The Real Reason You Feel Out of Control Around Food

When we feel like we’re lacking willpower or discipline around food, it can lead to feeling out of control with our food choices. That can show up by binge eating, stress eating or emotional eating.

Do you ever feel like you have a love/hate relationship with food? You love the taste of it and sometimes find it enjoyable. It’s there for you when you need it and want it. And, it can make you feel really good physically!

On the flip side, you hate it! It’s something you can’t get off your mind, creates a lot of stress and you constantly feel like you have to resist it. When you lose the fight and can’t resist it anymore, you beat yourself up for overindulging.

Deep down you knew the food wasn’t going to make you feel better or comfort you, but for some reason you ate it anyways. You might say you’ve lost your motivation, or if you just had a little more willpower you could have been strong enough to not binge. Chances are there is more to the story!

Initially people think accountability will help them stay on track, which can be helpful but it doesn’t always address the root of the issue. What happens when your accountability partner goes away? In the work I do with my clients, we look at slip-ups and falling off track as a symptom there is something emotional happening.

When we binge eat, emotionally eat or stress eat, we’re typically going through this unconscious cycle that doesn’t have anything to do with self-discipline or willpower.

Source: Ali Shapiro, Truce with Food®

I’m going to focus on the trigger, since that’s what typically trips off this cycle. There are four common triggers that lead people to eat, which are feeling:

  • Tired
  • Anxious
  • Inadequate
  • Lonely

I like to use the acronym TAIL, to help remember what they are.

When we eat, it isn’t the trigger itself that starts this cycle. We perceive the feeling is “bad” so we gear up in an effort to not choose the wrong thing. We also don’t like feeling discomfort so we turn to food as a way to avoid the uncomfortable feelings. Part of the reason that happens is because we don’t actually know what’s happening beneath the surface.

So let’s break down each trigger a bit more:

  • Tired: We might feel physically or emotionally tired and need food to re-energize or fill up our proverbial tanks.
  • Anxious: Often when we’re feeling anxiety, there is a level of uncertainty happening too. We’re not taught with how to deal with uncertainty so it feels unsafe.
  • Inadequate: This can be a tough one to look at. Some ways this shows up for people is by feeling like they aren’t good enough in certain situations. It isn’t necessarily consistent across the board that they feel inadequate in general in their lives. It’s more that there are places or situations they feel like they have failed, are inadequate or aren’t good enough.
  • Lonely: Even when we have a great support system and people around us, there are times we might feel lonely, alone or isolated. It can also come up when we don’t feel heard or seen by others.

To help reduce some of the guilt and shame after you eat out of alignment with your goals, take a moment and see if you can identify any times during the day you were feeling one of the TAIL emotions. What we want to see by doing this exercise is there usually isn’t one big event that leads us to eat. It’s typically a build up of multiple events we may not realize even triggered us.

Clarity and awareness are really powerful in creating a more balanced relationship with food so you can move to a more neutral space instead of staying in the love/hate pattern. The goal is to get to a place where you no longer have to resist food or feel controlled by it. Getting to a place where you have the power and can choose to eat what you want, when you want it is freeing and possible!

If you’re ready to get to the bottom of what’s leading you to binge eat and self-sabotage, let’s chat during a 40-minute Curiosity Call! The call will be free from shame, guilt and judgment. You’ll fill me in on your challenges with your relationship with food, gain some insight, and will have a safe space to talk about what’s been swirling around in your mind. You’ll walk away knowing the steps to create sustainable change (no willpower required)! There’s absolutely no charge for our first chat.

About Laura:

Laura B. Folkes is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and holds a certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She has supported over 100 clients who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it by helping them identify the familiar patterns keeping them stuck so they can radically transform their relationship with food.

Laura is a facilitator of the research-based Truce with Food® process, which helps clients achieve sustainable results by getting to the bottom of why they fall off track and aren’t able to remain consistent. She’s also the creator of the self-paced course, “Behind Your Cravings.”

After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura’s mission became helping others get to the bottom of their self-sabotaging patterns.

Laura coaches clients one-on-one, in small groups, runs workshops, speaks at summits and conferences, and has been featured in Voyage Chicago. Laura can be contacted at or [email protected]

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