is a result of the overeating.
If you’ve tried to overcome overeating before, chances are you’ve only ever addressed pain 2.
Said in another way….Pain 2, the excess weight is the symptom.
Pain 1 is the cause, which is why you’re overeating in the first place.
If you treat only the symptom the weight MAY go away, but it will manifest as something else (eg over-spending, drinking, gambling, procrasti-scrolling on social media), and eventually you will regain the weight.
So if you’ve lost weight in the past, then started over-shopping, or over-exercising, only to give that up and gain ALL the weight back (plus interest) you will be able to relate to this pattern.
So what is pain 1 -the cause? What drives us to overeat in the first place?
I call the cause the void.
The void is – I feel empty so I fill it with food, and that feels comfortable in that moment. So for a short time there is no more void.
Overeating is a way of navigating the void that is unhealthy.
It isn’t long before we eat so much that we feel uncomfortable and then the guilt and shame kick in. So we’re left to process these emotions rather than the void.
The void is an emptiness that we feel, or more accurately don’t want to feel, so we FILL it with food or we try to FIX it with a diet or exercise regimen.
The void doesn’t have a clear description, it will show up differently for each individual.
Some examples include
- food calling to me from the cupboard.
- being unable to drive past a drive thru without buying chips and a frozen coke.
- fueling the car and grabbing chocolate bars at the counter when you pay.
- going to the supermarket feeling the magnetic pull to the chocolate isle
- having ‘automatic hand syndrome’ and filling up on Hors D’oeuvres
- putting the kids to bed and heading immediately to the pantry
- staying up late with netflix and chips
Do any of these sound familiar? What else could you add to this list?
As I said above, overeating is a double pain.
Pain 1 is overeating, which we do to fill the void.
Pain 2 is the damage caused by the overeating, which is the excess weight
Where we go wrong trying to address this is that we only address pain 2 – the excess physical weight.
This is a RESULT of pain 1 – the overeating to fill the void.
Here’s an analogy to help explain this further…
Imagine you have a hole in your roof so whenever it rains it is literally raining inside your house. This rain damages the walls and the carpet.
So you replace the carpet and paint walls.
But the next time it rains it comes through the ceiling and damages your walls and carpet again!
You survey the mess and phone a friend and ask their advice.
“Did you climb up on the roof?” they ask you.
You reply “Nah I just fixed the carpet and walls and now it’s happening again.”
At this point your friend is flabbergasted, “Sooooo you didn’t go up onto the roof to look for the problem that was causing the rain? You just patched it up”
You may be thinking, great story Suze, but what has this got to do with weight lossand overcoming overeating?
For the majority of us when we try to address our weight we go on a diet or start an exercise regimen and address what we’re eating and how we move.
Which is kind of like repainting the walls and patching up the carpet.
If you don’t address the reason WHY you’re eating when you’re not hungry (ie the broken tile in the ceiling) your results are never going to be lasting.
Said in another way, if you’re only addressing the surface things like diet and exercise, and you’re not looking at what’s driving you to overeat in the first place, you’re going to spend your life patching holes, and that gets exhausting.
The reasons we overeat are many and varied. For many of us it starts innocently enough when we are young.
If we fall over and hurt ourselves, if we’re upset that we didn’t get something we wanted, our parents comfort us with food – “Here, have some ice cream or some chocolate.”
We’re taught to use food to soothe our emotional needs, and that pattern of behaviour becomes a habit.
I’m not saying this to bag our parents, they were doing the best they could at the time, and they had the best of intentions. But as adults we continue with this pattern of behaviour as it becomes ingrained.
If your roof is leaking, and nobody actually gets up and looks for where the tile is loose and replaces that tile, the water is going to continue to get in and it doesn’t matter how much paint the walls or replace the carpet. If the water’s still coming down, you are still having an issue.
And it’s the same for your weight loss efforts.
If you change what you’re eating, but the drive to overeat is still there, you still get upset and head to drive thru, or you have a crappy day at work and grab take out, that pattern of behaviour is still going to happen.
If you try to ‘fix’ yourself by losing weight you aren’t addressing the reason you’re overeating.
You are not healing, and thus you will feel like Sisyphus. He kept on rolling that boulder up the hill, never quite making the top and having it roll back down and having to start over. You keep on losing and regaining the same 5, 10, 20+ kilograms over and over again and ending up fatter than ever!
Your weight loss can’t be long lasting until you’ve healed, and develop the ability to sit with the void.
There is a sequence to this, and if you try to do it out of sequence your results will only ever be short lived!
Phase 1 – Identify what the void is and how it shows up in your life
Phase 2 – Sit with the void
Phase 3 – Habit change (and your excess weight largely takes care of itself)
– EThese are very distinct phases and you HAVE TO do them in order, and you have to know which phase you’re in.
Phase 1 – identifying the void, is not that hard.
Most of the work is in phase 2.
Phase 3 – the actual changing of habits once you’ve dealt with the void is a very small issue.
BUT trying to do it WITHOUT first dealing with the void is impossible because you’re focussed on the wrong thing.
You’re painting the walls and changing the carpet while there is still a gaping hole in your ceiling!
I UNDERSTAND THIS, SO WHY HAVEN’T I LOST WEIGHT?
There are 2 common reasons clients I work with haven’t yet seen results
1 – THEY’RE STILL IN PHASE 1. THEY HAVEN’T EVEN FIGURED OUT WHAT THE VOID IS YET…
Many clients tell me “I’m doing all the work but I am not seeing results yet!”. Their frustration is palpable. I get it and I feel their pain.
ANALOGY – CIRCUS ELEPHANT
When an elephant is young the trainer will put a stake in the ground to keep it in place. That young elephant is not yet strong enough to move that stake.
So they get to a point where they stop trying.
When you first attempt mindset work, it’s new, it feels foreign, and you’re not yet strong at this. So you keep giving in to the urge to ‘go back to diets and quick fixes as you feel the need to see results now!’
The issue with WEIGHT is it’s all consuming, and it’s on your mind ALL THE TIME.
So you THINK you’re ‘doing the work’ because it’s taking up all your mental space. It’s exhausting.
It’s the first thing you think of when you wake up, ‘gee I hope I can squeeze into my fat pants today’ and then it keeps you up during the night. Thoughts of ‘my clothes don’t fit’ OR ‘I’ve gained so much weight, what will this person think of me?’. Etc etc.
So you feel as if you’re doing the work. BUT what ACTION are you really taking?
Back to the elephant analogy, that elephant is tied to a stake as a baby, it’s not yet strong enough to move, it tries and eventually gives up.
Now as a fully grown elephant all it needs to do is LIFT ITS FOOT and it will move, its so strong but it doesn’t know that.
You are the same, you’re thinking, thinking, thinking about your weight, but not actively taking any action. You’re not moving and so you’re not getting results.
I’ve had people in my membership for a year or more who have not actioned one module. NOW I don’t say this to judge. Just an observation. Yet they come to the calls telling me they’re doing ALL THE THINGS.
There is a difference between consuming, watching, listening, absorbing and actually DOING.
So if this is you, and you feel exhausted by your efforts. I encourage you to keep a ‘DONE LIST’
Each night before bed, write down what you’ve DONE towards your weight loss that day.
DONE. not thought about.
2 – THEY’RE STILL IN PHASE 2
They haven’t learned to sit with the void yet. I get it. It’s frustrating and it’s hard.
Often people are over the peak and on their way down, they’ve done a lot of work and its going to steadily decrease now if they hold the course yet they throw in the towel right before it’s going to get easier!
HOW TO SIT WITH THE VOID…
It takes time to learn to sit with the void. I mean it’s uncomfortable.
Discomfort is the currency of change.
In the beginning I recommend these 3 steps:
STEP 1 – WITNESS
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge to step 1 is simply to witness.
I hear the food calling me from the cupboard.
I’ve left the supermarket with chocolate, ice cream and a cake.
I am queuing to pay for petrol and my hand is automatically reaching for the candy!
WITNESS don’t wallow.
Witnessing is powerful, wallowing leads to guilt and shame (and that’s the first stop to binge-ville!)
Witness your thoughts…and add ‘up until now’
I hear food calling me from the cupboard up until now
I leave the supermarket with chocolate, ice cream and cake up until now
I am queuing to pay for petrol and my hand automatically reaches for the candy up until now.
3 little words, game changer, up until now, allows you to witness and not wallow.
STEP 2 – STALL
As soon as you say you can’t have something, your inner rebel will throw a tantrum, take that as a challenge and say ‘WATCH ME!’
However, we can use this to our advantage.
Our subconscious is used to waiting.
So if we STALL instead of saying NO, we don’t trigger the inner rebel.
So instead of saying NO YOU CAN’T and dealing the cascade of emotions, simply stall by saying NOT NOW.
Much like you would do with a small child.
STEP 3 REDIRECT
Find something else to do in the moment!
Brush your teeth, text a friend, dance it out to your favourite song, declutter a shelf.
WHAT you do doesn’t matter.
Tell yourself if after you have done the redirect thing you still want to fill the void you can!
Chances are you won’t.
You can even create a spreadsheet, and aim to get to 100 unanswered urges.
Date, time, witness my feeling for x, stalled, redirected with y, outcome
That way you have data, what works and what doesn’t.
For me, my top ‘go tos’ are text a friend, dance it out, or go for an angry walk.
What are yours?
Doing mindset work can feel a bit like popcorn.
On the popcorn packet it says, place popcorn in the microwave for 2 minutes.
You put the popcorn in the microwave and hit start and you wait….and wait… and wait.
1 minute goes by nothing.
1 minute 30 seconds still nothing.
1 minute 45 seconds you hear an errant pop. Great you think, 1 popcorn kernel, that’s so unsatisfying.
By the 1 minute 50 mark you’re starting to feel like you’ve bought a dud bag of popcorn. “That’s it, I’m taking this back to the supermarket!” you think.
When suddenly at 1 minute 55 seconds you hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop and finally the microwave dings as the popping continues.
How is this like mindset for weight loss?
Well you do ALL this effort learning to sit with the void and lose an errant kilo here and there. Just when you’re thinking this is all a load of BS you finally reach the peek and start to see the results.
The issue is most of us don’t stay taking the actions day in and day out.
Would the popcorn have popped if you kept taking it out of the microwave to ‘check on it?’
Of course not!
THE KEY to popcorn and weight loss is to STAY IN THE HEAT! What I mean by that is to keep taking the actions day in and day out knowing that the result IS coming.
Next article – Why We Become and Stay Fat
Freedom From Dieting Masterclass.
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