“I hope to get to a point where food is not the center of my world.”
This ^^^ is a direct quote from a client and a sentiment held by so many. Obsessing over food, constantly thinking about what we can or cannot eat, planning for the next meal, and regretting the last one is miserable and honestly exhausting.
I recall a friend in high school stating, “I can’t wait until I’m hungry again” right after a particularly delicious Thai meal. She was implying that once hungry again, she could experience this pleasurable meal again. This outlook felt groundbreaking, and yet, completely unattainable for me at the time. Because I was ALWAYS hungry. I was always thinking and obsessing about food. Meals were hardly ever satisfying because I would not let myself eat in a satisfying manner.
I learned early on that ‘eating too much’ was bad, so I falsely believed that being hungry was a sign that I wasn’t ‘eating too much.’ Eventually I completely lost touch with what normal eating looked like. So, I compared my plates to others’, adjusting my intake so it matched or was less than theirs. And then I found that my growing hunger became overwhelming. I found myself starting to eat in secret when no one was looking because I was so deeply ashamed of my inability to continue denying this hunger. What would people think? I became a ‘health nut’ in public and few knew how much food had a hold of me.
My story is not unique. I know this, not only because most of my clients can relate to these experiences, but also because this obsession with food is a direct result of restriction – something that the vast majority of us do at some point in our lives in an effort to watch our weight. We’ve been told by many in the diet industry that we’re wrong and simply weak-willed if we can’t deny our urges. Fuck that puritan mindset. This obsession over food is purely biological – our body’s way of staying alive.
It takes a lot of practice and rewiring of the brain in order for us to start being able to eat accordingly to our hunger and to satisfaction, without feeling guilty or stewing over how we’ll need to ‘get rid of’ or ‘make up for’ that meal. But, I’d like to help you get started.
Step #1: Awareness
Start cultivating some awareness around the origins of your hunger. Notice when it arises and notice what thoughts/feelings come up for you. What are the circumstances? When did you last eat? How hungry are you?
Try to be as non-judgmental as possible here – a tall order to be sure.
Step #2: Eat more consistently
My clients are always baffled when I tell them that the cure for food obsession is eating more. Notice what comes up for you? Are you thinking, “I really can’t be trusted” or “I won’t be able to stop” or “I’ll gain weight”?
These are all totally reasonable thoughts and concerns! We’ve been taught that we cannot be trusted around food and that WE are wrong, not the diets.
A lot of people don’t know what eating more consistently looks like. In general it means every 3-4 hours
And one more note here – you may or may not gain weight when you’re finding food freedom!
Step #3: Focus on balance in your meals
Be intentional about the meals you’re putting together and include a carbohydrate, protein, some fat, and perhaps some fruits/veggies with each meal
At snacks, include at least 2 macronutrients (protein + carbohydrate, fat + carbohydrate, etc.)
Step #4: Add in some foods you don’t always trust yourself around & start losing those labels
Once you’re eating more consistently, it might be time to start experimenting with some of those tempting foods that you don’t always trust yourself around or have labeled as "bad"
The idea is that once you’re consistently providing your body with enough energy and satisfaction that these ‘trigger’ foods will begin to have less of a hold over you.
This can be a tricky step and if you’re finding that it’s bringing up some fear, I’d recommend working with a non-diet dietitian or other intuitive eating professional for individualized guidance (this really goes for all steps BTW!)
Step #5: Remove weight change expectations
Eek!! I know - this one is scary. Food freedom comes at the expense of your dream to reach an ideal body size. That's not to say that you won't lose weight. You may or you may not. But, having certain weight expectations will ultimately hinder your ability to reach food freedom and stop obsessing over food.
If you're not worrying about your weight, you'll spiral out of control, right? That's really not the case. While there can be a 'honeymoon' period while your body and eating recalibrate - trust that you can find balance and that your body will find its healthy, happy weight.
Bonus step: Patience & compassion
Be kind with yourself. This way of eating, while intuitive, can feel very different from what you’re used to. Know that it can often bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings and fears, but ultimately it allows you to get so much more out of life.
You deserve freedom from food obsession. Give yourself the patience and care you need to get there. And as always, if you need a little extra support – please don’t hesitate to reach out. I offer virtual and in-person sessions
Looking for some more guidance? I offer virtual and in-person sessions in Austin, TX. Not quite there? Check out my free guide: Eating with Intention.