Are you caught in a never-ending cycle of binging and dieting? Having more willpower isn’t the answer. To reclaim your power over food, you have to learn to be curious, not critical. By breaking free of your mind’s natural tendency toward all or nothing thinking, you’ll stop beating up on yourself and begin the process of healing your emotional eating.
“When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
How many times do you find yourself overindulging in food and a minute later once it’s past your lips, and the euphoria disappears, you’re overcome by pangs of regret?
Feels horrible. Doesn’t it?
That’s because for most people who grew up dieting, we’re taught to think of foods as either good or bad. It’s all part of something that is called “The Diet Mentality. The diet mentality is a collection of beliefs that make up a typical dieter’s mindset. Here are some examples of how to think like a dieter:
Celery is good and cake is bad.
If I overeat, then I’ve failed.
I’ll never be able to eat just one.
Eating fat will make me fat.
I weigh myself on the scale to stay in control.
Back when I was a dieter, I used to judge myself as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending upon what I ate. If I ate a stalk of celery or snacked on a carrot, I was being virtuous and if I ate a slice of cake, I was being a pig. Can you relate?
But it was so hard to eat celery because I was always thinking about wanting to eat cake. So I kept telling myself that if I wanted to be good on my diet, then I should stick with the celery.
This type of all or nothing thinking reminds me of a nursery rhyme that my mom used to read to me when I was a child.
The part that made the biggest impression on me was this line:
“When she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrible.”
Isn’t that the way you think of yourself and your relationship with food? If you do, you’ve probably spent years dieting.
But as long as you think of foods in this all or nothing way, you’ll always set yourself up for failure. Because it’s human nature to want what we don’t think we can have.
Let’s take holidays for instance. For years when I was dieting, I would always give myself a pass to eat whatever I wanted on a special holiday. The result of that was that I would end up eating so much that I would feel so sick and bloated most of that day and the horrible feeling would continue throughout the rest of the next day.
But it was the pangs of guilt and shame that hurt the most. It was that feeling of thinking of myself as an out of control pig that made me feel the worst. I truly believed that the only thing that could erase those horrible feelings was to run back to Weight Watchers the next day and weigh in and start over with a clean slate. It was my way of giving myself permission to begin again. But inevitably once I couldn’t stand the deprivation a moment longer, I always found myself eating out of control again and that made me feel worse.
Soon I realized that I could avoid that feeling of shame by just not going back to Weight Watchers and weighing myself until I was able to get myself back under control. But before long, I realized that I had let one slip up fall into a binge that could last several months long.
That emotion of feeling like you’re out of control and undisciplined or a bad person because you ate a fattening food is what keeps you going back to dieting, making pinkie promises to yourself that you’ll never eat that food and you’ll never get that out of control again.
But it’s that all or nothing thinking that is actually fueling your tendency to overeat, keeping you stuck in the same self perpetuating pattern of eating and starving.
If you really think about it, all or nothing thinking will never serve you, in any aspect of your life. Because it will keep you stuck in a box. By holding onto these extreme beliefs, in this way, you will only see two options. The secret to being happy and healthy is to live a life of balance. You can’t do that if you’re stuck in the past living with regret. Give yourself permission to move on.
No matter what you hold as regret, it won’t feel any better to beat yourself up over it.
The next time you notice that you’re eating out of control, give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself up and adding insult to injury. Just forgive yourself and move on. If your overeating has become a habit, there’s a reason why you’re eating more than your tummy can hold.
Just know that many times we often overeat because deep down, we don’t feel good about ourselves and we use food to fill the gaps in our lives. And for many of us gals who have been raised as dieters or weight watchers, we were never taught how to feel safe around food. In other words, it’s not what you’re eating. It’s what’s eating you! So wouldn’t it be worth some time and effort to find out what’s causing you to overeat?
emotional eating, intuitive eating, dieting, food obsession, Andrea Amador, The Juicy Woman,