Does it sometimes feel like you have no choice but to overeat? it’s just ‘what you do’…inexorably and uncontrollably?? Like the lady in the image above?
This does not happen in real life!
What we call our overeating might say more than we realise about our relationship with food. if you want to stop overeating here’s a good place to start; by looking at the words you use to describe this behaviour….
What we call it: What it might actually mean…
Treating myself: Food is a treat, not a necessity
Indulge: I’m not worthy to eat so I have to view it as an indulgence
Pigging out: I’m disgusting
Binging: I’m out of control around food
I have medical condition: I can’t do anything about this
I am addicted to … : It’s out of my control
Grazing: I need to eat constantly or … (what?!)
Picking: I’m not worth the time it takes to put it on a plate and sit down to eat
Over-doing it: I’m only entitled to a certain amount
Craving: My body is in charge
Giving in : I’m weak and useless
Eating too much: There’s a fixed amount I’m allowed
Sneaking food: I’m untrustworthy around food
Eating in secret: I’m not worthy enough to eat in public
Can you think of any others? What do you call overeating and what is that actually saying about your relationship with food and with your body?
At Beyond Chocolate we prefer to call it ‘overeating’. This is much less damning or judgemental than any of the descriptions above – it’s a simple statement of fact; eating more than our body needs is overeating.
Becoming aware that we are actually doing it and starting to notice when and how and what can be valuable tools in the process of learning how to stop doing it – if that is what we want. If we continue to believe that we are driven to eat by forces outside ourselves, it is so much harder to make the changes we want to because it’s completely out of our control.
Tuning in is very valuable for this – next time you find you are overeating, see if you can pause briefly and tune in. What am I thinking? What I am I feeling? How is my body language right now? Am I thinking I shouldn’t be eating this (much)? Am I feeling anxious in case anyone sees me? Am I hunched over the food as if shielding it from view?
The idea is not to STOP immediately in a gritting of teeth and will-power. The idea is to gather information and observe with gentleness and curiosity. Once we know we are over-eating, we can decide whether to continue or whether to stop – the choice is always ours. No-one has tied your hands behind your back, wired your mouth open and is tipping food down your throat via a funnel. If the overeating is helping you in the moment, you can choose to continue to soothe or manage or cope with whatever has caused the overeating. Or you can choose to stop, this time. And the next time it happens, tune in again and repeat the process.
The way we eat and the things we say to ourselves about our eating can give us very valuable information if we want to change our relationship with our food and our body. The over-eating we do serves a function, a positive function: it helps us cope in the moment – it must or we wouldn’t do it. We all know that if we consistently eat more than our body needs, we will put on weight – and yet, we continue to overeat. So what are we doing it for? What purpose does it serve? How does it help us? Tune in, ask yourself and observe the answers. If it helps, set a timer – for any length of time you want; 5 seconds, 20 seconds, a minute, longer? Then when the time is up – you choose. Do you want to continue overeating or not?
View yourself as a work in progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your relationship with food has been building up ever since you were born – there may be complex reasons why you overeat and the urge to do so may be different from one day to the next, from one moment to the next. You are worth spending the time on to unpack this as much as you want or need to in order to eat in a way which is satisfying and supportive of your life.
So, next time you find yourself overeating, tune in to what your mind is thinking about what you are doing – what are you calling what you are doing? What does that say about your relationship with food and your body? Would calling it simply ‘overeating’ help to take away the shame and disgust and negative judgements?