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Learn to Accept Uncertainty and Decrease Mindless Eating

Wanting to know the future, be safe, feel secure, and foresee all outcomes is a universal desire, but makes no sense when the task is impossible. Moreover, trying to do what is not possible is frustrating and a major cause of mindless eating.

How often do you obsess about a decision, becoming preoccupied by it to the exclusion of thinking about anything else? How often do you push to control an outcome that is not in your control so that you’ll have the illusion of feeling safe or secure? How often do you tell yourself that you will not be okay unless this or that happens? If you think this way often enough, you might have convinced yourself that it is possible to know the future and remain safe and secure—and certain—throughout life. And, therefore, when this doesn’t happen, you may make a beeline to the cookie jar because you don’t believe you should have to tolerate uncertainty or that you even can.

It’s time to face up to the fact that much of life is out of our control. No matter how we plan, outcomes will go awry and bad things will happen. Whether you worry or pray, or are a control freak, life will not always go down as you wish. Why do you think it’s been so difficult for you to accept this principle? Perhaps your childhood was highly chaotic and you clung to the idea of certainty and control to avoid becoming debilitated by feeling overwhelmed and despairing. Perhaps you weren’t allowed to experience uncertainty because your parents did too much to make things come out your way. Or, maybe your parents and caretakers didn’t handle uncertainty well, and you never learned that this is a must have skill that comes with maturity and practice.

Review your beliefs about uncertainty and make sure they are all rational: No one can know how the future will turn out, you will manage whatever happens, there is happiness and sorrow in everyone’s life, uncertainty is part of living, and there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling uncertain. Moreover, when you do feel uncertain, see if you can just experience this emotion without adding anxiety to it. Somehow you might have paired anxiety with uncertainty, as if you must feel the former whenever you feel the latter. This isn’t true. You can feel neutral about uncertainty and simply embrace it.

If you have the urge to eat when you’re not hungry, get in the habit of asking yourself what you’re feeling and check to see if it’s uncertainty. Practice being just fine with not knowing and soon you will be. For more information about uncertainty and other triggers to emotional eating, read my Food and Feelings Workbook.