Have I ever told you about how, back in the day when I was in college, my friend and I would go to iHOP once a week and eat a day's worth of calories in one sitting? It's the reason I eat pancakes at home now.
If you don't know those stories, then you probably don't know that I used to be a BIG overeater. The iHOP situation was just ONE of the many stories of me stuffing my face with food on a consistent basis.
I was never a binge eater though, which is when you eat massive amounts of food and feel like you can't stop. I was just a classic overeater, the type of person whose eyes were much bigger than her stomach . Someone who would go back for seconds, thirds, and occasionally fourths, depending on the setting.
Back then, I joked that I had a second stomach and it was the recipient of all the food that couldn't fit into the first one. At times, that's exactly how it felt.
Many of my overeating episodes happened at night (which is when we went to iHOP), on the weekends or at social events where I felt uncomfortable and anxious.
As I look back, I realize that there were 2 huge reasons for eating beyond fullness:
1. I was a long-time member of the "food-is-the-answer-to-all-my-problems" club. It was my friend, my lover, my Friday night entertainment. To be clear: in addition to being fuel for our bodies, I believe that food IS comfort, pleasure, fun and connection. However, when it's your primary (or ONLY) source of those things, it becomes the problem and not the solution. Eventually, I learned that eating everything that isn't nailed down is an ineffective, short-term way to deal with the shittier parts of life.
2. It was a reaction to my constant yo-yo dieting. My nightly super-sized snacking was a result of daytime deprivation. For some reason, my body didn't enjoy living on 1200 calories a day and tried to make up for it between 6PM and 10PM.
This went on for years and it sucked the life out of me. I couldn't take it anymore, so I did something about it. But it wasn't easy.
SPOILER ALERT: There was NO magic potion, secret formula or proprietary blend of herbs and spices that took me over to the other side.
I DID THE WORK.
I did the work that many people want to avoid. The work that they think they don't need. The work that takes time, patience, and self-compassion.
For me, the work was a lot of self-reflection and challenging of old beliefs + the following habit changes:
I discovered other ways to deal with uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings: journaling, talking to friends, and meditating.
I eat food that I enjoy. Life is too short to be chowing down on bowls of lettuce drizzled with low-fat vinaigrette 3 times a day.
I allowed myself to have ANY food, ANY time. It turns out, I didn't want pizza and cookies as much as I though I would.
I eat mostly nutritious food, which keeps me satisfied and not starving.
I no longer allowed the food on my plate to determine my worth as a person.
I stopped chasing a number on the scale because it gave me NO valuable information. NONE.
I stopped talking about other people's weight and food choices. Basically, I started minding my own damn business because what's on YOUR plate has nothing to do with me.
I changed the conversation. I don't sit around with my friends strategizing on the food I'm going to cut out for the next 21 days so I can lose 10 pounds. Coincidentally, our 'girl talk' became a lot more interesting.
Finally, I became involved in my life. Since the age of 11, I spent so much time focused on getting smaller that I missed out on many opportunities to EXPAND my life.
Life on the other side of overeating is a beautiful place filled with freedom and peace around food. It isn't easy, but it's possible and WORTH every minute.