Our society is full of little obsessions. From shopping to drinking, to online gaming and everything in between, we do love to loose ourselves in our favorite activity.
For people who are obsessed with food, the side effects are obvious. Weight gain and a range of health problems are the first things that come to mind. And then there is the shame that many overeaters feel, sometimes denying their eating habits, and sometimes hiding them.
We know that overeating will land us with all of these problems, so why can’t we stop? Well, like any obsession, it has its roots in our psychology, making it a complicated case to crack. If it were as simple as just stopping then it would not be an issue. But of course, human beings are wonderfully, frustratingly complex.
Two typical approaches to consider
If you want to stop an obsession with when your next meal is coming, then I believe there are two common approaches to consider. The first being the simple and pragmatic approach of deflecting your bad habits and replacing them with better ones. Frequently used by people stopping smoking, deflecting could involve distracting yourself or replacing food with something less unhealthy.
The second approach is finding the root cause of the food obsession. This is not a quick fix by any means and can be hard work to get started. But I also believe this has the longer lasting effect of the two approaches.
Obsessions of any kind are often there to comfort us in some way, or distract us from our pain. Qualitative Psychology Researcher, author and TED speaker, Dr. Brene Brown, explains these as “numbing activities.”
Dr. Brown describes how the western world is both over-stressed and heavily medicated, numbing themselves with prescription medication, recreational drugs, alcohol, food, and television.
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It does seem to be true that we spend our lives rushing around, trying to “keep up with the Jones’s,” working ourselves into the ground, and then needing alcohol to be able to wind down again. We wildly swing from hyper to exhausted, always overshooting the healthy balance that exists somewhere in the middle.
When you look at overeating from this angle, it is not hard to understand how an insatiable appetite for food can really be us subconsciously trying to fill another void in our existence.
If you are suffering from an obsession with eating, then next time you feel the urge, could you stop and pay attention to your feelings? Are you genuinely hungry? Maybe you are. But maybe you are also sad, stressed, lonely, or feeling vulnerable.
An alternative approach
With these things considered, I am drawn to consider a third approach. How about finding our equilibrium first, and then working backward to the numbing activity of overeating?
If we were less stressed in the first place, then we would not feel the need to numb ourselves with our obsession of choice. So I will leave the ball in your court. What could you do to make your life a little easier on you? Could you find some calm in the storm?
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I believe that if you can find a way to live a happier and calmer life, then the bad habits will no longer nag you so loudly. There will be less pain to numb and more of the good stuff to enjoy.