This week I promised we would talk about that little fear many of us have in the back of our heads - if we allow ourselves to eat whatever we want, and as much as we want - will we ever stop eating?
In my experience - and I do have a lot of it .... dieting and food restriction leads to over eating and binge eating. If you've been on a diet you might know what I'm talking about. When we mess up and eat something not on plan, we tell ourselves - "you've slipped up already, you might as well eat whatever you want to now". "You will be good and start over tomorrow and be extra strict with your eating". Slipping up on a diet becomes an excuse we make for overeating. We tell ourselves it is okay to indulge and then we overdo it. Food restriction can lead to eating more not less. The truth is that if this happens once, it is going to happen again... and again. This can lead to a more serious problem, like binge eating disorder, or other eating disorders.
Of course indulging in delicious things is okay, and I would even argue that it is good and healthy. The problem lies when we eat things that are against our "rules". This is when we go overboard since we have already broken broken our "rules" anyways. We think that we are eating this way because we have no self control, but the truth is, we are eating like this because we aren't eating enough. Our bodies are starving and trying to get in as many calories as they possibly can every chance we give them. If we eat in a normal way, when we are hungry - we aren't going to constantly stuff our face every chance we get.
Our bodies may also be feeling deprived because we are telling them that they can't have certain foods. As soon as something becomes off limits - that is the one thing we want. Focusing on what we can't have makes us want it more. Ever been around friends that are dieting, and realize that they can't stop talking about food? They are hungry and deprived and food has become very exciting to them. It is a main focus. When I have been on a restrictive diet in the past, I remember constantly thinking about when I could eat again and what I could eat. I was always adding up calories or trying to balance out macronutrients in my head. It became such a huge focus in my life, I spent more time thinking about food and way less time thinking about things that truly mattered to me. No wonder why I thought like this - I was frickin hungry!
We've established that dieting and food restriction can lead to overeating and binge eating, but what if we let ourselves eat whatever we want? The underlying fear so many of us have, is that once we start eating, we will never stop. Can we eat only one of those delicious chocolate donuts, when eating more doesn't violate any "food rules"?
In the beginning, this fear might actually be justified. If you have deprived yourself for a long time, allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, will probably mean you will go a bit overboard. You are probably going to eat at least 3 donuts, lets be honest. Your body may not believe that you can eat anything, and try to get all the food it can while you allow it. This is normal and okay. Just know that in the long term, you won't eat this way. Once food is allowed, and you don't see yourself as bad for eating, food won't be so exciting. You won't eat like a crazy person all the time. This easier said than done because we often restrict foods without even realizing it. As soon as a food becomes off limits, we will want to eat it and probably eat too much of it. Now that bowl of donuts is empty.
Of course I'm not advocating eating chocolate donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I promise after doing this a few meals, you won't want to anymore. It is important to listen to our bodies and what makes them feel good. Nutrition is important and so is eating healthy and balanced meals. If you are craving a cookie, have the cookie. If you aren't craving anything in particular, look for a healthy and balanced snack, like a handful of nuts and a some fruit. If you aren't even hungry, think about why you want to eat in the first place, and if there is something else you could do instead that would satisfy that need. This isn't something that will come naturally or be easy. We are trying to change years and years of thought patterns. Learning to eat this way is harder in the short term, but effortless in the long term.
Last week I encouraged you to list any food that you see as bad or off limits, and next to it to write why eating it might actually be a good thing. If you did this exercise, go back to that list, read it over, and see if you missed anything. I know it might be a very long list - mine was.
This week, when you eat, I encourage you to check and see if you are having any of those restrictive food rules or negative food thoughts come up in your mind. For example, if you do eat that donut, are you telling yourself you have eaten too many carbs? Is it that sugar makes you fat? Processed food is bad? What are some ways that carbs, sugar, and processed foods can be good for us? If you need help I can think of a few ways. Carbohydrates give us energy, and help us metabolize protein. Sugar tastes delicious and is good for the soul. Processed foods are convenient and a quick option when we don't have time to make anything. I know this exercise might seem silly, or like you are grasping at straws, but it is a good way to realize how you feel about different foods, and why those thoughts aren't always accurate, or can be confusing.
I feel like this is a subject I could talk about forever, but I don't want this to get too long. I do want to encourage you that if this is an area that you need help in, seek it out.
I am not a certified nutritionist, dietician, or a doctor. I am not qualified to give medical advice of any kind, and if you are struggling with an eating disorder, excessive dieting, or trying to eat healthy in general, please seek help from a doctor or certified dietician. It is worth it, I promise.
We are going to change pace next week and talk about my #1 tip for saving money on groceries. Stay tuned - I'm excited!