Here is a question I received from a reader:
Q: I feel that I still am thinking about food too much. Will this stop at some point? … I don’t have any problem with gaining a little bit of weight, but I just don’t know if I can trust that I won’t continue bingeing. Before I lost weight I was eating chocolate everyday (also overeating), why would that stop now?
A: In my experience, the biggest and nearly only reason for bingeing is restriction, both physical and mental.
If the fixation is eating as much as possible whenever possible- don’t worry. Once you reintroduce food, a free-for-all is to be expected. That is your body’s way of getting you back to normal and out of starvation. It is a survival response.
Our brains are wired to fixate on food, and our bodies are wired to crave it.
This may go on for a while. Until you genuinely know and prove to yourself over time that this isn’t just a fun blip in a lifetime of diets, your body will fixate on eating. That is ok. And for better or worse, eating is your way out. But you have to go through it before you get out of it, and you can’t force it. Slowly but surely you will find yourself caring less about foods you used to obsess over. Slowly.
If your fixation is still on calories and purity, that is your brain holding onto a modicum of control. It is so scary to let go of something that seemed so important before. It is so scary to give up control and not trust or know whether or not you will ever stop eating. You will. You will NOT continue eating for the rest of your life. You are not a bottomless pit, though the fact that you may feel like one right now is ok.
Bingeing is a response to restriction. Once you genuinely have been eating all the foods you want for a good amount of time, the fixation on them and on eating them subsides. I promise. This is both biological and mental.
As far as your overeating before your obsession and so fearing you will after, that is a good question. But you have to know that overeating and bingeing are different. There is a big difference between bingeing on chocolate, and eating a lot of chocolate for comfort. If there is no restriction involved, a binge is highly unlikely, and if you find yourself overeating chocolate once in a while, it is absolutely fine and normal and human. There is nothing to be scared or guilty about and life can continue as usual. “I ate a lot of chocolate, oh well, now I’m not hungry for a little while, maybe I should take down the trash.”
AND if you were genuinely consistently and uncomfortably overeating chocolate before you decided to restrict and lose weight, I would bet you almost anything it was under some sort of denial mentality. Was chocolate restricted? Did you worry about getting fat or eating too much? Did the more you ate chocolate, the more you think you shouldn’t be eating chocolate? I bet a lot that there was still a sense of restriction. That can cause a fixation and a hoarding/bingey mentality.
I promise you, chocolate is just not THAT exciting once you have full reign. Once you can eat chocolate for breakfast lunch and dinner and snacks and desert, there is no pull. It is unremarkable. Sure it is still good at specific times and can really hit the spot. But once you know you never need to stop, magically, you begin to stop.
I promise this is true. These days, I forget to go grocery shopping and forget to eat dinner before I leave the house. Of course, that is it’s own problem, and now it is highly probably that some good old fashioned grocery shopping and food planning and vegetable roasting may do me some good, but my days of fixating over food are GONE!
Great advice. Better than from any nutritionist I have seen. Getting off the calorie restriction thing takes courage and faith. In my understanding, it is not possible to undergo permanent weight gain from emotional overeating or from overeating for pleasure sake (in the pejorative, gluttony). As you emphasize, the issue always has a basis in calorie restriction. Unfortunately calorie restriction is still seen as a panacea to many and still has a cult like status.
One caveat I would want people to consider: binge eating disorder – it does exist and can be treated!
Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with this post. It has been my experience as well that once I REALLY stopped restricting calories, my interest in food decreased, and I can have virtually ANYTHING in my house with no interest at all in eating it and I almost never “overeat”. Right now there are chips, veggie booty, chocolate, juice, soda, cookies (boxed and fancy bakery), ice cream, etc. in my house. There are also tons of “healthy” foods – fruit, veg, eggs, meat, etc. Last night I ate 2 bites of a cookie and a glass of milk before bed. I think I had one Hershey kiss at some point. Otherwise I ate regular “square” meals. For example this morning I wanted and had an egg, sm piece of sausage, 1 slice toast/butter/jam, a bit of fruit, and sweetened tea with milk. A bag of cookies from Whole Foods sits untouched on my counter. That was not a ton of food so I won’t be surprised if I need a second breakfast or snack at 11. I can’t eat a lot at once.
IT REALLY DOES WORK!!!!
I love your take on intuitive eating, because it is REAL. Others that teach the concept don’t delineate between the “binge eating” and the “overeating”. In my experience, when restriction is removed, the overeating does not necessarily disappear. It is part of my joy of eating at times and I have tried this before and felt so guilty for overeating because according to such and such book, that was supposed to disappear too. I’ve actually failed at NOT dieting because I felt like I wasn’t doing it right since I still wanted to eat “all the chocolate”. I guess the rule is to remember that there are no rules!
Out off topic but,but,but: I love your youtube videos and the second blog 😉
thanks so much 🙂 means a lot!
Thank you for your response!
Today one of my friends had baked cookies for school as it was her birthday. At first I was like “Oh, I’m not even craving one, so I’ll just say no”, but just by thinking that I immediatly fell the craving growing (so weird) and so I listened to my body and took one. AND IT WAS PERFECT. I was asked if I wanted another one, but this time I felt good and satisfied, so I said no without really thinking about it. And also, I usually crave sweets in the afternoon, but not today as I listened to my craving at school!
On the week days I don’t have the problem of “overeating”, because I’m sooooo busy. But, when the weekends arrive, I tend to get a bit bored and that’s when I begin craving food, just because I’ve nothing to distract my mind with ..
Totally love this! When I had attempted to intuitively eat before, I thought I was “doing it wrong” because I was still binging. So I’d stop and go back to the restrict/binge cycle. It was so freeing knowing that a “free for all” was actually normal and that it would take time for all those previously “bad” foods to lose some of their appeal. I’d say it took close to a month for my eating to slow down, but I was still eating a lot of food for a couple of months after that. I just think my body still required extra calories to heal.
It’s crazy how you think you’ll NEVER get over certain foods, like chocolate. I still like chocolate, but I only really CRAVE it before my period, but even then, I eat some and then move on. I don’t binge or fixate on it. I want it, so I eat it, and then I’m satisfied.
Hoooooow? I still struggle with the bad food, even if I let my self eat it whenever I want. How did you manage? (I was the one writing the question, she wrote the post about)
I struggled mentally for a while. Even now, over a year later, a thought will occasionally pop into my head about “bad food” but I’m now able to just ignore it. I also try to avoid reading anything about “healthy” eating or even talking too much about food (unless it’s about how amazing waffles are).
The key for me, honestly, was accepting that by allowing myself free access to ALL foods, I may gain weight. In fact, I would very likely gain weight. Before, I would freak out and quit, because I thought that intuitive eating meant NOT binging, and I had a crippling fear of gaining weight. So I’d go back to the binge/restrict cycle. This time, I just let it all go. I completely quit exercising, and I even bought clothes that were a bit bigger. It was EXTREMELY difficult. I experienced a lot of different emotions. And yes, I did gain weight. But it wasn’t as much as I was expecting because after about a month the binges stopped. I would NEVER go back to how I was before.
One thing I did that I thought kinda helped was, anytime I’d get scared about eating a certain food, like non-diet pop, for example, I would repeat, over and over again (out loud, if possible) “food cannot make me feel guilty”. And then I would drink it. I would also assign certain foods every week that I used to eat and feel bad about, and I’d eat them until they became less and less scary.
It wasn’t a perfect science or anything, but those are the things I found helped. I kept a journal, as well, to document my feelings.
I stumbled upon intuitive eating about 4 months ago. I’ve had a RAPID weight gain ever since but I will never go back to dieting ever ever ever.
However, almost none of my clothes fit and I feel very uncomfortable because I’m quite sure I’ve put on 20+ lbs (though I will never weigh myself again).
I still feel like I can’t “let go” of thinking of food. I have passed the part of eating crap all of the time… which I did in the first couple months. I made a point to eat fast food sometimes more than once a day because I could. Now I actually eat many/most of the same meals I did when I was “dieting” simply because I prefer them and they make me feel good. They consist of real whole foods, nothing in a box or in a can. I don’t eat this way all the time, but I do it when I want to. Sometimes I eat the most nutritious food and juice all of my vegetables and go to mcdonalds in the same day if that’s what i want lol.
I also realized that a few years ago I accidentally practiced intuitive eating without even knowing I was doing it. I went through photos of myself and came up with a time line and I realized it took me about 3-4 months of a rapid weight gain, then an 8 month maintenance of the weight gain, then in 9 months i dropped about 40 lbs (which is all I really need to drop) and naturally arrived at goal weight. as someone who was trying since the young age of 7 to be thin, i became afraid that i would put on the weight and immediately started obsessing again and guess what happened (i gained it all back).
i realize that “my body will go to it’s natural weight when it’s ready” and i need to work on self-love=happiness more than thin=happiness, but it is extremely ingrained in me and my rapid weight gain did NOT creep up on me. i literally cannot wear pants that were loose on me only months ago. every time i put on a pair of pants or sit down and feel my new rolls is a reminder.
I see that i’ve written an essay here. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TALK TO ME WHO IS GOING THROUGH THIS. i need an outlet (obviously)!!
I had put on weight when I was about 17, and then some more when I was 19, and then I maintained that for a couple of years before putting on a bit more. I hated my body and tried to diet, but would only ever last a couple of weeks. I thought I’d never lose it. Then, I suddenly started to drop weight, basically without trying. I know that I was walking a lot more and had an active job, but I really didn’t change a thing about my eating. It took about 1.5 years, but I lost 40 lbs. And maintaining it took no effort whatsoever, even after I took a desk job and wasn’t moving nearly as much.
So, fast forward six months and I decided I wanted to lose MORE and get skinny (even though I was fairly slender). I dieted and obsessively exercised my weigh down to a size 4 and completely RUINED my emotional, mental, physical health. I was completely consumed with my weight and not being one of the 95% who gained the weight back. I started binge eating, which made me try harder not to gain weight back. My weight fluctuated crazily. Like, 7 lbs up over a weekend because I’d go balls to the walls eating, and then I’d diet and exercise it off by the next Friday.
Sure enough, two years later I had put on about 17 lbs and was back to the weight I was when I feel my body was the healthiest (after I lost that initial 40 lbs) but I was still binge eating and being extremely obsessive. So that’s when I found this site and a few others and said “fuck it”. I ate like crazy for a while and quit exercising completely. It was brutal, because I knew I had put on weight, and I felt like the BIGGEST failure ever. If I had just stayed at that “happy weight” then I wouldn’t have been in that position. I went through a period of self loathing and wearing a lot of sweaters. It did start to get better, and after about 6 months I started to lose the weight again. I’m around the weight that I was when I feel my body was the happiest, and I’m back to maintaining it without any effort. It took a bit for me to be completely satisfied (still missed my size 4s, lol) but I realize just how miserable and unhealthy I was. Now I have freedom.
Sorry, that was super long, but I do understand what you’re going through. Your body will find its way to its healthy weight, but it may take some time, and it may not be the weight that you were hoping. I was hoping my body would naturally find its way back to a size 6, at least, but it seems perfectly happy at a size 8-10. That’s where my body likes to be, and I’m not going to push it lower. Our bodies know best. 🙂
Hope that helps!
Interesting that you say it may not be the weight we want it to be. I guess that’s the hardest part to let go of. It’s been almost 5 months and I’ve been maintaining the weight it seems for a couple months. It feels like I’ve gained more some days though and lost others. I have been getting by I guess I just have my ups and downs and am trying to get used to this new body I am in, which is I am certain about 25 lbs heavier.
Thanks for your support.
Hi 🙂 a few minutes back, I was craving to attack the chocolate lying in my fridge, which scared the hell outta me.. So I grabbed my phone and seeked for help, and I guess your article just saved me .. My problem is compulsion about food and calories. These thoughts pervasively haunt me. I lost 10 KGS in three months cos I’d refuse to eat and exercise like a retard. Once upon a time I danced for passion, now i t seems I dance to burn calories .. If anybody empathizes.. Please do respond.. Thank you 🙂