Category Archives for "Overcoming Overeating"

move beyond resistance

I Know What I Want To Do… So Why Don’t I Do It?

“I know what I want to do… so why don’t I do it?”

This common question is usually followed by, “What’s wrong with me?

You’ve probably asked it as well… maybe after falling off the ‘diet wagon’ and subsequently polishing off a half-gallon of ice cream. Do either of these scenarios sound familiar?

“I want to cook a healthy dinner, but I’m so tired after work so I have a bowl of cereal instead.

“Every morning I plan to exercise after work. But I usually drive past the gym & promise I’ll go tomorrow.”

These statements don’t directly accuse you of being lazy because you aren’t cooking or you didn’t go to the gym. But I bet you can feel the judgment and shame in them. You can almost hear the unasked question at the end of each statement… “What’s wrong with me?”

The guilt, shame, and judgment we put on ourselves when we don’t follow through create internal resistance. This resistance triggers your inner rebel, who screams, “Make me!” All of a sudden you’re back to playing the old self-sabotage game.

The truth is much more complex than something is wrong with you. How can this be true when everyone has gone through similar experiences?

There are several reasons why it’s difficult to follow through on things you want to do. In the next few posts, you’ll learn from a variety of experts about how to stack the deck in your favor so you experience less frustration and more success.

Our Dream of the Future vs. Real Life

Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith is asked the, “I know what I… “ question all the time. His private clients are already big players, well-known and respected business people, some in positions of great power. Yet he gets the same question!

In his video, “Triggers: Why don’t we do what we know we should do?” Goldman addresses this question.*

Goldsmith says the reasons why have nothing to do with our ethics, values or integrity, nor is it because we aren’t smart. He shares four reasons and makes some very interesting observations.

The first reason we don’t do what we say we want to do is because of a dream many of us have experienced. Goldman describes it this way:

It sounds like this: “You know, I’m incredibly busy right now, given pressures at work and home and new technology that follows me everywhere… Sometimes I feel over committed… every now and again my life feels just a little bit out of control…

Pretty typical, right? But here comes the actual “dream” part:

I’m working on some very unique and special challenges right now, and I think the worst of this is going to be over in about four or five months. And after that, I want to take two or three weeks and get organized… and… begin my new healthy life program and after that everything is going to be different, and it will not be crazy anymore.”

This is the “Tomorrow will be different!” dream. The specifics of the dream are different among different people, but they have the same framework. In the world of dieting and weight loss, you may have experienced the dream this way:

“As soon as the kids are back to school, I’ll get all the sweets out of the house and then I can focus on intuitive eating and not binging.”

Have you said something similar? You want to stop binging and eat intuitively, but you believe you need to wait until your life is different in some way. Has that ever happened? I say dump the dream and start now, you aren’t starting a diet, you’re starting to learn how to enjoy food again!

The Planner Bias

Another reason we don’t do those things we say we want to accomplish is what Goldsmith calls, “Planner Bias.”

The person that’s doing the planning is not the same as the person that’s doing the executing.

When we make plans for what we are going to do in the future, we’re usually relaxed, comfortable, not under stress or pressure. But the “doer” as Goldsmith calls the ‘you’ that will be executing the plan is often stressed out, overwhelmed, tired, or overworked.

The person doing work is not the same as that person making a plan. The person doing the work may be tired, hungry, bored. There’s a term called depleted. The person doing the work is just out of gas. Well, the planner doesn’t count on that because the planner is not the person doing the work.

We all do this – all the time.the diet-binge cycle

It’s fun to plan the future, especially when you know it will be better than the present. We rarely make plans when we’re tired, stressed out or upset.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe like the diet-binge cycle?

You get excited while planning the diet (the dream of weight loss and a perfect life)…

Then you begin and it doesn’t take long to fall into old behaviors – you’re hungry – the weight doesn’t come off fast enough – you feel surrounded by temptation whenever you’re outside your home – and life always gets in the way somehow – you’re back to overeating, binging and hating yourself for having no “willpower.”

Time & Effort Exceed Expectations

This is a classic mistake we make when attempting to lose weight.

…it takes longer than we think. We almost always underestimate how much time it takes to get anything done… [and] it’s harder than we think.

So many people simply assume it will be just as easy to take off weight in their current attempt as it was in an earlier diet. It would be helpful if they considered how long they could keep it off, rather than how long it will require to take it off. It can take longer to lose it then it does to gain it backplus more!

Not to mention the additional pain and suffering that comes with dieting. The hunger, irritability, and light-headedness that comes from a low intake of food are quite uncomfortable. And while you’re experiencing all that, thinking you’re doing something good for yourself in the name of weight loss, you’re actually doing damage to your body, your mind, and your metabolism.

The Odds Are Against You

The final reason why we don’t do what we say we want to do, according to Goldsmith, is that there’s always a good chance that something unexpected will happen that interferes with your plans.

Although the odds on any one low probability event occurring are slim, the odds on some low probability event occurring are incredibly high.

There are so many things that could go wrong at any given time. Goldsmith gives a few examples, including a car accident, someone getting sick or dying, or a company being sold.

I’ve never coached anyone for 18 months that didn’t have a crisis…

Life happens – and when it does, it becomes impossible to maintain whatever diet you may be on.

On the other hand, I’ve had several people tell me they need to wait until the time is “right” to begin making peace with food. I tell them they’ll probably never do it unless they just start now. The time will never be right and unexpected things happen all the time.

It’s better to start making peace with food and learn how to deal with the unexpected while working with me, rather than everything be just right the entire time and a crisis come up after we’re done working together.

Goldsmith tells us to be aware of these possibilities when making plans. By keeping them in mind, if and when you run into one of them, you’ll know it was something other than your own laziness, stupidity or inability to accomplish anything that got in the way. Then you can move forward and keep going after what you want, instead of letting guilt or shame drag you down, keeping you stuck.

For more information on the four reasons why we don’t do what we say we want to do, check out Marshall Goldsmith’s video.



* Goldsmith actually addresses two different questions in the video, but with the same answer. One is, Why don’t we do what we know we want to do? And the other is, Why don’t we do what we know we should do? He doesn’t differentiate between the two. However, in the world of dieting, weight loss, nutrition, etc., there is a distinct difference. The word “should” is a judgment, which often brings along guilt, shame and other negative emotions and beliefs. For our purposes, I’m only interested in why we don’t do what we WANT to do. The judgment tied up in the word “should” isn’t useful or welcome in the making peace with food and body world. However, his advice is still helpful regardless of which question he mentions.

The Diet-Binge Cycle: © Gillian Hood & Healthier Outcomes

3 woman surrounded by junk food

The 8 Major Obstacles to Overcoming Overeating

Several years ago I was trying to answer the question, “How do I do what I do?” It’s not easy to explain the making peace with food process (especially to those entrenched in the diet mentality), and it’s even more of a challenge to explain coaching in general.

There are several areas that I work with my clients on. And our work focuses on solving issues in these areas. These issues are in fact, obstacles that block people from making peace with food. So while this process is very different for each person, as is coaching, obstacles seemed to be a good way to describe the process and make it relatable to those struggling with food and body issues.

Here are the 8 major obstacles to overcoming overeating and making peace with food:

1. Lack of Foundation (Knowing Your ‘Why’): If you don’t know the real reason you want to achieve something, you will lose your motivation quickly. Building a foundation requires knowing your personal values and what you really want at a much deeper level than just, “I want to lose weight,” which only gets in the way and keeps you from making peace with food.

2. Diet Mentality: This is a huge obstacle. From a very young age, most of us have been taught how we should look and what we should and shouldn’t eat. At the same time, we are also taught that food is love, food will make us feel better, and we are a very food-centric society, with every celebration centered around the food. These conflicting rules and ingrained habits are what lead us to dieting, followed by overeating, followed by guilt, taking us back to dieting.

3. Learning and Applying the Basics of Mindful/Intuitive Eating: Many people start the process of intuitive eating only to find they have turned it into a diet full of rules and restrictions. It takes time to learn these principles and really apply them. Most of us, including myself, went back and forth between intuitive eating and dieting before it finally clicked and felt right. (But it’s worth it for a lifetime of peace with food!)

4. Negative Self-Talk: I think it’s safe to say that this is one issue that almost everyone wants or needs to overcome. The first step is being aware of it. Some people have those negative tapes playing all day long and they don’t even hear them, but the subconscious does. After being aware of it, the next step is to learn how to handle the talk. It’s my experience that ignoring the “voices” or telling them to go away won’t do it. Those voices are a part of you, so rejecting them, yelling at them to go away, or other similar strategies don’t work very well. Neither do affirmations where you say things to yourself that you don’t even believe. There are better ways of dealing with the voices and changing the self-talk to take a more positive tone.

5. Avoiding or Reacting to Difficult Emotions: Classic “emotional eating” is basically eating in response to strong feelings that you do not want to feel (conscious or otherwise). By “pushing the feelings down,” you get to temporarily avoid those feelings or the situations that are causing the feelings. Food can be used as a numbing agent, and when you overeat to the point of feeling sick or guilty, you can now focus on beating yourself up and planning your next diet, instead of dealing with what is really going on. The problem is if you don’t eventually allow yourself to feel your feelings and process them, they will always come back, often stronger than when they initially showed up.

6. Not Getting Your Needs Met: When you don’t feel your feelings, you are not going to be aware of what you are actually feeling (sad, angry, lonely, bored, etc). Therefore, you can’t identify what you might actually need (talking to someone, taking a walk, asking for help, etc.). In turn, when your needs are not met (and again, you may not even be aware of this), it is very easy to subconsciously turn to food because it temporarily fills the emptiness and creates a distraction. This is a vicious cycle that cannot be escaped without discovering your feelings, determining your needs, and getting them met.

7. Lack of Self-Compassion: Self-Compassion is an extremely important skill to learn. If we can’t be compassionate towards ourselves when we make mistakes or in times of difficulty, we end up in a place of judgment, “shoulding” on ourselves, and engaging in all kinds of negative self-talk. Using self-compassion allows for honoring our feelings, soothing ourselves, acknowledging we aren’t alone in these experiences and it brings us back to the moment and being mindful. This is a much better place than the past and regrets, or the future that we often put our lives on hold for, waiting for everything to be perfect. Research on happiness shows humans are happier when they stay in the present, regardless of their circumstances or emotions at the time.

8. Lack of Self-Care: Self-care is much more than lighting candles and soaking in the bathtub. It’s about taking care of your needs in several areas, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and wellness. It’s about creating a “balance” in your life – but balance doesn’t necessarily mean splitting your time and attention evenly among all four areas. It is about dividing your time and attention in a way that meets your true needs and desires and fits into your values (as determined when working on obstacle #1).

So there you have it – 8 major obstacles to overcome to stop overeating and make peace with food. You may already have some handled, and others may need more focus. This is normal. Take it at your own pace, learn along the way from your setbacks, and get ready to see not only your relationship with food improve, but other areas of your life as well!

1 ending overeating

Ending Overeating: Feel Your Feelings


Do you stuff your feelings down with food? When you get stressed, frustrated, lonely, angry or depressed do you find yourself eating, rather than dealing with the circumstances that are causing these emotions? Ending overeating is absolutely possible, but before we get started…

Please, don’t beat yourself up! You’re certainly not alone. Not only are millions of people doing the same thing, but I’ve been there too.

Overeating is a Learned Behavior

We don’t start out in life eating for emotional reasons. It’s actually something we learn. At an early age, many of us learned that we couldn’t trust our bodies to tell us when to eat. We heard things like, “You can’t be hungry, it’s not dinner time!”

Emotional eating is often taught by our parents or other authority figures. What happened when you fell down and hurt yourself? Did you get a cookie, “to make it better”? This may have taught us to associate love with food.

In our society, we associate holidays, birthdays, and almost any event with food. We eat for almost any reason – stress, anger, sadness, boredom, happiness, excitement, just about anything but physical hunger.

Do you ever crave “comfort food”? We all do at times. However, if you have this craving frequently or it happens often when you’re experiencing a negative emotion, it may be time to pay attention. Food cravings or urges to eat, especially when you aren’t physically hungry could be a sign of trying to avoid painful or uncomfortable feelings.

This is How You’ve Been Taking Care of Yourself

You may not even realize this is what you’re doing. Just like associating food with love or learning you can’t trust your body to tell you when it’s hungry, you may have learned to “stuff down” negative feelings or to “numb out” when emotions are running high.

Sometimes food is used as a distraction, which is similar to stuffing down or numbing out but often has a different motive. It’s not a conscious decision, but when we overeat so much that we feel sick, it creates a distraction from whatever difficult situation or feeling that triggered us to eat. Instead of dealing with the root cause or emotion, we now have a reason to beat ourselves up, start a diet and turn ourselves into a “project” that needs to be “fixed.”

If you can relate to this, again, don’t beat yourself up. You learned to take care of yourself with food.

Does that sound ridiculous? It’s true. Without proper instruction or modeling by parents on how to effectively deal with emotions, we found a coping strategy. I encourage you to see this situation with gratitude that it was food. You could have learned to use drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, or any other destructive habit that creates much worse outcomes.

There is a Way Out

There is good and bad news about ending overeating. First, the bad news – you will have to feel your feelings. The good news is as you truly allow yourself to feel your feelings, they will lower in intensity and so will the desire for comfort food.

There’s a good chance you won’t know what you are feeling in the beginning. This is because eating has become your learned response to any intense feeling. Stay aware and notice when a craving hits or you’re triggered to eat. If you aren’t physically hungry, ask what you’re feeling.

This isn’t always easy, especially when you don’t want to face the truth of the issue. Run through a list of emotions – anxious, lonely, bored, tired, angry, hurt, embarrassed? If you can’t identify the feeling, that’s ok. Keep trying and practicing as feelings come up. Journaling thoughts and feelings is a helpful practice for identifying emotions and simply feeling better in general.

If you can determine the emotion, ask yourself, “Am I going to die if I sit with this feeling for five minutes?” (If you get a ‘yes’ then start at 30 seconds, it really doesn’t matter how long, it’s about taking action.) Just sit and feel. It may not feel very good at first, but notice how it gets less intense as you allow yourself to feel it. As you practice this more and more, you’ll find it easier to deal with emotions and find yourself less drawn to food to solve your problems.

Feelings Serve a Purpose

Emotions are messengers – whether positive or negative – they let us know that something is going on. There’s something that we need to pay attention to. But when we eat to temporarily shut down the negative feelings, an unintended consequence shows up. It turns out that we can’t turn off emotions or feelings one by one. When we shut down sadness, we also shut down the ability to feel happy, or any other emotion.

This leads to feeling numb, which is uncomfortable, and we stay stuck in this negative cycle. We go back to our coping mechanism, overeating, in an attempt to feel anything at this point. Then guilt and shame show up for having eaten certain foods or too much food, and the cycle continues, on and on.

Spending a short time feeling unwanted emotions is a better option than staying stuck in a diet-binge cycle. Being stuck not only feels bad but with time it can lead to all kinds of unwanted outcomes. It can even drive someone who has never dieted into a dieting cycle, paired with binging, all due to trying to avoid feelings.

If you notice you’re reaching for food when negative feelings come up, become aware, and at the very least, give yourself a few minutes to sit with the feelings. If you’re already stuck in an emotional overeating or binging cycle, or the dieting/binge cycle, and you want out, honoring and feeling your emotions is a good place to begin.