When Mindless Eating isn’t About Lack of Willpower

You wrap up work for the day and start to shift into thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner. If you have kids, you also have to shift from being in the work mindset to the caretaker mindset. You shut your laptop and head straight to the pantry. You’re not really hungry but could use a little nibble. You stand in the pantry for a few minutes contemplating what you want to eat. You start with some chips. Then you move onto some cookies. But wait! There are crackers that sound good, so you have some of those too. Now you need something sweet, so you have some chocolate. Before you know it, you’ve polished off seven different snacks.

You weren’t even that hungry AND you’re going to be eating dinner in an hour, so why did you mindlessly eat so much? This is exactly a scenario one of my clients found herself in multiple times per week. She would set healthy eating goals and could stick with them for a couple of days. No matter how badly she wanted to reach them, for some reason she would lose her willpower, say screw it and end up in the pantry so she could eat in private. She was filled with shame when it came to food and her eating and was exhausted from what seemed to be a never-ending rollercoaster of gearing up, getting back on track, eating well for a while, sabotaging herself and feeling like she had failed again.

When we first started working together, she wanted to finally get to the bottom of this cycle. In the first session, we explored how this behavior was protective. The pantry was a “safe” space to escape the uncomfortable feelings she was experiencing during the day. She would use the variety of snacks to distract herself from feeling those feelings.

When we explored what was underneath the discomfort, we realized she had been feeling like she wasn’t as productive during the day as she thought she should be. Therefore, she was afraid of being seen as a disappointment by her family. Thinking about food all the time was also a way to be “productive,” even though she was ultimately sabotaging her efforts.

After the second session, she was starting to see how her eating wasn’t really about willpower. For years, she thought she was lacking discipline and self-control. As we went through the coaching exercises in the Truce with Food® process and discussed her triggers, she started to realize there’s so much more underneath her mindless eating.

Three main reasons she eats out of alignment with her healthy eating goals are:

  1. When feeling unproductive
  2. When her needs aren’t being met after accommodating others (also known as, feeling out of choice)
  3. When she’s feeling like she could disappoint those important to her

By realizing the deep-rooted causes, she’s regaining her hope that things can change for good and is able to be more compassionate with herself. She’s already getting clearer on her goals and what’s important to her, which will continue to evolve as we move along on her journey. 

If you’re ready to get to the bottom of what’s leading you to mindlessly eat, 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 is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and holds a certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). She has supported over 60 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. 

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, teaches Chicago Police Officers and has been featured in Voyage Chicago.

Laura can be contacted at [email protected].


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