Can’t stop thinking about food throughout your day? Would you even go so far as to say you have a food obsession?
My food obsession was overeating the vast majority of the time. I would turn to food for coziness, distraction, comfort, to avoid feeling- you name it. I made huge strides in healing from this habit by following the steps I cover in this post.
Check-in with yourself. Are you already wondering about your next meal or snack while eating your current one? Do you think your intuition will guide you to eat pizza and sit on the couch all day unless you stick to strict rules? Are your days punctuated with thoughts about food? Finding yourself daydreaming about food while you try and work on other tasks or goals?
TOUGH LOVE: The belief that you’ll be reckless without strict rules is lazy, surface-level thinking. It’s this line of thinking that leads to a disconnection with food and, oftentimes, a rise in body image issues. Thinking you can’t trust yourself. Outsourcing your wisdom to others- thinking they know what’s better for you than you.
The reality? Sure, if you don’t care about yourself or your consequences then maybe you’ll say, “screw it”. But, if you’re being honest with yourself, do you act on every impulse? Like when you see someone you’re attracted to or something you want to buy, or when you don’t feel like working?
So why are so many people struggling with food obsession?
I wholeheartedly believe we don’t have a food problem as a society.
We have a self-worth problem that comes from childhood brain patterning. Fear of rejection, failure, or abandonment. An addiction to chaos.
We’ve told ourselves that our worth is conditional- based on what we do, what people think of us, or what we have. We’ve told ourselves that being healthy is hard. That showing up for ourselves is hard. So we are diligent in our efforts to find evidence or create a chaotic reality to support these beliefs.
Look around. You’ll see you’re in good company- countless people chasing body goals to find worth or using food to fill the void. Using food to avoid feeling.
Listen, I want you to have a body you love. I’m okay with you going after aesthetic goals. But there’s an order of operations here. If you change the outside without changing the inside, you’ll find limits to your joy. Your results will be unsustainable.
The order? Change your mind, then change your body. Or even change your mind as you change your body. The whole point is to establish a deep connection, trust, and respect with self and body. Become empowered with your choices around food and body. Which will then change your life. For good.
Learn to love yourself on the way to your goal- not just when you meet it.
The solution to food obsession?
How do you begin to foster this connection, trust, and respect? Start with the basics. End the war between your mind and your body. Be willing to connect with your body on a physical level. Create a clear line of communication between body and mind. It’s time to integrate body, mind, and spirit.
What if you decided to nurture your soul by tending to your physical body first and see how far that gets you? It’s time to ease the pain of thinking the answers are outside of you.
Do you think your body is untrustworthy? Do you fear listening to its cues?
Your body wants you to thrive.
Yes, that’s true.
It’s biologically hardwired to want to create an environment of safety and ease. Unfortunately, diet culture and childhood experiences created an unhelpful belief system. Your mind thinks overeating and food obsession tendencies are keeping you safe.
Your body gives you helpful feedback all the time. Data comes through as quality of sleep, hunger and fullness cues, energy levels, cravings, digestive upset, and so on. You’ve been overriding those messages and ignoring what you need for so long. Now there’s a disconnect.
You need to learn how to tune back in.
Sure, I could give you macros and calorie counts to hit and send you on your merry way. But it wouldn’t change anything in a sustainable way. Remember the old adage?: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
I need to teach you how to fish.
What you really need is to repattern your beliefs to heal your relationship with food and body image. This includes a deep dive into mindset practices, thought rewiring, and body connection.
But, the first step is tending to your relationship with food on a biological level. You’ll restore trust, respect, and connection with self along the way.
Here’s 4 tips that helped me heal my food obsession:
1. Start eating more.
Yes, you read that right.
It seems counterintuitive, but your body needs to feel safe and well-fed consistently. This protection is biologically hardwired in you from your ancestors’ history of food insecurity, famine, and starvation. Or any other childhood messaging around scarcity or food insecurity. If you restrict food when your body needs it, your body thinks food is scarce. When you finally allow yourself access to food- you’ll often find you overeat.
The more you eat consistently and enough, the less urge you’ll feel to overeat. For many people, food obsession comes from restricting food intake and shutting down biological needs. This then leads to a rebound effect of overeating or overthinking about food.
Please don’t overthink this. Check out this post on hunger and fullness cues. But, in the meantime, begin by eating 3 meals a day. And if you like snacks, then also eat 2 snacks.
It’s a simple approach to restore trust between your mind and body. You’ll show yourself that you have your own back by committing to regularly feeding yourself. Food is not the enemy- it’s essential to life. You are no more addicted to food than you are to oxygen. Stop fighting your need to feed yourself.
2. Stop eating only “clean” or “approved” foods.
It’s so tempting to look outside yourself to have someone else tell you what’s okay to eat. In my work with clients, we do a lot of rewiring around the belief of good and bad foods. We learn “good, better, and best foods”. No food is bad. No food has a moral label. Furthermore, you don’t receive a label of being good or bad from what you eat.
But, childhood patterning reinforces that “good girls do ___ and don’t do ___”. So oftentimes, you transfer that mentality to your relationship with food.
Where is that getting you? Harshly judging yourself or holding yourself in high esteem at the end of the day as you grade yourself?
Try letting yourself eat what you want to eat, rather than what you’re “supposed to” eat. This practice relieves psychological restriction. It knocks down idolizing certain foods. Holding certain foods as “forbidden fruit” brings a “last supper” mentality. It often leads to overeating or overthinking about food.
If there’s a food (or many foods) you label as “bad” and “not allowed”, pick one of the foods, and commit to having it daily. Have a portion readily available, and eat it. Every. Single. Day.
You’ll find food loses its power real quick when you take away the judgment and restriction.
3. Practice being comfortable leaving food on your plate.
Ahhh, I know I’m asking a lot here. Humans eat in portions- most often, what goes on the plate, goes into your mouth. That’s why you can order a small ice cream or a large ice cream and find yourself satisfied with whatever you choose. You want to eat it all. It feels funny to throw away the last couple of bites, often because of food rules we learn as kids.
The teaching to “clear your plate” is super common in families. It creates a belief that throwing out food is wrong. In an attempt to not “waste food”, you create mistrust between your mind and body. When you receive a cue of satisfaction and you keep eating, you send a signal that you aren’t trustworthy.
This might mentally stress you out and be super uncomfortable in the beginning.
It was so intense for me- I used to be sad when I got full because it meant that eating was over. But then I tried this out: I felt the sadness and fullness in my belly. I reminded myself that more food was available when I was hungry next. Then, the sadness would pass. And I received the benefit of no longer feeling overfull. Having my own back, being willing to feel, let me heal my relationship with food and body image.
4. Stop dieting.
Release the grip of diet culture. Simply put, a diet is a way of eating. For the purposes of my work, a “diet” references the diet culture mentality of being “on” or “off” a diet. The toxic beliefs that your 30-day plan will change the rest of your life even if your habits don’t change for good. Or participating in plans that are unsustainable and only offer results when you’re “on plan”.
“Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I see this all the time. In fact, that was my approach! For years. I was steadfast in the belief that the next diet would fix me. That there was a missing puzzle piece- one more food to remove or a new plan to try, and I’d finally be able to relax around food.
Truth Talk: Your food obsession will not heal with more dieting. You know this is true, deep down. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here.
A life of diet after diet only churns out more data to reinforce unhelpful beliefs. Beliefs that you are untrustworthy, that you don’t know what you need, that you’re not safe around food. It perpetuates obsessive thoughts about food. It’s your comfort zone. It’s where you feel safe because you know what to expect.
Do you still feel like all hell will break loose if you stop the food obsession and restriction?
Yes, you’ll sometimes eat beyond fullness. You may eat more processed food than you prefer as your body learns that you trust it. This process is part of the healing. Please keep going.
Instead of focusing on what your reality will be for a few weeks as you try out these tips, shift your attention to where you want to be 6-12 months from now. Connect with your why.
Does that sound too far away?
I say it with love, but how long have you been on this hamster wheel? The one of trying to feel at ease around food. Ending your food obsession once and for all. Connecting with body trust, body love, or neutrality. Only to begin again. Or how about the many attempts you’ve made to connect with your definition of sustainable health?
This way of living reminds me of a person who has a flat tire on their bike and they are pushing it down the street. They have the option to stop to patch the flat. Sure, stopping to fix the tire will take more time in the beginning. But then they’ll zoom right by the version of themselves that’s hobbling along with a flat tire. They’ll successfully reach their destination.
Be willing to slow down to ultimately speed up your sustainable results.
Remove the mentality of on a diet or off a diet. Be willing to be with yourself in such a way that you know what works for you long term. When you commit to extreme measures that you know you’re not all in with for the long haul, you only hurt yourself.
Do you still have pushback about diets? I talk about the difference between experimental, therapeutic, and maintenance diets here. They have a role in connecting with your holistic health. But, I also include the necessary mindset for success when approaching these diets.
Try out these tips to heal your food obsession. Let me know how it goes for you! Follow me on Instagram and send me a DM. I’d love to hear from you!