Despite the fact that I believe in the core mindset behind low-carb/Paleo/ancestral nutrition, there is one phrase uttered by so many who follow that type of diet/lifestyle that just kills me:
“When you’re eating real food, like healthy fats,* you can’t overeat.”
Oh yeah? Just watch me.
For many people, the aforementioned statement is truth. Fats are incredibly satiating, and when you’re full, you’re full. Same goes for protein and even veggies, for the most part. The problem is, when you’re approaching the dinner plate from the perspective of someone with a broken metabolism and a history of emotional eating, “full” doesn’t always mean full.
Perhaps, like me, you’re following a satiating, ancestral/Paleo template, which means you’re avoiding grains, pasteurized dairy, refined sugar (or all sugar, except for fruit) and flavoring your meals with lots of delicious, filling fats (like coconut oil, olive oil, and animal fats)–but you find yourself bingeing anyway. On weird things, like coconut butter. Strawberries. Brussels sprouts.
Beyond an almost certain derangement of my leptin levels, I believe that there are a couple of mental roadblocks that are keeping me from putting down the fork “when I’m full.”
ROADBLOCK #1: Habit
Coming from a history of disordered eating, I am no stranger to habit. In fact, I’m still pretty much habit’s slave, when it comes down to it. Whether it was my strict meal timing on my bodybuilding diet or my strange strange little meal rituals–using certain bowls or utensils, eating certain foods in certain quantities at certain times, playing mental tricks on myself to make it feel like I was eating more while eating less, etc.–each of these habits still lingers in my daily routine, threatening to throw off my ability to make good choices about the volume of food that I eat now.
Whatever your food habit is, you have to first admit it, second acknowledge it, and then third address it. To admit it, you have to be willing to be aware of what you’re doing. Do you find yourself eating based on a schedule? Do you find yourself craving certain foods that you have always eaten at certain times? Figure out the pattern.
Next, acknowledge the habit. That doesn’t mean perpetuate it; rather you have to understand why you are drawn to this habit, honor the reasons, and give yourself some time and space for forgiveness.
For example, I have a tendency to go crazy on nut butter at night. This comes from many, many years of restricting food during the day and then giving myself the incredible “splurge” or 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter before bed. I would feel so guilty for “cheating” on my diet, but those 1-2 tablespoons were the only fat that I ate all day, and my entire being craved them. The five minutes I spent eating peanut butter were the only five minutes I looked forward to all day for about 3 years.
Even though I no longer restrict food during the day, I still have a very well-established habit of approaching my nightly dessert with a restrictive mindset: this nut butter will be the only thing of value in my day. So eating the nut butter becomes sacred and scary, because my mind is still hardwired to believe that it’s not going to get any nutrition tomorrow–but now that I don’t restrict food, I have to be aware of my desire to dig in and eat it all…NOW.
Addressing the habit is the hard part. If acknowledging the habit is a time of self-love, addressing the habit is a time of tough love. This is the cold-turkey part. The part where you have to put away the calorie log, eat a different times, or throw away the nut butter. After you’ve admitted that there’s a problem and acknowledged the trigger, you have to stop loading the gun.
The only way to do this is to do it. Start journaling, find a friend, download an app like Lift or Stickk–whatever it takes to keep you accountable (and I hate that word for its association with dieting, but it’s the best word I can think to use in this context). Break the habit consistently for 21-30 days. Do it. Mess up. Get back on track. It’s okay to be mad at the habit–but use your frustration to fuel your desire to break the pattern instead of beating yourself up for not breaking it right away or completely. These things linger, especially when we’ve given them years to develop and take root.
And I’ll be 100% transparent: I’m still working on my nighttime (coco)nut butter** habit now. So I’m right there in the trenches with you, getting mad at the setbacks–but, more importantly, getting ready to celebrate the wins.
What habits do you have around eating? What are you ready and willing to do to break them?
Stay tuned for part two…
*Coconut. Avocados. Meat. Raw dairy. That kind of thing. Don’t get me started on seed oils, okay?
**I traded my peanut butter for almond butter when I started eating Paleo, but I traded the almond butter for coconut butter when I figured out that a birch pollen allergy was probably triggering some of the acne around my jawline.