I was recently observing my dog Gabby eat. She would munch some kibble, stop for a while, and ponder whether or not she was done, then possibly eat some more, and quit when she was satisfied.
It’s a good thing to eat when you’re hungry, especially when the food is good. The temptation with really good food, however, is to keep eating long after hunger is satisfied. I’m afraid my saintly puppy might start wolfing down a plate of sumptuous table food without restraint if tempted in that way.
I don’t believe in dieting. During a diet, food deprivation causes the body to adapt and change. The body learns that it needs to conserve and store what it can. When people complete their diet it doesn’t take long for them to gain back everything they lost, plus some extra just in case. How healthy is it to go through cycles of weight loss and weight gain? My contention is that sticking to the idea of eating when you’re hungry is the best way to discover and maintain your natural weight.
People who eat when they’re not hungry are seeking to meet some other need. Using food to satisfy a need that has nothing to do with food just doesn’t work. Some hungers of the human soul can never be satisfied with food no matter how much you eat, because it’s not a hunger for food but a hunger for something else. Discovering that “something else” is important.
If you have a tendency to binge on food you could try to get in touch with what you are feeling and thinking when it happens and write it down. I’ve learned that the kind of self-talk people have at that time can be destructive. For example: “I’ve already blown my diet, I might as well eat the whole box,” or “I’m such a loser.” Sometimes the inner dialogue sounds like an old tape from the past that’s been internalized.
The painful things we tell ourselves leave us with a deep sense of emptiness, which then fuels the binge. These internal messages need to be examined for their truthfulness. Usually they’re lies that need to be debunked.
What is needed when you feel like bingeing is not a new set of put-downs like “I should know better,” but a big-picture affirmation of who you are. The Bible is full of affirmations of God’s love for you, and who you are in Christ. It can be helpful to reflect on these.
Think too of your strengths and the qualities others have affirmed about you. Tell yourself things that are true and good about you. This will move you away from the pain. Telling yourself the truth about who you really are is the only way to satisfy this inner hunger; food won’t do it.
You have to stamp on the ANTS – automatic negative thoughts.
—Duncan Nalos is a registered clinical counsellor at Counsel Me in Abbotsford, B.C., and a member of Northview Community Church. This piece is adapted from a column on his website, www.counselme.ca.