How Your Interpretation of Life Can Cause You to Overeat

OvereatIf you’re anything like most of the women I talk to, you overeat.

For some of us it’s an occasional event.

For others, it’s a regular thing.

And for still others, not only is it a regular happening in your life, but it’s frequent, it feels very ‘out of control’ and it might be considered binge eating.

In any case, when you eat without hunger, you’re giving your body more food than it needs.

And that extra food will be stored as fat.

So, why do we do it?

Here’s what I hear:

  • I was tired!
  • I needed a treat after working so hard.
  • I’m upset about _____ and food comforts me.
  • My boss was in a foul mood today.
  • My kids are driving me crazy!
  • ______ is a rough time of day for me.

You know the list can go on and on. And I’m sure you can add your own personal favorite top ten reasons for overeating to this list.

Here’s some truth:

NONE of those ‘reasons’ caused you to overeat.

None of them.

It’s your thoughts about those events that drive your overeating. It’s how you interpret those events.

I can hear you now, loud and clear, protesting:

  • “No really!! If I wasn’t working so hard, I wouldn’t need the extra dessert!”
  • “If my boss was in a better mood I’d never come home and pull up a chair to my fridge.”
  • “If my kids got good grades, I wouldn’t zone out with potato chips.”

Nice try.

But you are all busted.

None of what you’re saying is true.

  • Your work doesn’t make you overeat. Your thoughts about your work do. If you think ‘I shouldn’t have to work so hard!’ and you feel burdened and overwhelmed, you might overeat to numb the pain and get some (very) short term relief.
  • Your boss’ mood doesn’t make you overeat. But your thoughts about your boss do. If you think ‘He should be nicer to me, this isn’t fair!’, then you might feel stressed and hopeless or even angry, and you might eat to dull those feelings.
  • Your kids’ grades don’t make you overeat either. But if you think ‘I’m a bad mother; I should have helped my kids with their schoolwork more’, then your feelings of guilt and shame might lead you to some fast, false relief. Like ice cream and cookies.

All events are neutral.

It’s what you make the event mean, or how you interpret it that makes you feel an uncomfortable feeling. This uncomfortable feeling might lead you to an unplanned food festival.

You can change this.

So, what can you do to stop letting life events and circumstances rule your eating?

  1. First, recognize that your brain is doing this. All the time. It’s taking bits of information from the world around you and interpreting it for you. Generally, this is a pretty efficient thing your brain does. The problem is you may have trained your brain to interpret life in a negative way. Which causes you to feel bad. And then take actions that aren’t really in your best interest. Like overeating.
  2. Second, question all assumptions that seem to be leading to an uncomfortable feeling. Is it really true that my boss should be in a great mood? Why? Why do I need that to happen in order to feel good? Can I feel good without my boss changing? Can I feel good even if my kids get poor grades? (Hint: yes!!)
  3. And last, set an intention to use food mostly for hunger, and for some pleasure too. But not to feel better from a story you are telling yourself.

Are you hungry?

If yes, then eat.

If not, then look at the thoughts that are urging you to eat.

And remind yourself that these are just stories in your mind about neutral circumstances.

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