Note: this post is geared towards readers seeking to overcome binge eating, compulsive overeating and overeating.
Recently a friend who’s been on and off every diet from cabbage soup to South Beach to Cookie to Paleo confided that she had gone off her most recent diet.
These were actually her exact words: “I went off my diet, big time.”
She ate pizza for dinner and to her, this was practically a crime. “I can’t lose weight if I eat pizza,” she exclaimed. “What’s wrong with me?”
The only thing wrong was her mindset. Her conviction that pizza was bad set her up for feeling bad about herself, one of the five mental blocks to weight loss:
I was “bad” because I didn’t stick to my diet/I was “good” because I stuck to my diet
“Bread is bad. I was bad because I ate bread.”
“Salad is good. I was good today because I ate salad.”
What you eat may be good for you or bad for you, but it doesn’t reflect your character. The trouble with this kind of good-bad thinking is that it ties your character, your likeability, lovability and sense of self to what you are eating.
Eating salad doesn’t make you a good person. It makes you a person who eats salad. Being a healthy eater doesn’t imbue you with some special characteristic that makes you more likeable or lovable.
What determines your goodness is the way you treat others, your intention to do the right thing, to be thoughtful and kind.
You are not a better person because you abstain from certain foods. You’re not a bad person if you eat pizza. This “good food/good me” mentality causes a lot of anguish. If this resonates with you, then start challenging that good-back dichotomy!
"What if I change when I'm thin?"
Some years ago I treated a 13 year old girl who was over 100 pounds overweight. I normally only see adults but I made an exception for her (rules are meant to be bent, right?). I’ll never forget the day she poignantly expressed a fear that if she lost weight, she would somehow not be herself. She said, “I don’t know who I’ll be if I lose this weight, but I don’t think I’ll be as huggable.”
For this girl, losing weight meant losing herself and becoming someone else. Her identity was bound up in her size. If this sounds familiar, consider what makes you unique. How can you lose those qualities by losing weight?
"When I lose weight, my life will be absolutely perfect.”
This is a common sentiment. People often say, “When I lose weight I'll be confident, happy and everyone will love me.”
This is a compelling fantasy but it is indeed a fantasy. You will not be a different person when you lose weight. You will be you, only in a smaller, presumably healthier body. Your essential personality will not change, and you cannot change who you are by changing your physical appearance.
"I'll never be able to eat pizza/pasta/ice cream/etc."
Fear of deprivation – either actual deprivation or imagining future deprivation – inevitably leads to bingeing. If you think you cannot eat a certain food for some unspecified or prolonged period of time, then you’re probably going to have as much of that food as possible. It’s the anticipation of future deprivation that leads to overeating in the present.
if you allow yourself to have it, you can decide if you actually want it. Or how much you want.
“This is how it is always going to be.”
Catastrophic thinking, projecting the present into the future, creates a dismal feeling of hopelessness. In turn, hopelessness registers as a painful, dark, and depressed feeling, which makes you vulnerable to using food to escape.
None of us has a crystal ball to predict the future. All we have is the past and the present. Practice being in the here and now, and you may feel better and more hopeful. When you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.
Which of these five mental blocks resonates with you? When you challenge your thinking, you create new thoughts, which lead to feeling better. When you feel better, you're less likely to use food to numb, distract or express painful and/or upsetting states.
And that's how you win the diet war!
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