Marijuana binge eating

Ep. 112: Marijuana Use and Binge Eating

post-binge brain

Ep. 109: Post-Binge Brain

Thinking Too Much About Food?

Is food constantly in your thoughts? Even if you’re not having urges to binge, are you incessantly thinking about eating?

This post will help you learn to manage these bothersome food thoughts.

You can listen to a audio version of what follows at BrainoverBinge.com/subscribe (Scroll down on that page until you see the audio except from course Lesson 8: Food Thoughts)

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In addition to your struggles with bingeing, you may feel like food takes up too much of your brain space. If you’re around food, you may have a hard time focusing on anything else. Even if you’re not necessarily thinking about binge eating or feeling that impulse to eat very large quantities of food, you might be thinking about what’s in your refrigerator or what you’re going to eat next.

You may be at work and trying to get things done, and all you can think about is getting your lunch, even if you’re not hungry yet. If this is the case for you, you may find yourself eating just to make those incessant thoughts about eating go away. Eating might feel like it just quiets your mind for a minute—but then once you’re done eating—it’s possible that more thoughts start to pop up about what you’re going to have next. It can feel exhausting to be constantly thinking about eating or trying to talk yourself out of eating. Understandably, you want to be able to concentrate on the rest of your life and not just concentrate on food.

It’s definitely not your fault that you’re feeling this way and that you’re having these incessant thoughts, but it’s important to accept that this is simply the way that your brain is wired at this point in time. Getting upset at the food thoughts, or strongly wishing they would go away, or getting upset at yourself is only going bring more attention to these food thoughts. So as much as you can, try not to react emotionally to these thoughts. Notice them with a level of detachment, so that you’re observing these thoughts without so much judgment.

As far as why your brain seems to be so zoned in on food, there could be various reasons for it. One factor could be a natural tendency based in your genetics that does make you more attracted to food. Everyone is different, and some people do find food more rewarding than others. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It’s just part of a normal variation. The reason that you’re so zoned in on food could also have to do with past dieting and the fact that your lower brain is still trying to protect you—by encouraging you to eat as much as possible.

This fixation on food could have something to do with conditioning from childhood—if you were constantly given food—and now your body and brain still expects that constant supply of food. It’s possible that a partial cause could be some of the types of food that you’re eating, which may be causing drops in blood sugar and therefore some thoughts about getting more food to get your blood sugar back up. Another cause could be that the binge eating itself has trained your brain to make food a priority, even when you’re not bingeing.

But whatever the theoretical cause may be, you can learn to redirect your focus and change this habit of thinking about food too much—and  if the cause has anything to do with the types of food you’re eating, you can look at that as well. Even if the cause has some of its roots in you being more genetically attracted to food and rewarding experiences, that does not mean you’re destined to be constantly consumed with food thoughts. Knowing your tendencies helps you deal with those tendencies appropriately. Once you’re self-aware of whatever your susceptibilities may be, you can take steps to help yourself.

For example, if you’re naturally prone to anxiety or worrisome thoughts, you can be prepared for them and you can use strategies for calming yourself down in difficult moments. If you’re naturally more prone to focus on food, then you can be prepared for the thoughts to come up and you can use strategies that help you turn your attention elsewhere. This tendency is probably very common, but it does not have to interfere with your life. Everyone is susceptible to something, but your genetics and your brain-based tendencies are not your destiny. Your brain is plastic, it can change. You can teach it to function at its best, and take advantage of your strengths—and you can simply be aware of some of the thoughts and the behaviors that you’re at risk of engaging in, and then take steps to prevent that.

So far, I’ve basically explained some of the possible reasons you may be focused on food and why it’s important to accept it, and also believe that change is possible. I’ve also mentioned that learning to refocus your attention will be very important to changing this tendency. Through the rest of this discussion, I’m going to give you some suggestions for learning to shift your attention away from food and onto other things.

My first suggestion is to set the proper expectations.

Even when you bring your food thoughts down to a normal level, you should still expect to have food thoughts. Normal eaters enjoy eating, they look forward to eating, they certainly may have thoughts that pop into their head while they’re working or doing other things about what they’re going to eat next. They’ll probably look forward to their lunch break or look forward to getting home for dinner. Normal eaters also have feelings of desire surface when they have these food thoughts. They may think about how delicious something is going to be. They’ll definitely look forward to eating a great dessert. If their favorite food is around at a party, they may be thinking about it more than they would like to.

These examples are just to show you that you do not need to label all of your food thoughts as problematic. It’s normal to have a desire for food and thoughts about food. But I want that to have its proper place in your life and not feel like it’s taking over your mind. You’ll want to get to a place where your thoughts about food feel more fleeting, and less incessant. You’re certainly capable of bringing your food thoughts down to a level that feels much healthier to you, but make sure you’re not expecting them to go away completely.

My second suggestion for refocusing your attention is to notice when you’re not thinking about food.

I know it can sometimes feel that you’re thinking about food all the time, but I know that there are moments in the day when you’re not thinking about it. There are times when you’re focusing fully on your work or on something else in your life. I want you to notice that and see that your brain does have the capacity to go in other directions. Now, I realize that looking for those moments that you’re not thinking about food and then possibly saying, “Wow, this is great. I’m not thinking about food right now” can possibly have the unintended effect of making you then think about food. So try to do this in a way that you’re just observing your mind in a relaxed way, instead of constantly judging whether or not you’re thinking about food in that particular moment.

My third suggestion is to notice when your mind wanders onto other things that are not food, and then realize that the food thoughts don’t have to have so much significance.

I’m going to explain what I mean by this. Right now you may be thinking that when your mind wanders, food is the only thing that it’s turning to. But when you step back and observe your mind, you’ll notice that you have wandering thoughts of other things as well—but the difference is that you don’t take those other thoughts so seriously. You likely don’t get mad at those other thoughts that your mind is creating. You don’t criticize yourself for having those thoughts. You don’t think those other thoughts mean that you’re diseased or damaged. You just let those thoughts come and go.

Try to view your food thoughts as just one type of countless thoughts that run through your head during the day. When you view the food thought just like any other thought, you’ll see that you can have the food thoughts running through your head and still do what you need to do in your life—because that’s exactly what you do when you’re experiencing other types of thoughts.

My last suggestion for redirecting your attention is to simply refocus, refocus, refocus.

When you notice the food thoughts, you can redirect your attention back to the present moment and focus on whatever you’re doing or whatever you want to focus on. You may need to refocus a lot at first, but it will get easier over time. You could compare this to a meditation practice. When you do a meditation practice, your mind naturally wanders, and then you bring your attention back to a focal point or a mantra. And when you first start a meditation practice, you may need to refocus your attention on the mantra or on the focal point hundreds of times, even within just a minute—but it gets easier over time, and your brain starts to stay more and more focused on what you want to be focusing on.

It’s the same with the food thoughts. You may need to bring your attention back from the food thoughts onto something else many, many times before it starts to become more effortless and the food thoughts start appearing less and less. Your brain learns that the thoughts you focus attention on are the ones that are important to you, and will keep producing those thoughts over and over; but when you stop focusing attention on certain thoughts, the brain will learn that those thoughts have less significance to you, and the food thoughts will stop being so intrusive in your life.

One last thing I want to mention here is that, if you are struggling with incessant food thoughts—just make sure that you are eating enough food. Everything I’ve said here assumes that the problem does not lie in current restriction. If you are restricting and you start nourishing yourself well, you’ll likely find that a lot of these food thoughts simply go away on their own.

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More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to develop a healthy relationship with exercise, food, and weight, here are some resources for additional support:

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, weekly group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private session with coach Julie. She will help you change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

episode 108 urge loops

Ep. 108: Urge Loops (with Coach Julie)

Ep. 107: Recovery Stories (Part VI)

exercise tips binge eating

5 Tips for a Healthy Relationship with Exercise

I want to give you 5 tips for incorporating exercise in a healthy way during binge eating recovery and beyond. If you have a history of using exercise to purge or to try to control your weight in a way that is harmful to your body, you may feel confused about how to exercise now that you are focused on being free of the struggle with food. My goal is to help you learn to exercise in a way that benefits you, and doesn’t cause any physical, mental, or emotional harm.

[Before reading this, know that you should get your doctor’s approval for any exercise routines that you’re incorporating into your life.] 

Tip 1: Ask yourself:  Is my exercise an unhealthy compulsion or a healthy habit?

It’s important to make this distinction because even healthy habits have some similarities to unhealthy compulsions. When you develop a healthy habitual behavior, you will have urges to perform that behavior (for example, you feel compelled to brush your teeth). It’s okay to feel driven toward something that’s healthy for you, and this includes feeling driven toward exercise. I want you to look at your desire to exercise and ask yourself: Is my brain encouraging me toward something beneficial (as a healthy habit) or something harmful (as an unhealthy compulsion)?

You may find it difficult not to exercise, but that doesn’t always mean it’s an unhealthy compulsion. However, if you feel you absolutely have to exercise even when you are extremely tired, sick, or injured for example, then this is clearly in the territory of an unhealthy compulsion. Just do some self-observation and self-reflection and see if you can sense the difference when it comes to your own exercise. Here are some additional questions you can ask yourself to gain clarity:
Are my exercise patterns taking over my life?
Do my exercise patterns prevent me from doing other things that I want to do?
Does my exercise take up too much time that I’d rather be spending elsewhere?
Does my exercise take me away from my relationships or my family and friends too much?
Does thinking about exercise take up too much of my mental space?

If you feel like your exercise is an unhealthy compulsion, it doesn’t mean you have to completely give it up. It means you need to alter your routines and mindset to bring it back into the healthy-habit category.

Tip 2: Use exercise as just one tool in managing your health.

Exercise is just one single aspect of your overall health, and there are so many other things to consider. This is not to overwhelm you, but to help you reduce any overemphasis you may be putting on exercise. When you think about the other factors that can affect health and weight (for example: stress, sleep, relationships, career, eating, mood, environment), it makes you realize that you don’t need to obsess about any one factor, but instead work toward a balance.

There has been a pervasive cultural idea that weight results from an overly simplistic equation of calories in – calories out. When you operate on this assumption, it can make exercise seem vitally important as half of that equation. But it’s been proven by now that our bodies, weight, and metabolism are much more complex than that. Nevertheless, when you try to use exercise as a way to “burn calories” to try to control weight, you can get in a mental rut of calculating calories in/calories out, and this obsessive mindset takes any joy and stress-relief out of exercise.

However, when you stop using exercise to “offset” your eating, you can return it to its proper place in your life—as just one factor in maintaining overall health. And a healthy body can much more easily arrive at and maintain a weight that is natural and normal, and that weight is unique to each person.

Tip 3: Don’t use exercise to “compensate”

You may be in the habit of overexercising after binge eating or after eating what you think is too much. I don’t want you to criticize yourself for that, but it’s important to move away from using exercise as a compensatory behavior. Sometimes our bodies may naturally compensate, meaning that when we eat more, we may end up with some extra energy and a desire to move more, and that’s okay. But, when we’re not listening to our bodies, but instead to a harsh mindset that says we must “undo the damage of eating,” then we are going down a dangerous path.

You’ve likely trained yourself to have an urge to overexercise after overeating or binge eating, but you no longer have to follow that unhealthy urge. You can take a step back and realize you don’t have to be driven by those old habitual patterns.

 

Tip 4: Eat enough to support your exercise

You don’t need to do any obsessive tracking of your food intake, but if you are exercising, you can’t eat as if you’re not exercising. Exercise naturally increases hunger and our fuel requirements, and you never want to ignore that.

Don’t try to get by with as little food as possible; instead, give yourself plentiful proteins, healthy fats, and goods quality carbohydrates, as well as any other foods you enjoy. Do your best to nourish yourself to support whatever exercise routine you’re doing. Eating adequately is a big part of the Brain over Binge approach, and when you consider what eating adequately means to you, it’s important to take your exercise routine into account.

 

Tip 5: Don’t compare yourself to others

Try to find your own balance and what works for you. There is not only one right way when it comes to exercise, and the amount that works for you will depend on factors like age and lifestyle. Think about how different exercises, in different amounts and intensities, make you feel—without worrying about what other people are doing or promoting. It’s about tuning in to your own body and also knowing your own unique circumstances.

That being said, I think there are also some objective and common-sense standards of what is “too much” exercise. For example, in Brain over Binge, when I talk about how I exercised for three to seven hours on the days after binges, anyone would look at that and agree that is unhealthy and out of the range of normal. If your exercise amount is more of a gray area, try thinking about it as if someone you love was doing that amount of exercise. Would you think it is too much? Would you tell them that you believe it is unhealthy? While avoiding comparison, try to start treating yourself with the same compassion and kindness you would give to someone else. Engage in some honest self-observation and self-reflection when deciding what works for you, knowing that you can always adjust if necessary.

I hope these 5 tips will give the simple guidance you need to start using exercise as self-care, and not self-punishment.

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More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to develop a healthy relationship with exercise, food, and weight, here are some resources for additional support:

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, weekly group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private session with coach Julie. She will help you change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

Ep. 105: Taking in the Good (in Recovery), with Coach Julie