Does your eating control you?


“Do you often find yourself obsessing about food? Constantly fad dieting? Creating rules around which foods may be “good” or “bad”, “allowed” or “not allowed”? Feeling constantly guilty about your food choices?”

Most people may have heard of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or even Binge Eating Disorder however many of us may have disordered food thoughts even though we may not have a diagnosable Eating Disorder.

These disordered food thoughts may be harming your body, your relationship with food and sabotaging your weight loss or health related goals. Studies have shown links between cognitive food restriction and obesity. This means that if your goal is to lose weight or improve your nutrition you may need to not only focus on the physical aspect but also the emotional or cognitive side to eating and change your relationship with food.

Below are some tips that might help you to identify if you need to change your relationship with food and some strategies to go about doing this;

The Emotional Eater

The cause of emotional eating is fairly complex and involves hormones, feelings, taste preferences, your brain and stomach. Emotional eating often leads to us reaching to the high sugar and fat treats that we think may make us feel better or may be a reward for the difficult day we have just had. It is rare, however that food actually solves the problem.

If you are an emotional eater try to identify what your emotional triggers are, what environments you may be more likely to emotionally eat in and when you may be most likely to emotionally eat. Practice having “you time” in between the trigger and the eating, finding more positive ways to deal with the stress or emotion. You could try calling a friend, going for a walk, journaling or drawing. Change your eating environment to avoid those environments where we are most likely to emotionally eat. Try to limit having comfort foods in the house, try planning when you might have your treat instead.

The Binge Eater and the Restrictive Eater

Ever had a late-night binge? Or a mid-morning blow out?  Binge Eating may occur for a number of reasons however often involves forbidden foods or foods that we may be depriving ourselves of. Binge eating will often be done secretively, mindlessly and quickly, leading you to feel uncomfortable, over full, unwell and sometimes embarrassed, disgusted in yourself or guilty.

Binge eating often may lead to food restriction afterwards to “make up for” what we ate previously. For example, skipping breakfast may lead to over eating later in the day or even night as we end up starving instead of hunger, looking for foods that are quick and easy and will provide a fast release energy source.

It is difficult to make good decisions when your brain and body is lacking the energy that food should be providing it.  To start to rectify this eating pattern try regulating your eating pattern. Set meal and snack times that are about 2-3 hours apart (you may even need alarms to remind yourself to eat at each time), plan your meals and snacks to include lean protein, fruits, vegetables and wholegrains and make the healthy option the easy option.

The Fad Dieter

The Fad dieter can go hand in hand with the binge eater. The diet binge cycle has been well documented. Take a low carbohydrate diet as an example, you may start on a low carbohydrate diet and see great success long term (because in reducing carbohydrates you have also reduced your kilojoule intake) however in reality most people can not avoid carbohydrates forever (and who really wants to – the are delicious!) so when we do start eating carbohydrates again we over eat them,  increasing your kilojoule intake and increasing your weight. This lead you to believe that the real problem is the carbohydrates (not the way you eat them), so next time we try with even more determination to eliminate them from our diet (again with no success) and the cycle continues.

Fad diets usually lead to short term success but long-term changes are often unsuccessful. Instead of trying to follow strict unreasonable diets adjust your goals and try a more reasonable approach, learning how to eat long term rather than short term, this may also require a more individualized approach as we all have our own eating style.

For all of the above styles of thinking don’t forget about the basics;

Make sure you get enough sleep

Plan your meals and snacks

Don’t be too hard on yourself if things aren’t perfect.

Exercise regularly

Eat small, regular meals

Make sure you have some “you time” and that you are looking after your mental and emotional health and if you need support in doing this have a talk with your doctor or psychologist. If you do struggle with disordered food thoughts, make an appointment with one of our Dietitians and book in for our Mindful Eating Plan.

 Mikaela Joyes

Tell us about your dieting experience in the comments, or book an appointment with us today and let's discuss your goals!

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AutumnRuth Burton