How to End Overeating Habits with Small Steps | TMOHP Episode 069

It won’t surprise you to learn that, as a psychologist, I’m very aware of how we underestimate the importance of using psychology to change overeating habits. Our thoughts and beliefs can empower us - or they can help us stay stuck in vicious cycles with emotional eating and overeating. As human beings we make thought errors all the time (it’s just human nature), and when these thought errors go unexamined, it’s easy to miss our greatest sources of power. In fact, when our thoughts and beliefs are ignored, we can spend years, even a lifetime, trying to change overeating and emotional eating by focusing on the least effective or wrong things.

Where is your greatest source of power?

How can you make ending overeating habits easier?

What are some of the most powerful (and empowering) small steps you can take in any moment when you have the urge to overeat?

THIS is what I'm covering in today’s episode.

In this episode:

  • The psychology of overeating and the psychology of change why both are so important to understand
  • The one thing you can control to change your overeating (and how your brain focuses everywhere else)
  • Choices that empower you when you have the urge to overeat

Featured on the show:

  • Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz
  • 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

Hello and welcome back, or welcome if this is your first episode of the podcast and take a deep breath. Take a deep breath because I think this episode, I hope this episode, is going to feel like a very welcome exhale. It is so easy to get all tensed up and all tangled up, and all apprehensive and even dreadful- meaning full of dread- when you are thinking about trying to make changes to your eating or when you are telling yourself that you want to stop overeating.

So today I want to talk to you about small choices. Doable choices. Little things that really, really, really, really help with overeating. Do you know what's missing from most approaches to ending overeating or addressing emotional eating? It's the importance of psychology. It probably won't come as any surprise to you those of you who know that I am a clinical psychologist and I have spent my life using the power of psychology to help people make changes. It probably won't come as a surprise to you that I'm pretty passionate about this. 

But the importance of psychology so often gets missed. It starts with taking the stance, the understanding that there is always a reason for overeating behaviors. There's always a reason for emotional eating behaviors. And if we don't address these, everything else becomes a vicious cycle of trying to control a behavior when we aren't taking stock of, or responding to, or addressing the reason that the behavior, the overeating is happening. Right? Getting real about the reason that you overeat is so important. And it is only one place where psychology is such an important piece of our ability to make changes or the reason that you might feel stuck.

So the importance of psychology; your mental state, your thoughts, the strategies that you use or that you don't use to succeed, or the strategies that you use or don't use to get in your own way. These things don't get talked about or paid attention to nearly enough. Quite often the psychology that keeps us stuck boils down to the things we tell ourselves. The things we tell ourselves, the thoughts that we have, that we believe. And then the energy that these stories and these thoughts and these beliefs create.

Your stories and your thoughts lead to feelings. And those stories and thoughts, and then those feelings lead to the actions that you take or the actions that you avoid or decide not to take at all. As high achievers, it is so easy to concoct and to believe stories that your next big move when it comes to changing your eating has to be big. It should be big or complicated. If it's going to make a difference, it needs to be dramatic. 

Most of us are really good at telling stories like this. Not only are we really good at telling ourselves these stories, believing that we need to do something really big that requires a lot of determination and a lot of willpower if we really want to be effective. But we're also really good at reacting to the latest misstep that you might have made with more drama than you really need to. So you eat something that you had told your yourself that you weren't going to eat, or you didn't do your meal planning the, that you had told yourself that you were going to do, and then you have these big, dramatic thoughts. "I screwed up. I've blown it, it's ruined. Now I need to start over." And all that drama around ruining it, and I'm using air quotes here because nothing's ruined. You just made a misstep. 

But all that drama about ruining it? Then leads to this series of choices that are worse than the one that you were originally upset about. Because starting over that has to be a big dramatic deal, too. Our brain loves drama. Our brain loves the idea of big action. Our brain loves all or nothing thinking. Because that's how human beings tend to think. So we have to start over because it's all ruined. And then of course, that starting over can only occur on Mondays or the first of the month, or when all the stars are aligned or the moon is full, or it's January.

It is exhausting. The stories that your brain is telling you the story that all our brains tend to tell us about what it takes to change, and specifically what it takes, what is required to change your overeating or to stop emotional eating is exhausting. Human brains tend to develop these beliefs that there is this long thread of things that needs to happen in a perfect order, in order for you to be successful. And not only is it exhausting, it is a lie. 

Here is the truth. The truth is that your power with food, your power over overeating is only in this moment. It's not in the past, which has already happened, and you can't do anything about the past, and it's not in the future, which you also can't do anything about until you get there.

We are so bad at paying attention to the power that we have in the present. We dismiss it, we minimize it, we plan. Right? We get out our planners and we get out our pads of paper, or we get on our computer and we create these elaborate plans for the future. And we tell ourselves that any choice that we make right now is too small or it's insignificant or it won't matter. What we need is something bigger. Right? We need a, we need a plan that's going to take us out into the days and weeks ahead. 

The truth is all this planning and all this big thinking is not only probably overwhelming, it is distracting you from the place your real power lies. This seems so simple, but it is so important. Your power, your capacity to change your relationship with food does not happen in the past. It's not about what happened last week or even this morning. Your power to create freedom from overeating doesn't happen in the future. No matter what you wrote on the, in your journal or on that pad of paper about what you were going to do over the next 30 days or in the next year. Your power to have the relationship with food that you want to have that power lives in this moment, this moment.

And here's the thing, peace with food and freedom from overeating happen in small subtle ways. Peace with food and freedom from overeating are created from a series of choices. Many of those choices are so surprisingly small and easy. And peace with food and freedom from overeating happen in the present moment. You can always choose because you are in the present moment. And wait because there's more. 

Change happens in the present moment. Your power happens in the present moment. You build your relationship with food based on your choices in the present moment. And I am willing to bet you that so much of the time, maybe all of the time, your brain has been trained to only think of this very small series of choices that are possible to make, and I'm willing to bet, if you haven't spent time thinking about the psychology of change and the reason that you're overeating, that your brain, even when it's focused on where, where is my power in the present moment, is missing this huge array of choices. The choices that are really the powerful choices. The choices that are really the empowering choices. The choices that really get to the foundation of what you need and really get to the foundation of what it takes to create lasting change in your relationship with food.

What if in the present moment your choices don't boil down to eating or resisting the urge to eat. Right? It's the present moment, so I just don't have to eat right now. What if in the present moment your choices are not restricted to, "do I choose the salad or do I eat the carrot cake?" Right? What if your choices in this present moment, are not focused on fixing your relationship with food or growing your relationship with food by focusing on food.

Our thought patterns are so adorable, and we all have them. We all make these thought errors and we make them over and over and over. So you may know that focusing on the food isn't the place to start, that if you really want to heal your eating, your overeating, your emotional eating, then it's so important to get clear on what your hidden hungers are, and to take care, learn how to take care of your hidden hungers, or have compassion for your hidden hungers. Right? It is so important to address the reason that you're overeating. Because when you address the reason that you're overeating, you can, you're kind of solving the, well, not kind of, you really, you actually are solving the bigger problem. When you solve for the reason that you're overeating so much of the urge to overeat, so much of the power that food has in your life just goes away. Right?

When you focus on food, you just, you just set yourself up for a battle around controlling food and making more decisions about food without addressing the reasons that food has the power that it does. 

But even when we know this, our wiring is so strong, we have reinforced this focus on food, so often in our lives that even when we know these things, when we talk about being in the present moment and making decisions in the present moment, it is pretty natural and intuitive for most human beings, especially most women living on this planet, to think about, okay, what are the choices I can make in the present moment that have to do with what I eat?

So today I want to talk with you about the really powerful small choices that you can make in the present moment that help with overeating. So if your brain gets stuck in drama, if your brain is so good at creating elaborate plans for making changes that you know before you even start are not designed to last. If they overwhelm you or fill you with dread. Or if you are minimizing your ability to make changes in the present. Or if you can't figure out how to shift your focus away from the perfect way of eating, perfect is always in air quotes, then I think this list will be useful to you. And as I said in the beginning of the episode, I think that as you listen to this list, as you take it in and let it marinate in your brain, it just may feel like a really deep, relaxing, cleansing breath. 

This is a list that came from members of My Missing Peace program. We were working on putting together a list of choices that you can make in the moment when you have the urge to overeat. 

Okay, so this was a, a collective, list building exercise that came together as people were talking about. "What can I do? How can I be effective in the moment, in this moment, in any moment when I have an urge to overeat?"

Here's what we came up with. In every moment, when you have an urge to reach for food, to overeat, and you don't want to, you can choose to taste. Taste the food. Slow down. You can choose to savor and relish. You can choose to postpone. Wait two minutes and be curious about what happens. You can choose to make a trade off instead of reacting to this craving, I'm going to do this, or instead of eating this, I'm going to eat this.

You get to choose in this moment. The moment is the time that you own. In this moment, when you have the urge to overeat, you can choose to enjoy. You can choose to enjoy it, or something else. You can choose to enjoy without the guilt and the self blame, and then move on to the next moment. 

In this moment when you have the urge to overeat, you could choose to dance, instead. You could choose to give yourself permission instead of guilting yourself. In this moment, this is where your power is. In the moment when you have the urge to overeat, you could choose to take a nap. You can choose to go for a walk. You can choose to call a friend. You get to be the boss. In this moment when you have an urge to overeat, you can choose to stop or continue. You get to decide. You can choose to pause, maybe to pause and ask yourself what you know about what it is that you really need or what you're really feeling in this moment. 

In this moment, when you have an urge to overeat, you can choose to be mindful. You can choose to pace yourself. In the moment when you have an urge to overeat, you can choose to slow down.

In that moment, you can choose to investigate your hungers, your physical hunger, your hidden hungers. You can choose to go take the hidden hungers quiz if you want to. You can choose to be curious. You can choose to put on music in that moment. In the moment when you have the desire to overeat or the urge to overeat because sometimes they're different. .You can choose to take deep breaths. In any moment when you have an urge to overeat, you can make the decision to eat and to eat with reverence. 

Here's one that we always forget about. In the moment when you have an urge to overeat, you can choose to do nothing. Nothing. You can choose to say an affirmation. Repeat a thought that's helpful to focus on. You can choose to investigate other options. You can choose to ask yourself, what are some other things I could do right now? You could choose to try to distract yourself. To substitute one thing for another. 

In the moment when you have the urge to overeat, you could choose to feed your other senses. In that moment when you have an urge to overeat you can choose to put your fork down maybe for just a moment, maybe for two minutes, maybe for the rest of the evening. You get to decide.

In that moment, you can choose to put this moment in perspective. It's just a moment. It's just one choice. In the moment when you have an urge to overeat, you can decide to choose a new story. You can choose it right then and there. You can say out loud, I'm choosing a new story. I'm choosing that it's possible I end this next moment differently. You can write a new story. In the moment when you have the desire to overeat you can choose to act or to think outside the box. Outside your box. What if I did something crazily different than what I usually do? What if I don't dance the same dance? I always dance. You can choose in that moment.

In that moment, when you have the urge to overeat, you can decide and then you can step out of scarcity thinking, deprivation thinking, thinking about misery and endless struggles and endless battles. You can decide to let this moment be easier. Oh, and in the moment when you have the desire to overeat, or the craving to eat or to overeat, you can decide in this moment to investigate this longing, this desire to just investigate it.

There are so many moments. There is a moment right in front of you. And your ability to create peace with food and freedom from overeating the journey that you are, are on, it is just a series of moments. It is just a series of choices. None of which need to be perfect. Each moment is fresh and new. And right in front of you and full of possibility and choice. And you can always take a new step. You can always choose. You can always decide, and there will always be a next moment. 

Don't ever let anyone tell you that small choices don't help with overeating. Small choices will transform your overeating. And when you're overeating and when your brain tells you that they won't, don't listen to it.

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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