Why is overeating such a hard cycle to break?
Why IS overeating such a hard cycle to break?
If we’re eating when we’re not hungry, no amount of food will fill us up. If hunger isn’t the problem, then food isn’t the solution. So how do we beat emltional overeating?
It used to be I felt ‘triggered’ and I would eat. It was instantaneous! So fast that I never even realised I was triggered. I thought all I had was an eating problem. If I could just control my overeating then everything would be perfect.
So I tried diet after diet after diet. I kept searching for the ‘right’ one, the diet that would ‘fix’ me. The only thing ‘wrong’ was that I couldn’t find a diet I could stick to long term. The only issue was my overeating – everything else was fine, or so I thought.
I continued this way for years (ok, decades if I am being honest). I would find a diet, stick to it religiously, lose weight, get to a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore and totally rebel! Gain ALL of the weight back (with interest) and then get to a point where I couldn’t stand myself any longer and so start another diet.
I thought I had a problem with diets. I thought if I could just find the ‘right’ one then all this would be fixed and I could finally lose all the excess weight and live happily ever after with my healthy BMI and my size 10 wardrobe.
What I have come to realise is the problem was never my eating. The problem was WHY I was eating.
I was eating to avoid my feelings. I was eating to buffer them away. Or to numb them, or to stuff them down so deep I couldn’t feel them anymore. I would eat to avoid and I would also eat to punish myself.
I could probably write a whole book on the reasons I used to eat. But my point is that I didn’t eat because I was hungry. And if you don’t eat for hunger, how are you going to know you are full?
The entire concept of eating when I was hungry was foreign to me. On the one hand I was a chronic dieter and when I was on a diet I never ate when I was hungry! I ate when (and what and how much) the diet told me to.
When I wasn’t dieting I was binging! And when I binge I ate ALL the things I wasn’t allowed to eat when I dieted (so once again entirely unrelated to hunger).
I write this today for 2 reasons –
The first is that I am tired and overwhelmed and frustrated and really feel called to eat the entire contents of my pantry (and perhaps do a drive through run for dessert). And yet through awareness, I know that overeating won’t help these feelings.
Because as I said above you can never get enough of what you don’t truly want.
The second reason is, while I am feeling triggered and want to eat I am observing my 4 year old son, who only ever eats while he is hungry. So some days he barely eats at all, and other days he appears to eat us out of house and home! And as I watch him I wonder when it is that I lost that? When did I lose the connection between hunger and eating? I suppose the answer doesn’t really matter, as it doesn’t change anything. But it is an interesting point to ponder.
So while I am committed to eating only when I am truly hungry, and this process has helped me release 78 kilograms, there are still times when I say “stuff it” and go back to my past behaviours, and overeat for the true avoidance and numbing that it brings.
The difference now is the awareness. This reminds me that I can have these moments but I no longer want to live in this behaviour, because eating is only ever a bandaid.
The real cure is sitting with these feelings and allowing them to pass x
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