The Slippery Slope of Overeating – 6 Steps To A Healthy Life Long Weight Loss
The Slippery Slope of Overeating – 6 Steps To A Healthy Life Long Weight Loss
(An excerpt from Wendi Francis’ Podcast)
In life you’ll hear from many people, what we might call the “Domino Effect” a Slippery Slope. Before we know it, we’re down the hillside at the bottom and don’t know how we got there. We’ve all experienced this – when one thing leads to another. It’s like that 80 song “ One Thing Leads To Another” We’re having a bad morning, wake up late, jump out of bed and stub our toe and then there’s no hot water, the traffic is the worst ever & we’re late to work. We’ve all had those mornings or those times. Guess what? It can happen with food too. I find the same patterns; when one bad thing leads to another bad thing, and it seems the momentum continues in a direction that seems unstoppable. Maybe one bad thought can lead to another bad thought, or one bad pattern can lead to another bad pattern or maybe one “bad food” leads to another “bad food” which can lead to an entire unplanned eating episode. You didn’t want to eat that food; you just felt compelled to because you were in that pattern. Unless we can learn from our patterns. Read on.
We’re all human and like humans as creatures of emotion it’s easy for us to stay stuck in one of those patterns or ‘Directions’ for a little while. It might be down one path or the other path, a good path or bad path, a happy path or an unhappy path; we tend to move in that way. When you feel bad about yourself or your body you can do bad things for yourself or your body. One bad food or food you’re not supposed to eat. I don’t like to label foods good or bad just like I don’t like to label people good or bad. Maybe a better way of saying it is they’re not right for our body at the time. Maybe they impact us in a certain way, but it doesn’t mean that a food is ‘bad’ it might mean that how we use it is bad or how it is within our body is not good for our body. Many foods like potatoes, bananas, & carrots are very nutritious, but they are not the best choices of foods when you’re trying to lose weight. So, when one ‘bad’ food leads to another ‘bad’ food or one food that’s not good for you or good for your body leads to another, and another, and another, it can come as a small baby slide or as a total avalanche depending on how you handle things. Or maybe past patterns of what you’ve done or how you’ve handled that little baby slide (or landslide). Maybe you eat a brownie when you were supposed to have a salad, but the brownie was on the kitchen counter. And the salad was work, you had to chop it and cut it and dice it. 😊 Maybe you ate some of your child’s ice cream when you weren’t supposed to. To have it then all go downhill when you go home and get into the chips in the pantry.
In our need for control, we can actually move out of control. You see, control is based on fear and fear can and often does backfire. If you don’t have fear you don’t need to have control. If you let the fear go you can actually find freedom. The problem is we’re always holding such a tight grip on our fears. If you find yourself in a moment of a landslide (not based on Fleetwood Mac song which I actually think is one of the best songs out there) or an avalanche, there are things you can do to help you move back into the direction that you need. Just like in life, if we’re moving in a pattern of having one bad thought after another bad thought, we have to do something to stop that. Some people go to bed; some people take a bath; some people call their best friend and have a good cry. When it comes to food there are ways to stop this momentous direction from taking you over. Taking the day over, the week over, the month over, there are many things that you can do.
Step One – STAND UP
1st and foremost when we talk about these avalanches or landslides, the 1st thing you have to recognize is where you’re at and stand up after the landslide. You might have seen on news or national geographic videos people caught in a landslide, getting tumbled & tumbled & tumbled and then they stand up at the very end, saved by grace! The truth is you can stand up too when that avalanche hits you. It’s going to knock you around some, but the 1st thing you have to do is figure out where you are. After that landslide you can be disoriented. What do I eat now? How do I stop this? How can I start in the different direction? It is important to understand this; when you start moving in that negative direction the 1st thing you can do is stand up and stop. Where are you? What’s happening? What’s the cycle like? (I’ll talk more about the cycle below) Because, what happens when we have one thing after the other, after the other, like a Domino effect you need to figure out what started it. And figure out where you are. And then you’ve got to start going in the opposite direction. Walking back up the mountain (although in an avalanche you probably need to walk down😊)
Again, 1st and foremost, what you want to do with your food, if you find yourself in this direction of momentous tumbling, stand up, figure out where you are, and then start with what you can.
Step Two: START WITH WHAT YOU CAN
Most people I hear will say things like,” I’m just going to totally start over and redo everything! I’m gonna do exactly what I’m supposed to every single day, every single meal.” The truth is it’s really hard to do that. What I usually tell people is to start with what you can . Here’s what I mean. Falling down in that avalanche can make you tired so there’s a little bit of weariness & in order to turn things around 360 it takes some extra energy. Start with what you can. Maybe for you it’s simply drinking more water. Maybe for you, as you’re in that avalanche and you’re eating one food after the other, maybe you just need to start by focusing on your water intake. If that’s easy for you just make sure body is hydrated. Maybe it’s adding in protein or maybe it’s getting some fiber in. Those things can really help you with respect to hunger patterns. From a physiological point you can slide down in that landslide of eating one food after the other because of an emotional issue (a feeling) or it can be physiological. Physiologically what we know is you’ve got to get some fiber OR some protein OR make sure you’re well hydrated. For some people is even just sitting down to eat. Because maybe when you “landslide” you don’t sit down. Do you walk around your kitchen? Maybe you’d just say “I’m gonna sit down to eat today” or maybe you make a picnic, and you’ll go outside to eat. Something different than enables you to connect with your food in a different way and puts you in a reset perspective.
Step Three: FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED
(After doing steps 1 & 2) You got hit by a baby slide or a landslide, you stood up, brushed yourself off, you are not labeling what you ate or what you did as “bad”. Next, get out a piece of paper or journal. Start to figure out what happened before, during and after that avalanche or landslide. Start to look at what happened before, during and after and look at the cycle of what happens and when it happens. Then you can figure out the 4th step which I’ll bring up below. You’re going to draw out a cycle of, this led to this, led to this & then this with arrows and you can see what triggered the initial instance.
Environment ⇒ Thought, Emotion ⇒ Action ⇒ Action ⇒ Feeling ⇒ Action ⇒ Results
Example : Home alone ⇒ Bored⇒ Look for something to do ⇒ walk to the pantry ⇒ grab the bag of chips ⇒ Choose to eat the chips ⇒ Feel apathetic ⇒ eat more chips
Sometimes that initial trigger is a thought, action, or emotion but that thought, action or emotion occurred an hour, a day, or maybe even a week before it changed your actions and food. It’s really interesting how we hold things in our mind and our body. We’ve traced things back sometimes weeks before the action came forth so to speak and sometimes it’s just been minutes. So, it critical to really recognize what those triggers are for you and understanding where they come from will be the 1st step for you in really getting a handle on your landslide.
To recap above before going on to the 4th step. When we look at triggers there’s so many different triggers and I just want to highlight this here because so often people don’t look for the physical triggers which is why I talked about this 1st. Are you too hungry? Have you eaten enough fiber or protein? Is your blood sugar low? 2nd other triggers include: your environment, your emotion and/or your physiology or your body signals there’s many ways to have a trigger. Recognizing all of these when you are looking for it is really important.
Wendi Francis , our clinical nutrition director and emotional eating expert did create an entire online course of 11 modules specifically for Emotional Eating. She spent a whole module on finding your triggers. You have to find these triggers in order to determine what your cycle is (the next step)
If you want to get more information you can click the link here. Here you can sign up for Wendi’s 11 week End Your Emotional Eating Online Course.
Step Four: FINDING ALTERNATIVES
Once you find those triggers then you need to find alternatives for those trigger situations. If it’s physical, then you can start to solve the physical by adding in more and more things that stabilize you physically. As mentioned, start with making sure you are hydrated. Many times hunger is confused with thirst. You should be drinking ½ your body weight in ounces, but no more than 120 ounces each day. If it’s mental, then you’ve got to figure out, is it an emotion or isn’t it a thought & where did it come from? And Why is it there? Can you get an alternative to that? Sometimes it takes a little bit more digging, but it is there and you can do it. It’s just figuring out where it comes from. In the example above the pattern started when the person was at home and bored. The fix is to have things to do when home alone. Things that this person would enjoy doing , even looking forward to doing. Maybe putting a puzzle together, working on crosswords or other games. Taking up a hobby, listening to music or reading. This will break the pattern and the result will change.
Step Five: STOP LABELING FOOD AS “BAD” OR “GOOD”
I mention this in the beginning, and this is very true and we see this happen with so many landslides for people. When we label our foods “good” and “bad” there’s a problem. What we do then, if we eat the “bad” food we can, in fact, feel like we are bad. That’s an element of shame that Wendi Francis has talks a ton about on many of her podcasts. It’s very true, when we label a bad food and when we eat that bad food, we can feel really bad. And when we feel bad, we do bad. “ Oh heck! I’ll just start again tomorrow”..OR “Oh, a couple of chips won’t matter” when you know you can’t just eat a couple (some people can) most of us cannot, right? I really get it! The truth is, you know that you can’t manage just a couple of chips. Knowing this, you know you do not want to start eating chips, right? What you should be doing at that moment of decision is trying to figure out why ( or what) that food triggers you. In this example, you eat the chips & now you see yourself as a failure for eating a “bad” food which will not help you get to a healthier place. It only increases feelings of shame which actually makes that landslide happen quicker and faster and stronger.
Step Six: SELF-CARE
If you’re in a landslide, you’re trying to get up, trying to figure out where you are, where you go next and how you go back to where you were. This is really important because it’s the last thing I think people focus on. I hear so often people want to focus on the food and how do I get back on the wagon? “I’m going to start eating salads again or back to 3 meals again” and they’re focusing ALL on the food not as much on the triggers but definitely not on self-care. So often during these times when we’re in a landslide we forget that we haven’t taken care of ourselves. Have you done things that help you distress? If you’re feeling emotional about something: guilt, grief, fear, loss, you need to cry to let out sadness. Or, do you need to take a bath every night just to relax? Do you need to go for a hike to get in nature? Do you need a listen to an audio book? Do you need to start to meditate? This is the time to make the time for self-care. What your food is telling you is that you haven’t made enough time. When we can’t take to care of ourselves in a primal way, which is around food and eating, it’s our cry for help with ourselves. Whatever helps you release and relieve those emotions to stay grounded and centered, this is the time to do it.
This is your action-packed plan! OK, I ‘m going to do some extra food, I’ll figure out my triggers & cycles and then I’m doing some cognitive work and then I’m going to take care of myself! What makes me feel loved and nurtured and cared for. Is it a connection with other people? Do you need to go out and have a girl’s (or guys😊) night and have a laugh? Do you need to be home quiet and listening to something. Do I need to be journaling? Whatever it is, this is the time to do it. Your food could be that cry for help; that landslide/ avalanche is trying to get your attention and it’s trying to tell you wake up. I’m trying to let you know I’m here. Recognize that as the cry and heed to it to understand.
Finally, recognize the cycle & learn the lesson.
Like life, lessons in food and eating will keep coming back around until you learn what they’re trying to teach you. It will come around and come around and come around and until you finally figure out why they’re there and what you can do about them. What’s the cycle teaching you? What do you need to learn and how and why and what can you do different next time so you don’t have to keep repeating the lesson? So many of the same lessons show up in our lives and our food over and over again. Until the day we stand up and we say “Not this time; this time I’m smarter; this time I’m stronger; and this time I’m not gonna let it happen again this time, or ever again.”