When I first attempted to stop binge eating, my sole focus was on food. I figured that my nutrition must be the culprit, and if I could just get that in line, my problems would be solved. So I would walk the aisles of Barnes and Noble, browsing each new diet, cleanse, or reset book after another. When those didn’t work, I would look up health articles online late into the night, wide-eyed about what I discovered about low-fat, carbs, and fasting. When THAT didn’t work, I would purchase meal plans, stock my kitchen with groceries, then inevitably fall off within a few weeks.
Eventually, I knew I heck of a lot about nutrition. But that still didn’t stop the overeating.
What I didn’t realize then was…
I was bringing the same mindset to each new diet, meal plan, or cleanse.
I was getting the dopamine high of starting something new for a few days, but was unable to sustain my new habits when that wore off. (Psychologically, this is actually a thing.)
The binge eating was a response to the very diets I was trying to fix it with.
The binge eating was a response to the way I was thinking about food.
The binge eating was a response to a lot of areas of my life that also felt imbalanced and out of control.
What I didn’t realize then was…
Nutrition was part of the answer, but needed the mindset piece.
My mindset around food was part of the answer, but was so much easier by changing a few nutrition pieces, too.
Here’s what I see with a lot of approaches out there.
They’re either ALL mindset (spend years in therapy… try to eat more intuitively… just stop overthinking it…) or ALL nutrition (the answer is in calories… or low-carb… or fasting…). The truth, at least for me, and my clients: it takes BOTH.
Nutrition is often discounted, but it IS so important. When I was eating pastries or low-fat cereal for breakfast, you better believe I had sugar cravings and intense hunger later that day. I thought it was something wrong with my willpower, when really, any other person would’ve experienced the exact same cravings. It wasn’t a willpower issue: it was a food issue. The foods I was eating were toying with my blood sugar, cravings, hunger levels, hormones, and metabolism.
Someone might be able to stop overeating with the mindset piece, but it’s going to make it SO much harder if they’re eating in a way that’s contributing to cravings, energy crashes, and ravenous hunger each and every day. And yes, you can eat whatever you want, and eventually your body may tire of sugary, salty, nutrient-devoid dishes. But those same processed foods are also *designed* to be addicting by lighting up the pleasure centers of your brain with amounts of flavor, salt, sugar, and crunch — all at the same time — it would never find it natural foods. What you eat has a direct, immediate impact on your health, mood, and energy.
But at the same time, someone’s mental and emotional relationship to food is also such a critical component of healing. It’s like that quote: “Wherever you go, there you are.” You can try diet after diet, but until you deal with WHY you’re stress eating, what’s going on emotionally that makes you want to binge, what in life is making you need that release that comes out in overeating… nothing is really ever going to change, for good. There will always be new challenges, growth, — and there will always be food. It’s so important that they can co-exist without needing one in response to the other.
When I was binge eating, for example, I was also going through the loss of my first love, the stress of work plus school plus (a zillion too many) extracurricular activities, and several transitions like moving thousands of miles away from family. I had a LOT going on and the binge eating was likely a release in response to that. I was also relating to food (and my life) in a very perfecting, exacting, imbalanced way. How I was doing food was very much a reflection of how I felt in other areas of my life.
Finally combining the nutrition and mindset pieces is what finally allowed me true freedom. To eat in a way that kept me full, satisfied, and energized, so cravings, mood swings, and energy dips didn’t come on as strong or as often. So I could enjoy food again, and feel nourished by it, instead of fearing it. And then the mental, emotional aspects of learning how to understand what I was really hungry for when emotions or stress made me want to reach for the cupboards. How to feel more balanced with food, and balanced in my life. And vice versa, because one impacts the other.
So for anyone wondering why they just can’t — for the love of all that’s holy — eat intuitively…
For anyone wondering why they can only stick to a diet for a few days…
For anyone wondering why they can eat healthy all day, then blow it when they get home…
For anyone wondering why drinking the damn glass of water isn’t actually helping their cravings…
Look at the food piece.
But also the mindset piece.
It’s usually not one or the other… it’s both.
If you’re looking for help building a more sustainable approach to healthy eating, book a free discovery call.