There are so many reasons that we may overeat. Some of us overeat when we’re happy, some of us when we’re bored, some of us overeat when we’re feeling sad or lonely, and for others, we just have a hard time recognizing when we’re full. Whatever the reason for your overeating, you can learn to deepen your awareness of the thought and behavioral patterns that lead to overeating, and then use that information to make choices that serve you. Read on to explore five great tips for overeaters!
Tip for Overeaters #1 – Stay Hydrated
The Earth’s surface is covered by about 71% water. The average person is composed of about 65% water. Water lubricates our joints, eases excretion, and is the essence of all life functions. It’s good for clearing the skin, purifying organs, and allowing nerves to communicate better with each other. Dehydration can be linked to many ailments, including joint aches, constipation, and depression.
Chances are, if you constantly feel the need to eat even though you don’t feel hungry, you could very well be thirsty! Pure water balances pH levels, helping to evenly distribute blood sugar levels, whereas drinks like sodas do not. And diet drinks contain neurotoxins, which undo some of the benefits of water. If you really don’t like the taste of pure water, you can add a little squeeze of lemon or lime, you can play with the temperature of the water, or try some herbal tea.
Be careful though, because there is such a thing as too much hydration! The general rule is to drink half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 120lbs, a general aim would be to drink 60 ounces of water per day (roughly almost eight 8oz glasses). You can add more water on days when you work up a sweat.
Tip for Overeaters #2 — Nourish Your Body
Starving ourselves just sets us up to binge later, or to feel we were “successful” at starvation—neither of which is sustainable nor kind to our bodies. Get yourself out of the Good Body/Bad Body dynamic and the Good Food/Bad Food dynamic. There’s a time, place, and dose for everything, and there is a wisdom to cravings, if we give our bodies a background of the foods that nourish them. What nourishes our bodies at one time may be agitating to our bodies at another. Try to eat foods that serve your body, including ones that give you pleasure and/or don’t fit into some prescribed diet. Just be present while you’re eating. Listen to your body when it tells you it’s had what it needs. Knowing what works for your body is a life-long journey, but we can certainly get more finessed and discover greater ease with what nourishes us by experimenting and paying attention to the results.
Practice good gut health! Probiotics, organic foods grown in rich soils, and fermented foods help the good bacteria grow in our large intestines and keep the harmful ones in check. An overabundance of processed sugars can destroy the helpful bacteria and encourage the harmful bacteria to grow. Too much sugar can also tax our pancreas, producing insulin at overwhelming rates. This encourages our brains to store weight and perceive hunger when our blood sugar crashes, while not necessarily needing more caloric intake. A lack of carbohydrates, on the other hand, can starve our brains and rob our bodies of vitality.
This is why nutrient dense and high fiber foods help our bodies digest in balance and bring more hydration to our cells. When overly processed foods do the work that our organs are designed to do, it can confuse our body into thinking we’re hungry for nutrients, even though we just ate calories. For example, fats help our bodies to feel satisfied. However, fats like avocados and raw olive oil contain the fatty acid chains we need to build healthy skin, hair and nail tissue, whereas fries, while certainly yummy for our emotional hunger and taste pleasure, may not give us the same biological building blocks our bodies need for healing, growth, and repair. Knowing how our bodies work arms us with the ability to be more efficient with the food resources we have available, while also making choices about the different hungers we have.
Tip for Overeaters #3 – Permit Pleasure
Give yourself permission for pleasure in integrity. Not the kind of pleasure that is at the expense of someone else or a competing commitment (such as an affair or gambling your family’s money away), but the kind that affirms your body, your purpose, your life. If you love to dance, do it! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional at it or if you even look good doing it. What matters is that you feel good doing it.
Give yourself permission to be in a body without shame. Allow yourself to love the taste of food. We usually overeat because we think it’s wrong to, not because we give ourselves full permission. So, if you’re going to eat that slice of chocolate cake, don’t guilt yourself! Allow yourself to be present and enjoy the pleasure of that food. Full permission allows us to feel worthy of that indulgence. When we can do it above ground, we don’t need to go underground in shame and secrecy.
Tip for Overeaters #4 – Express Yourself
So often, we overeat to stuff our desires down because we think someone else in our life will disapprove, or we’re ashamed of our emotions, or we don’t think we have permission to speak up. Maybe we’re afraid no one would listen or care. If we’re feeling something at the core of our being, chances are it’s part of our purpose, and we need to express that truth. We can certainly attend to issues of safety and security, however, we can find creative ways to express our truth without harmful consequences. Art is one great way to practice self-expression without social consequences.
If we have unfinished business with someone, we need to express that to them or come to terms with it in other ways that don’t involve that person. If we are ashamed of our sexuality, we may be overeating to hide from ourselves or put a boundary up to avoid being bullied or harmed. We may need to resolve issues of sexual trauma, abuse, or internalized homophobia, sexism, racism, or religious shame. Until we learn to relate to that issue more directly in the world and in ourselves, we may use food and our bodies to hold that boundary unconsciously.
Tip for Overeaters #5 – Get Plenty of Love
Find your people! If you don’t come with a loving family, find the people who support who you are at your core. Gary Chapman wrote a book about The 5 Love Languages. They are: touch, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, and gifts. If touch is your love language, get massages and hugs frequently. Have plenty of safe sex. If acts of service serve you, make sure you volunteer or participate in your church or neighborhood in fulfilling ways, or do something nice for your loved ones. If quality time adds quality to your life, make sure you make time to tend to the relationships that matter most to you. If words of affirmation are affirming to you, ask for what you need and make sure you are doing the same. If gifts make you feel loved, make sure those around you know, and give them yourself. It’s not the amount of money they cost, it’s the fact that someone thought about you when they were away from you or that you know someone well enough to brighten their day in a way that is specific to them. To find out more about your love language, you can go to http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
To recap: 1) stay hydrated, 2) nourish your body, 3) permit pleasure, 4) express yourself, and 5), get plenty of love. We all deserve to enjoy the food that nourishes us, and to love the bodies that house us. Each step you take toward a healthy relationship with food is part of your journey toward loving, fulfilling relationships with yourself and others.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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