From Emotional Eating to Empowerment: Freedom without Deprivation | TMOHP Episode 075

I work with a lot of smart, successful women who have one place in their life where they don’t feel so smart or powerful. When it comes to overeating and emotional eating, many women who have so much confidence in other areas, begin to feel less capable. I’d like to help you get our sense of power back. Did you know that there are two ways you can approach changing your eating habits? One is empowering, the other leads to a vicious cycle.

In this episode, I’ll tell you the difference between the two approaches, help you identify which track you’ve been on, and why you might be caught in an approach that won’t ever work for you. I’ll also share four steps you can start taking to begin taking your confidence, your power, and your freedom from overeating back.

In this episode:

  • My most awkward radio interview ever
  • The two different foundations that will make changing your eating habits either challenging or easy
  • How to stop battling to control your eating
  • 4 questions to begin asking to empower yourself and to change emotional eating in a lasting way

Featured on the show:

  • Come join the Freedom from Emotional Eating and Overeating private Facebook community!
  • Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and get a free set of resources matched to your results.
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

Episode Transcript

Hey everybody, I'm glad you are here. Welcome to another episode of The Too Much On Her Plate Podcast. Or if this is your first episode, welcome. I want to tell you a little story, very short. When I first joined the online world many, many years ago, I had a website called Enduring Change. 

And the point of enduring change seemed very clear to me in my head. I was all about helping women make changes that would last instead of making, you know, working really hard and making temporary changes then, and then just having things fall apart. So enduring change, that's what I did. One day I was on social media and I was connected with a woman who hosted a radio show, and she had an emergency, she'd had a guest cancel, and she was looking for somebody who could fill in, who she could interview on her radio show that was about helping women.

And so I connected with her and I said, I'm available. And so we had this very quick exchange. Actually, I never even talked to her. I had an exchange with her assistant and we set up this interview and I don't know, an hour later there I was live on this radio show with this woman who was interested in interviewing me about enduring change and how I worked with this.

The way it worked actually was I talked to her assistant and I was off in this other area. I couldn't hear what was going on. And she said, you know, we're going to go live in 60 seconds, and she will introduce you, and then she'll start the conversation. So I'm sitting there and all, all of a sudden we go live, and this radio host starts to introduce me. She says, you know, this is Dr. Melissa McCreary and she's a psychologist. And then she starts talking about enduring change. Accept that she got it all wrong. She starts talking about it very differently, she talks about how horrible it is to endure change. And how we have to endure change. And the toll it takes to endure change. And how stressful this is, and how difficult it is to endure change. And that Dr. Melissa McCreary is coming on right now to talk to us about the toll and even the trauma of enduring change. 

I can, I can laugh about it now, but I have to tell you, I have no memory of that interview and I think she was very irritated with me when she realized that the whole setup that she had provided was actually the opposite of what it was that I believed in and what it was that I was talking about.

There were a lot of moments of awkwardness in that very short radio interview. However, the difference between enduring change, change that lasts, change that becomes a part of you, change that you make, and then really don't have to think about again, because the change just endures. That kind of enduring change is so different from enduring change. Putting up with tolerating, maintaining change. Right? Taking care of yourself while you go through the heavy change. 

And actually this is exactly what I want to talk with you about today. And specifically I want to talk with you about it today in terms of making changes with food and changing or even breaking free from actually really breaking free from emotional eating and overeating.

Because of how we are wired, because of conditioning in diet mentality, because of high achiever expectations and perfectionism it is so easy, too easy to set yourself up with expectations and with action items and a plan, and ultimately a whole path that feels like something you are going to need to endure. Instead of creating something that is built to naturally fit you. To be, kind of create a, a natural way of being and change. That the difference between enduring change and enduring change, this is the difference between freedom mentality and deprivation mentality.

In case you haven't fully taken this on board yet. Real peace with food and freedom from overeating, they require a freedom mentality foundation. So when things aren't working or when your motivation seems to have disappeared, or when you're feeling dread or irritation about changes you're trying to make. You just don't want to do it.

It is always good in those instances to do a little, a little self check-in. When you just don't want to do it. When you have that dread factor? Do a little check-in and see if your thoughts have crept back into a deprivation path and deprivation thinking. Our brains are really sneaky this way and part of the process of making changes that you want to endure? Part of that process is continually reminding yourself that taking your power back from food and from emotional eating or overeating doesn't need to feel bad or hard. It shouldn't feel bad or hard. In fact, it should make things easier. And along the way, you should be getting more of what feels good and of what you need. 

Which makes it easier to endure. It makes it something that you are not trying to endure. Okay, so deprivation versus freedom. Let's talk about this. Most women who want to stop overeating or who want to lose weight start by focusing on something that is automatically demotivating. It automatically kills your momentum and your inspiration.

It is automatically energy zapping. And it leads to burnout. And it leads to poor. We are conditioned to approach these kind of changes with deprivation thinking. Or what I call a deprivation approach. So tell me if this sounds familiar. You are trying to make changes. You've decided, okay, it's time to overhaul my eating, or I'm going to stop with this eating at night, or I just really need to kick this emotional eating habit. And you start thinking about what you have to eat or what you should eat. Or what you shouldn't eat. Right?


Going without. What are you going to, what are you going to take away? What are you not going to do anymore or not going to eat? You start feeling confined because there are rigid rules. There is a plan that requires constant vigilance and awareness and willpower and discipline. And you might even fall into that deprivation thinking where you have two options you've had a good or a bad day. Today is going to be a good day or a bad day, and your choices at lunch can turn the rest of the day into, okay, it's already ruined. It's a bad day, or, oh, we're having a good day. 

Deprivation mentality is based on scarcity. It does not have an abundant feel to it, and you don't have a feeling of abundance and plenty when you are in the midst of a deprivation plan or deprivation mentality.

Deprivation mentality is reactive. You are following along. You are doing what the rules said. It does not feel proactive or purposeful or have the feeling of empowerment. It requires vigilance and being on guard. You're waiting for the other shoe to fall. You're wondering how long you can do this. And deprivation mentality leads to feeling out of control and stressed and deprived and burnt out.

Which I would like to point out if you are a high achiever, who is used to achieving your expectations for yourself, is not a set of feelings that you enjoy or are accustomed to creating in your life. Having a relationship with food and to eating that is based on deprivation looks difficult. It feels difficult, it feels unnatural.

It does not come intuitively. It does not feel intuitive. It's a situation where you might be worried about screwing up. Right? I'm going to screw it up. I'm going to blow it. Can I have a good day today? You feel restricted or confined. And as a consequence, you might want to rebel. It's pretty natural. You feel like there's these tight rules, you're in this tight little tunnel of things that you have to follow, and so screw it. Right? Or I think that's some of the throwing out the baby with bathwater when it feels like you've had a bad day. And I'm, of course, putting that in air quotes. 

So you have feelings of rebellion or you want to eat everything in sight, or you want to be really, really, really good. In short, you feel like you're contorting yourself like a pretzel. Bending yourself, you know, up into these little knots, trying to fit someone else's rules or someone else's plans.

Deprivation mentality does not leave you feeling like you have that seat at the head of the table in the boardroom. It does not leave you feeling like you are the CEO of this plan and you in you are in charge and empowered to control your own wellbeing. When you are in the midst of deprivation thinking, you might feel concerned about how long you're going to be able to do this. How long are you going to be able to stay with this plan?

And related to this, inside deprivation mentality, if you lose your grip, if you run out of steam, if you don't have enough discipline, the whole thing falls apart. Deprivation mentality and a deprivation approach to food or anything else is, in my opinion, no way to live. And it never lasts to lasting change with overeating or emotional eating. It is the enduring change, not enduring change. 

So why do smart women get stuck in deprivation approaches to changing emotional eating or overeating? Well, there is a myth that fuels and perpetuates deprivation mentality and has made the diet industry billions of dollars. Smart women get stuck in vicious cycles of believing that they can win the deprivation game, and that if they fail, it's their own fault. 

The myth is that you can win at the deprivation game. You can turn enduring change into enduring change. And that if you fail, it's your fault. And you have fallen for that myth or gotten sucked into this myth if you've had these thoughts. Thoughts like, I just need to try one more time. I just need to have more discipline. I just need to work harder. I just need to be more focused. 

We have been conditioned to continually go back to deprivation approaches and then to blame ourselves when they don't work. And there there's a whole industry out there making a lot of money off of this being a vicious cycle. So let's talk about what a healthy relationship with food looks like. What real freedom from overeating should look like. 

It's a completely different paradigm from deprivation mentality, and it is the one I use and believe in deeply. And it's what I call freedom mentality. So freedom mentality, so different from deprivation mentality. When you are thinking within a freedom framework, your plan and your choices are they're yours.

They are, instead of being reactive, they are proactive, they are thoughtful, they are intentional. And they have a purpose. You are not rigidly following a set of rules that don't have meaning to you, that someone else told you to follow. You have a clear goal, not just a number on the scale. But a goal that transforms the situation that is triggering your overeating. You are really fixing the problem so that the reason you want to eat is addressed instead of suppressed. You're not hanging on thinking, how long can I follow this eating schedule? Instead, you are solving the real problem that is leading to the overeating. You're creating Freedom. 

Freedom mentality is not about "ending bad habits", it's not about the habit. It's about finding new strategies that work better, that fit you, that improve your life, and that help you achieve what you want. Help you take care of yourself so that the urge to overeat isn't, it, isn't the, the foremost urge. A freedom mentality creates confidence, it creates success. It does not, it is not built on the bones of willpower. It's built on the bones of taking care of your needs and taking care of the reasons that emotional eating or overeating or binging at night have started to take up so much space and energy in your life. All right, so I gave you some signs of deprivation mentality and what that feels like so that you could start to get a picture of places where you might get hooked into deprivation mentality.

These are signs of freedom, mental. When you are approaching your relationship with food and making change with freedom mentality. Right? This is the enduring change, not the enduring change part of the program. When you're in that space, you feel more options. You actually feel freedom. You feel empowered. You feel in charge. Your actions are creating more ease. You are not creating more sets of things you have to do that feel really hard. Your actions, you know they're working because things are easier. 

Which is so different from deprivation thinking where you know things are working because you are working and you are working hard. Right? Inside freedom mentality, you're moving forward, you're growing, you're succeeding. It feels good, and the things that you are doing aren't zapping your energy. They're increasing your energy and your enthusiasm and your motivation, and you feel like you're growing. , you feel like things are changing inside of you and around you. You're not just fixing a problem, and that's in air quotes too. But you feel like you're getting more and more solutions. You're getting stronger. And you are finding strategies and habits that fit you, that feel comfortable. 

Another key piece of freedom mentality that's very different from deprivation mentality is that you don't have to be perfect. Instead, you get to be curious. You get to learn about what works and what doesn't work. And you get to use your wisdom and your knowledge of yourself to create the next step. To move from step to step in a way that works for you. So that what you are creating on, on a deprivation path, you have this program that you have to stay on until you get to some goal at the end. Freedom mentality is about creating a path that you enjoy being on. 

So it's not just, I've got to get to this end goal and how long can I hold on and can I ever even get there? But can I create a relationship with food? Because guess what, you're going to have that relationship with food when you get to the end goal too. Can I create a relationship with food that I'm enjoying? So I just want to keep having it. So that it is enduring change. Right? 

Peace with food and freedom from overeating, which are based in freedom mentality. They transform your. And transforming your life, fixing the things that led to the overeating or learning how to relate to those things differently.

This transforms your relationship with food. So the key piece here is that freedom mentality makes things easier. It doesn't weigh you down or stress you out or make life harder. That is what diets and deprivation mentality does.

Okay, so before we go any farther, I thought it would be helpful to share a story with you of what this looks like. So I want to tell you about a client of mine who I'm going to call Maryanne. That's not her real name. I want to protect her privacy, but she has agreed for me to share this with you. So, Maryanne, when we started, when we met each other, she was, in her early fifties. She's overwhelmed. She was stressed. She was really irritated with herself because she had put on 30 pounds that she did not want to have, and nothing she tried was working.

So she was somebody who was used to things working for her. She's very successful. She owned a, a, her own business that was doing really, really well. She had a life that she loved. Her business was doing so well that it was taking up more and more and more of her time. And it had kind of started to, well, not kind of, it had started to run her. She was in reaction mode in a lot of ways. Business was, was taking over her life. Her children were leaving the nest. She was premenopausal and so she was hormonal and she was feeling irritable. She felt very stressed and maxed out, and it was like she couldn't keep up. She said that her life had, she didn't know where it had happened, but her life had become one of managing and juggling all these to-do lists and constantly taking care of everything and everyone. And she didn't feel like she even had the time or the energy to think about what might feel good for her. 

So over this period, Maryanne, who has always been really healthy and very fit, had put on 30 pounds. She had started eating in her car. Eating in her car as she drove from one obligation and everything felt like an obligation to the next. And she said, I hate eating my car. I never used to eat in my car, except that it feels like this tiny sliver of escape. It feels like something I can do for me while I'm moving forward with everything else, and I have to keep moving forward with everything else. 

So when we met, Maryanne was caught in this cycle that she couldn't find a way to stop. And her solution, and the reason that she wanted to talk with me was she said, I want willpower. I want my self-control back. And she wanted it yesterday. Right? She was like, I, this has got to end and it should have ended a week ago. She wanted her energy back. She wanted to be healthy. She was tired of being exhausted and irritable, and she just wanted to be strong enough to make it happen. 

Marianne was stuck in deprivation and in a deprivation cycle that was exhausting her and leaving her stressed and overloaded. And also leaving the stress and the overload, unaddressed and burning her out. She was looking for a way to just be strong and just to continue to power through it. She was feeling unappreciated. , she was missing out on rewards and fun and comfort. But inside a deprivation mindset inside the way she was thinking, there wasn't any room to squeeze those in. And also another sneaky part of deprivation thinking, she didn't feel like she deserved the comfort and the rewards and the kindness to herself. Until she got her weight and her eating under control. 

Does this sound familiar? So for Maryanne and for a lot of smart, busy women, I see getting off the hamster wheel, it meant getting out of this deprivation approach. Because the deprivation thinking was just going to have her running faster on that wheel.

She did not need more enduring change. She needed to shift from an approach where she was constantly needing more and more willpower and inner strength to one that would create freedom for her. So in her way of thinking, when we started to work together, her focus was on fixing this number on the scale. She was very focused on that and then depriving herself and being strong enough to do that.

But what we did together was very different. We worked on understanding why the constant eating in the car. Why the filling herself up with food that she didn't really want had become so valuable. And we started to look for ways that she could take care of the things that were leading to those cravings and leading to those urges to overeat.

And we started to do this in ways that might seem very small, realistic ways that didn't require a lot of time, that provided relief from the overload in teeny tiny pieces that helped her feel taken care of, and even rewarded that helped her feel acknowledged.

We started to create tiny ways, small ways that she could experience more joy and less pressure. And we took a look at and we tackled her perfectionism and her tendency to be so hard on herself. Her life was so full and so pressure full that adding a layer of deprivation mentality would never have worked. 

Maryanne absolutely needed a way of addressing her eating and creating a change in her relationship with food that added more joy and not more stress, not more lifelong deprivation and self-control, or at least a plan for that, that she wouldn't be able to maintain. Right? And I want to tell you that when I first talked to her about doing this differently, of course Maryanne thought this would be impossible.

When you are stuck in deprivation, it is almost inevitably impossible to see the possibility of another kinder approach, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You have almost certainly been taught that your job is to control overeating. That's deprivation, but you can replace that goal with a goal for freedom. Complete freedom from the struggle with overeating.

You can make the goal losing the urge to overeat. And losing the urge to overeat is so different from having to control that urge. Every single day. Freedom mentality takes the approach of fixing or of eliminating habits and cravings and urges. It takes the approach of fixing those things by the by the roots. Weeding them out. Like weeding your garden the right way, not just chopping off the weeds but, figuring out what's underneath and excavating those. Getting the roots out.

When you transform, how and why, and when you want to reach for food instead of forever struggling to control the urges and the cravings? Everything changes. Honestly, the reason behind this podcast, the reason I created Your Missing Peace, which is my coaching program that helps women all over the world, every single day. Is because I am done with smart women being fed the belief that their only hope for untangling overeating is endless self-control. It is a lie. Not overeating, doesn't have to be something you are always on guard not to do. It is absolutely possible to lose the urge to lose the desire to lose the craving to overeat. And it is absolutely possible to lose the habit of emotional eating. But you are never going to get there using a traditional deprivation tough love, be hard on yourself approach. 

This episode is on the longer side, but I want to give you four questions that you can start answering that will shift you from a deprivation approach. To a freedom mentality approach. All right.

These answers are going to be specific to you. You might not know the answers right away. I'm going to give you the questions, I'll talk about them more in depth in another podcast episode. But I want you to start playing with these because when you ask these questions, it changes everything. And then I'll tell you how it changed things for Maryanne. Okay?

So the four questions that you need to start asking yourself. Number one, so important, why do I overeat? What do I know about why I overeat? What's triggering that desire? Why does the urge feel so strong today? Such an important question. 

The second question to ask is what can I do instead of depriving myself if I don't want to overeat? If I don't want to just fall into white knuckling it, being strong and going into deprivation thinking, what can I do instead? You probably won't know the answer right away. But asking the question. Acknowledging that there's a reason that you're overeating and that there's a way to treat that instead of focusing on the overeating symptom? Is the start of making powerful and enduring, not enduring changes. Okay?

And then it's really important to start looking at what do I want my eating to look like and feel like? Deprivation mentality is all about somebody else telling you what to do. And there's a right and the wrong, and there's rebellion, and there's conforming, and there's restricting, and there's a lot of deprivation.

This is the third question. Do not jump to this question first. If you jump to what of my, how should I eat? How will I change my eating at the very beginning, then what you're really doing is sliding into a deprivation approach. You can't really start thinking about your eating until you have been honest with yourself about what you know and what you don't know about why you're overeating. About how the overeating might be helping you cope. Or what the, what the needs are or the what the triggers are that deserve to have attention paid to them. So that it will be easier to start to make changes with food.

I will warn you that you are going to want to address the what do I do with my eating, what do I want my eating to look like question first. Because deprivation mentality is so hardwired. But if you allow space for yourself to explore the why of your overeating and the what could you do instead and how could you take care of you yourself differently instead? If you give yourself time and space to do that before you jump into the food piece of things? There is so much potential for things to go differently than they have probably been going over and over and over again. 

Which brings me to the fourth question that is so critical to ask in freedom mentality. A huge key to creating freedom and stepping off that deprivation hamster wheel is asking yourself with curiosity. How do I stop repeating the past? How can I learn from all the things that haven't worked? Instead of giving into the deprivation myth that tells me, oh, it was just all my fault. I just need to be different. How can I learn? What do I need to learn? What needs to be different? So that I don't repeat the pattern so it doesn't feel like a hamster wheel anymore. So it isn't a hamster wheel anymore. 

Real freedom from overeating requires a complete paradigm shift. It is not, we don't grow freedom from overeating and deprivation thinking. And here is the biggest truth that you might not know you deserve freedom. You deserve freedom. Not the strength to keep controlling or fighting with food. You're entitled to dissolve the struggle. 

There is a winning relationship with food inside you. Inside of you. And with the right guidance and with the right mindset and with the right tools, not the deprivation tools, you are totally qualified to create it.

So I told you about Maryanne earlier. And I want to tell you about how these questions, working with these questions changed her life. In her own words, and I mean, changed her life. I, I'm not talking about just a number on the scale. I want to share a quote from her. And I want you to listen for the freedom here. And listen for how much bigger her results are than that number on the scale. Which by the way, along the way, she also achieved. But what she got was so much more. 

Here's what Maryanne says. She says, "I gained my spirit back. I learned how to stay with myself when I feel uncomfortable. I learned how to be compassionate and kind to myself. I didn't expect that I would learn these things. I thought I would learn a system or a process to manage my time, develop willpower, and to be able to turn off my emotional eating switch. I used to look at certain people I knew and admire that they could be so grounded. At peace with themselves and at ease in the world. I am becoming more like them." 

This my friends, is how you build the kind of change that endures. Freedom from overeating and freedom mentality, these are the ultimate goals.

Freedom mentality isn't optional because without it, you will always be struggling. You will al always be either on track or falling off the track. And just my opinion, you deserve freedom. 

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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