16. What to do After You Overeat
Welcome to episode 16 of the Mindful Weight Loss podcast. I'm your coach, Emily Erekuff and today we're talking about what to do after you overeat. And I can't stress enough how important developing a process for this is if you want to stop overeating. This is really the first step. You don't simply, suddenly stop overeating, without first paying attention, making peace with it and learning from it.
And I know that's exactly what you don't want to do. We think it's bad and we don't want to acknowledge it, but if you resist, it will persist.
So let's talk about the three steps to take care of it. And note here I don't mean taking care of it like a mob boss would take care of a snitch. This isn't dealing with it, handling it, or controlling it. Let's first change our approach to be one of caring. Let's take care of it the way we would take care of a newborn baby that is crying out for attention. Geneen Roth said the first thing to do is to be unspeakably kind and that's brilliant. And here's what that can look like.
Step 1 is to give yourself credit for coming back to yourself and to the present moment. You know when you overeat or binge and then you have that moment where're you're done and you realize what just happened? Suddenly you're back off autopilot mode and you're like why the heck did I do that? That is not what I want. And our habit at this point is usually to feel guilty or shameful and to berate ourselves and ask why the heck did I do that again? What is wrong with me?
And what I want to offer here is a simple change in perspective. What if, instead of beating yourself up for the fact that it happened, you celebrated the fact that you came back? What if you could focus on the fact that the binge or overeating stopped and you are back in the drivers seat once again. You came back to your senses and know what you truly want.
The very same thing happens with meditation. Many who are new to meditation think they are doing it wrong when they notice their mind wander. But the mind is supposed to wander. It's nature is to wander and meditation isn't about fighting that. The miracle of meditation is when we come back, when we realize that we were lost in thought and we come back to the present moment, to ourselves.
And overeating works the same way. We get lost in the action of overeating just like we get lost in thought, and the miracle is when we come back.
The triumph isn't staying rigidly on the path. The triumph is noticing when we wander off of the path and steering ourselves every so gently back.
So step 1 is to acknowledge yourself and give yourself credit for the fact that you came back. The binge or overeat could still be going on, but it's not. You came back. You came back. And that is a big deal. That is a really big deal.
The second step is to allow the overeat into your experience, and by that I mean acknowledge that it happened. Don't sweep it under the rug and start planning how you're going to make up for it or compensate for it, because when you do that you're trying to control it, erase it really, and what you need to do is allow it.
And you've got to accept that overeating is ok, that it happened, and that it's ok. Because objectively it is. You will never be found guilty in a court of law for overeating. Overeating is not wrong. It just has undesired consequences and that's not the same thing as being wrong. What if instead of overeating you compulsively drank water? Would you feel the same kind of shame? Maybe, but I'd bet that it wouldn't be as intense. What about binging netflix instead of food? Yeah, you might call yourself lazy, but would you feel ashamed? What about getting sucked into Instagram or Facebook and scrolling for an hour instead of feeling bored or sad?
Really, it's all the same. We act in order to make ourselves feel better and we don't need to be ashamed of that. And in fact being ashamed of that covers up the real issue. As long as you're consumed with overeating being so terrible, you are still distracted from what you really need to look at.
And that brings us to step 3. After you come back and after you acknowledge that you overeat and that that's ok, then it's time to process what happened. It's time to start looking at what led you to overeat. What was going on in your life leading up to it? And what were you doing? What were you feeling? And what were you thinking?
If you can answer just those four questions every time you overeat, you will start to see patterns emerge. And then you'll start to become a bit wiser about when you're likely to overeat. You'll start to know when you're vulnerable so it doesn't blindside you. And you'll start to recognize the warning signs early enough so that you can stop overeating before it happens.
It's ironic, but paying attention to overeating is how you learn to stop overeating. And once you do this work, you'll come to realize that it's a helpful signal, just like our emotions. Back in episode 14 I talked about how to manage negative emotions and I explained that they are really just warning signals to pay attention.
And the thing is we don't pay attention and so the emotion builds and builds until finally it explodes into a behavior like overeating. And then finally we pay attention and we come back to our senses.
When you are stifling your emotions or resisting reality, overeating is actually the thing that helps you come back to the present moment and to yourself. It's truly a gift, an opportunity for you to practice gently coming back. And if you can study it and learn from it, it will show you how to defeat it.
So once again the three steps:
1. Give yourself credit for coming back.
2. Acknowledge that you overate and that it's ok.
3. Process what happened. Ask yourself the four questions:
- What was going on in your life leading up to it?
- And what were you doing before you overate?
- What were you feeling?
- And what were you thinking?
And then find the lesson overeating has for you.
And when you do that, you are an alchemist. You have transformed a painful experience into something truly worthwhile. And that is the greatest kind of triumph.