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How to Stop Overeating

There’s only one reason you are overweight.

If you are overweight, it’s because you overeat.

The solution to solving the problem of overeating is to understand the cause of it.

There are two reasons for overeating: 1) overhunger and 2) overdesire.

Click below to download the​ ​How to Stop Overeating Guide Sheet​—a complete document explaining the cause of overeating and how to stop.

The goal, of course, is to eat only enough to fuel your body.

Many of us, though, are detached from our bodies. We don’t know what it means to actually be hungry, nor do we know what it means to be full.

It’s nearly impossible to stop overeating without knowing what real hunger feels like or what your body feels like when it's full.

We’re detached from our bodies because of our emotions. ​Most people try to escape negative emotions by doing what I call buffering—overeating, overdrinking, overworking, over-fill-in-the-blank. ​This is what I help my students overcome in ​Self Coaching Scholars​, my monthly coaching program.

If you buffer with food, you will eat in an effort to avoid experiencing negative emotion. For example, if you feel stress, you might overeat to escape the negative feeling instead of experience it.

This behavior—escaping a negative emotion through overeating (what I call buffering)—is human nature. ​Your brain was designed to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and be efficient (known as the motivational triad).​ This was useful as we evolved as humans and had to fight to kill our food to make sure we survived. However, it’s no longer useful in terms of our emotional pain. The way we avoid emotional pain (stress, in our example) and seek pleasure (food) is now hurting us. We’re gaining weight and becoming obese.

When we feel stress or any other negative emotion, such as anxiety, fear, doubt, anger, or sadness, we disassociate from the feeling by eating, which dulls the vibration in the body.

Eating is how many people cope with negative emotions.

The solution to this problem is what I coach my students with in ​Self Coaching Scholars​, which is to 1) become aware you’re doing it and 2) learn to experience (instead of resist, react to, or avoid) negative emotions.

The way you become aware of the problem is by using the ​hunger scale​. The hunger scale goes from negative ten to positive ten on a line. Zero is neutral. Notice your sensation of hunger. Then, identify where on the hunger scale that sensation falls. For example, you might say “I feel hungry in my stomach at a number seven.” The more you practice using the hunger scale, the better you’ll get.

Your hunger scale must be calibrated.​ If it’s not, it will throw off your scale.

One of the best ways to calibrate your hunger scale is to ​eliminate flour and sugar from your diet​ for a period of time. Flour and sugar wreak havoc on the glucose levels in your body because they make your insulin rise and blood sugar drop, which causes you to feel hunger even when you’re not actually hungry.

Flour and sugar have been processed in our modern culture so that we crave both far more than we need them (e.g. instead of eating strawberries, we eat strawberry pie).

If you are overweight and you feel hungry a lot, it could be because you’re eating too much flour and sugar.

If you eliminate flour and sugar from your diet so you can calibrate your hunger scale, you will go through a period of withdrawal, during which you will feel terrible.

It’s important to identify the feeling of withdrawal and distinguish it from the feeling of hunger. Withdrawal feels urgent, like you need to eat starchy food immediately. Hunger is subtler.

When you do this effectively, you’ll lose weight.

But there will still be one more problem.

All that negative emotion you were escaping through eating will still be there.

That’s why the second half of the solution is to ​learn how to​ ​experience your negative emotions​.

When you’ve been in the habit of eating to numb your emotional pain and you stop, you’ll still feel the urge to eat.

To solve this problem, it’s important to learn how to allow the urge to be there without reacting to it.

Think of a toddler throwing a tantrum. If you try to negotiate with the toddler, you lose. You end up giving in. If you allow the toddler to throw his tantrum, eventually, he’ll stop. Then, the next time he throws a tantrum, it will be slightly less extreme. As you continue not to give in to the tantrums, the toddler eventually stops throwing them.

In this analogy, the toddler is your urge to eat. At first, the urge to eat to escape your negative emotions will be strong. The more you acknowledge the urge without giving in, the weaker it will get. Eventually, the urges will subside.

Learning how to experience—instead of reacting to, resisting, or avoiding—negative emotions is a skill set that I help my students in ​Self Coaching Scholars​ master, so they’re no longer a slave to what they eat.

You can learn how to establish coping mechanisms that have nothing to do with food. This is the key to losing weight and keeping it off.

Emotions are just vibrations in your body. You can learn to be the Watcher of your emotions and experience them.

Experiencing negative emotion is the meta-skill that will set you free for the rest of your life.

Feelings are harmless if you allow yourself to experience them.

This is the secret to stopping overeating.

To practice stopping overeating, start using the How to Stop Overeating Guide Sheet.