It’s essential to understand exactly which of your eating behaviors is off the mark. Okay, I hear some of you saying, All of them. Yet many of you do fine in one kind of eating situation and are plagued by dysfunction in others. Because you can’t fix a problem until you identify it, it’s time to target which specific eating behaviors get you into trouble.
You may engage in binge-eating or consuming large quantities of food regardless of hunger and satisfaction, whether you start out hungry or not. In either case, you eat with little consciousness and total abandon and keep going until the food is gone or an outside event intervenes. A binge usually generates shame and remorse—and often a stomach ache. During binges you consume thousands of calories.
Then there’s garden variety overeating in which you ignore satiation signals and regularly chow down way past full. Maybe the food tastes fabulous or you’re unaware that you’re fuller than you thought. Driven by fears of deprivation or scarcity, you’ve trained yourself to finish everything on your plate and consume enough excess food whenever you eat to keep you overweight or prevent you from losing steadily.
Another kind of dysfunctional eating is more in the realm of nutrition, but has its roots in irrational, unhealthy beliefs: consistently choosing non-nutritious foods. Often you also overeat them because you shut out the fact that your behavior has consequences. Rather than consider satisfaction and nutrition, you go only for what you believe you “shouldn’t” eat and most of your food decisions are based on pretzel logic and cloudy judgment. Or you may regularly choose healthy foods and go overboard with them, rationalizing that since you’re eating nutritiously, more must be better.
Maybe you don’t overeat when you’re hungry because you don’t let yourself get hungry. Instead, you pick and nosh all day and wouldn’t know a hunger pang if it whacked you upside the head. Grazing all day (and night), you eat too much to maintain a healthy body weight because you’re not using hunger, satisfaction or fullness signals to guide food intake. Eating is a completely mindless affair from start to finish.
Take a minute to reflect on which eating problems you have and come up with three strategies to change each one. Target the specific behaviors that plague you and you have a good shot at overcoming them. Most are nothing more than familiar, ingrained bad habits that are changeable with time, attention, patience, and lots of practice.