For too many of us, our eating sometimes feels frustrating or embarrassing.
Does this describe you? :
You’re a smart, capable, pretty-much-together person. Even if it’s not perfect, you’re generally happy with your career or your schoolwork or your relationships or friendships or parenting.
And then there’s your eating.
Your eating is this weird, complicated thing that sometimes feels…well, out-of-control.
Sometimes, when you’re alone in the house, or after everyone else goes to bed, you stand next to your kitchen cabinet and eat chips out of the bag, and it’s almost like your brain goes blank, because then you eat way more than you intended to. You also really, really hopes no one walks in on you right now.
Sometimes you eat three donuts from the break room at work while you’re finishing up a presentation. Even though you don’t even like donuts that much and you weren’t hungry and you promised yourself you wouldn’t do this.
It’s not like you don’t know how you “should” eat. You do! You know what’s healthy and what’s not, pretty much. You know what a “reasonable” quantity of chips or cookies or ice cream would be. You know what a healthy dinner or lunch or breakfast would be, too! And you do eat that way, a fair amount of the time.
And then there are those other times. When you don’t eat in a way that makes you feel good, and you don’t even know why.
I want to be really clear — I’m not saying that the problem with this type eating is that it’s “unhealthy” or anyone who eats in this way is a bad person.
The problem is this:
You know that you’re eating in a way that doesn’t serve you, and you can’t seem to stop doing it.
The tragedy of all of this is that we are often genuinely hurting ourselves. Sometimes physically — we may make ourselves feel bloated or sick. But certainly emotionally, too — we might feel anxious or guilty, or worry about our eating all the time. Many of us will go on diets or eat less to try to “make up for” our indulgences, and it can sometimes feel like it takes an insane amount of brainpower and effort and energy to deal with our eating and our weight.
If that feels like you — if you are exhausted and annoyed and tired with all of the ups and downs of your relationship with food — I want you to know this:
1. It’s not just you.
It’s not just you. It’s really not. This kind of eating is sadly common, across genders and age groups — though I find that it is particularly common with women, because society’s strict messages about body size can set off a chain reaction that eventually results in many of us having unhappy relationships with food.
Even though most people don’t talk about it, many people feel alternately exhausted (with all the effort it takes to “manage” frustrated eating) and annoyed (because they, inevitably, over-eat, and want to kick themselves).
2. You don’t have to feel this way forever.
You really, really don’t. It is possible to have a relationship with food where you consistently eat in a way supports your overall well-being — so yes, sometimes that means healthy or nourishing foods, but at other times that means foods that give you pleasure or enjoyment, and in a quantity that also makes your body feel good.
But in order to stop, you have to understand why you do this.
In the past, when I would overeat and sometimes feel out-of-control, I would feel so guilty and promise myself that I wouldn’t do it again. But of course I did do it again, because just resolving to “not do it again,” doesn’t do anything to address the deeper, underlying reasons why I did it in the first place.
Actually healing your relationship with food requires a deep examination of why you eat the way you do. It also requires taking action — to interact with food differently from the “just stop overeating!” way we’re used to doing it.
That is the core work of the Desert Club — small group classes that I’ve been running for three and a half years now (!!), and which start up again in about two months.
In the lead-up to the Dessert Club, I’m going to be writing more essays about about eating, the deeper meaning behind why we over-eat or sometimes feel out-of-control around food, and what you can do about it. If you’d like to read them, you might consider signing up for my newsletter.
And, of course, if you really want to do something about it, I’d urge you to consider joining a Dessert Club. I only offer these groups twice a year! Here’s what one past participant said:
"I used to wake up and plan each meal that I would eat, how many calories I could eat, the times I was allowed to eat, etc. Of course, I used to break these rules all the time because I would feel hungry and then feel angry with myself.
But ever since I learned about intuitive eating from you I've stopped overeating and the stomachaches have stopped! I feel so happy every day waking up knowing that I can eat whenever and whatever I want as long as I'm hungry and I stop when I'm full. No gimmicks, dieting, restrictions, guilt -- it's wonderful to feel free.
Thank you, thank you SO much, Katie, for leading such wonderful sessions! You truly changed my life and helped me out of a cycle I thought I'd be stuck in forever. I'll certainly recommend the Dessert Club to anyone I know who is struggling with food. Thank you! "
But whether you join the Dessert Club or not, I hope it will be a valuable series of essays for you. You’ll be in my thoughts, and as always, I’m sending strength + support for the week ahead. You’ve got this.