Q&A Does the Desire to Overeat Ever Go Away? | TMOHP Episode 114

In the latest Q&A episode, Christina asks, “Why does the desire to overeat never go away in the brain? Even if you curb it, control it, suffer it, in my experience it never truly goes away.” 

Christina’s definitely not alone in feeling like overeating is always going to be an urge or a desire that she needs to fight or “be strong” to defeat. In this episode I’ll tell you why the desire to overeat can feel so persistent (and even permanent) and what it takes to move out of the patterns that keep you stuck with overeating, with cravings, and with urges to repeat the habit.

Does the desire to overeat ever go away? It absolutely can - and in this episode I’m sharing the steps that help this to happen.

In this episode:

  • How conditioning and socialization can keep you stuck in patterns of overeating
  • The first step to losing your overeating habits and cravings
  • What to do about automatic habits and thoughts

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Free Masterclass  Learn how to stop overeating and emotional eating - without the frustration, vicious cycles, or going hungry. You’ll also get an inside look at Your Missing Peace, my coaching program for creating freedom from overeating.
  • Join my Free Facebook Community and tell me what question or topic you’d like addressed on the podcast.
  • 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

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. It's another Q and A episode. Today I'm going to be answering a question from Christina. If you have a question or a topic that you would like me to address on the podcast, then come on over to my free Facebook community and post your question. You can do it anonymously, or you can do it as a member of the private community. To do that you need to go to Facebook and search for Freedom From Emotional Eating and Overeating. The group will pop up. You can request to join us. It's a private group, so you have to request to join. And then you are free to post your question. It's always fun to address topics and specific questions from members of the community.

So today's question is from Christina, and she says, why does the desire to overeat never go away in the brain? Even if you curb it, control it, suffer it... In my experience, it never truly goes away. This is such a great question and one that I am more than happy to answer as many times as it gets asked.

And we're going to tackle it today from two different directions. Number one. It can go away. And two your thoughts and your habits, even deeply ingrained habitual thoughts and habits are not reality and you can take your power back from them. Okay?

So before we get started, Christina, I want to be so clear that everything in your question that you, you know, everything that you asked is so completely understandable. And on one level, I know where you're coming from and what you're saying, and it feels very reasonable. And I also want you to know that you are so not alone in having this question. Which is exactly why I'm answering it in a podcast episode. Because this is going to be helpful to a lot of people.

Fighting that urge to overeat. Right? Deciding you're not going to eat, or you're not going to binge, and you're not going to finish everything just because it's there. It is so easy to get into a place where this feels like a lifetime battle. Right? A battle a struggle for control where you're always going to have to be strong. You know, you're always going to have to be fighting this thing, it's always going to be an issue for me. I'm always going to have to be vigilant. Right? I have been there. And I know how exhausting and how defeating and how confidence eroding this feels. It's an awful feeling. 

One thing that I sometimes say, or a way that I sometimes characterize my own past struggles with food, is that it sometimes feels so surreal to talk about them. I almost feel like it sounds like it's not me, or I'm making them up. In fact, in this one weird instance somebody actually emailed me and accused me of this, which was, Very strange. She said something like, you know, Melissa, you don't have to make up a past history with overeating to seem relatable. And I didn't quite know what to do with that.

The truth is I do have a history of awful overeating and binge eating. And it has been literally decades, multiple decades, lots of decades, over 30 years since I experienced this. And it has also been multiple decades since I worried about it. Since it was an issue for me, since I actually thought about it. It's a non-issue now because truly the desire to overeat, the desire to binge is gone. It does not come up anymore. It's not something that I need to control. And that's the beauty. 

There's a beauty in this. And the first part of Christina's question that I want to address is this, when you address overeating from the roots. When you tackle the reasons that you're turning to food. When you begin to understand and address what you're really needing or feeling or wanting, that isn't food at all, you begin to take care of the cravings. Right? They begin to be taken care of. Or you begin to address these things, whatever the needs are, the feelings or the wants, even if you can't fix them, you begin to address them in deeper ways. 

Because I think it's important to be so clear, for a couple of reasons. I think it's important to be clear because our brains forget this. Eating to numb or to soothe or to push down feelings or to distract yourself from a situation doesn't fix anything.

Even though our brains are saying, I need to eat. Or I'll feel better if I do this. Or food makes me feel good. Or food is my freedom... eating to do these things doesn't fix the situation. And when you have ways of addressing or paying attention to or attending to the reason that you want the food in the first place, the reason that you want to overeat, the reason that you want to finish the bag of chips or that you want to binge, then because you can address the reason, you can lose your urge to overeat. 

And when you lose your urge to overeat, when the cravings go away, when you don't want to binge anymore, then there isn't a need for control, or curbing it, or suffering through it. The entire equation changes when you change your approach.

And Christina, I imagine from where you're sitting, that sounds really far off and it's true. Doing these things, doing it differently, is a process. It usually doesn't happen instantly. Every once in a while, miraculous things happen, but usually it is more of a process. This is one of the reasons that my program, the one that I run for creating freedom from overeating habits, is six months long.

Because you need practice. You need space. You need to take the tools and the, the new ways of thinking and the coaching. And you need to find the path that fits you and that fits your life. And you also need to stumble a few times and figure out that it is okay too. That you can have a relationship with food that works for you and you don't have to get it perfect. 

And getting it imperfect doesn't have to lead you right all the way back to start. I've ruined it. It's, it's ruined. I have to start over that kind of thing. That's another piece that we address inside Your Missing Peace. 

But here's the thing, and it's a key part of your question, Christina, so let me read the question again. The question is, why does the desire never go away in the brain? Why does the desire to overeat never go away in the brain? Even if you curb it, control it, suffer it, in my experience, it never truly goes away. 

Okay, most of us as women have spent most of our lifetimes being exposed to and socialized in diet culture, diet mentality, and deprivation thinking. And this whole bunch of stuff includes the belief that it is our fault if we're overeating. The reason we're overeating is because we're not trying hard enough, or we're lazy, or we don't have enough willpower. 

And the answer... To our overeating is again, it's rooted in blaming yourself. It's all your fault and you need to keep trying and you need to work harder. You need to get in there one more time. You need to control more. You need to deprive yourself more. You need to just to use Christina's words, curb it, control it and suffer through the urges.

We have had so much training in this that it is so easy to just hear that as common sense. You know what? An approach that tells you that here's this plan that works and it's your fault if it doesn't work and you just need to keep trying over and over again and blaming yourself when it doesn't work, has made a certain industry billions and billions of dollars.

This approach, the one that I just described, it's a deprivation approach. Curb it. Control it. Suffer it. You just figure out a way to be stronger. A deprivation approach to overeating never works. Never works. It never is going to create freedom from overeating for you. It just sets you up on an endless battle. A battle with your hunger, with food, with eating, where the only way to stay on top of the battle or to win the battle or to achieve any kind of control is to stay in control, is to be strong, is to be working on it all the time. It's constant vigilance. 

If I had gotten to a place where I wasn't overeating and I wasn't binging, based on perfect control, I will tell you that my struggle with food would be top of mind because I would still be having it. I would just be, you know, currently winning the struggle or on top of the battle. That's a deprivation approach. 

The very first step to losing the desire to eat, to binge, to overeat is to learn how to step outside the framework of deprivation thinking. And to step outside the approaches that are based on deprivation thinking, that are based on, giving yourself less and willpower and self-control.

That is the first step. Again, you start by addressing the reasons, Christina, that a smart woman like you has developed this pattern. Because there are reasons. Why have you developed this pattern in the first place?

You start by asking that question in a nonjudgmental way, instead of setting out on Monday morning, determined that this time you're going to be strong, this time you're going to stop overeating one more time. Right? This time you are absolutely, certainly not going to let yourself think about overeating. 

That doesn't work. You start by addressing the reasons that a smart person like you has found yourself in this pattern with food. You, you, you get curious about it. I have covered multiple ways to start exploring this and to take action in previous podcast episodes. This is the approach that we train you very deeply in inside Your Missing Peace. 

And I also have a free on demand masterclass that you can watch on demand that will get that masterclass will give you training and actual action steps that you can take to get started. But this is the place to start. So check out Your Missing Peace or watch the free masterclass. I will put the link to both of those things in the show notes. 

The second piece that I want to address in losing the desire to overeat has to do with ingrained habits and thoughts. Habits are a real thing. They're, they're real, they're very real. We all have habits and eating and overeating can become very automatic habits that we even do on autopilot. And the habits that we have are tied to our ways of thinking. Right? Our thoughts are things that we tell ourselves. Our thoughts are things that we believe. And we can have thoughts and beliefs and habits that all function on autopilot. All right. 

And I want to track back for a minute. This is really important. You cannot change the habit. Or control in air quotes I'm putting air quotes around the word control your thoughts. You can't change the habit or the thoughts inside a deprivation approach. At least you can't change them in a way that is going to lead you to freedom. You have to do the first part of this process that I spent the first part of this episode talking about. You have to do the first part to get the results that we're talking about. 

You will never lose the urge to overeat if you don't do the first part, if you don't address the reasons that you want to overeat in the first place. So the automatic habits and thoughts that go together. Right? So maybe it's, I feel stressed, I need to eat. It's been a hard day, I need a brownie, right? I, I haven't had anything for me all day. It's time for my ice cream and my Netflix.

The automatic habits and the thoughts and the beliefs that fuel those habits they're real. And they can be challenging. These two are things that we tackle inside the Missing Peace program, of course.

And again, I'm covering them today in the podcast episode, but I go deeper into this and there's some great information about this inside my free masterclass. So really take the time to check that out. You can go to TooMuchOnHerPlate. com/masterclass, all one word, and then you can watch it there on demand and for free.

And here's what we can talk about today. The first step that you want to play with, with, I'm going to say, I'm going to just talk about automatic habits, because here's what happens. We have these things that we do automatically. The reason we do them automatically is we have things that we think automatically that lead us to do the things automatically. Right? 

So I think, I feel stressed, chocolate makes me feel better. That's how we end up automatically staring into the pantry or standing at the vending machine. Both the thing that you're thinking and the thing that you are doing are what I'm going to call automatic habits.

So the first step that you want to play with, after you start being curious about why these automatic habits are cropping up, why... Why do I want to overeat right now? Why do I want to go eat all the chips? Why am I feeling that urge to binge? The first thing you want to do is play with slowing things down. 

Slowing things down is the way that you're going to allow yourself to see these automatic habits happening. 

Here's what that might look like. You can think about when are the time, you know, ask yourself the question, when are the times that you find yourself eating in a way that feels out of control? Is it after work? Maybe it's when you're cleaning up the kitchen at night. Maybe it's after everything's shut down and people have gone to bed. Maybe it's after your Wednesday staff meeting.

Find a time when this behavior with food that you don't like tends to crop up. And then create a plan for the next time it happens. Not a forever plan. But a plan for the next time it happens. And this is where we divide off from deprivation thinking. Okay. You don't want a plan that relies on self-control or on willpower. What you're wanting to create is a plan that will slow you down. Take you off autopilot. 

So maybe you're going to insert a pause somewhere. You're going to take a breath. You're going to take a little break, create a plan that gives you time, slows you down and reminds you to be curious.

And what do I mean about curious? Well, maybe you're going to pause. And in that situation, before you go to the vending machine and you're going to ask yourself, am I really hungry? Is that what I really want? Or maybe you're going to ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? 

And then you want to create a plan that gives you an alternate plan. And by the way, an alternate plan is not, I will not go to the vending machine. Because I will not eat. That's just a deprivation plan. So come up with something, and again, remember, this is not a lifetime plan. You're going to try this once. What can I try instead?

Ask yourself how you could shake things up. What could you do? Maybe you're going to take a break. Maybe you're going to walk around outside the office. Maybe you are not going to go directly home. Maybe instead of going into the kitchen, you are going to go upstairs and change your clothes and wash your face. Right? Just come up with a different plan. What can you try instead? 

As I'm talking, I'm realizing that there's a third thing that I just realized that I want to make sure to mention. Our thoughts take time to extinguish.

And so thinking, I need chocolate, is likely to happen even after you know you don't really need the chocolate. So, slowing yourself down is one way of catching thoughts that aren't really helpful or useful or even true. And being able to make a different choice.

Let me tell you a quick story that might be helpful here. I had a client who had this old automatic thought every time she passed a Krispy Kreme donut shop that she had to get a dozen donuts. She had an old ritual that she had done when she saw a Krispy Kreme donut store, because there weren't anywhere she lived. So she would get a dozen donuts and she would eat these donuts and it was her secret treat.

So she had this automatic thought whenever she saw a Krispy Kreme donut shop that she needed to go get the dozen donuts. This kept happening even after she had gotten curious, and she had done some experimenting. And she had finally paid attention while binging on these donuts one time, and she had realized, much to her surprise, and she was actually kind of disappointed, that she didn't even really like the taste of the donuts.

She'd had this donut habit for years, but she always ate them so fast and with so much guilt that she'd never really tasted them. And when she slowed down and when she took herself off of autopilot and she really paid attention, she realized that they didn't actually taste the way she'd been telling herself that they tasted. Talk about automatic thoughts and automatic habits. Right? 

But it still took a while for that thought. I need to get some donuts to disappear. She would still have the thought, even though the next thought she had was, I don't even like them. I don't even want a donut right now. 

So you can have automatic thoughts that you don't have to pay attention to that you don't even want to pay attention to. This is important. We are not our thoughts. And when you have worked through the first two pieces that I cover in this episode, it is so much easier to see a thought like my client did and realize that you don't have to follow up on it. 

It's just a thought. It's just your brain spitting out something that it is accustomed to, you know, presenting you with. It's just an old thought. And eventually it becomes a thought that doesn't even have any power. 

And eventually, when you are practicing new thoughts, like I don't even like them. And when you are not reinforcing the thought by buying the donuts every time. Eventually the thought goes away. 

So, Christina, I hope this is helpful. I hope this answers your questions. The desire to overeat can go away. The desire to binge can vanish. The cravings can disappear.

And in order to make that happen, you do need to take a very, very different approach than you have probably been taught. That's probably been reinforced and that has probably been your go to option.

So hope that's helpful. If you want to go deeper in this, be sure to check out the on demand masterclass at TooMuchOnHerPlate.com/masterclass, all one word. 

And 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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