If you’re binge eating, it’s easy to think you’re addicted to food. You can’t get it out of your head. It’s everywhere and you keep wondering when you’re going to score your next hit of sugar.
Using my friend The Queen to snort lines of the precious white stuff
The science doesn’t back this up in the true, chemical addictive sense. Yes, food lights up dopamine responses in your brain, but that’s because food is meant to be rewarding. It’s a biological necessity that food — which we need for survival — make us feel good.
So you’re not truly addicted to food in the same way you are for crack, but in the sense that you can’t get these damn thoughts out of your mind, well, you might feel addicted.
And in that sense, I’ve got news for you.
What you’re really addicted to
Here’s what you’re really “addicted” to:
Your comfort zone. Your belief system. Your excuses. The stories you tell yourself.
How much of your day is given up to small fears? The kind you barely notice. The fears that make each day comfortable:
- The fear of standing out, to get through the day as smoothly and with as little conflict as possible.
- The fear of being ridiculed that holds your lips to a library silence, when you know you should stand up and speak.
- The fear of rejection that causes you to avoid hundreds of potential connections.
- The fear of failure, so you don’t try something new (or quit soon after trying).
- The fear of success, so you only play in the small kid sandpit.
- The fear of judgement, that prevents you from challenging opinions and the status quo.
The fact is: your mental and physical potential is far beyond what you limit yourself to.
What prevents you from accessing this ability is your mental and physical conditioning.
Your belief system is bullshit
There’s a basic human need to form beliefs. At their most fundamental level, beliefs keeps you alive. They also allow you to gain control of the otherwise random, meaningless events of life.
The thing is, once you have a belief, you filter the world around you to confirm that belief.
Let’s take an example:
- If you believe everyone is out to get you, then when Dave hurts your feelings, you’d probably say, “Fuck you, Dave. See! I told you everyone is an asshole to me!”
- If you believe people are mostly good, then if Dave hurts your feelings, you might say “Wow, I wonder what’s going on with Dave right now. He must be upset about something.”
So, you have a specific belief, then something happens, and you claim more evidence for this belief.
Belief –> Action –> Evidence
Culture has a huge effect on your beliefs. If you grow up in Kayan culture, you will probably believe that women must have long necks to be attractive.
Fuck your Western beauty standards, yo.
In the Western culture (at least at this point in time), the images you see in the media might lead you to believe you need to be lean, have a six-pack, be white yet tanned, and preferably own a yacht to be of any worth.
And, of course, there are different “rules” for men and women. This was highlighted a few years ago in a hilarious photoshoot of Ducati motorbikes:
We’re so used to seeing women in these poses, that it looks completely normal (and sexy), but put a man in that position and it looks ridiculous…
Sometimes you need to see jarring images to jolt you out of your own reality.
The images you see and the messages you hear all become part of your mental conditioning, and your beliefs. When you’re really invested, this stuff becomes your religion — you start to believe you must look and be a certain way, even at the detriment of your own mental and physical health.
- You might believe you need to look a certain way to be accepted and loved, so you go on extreme diets that the media told you to go on. You start to think about food constantly.
- Then, even though all the science says that diets don’t work, you think if you stop dieting, you’ll be completely out of control, even though your body is way more intelligent than any magazine, website or diet guru.
- You train through injuries to try to prove you’re not “weak”, rather than admitting there is weakness, and working to remedy it.
- You work yourself to the ground, and never rest, because you’ve been told you need to hustle and grind if you ever want amount to anything.
- You believe you aren’t in control of your life, and there is no hope, so you become depressed.
- You believe your body is disgusting.
I’ve believed all of these, and more.
But the fact is, every single one of these thoughts is invented. So you may as well believe the thoughts that are actually going to help you move forward in your life.
Here’s another way to think about it. If someone cuts you up in traffic, you could:
- Get angry and think they’re an asshole, and shout and scream, and then come home and take it out on your partner; or,
- Create a different story: tell yourself that maybe they have a sick child in the back of the car, and they are rushing to the hospital. You can then adopt empathy and compassion, and come home feeling grateful.
Neither of those stories are true or false. The fact is that in every moment in life, you get to choose what to focus on, and that’s going to decide what kind of person you are.
To change, you need to get out of your own way
Let’s make this clear. If you’re binge eating — or stuck in any part of your life — it is your beliefs that are limiting you.
It’s not other people. It’s not your circumstances. It’s your beliefs.
You are in your own way.
I don’t say this to make you feel bad. I don’t want you to blame yourself. Instead, I want to empower you. To let you know the you have everything you need to change your life, and shape it into exactly what you want it to be.
The thing with beliefs is that it’s difficult to let them go, because they are yours, and change is scary, and hard.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said it best:
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
Sometimes you must break things apart to build something better.
This stuff takes consistent work, because your brain is made to keep you alive, and not necessarily to keep you happy. But whenever I’ve made huge progress in my life, my beliefs have changed:
- It turns out, I’m not a total loser who will never experience happiness.
- It turns out, I won’t be out of control if I stop dieting.
- It turns out, there’s nothing wrong with carbohydrates.
- It turns out, my body is awesome, not a mess.
- It turns out, I don’t need to work every hour of the day. I perform much better (and am much happier) when I’m rested, and I take time just for myself.
To start to change your beliefs, it’s a good idea to try to take a look at them as they currently stand. So grab a piece of paper and a pen, and then write down everything that comes to mind when you ask yourself: What do you believe about…
- being fat
- being thin
- being a man
- being a woman
- being a high achiever
- having money
- being successful
- being worthy of love.
Do these beliefs serve you? Are they the absolute truth? What could you replace them with?
Once you’re more aware of your current belief system, you can begin to change the ones that limit you by taking action.
You don’t start with confidence. You start with action.
There’s a common misconception that people can do amazing things only because they have the confidence to do them. This is wrong.
At first, no one feels ready. When it’s completely new to them, everyone feels scared. It’s unchartered waters.
No, you don’t start with confidence, you build it by continuously facing the unknown, and overcoming it, time and again.
Only then do you start to see “wow, if I can overcome this… what else am I capable of?”
That’s how you take out the bricks, and then break down the walls of your limiting beliefs.
Belief –> Action –> Evidence
I’m not sure I can do this –> Holy shit! I can do this! —> I am in control of my life
So what could you do that’s manageable, but where there is some fear? How can you push out of your comfort zone?
- Start eating a certain food that you’ve been restricting.
- Start wearing something you’ve been too self-conscious to wear.
- Start walking around with your back straighter.
- Start looking people in the eye more.
- Start becoming aware of the voices you’re listening to — both in your own head, and outside. (When I get stuck in my own head, I put on YouTube and listen to the voices of people who inspire me. I replace my narrative with theirs.)
- Start exposing yourself to people and ideas that support the person you want to be, and the beliefs you want to adopt. (Are you following those people on Instagram because they truly inspire you, or are you actually comparing yourself to them?)
- Start exposing yourself to different bodies (not just ones that are white and lean), and notice the thoughts that come up for you. Here’s some great examples of diverse bodies on Instagram:
For those of you who think you already push yourself out of your comfort zone every day — which is why you smash it at the gym, and crush it at work — realise that working too much is its own kind of comfort zone.
If working is all you know, then finding how to actually rest and relax is what will push you out of your comfort zone. (And, yes, I know that scares you, which is exactly why you need to do it.)
This is a process. Watch your thoughts, observe them as you take action (or even just think about taking action). Notice the hesitations, the doubts, the negative patterns, and the tensions within your body. Realise that all of these things are a choice.
Try it right now: do a quick mental scan up and down your body. You’ll probably notice some muscles are unnecessarily tense. Now choose to relax those muscles. You see? Even tension is a choice.
When you practice this awareness as often as possible, you can begin to choose your actions and responses, rather than being a product of your comfort zone, your belief system, and your bullshit.
From there comes the ability, not just to stop binge eating, but to tap into your true potential.
The fact is you are capable of so much more than you know, but to find out, you must step into discomfort and uncertainty. You must go to where the fear is.
As Joseph Campbell said,
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
To sum it up:
- You’re not addicted to food — more like your comfort zone, your belief system, and the stories you tell yourself.
- Beliefs are a fundamental need of humans, but the more you can become aware of them, the more you can change the ones that don’t serve you anymore.
- To change, you need to get out of your own way. Your beliefs are the only things that are limiting you, in any part of your life.
What to do next:
- Try to figure out some of your current beliefs.
- Take (small, manageable, consistent) action to change the messages you see and hear, both inside your own head, and in your environment.
- Remember: perfection is paralysis. Don’t overthink it, just get started.
 For a great overview of the research, see: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/sugar-addiction_uk_5a293b10e4b006a26fb3d09f For a great summary of how beliefs are formed and why we have them, I recommend: http://www.seven-health.com/2018/04/021-understanding-your-beliefs-2/