The weekend is over and today is the first day of you eating healthy because you swore off overeating again. It’s Monday morning and you are off to a clean start. This is the day that you will finally avoid overeating and take care of yourself.
You get out of bed and it’s a new day. As you’re getting ready you see a text, or get a call, go through your bills or think of something that has been looming over you. It’s time to make breakfast and you make the best choices for yourself. You’re proud, you did it! Yeah!!!! Then you start thinking about what’s working and not in your life, a conversation that went south, or you get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.
You start to feel a little anxious and before you know it you’re grabbing things to eat and your meal was already over. A handful here and a pick there and before you know it you’re overeating again. At that point you may be saying to yourself, well I already messed it up, I may as well just enjoy it and have what I want. Why deprive myself if I’m just going to feel bad anyway? Might as well feel better now and give myself a treat. After all my life isn’t really all that great and at least I feel better when I’m eating.
If this is you or some version of you, you’re not alone. There are millions of us out there that have struggled with overeating, but it doesn’t have to continue any more.
Know it’s not what you’re eating, but what’s eating at you. Many people think willpower is the answer to all your problems, only to find yourself white knuckling the whole process and living in deprivation of the next diet or restriction, then back in the food again.
Guilt and shame start to loom and you begin to beat yourself up; it’s an insidious cycle. The only way to make it end is to make a decision to do something different. Your willpower is part of your conscious thoughts, which has less control on your behavior than your unconscious thoughts. This is where you rationalize and analyze the situation that you are in (WAR) and justify everything. It is the “WAR” you wage on yourself, not knowing it is incapable of creating any long lasting change.
Your motivation, values and beliefs are guided by your unconscious mind, your “SHIP” that controls the majority of your behaviors, strategies, habits, impulses and physiological control. When our impulses or emotions are affected by being hungry, angry, lonely, tired or sick, we need to HALT everything we are doing. If you do not, we end up waging a WAR on our conscious mind. And if food is your drug of choice you will find yourself overeating or turning to something to make yourself feel better in that moment.
Overeating is caused by you looking to fill a need that isn’t being met in some area of your life. Food can fill the need to feel unconditional love, connection, acceptance, belonging or feeling significant in some way. Food becomes your confidant, your best friend. It can satisfy your need for variety in your life or give you certainty when other things feel outside your control.
It can feel like a safe place to disappear and turn the world outside off for a while. The only challenge is that when you are done, you are worse off than you were before you started. The problems didn’t go away, the love you wanted couldn’t be found in an ice cream sundae, nor the connections or belonging. Now you feel fat, angry at yourself, and the vicious cycle continues. You settled for what was familiar. Beyond survival, familiarity drives us. Many of us live unaware of how our unconscious affects us and impacts our choices, according to Psychotherapist and Author Virginia Satir.1
“Most people prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty,” Satir said.
Believe it or not, even when you say you want to stop overeating, you actually feel safer in your predictable world. Change is challenging because, most of the time, we do not realize that our rules, routines, emotions, motivation and perceptions remain so deeply-rooted in our unconscious mind. This is why it is so scary for many of us. With overeating, we are certain of how we will feel and create our own self-fulfilling prophecy by going back there over and over again.
1. Married to Pain: Loving a Survivor of Childhood Trauma. Love Magazine.
2. Certainty of Misery vs. Misery of Uncertainty. Love Letter to Bee.