What To Do If You Think About Food All The Time

As I said in my ultimate guide to stop binge eating, I used to be obsessed with food.

I’d think about it all the time. I’d sit at my desk and drool over what I could eat now, what I would eat next, what I could eat later. Whether I was out catching up with friends, sitting in the cinema, or lying in bed, it didn’t matter — food would constantly call to me.

It turns out dieting and deprivation is the reason you’re obsessing over food. If you never deprived yourself, or had a diet mentality, you’d never feel like you can’t go on living another second unless the entire bag of M&Ms are in your mouth. That just wouldn’t be a thing.

And why did we all diet in the first place? Well, duh… because we’re unhappy with how we look.

Personally, I wanted a six pack. I wanted to look, feel and therefore be, a strong motherfucking badass.

http://liftingwayoflife.tumblr.com/post/112334016276

What started as a project of self improvement became a full blown obsession, of orthorexia, anorexia and then binge eating. My entire self-worth was put into an image of myself I could never attain.

When you spend this much time fantasizing, planning out exactly what you’re going to eat and at what time, constantly exercising purely to try to change your size and shape, checking the mirror to itemize everything that’s wrong with your body… when your mind is focused only on these things, you lose so many other things:

  • You lose the mental resources to focus on productive and creative ideas.
  • You waste a tonne of time.
  • You waste a tonne of energy (emotional or otherwise).
  • You can’t be fully present with your family, friends, the cheerful barista pouring you the most amazing cup of coffee, or the view from your AirBnB holiday rental.

 

You exist, but you don’t truly live.

But here’s the thing:

  • 90% of women and 80% of men are unhappy in their bodies (obviously the stats depend on exactly where you look, but it’s not good).
  • 95% of diets don’t work. (With people usually regaining more weight than they lost. And the people who restrict hardest and longest are often the ones who go onto binge eating. We’re too busy trying to crush it to be the best version of ourselves that it completely backfires.)

When statistics are this high, this isn’t about individuals anymore. This is about society (a) making everyone feel — at best — inadequate and — at worst — entirely worthless in the body they were given the gift of life with; and (b) the diet industry knowing this, and therefore getting repeat customers, time and again.

Think about it: it’s the perfect business model:

Step 1. I’m going to make you believe have a problem (since you’re not white with 3% body fat, and therefore don’t look the way only 4% of the population could ever look),

Step 2. I’m going to sell you something that will work for a bit, (so you trust me enough to come back when it inevitably fucks you up).

Step 3. When it does fuck you, I’m going to cash in on the fact that you’ve blamed yourself… You failed because you’re a lazy piece of shit, right?

 

Mmm, I’m gonna sleep well tonight.

 

It’s not ethical, but apparently it works, because according to Brene Brown’s (highly recommended) book, there’s a:

  • $38 billion hair industry
  • $33 billion diet industry
  • $24 billion skincare industry
  • $18 billion makeup industry
  • $15 billion perfume industry
  • $13 billion cosmetic surgery industry

While I know a lot of people get into the fitness industry because they want to help others feel and perform better, it would be naïve to not realise there’s a shit ton of people getting rich out of making you feel bad about yourself.

But Maria, I still need to fit in. Even if it’s wrong, I need to live in this society!

So what can we all do about this?

You can be aware of where this pressure is coming from. Ask yourself: who benefits from me feeling this way about myself?

You can acknowledge that loving yourself doesn’t make you fat (and hating yourself doesn’t make you thin).

You can realize that your feelings about your weight actually have zero impact on how other people feel about you (but your feelings about your body may have an impact on how pleasant you are to be around in general, because it turns out people actually like us a shit tonne more if we’re actually focused, friendly, and feel comfortable in our own skin, no matter what we look like).

Realize that feeling utter despair over eating a Mars bar is going to make you eat more Mars bars because of the emotional pain you’re in. Whereas eating a Mars bar because you were feeling a bit sad, then moving on with your life is totally fine and human. The strict diet mentality — that level of perfectionism — is actually holding you back. Try instead, to be compassionate towards yourself, no matter what you eat, do, or don’t do.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve and change yourself (which is presumably why you dieted in the first place), but when you take this too far, when you’re putting all your self-worth into what the scale says, or how you didn’t eat “perfectly”, maybe it’s time to diversify your identity. Maybe it’s time to go to that painting class you always wanted to go to, learn how to play the piano, or just take your friend out for coffee.

Because, I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my death bed, I don’t want to say “I obsessed over food for every second I was alive, but at least I had a six pack”.

 

How do food thoughts hold you back? Let me know in the comments or contact me with all the amazing things you want to do instead of thinking about food all day.

 

 

 

Updated:

Face The Unknown

I hung from a cliff face, all alone, in a foreign country. No one knew where I was. I had no ropes, only the strength of my fingertips against the rocks. The sun was beaming down. I’d finished my water 3 hours ago, and the rucksack on my back was full of books.

I call this: facing the unknown.

It was January 2014, I was living in Exeter, UK, and it kept getting flooded. I’d just finished my PhD, and was renting a room in a terrace with no insulation, and no heating. There was also this massive hole in the window of my bedroom. Sometimes I’d lay on my bed and just watch leaves blowing around in circles on the floor. Each night I wore 3 layers of clothes under a duvet, and still I shivered and barely slept.

Now, I’m not an umbrella person. I’m a hood-up-and-get-on-with-it kind of person. So each day I was soaked through from the day before. My shoes started to smell. I started wearing baggy, old clothes. I looked a bit like a homeless person, but I didn’t even care.

It’s no surprise I got fired from my waitressing job.

I went to London for a few days, and on the train back to Exeter, I got an email saying the final part of my PhD (the viva) would be happening in 3 months’ time.

Three months to wait around in the cold? No way.

I stepped off the train in Exeter, walked straight into a travel agent and said, “what’s the cheapest flight to New Zealand, leaving as soon as you can?”

The flights cost exactly the amount I’d made waitressing. I left one week later.

And it was amazing.

I jumped out of a plane, I bungeed off a bridge. I did all the things I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I hired a car, and I drove fast. When I got pulled over by the cops for speeding, I talked myself out of the ticket.

I was having the time of my life.

In the southern part of the North Island, I rocked up at a youth hostel. I’d had a hectic few days, so I decided to have an easy one. I packed my bag full of books, and a small bottle of water, and asked the owner of the hostel for directions to the beach.

He gave me a leaflet, which had this tiny, cartoony map on it. I started walking and there wasn’t a soul in sight. I loved it. I looked at the leaflet again. It said I could walk along the coast in 4.5 hours and get the train back from the next town. Since the route was along the coast, I figured I couldn’t possibly get lost.

The “beach” was mostly shingle, with these huge pieces of driftwood. It was pretty difficult terrain to walk on. I was wearing a pair of Converse, that had so many holes in that most people would have thrown them out by now. The more I walked, the more this “beach” was getting sketchier and sketchier.

I took a wrong turn somewhere, and it became impassable. I had to turn back and get to the beach. But I realized… there was no beach.

The tide had been high this whole time.

The leaflet said if the tide was high, I’d have to step over a few rocks at Wairaka Point. No worries.

So I kept walking.

I was 3.5 hours in when I got to the point, and there was no path. There were just huge rocks sticking out of the water — giant, jagged, monstrous things — not small ones I could hop over.

On top of the only rock it might be possible to scale, there was this huge seal, sitting there, mocking me.

Now, I’m a terrible swimmer, but even I considered it for a microsecond, and then a massive wave crashed over the rocks and washed over the seal.

“Hell, no,” I said, “I will definitely die if I go into the sea.”

So I sat on the beach for a minute and looked at the cliff face behind me.

I had no drinking water left. I had no supplies. I was not prepared for this at all.

But I had a decision in front of me: go back the way I came, or face the unknown.

Now, at this point in my life, I’d overcome years of eating disorders. I’d moved past abusive relationships from both my mother and a lover. I’d recovered from 15 years of chronic depression. I worked hard to get over all of these issues while I did a PhD in Mathematics.

I’d got myself out of the rain and I knew I couldn’t go back.

I refuse to go back the way I came.

I stood up. I told myself I had to be confident. “If you hesitate, you die. If you fall, sprain an ankle, break a leg, you die.”

I started climbing the cliff, knowing I couldn’t afford to be scared.

I realized, after so many years of wanting to kill myself, that I wasn’t done yet. It was the first time there was a threat to my life since I’d overcome depression and I realized I wanted to live.

I kept climbing. Telling myself, “don’t be on the news. Don’t be that idiot tourist on the news!”

I reached the top and looked out at the view. It was awesome because I knew not many people had seen it. It was just me and the seal, watching two vast bodies of blue meet at the horizon.

But I didn’t stay for long. I was scared, had no idea of I’d have to climb back down the other side, and I needed to find water.

I kept moving forwards.

After another hour of nothing, eventually I found a fence.

I have never — before or since — been so happy to see a piece of metal wire.

I followed the fence for a good while, and then I saw cows. Cows meant humanity! Way down the bottom, a farmer mowing his lawn. When I got there, his gate had 4 different padlocks on it. I hid behind a bush and timed it perfectly: vaulted the gate while he wasn’t looking.

In town finally, I hopped on the train back to the hostel. Ate a glorious portion of fish and chips. I cannot even describe what colour my Converse had become. That night, I threw them in the bin, went to bed and listened as a storm raged outside, feeling immensely grateful that I wasn’t still out there.

And the day after the next? I did the Tongariro National Alpine Crossing, and it was fine, but you know what? There were too many people. There was too much certainty.

Because, look: at any given moment you can step forward into growth, or step back into safety.

Pioneers and explorers know this. That’s why they step forward and face their fears.

Now I’m not saying I’m the greatest or bravest explorer, but I do know that sometimes in life you have to face the unknown. And I’ve learnt that when you do that enough, an amazing thing happens.

You begin to trust yourself.

And when you trust yourself, that voice in your head that tells you you can’t — that fear — it becomes a little quieter.

That’s when you know, even in the toughest moments, that you will always find a way.

Because when you face the unknown, when you confront it head on, over and over again, you develop the strength and resilience to face anything.

 

 

Updated:

Why Idealizing The Body You Used To Have Could Be Preventing You From Moving Forwards

Jessi Kneeland is back this week to discuss your questions on binge eating, losing weight, and idealizing the body you used to have.

If you missed part 1 of this podcast, go check it out here.

[Download MP3 here]

 

[0:27] — I can see why it’s easy to love and accept yourself if someone already loves you, but what if I’m trying to find my man/woman?

[6:19] — I still identify as the “big guy”/”big girl”

[10:01] — The Blind Man method to describe body parts in a neutral way

[15:00] — How the Tapping Technique can take you towards neutral

[16:25] — I feel self-conscious unless I wear baggy clothes. Other clothes show my shape too much.

[19: 08] — Using a “body-part inventory” to dig deeper

[21:47] — I idealize the body I used to have…

[27:15] — One action step you can take right now to move you away from binge eating and towards health and wellbeing.

Updated:

Because You’re Fed Up Of Being Told To Love Your Body

Jessi Kneeland is a coach, teacher, speaker and writer dedicated to helping break free from the fear, shame and armour that holds them back.

She has spoken at TEDx (twice), and has joined me today to talk about how all of this nonsense about loving your body relates to binge eating.

[Download MP3 here]

 

[1:08] – “I’m fed up of being told to love my body.”

[5:30] – Can you even accept yourself when you want to make a change?

[10:04] — The Netflix and Chill problem: how to identify why you’re numbing (with food, or TV)

[11:38] — One of the best ways to free yourself from “feeling trapped”.

[15:48] — Jessi uses the “Bubble Technique” to deal with overwhelming feelings.

[16:53] — Because I look in the mirror and hate what I see.

[20:44] — Why the “drill sergeant mentality” isn’t keeping you in line.

[28:00] — How to get out of “the fear”.

[30:00] – “I don’t feel myself without makeup on”. “I can’t leave my house because I am so ashamed of my body”.

[32:00] — This just in: no one will notice if you cut all your hair off.

[34:48] — Why we don’t need the beliefs we feed to feel worthy, or “enough”.

[36:00] — How strangers always accept you, no matter what.

[37:53] — “Being lean is important to me… am I a bad person?”

[42:20] — How to compliment someone without becoming “part of the problem”.

[44:35] — “I want a six pack, even though I know the fitness industry lies to us.”

[46:00] — Getting out of the “I was doing so well but then I went to a wedding…” mindset

[49:15] — Your six-pack, your armour.

[51:10] — Jessi drops a truth bomb that leaves me speechless!

[54:04] — One exercise to switch your mindset about your most hated body part.

Updated:

Why Diets Are The Cause Of Your Binge Eating

There’s a ton of studies showing that dieting is highly correlated to binge eating, but today I wanted to share with you a quick overview of just one of those studies.

Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment (Keys, 1950)

THE SETUP:

  • The top 36 mentally and physically fit, strong men were hand-picked from 400 Civilian Public Service members (Yeah, I didn’t know either: the CPS was an alternative to military service in the USA during WWII).

  • These guys were followed for 3 months before the experiment started to make sure they were definitely awesome.

  • Each man was put on a strict, 1,540kcal diet for 24 weeks.

THE RESULTS:

Physical problems

At first, the men noticed some physical changes, before constantly complaining that they felt cold, tired, and hungry. They began to have trouble concentrating. They felt dizzy, and had headaches.

Increased preoccupation with food

The men became obsessed with food. They talked about it, daydreamed about it. They spent a lot of time planning what they would eat and how they would distribute their calories throughout the day. Food was very quickly the most important thing in their lives. Some started collecting cookbooks. They began hoarding and sneaking, bringing food to their beds at night.

Severe emotional distress

As the study continued, these guys became tired and irritable. They lost their sense of humour, lost their ambition, lost interest in their work, their friends. They became anxious, apathetic, withdrawn; experienced depression, hysteria, hypochondria, a decrease in sex drive, an inability to concentrate. Two of the men had to spend time in a mental hospital, and one began to physically harm himself.

Bingeing and self-reproach

Several participants found themselves bingeing on vast quantities of food, followed by severe episodes of self-reproach. One man reported eating multiple ice cream sundaes and chocolate malts. Then he stole some candy. He finished off the binging episode by eating several raw swedes (the root vegetable, not the people from Sweden… though it’s fairly grim either way!) He immediately confessed to the experimenters that he had broken the rules, and began to verbally beat himself up in front of them.

Other men admitted stealing scraps of food from the trash. Some of the men quit the study because the bingeing became so frequent they were unable to continue their restricted diets and remain within the confines of the study. They all grew self-critical, and even began to experience distorted body images. These deprived men actually reported feeling overweight.

When the experiment ended 24 weeks later, the men were allowed to go back to eating normally. Except, most of them couldn’t. Many of them had lost total control of their hunger signals, and “ate more or less continuously”. One reported eating massive five-or-six-thousand calorie meals, and then snacking only an hour later. Another man ate so much the first day after the study, he had to be taken to hospital to get his stomach pumped. They reported not being able to satisfy their psychological hunger, no matter how much they ate.

One went on a year-long binge, putting on substantial weight. Just months earlier, this man had a healthy relationship with food. He was hand-chosen for being exemplary, and yet in 24 weeks, he had been completely changed.

This kind of study would not be allowed to take place today, for the “unethical, inhumane treatment of subjects”, and yet many of us do this to ourselves, year after year.

To Sum It Up:

Diets don’t work because they:

  • Intensify cravings

  • Make you preoccupied with food

  • Disconnect you with your natural hunger cues (making you eat when you’re not hungry, and eat more than you need)

  • Increase emotional and psychological distress, and the likelihood that you’ll eat in response to that stress.

What To Do Next:

Give yourself permission to eat any food you want. Give yourself permission to eat any time you want. Don’t bother counting calories.

I know this sounds like a scary step, especially for those of us who have spent many years dieting, but it is the best — and fastest — way to end binge eating for good.

Updated:

The Surprising Skills That Help You Stop Binge Eating For Good (Josh Hillis)

This week, I joined forces with Josh Hillis to answer your questions about binge eating.

Josh is a nutrition coach at One By One Nutrition, and takes a habit and skills-based approach to coaching his clients. He says it’s all about practice, and I agree.

You can also find Josh at losestubbornfat.com or doing cool, upside-down gymnastics movements on Instagram.

The timestamps and images below are there to guide you through the podcast.

So let’s get to it!

 

[Download MP3] [2:10] WHY FOCUSSING ON HABITS AND SKILLS CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME BINGE EATING AND EMOTIONAL EATING

  • Skills are incrementally built to help you stop restricting and cope with your emotions in different ways
  • You don’t need to give up coping with food, just create more choices for yourself. So when/if you do go to food, it’s an intentional choice.
[5:55] HOW TO BUILD OTHER SKILLS TO COPE WITH EMOTIONS, RATHER THAN TURNING TO FOOD

  • Binge eating: evenly-plated meals of protein, carbs, fats, veggies. Feeling full throughout the day (satiety skills). Eating slower and more mindfully.
  • Emotional eating. Use the act matrix:

[8:05] The ACT Matrix:

[10:55] — WHAT IF WE TAKE ACTIONS TOWARDS WHAT MATTERS TO US, EVEN WHEN WE FEEL BAD? YOU GET TO DEFINE YOUR VALUES AND CHOOSE WHAT TO LIVE BY.

[13:10] — GEORGIE FEAR’S LEAN HABITS BOOK

[13:50] — IF YOU’RE BINGE EATING, GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH YOUR HUNGER AND SATIETY, RATHER THAN TRYING TO USE ANOTHER “WEIGHT LOSS” STRATEGY:

  • First, up your portion sizes until you have fewer urges to binge, you binge less often, and/or with less food each time:
    • What does it look like to have a satisfying meal 3 times a day? (~4-6 hours between meals)
    • What does it look like to be hungry ~30-60 minutes before a meal?
  • Only then: what does it look like to eat just enough, to eat more mindfully, and assessing your hunger throughout your meal?
  • Step 1: the binges need to be evened out. Only then can we think about working on weight loss.
[17:40] — I’M FED UP OF BEING TOLD TO LOVE MY BODY:

  • You don’t have to love yourself to change, but it does help to look at the facts, accept where you’re at, then take committed actions with things you value.
  • You don’t need to feel like a parent every day to take care of your kids every day. You don’t need to feel amazing every day to choose to take actions that align with your values.
[21:40] — ERIN BROWN: “START WITH NEUTRAL IT’S THURSDAY. THIS IS WHAT MY BODY LOOKS LIKE ON THURSDAY”

[22:20] — Two Wolves Cherokee Proverb

 

[23:30] YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AREN’T PERMANENT, THEY DON’T DEFINE YOU. YOU ARE HUMAN AND THAT THERE IS ROOM TO HOUSE ALL OF THE THOUGHTS YOU’RE HAVING.

[26:10] QUESTION FROM RICH: WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE “SNOWBALL EFFECT”

[34:10] QUESTION FROM ANONYMOUS: WHAT TO ABOUT INSTANT CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS

[36:30] QUESTION FROM KATHY: HOW TO STOP BINGEING AFTER GOING KETO

[43:15] HOW EMOTIONAL EATERS CAN LOOK AT THEIR BEHAVIOUR AROUND FOOD WITH MORE LOGIC AND LESS EMOTION

[49:55] HOW TO DEAL WITH LOSS OF MOTIVATION WHEN YOU’VE STARTED YOUR JOURNEY

[52:30] ONE ACTION STEP YOU CAN TAKE RIGHT NOW TO MOVE AWAY FROM BINGE EATING AND TOWARDS HEALTH AND WELLBEING

 

Updated:

Why You Binge Eat, Even Though You Want To Stop And Lose Weight (Georgie Fear)

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Georgie Fear, nutrition coach and author of the book Lean Habits for Lifelong Weightloss. We answered some of YOUR questions on binge eating and emotional overeating.

The timestamps below will help you navigate through the podcast.

[Download MP3]

Timestamps:

3:01  — WHY YOU BINGE EAT, EVEN THOUGH YOU WANT TO STOP AND LOSE WEIGHT

5:26 — THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EMOTIONAL EATING AND BINGE EATING

7:20 — ARE BINGE EATING AND EMOTIONAL EATING SOLVED IN DIFFERENT WAYS?

10:27 — WHY YOU FEEL LIKE 2 DIFFERENT PEOPLE

12:10 — HOW TO GAIN CONTROL IN THE MOMENT OF A BINGE, IN 10 SECONDS

17:22 — HOW MUCH DOES BODY IMAGE PLAY IN BINGE EATING AND OVEREATING?

18:43 — YOU MAY HAVE BINGED IN THE PAST, BUT IT IS NOT YOUR IDENTITY

20:19 — BINGE EATING IS AN ATEMPT TO FEEL BETTER (which is normal, and human)

21:16 — IS IT POSSIBLE FOR EVERYONE TO BE LEAN?

23:40 — “You can’t go cold turkey with food”. ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE THEY ARE ADDICTED TO FOOD AND CANNOT STOP

26:35 — HOW TO CREATE A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT (why there is no need to “invite struggle” into your home)

29:57 — “I just don’t have the willpower”. IS THIS REALLY ABOUT WILLPOWER?

34:36 — HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUR KRYPTONITE FOODS (breaking the pattern and creating boundaries)

36:07 — WHAT TO DO IF YOU FEEL LIKE A FAILURE AND ARE DISGUSTED AT YOURSELF

40:25 — ONE ACTION STEP YOU CAN TAKE RIGHT NOW IF YOU ARE CONSISTENTLY OVEREATING AND BINGE EATING

43:34 — LOSING THE LAST FEW POUNDS (question from Susan)

48:09 — HOW TO KEEP UP THE MOTIVATION ONCE YOU HAVE STARTED ON THE ROAD TO HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS.

 

RESOURCES:

WANT MORE?

Download my free Fully Loaded Eating Double Pack. It contains my 2 best Essential Guides: What to do when you overeat, and Instant Willpower: how to reprogram cravings, stop inhaling chocolates by the truckload, and lose weight like a hero.

Just put your info in the box, and I’ll send it straight over.

Updated:

Stop Overeating Using The ‘Just This Bite’ Method

You’re watching a movie at the cinema, the main character, gun to his own head, is about to pull the trigger, and your hand hits the bottom of the popcorn box. You rummage around in there, but it’s all gone. You eye up the person sitting next to you, certain they must have stolen popcorn while you weren’t looking.

Later that week, you’re in a restaurant, sitting opposite someone who just won’t stop talking about how great they are — how amazing their life is — and you ram the cheesecake into your mouth with more force than normal. And when it’s done, you’re not satisfied. You eye up the brownie that the person next to you has ordered.

Distraction is everywhere: TV screens, the internet, other people, and even our own thoughts can all be forms of distraction. Does distraction lead to overeating? And if so, what can we do about it?

Let’s take a quick look at some research.

Jaffa Cakes and Pong, Anyone?

Firstly, if you’re not from the UK and you’re wondering what the bloody hell a Jaffa Cake is…

This is a Jaffa Cake. (Yes, it’s officially a cake, and not a biscuit [1])

And, by Pong, I’m talking about the Atari game from the 1970s.

In this study [Brunstom, Michell, 2006], 88 females ate Jaffa Cakes while playing Pong, while a control group did not play.

Jaffa Cake Pong, anyone?

The Results:

  • The people not playing Pong reported a significantly greater increase in fullness, and a significantly greater reduction in desire to eat.

Another study [Stroebele, de Casto, 2004] experimented on the effects of TV viewing on meal frequency on 76 participants.

The Results:

  • Participants ate more often on days when they ate in front of the TV.
  • Although meals in front of the TV were smaller, the net effect was an increase in calorie intake (which was independent of the day of the week, or time of day they were watching TV).
  • It didn’t even matter how interested they were in the TV show: participants still ate more calories, and more frequently, even when they reported not being very hungry.

So not only does distraction interfere with your fullness signals, it also messes with your desire to eat, and it causes you to eat more frequently. Talk about shooting yourself in the face.

And, man, I see it everywhere. People eat at their desks at work, left hand sandwich, right hand mouse. On the train, I see people stuff noodles into their face while their eyeballs are glued to their phone.

So, first, if you’re struggling with overeating, try experimenting by eating without looking at a screen, without listening to music, without anyone else around. Try sitting, just you and the food.

This is an important relationship: it’s time you two spent some quality time together.

Distraction doesn’t just mean playing Pong though. It’s not just about watching Netflix, either. You can be eating in total silence, but still be drowning in your thoughts.

You can be eating in total silence, but still be drowning in your thoughts.

When I used to binge eat, I wasn’t focussed on the food I was throwing into my mouth. I realised I was always thinking about the thing I was going to eat next. So on my way through a loaf of bread, I was thinking about the steak in the fridge. Then, while I was on the steak, I was thinking about the jam in the cupboard…

So how can you reduce these, and all the other distracting thoughts?

Narrow Your Focus With The Just This Bite Method

No one ever binged when they were calm, when their heart rate was low, when they had everything under control.

Here’s one way to get into that cool, collected state:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Relax your jaw.
  3. Feel the food on your tongue, and in your mouth.
  4. Say to yourself:

Just this bite.

 

You can repeat this phrase to yourself as often as you need while you’re eating, to slow down, to focus on this bite, this moment, right here and now.

You can use this in any situation when you’re already eating, to awaken you out of the trance of your own thoughts:

  • When you’re thinking about how good another person’s food looks: just this bite.
  • When you’ve already eaten half of the contents of the fridge: just this bite.
  • When you’re mindlessly throwing in the M&Ms through your 8th consecutive episode of Game of Thrones: just this bite.

If you’re eating with other people, I promise you they won’t know. The brilliant thing about talking to yourself is that no one will notice.

This Is Not The “Just This Bite” Diet

Although it’s going to be really helpful to eat without distraction, and refocusing your thoughts onto the food in your mouth, if you forget to do it, or if you intentionally decide to not do it, it’s fine.

These days, I eat very well, but sometimes I still eat while distracted, sometimes I nail a pizza while watching a movie, just because. This is the real world. So please don’t beat yourself up. Just experiment, and see if you notice a difference.

Personally, I found the Just This Bite method to be an incredibly powerful way to calm down, to create space, and to be satisfied with less, because I could actually taste, and enjoy my food even more.

To Sum It Up:

  • Distraction interferes with your ability to feel full, it means your desire to eat remains, and it causes you to eat more frequently overall.
  • Distraction doesn’t just mean TV screens and the internet. Your thoughts can be a big source of distraction.

What To Do Next:

  • Experiment by eating without distraction: turn your phone off, and use the Just This Bite method to narrow your focus back onto what you’re eating.
  • Don’t make this a “Just This Bite diet”. It’s completely fine to smash a pizza while watching Netflix, if you genuinely enjoy doing that. We’re aiming for improvement, not perfection. You have my permission.

 

How is the Just This Bite Method working for you? Let me know in the comments.

And if you haven’t done it yet, grab my Fully Loaded Eating double pack. It contains my 2 best Essential Guides: What to do when you overeat, and Instant Willpower: how to reprogram cravings, stop inhaling chocolates by the truckload, and lose weight like a hero.

Just pop your details in the box below, and I’ll send it straight over.

 


[1] There was an age old dispute if Jaffa Cakes are actually cakes, rather than biscuits. The makers (McVities) even had to prove this in a tribunal in 1991. In the UK, cakes are considered a “staple of living” (you’re damn right!) and are therefore not taxed. Chocolate covered biscuits, on the other hand, are a “luxury”, which means that they are taxed. McVities argued that a cake goes hard when it turns stale, but biscuits turn soft. Since Jaffa Cakes turn hard when stale, they must be a cake, proving not only that Jaffa’s are exempt from tax, but that they are, in fact, a staple for living. 🙂

 

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Hate Running? Use Software Sprints To Lose Weight

You’re at the office. Everything had been going so well this morning. You navigated the doughnuts, the pain au chocolat, but then you walk into a meeting room and see it. Some generous bastard has brought cookies. There they are, naked and uncensored, right in front of your face. And god-dammit, they are the triple chocolate kind. Your favourite.

Well now you can barely hear what anyone else is saying because those little pricks are calling your name. Stay strong, you tell yourself. But man, they just look so tempting. And you’ve been so good recently, surely just one can’t hurt?

Look, everyone else is having one.

So you take a cookie, you eat it, and it’s awesome.

But now for the rest of the meeting you can barely hear what anyone is saying because you’re so disappointed with yourself.

I have no willpower. I can’t trust myself to be good.

So later that evening, when no one is around, you have at it.

Ice cream is devoured, tubs at a time, chocolate is inhaled by the bagful. Your stomach is so full, you can barely breathe anymore. And, yeah, after you have consumed, shame and regret consumes you.

You’re faced with this weird paradox. All you want is to lose fat, so why the hell do you keep doing this to yourself? You’re a logical person; this behaviour makes no sense. You figure there’s something wrong with you. A compiler error, a dangling pointer. Maybe you’re insane.

Somehow you fall asleep, and promise yourself you’ll do better tomorrow.

 

You’re Not Alone: The What The Hell Effect

This seemingly illogical behaviour has been the finding of many studies. Here’s just one:

Dieters and Non-dieters compare ice cream flavours [Polivy, Herman, 1999]

Before getting any ice cream, each group (dieters and non-dieters) were separated into 3 subgroups. Group A were asked to drink 2 milkshakes. Group B were asked to drink 1 milkshake. Group C were not given any milkshake.

 

Each group then got 3 flavours of ice cream. They were told to rate the flavours, and eat as much ice cream as they wanted.

The Results:

  • Non-dieters: those who hadn’t had any milkshake consumed the most ice cream; those who had 2 milkshakes consumed the least. Sounds obvious, right?
  • Dieters reacted the opposite way: those who had no milkshake ate small amounts of ice cream, those who drank 1 shake ate more ice cream, and those who’d consumed 2 milkshakes ate the most ice cream.

While non-dieters tend to regulate their consumption according to internal cues of hunger and satiety, dieters lose the capacity to regulate their intake. So, when the milkshake counters the dieter’s restrained eating, it’s almost like a switch. The researchers call this the What The Hell effect, which occurs as a result of the diet mentality: “What the hell, I’ve blown it anyway, I might as well keep eating before I get back on my diet tomorrow.”

So imagine your goal is to lose fat, and you have implemented a “no sugar” rule, and then you eat a cookie. Eating a cookie is actually in line with your big picture goal of fat loss (eating a single cookie would never be a problem for fat loss). However, your brain has replaced the long term outcome goal (lose fat) with your day-to-day process goal (no sugar). So, since you’ve broken the “no sugar” goal, it feels like you’ve broken the whole thing.

This is why a single cookie can trigger a catastrophe. If there’s no way you can reach your goal for the day, your brain won’t use energy trying to do it. It thinks you’ve already lost. And when you lose perspective like this — when there is clear black and white, all or nothing thinking — how many cookies you eat no longer matters. Couple this with the natural desire to want to soothe yourself through these tricky emotions, and a single cookie can turn into a 3-day bender, with all the self talk that goes along with it:

Something is wrong with me.

I’m addicted to food.

I’m out of control.

I’m disgusted with myself.

 

This mindset can be triggered not only when you’ve eaten a “forbidden” food. It can be triggered:

  • In anticipation of breaking your diet (for example, if you’re going out for dinner that evening and you know what you eat won’t be your ideal meal).
  • Because of an emotion: you feel fat, sad, happy, anxious, or even thin.
  • When you eat something that you had previously “forbidden”.

So what can you do about this?

Eat What You Want

The first step is to stop banning foods. Making foods, or entire food groups, forbidden just makes them more enticing. Your body will then crave them physically and psychologically. So when you finally do give in, you’ll cram in as much as you can, because tomorrow you’ll be banning the food all over again.

When there’s a limited resource, demand becomes incredibly high.

So, please, stop banning foods. Stop dieting.

I know that reinstating food can be extremely scary, but trust me: you can eat what you want and still lose fat; you just need to learn how.

Use An Instant Reset

Normally, once we “blow our diet”, we keep eating until the next starting point, which is usually the next day. But what if we could change the next starting point so we can reset sooner?

Think about software sprints. The day after the kick-off, everyone is much more focussed than they had been at the end of the sprint. It’s always quiet, loads of work is getting done. It’s like everyone has been reset. You can use the same idea – divide your day into sprints to reset yourself sooner.

So take a piece of paper and divide your day into 5 time boxes. These don’t have to be evenly spaced, but they should represent the natural transitions of your day.

Here’s one example, from AM to PM:

This might differ from day to day, depending on your schedule.

Now, one of these chunks will be your hot spot (8-9pm in the above example). This is the time of day that is really tough. It’s when you’re less resourceful to navigate a food-related moment. It’s when the desire to eat is most intense.

Maybe this is once you get home from work. Maybe it’s lunch time. Maybe it’s late at night.

Whenever it is, just by acknowledging the specific time that you struggle, will help you.

The purpose of these boxes is three-fold. Firstly, even if you “go off the rails”, the next time box acts as a reset point. An autosave.

The normal reaction is to reset the next day, or at the beginning of the week. But if you make the next time box your reset, you can dramatically reduce the amount of calories consumed between now and tomorrow.

You can say to yourself:

OK, that was a tough moment. I didn’t use the skills I’m learning to navigate that situation. But it’s OK. My next reset is in 20 minutes. I’m going to wipe the slate clean and forget what happened. All that matters is this present moment.

 

If you can make these time boxes your automatic resets, then you will be well on the way to learning to forgive yourself more often, to get back up much quicker, to strengthen your mental resilience so that no matter what knocks you down, you will know that you can get through it.

Secondly, I want you to rate each time box between -5 and +5, using the following scale:

 

+5 Perfect day

+4

+3

+2
+1

0

-1

-2

-3

-4

-5 Ended up in hospital to get my stomach pumped

 

This is useful to help maintain perspective. It is so easy to exaggerate how badly we are doing.

For example, say the day was going well, then when you got home, you ate a cookie, and then a few more. Your previous thinking might have been “I’ve completely blown this whole day”. But by writing down and rating your time boxes individually, you can maintain perspective.

The third advantage of your boxes is that you have now recognised which time you are most vulnerable. This means you can plan and strategize how best to navigate this time of day.

You could schedule something to do during that time, like catching up with a friend, or going for a walk. You can take extra care to be kind to yourself.

To Sum It Up

  • Diets don’t work because they cause you to lose touch with the internal signals for hunger and satiety that are necessary for normal eating over the long term.
  • To be at ease with your body — to be able to listen to true hunger signals, and not be fooled by the fake ones —  is a skill. You can relearn this skill.

 

What To Do Next

  • The first step is to stop restricting foods. Even if this feels scary, it is the quickest way to get your out-of-control eating back under control.
  • Chunk your day into sprints, and use each sprint as an instant reset if you overeat.
  • Take extra care around the time of day that you are most vulnerable. Strategize and plan other activities around this time.

Want more? Download my free Fully Loaded Eating Double Pack. It contains my 2 best Essential Guides: What to do when you overeat, and Instant Willpower: how to reprogram cravings, stop inhaling chocolates by the truckload, and lose weight like a hero.

Just put your info in the box, and I’ll send it straight over.

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You Are Enough

How much pressure are you putting on yourself? You tell yourself you have to work hard, you have to have an amazing body. You need to be that great employee, colleague, brother, sister, friend, lover.

But what if you are already enough?

What if this body, that is capable of love, kindness, warmth, compassion, what if that is enough to live a human life?

This isn’t about giving up on your hopes, dreams, and goals. It’s about accepting who you are (and who you are not), then finding the self-compassion to allow yourself to move forward.

What if you could re-frame your thoughts?

Instead of

“I will only be happy when I achieve ______

What if you told yourself

I am happy right now because I am moving towards ______“.

 

Maybe then, there would be space to breathe.

And with those breaths, maybe you could finally start living.

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