My sixth book, Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems, was just published by New World Library, and I’m excited to tell you about it. It’s like no other book because it’s less about food than, well, the rest of your life. In fact, it’s based on this basic question: What if your eating problems aren’t really about food?
If so, then all the diets and fasts, carb and calorie-counting, deprivation and nutrition information in the world isn’t going to help you. My premise, based on 30-plus years of experience treating troubled eaters—and having overcome overeating half a lifetime ago myself—is that effective life skills lead to a more manageable life, and a more enjoyable, stress-free life makes it easier to eat “normally.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Life skills are strategies and behaviors which we all needed to learn in childhood, but didn’t because our parents were teaching us from their own often dysfunctional histories, distorted perspectives, limited knowledge base, and imperfect abilities. Specifically, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines them as "Abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.”
The life skills you need to improve your relationship with food are learnable at any age and include ones for: 1) wellness and physical self-care, 2) handling emotions, 3) living consciously, 4) building and maintaining relationships, 5) self-regulating, 6) problem-solving and critical thinking, 7) setting and reaching goals, and 8) balancing work and play. Think of how much better you’ll do around food when your physical self-care is top notch and taking care of your body is a pleasurable priority. Obviously, if you handle emotions better, you won’t turn to food for fun or for comfort, but will get what you desire in more appropriate ways. If you’re living consciously, you’ll be connected to what you’re feeling and thinking most of the time and will make mindful, informed choices. Rather than ruminate about the past or worry about the future, your focus will be on getting the most out of life in the present.
By building and maintaining healthy relationships, you’ll enjoy deep friendships, love and intimacy and will have other people to turn to when you need to be taken care of. After all, people—the right people—always work better than food does to lessen distress and improve mood. When you learn to self-regulate, you’ll be more in balance and won’t ping pong from overdoing to underdoing, from feeling too much to being emotionally numb, and won’t bounce back and forth between structure and freedom. By learning how to set and reach goals and problem solve successfully with your head as well as your heart, you’ll learn how to take better care of yourself. A crucial part of this process is developing critical thinking skills which include cultivating skepticism and looking for evidence to supports your decisions. Lastly, imagine how much better life will be when you’re in balance with work and play. No more running to food for reward when you’re resentful that you have work to do or using it for a break or when you feel guilty that you “should” be more productive.
Whether you feel stuck with troubled eating or want to step up to the next level of “normal” eating behaviors, Outsmarting Overeating offers a new approach to taking care of yourself. When your skills improve, life grows exponentially better. And when you manage life more effectively, food takes its natural place as one of life’s rightful pleasures.