What to Do If You Feel Like You Can’t Stop Eating Certain Foods
Introducing all of your fear foods at once would be too overwhelming for a lot of people. Bringing one into your house at a time, however, gives you a chance to slowly get used to having it around.
Try your best not to worry if you overeat the food at first.
Having it around can be scary and might lead you to eat past comfortable fullness at first, but that’s often part of the process. “If you’re struggling to continue keeping the food in your house, remind yourself that the scarcity and/or rules you have around the food are making the problem worse,” Sutton says. By keeping it readily available and eating it repeatedly, however, you can practice “extinguishing ” the fear associated with it, she adds.
Give yourself permission to eat the food when you want it, and let yourself eat as much of it as you need to feel satisfied. At first, you might want it very often, and maybe in large quantities For example, you might find yourself eating ice cream after lunch and after dinner, and you might finish the container that first day. That’s okay—keep it stocked. The point is to continue giving yourself access and permission to eat the food.
Change the way you talk to yourself about your forbidden foods.
“There’s power in language, so when you say something like ‘I just can’t keep X food in the house because I’ll eat it all in one sitting,’ you almost make it true,” she says. “Try changing your language to something like, ‘I’m learning to keep X food in the house so that I can have a calmer reaction to it.’” That kind of growth mindset can help you stay the course because it reminds you that the goal isn’t to eat perfectly (whatever that means) but to feel more comfortable around food.
Slowly start practicing mindfulness while eating your trigger food.
During the first few days of this process, it might feel impossible to eat a previously off-limits food mindfully. But after you’ve had it a few times and the initial panic, excitement, and/or uncertainty starts to wear off, Sutton suggests trying to bring more awareness to the experience.
“You might start by trying to be mindful of the first three bites, paying attention to how the food tastes, how it feels in your mouth, and how you feel while eating it,” she says. The goal isn’t to eat less, but rather to be present and curious, which is where “the real work begins,” according to Tsui.
“When you’re able to observe what’s happening in your mind and body while eating certain foods, you’ll start understanding your own internal cues, like hunger, fullness, cravings, and satisfaction,” she says. Once you’re used to having the food around and are no longer (consciously or subconsciously) worried about it being taken away, you’re better able to relax and be present. Ultimately, this makes it so much easier to eat an amount that feels good.
If the process feels really scary, seek help.
Even if you don’t have a full-blown eating disorder, healing your relationship with food can be hard work. Often, it’s helpful to have the support of a therapist and/or dietitian who can help you unpack your feelings around food, Tsui says. That’s especially true if you feel like you’re binging on a food for weeks after reintroducing it, or if you find yourself constantly preoccupied with worry about how the process might impact your body or your health.
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