Have you ever had one of those days when you just can’t seem to stop eating?
Some people take a pretty hard line on overeating and I know in many healthy and intuitive eating groups, it’s considered food greed, and dismissed as nothing more than wanting to overeat a particular food because to quote my mom, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
But with all respect, it really makes me cringe to hear that because it implies so much negativity, shame and guilt; all unnecessary burdens that only add to feeling absolutely miserable around food. It just makes me shiver because nobody likes to be called, “greedy.” I certainly don’t. Do You?
Here’s an email from a reader named Anita who had a difficult time with pretzels:
“I used to eat what I wanted then I fell off the don’t/diet wagon (though I know it’s not a wagon..or a diet). I’m tired of the struggle. Why would anyone eat a one pound bag of…PRETZELS? They are dry and tasteless. Shouldn’t I deserve better?”
As I told Anita, and I’ll tell you, I don’t believe that it is food greed or the appreciation for the taste of food that is really driving the overeating. It may definitely be a factor, but not the whole enchillada. Here’s why
In the immortal words of one of my favorite late great 70’s singers, Barry White says, “too much of anythang is not good for ya, baby!”
That goes for anything, especially food.
To answer your question, Yes. Of course you deserve better. Many times we confuse the whole issue of deserving with food and that becomes our reason for feeling compelled to overeat. It becomes a push-me-pull-you tug of war that you’re sure to end up losing.
If you’ve thought of a particular food as off limits, it makes perfect sense that once you acquire it, you would naturally tend to overeat it. It’s known as last supper eating and you can find more about that in the Intuitive Eating book, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
The truth is food tastes good. There’s no getting around it. The problem is feeling safe enough and comfortable enough to know when you can stop eating something that tastes good. That means that if you put it down, it won’t feel like someone is trying to pry it out of your cold, dead fingers. You’ll be fine with ending the meal and eager to move onto the rest of your day. It won’t feel like a big emotional conflict. That’s when you’ll know internally that eating just one more bite will take you over the edge from feeling good into feeling bad, and that alone will make you choose not to eat that extra bite. Feeling safe about knowing that you can always eat those pretzels will make you not want to overeat them. If pretzels are a challenge for you, keep those babies in the cabinet and around you all the time. That’s the way to break through the permission barrier so your brain can get the message that they’re okay and you can begin to relax around them.
Each of us has our own unique tastes and that governs the choices we make. The point is you may really love pretzels and find them to be a very difficult food to recognize when your body has eaten enough of them to feel satisfied. They may trigger urges in you that you don’t understand, and it makes it feel impossible to stop eating them once you start.
I’ve learned the hard way that our cravings are really unmet needs disguised as food. To some people those pretzels may be dry and tasteless and they would have no desire to eat them, because that’s not the food that pushes their hunger buttons, but to you, they may represent very special memories from your past.
Ben and Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream used to be my downfall. Once I started eating it, I couldn’t stop. Today I wouldn’t touch it, because I find it too sweet, and if I do reach for it, I know it’s not for reasons of taste.
Either way I would urge you to avoid putting yourself down for falling into a pattern of overeating food that you either like or don’t like. I’ve learned that it only compounds the problem to kick yourself when you’re down. Rather be as gentle as you can and see if you can ask yourself what is it about these pretzels that captured your attention and made you want to eat them in the amount your did?
Please know that there is no cause or reason for judgment. That serves no valid purpose. Rather I’d like to encourage you to be curious and go on a fact finding mission. Be willing to be curious and say to yourself, “I’m so curious, and wonder why I wanted to eat those pretzels.” I wonder what they represented to me and what I was seeking to get out of them.”
Next you may want to consider taking a more proactive approach to dealing with your stress. As an emotional eater, I’ve learned that food is the quickest route to getting that instant hit of relief from any bugaboo in my life. The difference is now that I have other methods to deal with those bug ‘ems, I rarely default back to food, because I’ve learned to enjoy eating all foods and nothing is off limits anymore. Having that new awareness of food has created a great deal of harmony and balance in my life that had long been missing. You, too can arrive at this greater place of peace in your relationship with food.
Just know that when you do find yourself overeating, it doesn’t mean that you’re being greedy. There’s something else behind those urges.