Category Archives: Blog

How emotional eating is saving your ass.

Most of my clients think that emotional eating is a curse. That it’s an unfortunate defect they’ve been blighted with, and they were dealt a bad hand in life when it comes to food and weight.

“Poor me! I’m sick of this! Will this food problem ever not torment me?!”

Or something along those lines.

But here’s my take on it…

I’m not sure emotional eating is a bad thing. In fact, I think it might be my guardian angel. 

I know this is the part where you think I’m a crazy person, but hang on a sec.

Emotional eating is an attempt to deal with a tough problem, feeling, or situation we don’t otherwise know how to deal with, and often don’t even know that we have without some kind of symptom to remind us. 

That twitchy feeling that makes us want to go shove brownies down our throats, is like a genius alarm bell, that if responded to appropriately, reminds us to clue into what’s bothering us, before it becomes a more serious problem.

When we strip away the judgement of our emotional eating, and stop calling it a disease, a defect, a problem in and of itself;

we can finally see it for what it is:

An alert that something in our life needs our attention. Something completely unrelated to food or our weight. 

Be grateful for the reminder. It might be saving your ass.  

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Why You Can’t End The Diet-Binge Cycle

Here’s the thing about the diet-binge cycle that nobody talks about…it’s not dieting, in a vacuum, that triggers it. 

It’s wanting to control your weight,

that triggers the dieting (in various forms),

that triggers it.

Every time I ask a client, “why is it so scary to let go of controlling your food?” the answer is invariably,

“I’m afraid I’ll gain weight.”

Duh.

Fear of weight gain controls us.

Fear of weight gain is why “it’s so hard to let go,” or “I’m not there yet,”

Fear of weight gain backs us up against a wall and says “you don’t have a choice in this matter,”

Get thin or die. 

When you let yourself be controlled by your fear of gaining weight,

because you believe the walls will cave in around you or the Earth will burst into flames if you do,

that’s when the cycle begins. 

that’s when you can not help but to judge every bite of food you feed yourself,

that’s when you can not help but to obsess about your food,

that’s when you feel like you don’t have a choice but to restrict,

because you believe your survival depends on it. 

And then it’s just a matter of time…

before you can’t fight any longer.

before you’re on autopilot — lunging for that jar of peanut butter,

because you just need some R.E.L.I.E.F. 

The pressure is too much; it’s too heavy to bear.

When you’re only okay with yourself at a certain weight, it’s like you’re handing food a baseball bat and saying:

“You have the power to make or break me, show me who’s boss.”

Emotional Eating is the almost certain outcome of hating your body.

Is body acceptance something you are willing to work on? What are you willing to let go of, to get to the other side?

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A common “intuitive eating” pitfall…

FullSizeRenderThis blog posts references “intuitive eating” — which can be loosely described as making decisions around food based on what our bodies want to eat, rather than what our minds think it should. If you’re totally unfamiliar with “intuitive eating,” here’s a basic primer on core principles. While intuitive eating in and of itself is not “the answer” to your food problem, the basics are helpful to know if you’re struggling to get off traditional dieting.

Now on to today’s topic…

The “hunger-and-fullness diet” is my cheeky way of describing the perversion of intuitive eating that women fall prey to when they attempt intuitive eating with a diet mentality— 

e.g. “I must only eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full…or else.”

Like with any other diet, if you’re following hard and fast rules — that is, if you’re “on a wagon” with food — it’s only a matter of time before you’re gonna get knocked off…even if that wagon is based on the “guidelines” of intuitive eating.

(Did my quotation marks effectively demonstrate my disdain for the term “guidelines?” The word “guideline” implies the word “should” by definition. No dif.)

What if,

instead of turning our hunger signals into boundaries by which to judge our performance with food, we simply saw our hunger signals for what they actually are: information. 

From a biological standpoint, that’s all a hunger signal is— 

INFORMATION. 

When I feel a growl in my stomach, that’s simply information that my blood sugar is dropping.

When I get a yeast infection after eating too much sugar the week before, that’s just information about how my body is reacting to that sugar.

When my stomach is distended with food, that’s simply information telling me how much space is comfortably left inside.

When I eat a peanut and my face swells up like a balloon, that’s information about my probable peanut-allergy.

As a human being with free will and reign over my own body, 

I get to do with that information what I damn well want to. 

I might choose to stop when I’m full because I legitimately don’t want to feel stuffed before I go back to work…

or I might choose to keep eating the raw chocolate mousse because…yolo…it’s Sunday…I have nowhere else to be…and that mousse is f*cking worth it.

Just like feelings of fatigue are information that my body is low on sleep,

and I can choose to go to bed early so my body feels better in the morning,

OR I can stay up because my best friend is visiting from out of town and we need to finish our Friends marathon.

I am empowered to make my own choices, when all the information is in. 

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“Dieting” is not an action — it’s a state of mind

While there is shockingly little conclusive research about “emotional eating” (i.e. eating over feelings), one thing we know is that dieters tend to eat their feelings, and non-dieters tend to not-eat their feelings.

In other words, we have reason to believe that dieting in and of itself encourages emotional eating (which makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons, some of which I described in last week’s blog post).

The question then becomes,

if “dieting” is contributing to or even directly causing us to eat emotionally (a distinct possibility), what does “dieting” really mean and how can we avoid it??

I hear women say to me over and over again: “I gave up dieting and now I can’t stop eating Nutella out of a jar…”

And I can’t help but say back,

But did you REALLY give up “dieting?” Or did you just start eating bread again, and thought that would “fix” it? 

Let me explain…

One thing I find over and over again, is that 9 times out of 10, women who “give up” dieting, are still thinking like dieters — their emotional response to food is the same as it would be if they still were actively manipulating their food…

They’re still conscious of everything they eat (and usually judgmental of what they eat),

They feel ashamed whenever they think they’ve “eaten too much,”

They’re often still trying to control themselves around food even if not “technically” following a specific plan of eating,

And, generally speaking, they maintain a moralistic and fear-based perspective on food, rather than deriving gratitude, joy, and pleasure from the life-sustaining force that food actually represents.

You see, “dieting” (and the compulsive behaviors associated with it), has little to do with what you are or are not putting in your mouth — and everything to do with how you feel and think about what you put in your mouth. 

Unless your thinking changes, neither will your behaviors. 

(I also talk about this at length in this blog post about the real difference between “normal” and “emotional” eaters).

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