One question I get asked over and over again is: How do I stop overeating?
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of individual reasons for binging, (and I cannot address all of them in this one post), most people who struggle with overeating (or under-eating for that matter-disordered eating) do so because of a few predominating factors:
- The ongoing constant battle with their bodies and self-esteem (and our failed means of dealing with it);
- Emotional stressors—including stress itself and anxiety;
- Physiological NEED;
I will address each one of these separately.
First things first (and this is a BIG one): The ongoing constant battle with their bodies and self-esteem.
If you are a woman, at least 97% of you can relate.
There is some statistic that goes “97% of all women have an I HATE MY BODY moment…every day.”
That statistic came from a Glamour magazine insider study on body image and beauty a few years ago.
Whatever the ‘exact hard facts’ are, I am not disputing it—we as women are pretty darn hard on ourselves about…the size of our jeans, the number on a scale, our hair day today, our nose, the wrinkles on the outside of our eyes, the little extra skin (we got from grandma) underneath our arms, our thighs that touch…you name it.
And this struggle is not only physical, but also internal.
Who, of all the people you know, cuts you down the most? Is most critical of you?
We hate our own annoying laugh; Analyze if we came across as too awkward or need; Believe she’s wayyyyy prettier than us; Wonder if we will ever find Mr. Right—or if we ‘found him’, if he will stick around; Compare our stomach to that girl’s at the gym; Check in to see how many ‘likes’ we got on a Facebook or Instagram post; Maintain a self-consciousness about what kind of mother others think we are; Tell ourselves ‘it will never happen’—whatever that ‘it’ goal or dream or hope is for ourselves…and on and on.
Unfortunately, having a negative self-esteem (particularly with our body image), sets us up, from the get go, for having an unhealthy relationship with food (or getting out of touch with our own body’s cues and needs). This often proceeds as follows:
- Negative Self-Talk (“I’m not pretty enough”; “If only I could lose about 10 lbs.”; “This jeans used to fit-fatty”; “I am not enough”)
- Plan of Attack. Decision to eat less, exercise more, tone up, get fit, fit into these jeans by XYZ, weigh XYZ, etc.
- Just do it. Our effort to muster up the willpower to hit the gym more consistently, or cut out all carbs, or eat low-fat, or snack less often in the day, or go on a strict diet leads to feelings of physiological or psychological deprivation, consequently often leading to…
- Grass is greener. We want what we ‘can’t have.’ We want to stop being such a Nazi about the gym; We can’t stop thinking about Home Slice pizza; Visions of sugar plums dance in our heads at night….Setting us up for…
- Disconnected. At meal time, we completely check out. In order to fill the ‘void’ (physiological and psychological again), we get out of touch with our ‘hunger/fullness’ cues. It’s meal time. Might as well eat—something, anything. Episodes of binging may occur; or merely just eating more than your hunger allows, subsequently experiencing bloating, constipation, discomfort, indigestion and further negative body image….leading way to…
- More Negative Self-Talk…
- Increased Restriction…
- More Feelings of Deprivation…
- Cravings and Overeating….
So first things first…addressing your inner critic. It’s time you and your inner-critic had a little chat—and it’s time you told it to “shut up.”
That inner-critic has been with you for far too long.
Easier said than done?
It is a DAILY process to 1.), start becoming AWARE of when that inner-critic rears its ugly little head (i.e. it’s not ‘you’ speaking; it’s your arch enemy)…and then 2.) start counteracting that false negativity, or jab-jab-punch with a positive statement about yourself. For example:
Look in the mirror: “You’re too big.”
Counter: “I’ve been telling myself I am ‘too big’ for far too long. Hey Sarah, YOU are gorgeous.”
You will have to fake it until you make it at first because it is going to feel super awkward at first!
Watch this for some inspiration….It’s one of my absolute FAVORITE videos.
Moving on. Next on the list of reasons behind overeating: Emotional stressors.
Face it, we as women have emotions—thank you estrogen (at least compared to our men counterparts).
And these emotions (feelings about ourselves; feelings and memories surrounding food; ways we cope or adapt to change, lack of control, etc.) are pretty sneaky culprits when it comes to food.
Struggles with food usually start early, when our relationship with food is first established. That being said, factors contributing to these struggles (food addiction, overeating, cravings) often go deeper than the surface.
Many of us have become completely out of sync with our bodies (and our emotions) when we eat—eating for reasons other than to nourish our bodies. That being said, to understand why one overeats, it’s critical to identify what the emotions are that lead us to mindlessly snack, overindulge, or binge.
- Are these feelings known?
- Do they spark any memories or remind us of ways we felt in our past?
- Are we seeking comfort, love or satisfaction in our lives, in some way?
- Do our eating patterns remind us of ways we saw our parents use food or other substances?
- Are we reacting to life’s uncontrollable circumstances through food—something we can ‘control’?
To have a healthy body, it is necessary for us to practice good nutrition and exercise; but to have a healthy relationship with food, it is also necessary for us to understand ourselves on a deeper emotional level, and/or to uncover why we eat the way we eat.
If we try to tackle unwanted behaviors (cravings, overeating, under-eating) through diet and exercise alone, the emotions we were trying to cover up through eating won’t magically ‘go away’.
We first must identify the feelings and inner voices that perpetuate this cycle of self-hatred and the disconnection with our body. It is then that we can gain control over self-destructive eating habits and not react adversely to pressure and triggers that lead us to misuse food (or exercise).
In short: Address, or check in, with your emotions.
For, more often than not, when we do this, we can get to the bottom of our real wants, desires, and goals, and stop partaking in the patterns that get in our way.
Lastly, I will touch on physiological need.
When we decide to restrict ourselves, OR, we are NOT feeding our body the BALANCE it needs, we enter into a state of both physiological deprivation.
Our bodies become starved. Or in layman’s terms, when we restrict our energy intake or aren’t getting everything we need, we become hungrier beings.
For example, if we are fasting (‘cleansing’), or restricting, or eating very-low-carbohydrate, or low-fats, or no-protein diet…our bodies are missing out on several essential nutrients.
Even if we aren’t ‘restricting’ or ‘dieting’ per say, but eating a ‘healthy’ standard American diet:
- Breakfast: Fruited yogurt or cereal, milk and a banana;
- Lunch: A turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with chips or chicken salad with Ranch dressing;
- Snack: A granola bar or handful of snack crackers for a snack;
- Dinner: Spaghetti and meat sauce or chicken, rice and broccoli and some ice cream for dessert)
…We still can be missing out (and depriving) our bodies of on some key essential nutrients that we were designed to thrive upon. (Hint: Essential fats; quality proteins; plenty of nutrient-dense fresh veggies and some fruits).
Additionally, if we are eating sugar, processed foods (crackers, cookies, chips, bars, etc.), or other ‘treats’ (late night Ben & Jerry’s dips, or dessert after every meal) on a regular basis, we have trained our bodies to become glucose-dependent (sugar burners)—meaning our cells neeeeeed sugar to ‘feel good.’
It’s no longer just about the fact that these foods taste good…your body starts to adapt (and prefer) these foods for primary fuel source (after all, it’s what it’s come to know). And…when it doesn’t have it…or it’s running on empty….it’s going to let you KNOW through cravings, obsessive thoughts, or ‘insatiable’ hunger for these foods. The thing about foods, like ice cream, or bread, or snack crackers, or M&M’s, etc. is that it takes quite a bit to actually ‘satiate’ you (i.e. make you feel full).
And, even if you’re ‘cravings’ are for ‘healthier fare’ (think: nuts, almond butter, guacamole, coconut ice cream, sweet potato fries), these cravings are most often signs that you haven’t had enough balance (with nutrients or your food timing) throughout the day.
Check out this post by Robb Wolf on how your brain chemistry (serotonin levels) can also trick your body into cravings and overeating.
And, for more information, the chart below is a pretty extensive list of some common food cravings, and the reasons behind them!
In short: What does ‘balance’ mean?!?!
While every BODY is different, every BODY does need a balance of proteins, carbohydrates (majority from fresh veggies/fruits, some starch), fats AND water (at least ½ your body weight in ounces) to function OPTIMALLY.
Calories, percentages and macronutrients aside, if you can focus on getting a variety of these main components in at your meals, and the best quality of those you can afford, your body (your health, and your cravings) will thank-you.
I could rant and rave about the mind-enhancing, brain-boosting, and craving-controlling affects of FATS and PROTEINS in particular in your diet (after all, you can only eat so many chicken breasts or bison burgers, right?).
Far too many women fear fats will make them fat, but quite the reverse, fats:
- BOOST your metabolism
- Aid in digestion
- Provide clarity for brain function
- Enhance your mood
- Regulate your hormones
- Regulate blood sugar
- Satiate you
- Make your cells stronger (less permeable to ‘toxins’ and more durable)
- Are the body’s preferred first source of ENERGY
- Make food taste BETTER
So many wonderful things!
Make quality fats a part of your daily meals with some of these great options:
- Avocado/homemade guacamole
- Coconut butter
- Cooking oils: Coconut oil, ghee, tallow, lard, bacon fat
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Walnut oil
- Coconut flakes (unsweetened)
- Raw nuts/seeds
- Almond butter/nutbutter
- Grassfed butter
- Egg YOLKS
- Bacon (Nitrate-free)
- Animal fats (pasture-raised chicken thighs, grassfed beef, beef roast, pork roast, etc.)
Phew…get it? Got it? Good?
I know that was A LOT of information.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or to connect with someone who ‘gets it’. I would love to help support you on your journey to finding balance and freedom.
What is your body REALLY craving???*
|Craving this:||Reason is:||Restore with this:|
|Cheese||Essential Fatty Acids deficiency||Omega 3’sFlax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts|
|Calcium deficiency||Sesame seeds/ tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens|
|Pasta, white bread, pastries||Chromium deficiency||Onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, sweet potato|
|Bread and toast||Nitrogen deficiency||Foods containing proteins, i.e.. Green leafy veg, nuts, seeds, legumes|
|Red meat||Iron deficiency||Beans, legumes, unsulphured prunes, figs+ other dried fruit, seaweed, spinach, cherries, Vitamin C for iron absorption|
|Popcorn||Stress (adrenal) hormone fluctuations||Stress-relieving techniques, breathing exercises, exercise, leafy greens, vitamin B and C|
|Crisps||Chloride deficiency||Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan sea salt|
|Essential Fatty Acids deficiency||Omega 3′s (EPA and DHA)- Flax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts|
|Burned Food||Carbon deficiency||Fresh fruits|
|Acid foods||Magnesium deficiency||Raw cacao nibs/beans/powder, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, greens, fruit|
|Salty Foods||Chloride deficiency||Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan sea salt|
|Stress hormone fluctuations||Meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, leafy greens, vitamin B and C|
|Chocolate||Magnesium deficiency||Raw cacao nibs/beans/powder, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, greens, fruit, magnesium|
|Soda, fizzy drinks||Calcium deficiency||Sesame seeds/ tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens|
|General sweets||Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)||Fruit, high fiber foods (beans, legumes), complex carbs (grains), chromium (cinnamon)|
|Tryptophan deficiency||Spirulina, pumpkin/sesame/sunflower seeds, raw cacao, oatmeal, sweet potato, spinach, raisins|
|Chromium deficiency||Onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, sweet potato|
|Sulphur deficiency||Cruciferous veggies (kale, cabbage, etc), cranberries, horseradish, asparagus, carob powder, garlic, onion|
|Phosphorus deficiency||Whole grains, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, lentils|
|Coffee or black tea||Sulphur deficiency||Cruciferous vege (kale, cabbage, etc), cranberries, horseradish, asparagus, carob powder, garlic, onion|
|Iron deficiency||Beans, legumes, unsulphured prunes, figs+ other dried fruit, seaweed, spinach, cherries, Vitamin C for iron absorption|
|NaCl (salt) deficiency||Himalayan or Aztecan sea salt, Apple Cider vinegar, kombucha|
|Phosphorous deficiency||Whole grains, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, lentils|
|Alcohol, recreational drugs||Calcium deficiency||Sesame seeds/ tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens|
|Glutamine deficiency||Cabbage, beetroot, beans, spinach, parsley, vegetable juice|
|Protein deficiency||Green leafy vegetable, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, beans|
|Potassium deficiency||Citrus fruits, bitter green leafy veg, banana, tomato, pineapple, black olives, seaweeds|
|Avenin deficiency||Oatmeal, granola, cereals, whole grains|
|Tobacco||Silicon deficiency||Horsetail herb, nuts, seeds, oats, millet, barley, onions, whole wheat, beetroot. Avoid refined starches|
|Tyrosine deficiency||Fruits (esp. avocado and banana), whole grains, oats, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, Vitamin C, vegetables|
|Lack of appetite||Chloride deficiency||Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan or Aztecan sea salt|
|Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency||Whole grains, peanuts, seeds, beans, green and yellow vegetables|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3) deficiency||Peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat bran and wheat germ|
|Manganese deficiency||Walnuts, almonds, pecans, whole grains, green leafy veges, pineapple, blueberries|
|Often overeating||Tryptophan deficiency||Spirulina, pumpkin/sesame/sunflower seeds, raw cacao, oatmeal, sweet potato, spinach, raisins|
|Tyrosine deficiency||Fruits (esp. Avocado and banana), whole grains, oats, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, Vitamin C, veges|
|Silicon deficiency||Horsetail herb, nuts, seeds, oats, millet, barley, onions, whole wheat, beetroot. Avoid refined starches|
|Often snacky||No balanced diet, missing nutrients||Substitute junk food for healthy meals|
*Check out this link for more on what your food cravings could mean