I keep hearing my clients say things like, “I screwed up, I did it again,” “I don’t know why I did that,” “This just keeps happening, here I am again,” “I always,” “I can’t,” etc.
Lots and lots and lots of judgment.
So in this article, I want to teach you about why we overeat, how to stop the shame cycle that accompanies overeating, and 4 steps to follow after overeating to better understand why it happens.
Why do we overeat?
The first thing you need to know: overeating isn’t a problem in and of itself. Overeating is a symptom that we are not able to connect to and feel the emotions in our bodies.
It’s a solution our brain has come up with to solve the current discomfort and create temporary relief.
The definition of overeating is: “The action of eating more food than your body needs, especially so that you feel uncomfortably full.”
Notice there are no interpretations, no opinions, no descriptive judgmental words in the dictionary definitions. Just objective facts.
What is the problem? The problem is the cycle of judgment and shame that causes overeating in the first place, and then beating ourselves up for overeating, and then eating more to numb the shame.
It becomes a vicious cycle, a punishing treadmill that feels impossible to get off.
Today, I want to challenge you to look at your overeating objectively, meaning you’re just looking at the facts — not your feelings about the facts.
Seeing an action or a result with objectivity allows you to see it for WHAT it is and get curious about WHY it is.
Judgment vs. curiosity
Think about a situation where you have judgmental thoughts about yourself or your actions. Go there for a minute in your mind so you can notice what judgment of yourself feels like.
Notice how it feels and what it makes you want to do:
- Does it feel light or heavy?
- Does it feel open or closed?
- Does it feel tense or relaxed?
- Does it make you want to turn the lights off and get in bed or turn them on and move?
- Does it make you want to open your eyes or squeeze them shut?
Some antonyms of judgmental are approving, encouraging, and forgiving.
I’m not suggesting, of course, that you should never feel uncomfortable emotions like guilt or shame. I just want you to notice that when you choose to view your actions with shame, you are unlikely to shift into learning, growing, problem-solving mode.
Judgment shuts us down. It closes the door. Case closed. There’s nowhere to go from there but back into the black hole of food.
But curiosity feels open and it makes us want to move, to know more, to do something, to find information or answers.
4 steps to take after you overeat
So, how can we show curiosity in relation to overeating? The following steps can help you examine why you made the choices you did and move from a place of judgment to a place of curiosity — and eventual understanding.
1. Consider and represent the facts without the influence of personal feelings
Look at the actions for exactly and specifically what they were. What exactly and specifically did I put into my mouth and chew and swallow?
This may sound silly, but it’s an important starting point. No judgment, no disapproving, just observing objectively what actions were taken and what was consumed.
2. Start putting the puzzle pieces together
Get curious about what happened when you overate. Ask yourself:
- What was said?
- What did I see?
- What did I hear that may have sparked this?
- What were some of the things going through my mind prior to the consumption?
- What was I feeling?
- Why did I want to go to food?
- Why that particular food or drink?
- Why did I consume it in that location?
- What did I want to feel instead of what I was feeling that I thought the food would accomplish for me?
- What did I feel in the middle of the eating?
- What were some of my thoughts as it was happening?
- Was I totally unaware of what was happening, of what I was feeling and doing, and checked out of the situation? And if so, why?
It may seem like a lot of soul-searching to go through, but this type of exploration is truly where you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.
3. Look at the impact of your overeating
With as much objectivity as you can muster, ask yourself:
- How am I feeling now physically and emotionally?
- What happened to the stress, overwhelm or whatever feeling drove the action?
- Is it better now? Why or why not?
- What was the result of that action on my body, on my day, on my goal?
4. Gain understanding
As we wonder and get curious about all the details, we can start to see and understand what might have contributed to the choice we made — and what it is creating for us now.
In the absence of judgment and in the presence of curiosity, we’re not trying to erase the past. We are simply attempting to understand it, plan and prepare for the future, and make changes to how we show up next time.
If we are to learn anything from our past actions and make any real changes, we must turn our judgments into curiosity.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.