Mindful Eating #13 – Reasons You Have Been Told You Overeat or Binge

Overeaters, similar to bingers, turn to food when overwhelmed before they turn to other activities such as talking to a friend, spouse or therapist, writing in a journal, taking a walk, a bath, a break, painting their nails or playing with a pet, doing some stretching, focusing on their breath, watching a movie or reading an inspiring article.

This is what makes someone an overeater or binge eater.

If you have a habit of overeating or binge eating, think back to a time when you chose to express yourself by eating an abundance of food.  Did you have any other activity options you could have engaged in as you were inhaling a meal that was too big for your appetite?

Chances are you did since you are an adult and it has been many years since another human being spoon-fed you, even if it meant sitting cross-legged and twiddling your thumbs, but you chose to eat instead of another form of relaxation and relief.

Below is a list, not exhaustive, but enough to describe times when someone might feel the urge to overeat or binge.

When someone is feeling:

  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Tired
  • Angry
  • Excited
  • Afraid
  • Bored
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Sore
  • Celebratory
  • Lonely
  • Crowded
  • Annoyed
  • Hopeful
  • Resentful
  • Trapped
  • Powerful
  • Weak
  • Apathetic
  • Antsy
  • Exhausted
  • Starving
  • Stuffed
  • Sick
  • Neutral

Notice the wide range of feelings and how some are positive, some are negative and some are pretty dull.  It is often taught that these feelings cause you to overeat or binge.

Think of a time when you have overeaten or binged when you felt one of these things.

Now think of another time you have felt the same way but did not overeat or binge.  This memory is proof that the feeling you recalled does not cause or require you to overeat or binge.  If it did, every time you felt it you would be physically forced to stuff yourself with food, but since this does not happen it is clear that emotions do not demand actions.  This is very good news because on any given day you can feel any (and likely, many) of these feelings and you would constantly find yourself eating past the point of hunger and dealing not only with the overwhelming sensations of the original emotion but also the negative consequences of eating way too much.  You might not have time to accomplish anything if your emotions caused you to eat.

Next, ask yourself that if you never felt the urge to overeat or binge, even when you felt any of the above emotions, would you still do it?

This is a good question to ask because it places the real reason for eating too much on the simple desire or urge for eating too much and not on any emotion that is often blamed for overeating or binging.

For example, physical pain might cause you to cry (authentic moments when you cry from pain occur spontaneously and not from a decision to shed tears) but it will never cause you to overeat.  You may have felt physical pain and cried but if you also overate it is important to remember overeating was not caused by pain and offered nothing to improve your pain.  At best it may have distracted you from your original pain by creating new feelings of high insulin and an overly full stomach.  While you may have certainly had the desire to overeat when feeling pain, the two are only connected when you physically eat too much every time you feel pain and establish a habit-based activity.  If you did not experience the urge to eat too much food when you felt pain you would probably not obey it and, thus, not have a subservient relationship to food.  If the desire or urge was removed and you only felt any of the wide arrange of feelings listed above, you might find yourself overwhelmed or uncomfortable for awhile, but not overwhelmed or uncomfortable and eating too much food.

Thinking through this might be helpful to you as you dig deeper into why you overeat or binge.  Even if you have lived your whole life thinking that you eat emotionally, you can recall times in your life that you didn’t and this can provide you with assurance that you do not have to eat emotionally in the future.

Remember that if you do have urges to eat too much food, it is your right to obey them.  You are in control of what you put into your body (albeit it too much, or too little), and  you are not a worse or better person for what or how much you eat.  If you choose to make a habit out of eating too much, that is your choice.

Realizing you always have the choice no matter how you have chosen in the past will help you practice responsibility with every next bite.

Image from Retro Cleaning.

Mindful Eating #7: Does Eating Differently Than Others Bother You?

If you have modified your diet (for improved health or religion or self-discipline) for any length of time, you might feel like the woman in this illustration–sad and lonely, and left out of the lunch time fun that the other ladies seem to be sharing.

The above illustration exaggerates this idea, but it does bring up the interesting subject of feeling like your life will not be any fun if you eat differently than (or in the woman’s case, less than) other people.

If you have ever felt anxiety, or sadness, or tension prior to or while you are changing what you eat, it is worth exploring what you believe about the foods you are excluding.

It’s possible that you believe specific foods bring you happiness, comfort, joy, or peace, and that by not eating them, you risk being miserable.  It’s possible that you believe they provide you friendship and community, and without them you will be lonely.

It might sound silly, but it is a common approach if you are in the habit of relying on food to provide you happiness and a sense of belonging.

I would like to explore this idea further.

What causes us to rely on food for happiness or social connection?  Why might we feel the odd one out if we choose to eat differently than other people?  Is eating like other people necessary to genuinely connect with others?  Does any of this even matter?

I suspect that most people do not actually believe that a food makes them happy or one of the gang.  That is rather silly to suggest, as food is simply calories the body uses for immediate energy and long-term survival.

So what about not eating a food would cause a sense of lack?

Typically, changing what you eat (excluding specific foods) for health reasons is positive (as is for religious or self-disciplinary reasons).  If for health reasons, removing foods that leave you feeling blah, sick, or depressed will help you feel better physically and mentally.

So, what if you still have a sense of dread about not having them?

It is a good idea to ask yourself what you believe about a specific food that you exclude and how removing it impacts your sense of happiness and social connection.  Once you know what you believe about this, you can then decide if it’s a worthwhile pursuit to keep at your dietary changes.

This brings up another issue, which is when you decide to eat less of a specific food.  If you believe that you need to eat alot of something to enjoy it or to have a good time, you will likely experience negative feelings when you come to the moment of being done with your portion of it.  You might feel sadness to stop eating before others or before you are used to.

I’ve had to ask myself about these issues when it comes to foods high in sugar.  While they are tasty and fun to eat, they generally leave me feeling rather blah and down in the dumps.  When I am with people I enjoy and dessert is being passed out or ordered, I nearly always want to partake to share the experience with who I am with, but I also do not want to risk feeling blah after such a lovely time, so I usually pass (but not always).  I’ve had to get honest about what I think dessert will add to my overall experience and then decide if I will have it or not.

I have also had to get honest about thinking I need alot of dessert to have a good time.  This belief is not based on truth so when I start to feel sad that dessert time is over (and I have), I remind myself that I feel better with less (or none at all) and that I enjoy life, myself and other people  far greater when I don’t have more than a few bites of very sugary treats.

What do you think?  Does eating differently than other people have any impact on your experiences with them?  Do you feel more or less included in a group based on what you eat together?

What about eating less of a certain food?  Does the idea bother you or encourage you to keep at your goals?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

 

Image from Tumblr.