Tag Archives: overeating

Things That’ll Happen when You Stop Obsessing Over What and How Much to Eat

This croissant is not "bad" and you are not "bad" if you eat it. It's just food and eating one of them is not going to alter your body in a significant way. You can enjoy it freely.

This croissant is not “bad” and you are not “bad” if you eat it. It’s just food and eating one of them is not going to alter your body in a significant way. You can enjoy it freely.

Improving your relationship with food is a little bit like cleaning your house. You think you’re making awesome progress and you’ve worked really hard, but every time you turn around there is another pile of junk to deal with! Who put this here? When did I acquire this?? How did this get here?

All joking aside, it might be helpful to think about our food relationships getting “better” as something like a long hike! You may spend some time in valleys and on several peaks. It’s not a straight line from A to B. There might be detours onto a different trail, occasionally it might feel like you are back pedaling (why is this trail going down again, when we’ve been going up for so long!?), there will be some gorgeous views if you’re lucky, but sometimes it’s cloudy out and there won’t be any view – you’ll just have to trust that it’s there. Sometimes it’s all you can do to just keep your eyes on your feet and pray that they keep lifting up off the ground to take another step in front of you. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted, sore and filthy and yet you feel proud of your tenacity and maybe even look forward the next hike.

Improving your relationship with food is a little like hiking - tiring, long and sometimes frustrating but totally worth it.

(Summit of Mt Tecumseh this past weekend) Improving your relationship with food is a little like hiking – tiring, long and sometimes frustrating but totally worth it.

I’ve stumbled a lot along the way. The women I work with have too. Sometimes it feels like you are still at square one. But other times, if we look back at where we were a year ago, 2 years ago, 10 years ago, we can see how much progress we really have made.

One thing I’ve been noticing lately is how different my thoughts around food have gotten. For so very long, it was almost impossible for me to enjoy a meal without first having calculated the calories in it. I’d look at menus before arriving at a restaurant, so that I could factor in what meal would fit in calorically with the other meals that day. Everything had to add up correctly and I would plan and adjust constantly so that it did. It felt like a game that I could never win. When I stopped religiously calorie counting, it was incredibly hard not to do the mental math automatically. I had memorized the calorie count and nutritional details of almost every possible food out there. It’s really hard to “unlearn” that but I’ve made a huge effort to put my mind on the quality of the food I’m eating and learning how to read my hunger and fullness signals. Sometimes I’ve had to essentially “hush” that part of my brain that wants to add up the numbers. A lot at first. But I do that less and less now.

My point is that the less I focus on how much to eat and whether or not I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat something, the more “normal” eating makes sense. By holding on a little less tightly to controlling it all, the hold food has had on me has loosened up too. I let go of what I thought I couldn’t let go of and by doing that, it’s letting go of me too. I’ve been finding myself making choices lately, that may not be the “healthiest” of foods but being able to enjoy them in a reasonable amount – without it turning into a binge, or beating myself up. Enjoying without making it mean anything more.

I’ve been compiling a list of surprising things that have happened along the way as my relationship with food has become easier. Things I wasn’t expecting or I thought wasn’t a big deal until I looked back at where I was originally and could see what a huge deal it really is.

For someone who doesn’t eat emotionally, hasn’t spent their life dieting or bingeing or overeating every night of their lives, this stuff must sound so stupid! But for those of us for whom, food has taken on a larger than life personality, this kind of progress is invaluable.

I feel like I have so much more life, so much more to give and so much more ability to connect with others now since my mind isn’t completely consumed by thoughts about food or my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do still, but holy crap, I have come so far.

I’m sharing my list with you, in case you want to know how different your life could be if you work on some of these things too. (Check out my Pay What You Can Coaching offer this fall if you’re looking to make some big strides in your own relationship with food).

Things That’ll Happen when You Stop Obsessing Over What and How Much to Eat:

  1. I can fill up my plate at a bbq or other social gathering without spending even 1 second worrying about what everyone else is thinking about what I’m eating. And I can watch others eat without wondering how the heck they can eat what they do and be as thin as they are. Really, I can eat and be present with the people I’m with instead of interacting with both our plates of food.
  2. If I want ice cream, I can eat a big serving of real full fat ice cream and be both satisfied and not have it turn into a downward spiral into binge-land. I don’t have to satisfy my craving with a fat free, fake sugar filled pretend version of the real thing (which only makes me want to eat more and more of it). I want it, I eat it.
  3. That being said, eating what I want and when I want it, now means I want less of the things I thought I always wanted. I thought that if I had certain foods at my fingertips all the time, then I would eat them all the time – but that was only the case when I was telling myself that I couldn’t/shouldn’t eat them. Telling myself it’s ok to eat these things if I really want them strangely enough means I usually don’t even want them or if I do, I can eat a serving or two and be done with it.
  4. Going out to eat I can order whatever I really feel like eating – which might be a salad or baked fish or it might be something really decadent. It used to be about ordering whatever the most indulgent thing on the menu was – since I viewed going out to eat as a time to “cheat” and I usually went overboard.
  5. Not going to bed really full is nice. I am less likely to binge or eat too much because I’m not spending half my week eating as little as I possibly can. I’m able to listen to and eat what my body needs.
  6.  A chip is just a chip. A cookie is just a cookie. It’s not the doorway to weighing 400 lbs. A glass of wine does not equal gaining 3 lbs. An extra handful of nuts doesn’t mean I won’t fit into my jeans. It’s not a big deal.
  7. Eating too much is just something that happens occasionally. It is not the end of the world and it no longer ruins my day (or week). I move on instead of wallowing in it.
  8. Eating too little is no longer a badge of honor. I know I need more food to get through the day successfully so I feed my body appropriately – especially as I’ve started to lift heavier weights and go on longer hikes and bike rides. I just can’t do that stuff (and I enjoy it) if I’m not well fueled.
  9. Feeling strong and powerful in my workouts has become the goal and is now way more important than looking skinny or feeling thin. Do I look better because I exercise? Sure. But my size is no longer my focus. It’s barely even in the lens anymore.
  10. I regularly go into my closet and get rid of clothes that no longer fit. I no longer hold onto too tight clothes for the day when I finally fit into it again or onto too big stuff in case I gain weight again. I can live in my present body and not live in hope or fear of the future.
  11. Foods that I used to think tasted amazing actually don’t taste very good upon further inspection. This surprised me a lot! The texture of store bought frosting leaves a disgusting greasy residue in my mouth. Foods with artificial sweeteners taste too sweet and generally “off”. Cheez-its don’t really taste cheesy to me anymore.
  12. My weight is more stable. I go up and down a few pounds normally. No massive ups and massive downs. I know if I end up on the scale my weight will be somewhere in an 8 lb range (constipation, PMS, normal body fluctuations are much of that). As long as I don’t see anything way over or under that, I know I’m eating the right amount for my body.  Having this data, while triggering for some, actually helps reinforce that what I’m doing is working for me right now. I know I can trust my body, because things are balancing out on their own.

What do you think? Can you relate to any of these? What has been the most surprising benefit for you as you’ve made progress on your own eating concerns? What habits and changes have been the most helpful?

10 Tips to Help Stop “Night Time” Eating

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It's one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

Can you sit down, chew thoroughly and eat in front of others? It’s one key skill to learn to stop overeating (and nighttime eating).

You feel like you do ok with your eating all day but when night time comes, you sometimes feel like you can’t curb your hunger. You have dinner but before the meal is over, you are already thinking about the cheese popcorn in the pantry. You buy a snack for your kids but you find yourself eating most of it when you’re packing their lunches at night. And what feels worst of all is that you usually do it when no one else is looking. You’re frustrated. This behavior is interfering with your weight loss goals, how you feel about yourself and you’re so tired of going to bed full and bloated. Every day you get up and think to yourself “I’m not going to pick after dinner tonight!” but then another day happens and you did it again. Uggg. You totally feel like you have no control over this!

Here’s something that might be hard to hear but you need to know it:  Night time eating is not beyond your control. We tell ourselves it is and we’re constantly told that it is so we come to believe that the responsibility lies somewhere outside of us. What sucks about believing that is that it keeps us stuck and feeling helpless. It keeps us feeling like we’ll never get better because we’re not in power. I’m asking you to believe that you do have the power to change. Believing that’s even possible is the only way we ever make progress.

There are things we do, habits, foods we eat and ways we think about ourselves that keep us getting up and heading into the kitchen. To stop this habit (because that is what it ultimately is now) we have to look at each of these things and see how they might be creating a situation where we are more tempted to eat.  A simple example of one of the ways we keep ourselves stuck in this pattern is that if you are under eating or eating low quality refined carbs all day long, there is no way that you won’t be tempted to eat in the evening. It becomes basic math at that point.

If you work to put all 10 of these things into your life, you will find that the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry is not as strong. Think of these tips as armor, as protection, as fortitude to not do what you’ve always done – to have the strength to do something different, to be thoughtful about our choices and make caring for ourselves a priority.

Please know that there are a lot of ways out of this but there isn’t just one single “trick” or tweak you can use to stop it from happening.There’s no quick fix for most of us and recognizing that can go a long way in your success.  Just brushing your teeth after dinner or having a glass of water won’t be enough – you need to look deeper at your whole day and food “life” to build up the ability to resist overeating.  Resist probably isn’t the right word – when you are eating the right things for your body and doing it for the right reasons, not overeating can be easy (and I only know this now after years of struggling).

If we want to stop nighttime eating, or overeating in general we have to look at our whole “eating life”, act like a detective and “investigate” ourselves and then be committed to taking new actions. This is how we effectively make changes.

Here are 10 of my best tips to stop nighttime eating:

1.   Make sure your meals are solid.

By “solid” I mean that they need to contain enough nutrition to get you to the next meal. Whether you choose to do 3 meals a day or smaller more frequent meals is up to you – but make them count. Your meals should always contain a good amount of protein, fat and fiber. An iceberg lettuce salad with fat free dressing isn’t even going to get you through an hour and if you actually ate your own arm later I would not be that surprised!

Eat real foods that satisfy and sustain you. One of the most common reasons we overeat is because we’re actually HUNGRY! We starve ourselves all day, limiting calories and portions or eating foods that don’t have any staying power (foods lacking protein, fiber or fat) and when we finally get home and settle in for the night, we can’t control ourselves because there isn’t enough energy in our body and our monkey brain takes over (usually going for simple carbohydrates like sugar and refined flours). Overeating is way less likely when you actually have quality food in your body keeping things humming.

2.   Snacks too.

If you’re eating enough at each meal, it’s possible to even skip snacking (and you won’t miss it) but I know for some of you that isn’t going to happen so if you’re going to have a few snacks a day – make them nutritious ones! Nutritious doesn’t have to mean boring, bland or not fun – an apple with peanut butter, an avocado w/ sea salt or hummus with sliced vegetables are all great choices. If you can’t think of a well rounded snack (remember: protein, fiber AND fat), think of snack time as another meal time, even if just a small one – eat leftovers from dinner, have some oatmeal – whatever would make a high quality meal would also work as a snack even if you need to make it a smaller portion.

3.   Plan ahead.

Look, none of us want to think about food, shopping and preparing it more than we have to. We have enough to do already. But, if you are serious about wanting to make any changes to your diet or eating habits, they are not going to happen unless you have a plan in place and you are willing to make changes. You don’t need to know what you are eating every day for the next month, but you do need to know that you have your next few meals at your fingertips and can pull it together relatively easily. If you come home from work and are starving and don’t have a meal in mind (and ingredients ready to go), you’re going to order take out, eat all the ice cream in the freezer or chow down on a bag of chips. If you planned ahead and know you are coming home to a quinoa salad that you already made waiting for you in the fridge or that you have vegetables all chopped up so that you can make a fast stir fry, you will feel less out of control and again, less tempted by the stuff you don’t want to eat in the first place.

You can’t get from where you are to where you want to go without actually taking some concrete changes and that does include spending some time each week on preparing healthy foods. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to prepare healthy food. You have the same amount of time as everyone else and quality food really deserves to be higher on all our priority lists. It’s literally what we are made of. It matters.

If you hate thinking about what to eat and shopping you can also try one of those meal delivery services like HelloFresh, Plated or Blue Apron where they deliver a few meals worth of ingredients for specific recipes each week. We actually tried Hello Fresh this past week and the three meals we had were actually really good. It was a nice treat to have food delivered on my doorstep and know what I was making on certain nights without having to think about it and all 3 were super easy to make. I’m kind of a skeptic but I was pleasantly surprised (I also like that I can turn my subscription on and off each week) and we will use them occasionally. If you want to try HelloFresh, I have a referral code you can use and you’ll get $40 off your first delivery – enter TNNUAR at checkout (FYI – I get $20 off my own delivery if you use it). I’m hoping to try out Plated and Blue Apron in the coming months too and I will do a write up of all 3 if I do!

4.  Stop eating foods you hate.

If we’re going to make sure we’re eating balanced meals and snacks and we’re taking the time to prepare them so that we have something solid to eat, it makes absolutely no sense to dread eating it. If you hate bean sprouts, don’t eat them. If you hate cold salads, don’t eat them. If chicken is not your favorite, don’t eat it. There is a whole world of healthy, nutritious whole foods that can supply your body with the energy it needs – you don’t have to eat things you don’t like. If we spend all day feeling like we’re only putting food in our mouths that we abhor, it’s going to send us running to the kitchen faster than our feet can carry us. How many times have you finished a meal that tasted like cardboard and even though you technically were full, you found yourself thinking about when and how you could eat something else? It will gnaw at you all day. Don’t do this to yourself. Eating better doesn’t mean having your food taste like crap. Eat food that you enjoy (or at least don’t mind) and there will be less temptation in the kitchen.

What whole foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds etc) do you enjoy? Focus on increasing the ones that you are more than willing to eat.

5.   But be willing to try new things.

It’s totally fine if you hate kale but you are open to eating other greens. Maybe you don’t like sweet potatoes but you are a fan of butternut squash. Cool. But if you tell me you hate all vegetables, I’m going to call bullshit (or assume that you are still 10 years old). There is no way in the world that you have tried every vegetable out there and you certainly haven’t had each one prepared multiple ways. If you hate vegetables, what is it that you hate about them? Odds are you just don’t like the way they’ve been prepared most of the times you have eaten them. No one likes overcooked carrots or the faintly metal flavored peas from a can and if you are still eating fat-free dressings on your salads, it’s probably the dressing you don’t like, not the poor vegetables. Open your mind and try new foods and new recipes. Find at least a few new ways that you do like. I personally hate raw mushrooms but sauteed?! I love them! Also note that our tastes change over time. I remember hating tomatoes and onions as a teenager and even in my early 20’s, but I actually eat them all the time now (in fact, I get mild anxiety when the pantry is running low on onions – we use them in everything here!). You’re an adult, so eat like one.

Still think you hate vegetables? You think quinoa is awful?  beans are gross? Come over my house for dinner and I will show you differently.

Try new foods - even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

Try new foods – even ones you thought you hated as a child. You might be differently now!

6.   Commit fully.

When you do decide to eat something not so nutritious – candy, ice cream, chips etc – don’t eat it UNLESS you can let yourself truly enjoy it. Commit to eating it and allow yourself to feel nothing but joy in every bite. If you know it will lead you to a dark path of emotion filled with shame and other bad feelings, it’s best to find something more wholesome that will satisfy the craving you’re after. We don’t want to eat in shame – it just keeps us repeating the behavior we want to stop. Indulging in negative feelings about food during and after we eat will lead you to the very night time binge you’re trying to avoid by reading this post. What’s so wrong with enjoying the food you do put in your mouth anyway??

7.  Eat fat. No really. Eat fat.

Again, I’m going to hammer on those of you who are still trying to find peace with food by restricting calories and eating low-fat or no-fat everything. You will NEVER be satisfied eating fat free candy bars and fat free cheeses and a binge will always be around the corner when you try to satisfy yourself this way. You will always be looking for another taste because you never got what you were looking for. If eating fat free really was the secret to not overeating and to losing weight, none of us would struggle with these things. It didn’t work in the 90’s and it’s still not working now. If you desperately want a candy bar (or cheese), have one and make sure it is exactly what you want. No one overeats or “gets fat” because they ate one full fat candy bar a week. It’s the 700 fat free candy bars we’ve eaten in secret this year (and the 250 “Skinny” ice creams we ate after those because the candy bar didn’t cut it) that led to the weight gain. Please put fat back in your diet and you will notice the urge to scavenge in the kitchen after dinner is majorly lessoned.

8.   Sit down when you eat, eat in front of others if they are there and chew thoroughly.

I’ll bet that when your nighttime overeating pops up you find that you are shoveling food in your mouth quickly and hardly chewing. You’re probably also doing it in secret – after the kids have gone to bed and maybe while your husband is watching TV or is taking a shower. You might pick while you are putting dinner away. You might graze while packing lunches for tomorrow. You might get up from the couch on every commercial break to sneak a handful of chocolate chips – knowing that you can swallow them quick enough that when you come back to the room no one will even know that you had them! I’m not being cruel by calling these things out. I’m not judging you if you are doing this – I know these things because I have done all of them myself.

Years ago, I remember waiting until my husband (“boyfriend” at the time) went outside for a cigarette so that I could scarf down another piece of pizza. He wouldn’t have cared if I had a piece of pizza in front of him (it was what we had for dinner anyhow) but I knew it was more than I needed to eat because I wasn’t hungry, I just “wanted it” – so I felt I had to hide it. I ran to the kitchen and stood over the pizza box, inhaling the bread as fast as I could. I barely made it back to the living room by the time he came back in. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even taste it. And my throat actually hurt from trying to eat it so fast so I wouldn’t be caught. Can you relate to any of this? If you eat in secret, if you eat quickly and you eat standing up you are making it too easy for you to keep eating at night. If you’re going to eat, please resolve to do these three things: You will sit down, you will chew thoroughly and if there is someone else in the home, you will eat in front of them. If you are unwilling to do those things, you are not hungry. You are eating to fill another need (that’s another post) and you are feeling ashamed of your eating. We don’t want to eat in shame (remember it keeps us in the cycle). Slow down. Chew well. Sit down and enjoy. And anything you are willing to eat shouldn’t be hidden.

9.   Talk about it.

Most problems in life feel less overwhelming if we have someone we can share our struggle with. If you are dealing with this and yet no one in your life knows about it, it’s going to feel like this dark looming cloud in your life. Talking about it will bring you some emotional relief (like you’ve been carrying a suitcase on your back and suddenly it’s gone!) and it can also give you a source of support and accountability. Tell a friend that you can’t stop eating at night and you might be amazed when they tell you they’ve been there too and share what helped them stop . . .or you may share with your husband that you want to stop eating less after dinner and he may say “I didn’t even know you were eating anything after dinner!” and you can tell him that you tend to sneak bites in between commercial breaks of your favorite shows. You can then ask him to check in with you if he sees you getting up in between commercials. This might be totally out of your comfort zone (and I’d put money on it that it is if you are currently in the midst of this) but there is some way, someone in your life with whom you can share your challenges with. Knowing that someone else understands or that there is someone else who can help hold you accountable can be a huge motivator in sticking to changes. And keeping it all inside just gives it more power over you.

If you don’t feel like you can share with the people closest to you, do you think there might be a part of you who doesn’t want to stop this behavior? I get it – we hate and love our eating at the same time. It’s comfort and torture. It’s love and disgust. This might be a big step for you so for now, just think about who you could share with and what you might say if you had the conversation. It doesn’t have to big a big deal or a huge reveal – it can be as simple as “Hey, i’m having a tough time controlling myself from eating tortilla chips lately and I don’t want to eat them anymore. Do you mind if we don’t keep them in the house for a little while?” You might be worrying what they’re going to think of you when you tell them, but guess what? Everyone has some part of themselves that they think is some huge awful secret thing that in actuality isn’t a big deal to other people. You share something with them and next thing you know, they’re sharing something that’s been burdening them too. It’s healing for everyone. And if someone makes fun of you for revealing your pain to them? Fuck them, they’re an insensitive asshole and you can take some pride in knowing that you’re more evolved than them.

10.  Figure out what you are truly hungry for.

This might be obvious, and in fact, if you read my posts normally you probably were wondering when I was going to say this! If you’re not eating at night because you are hungry (working in #1, #2 and #7 will help manage that), you are probably eating because there is something else you are hungry for. You might be at that point in your life when you wish you had spent more time on your art, you might be avoiding acknowledging that you’re in a loveless relationship, or you might be longing for a change in scenery and it’s time for a move to a big city. The only person who knows what you are craving in your life is you and you will keep eating at night until you figure out what that hunger is and give yourself permission to have it.

We head into the kitchen because we feel something we don’t like or are uncomfortable with. We might be triggered by an event on a specific day that brought up these feelings or it might be a feeling we have daily.

Try this exercise
To start to figure out what you are hungry for, ask yourself these questions (on paper please!):

What am I feeling when I get up to eat?
What is it? Describe the feeling the best way you can.
Why do you think you don’t want to feel this feeling?
What will happen if you allow the uncomfortable/painful feeling to just be?
What do you think this feeling is trying to tell you?

What would you like to feel instead of this?
What do you think needs to happen in order for you to feel this (your preferred) way?

Write these down, without any requirement that you figure it out right now. Sleep on it. Let your thoughts marinate a bit. You may find that you wake up knowing exactly what you are hungry for (and then we talk about how you can get it) or you might find it hits you three weeks from now when you are in the grocery store. We have so much wisdom inside us and if we take the time to look for our own answers and do the work it takes to reveal and apply them, sometimes we find some really good stuff we didn’t even know was there! Trust that you have the answers and will figure it out!

I hope you find the tips in this post helpful and take the time to investigate your own eating life to lessen your night time eating!  You have more control over your eating than you think but it does take some active changes to feel that way. These are all things I use regularly to keep myself on track and I can’t tell you how much easier my relationship with food is when I pay attention to these things.

What has helped you keep your own nighttime eating in check? And what do you find still troubles you? I’d love to hear from you, you can reach me either in the comments or you can send me an email.
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Overeating is a First World Problem (and how that might actually be a good thing)

12-22-15 blog post coverThese are a few things I’ve found myself getting pissy about the last few weeks:

  • I went to unload the dishwasher only to realize that I had forgotten to run it the night before and it still contained dirty dishes.
  • We ordered new LED battery operated Christmas candles for our windows (that were highly rated on Amazon) and when they arrived they didn’t come with batteries. We finally got batteries and turned them on and they were so dim you couldn’t even see that there were candles in the window.
  • I’m finally all caught up on my DVRs of The Walking Dead, only to realize that it’s the mid-season finale and I’m going to have to wait until February to watch it again. Grrr!
  • I was thawing a 7lb local pasture raised chicken in cold water all day, only to find out when it was time to start cooking that it was still frozen inside. I had to cook the thing for way way too long to ensure the entire bird had reached a safe temp, so most of the meat was dry and stringy.
  • It’s been so mild out (in the 40’s and 50’s) that I’ve been waking up in a ball of sweat because I’m using my usual winter bedding (flannel sheets and a down comforter) anyway.
  • I desperately need a massage (my hamstrings are a mess from barre & weight lifting) but my massage therapist isn’t available at a time when it’s convenient for me.

These are all #firstworldproblems, these are the problems of someone who is privileged.

A couple of months ago I was out with friends and I found myself complaining about having to find a new hair stylist as mine had recently moved to Houston (and I had been going to her since 2007). They all laughed. No matter how traumatic getting your hair cut or colored by someone new can be, it certainly is a “problem” many would rather have instead of the problems they are dealing with. While I’ve had my share of struggles and heartache over the years, the problems I have at the moment are REALLY not a big deal.

It’s all about perspective.

The fact that I have a dishwasher at all, when there are others who don’t even have clean water to drink or that I have dishes that need washing – that means I’ve been fed and my tummy is full.  That I have dim candles to return to Amazon, means I have a home to display them in. That I’m caught up on my binge-watching of the Walking Dead,  means that I have free time to relax and watch TV (and can afford cable & DVR). That my pasture raised chicken was still frozen, means that I have food to eat and even more so, that we’re well enough off that I can afford pasture raised animals. That I’m waking up in a ball of sweat due to too many blankets in these temps, means that I have a warm place to live and comfy place to sleep. That I even have a massage therapist and that I have barre classes to make my hamstrings sore, means that my basic financial needs are met and then some, leaving me a little extra money to use on these things.

I have it really good right now.

For the most part, I keep things in perspective. I know how good I have it and I’m supremely grateful for everything in my life but even when things are going well, it’s easy to find things that upset, annoy, frustrate or anger us and I’m no stranger to falling in with that.

One of the largest #firstworldproblems that I’ve ever had was being overweight. Overeating. Bingeing. Worrying about losing weight. Dieting. This problem has taken up a huge chunk of my brain’s energy over the years.

But, as much as overeating and being overweight is a real problem to the person dealing with it, it is, at it’s core, a problem that can only happen because we have access to lots of fresh food to eat and we have the security and safety afforded to us to live sedentary lives. I  know that sounds harsh. But isn’t it true on some level?

When you get upset that you binged your way through the pantry, at least you have food in your pantry to eat. When you’re pissed that you ate 300 extra calories today, at least you are financially fortunate enough to have excess calories available to you. When the scale reads higher than you’d like, that you even have the emotional bandwidth available to worry about your weight is a fortunate thing.

The next time you get worked up about something you’ve eaten, can you take a minute to put it in perspective?

What else are people suffering with around you? Chronic illness? Death of a loved one? Loss of job or home?

What about people elsewhere? There is war and sadness and atrocities everywhere. You don’t have to look that hard to find something to give you perspective.

I’m not saying that the problems we have with food and our bodies aren’t valid (they are) or that they are easy (they’re not) or that we should feel bad for feeling the way we do (feel those feelings). Obviously I think they are important or I wouldn’t be doing coaching work (which if I’m honest is a first world profession that helps people with first world problems!).

These are our lives, our problems do matter to us even if they would seem trivial to an outsider. It’s all relative. If something stops you in your tracks, if it’s preventing you from being who you want to be or accomplishing things you want to accomplish, if it’s interfering with your relationships etc – it is important. But . . . it’s also helpful to look at our struggles with a big picture view because in it, there might be a way out.

If your weight, body or food issue is a problem that others wished they had and you think others would look at your struggle with envy or think you are frivolous, maybe that’s one step in making it less of a big deal for you.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to heal from food issues is because we put so much emphasis on what it says about us. We make it into this huge thing that defines us. We believe that it’s impossible to fix. Thinking negatively about ourselves and beating ourselves up, leads to more eating, more struggle, more pain.  But, if our “problem” (being overweight, overeating etc) really isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, then maybe it doesn’t have to be that big of a deal to us?

Bear with me here, I’m just kind of figuring this out as I write and I won’t be saying this very eloquently.

What if, by looking at your problem briefly through the lens of someone with less privileged problems, your problem wouldn’t seem like such a big deal? If it’s not such a big deal, maybe you could be kinder to yourself? Perhaps you’d have less negative thoughts about your body, your actions, your habits? And in doing so, you’d overeat less often (by now you know that the more shitty we feel about ourselves, the more we turn to food).

The more power we give our food issues, the more strength it has to sabotage us. If we step back for a second and look at it with a different perspective, maybe we can take some of it’s power away.

The fact that overeating is a “first world problem” could be your very way out of it’s clutches. Try looking at your life with a little perspective and take some pressure off of yourself. Can you lighten up about your struggles? If not, why can’t you? What benefit is being so “serious” about your food issues bringing you?

There’s no judgement from me in those questions. I promise. I have to ask them of myself sometimes too (did you see my silly list above??). Curiosity is one path to getting out of this shit. Let’s not make things a bigger deal than they are. Wishing you, perspective, levity and kindness.

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How to Get Back on Track after a Weekend of Overeating

Overeating doesn't have to be a major disaster.

Overeating doesn’t have to be a major disaster.

I hope you had a nice Holiday!  I love the holidays – fun times with friends and family, lots of good food to eat!  But it can also be a highway to days of overindulgence! Even if I’ve done a great job of eating high quality meals, I find that just the sheer quantity of treats laying around can make it difficult for me to not go overboard while waiting for guests, cleaning up etc. Snack, snack, snack! What’s one more, right? But a day or two of overeating doesn’t need to turn into weeks of crappy eating.

One of the things I hear most often from my clients is that they struggle with stopping once they’ve started on a poor eating cycle (bingeing, emotional eating etc). If you’re eating sugar, you’ll crave more sugar and on and on it goes. Today I’m sharing with you some of the things I recommend to my clients when they are trying to get out of the cycle. Those who follow these recommendations closely, do very well!

Here’s how you pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get back on track (or at least out of the dark holes of emotional eating, binge-eating, brain fog, self loathing and depression):

1. Get rid of the most troublesome foods. That’s right. If your Aunt Mary’s frosted sugar cookies are impossible for you to resist (and just one or two isn’t enough), freeze them, give them away or throw them out. Maybe do a combination of all three. This is especially important if you are the type who will keep going back for more until they are gone. I know you’re panicking a little at the idea of throwing them out – you’re thinking, but “Aunt Mary spent time and effort making these, it’s really crappy to throw them out!” or you’re thinking “It’s a waste of money to throw out food!”. Aunt Mary doesn’t need to know the remainder got thrown out.  And it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate them. As far as it being a waste of money, I know that guilty feeling all too well. Food is crazy expensive today (I can’t even share how much I spend at the grocery store some weeks, it’s obscene) and yes there are people starving all over the world – we are fortunate to be able to afford a luxury like cookies. But the cost to your physical and emotional health if you finish a whole batch of cookies is greater than what is wasted by tossing them. Sugar and refined flour are virtually devoid of nutrients other than calories – so it’s highly unlikely that eating them will benefit you in any way. If it seems too much to throw them all out, wrap one or two individually and store them in the freezer for a special treat on another day.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sweets occasionally but plowing through a couple dozen over a few days gives us a major emotional hangover, spike blood sugar which will make us store fat and upset the balance of our gut flora (which can cause digestive and skin problems and increase the chance that we’ll get sick). Remember: You’re not a bad person for throwing out food that will harm your health.

2. Start the day with a big glass of warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar. Mix 1 to 3 tsp of Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (I like Braggs Organic) and 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from a lemon, not from a bottle) into a 16 – 20 oz glass of warm water and drink it all before eating or drinking anything else. Go easy on the apple cider vinegar if you’re not used to drinking it – the taste can be pretty off putting at first! If you just can’t deal with the taste, add 1 tsp of pure maple syrup or raw honey and stir. Drink this every day if you can.  While we sleep, our digestive system slows down and drinking this tonic first thing helps to wake everything up.  The lemon juice is good for stimulating bile production in the liver, the apple cider vinegar supports healthy blood sugar and slows gastric emptying, water of course is hydrating and the warm temperature of the water can help stimulate peristalsis.  All of these things are good for preventing constipation which happens sometimes when we eat weird stuff or too much! Another thing that is great about this drink is that the sharp flavor, while a little jarring at first, is palate cleansing and can help kill your cravings for sweet or rich food.  A Tip:  If you decide to drink this daily, consider using a straw to protect the enamel on your teeth from the acid in the lemon.

3. Have a plan of attack when it comes to food.  So we all know how it goes, when we’re super hungry we’ll eat just about anything, even if we resolved at breakfast was to eat nothing but plants for the rest of the day! Walk into the kitchen starving after a long day and if there’s any Easter /Halloween candy, Pumpkin Pie etc left you know you’ll be eating that first (and probably also second and third). Instead, plan out specifically what you’ll eat ahead of time and make it as easily accessible as possible. Pick up some frozen vegetables or pre-washed salad greens or diced vegetables. Grab a can of tuna or beans or even a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (fast protein during high temptation, I wouldn’t recommend those chickens for your regular meal rotation). Grab an avocado, microwave a sweet potato or cook some quinoa (takes 12-15 minutes tops!) and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a vinegar of your choice. If you know what you’re going to eat and you have to do minimal work to prepare it, you will be less tempted by the junk when meal time rolls around. Same goes for avoiding temptation at work, social events etc. It’s all about preparation and planning! There’s nothing wrong with deciding to indulge sometimes and not follow a plan but when you’re trying to get off the smack that holidays are fraught with having a firm idea of what you want to eat is the difference between getting back on track or gaining 15 pounds and wondering how it happened. Remember:  Have a plan to keep temptation in check.

4. Get some movement. I know you don’t feel like it but I urge you to get some form of movement, exercise or activity as soon as possible after overindulgence. It is well documented that exercise releases endorphins that result in a mood boost (so important for our morale after eating poorly) and getting blood circulating will give you more energy and move things along in your digestive tract. I don’t even care about the fact that it burns calories – that’s not nearly as important as getting ourselves feeling better after we over do it (so that we don’t do it again out of feeling like crap).

In addition to chocolate and potato chips, I also ate cake and rolls on Sunday both made with wheat flour, something that I very rarely do because it is both a food I’m physically and emotionally sensitive to. Because of that, on Monday I felt puffy, achy, foggy brained and irritable. The last thing I wanted to do was exercise, but I knew if I didn’t, it would mean I was less likely to get back on track quickly.  2 days of overeating would surely turn into a week of it. I’ve worked too hard on my emotional eating to let old habits sneak back in.  So, despite majorly not feeling like it, I rolled out my yoga mat and did some exercises. I started slow and probably didn’t go as hard as I normally would but that’s not the point – the point is I did something good for my body when I really didn’t want to and that will pay off in a multitude of ways. Remember:  You don’t have to go hard or long, it’s not about the calorie burn today – it’s about being gentle, supportive and nourishing yourself. Roll on your foam roller, do a few yoga asanas, go for a short walk. Just do something!

5. Avoid extreme measures. I understand the feeling of wanting to fix something right away but doing extreme stuff (like drinking only juice for 12 days, eating only 500 calories a day and taking hormone drops for 3 weeks out of every month etc)  isn’t the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, both emotionally and physically. Extremes usually bring on more extremes and if you ever want to be able to just relax around food, it’s really important to learn to practice responding in moderation.

Think about the body like a balance scale. One one side we have over indulgence or bingeing, on the other we have dieting, restriction or extremes like over-exercising.  If you go to either extreme, the body is going to try to bring you into equilibrium (or balance) because the body works best when it’s getting a certain amount of nutrition. Too much and we’re putting a lot of stress on every system in the body to process the food properly, too little and the body may not have enough energy to do all the things that keep our body running properly. The more you fall onto one side of the scale, the harder the body will need to work to get back to balance. That’s why extreme diets almost always bring on a bout of overeating. That feeling of deprivation and urgency to have a “cheat meal” is ultimately the body saying “hey, I need more energy than this!” just for it to do its job.

When I was going through the worst of my eating issues – the ones full of binge-ing and dieting yo yos, every binge period would result in a point where I’d go “starting tomorrow, I’m only going to eat 800 calories a day until I’ve undone all the damage I did this time!” but my attempts to restrict so severely would be short lived and actually resulted in more binge-ing, weight gain and restriction cycles. It was exhausting and frustrating and far too much of my energy was spent thinking about what I could or couldn’t eat at the moment. If you respond to overindulgence (which is an extreme in itself) with another type of extreme you are setting up yourself for a continuous cycle of ups and downs.  This is stressful on the body and stressful to your emotional well being.  Remember: Responding in moderation to help keep your body and mind balanced.

Image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. It’s not that big a deal. Look, right now your pants may feel tight and you might feel as though you’ve gone up a size overnight. Whether you took in 1000 too many calories this weekend or 10,000 too many calories, in the scheme of things, try to remember it really isn’t a huge deal.  So what! So your weight may temporarily go up for a few days or weeks – it does not make you less loveable or valuable.  Your weight/size does not equal your worth. And honestly, much of that weight gain is temporary – water retention from salty foods and the actual physical presence of food before you poop it out! Stay away from the scale for a bit and wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel cute while you recover.

Also, if you respond to the overindulgence with a “oh well” attitude, instead of “oh shit” you will be more likely to treat yourself well with proper nutrition and care. Beating yourself up or berating yourself is the surest way to make sure you continue doing the behaviour that made you feel so bad to begin with. Respond to overeating with kindness and caring for your body as you would for someone you love who wasn’t feeling well and you will mitigate your physical and emotional symptoms (bloat, sluggishness, depression) and reinforce better actions the next time you are confronted with a similar situation.  You’ll be able to remember that an extra cookie didn’t lead to a 3 week meltdown and be able to enjoy it for what it is (just a freaking cookie). There is no diet in the world that one cookie will derail all your goals. It is with this more relaxed attitude, kindness and desire to treat ourselves with love through good nutrition that we begin to heal some of the emotional wounds that can go along with overindulgence. Remember:  A 2 – 3 lb weight gain from overindulgence and often temporary. Reinforce that it’s not a big deal by taking care of yourself in a loving way and avoid the scale for good measure.

Have you ever tried any of these? What helps you stop a few days of overeating from continuing? Please share in the comments!