People are overweight either because they eat too much food or they eat the wrong food (too many processed foods, too many sweets). But it is not for lack of knowledge of what to eat, and this is a crucial point. Most overweight people could write a book about nutrition and what they "should" be eating. They know what to do, but they don’t do it. Why?
It’s not that fat people are weak or morally deficient. It’s that there is a compulsive aspect to overeating. Part of it is the physical effect of processed food – sugar, salt, and fat. But this isn’t the whole story, and it’s not even the biggest part of the story because people can and do learn to eat moderate amounts of these types of foods.
The main reason for overeating is emotional eating – stress eating. And here’s the thing: dieting can’t fix that.
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Why Diets Don’t Work
The chief characteristic of emotional eating is that it has an involuntary, compulsive quality – it feels like something you are not choosing to do, like something you can’t help but do. If you are overweight due to emotional eating, that is the problem that needs to be solved: the out-of-control eating.
A diet does not solve this problem except in a very temporary way, and then it boomerangs, making the problem worse. A diet adds a tiny bit of resistance to an extremely strong compulsion, but over time strengthens the compulsion by giving a feeling of deprivation. So the longer you are on the diet, the stronger the feeling of deprivation, until eventually you break the diet and eat more than ever.
If you are overweight because of emotional eating, the solution has to be an elimination of the emotional eating, the compulsion itself. Diets strengthen the compulsion, not eliminate it, so they are not the solution. Study after study shows that diets don’t work. More than 95% of dieters regain any weight they have lost plus some.
What does work is to resolve the emotional eating issues, and restore normal eating by reconnecting with natural hunger and satiation cues.
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Myths and Facts About Normal Eating
There are some common misunderstandings of what attuned eating means, and also some differences between Normal Eating and other attuned eating programs. Here are some myths and facts:
Myth: Normal Eating means eating without any control whatsoever.
Fact: Normal Eating means eating with internal control instead of external control: control comes from within. You develop internal control over time by resolving emotional eating issues and enhancing body awareness.
Myth: Normal Eating requires that you eat junk food and sweets.
Fact: Normal Eating doesn’t require you to eat anything – you can eat whatever you want. If you want to eat broccoli, eat broccoli. Knowing you have the right to eat junk food and sweets is what frees you to choose something else. If you don’t know you have the right to say “yes” to a food, then “no” is not a true choice, it’s something imposed on you.
Myth: Normal Eating is incompatible with good nutrition and healthy eating.
Fact: The goal of the Normal Eating program is a healthy diet that is freely chosen because it is what you have come to prefer, not a diet that you cling to through white-knuckling and cravings. Attuned eating isn’t just about eating when hungry and stopping when full, it’s about listening to your body’s needs in all aspects, and that means eating nutritious food.
How to Stop Emotional Eating
Much of the work I do with people in the Normal Eating Support Forum and in private coaching revolves around emotional eating – that maddening, self-sabataging, compulsive behavior that can make people feel crazy and desperate.
The important thing to remember about emotional eating is that this is not something you can fix by buckling down and getting serious about self-control because it’s not a problem of self-control.
You can’t fix a problem unless you understand the true nature of the problem. Emotional eating arises from unresolved stress and unmet needs. And while it doesn’t fix the underlying problem, emotional eating does temporarily ease the discomfort, providing a food band-aid. You can’t expect to permanently remove the food band-aid without addressing the underlying problem in some way. No one can just endure pain.
This is not to say that people know why they are eating. Usually they don’t.
At its core, food is a distraction – perhaps the world’s greatest distraction. First there’s the pleasurable physical sensation, so it’s grabbing you on that most basic level. And then there is the obsessive self-castigation and weight loss attempts afterwards. It’s incredibly effective for pushing other thoughts out of your mind.
Essentially what you do with emotional eating is exchange a very disturbing thought or feeling for the still-disturbing-but-less-so problem of emotional eating.
The process you go through with the Normal Eating method is to undo this distraction, trick your mind into telling you what it’s hiding from you, what is really wrong. Once you know, then you can address the real issues and you no longer need to eat over them. The bonus is that your life improves, too.
Permanently Solve Your Weight Problem
People are frustrated with their weight, and ads for diet programs shout at you from all directions. The ones that sell best promise a fast solution to excess weight with little or no effort: “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days while eating all you want!”
The problem is, these solutions are temporary more than 95% of the time – studies prove it. So you’ll buy their solution, it will work for a while, and then it will stop working. A year from now you’ll be in the same situation and you’ll be in the market for another diet program.
Normal Eating offers a permanent solution, but it’s a harder sell. Here’s what I promise: You can be a normal weight person who comes by it naturally, without worrying about what you eat. It takes 1-2 years and it’s very hard work. You must dive into your soul and and really face who you are. You must confront the core reasons behind your emotional eating, and possibly make some difficult life changes. But if you do that, you will truly be free of the eating and weight problem for the rest of your life. You will become your normal weight without dieting, and you will stop obsessing on eating and weight.
That may sound hard, but if the easier, softer way doesn’t work, perhaps walking through the fire and solving the problem for good and for real actually is the easier, softer way.
If you have questions or comments about Normal Eating, please post them! I would love to hear from you.