Know the wrong reasons you reach for food, and learn how to change your lifestyle for good.
How many Hollywood movies feature the girl that was just dumped crying into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? It might seem like eating for all of the wrong reasons is programmed into your DNA, but experts say that once you ID why you’re reaching for that extra serving or unhealthy snack, it’s easy to fix.
“Overeating is a direct result of our modern lives, for which our ancient bodies are entirely unfit,” says The Diabetes Cure author Dr. Alexa Fleckenstein. A food pyramid based on white starches and dairy isn’t a good model for health, she adds.
So why do we overeat?
Julie M. Simon, psychotherapist, life coach, and author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual, has worked with imbalanced eaters and overeaters for 25 years, helping them to heal their relationships with themselves, their bodies, and food. She also works to help her clients stop dieting so they can lose excess weight and keep it off.
Simon’s found these reasons to be the top reasons people overeat:
• To tranquilize and dull emotions that are difficult to cope with, such as anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, shame, frustration, and even happiness and joy.
• For soothing, comfort, pleasure, escape, fulfillment, and excitement.
• To silence negative, critical, self-defeating thoughts and quiet the mind.
• For stress relief.
• To distract from feeling states like being overwhelmed, agitated, bored, and apathetic.
• To reward.
• To punish.
• To procrastinate.
• To rebel against someone or something.
• Because they feel deprived in life.
• Because feeling full makes them feel safe.
• Because their life lacks purpose, meaning, passion, and inspiration.
• To ward off sexual attention.
So what is an overeater or imbalanced eater supposed to do? “The root cause of overeating or imbalanced eating is a disconnection from your mind, body, and spirit signals,” Simon says. This includes mind signals (emotions and thoughts), such as boredom, and self-defeating thinking like “I’ll never get this work done on time,” she notes. (To help combat emotional eating, tap into the power of writing what you eat.)
“[It could also be] physical signals like fatigue or fullness and spiritual signals like inspiration or low motivation,” she adds. “The resolution of emotional eating begins with what I call self-connection. Going inside and checking in with your internal world of emotions, needs, and thoughts.”
Simon has developed a very simple way she helps her clients retrain their minds to not eat for the wrong reasons. Basically, she asks them to stop and ask how they are truly feeling in the moment, figure out what they really need, and use their inner nurturer voice to comfort their feelings and address their true needs. “It’s also good to practice some mind-quieting techniques in those 10- to 15-minute pauses. We’re much less likely to do damage if we are calm,” Simon says.
For an exercise in ending overating, try asking yourself these 5 hunger questions before you reach for another snack.