” I eat too much” ” I can’t control my appetite” ” I have no willpower” “I’m an over-eater”….
These are some of the things we tell ourselves. Daily. Probably more than once.
For those of you that can relate to any of these, I want to tell you right now that you CANNOT control your appetite, you can influence it YES but you cannot control it. Appetite is a part of our biological engineering. It’s a result of years of evolution, designed to keep us alive. It is naturally regulated by the body, but, unfortunately, with our lifestyles; our busy schedules, our addiction to speed and a whole range of other factors, it’s distorted and confused.
Our appetite is hugely complex and highly unpredictable, which can be scary, but it’s also beautiful. It’s a beautiful way that our body communicates with us. Our body contains wisdom far beyond our understanding and we must learn to trust our body, we must learn to embrace our body and we must learn to listen to it.
Overeating is Body Wisdom in all its glory.
Overeating is a symptom of the dis-connection we experience. The dis-connection from ourselves, from our body, from others and from nature.
In this series of blogs, I will be shining a light on the shame barriers that oftentimes engulf us and I will be looking at different strategies to face our “over eating” with integrity, with honour and with dignity.
Getting Intimate with overeating part 1.
“Help, I eat too much”
Digestion begins in the mind in a process called “Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR), this fancy looking term is what scientists give to visual stimulation, aroma, smell, pleasures of taste and satisfaction of a meal.
This is the process happening when you smell something delicious and your mouth starts to water, your stomach churns in hunger and excitement to eat that food.
Your body prepares itself to eat. The smell and even just looking at a food stimulates your sensorial organs that send a message to your brain, which activates the secretion of saliva, enzymes, gastric acids and sends a wake up call to all the parts of your digestive system.
What’s amazing is that researchers have estimated that as much as 30 to 40 percent of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR. So if we don’t slow down enough to allow this process to happen, we’re only using 60 or 70% of our potential digestive and metabolic power.
Slowing down and bringing more awareness to a meal, we give our bodies the opportunity to realize it’s eaten, we give it the ability to digest and assimilate more efficiently and, most importantly, we give it the chance to feel satisfied and nourished which naturally regulates our appetite.
When we over eat, we tend to “check out”, a part of us actually leaves. Our minds are elsewhere and it’s easy for us to lose track of what we’re eating until we’re so uncomfortably full we can’t move. On top of that, we want more food!
Bringing attention and awareness to the experience of eating we can clearly feel and see the signs that our body feeds back to us.
When our brain interprets a threat our Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in and activates a stress response; in the blink of an eye our heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream to provide immediate energy, blood flow is rerouted away from the midsection toward the brain for quick thinking and to the arms and legs for the power necessary to fight or flee. Among a number of consequences of eating under this chemistry, one thing we find is that our sensitivity to feel pleasure and satisfaction from the experience of eating is highly suppressed. Not only do we miss out on truly enjoying the experience of eating but we actually hunger for more food.
The key is in activating the Relaxation Response, which we are able to gain access to by waking up the Parasympathetic Nervous System. One way to activate this little chappy is actually allowing ourselves to feel pleasure…
“The key to pleasure’s powerful effect in balancing your appetite is that it promotes a physiologic relaxation response. The times we overeat most are when we’re anxious, stressed or unaware. A relaxed, pleasured eater has natural control. A stressed eater produces more circulating cortisol- the stress hormone we keep coming back to. What’s amazing is that cortisol actually DESENSITIZES us to pleasure. When you’re in fight or flight mode and trying to escape a hungry lion chemistry, you don’t want your brain to be in “feel good” mode and get side tracked looking for chocolate. All of your as when we’re relaxed. This means that if you’re afraid of pleasure or anxious about gaining weight or frightened to eat a dessert, you’ll generate more cortisol. This chemical will swim through your bloodstream, numb you to pleasure, and ironically create the very self-fulfilling prophecy you needs to focus on survival.
SO when cortisol desensitizes us to pleasure in our day-to-day stresses, we need to eat more food to feel the same amount of pleasure feared in the first place- “if I eat something fun, I won’t be able to stop””- Marc David, The Slow Down Diet
Getting Intimate with Over-eating Part 3.
I have heard people say: “I’m really “good” during the day, I hardly eat anything! But then in the afternoon/ evening I can’t stop eating!” They say “I have no willpower”
You have no willpower to what? Starve yourself? Of course you don’t! Your body is here to keep you alive. Your body is designed to SURVIVE.
When you deprive yourself of eating wholesome, substantial and kick-ass nutrient dense food throughout the day your body goes into a survival response which amounts to the stress response chemistry.
When you deprive yourself of nourishment throughout the day your body screams “HUNGRY!”
Which usually arrives around mid-afternoon to late evening.
Does this cycle sound familiar?
We have a small to non-existent breakfast, probably shovel something down for lunch in between all the other things we’re busy doing and then, by the time we get to the evening, we’re absolutely starving and have to eat whatever is in sight and maybe even over eat to make up for the meals we missed or half-heartedly had. And because we’re so hungry we’re more than likely going to make questionable food choices.
This endless cycle of restriction and purging leaves us feeling ashamed, guilty and powerless.
Let me make one thing very clear right now…You and your body are worthy of nourishment and care.
When you choose nourishment, this battle of shame becomes a map into your body wisdom. It becomes a doorway into the rhythm of your metabolism, which is as unique as you are.
Find the courage to stay curious and discover what works for you and your rhythm.
Find the courage to consciously choose nourishment and take care of yourself…
I’d like to invite you to dance with the rhythms of your body, to dance with the rhythms of your metabolism and to dance with the rhythms of your life.
Let’s take a look at the foods that are EASY to binge on…. Biscuits? Crisps? Chocolate bars? Sweets? Pastries? Cakes? Pasties? What do these all have in common? They are usually, highly processed, MANufactured, high in sugar and/or salt that high-jacks our taste buds, messes with our biochemistry and gets our metabolism all jumbled and confused. Not only are these foods completely stripped of their nutritional value, they are also highly addictive, which doesn’t help anyone!
Our body craves nourishment; it wants vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, carbohydrates, it wants antioxidants, it wants fibre, it wants enzymes, it wants pleasure, it wants to feel satisfied and “nutritionally” full. When weeat these low quality foods, our body receives empty calories and hungers for more.
Here’s the deal: The poorer the quality of our food, the more quantity we’ll consume.
I’m not saying “control yourself” or restrict what you eat. All I’m suggesting is, get curious and experiment by adding in some super high quality foods to your life. Replace those low/poor quality foods with the highest versions of themselves.
If you want to eat cake, why not make sure it’s homemade with the best ingredients?
If you want to eat chocolate, why not make sure it’s closest to its natural state? Dark chocolate or raw chocolate.
If you want to eat pastries and pasties, why not support a small local bakery instead of having mass-produced supermarket or franchise? Why not make it a sacred ritual once a fortnight? And FULLY enjoy, celebrate and receive pleasure from eating?
“Quality means that care and consciousness permeate a food, and that the food itself has a good story to tell. No matter what food you eat, choose the highest quality version of that food. This gives you the best Las Vegas odds that the food will be healthy, whether you’re eating bacon, bananas, bread or birthday cake. Yes, quality foods are definitely more expensive. But this is the real health insurance. It’s your life we’re talking about, yours, and those of the loved ones you feed” – Marc David
If you are tired of the never ending story of “restriction-willpower-struggle-crave-cave into-shame-guilt-feel terrible”. If it’s really not working for you, then let’s try a new strategy. One where we respect our body by feeding it the highest and the best quality food we can get our hands on and really celebrate what it means to be an eater. Because it’s incredible, it’s pleasurable and it’s exciting.
Getting Intimate with Overeating Part 5.
Let’s talk about Binge Eating… What is Binge Eating? Binge Eating is industrial strength Overeating. It’s intense, immediate, ravenous, it’s a strong impulse or compulsion.
We can also refer to it as “The Devouring Wolf”. It’s a powerful surge of energy that can oftentimes seem “out of control”.
The key word here is POWER… When a negative power is revealed, such as compulsive eating, it means there’s a positive power calling to be unleashed. It’s a power waiting to be discovered. It’s a power waiting to be heard.
Binge eating lets us know that somewhere inside, we’re holding back our expression, our truth, our emotional flow. It lets us know we are somehow “off track”, that there is an imbalance, whether it’s nutritional / metabolical or psychological/ emotional. So, the first step we need to take is inviting CURIOSITY not only to the table but to our whole lives!
Get curious, question everything and explore. Stop trying to suppress, fix, hide or deny. It’s exhausting! Give yourself a break and reclaim your power.
“Our compulsions and the boxed-up feelings that fuel them are where the treasures of our true self are hidden.
To discover what lies under our compulsions, we need to learn how to turn toward our experience rather than away.
As we meet ourselves with curiosity and compassion instead of turning away, all our boxed-up feelings can be transformed back into the free-flowing aliveness they came from” – Mary O’Malley