The Never Ending Food Ride
I help you crack the code to the exhausting food “ride,” where one minute it’s smooth sailing – you’re thinking, I’ve so got this – and then BAM! The tables turn. Food chaos and overconsumption take hold. The once confident high is now glutted with guilt.
This experience of swinging “on track” then “off track” – is an arduous reality for many eaters. Those “all or nothing” patterns make up the bars of food prison, varying in intensity, from maximum security to parole.
Women need an off ramp to the food “ride,” and that’s what I’d like to talk with you about today. Let’s start with getting clear on the in’s and out’s of the food ride itself.
The in’s and out’s of the food “ride”
The food ride manifests as an array of dips and turns, varying for each rider, but always cycling between the same two parts. These two parts work in tandem. With one inevitably comes the other. With the light comes the shadow, and there’s no separating the two.
The two parts to the ride are the never ending back and forth between our restrictive eater and our overeater. The restrictive side is committed to staying “in control” and being “good.” There’s a sense of empowerment and high – we feel “above” our hungers and cravings.
Then comes the inescapable and inevitable dip. We swing “out of control.” Self-loathing, self-criticism, and guilt bombard us. We might think we’re being “bad” and feel powerless to our desires and cravings.
And like a pendulum, back and forth we go.
Maybe you’re well versed in this pattern and maybe you’re seeing it for the first time today. Regardless, know this: the food ride isn’t personal.
This is a well-documented pattern written about and studied by nutritionists, psychologists, eating experts, and other professionals. You may have read about it as the diet/binge or restrict/binge cycle.
The inescapable phenomenon between these two parts is why restriction and dieting don’t work long-term. The strategies used to control your eating (dieting, restriction, “watching what you eat”) are the very things that cause your overeating.
You might not like this reality, you might want to be the exception to the rule, but the truth remains.
Restriction and overeating are two peas in a pod. The front and back of the hand.
What to do about the food “ride”
First, we must understand it fully so that it doesn’t take us for unconscious rides. And second, we need to find ways to get off the ride itself.
Physics tells us that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. What swings left has potential energy (read: inevitable energy) to swing equally right.
What is often forgotten or unknown is that our body’s biology is hardwired to do the same. When you restrict, the inevitable opposite is on the horizon. It might be minutes away or weeks away. Nevertheless, it’s coming.
It’s not your insatiable appetite or your failing willpower. It’s your body doing what she knows best in order to return to homeostasis. It’s how she soothes herself in psychological or physical famine. It’s how she thrives and nourishes her needs in times of low food supply.
It’s survival instinct not budging an inch – it’s your beautiful human need – making up for any food threat, real or perceived. When we’re on the food ride, overeating is always the result of innate body wisdom.
These are the laws of nature and the ones we must learn to live within. We cannot change the laws of the food ride. We cannot defy biology or physics. We cannot buy a one-way ticket on the ride. Once we get on, we ride out the entire loop.
The only thing we can do is get off the ride altogether.
We must learn to slow the food ride. Each of us must study our own food pendulum and learn to rest in the center point. Not perfectly or exactly of course, but gracefully and forgivingly.
Observe yourself and your habits. When do you get on the ride? Certain times of the week, the year, or in times of stress? When you want to take better care of yourself? When you’re trying to lose weight?
What labels are we placing on ourselves? If we think we are “good” when we restrict and “bad” when we over consume, that black-and-white thinking will always transfer into black-and-white food patterns.
If there was ever a “good” it is to come back to our bodies. We must ask where have we let ourselves go past the point of comfortable fullness? Where have we denied the hungers of our body?
What foods do I pick only because they are tangled in a story of “should” or “right” or “better”? When I drop those labels, what foods truly nourish and satisfy me?
We must forgive ourselves when we overeat. We must forgive ourselves when we undereat. We must learn to keep listening.
We must recognize that every time we enter a round of restriction or dieting, it’s most likely our way of trying to get off the ride. We must stop thinking it will be different this time. And we must see that when we diet or restrict we’ve just signed up for another roundtrip ticket on the ride.
And we must see the only thing to restrict is restriction itself and the only rules to break are the confines of the food ride.