Tag Archives: emotional eating

Feed Your Emotional Hunger with Purpose, Not Food

Food is never going to fill you up. What will then? That’s for you to figure out. family? travel? volunteering ? cooking? playing music?

The different feelings we have in our body aren’t arbitrary and don’t come from nowhere, and that includes all of the kinds of hunger we experience.

No hunger, whether it be emotional hunger or true physical hunger, comes along without a valid reason. You’re not physically hungry because you’re lazy, or don’t have enough willpower. You’re hungry because it’s time to eat!

You’re not emotionally hungry because you’re pathetic. You’re emotionally hungry because something is missing or not being tended to.

We need to feed both kinds of hunger, but to satisfy each type, we need to know exactly what to feed ourselves with.

Physical hunger is easy (despite how determined our society is to make it complicated). When we eat food in an appropriate quantity for our body, physical hunger goes away. When we eat enough, we are comfortable for a few hours at a time, sometimes many hours. Physical hunger comes back when we’ve digested our last meal and our body begins to let us know with tummy grumbles and other signals that it is time to eat food again.

One way to know if you’re experiencing physical hunger is that many different types of food will be appealing to you. You would be willing to eat a burger, but you’d also be willing to eat pizza, a stir fry or a salad if that is what was available. This doesn’t mean that some things aren’t more appealing than others, but if you only had one food option (barring any health conditions that require avoidance of a specific food) and were physically hungry, you would shut up and chew!

Emotional hunger is different. If we try to feed emotional hunger with food (and often many of us do), we will still ache, we still feel “hungry” (despite possibly being physically full). Hungry. Restless. Bored. Irritated. Confused. Angry. Apathetic. We will feel something that we can’t quite put our finger on. We will keep feeling a gnawing desire for something. We might go to the pantry or look in the fridge a dozen times, only to sit back down because we don’t know what we want or we only want one thing in particular.

One clue that you are experiencing emotional hunger is that you would actually choose to forgo eating if you can’t get your hands on whatever you’ve decided you wanted. Emotional hunger is sometimes picky. We may not know exactly what we want but we know we don’t want x, y and z.

Just like pain is our body’s way of alerting us that something is physically wrong, emotional hunger is a sign from our brains and hearts that what we are doing isn’t working. It’s one of our many alert systems and it won’t stop unless we address it.

There is no amount of physical food in the world that we can consume that will take care of an emotional need. With emotional hunger, you have to look inside a bit to discover what it might be satisfied by.

 

If you want to satisfy Emotional Hunger properly, here’s what you need to do:

Ask yourself:

  • Where might you not be listening to your own needs?
  • What message could your body be trying to convey that you are not hearing?
  • Where are you not being honest with yourself?
  • What’s missing from your life right now?
  • What are you craving more than anything?
  • Do you have outlets for creativity? Spirituality? Physical activity? Love/affection?
  • Do you regularly experience meaning, purpose or value in your life? If not, what experiences give you (personally) those things? How can your get more of them?

To soothe emotional hunger, we have to:

  1. Figure out what it is we are missing or craving (love, companionship, creativity, spirituality, meaning, etc).
  2. Be willing to feel the discomfort once we’ve identified it (just let it be there). Recognize that you’ll survive – feeling it won’t kill us and running away from the feeling isn’t going to “fix” it.
  3. Construct a plan to get that need met.  Feed yourself emotionally in a way that will actually satisfy that hunger.

Figuring out what it is exactly we’re missing is sometimes the hardest part. If that’s you, be willing to try lots of different things. For some that part is easy, it’s just that they have a difficult time taking action on it. If that’s you, it sometimes helps to tell someone what it is you want to change and ask them to hold you accountable to taking action on it. Sometimes having someone check in with you is enough of a “fire” to motivate you to move forward.

 

A note about feeding Emotional Hunger with food

If you are dealing with emotional hunger, and you feed yourself physical food instead of emotional “food”, you’ll never feel satisfied. You’ll never feel full enough, you’ll always feel deprived and you’ll continue to reach for food when you feel the things you don’t want to feel – because those feelings come back afterwards (often stronger).

Emotional eaters frequently eat to distract ourselves from feeling a certain way, believing that the feelings we are feeling are too awful to confront. To avoid feeling crappy, we overeat to make ourselves feel good or comforted, but the irony is that by doing this we end up feeling far WORSE than those bad feelings made us feel to begin with.

Read that again. The exact thing you are using for comfort is causing you more pain than whatever you are running from.

I did this for so long. Up and down cycles of eating and avoiding, eating too much food and avoiding my real feelings, feeding my true hungers. I conflated my discomfort with not knowing what it was that I wanted (emotional hunger) with physical hunger.

I royally screwed up my digestive system, felt physically ill much of the time from overeating,  kept people at an arm’s distance and I stayed in situations that were stifling me emotionally and creatively. Why?? Because eating was so much easier than dealing with any of it. Eating felt like a solution, even if it was just for a short amount of time. It required less effort on my part, less confronting myself and my fears, less risk taking, less responsibility, less vulnerability. I could hide in my kitchen and build up a wall around me with a bag of chips.

Well anyone who has ever tried to build any type of fortress with food knows full well that it’s not lasting armor. It needs constant replenishment. Any “strength” garnered from the activity of eating is gone as soon as you swallow that last bite (sometimes before!!!).

Battling life this way makes it a war you can’t win, because in a war with yourself, the loser is always going to be you.

If you are tired of going through the motions, and ready to confront something that clearly isn’t working for you, you can change it. I’m not going to lie – it is work and it takes a sincere willingness to call yourself out on your own bullshit story (repeatedly!). It means not putting our heads in the sand, not running away from uncomfortable feelings. It means looking at and addressing the things in your life that aren’t providing the value, meaning and purpose you are after (and that is scary stuff, isn’t it?).

Learning how to differentiate and respond to both physical and emotional hunger appropriately is a game changer! It’s so very worth it. If you decide to start paying attention to your hungers, you will grow and you’ll change in ways that some won’t recognize you afterwards – but that’s okay, because in a way you’ve been hiding who you were this whole time!

As scary as it can be to try to understand and tackle the source of your emotional hunger, you’ll find that once you start getting underway with it that you have less anxiety, less irritation, less anger and less confusion. You’ll feel more secure and confident. And you’ll have less of the physical discomfort that comes from eating when we don’t really want food!

Don’t ignore the signs from your body (brain and heart) that something isn’t right. If you have a “hunger” that you can’t satisfy no matter what you eat (and something isn’t physically wrong health-wise), it’s not physical hunger and it’s time to explore where that emotional hunger is stemming from. And if you want help looking at that, let’s talk!


Hey I know it’s tough to change your relationship to food on your own. That’s why I created You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food using different qualities you already have. Download your copy at the link here.

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Choosing Not to Diet Doesn’t Mean that You Don’t Care About Your Health

If you decide to give up dieting it does not mean you are choosing to be unhealthy. They are not one and the same.

In this country, to be a woman and say that you’re not currently dieting is to make yourself an outlier. People will wonder what’s “wrong” with you and what “secret” you must have in order to not do this. It’s so normal to always be on a diet and always be “watching” what we eat that people who dare to say they’re not going to do it anymore are a touch weird, maybe even a little scary, right? It’s like that scene in Office Space, when Ron Livingston’s character Peter Gibbons tells Joanna, a cute waitress he’s having lunch with (played by Jennifer Anniston) that he doesn’t think he’s going to go to his job anymore. He doesn’t like it and he’s just not going to go.

Watch the scene here:

The idea that someone is just not going to go to their job (and not planning on getting another one and doesn’t seem worried about it) is such a foreign a concept in our society that Joanna asks him question after question in an effort to figure him out. You can see the confusion and shock on her face (that she hides with humor) as she tries to understand his angle. But there isn’t one. Thankfully they bond over kung fu movies and can move on from the confusing job subject.

What I think confuses people most when you say you’re not dieting is that they think that means you are going to throw all concerns of health out the window, that if you’re not intensely watching what you eat (like it’s out to get you!) based on some form of restriction, that you can’t possibly care about your health or be doing other things that contribute to being healthy.

That’s all crazily wrong. And it comes from a deeply held belief that dieting equals health. We think losing weight always means a healthier person.

That’s just not true.

Dieting does not automatically make you healthy.

Reducing your size does not always equal better health. There are plenty of people out there dropping pounds using incredibly unhealthy measures – eating crap food, over-exercising or taking dangerous speed-like supplements to reduce their appetites. And if you think there are no negative consequences to weight loss, you are misinformed. Here are just a few health consequences that can come from dieting:

  • Fast weight loss can have big health consequences like gallstones
  • Fast weight loss increases loss of muscle mass
  • the pressures weight loss ideals put on us can lead to eating disorders
  • weight loss can lead to bone loss (this is even more pronounced in women who are in early menopause)
  • yo-yo dieting increases the risk of death, heart attack, diabetes and stroke for people with heart disease.

And that’s not really touching on the mental and emotional risks that can come with dieting. A whole culture full of dieters is so concerned with what they are putting in their mouths and the size / shape of their bodies that they can’t live and enjoy their lives. They feel stressed out, depressed, anxious and alone for a huge chunk of their lives. Why?? Because they’re trying to squeeze into a socially accepted idea of what a body is supposed to look like and the only way to get there is to do the opposite of what their bodies naturally want to do – eat and be nourished. That’s a big burden to carry emotionally for years and even decades of one’s life.

If dieting doesn’t automatically give us good health, then we have to realize that the reverse is also likely true. Not dieting doesn’t mean you don’t care about your health and it doesn’t mean that you can’t be healthy. I’m not discounting the science that shows that our weight contributes to certain health conditions (or makes them worse). I’m just asking you to think about the fact that not everyone who is overweight is a couch potato who is eating nothing but twinkies all day long and that there are plenty of slender people who have a lifestyle that is unhealthy.

There are a ton of ways you can not diet and still live the healthiest life possible.

I can list some of them for you below, but to be really clear and brief as possible – it’s really simple!! You can live a healthy life by doing all the things the supposedly “healthy dieters” do but without dieting. Same stuff, minus one thing (we remove weight loss as the motivator).

Move your body. Do it frequently and choose things that bring you joy. It should feel good (and it’s ok if it’s really hard at first or is hard on some days and easy on others). Do things you enjoy doing – it doesn’t have to be exercise for the sake of exercise. It can be play (outside with the kids, playing frisbee, rollerskating, dancing, charades etc). It can be meditation (walking, hiking, yoga. It can be competitive (sports, races etc). It can be high intensity (like HIIT, running, boxing etc) or it can low intensity (pilates, yoga, tai chi etc). It can be the stuff you just have to get done (gardening, yard work, house work etc). It can be restorative (stretching, yin yoga, foam rolling etc). Don’t think too much about whether you’re doing the right stuff. Work your body hard when it wants to be worked hard, be gentle when it asks for gentle. The important thing is moving frequently and safely for your particular body and choosing things that will keep you able to be as active as you want to be for your whole life.

Eat trusting your body and it’s knowledge. Your body knows exactly how much to eat for it’s needs. It also knows what foods make it feels great and what makes it feel terrible. It knows how to take the foods we eat and use it to nourish, repair and replenish our body so we can live another day. Dieting removes our ability to feel this trust and intuition (so if you’re in a place where you think you need dieting because you can’t trust yourself – you are not alone!) but it is something that we are born with and you can get back there with a bit of work and time (contact me if you need some help with this).

This doesn’t mean we discount nutrition. Just because you’re choosing to walk away from the dieting lifestyle and mentality, doesn’t mean you don’t eat with some awareness of nutrition. Choosing to listen to your body means just that – listening to your body. You may think your body is telling you that it wants to eat cupcakes all day, every day but that’s really your mind telling you that. It’s the mind of someone who’s been told their whole lives that cupcakes are bad, fat is bad and that they’re bad if they eat them. When you’re not dieting and no food group is off limits or “bad”, those foods that previously made you feel out of control, now feel much more neutral. When you know you CAN have something if you want it, it’s got a bit less appeal and power than something you CAN’T have. Eating from a more trusting and intuitive place means eating a wide variety of foods, prepared various ways. It means enjoying food but also not letting that enjoyment override the nutritional needs of your body.

I LOVE chocolate, tortilla chips, cheese and ice cream but I also LOVE fresh and cooked vegetables and in general I prefer how whole foods make me feel for the majority of my diet. I can only say that because I have given myself full permission to eat whatever I truly want. Ironically, what I want most days are the foods that make me feel great (and the foods that make me feel great are primarily nutritious). I figure out what’s right for me meal by meal, by asking “What would make me feel best in this moment?”. It’s always changing.

As much as eating too much of any one type of food can be unhealthy, try to remember that being afraid to eat entire categories of food all the time is equally unhealthy (on a mental and emotional level). Trust that your body does know what it needs (the real question is: Are you listening?).

Make managing stress a priority. Stress is one of the biggest causes of health issues in this country and yet we choose to brush it under the rug and ignore it unless we hit crisis mode. Because it’s a tangible thing to do, it’s much easier to manipulate our food intake under the guise of “health” through weight loss than it is to regularly take part in self-care activities that reduce stress. Stress is a part of everyone’s life – there is no getting around it – but we’ve come to see it as badge of honor to brag about how we can keep soldiering on despite how stressful our lives are. This is not healthy, sexy or something to be proud of. It’s way healthier to find a handful of things that bring you real stress relief and make them a priority. You don’t need to lose weight to do that.

Commit to loving and accepting yourself as you are. Not the person you were 10 years ago (though you should love her too). Not the person you’d be if you got that promotion or if you do finally fit into those jeans. Not the person you wish you were more like. You. As you are. In the body you are in right now with all her flaws, beauty, stretch marks, strong muscles, cellulite, freckles, acne, unmanageable hair, imperfect teeth or whatever else you think is a problem. It’s way healthier to be in a larger body that you love and care for than in a smaller body that is hated, distrusted and shamed. Do whatever you can to be more accepting, loving and tolerant of the body you are in and the person you are. She’s all you have (this is something we can work on together too) and if you’re good to her she will repay you back tenfold.

A few others healthy things that will contribute to your health that have nothing to do with the size of your body . . . Take supplements if needed (a nutritious and varied diet helps but sometimes we need a little help). Get regular check ups. Work on your thinking (if everything is negative? Why? What role could you be playing in that?). Have sex regularly (you don’t need a partner) and work to make it more fulfilling if you’re not happy with it right now. Give and receive human touch (even more important if you are single – make room for massage and be a hugger! We all need the physical connection. Reflect on your life with gratitude. Foster social connections that nourish and make your life feel balanced.

The healthiest people in this world are healthy because of a variety of factors, not just due to the size of their body.

I’m not writing this to make you feel bad about a history of dieting, your current diet or even your desire to seek out another diet (God knows that I have been on as many as the next person). Instead, I just want you to think about some stuff:

  • What problem dieting is actually, truly solving for you? And has it been able to solve that problem in the past?
  • Might there possibly be other things you can do to be healthy that are separate from intentionally manipulating your size?
  • What would your life look like if you weren’t always watching what you ate?
  • Can you have the life you want without changing your weight? Why or why not?

Hey I know it’s tough to change your relationship to food on your own. That’s why I created You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food using different qualities you already have. Download your copy at the link here.

Dieting Shouldn’t be Our Normal State

Diet culture teaches us to tell ourselves that this plate is too much food before we even take a bite.

Everyone is on a diet, always, or thinking about their next diet, or thinking about going back to the diet that they lost 30 lbs on ten years ago. The amount of brain energy we use to think about better ways we can restrict food is absolutely insane.

Dieting shouldn’t be our “normal” state in life yet for most adult women, it’s something they are frequently thinking about.  It’s rare to meet a woman who has never been on a diet or who doesn’t desire to be smaller. It’s disarming to be in a room with a woman who seems to eat freely, without concern for calories, carbs or how other people will perceive her for eating whatever she desires. Try going to the average exercise class full of women and I will bet you $100 that the instructor will say something about working harder so you can wear a bikini in a few months (the assumption being your current body isn’t fit to wear a bikini). Try watching TV for an hour and not see a commercial that promotes either a device that will help melt off fat, a procedure that will make you slimmer or an exercise program or medication that will help you finally lose weight.

Women grow up knowing what dieting is, long before their bodies are done growing. We understand the need to manage and manipulate our bodies in order to receive approval. At a young age we don’t understand why dieting is so important but we learn that it’s just part of being a woman and we really want to be adult women.

We hear our Moms and their friends, or other women in our family talk about how they need to stop eating carbs, or how they just can’t control themselves around sweets or bread. They pinch their stomachs and say “Look at this! Can you believe how fat I’ve gotten?” and laugh. They order diet cokes and salads with fat free dressing when the family goes out to eat. They comment on other people’s bodies too. They say things like “She’s too big to wear that” or “She’s totally let herself go.” We also hear “Have you lost weight? You look so beautiful!” or “Wow, that’s a very slimming dress on her.”

We take it all in. Just as we learn everything else. Big = bad. Fat = bad. Pretty = good. Thin = good.

We grow up watching the women around us push food around their plates instead of putting it in their mouths. We watch the women we love hold onto clothing hanging in their closets that are 3 sizes too small but they keep because of a dream body that still lives in their seams. We learn that dieting is just what women do and because we are desperate to be a grown woman long before our bodies and minds are ready, we too start to regulate our food intake.

We tell our own girlfriends that we’re no longer eating cookies or that we’re watching the carbs. We tell them how we’re going to start exercising so we can lose a few pounds. We aren’t even sure what a pound is or how many of them is enough, but we know that we should have less of them.

We say all of this so proudly and we wait for their eyes to light up with envy, with awe, with approval and love. We know how grown up “dieting” makes us appear and that idea makes an electric tingle go through our bodies starting from the glittery headbands on our heads down to the suede ballet flats on our feet. We feel more bonded to our friends and other women in our lives when they share their diet plans or secrets. We bond over vilifying fat and celebrate our accomplishments when we can squeeze into a dress that was too small a few weeks ago. Food becomes an enemy to never relax around and being willing and able to go hungry for long periods of time becomes a badge of honor.

Little girls learning that they have to be small, pretty and perfect to be loved is not ok.

It’s not ok because they grow up to be women who accidentally teach the same ideas to the next generation.

It’s not ok because all of these women limit their potential because they’re so bogged down by the issues attached to weight, size and controlling their bodies.

It’s all so crazy and sad. And we have to start changing it.

We should be outraged that this has become the normal. That it’s completely accepted that we should all be vying to be as small as possible and that anything else is wrong.

I just want to say for a second that there’s no one to blame here. I’m not blaming mom’s for their daughter’s learning this stuff and you’re not a bad person if you say, think and do the things I’m talking about here. You learned this stuff somewhere too. My own mother constantly told me that I was capable of anything and also that I’d look beautiful even in a burlap sack. But her own words about her own body was a different story and I absorbed all of it as just something women did.

This is a bigger cultural issue (diet culture) we have that goes so deep and is supported by every single one of us taking part in it. I still find myself occasionally thinking or saying things (especially as a joke about myself) that support diet culture even though it goes against everything I believe and teach today. Some things are so ingrained, it’s hard to realized how far, except when they seem to appear out of nowhere. I’m still working on my own deep beliefs about my body and food. It’s a process and one that will take years to undo the damage our diet culture does to all of us.

Diet culture teaches us that we can’t trust our own bodies to tell us how much to eat. It teaches us that we are wrong and sneaky. It teaches us that we need calorie counts, points or portion sizes spelled out for us in order to know how much to eat. Diet culture teaches us to silence the signals that are already available to us in our own bodies, until they’re so faint we can’t hear them anymore.

I can’t stress enough that we don’t need diets or meal plans to tell us how much and what to eat. Unless you have a medical condition that requires careful policing of certain nutrients or food categories (diabetes, celiac, kidney disease etc), you probably don’t need some other authority to tell you what and how much to eat. And if you feel so far removed from trusting your own hunger cues, I can help you get back in touch with them. The best authority to check in with to determine how much food your body needs is you. Your body. Your knowledge of yourself. If you feel good and you’re healthy, if you have ample energy to do all the things you want to do, then odds are you are eating the right amount of food that you need. You don’t need to follow a diet.

This might mean that your body is meant to be a little or a lot larger than you want it to be. This also doesn’t mean you have to be unhealthy. You can eat well, exercise, get good sleep, manage stress and do all sorts of other things in the name of health. You don’t have to necessarily manipulate your size or weight to be healthy. Being slender does not equate health and being heavier does not equal being unhealthy.

Constant dieting is like being at war with yourself and you can’t make peace with food if you are at war.

You may not be ready to give up dieting or know how to stop taking part in diet culture the first time you are introduced to it (whether through a blog post like mine or somewhere else) but what you can do is try to become more aware of your thoughts and beliefs and ask yourself where that came from. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or use for journaling to bring up your beliefs about your body and food:

  • What do you believe about your body? Is it too big, too small, just right? Why? Why is it one of those things? How do you know?
  • Think back to your childhood and teen years. What types of things did the people around you say about their bodies, your body or other’s bodies? How do you think their viewpoints affected you?
  • What do you believe if the right way to eat? What foods do you eat regularly and which do you never eat? Why? Why do you think you choose the ones you do or don’t?
  • What thoughts and feelings do you have about other women’s bodies? Are there certain attributes you are aspiring to? Are there attributes or features that you are trying to change? Why?
  • When do you feel your physical best? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you have judgemental thoughts about food? Do you believe some foods are good or bad? Or that you are good or bad for eating them? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you admire and appreciate about your body as it is right now?
  • When was the last time you ate a meal and received pleasure from eating it (without judgements)? Can you try to receive pleasure from food more often?

I have so much to say on this but I don’t want to bog you down with yet another 2500 word blog post (haha) so keep an eye out for my next blog post which will be on how health coaches are contributing to diet culture and how I’m trying to do things differently!


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

 

Should You Weigh Yourself?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

Should you weigh yourself if you have a history of eating issues?

I’ve decided to cut back from posting a new blog every week to just 2 a month. I’ve been pumping out a new blog every week for a long time and my brain is starting to feel a little fried when it comes to keeping the content fresh. On one hand I’m kind of bummed to take a break from it (I love to not break a long streak!) but I also need to listen to my needs and get out of that kind of perfectionism. I think backing off a little will help bring back some creativity that I feel I’ve been lacking in my writing lately. It will at least free up some of my time to work on other things I want to do in my business which is something I have to do.

Today’s topic is a question that I hear many people asking and my answer is a little more unconventional than you might think considering the business that I’m in.

Is it okay to weigh yourself?

Should you throw out your scale if you’ve struggled with body image issues or disordered eating?

This is a question that comes up a lot for women who have struggled with some aspect of their relationship to food or their body.  Many health and mental health professionals and those in the body positive movement usually recommend that we toss out our scales.

I personally think it depends on the individual person and their specific relationship with the scale.

I go through periods where I weigh myself daily and then I sort of walk away from it for awhile and might only weigh myself once or twice a month, sometimes I go through longer stretches where I don’t weigh myself for a few months (mostly in the winter!). This works for me. I don’t get anxious about not weighing myself and I don’t get anxious about the number when I do.

When I weigh daily, it confirms for me that the way I am eating and the amount I am exercising is the right amount for my body.

It also has helped me understand the normal fluctuations in weight that my body has week after week or throughout the month, which results in not being alarmed by them. Lots of things contribute to our weight going up or down a pound or two – salty food (up), slow digestive transit time (up), dehydrated (down), week before period (up) etc. Weighing regularly has made me very comfortable with these changes.

As someone who has been challenged in her eating habits and used to be so dependent on tracking calories to know if I had eaten too much – the scale helps confirm for me that I’m on the right track (since I no longer count calories and instead use my hunger / fullness signals as a guide). Weighing myself occasionally tells me that the way I’m living is working, that I am in tune with my hunger signals (or when my eating issues are cropping up again) and that my intuition is working. It actually reinforces some of the good things I’ve worked on in the last 3-4 years.

When I take breaks from it for longer than a few weeks at a time, I find it’s like a silent decision I’m making that I’m going to go a little rogue with my food choices for awhile. I’m choosing to silence my hunger signals and while there’s nothing wrong with doing this once in awhile, I do have a history of really going overboard for long periods when I avoid the scale. If it don’t “see” it, it’s not happening! It’s a way I can lie to myself. For me, purposely avoiding the scale is an indication that I’m heading into unhealthy territory. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect!

When I’m using the scale as a tool, it doesn’t have a ton of power over me. I don’t give the number a ton of meaning. The number doesn’t tell me I’m good or bad, that I’m worthy or unworthy. It mostly serves to tell me if I’m staying present and being honest in my choices or if I’m trying to hide from myself.

Using the scale occasionally gives this former yo-yo dieter the confidence to keep choosing foods that both give me the nutrition I need and also tastes and textures that I enjoy. When you’ve had 90 pound weight losses and also 60 pound weight gains in your life, you realize that you are someone who can easily turn a blind eye to your ups and downs, and the scale helps me keep my eyes open to my actions. It’s something I keep in my personal tool box because even though I don’t put pressure on myself to weigh a certain amount anymore (and I do think it is possible to be healthy and overweight), I do know that if I allow my weight to creep too far back up and stay up, I am increasing my risk for diabetes (too much of this in my family history) and complicating my own history of high blood pressure (and each year that passes, I would be increasing those risks). I’m heavily motivated by living longer and healthier than the people in my family who passed away too young and for me, I know that keeping my weight stable is an important part of this, again, for me personally.

I know this is not the right thing for every woman with a similar history as mine. And I know there are many other women who feel like they get completely crazy over the scale.

It’s important to know yourself and listen to what is right for you, rather than doing what the masses are doing, or what a stranger on the internet says (that includes me – just because I’m sharing that using a scale helps me stay mindful, doesn’t mean that my answer is right for you).

Some women really become obsessed with the scale in a very unhealthy way. If the number on the scale isn’t a number they like, it can ruin their day or their whole week, it can make them restrict food and punish themselves with harsh exercise. It can make them feel helpless, worthless and value themselves less. Feeling this way can lead to really unhealthy behaviors.  For these people, not weighing themselves is a better idea. Using a scale causes them stress, anxiety and depression. In these cases, it’s not a tool, it’s punishment.

The key to knowing if you can continue weighing yourself or not is how much meaning you give it. In my opinion (and experience), if you can use the scale as a tool in a neutral way, that has about as much effect on how you feel about yourself you as tying your shoes does, then it’s probably okay to keep using the scale in some way. If you can step off the scale and not feel virtuous or ashamed, you might be able to still use it. If you don’t feel the need to do something in retaliation to what number is on the scale, you may be able to still use it. It’s important to know how it affects you.

If you are wondering if you should toss your scale out or not, ask yourself:

How do I feel after I weigh myself?

Do I feel virtuous or depressed depending on the number I see?

Do I feel the urge to do “something” to affect my weight in response to the number I see?

Does even thinking about giving up the scale make me feel very anxious? Why?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or a professional you trust who is aware of your history to discuss what would make the most sense for you. And trust your gut!

Do you need more support with emotional eating? Come join my Ending Emotional Eating Group on Facebook to talk with other women going through the same thing. We’d love to see you there!


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

e-book-3d-render

A Better Relationship with Food Means Making Deliberate Decisions

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

I just want to point out that getting better from our struggles with food doesn’t happen by chance.

I talk to a lot of women who seem to believe that there must be a secret way out of all of this – one that will allow them to be somewhat unconscious or inactive while someone or something else does the work (I’ve been there!).

We won’t wake up one day able to eat the exact right amount for our body without judgement, without overeating and without a lot of conscious choices just because we’ve been hoping that would happen.

I certainly tried that. I remember literally trying to “pray” away my weight as a kid. And as I got older, I definitely daydreamed about just waking up in a body that wasn’t confused about food.

We won’t “fix” our stuff just because someone gave us the right diet plan. Being told what to eat and how much is liberating, but only briefly. I say briefly, because on any diet, we will find ourselves choosing to not eat the things or quantities we are supposed to at some point. We will make decisions about food, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.

There have been many times over the years where I just thought if someone else would tell me what to eat, exactly what to eat and I didn’t have to make decisions about food, then I wouldn’t have the struggles I did. I wanted to opt out of all decision making about what I put into my body.

But the way out is by actually facing those decisions head on, taking responsibility for our choices and having the consciousness to be able see what our actions lead to.

The best thing to do is to accept that almost everything we do in our food life is because of a choice that we made. Even the choice to not make a choice and have someone else make it for you (i.e. having someone give you a specific diet plan) is itself a choice. The lack of decision is also a decision.

We will only improve our relationship with food by making deliberate and more conscious choices and decisions about:

  • what we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat this compelling donut in front of me or the nutritious lunch I planned?)
  • how we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat slowly, chewing every bite thoroughly before swallowing? Or will I choose shovel handful after handful of chips into my mouth without even taking a breath?)
  • how much or little we will eat (ex. Will I choose to eat until I’m uncomfortably full or will I stop when I’ve had comfortably enough?)
  • when we eat  (ex.  Will I choose to eat because it’s a certain time of day, because it’s been 4 hours since I last ate or because I am physically hungry? etc)
  • why we eat (ex. Are we choosing to eating from a recognition of our physical hunger? Or are we choosing to eat so that we can avoiding feeling our feelings?)
  • even the other stuff like letting go of judgement, loving our body and loving ourselves as we are right now. It all feels abstract and the thoughts we have about ourselves do pop up without conscious choice, but it’s still a conscious choice as to what we will do with those thoughts. Will we choose to let them pass through like clouds pass by in the sky? Or will we choose to choose to focus on them and allow those thoughts to grow?

This is not a blame game. I know people often feel sensitive and defensive when they hear that they have a choice about something because it sounds as if we are choosing to be unhappy, overweight, or to live a complicated relationship with food. But just because we have a choice over our actions, doesn’t mean that it makes it easy to make the best choices all of the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will make good choices even when you are aware of the consequences of the choice you are making. So before we get riled about trying to figure out where to place blame, let’s just decide that there isn’t anyone or anything to blame. This is just how it is and let’s take responsibility for what we can, and not worry about what we can’t.

Focus on the actions you can take to improve things in your food world, like bringing more awareness and more attention to your choices, your meal times, your purchases at the grocery store, how you eat, when you eat etc. Make awareness your job.

When you start to feel acutely aware of the inner thoughts you have as you make these choices (oh, we all have them!), you’ll notice that you can decide to go along with it or choose to do something different. You’ll start to notice that when you decide to make a different choice that you feel better, happier, have less digestive distress etc. And when you feel all the good things that come with making the best choices for your body, making those choices more often will get a little easier!

But first you have to make deliberate and conscious choices regularly, daily, even hourly sometimes. You must do this daily – it has to become part of your life’s practice.

Choose to not reach into the candy bowl again.

Choose to not eat in your car.

Choose to exercise even when you don’t want to.

Choose to eat vegetables even though chips might be more appealing right now.

Choose to go out and visit with friends when you’d rather be downing a pint of ice cream on your couch.

Even with acute awareness and practice, sometimes you will still choose the things that won’t feel best. You will still occasionally choose to eat more than you had planned. You will still sometimes choose foods that don’t feel so great in your body. But that doesn’t have to mean that anything has gone wrong or that you aren’t doing the best you can right now. Normal eaters sometimes do these things too. And for someone healing their relationship with food it is normal to wonder if these perceived “slip ups” are proof that you aren’t improving things or if it’s normal. It’s all in how you handle it. Will you view one single overeating episode as a reason to go back to overeating all the time? Or will you use your knowledge and awareness to let that go and make a different choice going forward?

Realizing that every bite we put in our bodies is because of a deliberate decision we have made is actually very powerful. We can choose to view that as crappy and feel like we are being blamed for our eating challenges or we can choose to see freedom in knowing that we can be active participants in the way out.

Knowing you can choose at every meal and every situation is very liberating. It is freeing. It can help you relax around food. It can help you beat yourself up less (because there will be more choices to make going forward). I know it isn’t easy and I’m not promising that making good choices is easy from the start (it’s not!) – but to get to the “easy” and I know that most of us are always looking for easy, you have to first understand and accept that we have choices to make, bring your attention and awareness to your actions and choices and then start deliberately making choices from a conscious place.

There is a lot of hard work in this. And yes, sometimes it’s really uncomfortable, painful and you’ll feel “I don’t wanna!”. That’s fine – you can feel that way. Just don’t stay there all the time (that’s a choice too cutie!). Come back when you are ready and let’s make more deliberate decisions together.


Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.

You can also download a free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food.

Getting from Point A to Point Z. (You can’t skip over the points in between).

Think of changing your habits like purchasing a train ticket to go across the country. Trains get us to and from our destination usually with a lot of stops in between. You may be able to buy an upgrade for a fancier seat or wifi but there's nothing you can do to get there any faster. Settle in for the ride.

Think of changing your habits like purchasing a train ticket to go across the country. Trains get us to and from our destination usually with a lot of stops in between. You may be able to buy an upgrade for a fancier seat or wifi but there’s nothing you can do to get there any faster. Settle in for the ride.

One day you wake up and decide that this is it – you are TIRED of being overweight, of overeating, of making food choices that make you feel awful and you’re going to fix it NOW.

You are rolling with enthusiasm. You want to get started immediately and you want results yesterday. You decide that the only way for you to keep momentum is to go ALL in. You will eat as cleanly as possible, as strictly as possible and work out as hard and as often as you can.

Sounds like a recipe for success, right?

All goes well for a bit. The first couple of days are hard but you know it will get easier as soon as you see results! The scale goes down a bit, but you’re so hungry you can’t stop thinking about food and you don’t really have enough energy to do the workouts that you planned to do.

Pretty soon you are so frustrated that you find yourself ordering a pizza and eating almost the whole thing by yourself. And too bloated the next morning to workout. And too ashamed to eat the light breakfast you planned so you hit a drive-thru on your way to work. And it goes downhill from there.

What started off strong and ambitious, screeched to a halt when the progress you made didn’t match up with your expectations. The effort you were putting in didn’t feel equal to the results you were getting back.

You feel like a failure but you are not a failure, it’s just that the way you went about it failed. There are 1000 ways to do everything and the surefire way to fail at weight loss, changing your relationship with food or any habit change is to go at it with extremes.

When we attack life changes with gusto, a part of us feels like we can get from A to Z faster that way. If we go at it hard, fast and ferociously – totally committed, we’ll have faster results. We think we can skip over B, C, D etc and still make it to Z.

But we can’t do that.

If it took you 10 years to gain 50 lbs, it won’t come off in two weeks. If you are a decade in to an overeating or bingeing struggle, you won’t be able to reverse it in a month. If you’ve been running away from your feelings your entire life, you can’t expect it to be easy after trying it once or twice.

If we want to reach point Z, the end goal . . .we have to be willing to tackle all the steps in between. We have to do the work, all of it. There is no skipping over any of it.

We want to, but we can’t.

Every time we try to go at these changes hard, we’re attempting to skip over some of the hard parts. We know this is true, because our intention is to use whatever momentum and enthusiasm we have in the beginning to propel us forward as fast as possible. Otherwise, there would be no rush. But we know (from past experiences) that our enthusiasm will fizzle when stuff gets hard – and so we think we are doing ourselves a favor by moving quickly in the beginning.

You’ll get no judgement from me on this. I know exactly what that feels like. I can’t tell you how many times I got pumped up researching and planning how I’d lose the weight finally “this time” and how urgent I had to get started. That urge to fix stuff RIGHT NOW. That feeling of disgust that we feel when an item of clothing doesn’t fit the way it should. The way you wish you could snap your fingers and be the person you want to be. It feels overwhelming – like there is a massive, crushing weight holding us back from experiencing life the way we want to.

The reason we feel a crushing weight holding us back is because of our own resistance to feeling things as they unfold. The more we push away and resist, the heavier it feels.

Just like we’re uncomfortable with feeling our uncomfortable feelings in our day to day life, we’re also uncomfortable with change, with being present and with not being in control.

Change is hard. Being present is hard. Not being in control can feel hard if you’re used to holding tightly to it. But if it was all easy, would the reward be as great? Probably not.

If you seriously want to make it from A to Z, take your time. Be patient. Experience each step along the way fully. Resist the urge to rush it.

Habit change takes time and the body takes time to adapt and change. No one goes to the gym once and comes out with a fit body. It takes a long time, a lot of commitment and showing up daily. Why not settle in and make changes in a way that you can sustain long term? Not only are you more likely to make it to your goal (there is nothing to fizzle out when you’re not running on momentum alone) it will also be less painful getting there.

As a side note, something awesome that happens when you submit fully to each step in the process of changing your eating habits is that over time, your daily thoughts become less about your weight, food, and your relationship with it and more about living your life. You start to find yourself choosing food and enjoying it with less drama, less stress. Your weight becomes more stable. Periods of overeating become less frequent and less severe. You judge yourself less. It really does become less of a big deal. So yeah, it takes more time and it’s not sexy going slow, but it’s so much more worth it!

Listen to your intuition. You already know what to eat and that you should get some physical activity regularly. You have the knowledge. You do not need another quick fix or another 21 day weight loss program. What you do need is to learn the lifelong skills and habits you will need to eat the way your body needs you to and practice them. Daily.

I know you can reach your goals. You can lose the weight you’ve put on. You can stop overeating so often. You can have a healthier relationship with food. It doesn’t have to be such a rush.

Will you do all the work it takes day by day?

Can you settle in and not skip over steps along the way?

What can you do today that will gently push you closer to your goal?

What will you do tomorrow to continue moving toward it kindly and sustainably?

Who in your life can support you in making these changes slowly?


Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.

You can also download a free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food. One of the recipes you’ll get in that download is my Mango Mandarin Green Smoothie (below) which is full of Vitamins A & C, potassium and iron. And it’s delicious!img_2162

 

“Why Am I Mentally Hungry?” Or Why Your Brain Keeps Telling You to Eat When You’re not Physically Hungry

Can't stop thinking about food? Feeling mentally hungry all the time? 3 Causes of Mental Hunger

Can’t stop thinking about food? Feeling mentally hungry all the time? 3 Causes of Mental Hunger

Every so often I get an email or Facebook message from someone asking “why am I so mentally hungry when I’m not physically hungry?”. I’m not sure if it’s because the weather has turned colder (and we all feel a pull to eat more in the fall!) or if it’s just coincidence but I’ve had 3 really similar questions about this in the last 10 days, so I thought I should answer it here – since clearly this is something a lot of people are having trouble with!

Examples of Mental Hunger:

Mental hunger = That gnawing urge or desire to eat something when you know you aren’t hungry or that non stop chatter in your brain telling you that you need to eat a specific thing.

I have one woman who finds herself thinking of going to the vending machine in her work cafeteria an hour after lunch. She tries to ignore thoughts about this, because she can feel her belly physically still has food in it, but the urge to get up and go get a snack keeps pulling at her.

Another acquaintance is trying to lose body fat for an upcoming event and has been on a strict diet for several months. She has a certain amount of calories she allows herself each day and feels like she is eating enough. She says she doesn’t feel hungry on this diet but she is having a hard time staying under her calorie goal lately because even though she technically isn’t feeling hunger in her body, her mind keeps telling her to eat. Every day is a battle between staying under those calories or giving in to thoughts about cookies, crackers and donuts!

I also received a message from someone who is going through a tough time in several areas of her life. One area that normally isn’t a problem for her is food but lately her weight feels like it’s skyrocketing because she finds herself eating in front of the TV, while she’s cooking dinner, in her car – everywhere and anywhere. She’s always feeling the urge to eat, even when she isn’t really hungry.

The circumstances are all slightly different but the reasons we feel “mentally” hungry are almost always the same. There are 3 reasons I see over and over again. Do you see yourself in any of these?

 

3 Causes of Mental Hunger

 

You’re physically depriving yourself of food too often

This happens when you have been on a diet for a long time, have frequently been on diets in your lifetime or a general tendency to restrict food intake even when not actively on a diet.

The body keeps diligent track of how much food it’s getting, if it’s getting the right nutrients and if it has enough energy and fat stores to get through periods of difficulty. As much as we may want to be a certain size or body fat percentage, our body puts our general survival and health as a major priority and it sees depleting fat stores as a threat to our safety.

It thinks famine is here and in order to survive a period where less food is available, it will do whatever it can to get you to eat when food is available, in order to offset any fat / weight you would lose during a time of famine. In this way, your body is actually trying to help you! If you have been dieting or restricting for awhile and your mind is really working hard to get you to eat more, it’s technically doing it’s job. It’s working exactly the way it is supposed to.

You are emotionally hungry.

We tend to call this urge to eat mental hunger because the source of it seems to come from our brain. It’s the non stop thoughts we have about food or an unconscious pull to get up and go to the fridge but for a big portion of us, it’s not so much mental as it is emotional.

Everything in life “feeds” us in some way (if you want more info on this, check out this post). Our job, social life, home life, creative life and lots more contribute to how well rounded and satisfied we are with our life. If there is an area of your life where you are not emotionally satisfied, you may turn to food to fill that void or need.  If there is an area of our life that isn’t “nourished” well, we will feel “off” or like something is missing (even if we can’t identify initially what that is) and we turn to food to “fill” that space up.

How is your job/career going? Is it fulfilling or soul crushing? Somewhere in between? How is your social life? Full or lacking? Romantic life? Spiritual life? Do you have creative outlets? Time for self-care? Physical activity/stress relief? Do you feel that you have purpose? Do you feel you are giving back in some way? etc.

Analyze your life a little. What is missing? Why do you feel restless? What do you want more of? Less of? And then try to “feed” those areas so that they’re more balanced, more satisfied. Eating emotionally will happen less and less as you find your soul is getting the nourishment it needs in multiple areas.

 

There are feelings you are trying to avoid feeling

No one likes to feel uncomfortable but uncomfortable feelings are a part of life but some of us will whatever we can to avoid them! Uncomfortable feelings like discomfort, confusion, sadness, loneliness, anger and shame get stuffed down and pushed away. As a way to deal with them, we may use food as a distraction or to seek comfort. If we are eating, it gives us something to do or makes us feel temporarily positive feelings that help us avoid the negative feelings we were feeling.  That repetitive urge to eat that we refer to as mental hunger is really our way of trying to ignore something we are feeling that we don’t want to feel.

To complicate matters further, we don’t even know how to feel uncomfortable feelings. When one arises, what do you feel? Panic? Anxiety? Confusion? Restlessness? All of the above? And then what happens? You reach for food because not only do you not want to feel what you’re feeling – you also aren’t sure what the heck to do with it! We think we need to take action on it somehow, but that’s not really necessary. Sometimes feelings just need to be felt.

We avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings (and not knowing what to do with them) by numbing out with food. Eating food temporarily brings us comfort and sometimes even joy – for a few minutes we can avoid the feelings we were having and feel something better. But these feelings will keep coming back up, and the urge to eat will keep coming back as long as we don’t let the feelings we have run their course. We can’t outrun our feelings. They have to come out! If you need more info on feeling your feelings, read this post or this one.

Does one of these causes of mental hunger seem to be appearing in your life? If you’re not sure or if you want help working on your own relationship with food, let’s talk. Honestly. Openly. Confidentially.


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).