Fullness, Fun, and Self-Care

Gary came home from the Mexican restaurant feeling as stuffed as the burrito looked when the server brought it to the table. Maria’s was known for having the best (and biggest) burritos in town, and Gary routinely stopped by for dinner on Wednesdays when his wife had her book group at the house. As per usual, Gary ate the whole thing because, well—that’s just what he did. Sure, he was already pretty full after eating only about half of it, but he loathed taking food home in a white styrofoam container—leftovers never seemed to get eaten— and hated leaving food on his plate even more. Later that evening—although still pretty full from the belly-bomb burrito—Gary polished off the last of the Girl Scout cookies that were taunting him every time he opened the frig. Although he regretted going to bed that full (again!), he was relieved that he didn’t have to deal with those cookies anymore. Tomorrow would be a new day to focus on his health. Heck, he might even start juicing again! The thought of having a fresh start helped take the edge off the feelings of regret and shame that flooded his body. I wonder if you’ve ever felt “bad” about what you’ve eaten? Do you often feel like you’ve eaten too much?

brown and yellow UNK signage

I want to assure you that occasional overeating is normal; almost everyone gets it wrong sometimes. Perhaps you thought you needed the second serving, but as it turns out—oops!—it kind of pushed you over the edge. That really isn’t a problem unless it happens frequently. If you consistently find that you are very full after you eat (8-10 on the hunger scale below), it could be that you are allowing yourself to get too hungry before you begin eating. (In last week’s post, we discussed how waiting too long to eat can set you up for over-eating: Check it out). Another circumstance that can lead to overeating is multitasking while you eat. Driving, working, watching T.V., or scrolling on your phone while you eat causes you to disassociate from what is going on inside of you, so you miss the signals that it’s time to stop eating. (And while I get that some of you are intentionally trying to disassociate while you scroll on Facebook or TikTok, the point is to not do that while you’re eating.) *SIDE NOTE TO PARENTS: I urge you to avoid making a habit of putting your kids in front of the T.V. or iPad with a plate full of food for obvious reasons. Let’s give our kids a fighting chance to learn how to self-regulate their food intake, please.

There is another reason why others set themselves up for overeating. Some people (although I’m not pointing fingers at any of you, dear readers) are fearful, “safe” eaters, or they aspire to be. What do I mean by this? This is a gross generalization, but these kinds of people eat safe, “healthy” foods all the time because they either 1) believe that sugar and other carbs or (fill in the blank) are bad for you and must be avoided at all times or 2) they are worried that if they start eating sugar, and other carbs or (fill in the blank), they won’t be able to stop or 3) they want to lose weight and think that eating sugar, and other carbs or (fill in the blank) won’t happen if they eat dessert. These people tend to choose fruit salad over cake nearly every time to be safe, but here’s the problem: foods with sugar—think warm chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, chocolate, etc.—are fun to eat. Of course, I don’t mean all day, every day, but for goodness sake, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a perfect piece of cake with a great cup of coffee when that’s what you want. For many fearful, safe eaters, this is not an option.

sliced bread on white ceramic plate beside stainless steel fork

I have a question: How long are you going to let fear dictate your food choices? Fear of eating the “wrong” foods, fear of eating “too much,” and fear of losing control are keeping you from trusting your body to self-regulate and enjoy your eating. You might argue that your body craves good healthy food; I understand because mine does too. However, I promise you are not broken and not to be trusted because you want a piece of cake. That may have been taught to you, but that is a lie. Your body was designed to self-regulate. Just as you recognize signals that tell you it’s time to use the toilet, your body will also signal to you when you’ve had enough to eat. (I understand that some of you may not currently be operating that way because you were taught to ignore those signals, but you can relearn this.) The problem with fearful, safe eaters is that they either chronically undereat—never allowing their bodies to be satisfied—or they shut down when eating “scary’ foods like candy or dessert in order to ward off guilt and shame. This can play out in various ways. For example, maybe you stand at the counter and lob off a sliver of cake (maybe even several times over the day), but you refuse to cut a piece to sit down and enjoy. Or maybe you eat certain foods in secret, embarrassed that someone might see you have that ice cream. Guilt and shame don’t belong in our lives ever, but especially when it comes to eating. It’s time to stop allowing the tactics of the devil to keep us from walking in food freedom. Jesus came that we may experience life in abundance, and sometimes, that means eating cake.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

In summary, if you are a person who struggles with overeating on more than the odd occasion, I have a few suggestions for you:

  • Don’t let yourself get over-hungry. Remember being too hungry often leads to overeating.
  • Eat with awareness. If you stop checking out when you eat, you’ll be more likely to sense when you get to a number 7 on the hunger scale. This takes practice, so be patient with yourself. You will get it wrong sometimes, and that’s ok.
  • Stop eating in secret. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Shameful eating leads to overeating.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy fun foods. What is a “fun” food? Wait for it—it’s a food that’s fun to eat! A brownie? A scone? A warm chocolate chip cookie? To enjoy it, you need to stay present, notice your internal sensations, and keep checking to see if it still is enjoyable as you eat. Yes, there comes a time when a “fun” food stops being fun to eat. Let your body tell you when.

I hope you found this post helpful! Please let me know your thoughts below. I’d love to hear if you decide to make any changes in the way that you eat.

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