Someone asked me last week how I deal with eating compulsively when I am not hungry. And it’s a great question. Because I didn’t eat because I was hungry before I put boundaries around my eating. I ate to soothe my difficult feelings. I ate to get high. I ate because it was something to do, and it was my favorite thing to do. I ate because I had cravings, and the foods I ate when I had cravings were foods that gave me more cravings. I am addicted to sugar, grains and starches, and eating them sets me up to “need” more.
But it was more than just a physical craving for me. I spent my life thinking and acting in certain ways, and in doing that I wired my brain for more of the same. In other words, I was wired to think about food and to eat constantly. It took something to rewire myself differently. It took, and sometimes still takes, *actively* changing my thoughts. Though if course it is much easier now. When I have a thought, I have the power to stop having that thought. I have the power to stop a thought in its tracks. It takes practice and intention, but it is possible.
I used to have this experience where I would think something like “I want chocolate cake.” And I would have to tell myself that I don’t eat that anymore. And then not 10 minutes later I would have that same thought. And I would have to tell myself again. And sometimes, my brain would be so insistent that it would phrase it for me like a brand new idea. “Oh hey, I know! Why don’t I have some chocolate cake!?!?” Like I hadn’t just had the same thought over and over.
It takes time to retrain your brain. It takes effort. It takes doing something that you weren’t doing before.
Eating 3 meals a day with nothing in between is a huge part of how deal with the behavioral part of my eating boundaries and how I don’t eat compulsively. There are times to eat: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every single other moment is not time to eat. That makes it uncomplicated for my brain. It makes it easy to rewire my brain to those ends. It takes away the grey areas and the sneaky thoughts. It’s simple, even if it’s not easy to do in the beginning.
For me sugar addiction is very clearly physical. Eating sugar makes me crave sugar. But my being an addict is also about behaviors that my physical addiction made me do compulsively too. I could not have stopped eating compulsively if I did not change, not only what I ate, but when, and how, and how often. I had to change the ways I thought.
But I will say that this rewiring comes slowly, and in baby steps. And the best way to change yourself this way is to start. To change one thought. To take one action. To not take that bite.