How to Stop Feeling Out of Control Around Food
Have you ever been around a certain food, and felt totally out of control? Binged on the food? Overate it, even though you weren’t truly enjoying it?
This feeling of being out of control around food is all too common with some of my clients. Maybe you eat ‘perfectly’ during the week, only to feel out of control when presented with foods that aren’t part of your normal routine or deemed ‘healthy’ during the weekend. Resulting in out of control eating, which then causes you to want to restrict or eat ‘perfectly’ again during the week to balance it out. Does this sound familiar?
If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. These uncontrollable cravings and binges make you feel completely out of control around food, and can cause intense emotions (guilt, shame, fear). What makes you feel out of control in the first place is in fact actually your desire to ‘control’ your eating in the first place!
Maybe you control your eating with food rules – “not eating anything past 7pm”, “no desserts”, “no carbs after noon”, “only vegan and organic foods”. Intuitive eating is all about getting rid of these strict food rules- because ultimately, if you break one of these rules (which you will, because you are human. And especially if your food rule is strict or restrictive). As soon as you break this rule? The out of control feeling occurs. You feel guilt, shame, as if the food is controlling you. Yet, we often don’t see that the rules are the reason for this out of control eating.
To regain balance with eating and eliminate the “out of control” feeling, we must work on giving up food rules and allowing ourselves to have peace with food. Because as soon as we have certain foods we deem as “bad” or “off limits”, we will then feel out of control when around these foods. If you swear off brownies, a yummy and delicious dessert, and you are around them at a party, seeing your friends eating them, you may “give in” and then feel completely out of control eating them. This is normal in response to that self-imposed restriction, because you don’t know when you’ll be able to have this “off limits” food again, resulting in you getting every last bite in you can before it’s ultimately “taken away” again! When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food or break your food rule, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in what we call “Last Supper” overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
So if we’re feeling this sense of being out of control around food, what steps can we take?
- See what food rules or diet thoughts you may be having around food – and work on loosening their control over you. This won’t happen overnight. Challenge those food rules and beliefs. Challenge your thoughts. Having no carbs past noon is silly – we NEED carbs, and having strict food rules doesn’t account for our ever-changing needs from day to day! Working with an Intuitive Eating Counselor and Registered Dietitian can greatly help.
- Challenge yourself with foods you fear or view as “unhealthy”. If you feel out of control around a particular food, that may be a good sign you are not allowing yourself to have it in the first place, causing that out of control feeling! Do you feel anxious or out of control around cookies? Start intentionally including cookies during the week. Savor them, enjoy them, pay attention to your thoughts, and challenge them. For example, change the thought of “I shouldn’t be eating these cookies, they will make me gain weight!” to a healthier, realistic thought of: “I enjoy cookies, and this satisfies me right now! Health is so much more than just our eating, and enjoying cookies in an overall balanced eating pattern isn’t going to make or break my health. Actually enjoying this cookie will help me feel less out of control around them in the long run!”
- Eat regular meals. When we skip meals or ignore our hunger, our blood sugar drops, causing us to feel HANGRY. This is also when cravings occur – causing us to want to eat anything that will quickly raise our blood sugar up (think donuts, sugar, desserts, bread). By keeping our bodies consistently fed and satisfied, we won’t feel that sense of out of control eating.
- Practice positive self-talk, give yourself some grace! If you have a bout of overeating, it’s natural to want to put yourself down, feel guilty, and be mad at yourself. This is due to diet culture. Start to challenge those deprecating thoughts, and focus on self-love! Maybe you were experiencing an extra stressful day that brought on a binge, give yourself some compassion! What is it you need? The last thing you need is to put yourself down. You are human. Instead, look at it from a non-judgmental curious standpoint. What could you do differently next time? What do you think caused this? How can you treat your body with respect now, maybe take a nap or a bath? Do some light yoga stretching? How can you learn from this experience?