“Frankly it wasn’t satisfying- I wanted something bad for me, mainly because then I could focus on being sick rather than feeling like my world was falling apart. Binging on bad foods vs cucumbers and grapes.”
As a practitioner with a specialty in the gut-brain axis, I find the different ways that our digestion, nutrition, and our food choices interplay with our brain, our emotions, and our nervous system oh so fascinating. Sometimes it’s physiological, other times our food choices affect our brain function or mood, and sometimes, our mood affects our digestion or our food choices.
One of my clients felt that her overeating was a habit and she simply needed to establish a healthier pattern. The clue that this wasn’t merely a habit that needed a new course to run was how hard she had tried to shift this “habit” without success.
Her homework that week was to allow herself to eat as many fruits and vegetables as her heart desired without beating herself up about it. Upon returning, she shared her awareness around the overeating:
“Frankly it wasn’t satisfying- I wanted something bad for me, mainly because then I could focus on being sick rather than feeling like my world was falling apart. Binging on bad foods versus cucumbers and grapes.”
The overeating wasn’t a habit, it wasn’t a choice from being bored, it wasn’t a tool of procrastination, it wasn’t from a nutrient deficiency, it wasn’t cravings for certain comfort foods from her childhood, it wasn’t from a candida overgrowth or a parasite infusing her mind with the need for sugar, and it wasn’t from being low in a specific neurotransmitter, but instead a distraction technique to give her something awful to experience in her body which she has control over and feels familiar, versus her life, which was feeling out-of-control. The “habit” was the avoidance of what felt too overwhelming to deal with or felt out of her capacity to affect.
We will trade the discomfort of unfamiliar emotions, overwhelm, grief, or fear of situations we don’t understand or know how to process with the familiar feelings that come from overeating foods, be that the shame, remorse, or regret from overeating, especially the foods we have labeled as “bad,” or the physical pain from eating too much. Or, in my client’s case, eating too much of the foods that were inflammatory for her creating a painful distraction in her body that couldn’t be ignored and was a familiar discomfort that she actually could choose.
Where have you been trading the discomfort of dealing with difficult situations, difficult people, unhappiness in work or love, fears of failure, fears of success, or grief and loss with the familiar discomforts in your body or emotional self-judgements from overeating? When you aren’t avoiding dealing with the tough situations in your life or you aren’t avoiding a change that would bring you happiness, what happens to your relationship with food? Where, besides your body and your food choices, can you reclaim control in your life? What happens to your relationship with food and your body when foods aren’t “good” or “bad” but instead become cognizant tools in your life to feel certain ways? What happens to food choices and how much you eat when you remove the emotions of stress, longing, shame, and guilt from certain foods?
I’m curious what you’ve discovered about your relationship to food and if you’ve struggled with overeating, what you’ve done to combat it? Please share below in the comments.