Is your hunger physical, emotional, or a little bit of both? Research is exploding with labeling the overeating experience. One example reports people can be (1) a “social overeater” where you continue to eat with those around you in social situations; (2) your “mind is checked out” described as being disconnected from body cues and mindlessly overeating while distracted or bored; (3) an “emotional eater” where you are attempting to cover an emotional feeling by eating too much food; or, (4) you have “strong cravings” where you don’t understand why you continue and overeat specific foods.
Still others classify overeaters as being overworked, grazers, misunderstood, or traumatized. Dr. Tory Butterworth, licensed professional counselor for compulsive overeaters, believes people easily fit into more than one category:
- Overworked eaters put other’s needs before their own
- Grazers have a hard time making decisions about what to eat, lack structure
- Misunderstood overeaters are sensitive, intuitive and need to learn to speak up for themselves
Regardless of your type of overeating, emotion is at the root. A 2012 study in the Netherlands indicated that emotion was the initiating and continuing reason to overeating in obese women. When compared to normal weight participants, another study reported that the intensity of negative emotions towards appetizing foods was higher in obese participants. Meaning all food, whether healthy or not, created feelings of guilt and frustration in the obese.
Your Personal Food Environment
Bonnie Liebman, Director of Nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest wrote in her Nutrition Action Healthletter, “Calories don’t count if you eat standing up, you eat off someone else’s plate, you’re just straightening the edges of a pie or cake, the refrigerator door is still open, or you eat really quickly.” Comical, but I think everyone can relate.
Think about whom you eat with – or do you eat alone? Do you eat at the dinner table or standing next to the counter? How about in your car? Do you much all day at your desk, or mostly eat out? How fast do you eat?
Research shows that bright lighting causes us to eat faster, and that music distracts us so we overeat (of course, so does television.) We are served something in a restaurant and we rationalize that it must be an appropriate size or we wouldn’t have been given it. Dieting is restriction; mindfulness is enjoying food.
We must develop new habits to create a healthier lifestyle. What if before we began our meal we paused for a minute (or better yet, two!) and really tried to come into tune with our body. Ask yourself if you are eating for calorie needs or for emotional needs. Do you really need this food, or do you just like the smell and taste. What are the thoughts and feelings going through you at the moment?
Observe the food. This about its origin, where it came from and what it will do for you. Eat with all your senses. What if you ate more slowly and savored the food instead of inhaling it? How many seconds can you go before the first bite? And what if instead of taking 12 bites each minute, you only took five? What if instead of saying “I can’t have that,” you say, “I can have that but I don’t want it”?
Set yourself up to succeed. Instead of thinking, “Tomorrow I’m going to start working out in the gym twice a day and making my own meals three times a day” you start with achievable goals – like making dinner at home several times this week. Set yourself up to succeed, not fail.
And what if you do mess up? Don’t throw in the towel with one mistake. Really ask yourself what your personal health vision is for you, something that you want more than anything else. Then ask yourself what is holding you back from attaining it. Be willing to put your health as top priority and realize that not overeating is a statement of self-love. Even if you don’t believe you are lovable.