These are the top reasons that I see in my clients and what they struggle with often as they try to lose weight and practice a healthy lifestyle consistently.
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Top Reason 1: Deprivation
The first one is deprivation. I hear this often, you may have said it yourself, “My week is so good but then everything falls apart on the weekends” or “I do really great throughout the day but then the evenings are the worst”. It can even be a longer time period than that could be like “I can go really good for two weeks and then fall apart after that!”
Eating Behavior Cycle
Overeating and Negative Feelings
What is happening when you describe this is that you are in a cycle. You overeat and generally the overeating creates negative feelings. It’s against what you have in mind in regards to; What you should be doing… What you should look like…How you should feel… A lot of “shoulds” come up. It’s a negative feeling; whether it’s shame, regret, frustration, a loss of confidence in your ability to follow through, etc.
The overeating brings the negative feelings,then the negative feeling brings in a restriction behavior. Restriction can look like saying something like “I’m never going to eat sugar again”, or “I’m cutting out all carbs”. It could even look like something in the realm of “well I’m going to run an extra 5k to burn off those calories”. You are finding yourself in a place of restriction at some point in that restriction a deprivation feeling starts to come in.
Deprivation looks like feeling that you’ve worked so hard, that you’ve ran that extra 5k, or didn’t have any sugar all week while everyone else around them was and begin to feel tapped out from that effort or continually exerting will power.
Binge or Overeat
The moment you get to be “off” from being “on” for so long is when the binge comes back around and kicks off the cycle again.
A binge can look like overeating in quantity, but it can also look like eating something that is deemed “off-limits”.
“I’m already bad, so I can’t get any worse!”
The famous last words between going from “I’ve been working hard and I deserve a treat” to going full on into an overeating episode. Which can turn into several meals, or days, or longer worth of overeating. Not only offsetting the work done previously, but creating an additional surplus of intake.
Offsetting the Restrict/Binge Cycle
Watch for those places that there might be too much restriction. Against what seems like popular practice, cutting out or going significantly low on your intake of a food group, can lead to deprivation and even nutrient deficiencies, kicking up higher cravings.
Until you understand your body really well and know that, “hey, actually I feel pretty good on a low (insert your macro here) lifestyle.”, go with a baseline of whole balanced foods to make up a a balanced representation of macronutrient intake.
Top Reason 2: Blood Sugar Control
The second reason is blood sugar control. You may eat a food that will spike your blood sugar and may be satiating in the moment but ends up not being satiating over time. Not only does it not satiate your appetite for long, but drops your blood sugar level to where you’re searching for another hit of energy.
Most of the time this is going to be an ultra-processed food. Something that contains high amounts of sugar or a sugar variation in it. For example, flour might not taste like sugar but it has the same sugar response where it’s going to bring your blood sugar up and drop it back down quickly.
So think about any sort of processed food; chips, crackers, granola bars, candies, cookies, baked goods, pastas, etc. that can have that effect. Also when people go to eat them they tend to eat more than a serving worth (what you can fit in a cupped handful or approximately a quarter of a cup).
Offset: Protein First
The offset to the blood sugar rollercoaster is starting all of your meals with protein. Think protein First, even if you’re going to go for a snack make that snack protein. Switch out something that might be chips or crackers for a hard-boiled egg, chicken salad, or some lentils. Something that’s easy and convenient like beef jerky, or tuna salad.
Top Reason 3: Food as Entertainment or Coping aka: Emotional Eating
The third thing is food being used as a coping mechanism. This one is the hardest one to undo in building a healthy lifestyle. Food or drink as an instant release or quick fix for stressors, boredom, distraction, etc. when you’re stressed in your days and don’t feel like you have time to sit down for self care. Like meditating, sit in the sauna or hot tub, take a walk, things that are very obvious stress relievers.
When you’re unable to build up your energy and willpower stores through quiet, non-stressful, non-stimulating activity you may turn to what feels like a quick hit release; food and drink.
Offset Emotional Eating Behaviors
Build Your Energy Bank
Find and cultivate nourishing practices that bring you energy throughout your day. As you’re finding those practices you’re going to think about it as picking up little pieces to acquire a bigger piece versus waiting for that big piece payoff. A big piece payoff may be something like a massage or a weekend away.
For this habit, what you’re looking for is day-to-day energy boosters that aren’t things that come outside of you like coffee, energy drinks, or sugary foods, checking social media, etc.
Look for those things that give you energy in the moment and it might feel like a small little boost, but it’s something that you’re going to continue to acquire and build up a bank of energy.
In my experience all of these practices are found in times of solitude without distraction or a deep connection with another person. Think 5 minutes of breathing, sitting in silence, walking in nature, drawing,a good chat with a friend, making and drinking a cup of tea in the sun, writing down your reflections or intentions or things that bring you contentedness.
These will help you get through those moments that you’re feeling like you need to release stress. When you do, you’re not turning to food as a quick fix, you’re turning to a nourishing, energy giving habit.
Creating an Energy Baseline
Sleep, hydration, and movement will fill your energy banks greatly when satisfied on a consistent basis.
Start slow, choose one habit that you can easily execute today and for the next two weeks. Get success on that one habit whether it is starting your meals with protein or finding 5 minutes of quiet time to yourself. As this first habit starts to become an easy practice your day, build on that habit with another doable habit that you will practice for another two weeks.