Life TherapyTM
Psychotherapy & Coaching + Mindfulness & Meditation

Overeating: Why we do it, and how to stop.

“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”
-Eckhart Tolle
Most people understand the concept of comfort food… Break up = Ben and Jerry right? But what about the everyday experience we have with food? How come we overeat when things seem to be fine?
Here are a few things to consider….
BODY SENSATIONS: When we have inner discomfort in any form (anxiety, stress, upset etc), our immediate reaction is to want alleviate it as soon as possible.  The issue with this is, that we look outside ourselves for the quickest solution…we grab some food, even a drink or a cigarette because that can give us an instant (but temporary) sense of calm. Unfortunately, these things ultimately make the feelings inside us worse in the long run. Here’s the common cycle …
BASIC OVEREATING CYCLE: Experience internal discomfort (stress, anxiety, upset etc) –> Desire to relieve discomfort  –> Go to external source for temporary relief (food) –> Reaction to overeating: “Why did I do that? What’s wrong with me? I feel fat” —> Feel bad (again) –> Desire to relieve the discomfort (again) –> Want more food….
So how to we change this cycle? I’m not going to lie…it isn’t easy.  It takes real intention and effort to pay attention to what is really going on with us.   Ultimately we need to get better at relieving our internal discomfort directly, without looking for a temporary “fix”.  But unfortunately as a society, we haven’t been taught how to self soothe, and this is a practice that doesn’t come naturally (and requires more than a blog post!)
DESIRED CYCLE: Experience internal discomfort (stress, anxiety, upset etc) –> Desire to relieve discomfort (urge to eat) –> Self Soothe–> Feel Better
Seems simple right?  For those over-eaters, we know that the urge to eat can be pretty strong, and taking a moment to stop and reflect on the way to the fridge can be a pretty difficult….This is where the real work comes in.  The most important thing to practice is to stop and look within. If you can’t yet stop and reflect before starting to eat, try to do it at some point while your eating.  Even it’s after the second Big Mac, this process could keep you from reaching for a third. It takes baby steps and positive reinforcement.
Here are a few things to ask yourself when you feel the urge to eat:
1) “Does my mouth want this food or does my stomach need it?” Often times our mouth craving tells us to eat when our stomach is actually full.  When we bring our awareness to the fullness of our stomachs, we begin to be more aware of the needs of the body and more fully in the present moment; which ultimately helps us realize we are not hungry!
2) “Where is my breath right now?” When we experience something that we consider to be difficult, we can feel a bit stressed and our breath tends to get short and shallow in our chest, rather than deep and long into our stomachs.  If you find that this is the case, take a moment to breathe deeply and bring your breath deep down into your stomach.  It helps bring the sense of calm, grounding and relief your body is actually asking for.  When we feel calm and grounded it is rare that we would have the urge to overeat.
3) “What do I really need right now?” The answer is usually love.  Not from another but from yourself. When we give “the craver” some loving acceptance, it can help soothe that intense feeling and bring some relief. (This practice requires more explanation than a blog post)
When we stop and look within, we can practice answering these questions and  learn to soothe our internal discomfort directly, which ultimately soothes the urge to eat….Like I said, that urge to eat can be a pretty strong one, so this does take time and practice.
But we are going to be around food for the rest of our lives, and the overeating cycle doesn’t stop on it’s own.  So if we put in the time and effort to address this cycle now, then maybe we won’t have to deal with it in the future.
If you’re ready take action to improve your relationship with food click here

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