If you’re a plus size gal struggling with cravings and food fantasies are leading you around by the nose, it’s not evidence of a lack of will power, a personality defect, a chemical imbalance, a slow metabolism, rotten genes or a bad habit. It’s none of those things. The real cause of your overeating and obsessive ‘food think’ is an imbalance in your body’s energy system. In other words, it’s not what you’re eating; it’s what’s eating you! Stress!
Stress is the enemy
Research in the emerging field of mind/body medicine continues to prove that our minds and bodies are just like two sides of the same coin. Your emotions, thoughts and beliefs have a profound effect on your physical body. According to the World Health Organization, stress is the number one global epidemic. I was shocked to learn that stress is the cause of 85% of all illnesses. Like many women, I used to think that I was stressed because I was overweight, now I know that I’ve been overweight because I’ve been stressed.
If like me, you’ve spent years dieting, hating your body, scale hopping, hyper-focused on eating carefully, and always watching your weight, you’ve probably learned to fear food and think of yourself as a bottomless pit of hunger. Resentment, anger and fear are not emotions that are conducive to living a healthy, happy life. These are all part of the diet mentality at work which will keep you thinking like a fat person. After years of buying into this way of thinking, playing the diet and deprivation game, I’ve discovered that holding these negative feelings toward myself and my body only creates a self fulfilling prophecy that fuels the urge to eat. Keep in mind that our thoughts often lead to action. I’ve learned the hard way, you can’t get thin, if you’re thinking fat.
What I discovered about making peace with food
For decades, I thought of myself as an emotional eater, a fat gal who had no self control around food. From the time I was 10 years old, every day whether on a diet or not, my life was centered around what I was going to eat next. The angry voices of my inner critic continually reminded me of my weaknesses and made me feel awful. Like many women, I sought out comfort in food. Whenever I was dieting, I faced a constant struggle of trying to arm wrestle down my cravings. In 2006, after years of living in fear of food and trying to diet in order to tame the size of my thighs, I finally decided to take the leap, stop all dieting and question the many ratty and fatty beliefs that had me feeling so out of control around food and hating my body. That was when I learned how an individual’s self image affects every aspect of their life. Depending upon how you feel about yourself and what kind of person you envision yourself to be, that will determine your relationship with food and your body. Once I began to put that information together, I realized I had become my own worst critic and that the whole process of dieting only perpetuated the cycle of my self abuse.
Now that I’m no longer walking around in a constant state of being deprived, and letting my inner critic run roughshod over me, I feel so relaxed. Since I’ve questioned many of my old beliefs and values, I am now able to see myself as more than just a fat pair of thighs. I have a much greater degree of compassion and appreciation for myself as a whole person. Now that I realize that diets are not the answer, and our binges have valuable messages, I don’t worry about sabotaging myself by overeating, I rarely think about food when I’m not hungry. You can also experience this same level of peace of mind and put an end to your obsessive thoughts around food.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Recognize that diets don’t work – According to research it’s been proven that up to 98% of all dieters who slimmed down, regain their weight back within 5 years. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s time to realize that diets don’t work. Traci Mann, lead author of a composite study done in April of 2008 at UCLA says, “Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people. Eating in moderation is a good idea for everybody, and so is regular exercise.”
Permission – Give yourself license to stop dieting, break out of the cycle of deprivation and stop endlessly judging every morsel you eat as either good or bad. Believing that deprivation is the key to success in losing weight, many women fall into the trap of depriving themselves without really dieting by trying to make ‘healthy choices’ by omitting some or many foods or food groups from their choices in order to lose weight. By doing this, you create a huge sense of feeling deprived which only sets you up for failure, because we always want what we believe we can’t have.
Re-establish self trust around food – Know that eating to satisfy your physiological hunger is a natural process. For many women like myself who have spent years dieting or watching their weight, this natural intuitive awareness of the body’s needs has become dulled down. This is due to the many messages that we’ve learned to accept to ignore our hunger and think of it as something to fear. By focusing on how your body feels and eating when you get hungry, you can rebuild that sense of awareness.
Clean sweep – Go through your cabinets, drawers, fridge, pantries, freezer and toss out all the foods you hate. These include all the foods you choke down in order to lose weight–think protein powders and crackers that taste like cardboard. If you don’t truly enjoy what you’re eating and drinking, you’re depriving yourself and if you feel deprived, your next binge won’t be far away.
Eat foods you love – Honor your food preferences – If you’re a gal who loves pasta, mangia. If chocolate turns you on, go for it. Start to carry it around in your bag. Do things that will reinforce the message to your brain that food is safe and you can be trusted around it. Eat when you’re hungry and set an intention to stop before you get too full. When you overdo it, forgive your goof and move on. This is a process that comes with being kind to yourself. You will begin to quiet your cravings when you start to eat and feel safe around the foods you love.
Eat mindfully more often – Don’t assume you know what food really tastes like. When you live depriving yourself of foods you crave, it makes you want them more. When you finally get to eat them, you may end up binging on them. That’s because you’re not really after the food, your brain is seeking to recreate the feelings that those foods have stirred up in your body. By slowing down and recognizing that you can eat those goodies anytime you want, you unplug that desperate urge to have them. You may have loved candy corn and caramel apples as a little girl, but as an adult giving yourself food freedom, you may begin to notice that the old craves aren’t all they were cracked up to be.
Deal with your stress – Since the real cause of your overeating and obsessive ‘food think’ is an imbalance in your body’s energy system, coping with the upsets in your life is probably the biggest factor in your ability to succeed in getting thinner without dieting. I tend to favor using energy coaching tools that are equivalent to emotional acupuncture without the ouch of needles. One of my favorite go to stress relief methods that I use often is Emotional Freedom Technique. EFT has its roots in the ancient science of acupuncture and by tapping on different parts of your face and upper body, you can eliminate negative emotions rapidly. This is because your body is a low level electro-magnetically charged system and when you have negative emotions, it is caused by a block in your energy. No matter what method you choose, know that unless you deal with the buggin’ you’s that are buggin’ you in life, you will never have control of your thoughts. In order to short circuit your tendency to obsess about food, you must find alternative ways to cope with your stress.
Be gentle with yourself – Changing the way that you talk to and treat yourself is a key component in reclaiming your power. After all we teach others how we want to be treated. As you take aggressive action to deal with your stress, you have a clear head and can eliminate the distractions in your life that are making you feel powerless. Having this expanded sense of inner peace will give you an ability to be more compassionate, respectful, gentle and loving with yourself. When you recognize that you deserve to be treated well, you fulfill yourself from the inside out. When you feel fulfilled, your issues around food will effortlessly fall into place.