Is it stress or biochemistry that’s driving you to overeat? It’s actually both, but first, I have a confession to make.
Yesterday I got triggered and wanted to wallow in my old comfort foods from childhood: Mr. Ben, Mr. Jerry, and Mr. Double Stuffed Oreo.
Why you ask? Well, I had just come back from visiting my parents in Portland, whom I hadn’t seen in 4 years, and during that trip, I reconnected with them in a new way. No longer a child, I saw them through adults eyes and for the first time, as equals.
This time, past hurts were replaced with new beginnings and happy memories long forgotten.
Yet despite our good time, I came back to San Francisco with a deep feeling of loneliness, desiring closeness and connection with my folks, and this is what I felt at the store yesterday. Since my default has always been to reach for sugar to feel better, this didn’t surprise me. But what may surprise many of you stuck in this cycle is that there is always a biochemical underpinning to any kind of disordered eating pattern.
In other words, you’re not lazy or lacking in discipline, you’re simply imbalanced in certain nutrients and/or overloaded in others, and this is why understanding your biochemistry and who you are is key.
Because without understanding who you really are, it’s difficult to pinpoint how your emotions affect you on the physical plane. In the past, I ate mindlessly, unaware of what I was doing until it was too late to mitigate the damage. In the past I wandered the cookie aisle analyzing every box until I convinced myself this one was better than that one, even though I knew in my heart I was making excuses for yet another binge.
Now that I really know myself, I’m able to pinpoint what’s going on in the moment without damaging my body. And this takes me back to my original question: Is it stress or biochemistry that’s driving you to overeat? The answer is both because imbalanced biochemistry will take any stress you have and magnify it tenfold. So here are the steps I use with my clients to stop food obsession in its tracks:
- Know your biochemistry, get properly tested. When it comes to disordered eating, elevated levels of histamine and deficiencies of zinc and vitamin B-6 (to name a few) create obsessive compulsive tendencies and the need to be perfect. This holds true for bulimia, anorexia and everything in between. Testing saved my life.
- Drop into self-dialogue. Instead of falling into old patterns that no longer serve you, take a deep breath, walk out of the store, and ask yourself what’s really going on. What is it that you’re feeling? Now I want you to name the emotion, but not just “I’m lonely”, give it a different name such as “I’m feeling kalamazoo.” Do you see how this takes away the negative connotation of loneliness? This is what I did at the store yesterday when loneliness overcame me. I was gentle and soothing just like a loving mother would be to her child in need, and then I made myself laugh because, well, feeling kalamazoo is pretty funny, don’t you think? This simple technique snapped me right out of it.
- Eat according to your biochemistry. The wrong foods will turn on deviant genes that have a direct impact on your relationship with food and thus your ability to think clearly. For years I thought being vegan was the way to go until I became seriously malnourished. Understanding the foods that work best for me and my body was my second lifesaver and transformed the way I work with my clients.
Need help figuring it all out? Send me an email to see how I can help.
Have you ever struggled with emotional eating? I’d love to get to know you by reading about your experience in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.