4 Steps For Overcoming Food Obsession: The Binge Eating Diaries

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What Is Food Obsession?

Binge eating, food addiction, and food obsession (in my opinion) are tightly intertwined. They overlap, but they are separate things.

Binge eating is mental, the act of eating beyond physical comfort, feeling out of control, trying to satisfy a hunger that can’t be satiated with food.

Food addiction might be a physical need for some, and it may be related to binge eating in that we often binge eat highly-processed foods that can change our brains and lead us to cravings. (The good news is that our brains can be changed back.) But food addiction can also be mental — a “process” addiction stemming from the way we have learned to cope with certain situations/feelings.

Food Obsession On the Other Hand…

… Can be mental or physical. It’s a fixation on food that could be related to both of the above. Or it can grow out of dieting – thinking we shouldn’t eat certain foods that we desperately want. Btw, it can also be physical – when we’re hungry, we can’t think of anything else but food!

My personal equation was (and sometimes, admittedly still is) food addiction (the process kind) + food obsession = binge eating.

Obsessing About Food and Weight Loss Results

I have sat, frozen in fear. My butt glued to my chair, but my mind already pillaging the cabinets, torn between obedience, my obsession with food, and the physical act of eating.

To this day I still struggle with food obsession. Some weeks, food is merely a part of my life as nourishment. Other weeks, it feels as if my brain is one big carbohydrate magnet.

The bitch of it all is that when we try not to think about food, the more we obsess about it. When I’m focusing on other aspects of my life (work, play, writing, fitness, an upcoming vacation, etc.), I manage to find a happy medium between eating for sustenance and eating for joy.

But as soon I think I haven’t accomplished “perfection”, I let food overtake my every thought.

I realized my obsession with weight loss and the positive reinforcements that came with it (namely comments from others about how “good” I looked) was tightly intertwined with my obsession with food. Throughout my journey, the more I told myself “no” when it came to certain foods, the more obsessed I became.

Sure, weight loss can help boost our confidence and add to our feelings of self-worth, but if the only goal we have for ourselves revolves around our weight, then we are missing out on the rest of our lives. Especially, if we are constantly obsessing about food.

4 Strategies For Overcoming Feelings of Food Obsession

1. Break The Trance: Shake It Out

When food obsession begins to overtake your thoughts, try changing your physical location. I know this can be a hard step. Sometimes I am so concerned with my next snack or meal that the idea of getting up and motivated renders me unable to move.

I feel as if I’m wearing lead pants, being swaddled in a weighted blanket of bricks. I relate this to the anxiety I feel when I have a “to-do list” a mile long…and no ambition to get the ball rolling. Once I start, my nervousness subsides and my calmness rolls in like a wave.

As soon as I find the strength to break my obsession trance, I immediately feel free (as long as the kitchen isn’t my destination of choice and I’m not “food walking” into bingeing territory).

Body movement of any kind helps me re-center. If you’re at work and can’t just leave the office to go for a walk, just take a trip to the bathroom, or even get up out of your seat and shake it out! Moving your body can jiggle around the pieces in your mind so that they fit differently, even for a few moments.

2. Determine If You Are Hungry Or Obsessing

The next step is gauging if you are physically hungry. Unfortunately, I usually start obsessing over food right after I’ve finished eating a meal or snack. I’m sad that my “food event” is over and I don’t want it to end. Even though I’ve just eaten a healthy portion of something, my anxiety about the act of eating coming to a close, is reminiscent of a binge.

So, most of the time I’m not actually hungry when food obsession starts having its way with me. But, that doesn’t mean that it never happens, or that you should rule out the possibility that your tummy actually is grumbling.

If you are hungry, do a little self-assessment about what your body is asking for — and feed it.

If you’re not hungry, do a little self-assessment about what your taste buds and your brain are really asking for. If it doesn’t seem like it will spiral into a binge, try testing the waters by offering yourself a taste treat. If you feel too out of control, try to keep moving your body and try to re-center your thoughts before you re-introduce food.

3. Try Talking or Writing It Out

Shaking it out not working? If you are dealing with food obsession, it can also be helpful to talk it out.

Sometimes when I can’t break through obsessing on my own, I’ll call someone who is familiar with my food-center situation and blab about what’s going on in my head. Sometimes, getting the thoughts out keeps them from recycling around in your head, which can help break the pattern of obsession.

If you aren’t comfortable verbally spewing about your all-consuming food thoughts, try writing them down. Again, break the pattern and let it out!

4. Find Other Sources of Happiness

People are obsessed about all kinds of things. Most of those things can be steered clear of, but oh no — not food. We have to eat. It’s just one of those things that we humans must do.

But food doesn’t have to be our singular source of happiness. I don’t really believe in exchanging one obsession for another – being obsessed about anything is just plain unhealthy. But, adding activities to your life (that you ENJOY!) can help you focus on more than just food, by re-directing some of your energy and thoughts to something else.

Dividing one giant obsession into a few passions will give your mind other things to focus on. There is more to life than food, but it’s our job to figure out what those things are.

What makes YOU happy? If you’re reading this blog, the first answer that probably comes to mind is “food.” So, this may sound like a loaded question. But it’s time to pull the trigger and answer the question differently. What ELSE makes you happy?

 


33 responses to “4 Steps For Overcoming Food Obsession: The Binge Eating Diaries”

  1. John M says:

    As Usual… “Excellent” !! Thx for sharing !!

  2. barb says:

    great article. Totally relate. Often I just want a “party in my mouth” (a taste) or a hug from the inside.thx

    • Jace says:

      Barb,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I love your phrases “party in my mouth” and “hug from the inside.” So well put! Thank you again!
      Jace

    • Phyllis says:

      Yes! a party in my mouth. I get so depressed and tired of the obsession. so glad to hear others understand. Thanks to you.

      • Jace says:

        Hi Phyllis,

        Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Barb’s words “a party in my mouth” sure were a great visual, weren’t they?? I very much related to it as well. Thank you again for commenting Phyllis.

        Jace

  3. Erin Risius says:

    Well ‘said’ – You captured the essence of key factors that can lead to food thoughts/obsession.

    • Jace says:

      Erin,
      Thank you for your comment and for reading this blog. What a wonderful compliment. Thank you again!
      Jace

  4. Michelle Lewis, LCSW says:

    I love this! Thank you!

    • jackimonaco says:

      Michelle,

      Thank you so much for reading and for commenting! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this entry 🙂

      Jace

  5. Harriet Krivit says:

    3rd try, Jace…what is this box that keeps appearing? Wanted to ask you. What is a binge, anyway?
    “Different strokes, for different folks”, yes? When other’s talk of their life experience re:food/weight etc. etc. Very individual. Helpful to find the words for our very own experience.

    • jackimonaco says:

      Hi Harriet,

      Thank you for reading this blog and commenting! I’m not sure which box you’re referring to in your comment, I’m sorry! But to answer your question about binging, I wanted to share part of the formal definition given by the DSM-5, Binge Eating Disorder “is defined as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control.” You’re right when you said “different strokes for different folks.” Binging can absolutely be different for everyone. It all depends on the individual and his/her relationship with food. I hope this helps answer your question! Thank you again for reading and sharing!

      Jace

      • Harriet Krivit says:

        Jace.. Very pleased to have read Jacky’s blog after mine. I’ve recognized how quietly powerful it is for me to leave/stop the ethereal pleasure of the whole experience of eating any food that I love. AND, I love ALL foods…sweets and rich foods no more than fruits/veggies/proteins etc. My goal for a long time has been to be comfortable “in my own skin” and body size/frame. I turned 80 this year Jace, and although “taking this on” since 13, with great effort have been at a “comfortable” size/weight most of my life. The challenge and hard struggle continues but is always well worth it. Have followed many of your (and other’s) suggestions but like much in life have had to discover my own unique solutions. After all I have my own life history and experience (as well as DNA and fingerprints). Some conditions in life are chronic and some go away, with effort or without. I hope to give other’s who still struggle around eating food, not to give up and have tremendous compassion and praise for yourself as I do. With a hug from Harriet.

  6. Jacky says:

    You’ve completely hit the nail on the head in regards to a “food event”. I’m not certain I’ve ever recognized that I feel “sad” or uncomfortable at the end of meal, almost in fear that I won’t get the feeling back ever again if I stop eating; this is exactly how I feel. I feel relieved to have read your post, if for no other reason than recognition of the absence of simple happiness I somehow feel at the end of mealtime, and also of course that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Thank you for helping me put a more specific name to my obsession!

    • jackimonaco says:

      Jacky,
      Thank you so much for commenting! I’m so glad that this blog resonated with you.

      You most definitely are NOT the only person who feels this way! And I hope that you feel comfortable to continue sharing your thoughts and reading my blogs and blogs from our other incredible writers 🙂

      Thank you again for commenting!
      Jace

  7. Jamie says:

    I was referred to your blog by a friend and I must say it was so well written. Almost like my thoughts were transferred to you via Bluetooth and you laid them out perfectly. I have been struggling with these issues for most of my life and this blog gave me a new perspective on things. I can’t wait to hear the next one. Thanks again,
    Jamie

    • Jace says:

      Jamie,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. (I apologize, I didn’t see your comment until right now!) Thank you so much for the incredible compliment. I’m so happy to hear that this post resonated with you.

      Jace

  8. John Gibbs says:

    I feel relieved to have read your post. I have been vying with these issues.

    • Jace says:

      John,

      I’m glad this posted helped you feel a sense of relief. You are not alone! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please come back to this blog any time you are looking for some relief or support.

      Jace

  9. Michelle says:

    Omg, this sounds like me to a t! Thank you so much for the advice. I will definitely be trying these next time I have the urge to binge eat. I did so well since Christmas, but got out of control this past weekend. Thank you so much for this blog!

    • Jace says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I’m terribly sorry I thought I replied to your comment! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so happy to hear that this blog resonated with you.
      Thank you again for sharing with us. I hope you’ve been well!

      Jace

  10. Katie says:

    This was a well-written and useful post. Thank you so much for writing it. Sharing with my therapist.

    • Jace says:

      Hi Katie,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad to hear you found this post useful. Thank you for sharing with us!

      Jace

  11. Rose says:

    Thank you for this article because up until now I really did not understand it and what I was going through so this really helped me.

    • Jace says:

      Hi Rose,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so glad that you found this blog helpful!

      Thank you again.
      Jace

  12. Stephanie says:

    I have a HUGE obsession with food. If I am getting bullied or just having a bad day, I eat some food. Once I get a bite of food, I get EVEN MORE hungry. This is an amazing article and I KNOW this will help me. (Also, do you also get more hungry when you eat food, just curious.)

    • Jace says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so glad you found this post helpful. I very well know the feeling of feeling hungrier after I eat. Sometimes I find that certain foods make me feel this way more than others — especially sugary foods! Sometimes after I eat and I still feel hungry I can’t always tell right away if my stomach is still hungry or if my emotions are playing a role and I want to eat more because I’m feeling sad or frustrated or upset – which is even more frustrating! Sometimes going to a different room or away from food for a moment helps me think and figure out what’s really going on in my stomach, head, and heart! Thank you again for commenting, Stephanie.

      Jace

  13. Alice says:

    This article was so insightful to me. And I say that as a psychologist that is struggling with binge eating. Thank you!

    Love from the Netherlands

    • Jace says:

      Hi Alice,
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so glad that you found this article insightful. Thank you again for sharing with us. Sending positive vibes to you on your journey!
      Jace

  14. Emily says:

    This article … Just mimics everything about diet culture .

    Hungry people think about food.

    If you have calorie restricted , or ever gone on a diet , you have put your body in a defecit .

    The HUMAN BODY IS NOT DESIGNED TO RUN ON A CALORIC DEFECIT .

    On a very simple level, yes weight loss is about calories in vs calories out. ON THE MOST SIMPLE LEVEL IMAGINABLE

    If you’re thinking about food, you need to eat . Eat WHOLE FOODS , and my God, give your body what it needs.

    I’ve come from anorexia , Google the term extreme hunger or reactive eating .

    • Jace says:

      Hi Emily,

      Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment on this post.

      I do want to admit upfront that I’m not 100% sure what you’re saying in some of your comment, so if I don’t respond in a way that feels right – please do respond and let me know!

      I absolutely do agree that the diet culture has confused things quite a bit for many of us. I’ve personally been all over the spectrum and boy is it exhausting. This blog post “4 Steps for Overcoming Food Obsession” was my way of sharing some things I do when I can’t stop obsessing about food but I know that physically I’m not hungry.

      Whole foods are a great suggestion for giving your body good, hearty nutrition – I absolutely agree.

      Thank you for being brave with your comment and sharing your thoughts and a bit about yourself with us.

      Jace

  15. Jill says:

    Jace,
    Great article! Your words and descriptions (food event) are completely accurate. I did want to reply to the comment made last month by emily. Her suggestion to eat only whole foods when hungry doesnt do much for us binge eaters. Trust me. I try. It still leads to more food consumption. In my case, it leads to a 24 hour cycle of binging and purging. The term she used “reactive eating” is what occurs when someone is recovering from anorexia. I was dealing with that for a good year. However, now that I have put on weight, its difficult to separate eating for biological reasons OR eating for pleasure. The only thing I have in my life is food and I hate it. I binged for two days straight (followed by purging for 12 hours) so when I read advice saying, “just eat whole foods”…..it really irritates and frustrates me. that suggestion isnt really ideal for binge eaters.
    The worst part is not having friends here, working a job at a coffee place and being 37 and having to move back with parents. The only thing I look forward too is sugar or food. Not he;ping that I work around food! Do you have any suggestions for someone who doesnt have a life? Im so out of control that I feel helpless 🙁
    TY again!

    • Jace says:

      Hi Jill,

      Thank you so much for your comment and for being so brave, sharing with us!

      I completely understand how it feels when food feels like the only thing you have. I, too used to call it my best friend for two solid years of my life. I know that it can be frustrating beyond words to read another’s take on a situation – that his/her words can feel like they don’t apply to you one bit. But that comment was a reflection of that particular reader’s feelings about the subject. For her, those words resonate and that is okay and the fact that it felt irritating and frustrating to you is okay, too! Identifying how we feel and why we feel certain ways is so important. You seem like you have a very strong understanding of the topic and of yourself which is incredible. It took me a long time to get to that point!

      I also understand not having any close connections (I shunned mine away during my “darkest bingeing” days and then moved 3,000 miles away). I also can’t imagine working around food so closely, that must be hard!

      Every suggestion I’m about to type might sound simple or seem pointless or heck, even frustrating! But they’re true for me and I hope one resonates with you!

      I still don’t know what my hobbies are but I haven’t given up the search! Eating used to “feel” like a hobby sometimes.. and took up so much of my time that I realized a few years ago that I didn’t really have any others! But I’m still searching. I’ve rekindled my love for reading and writing has been the biggest help throughout my journey.

      I’m still working on this but it’s oh so helpful – trying to find a neutral ground with myself, where I’m at in life, and my body. I don’t have to love me but I’ve really got to try to stop hating me. So much energy wasted!

      Setting up things to look forward to other than food – trips, weekend jaunts, shows I’m interested in, new places to walk, a new art project, new movement to try – things that no one else can take away from me and that I don’t need anyone else in order to enjoy.

      Smiling at strangers – I know this sounds silly but spreading little moments of happiness actually makes me feel less angry at the world – and when strangers smile back – the feeling is even better.

      Not waiting until a certain size or weight or level of happiness to do certain things – buy new clothes, get a hair cut, go on an adventure, do face masks, get a pedicure, you name it. Teeny tiny self-care steps… right NOW!

      For me, routine is key. I like having a schedule mapped out that allows for work, movement, play, and life. It gives me a sense of control that I don’t always feel like I have in other areas of life… if you catch my drift!

      These are just a few of the many things I’ve learned over the past five years.

      Here are some links to a few other blogs that could be helpful!

      Thank you again so much for commenting and sharing with us.

      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/11/04/the-binge-eating-diaries-have-you-thanked-your-body-lately/
      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/10/07/the-binge-eating-diaries-a-noteworthy-form-of-self-care/
      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/09/09/the-binge-eating-diaries-top-self-care-accessories-of-2015/
      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/09/09/the-binge-eating-diaries-top-self-care-accessories-of-2015/
      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/07/02/binge-eating-write-a-letter-to-food/
      https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/2015/05/20/binge-eating-diaries-things-heal-binge-eating/

      Jace

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Jacki Monaco

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