#021: Can’t eat enough to get what you crave … what next?

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Start creating what you really desire

You already have an inkling that there’s more to binge eating than just the food.

But, even when you know what you’re really looking for can’t be found at the bottom of an ice-cream tub, what do you do with that insight?

Discover the exact next steps toward easing back from a reliance on food so you can instead start to create whatever it is that you really desire, deep down. 

You’ll learn the 4 questions to ask yourself that will help you uncover the unique next step that’s right for you … then the next, and then the next.

Click here for your FREE Guide: 8 simple strategies to break the binge eating cycle

View the full episode transcript

Rather than being a bad or negative thing, having the same situation where you’re finding yourself overeating or bingeing coming up over and over again means you’ve found a pattern and that’s a really, really good thing.

Because, when you identify those patterns, they’re showing exactly where to start paying attention—-the place that’s the perfect starting point to focus on with some of these simple techniques and that will make the biggest changes in your easing back from relying on the food.

Welcome to the YoYo Freedom Podcast.

This is the place to learn actionable, step-by-step tools and strategies to help you stop bingeing or overeating and start feeling relaxed and confident around food, 

so that you can show up for your life on your terms.

I’m Gemma Keys and I know first hand what it’s like to feel out-of-control around food and trapped in the pain of binge eating and body-shame.

There is a way out. 

Keep listening to discover your path to food freedom.

Hello and welcome. Wherever you are in the world as you listen to this, it’s wonderful to have you here.

In this episode we’re going to start to unravel what to do once you become aware that eating might be about more than just the food itself—that overeating or bingeing or secret eating could be there for some other reason, to meet a different sort of need.

If you haven’t listened to episode 20, it’s a great lead into what we’re talking about today so I recommend you go back and have a listen to that one first.

Because I’m hoping that, if the idea that overeating or binge eating is actually playing an important role for you—that the food is giving you something you need or want that you’re not currently getting, and that may have absolutely nothing to do with food—if that idea has landed with you at all then maybe you’ll feel able to take a closer look at this food thing from a slightly different angle.

After all, the simplest explanation for bingeing is eating larger amounts than normal in a short time, and feeling shame and regret or beating yourself up about it.

And feeling shame and regret isn’t a lovely feeling, right? It usually makes you want to check out from everyone, even the people you love most, and hide away from the world. And for sure try not to remember or reflect on what you’ve just eaten—cos that just feels worse.

But … when whatever you’ve just eaten can show you something important which will help you find new ways to support yourself and feel a bit better … well, that has a slightly different feel to it. When you can move from saying to yourself, “I can’t believe what I just did, I’m a disaster dressed in human clothing, I feel awful but I just can’t stop, I’m not fit to go out in the world, even if I had the energy to try” … you know, all those not-so-delightful messages that spin around our heads after a binge

Well, when there’s likely to be some reason or want or need that’s important to you but that isn’t being met right now, and that’s why the food is stepping in to help you out—then maybe you can think instead, “I wonder what that binge or overeating session was pointing to, what if there’s something else going on? What if, once I can understanding more about why I’m turning to food in the first place then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to find a different way to deal with it.”

It’s interesting isn’t it? That subtle but oh so significant shift from shutting down and blocking out the eating, to wondering what might be behind it—it opens that little bit of space for enquiry that’s like a crack of light coming under a door with the promise that something else is on the other side—something else is possible and there’s something else waiting for you.

So what’s the best way to do that?

Where do you start to look a bit more closely at the times when you’ve felt compulsive and out of control around food and eaten in a way you wish you hadn’t?

It can take as little as 3 or 4 minutes, and it’s oh so worth it! And here’s how to do it.

Jotting this stuff down is really helpful and also keeps a record of the patterns that regularly show up in your eating. Now, I’m not a massive journaller (I have so many brand new journals that have a few pages filled in before they ground to a halt!), so I prefer to keep brief notes on the notes app on my phone. Maybe you love writing and that luxurious feel of a new, beautiful note book and pen. But, whether you love writing or not, find whichever way to record this information that works for you—maybe even in some kind of secret code or shorthand in a diary or on a calendar if you want to, and I’ve for sure known people to do that.

And these are the questions to begin to ask:

The first is, What did I eat, how much and when?

Now be gentle with yourself with this. Especially when it’s been a full on binge. You might like to remind yourself, these notes are just for data purposes, or you might like to skip detailing the quantity of food completely. Like sometimes, if I wrote out that I’d eaten a bag of cookies, a pint of icecream, a 300g chocolate bar and some iced belgium buns within 25 minutes, it just made me feel completely horrendous. But just writing “cookies, ice-cream, chocolate, iced buns” took a little bit of the charge out of it, while still keeping the core essence of the type of food I’d eaten (and, to be honest, I knew how much I ate cos I knew the packet sizes and I knew it was all gone—so for me, and for some of the people I work with, that type of overview is enough.

So, if you’re willing to record the quantity or amount, knowing is just data for you to compare down the track, then that’s brilliant and, over time, it will give you this wonderful map of the ups and downs and round-abouts of your progress over time.

AND, if you just want to record the types of food you ate, that’s great too.

And just make a note of the time of day the eating happened. Because, again, that also holds super-valuable information to help you spot patterns and reflect on next steps.

The second question is: What was going on for me at the time?

We kind’ve covered this a bit in the last episode, but get really curious about how your day was or who you’d seen or any specific events, and what you were thinking about it all and how you were feeling.

Or—and this is a really important consideration for binge eaters—-notice whether there was there any food restriction, diet-thinking or feeling overly hungry or restricted in some way? Like, “I really want that but I’m not allowed it,” or “I’m a bit hungry but I have to wait til at least mid-day before I can eat lunch,” or even something like that old chestnut phrase, “I really shouldn’t, but go on then!” All of those types of phrases point right towards restrictive thinking and dieting rules that most of us have been exposed to and picking up for years and years.

Knowing what was going on at the time, or in the lead up to a time when overeating happened is so valuable because so much bingeing or out of control eating happens when we feel a certain way or get into a certain energy state—like tense and anxious and scared, or buzzing with stress, or angry or irritated or resentful, or deflated and sad and lonely—-and, for sure, being over-hungry or feeling deprived in some way—-and that’s what we need to understand better to uncover a way through those types of feelings and emotions without automatically turning to food (unless food restriction is the actual issue, or course, in which case food is the answer!) But that’s exactly why it’s worth noting your answers.

It’s the absolutely GOLDEN information!

The third question is: How does the fact that I ate those foods make sense for me?

This is another great question because it starts to untangle the role the food is playing in a way that creates understanding and empathy. You’ll probably feel it settle a little bit in your body.

For example, does the eating make sense because you’ve used food to feel better for so long that it’s become a default go-to? It could be a long-standing habit, or a way of coping when you feel bad. Just ask, “how does the eating make sense for me?” and see what comes up.  

I have this amazing friend called Iva and she’s one of the people I like talking to most out of pretty much anyone. And one of the many reasons is that, whatever’s going on for me, she kind’ve assumes it’s all happening for a reason, it makes perfect sense, and I’ll find what I’m looking for in my own time. There are no rules or expectations, never, ever a snide comment or backhanded compliment or sniff of judgement or criticism or “you should,” or “you shouldn’t,” advice or anything like that. With Iva, it’s just ok to be me, and quite a lot of humour and laughing around it all too. And it just works wonders to ease whatever’s going on, especially with the bonus of endless coffee, which I love love love! I mean, how lucky am I to have a friend like that on my doorstep?!

But the reason I’m sharing that with you is that you may have people you know you can talk to about anything and they’re not going to jump in with advice or look shocked or whatever like many, many other people do, and it feels sooooo good to have someone like that around.

And when you ask yourself this question, “how does the fact that I ate those things make sense?” you’re offering yourself that gift of openness and compassion and understanding. 

So question four is then: What was the food giving me? Was I trying to feel something different or using food to try and solve something or give me something else I needed or was longing for?

I’m guessing the food was almost certainly an attempt to help you feel better in some way. It may have been to literally gnaw away an angry tension—that often happens with chewy or crunchy foods like toffee nuts or something. Or it might have been to keep ploughing through and keeping going when you were tired and needed a break or a rest. Fatigue is also a massive trigger for cravings and eating more, so lack of sleep can be something the food is trying to make up for—or the fatigue of mental boredom at work or just feeling stuck or confused—those things can be really tiring, right? Or maybe you’re trying something new and stretching your comfort zone and feel exposed or out of your depth and are desperate to feel more protected and nurtured and taken care of, and food is a way of creating that sense of safety.

I mean, you’re probably looking in some way for the simple feeling of relief. But the thing to dig into here is relief from what? Escape from what? If the food wasn’t stepping in, what would I be left to deal with?

And the last question is the one that will really begin to make a difference. So play with this one and roll it around in your mind. 

This question is so very important because, as your awareness grows and you become aware of what you really need or what you were craving beyond the food, it can seem sooo far off that it’s an almost an unattainable dream.

Like, I’d love to have less stress at work, but I can’t boot out my boss!

Or, yes I want a deeper level of connection with a friend or a partner, but the thought of putting myself out there and risking talking to new people fills me with complete horror.

Or, I’m eating because someone I loved to the moon has died, and my heart is filled with grief that isn’t going anywhere fast … and, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t want it to go away because it wouldn’t make sense if I could just get over losing this person.

Or, “I’m a worrier, this is how I’ve always been and it isn’t just going to change because I want it to.”

Those are all big things to be dealing with and to want to change or feel better about or find a way through. And they’re not going to change in an instant just because you’ve become more aware of them and of the role food is playing in helping you with them.

But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless or stuck. Because change—real and lasting change that’s uniquely supportive for you and can be built into your everyday life—that change happens in small increments, those tiny, easy little strategies or tricks or whispers that you can build into your every day. And that is the kind of change we’re looking for. Like I talked about back in episode 11, small one-degree shifts add up over time and make a significant and transformative difference.

So the last question to ask is, “What’s one simple thing I might have done or could do moving forward that might, just might, help me get more of whatever it was that I’m really looking for?”

Think of this as an opportunity to experiment. If you find something that works, keep it. If you try it for a few tines and don’t like it, bin it off.

You might come up with an experiment to create 10 minutes of quiet time for yourself, without work or podcasts or people taking up your headspace. (Do you recognise the voice of a full on introvert in there?! Yep, I definitely need that time to myself.)

Or it might be to take 5 slow deep breaths on the way home from work, where the exhale is longer than the inhale, to give your system a moment to calm down a little and reset. 

Or it could be to ask yourself the question, “sweetheart, how are you feeling right now?”

Or, and I love this one, to put your hand on your heart or chest and say the simple words, “you’re doing ok, it’s ok, you’re safe, I love you.”

Or maybe it’s to start practicing saying, “thank you for asking, I just need to check my calendar,” before automatically saying “yes” to an invitation or request. Or to ask the barista in your coffee shop how they’re doing today, or plan a time to wrap yourself in a warm blanket with a hot drink and romcom movie.

Or to say to that little voice in your head that’s criticising you, “Hey there, I hear you! I know you’re trying to help me. How about we try something different today?”

Just trying out and exploring small things you can do to get you a little closer to what you’re really looking for can start you on a path toward meeting your  genuine and completely valid needs in a way that doesn’t always rely on food. It gives you your power back, but in tiny steps that aren’t too scary to take. And if the food does still help, then that’s ok too—but just try your very best to look at it with gentle eyes and a gentle heart—with an understanding that there’s for sure something else behind the eating that will be revealed to you when it’s ready to be seen.

Now, as you ask these questions, you may well find that the same situations or feelings come up over and over again. Like, you always seem to eat a packet of biscuits in the car after a stressful day at work. Or, when you’re tired, two o’clock in the afternoon is donut time. Or that being around great uncle Bernard as he comments on your clothes and body is so aggravating that the drive through takes the edge off.

By the way, I did have a great Uncle Bernard and he was eccentric and totally wonderful, and that example is in no way a reflection of him!

Rather than being a bad or negative thing, having the same situation where you’re finding yourself overeating or bingeing coming up over and over again means you’ve found a pattern and that’s a really, really good thing.

Because, when you identify those patterns, they’re showing exactly where to start paying attention—-the place that’s the perfect starting point to focus on with some of these simple techniques and that will make the biggest changes in your easing back from relying on the food.

And that sort of focal point is also incredibly helpful in reducing any overwhelm or feeling that it’s a huge mountain to climb when it comes to changing your eating. By honing in on one, very specific area, you’ve broken down your current goal to just one areas and that almost gives your brain a rest and a bit of relief.

So to wrap up, I invite you to play with and explore those questions and consider how food might be stepping in to try and meet a need that actually has nothing to do with what you’re eating.

Meeting some needs might be more of a challenge than meeting others BUT you’ll always find a tiny step you can take toward supporting yourself, even in a micro-moment. 

And, of course, we’ll go on to explore many of these situations in future episodes but, for now, you can begin by noticing any patterns that are coming up for you and experimenting with different ways to start to inch toward whatever it is you’re really looking for.

For lots more starting points and strategies to help you ease back from binge eating, overeating and generally feeling out of control around food, check out my free guide, 8 simple strategies to break the binge eating cycle. You can find it in the show notes of this episode or at yoyofreedom.com forward slash 21.

That’s it for today’s episode. Thank you for listening.

I hope you’ve found this episode helpful. Subscribe to The YoYo Freedom Podcast for more insight, tools and support as you pull back from bingeing, overeating or yoyo-dieting and step into your most authentic, vibrant life.

And, if you liked what you heard, it would be wonderful if you’d take a moment to rate this podcast on whichever platform you listen on.

Thank you so much! And Bye-bye for now.

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Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychological condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

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