Overeating, Veganism & Friends Who Diet [Q&A]
This week, we’re going to keep it short and sweet with a Q&A- I took 12 of your questions from Instagram and went in depth with the answers. So without further ado, let’s get into it!
The questions I’ll be answering are:
- How do I stop myself from bingeing?
- How do I do intuitive eating without overeating daily?
- What are the steps to overcoming fear foods?
- How do I accept the fact that I’m gaining weight as I adopt intuitive eating?
- What do you think about veganism?
- How do I deal with public events? For example, being a bridesmaid when I’m in the refeeding phase?
- How do you handle a partner whose die4t journey was a success when it screwed me up mentally and physically?
- How to overcome feeling too ‘big’ for your male partner because females are socially expected to be smaller?
- What are your thoughts on competitive bodybuilding?
- Not eating 2-3 hours before bed is medically-necessary, but what do I do if it makes me feel restricted?
- How do I work on intuitive eating while depressed without access to therapy?
- How to not fall back into diet culture when people around me are dieting?
Question 1: How do I stop myself from bingeing?
I’ll warn you- you’re not going to like my answer. The reason being, you don’t stop yourself from binging, you stop yourself from restricting.
Chances are, most of what you’ve read online on how to stop binging (unless the information is from an Intuitive Eating or Food Freedom Dietitian) is rooted in restriction. Strategies like:
- Hiding the food,
- Distracting yourself,
- Locking the food up,
- And cutting out the ‘addictive’ food…
…Will not address the problem- the binges will still happen. Because like I mentioned, binging is rooted in restriction.
It can be helpful to introduce one food at a time and let yourself binge on that one food instead of doing it all at once. If you can handle it emotionally, just go all in. Let yourself binge. I know this can be scary, especially if you’re not working with a professional. So do what feels right for you to remove the restriction from your relationship with food.
Question 2: How do I do intuitive eating without overeating daily?
The first thing I’ll say is that you can’t just ‘do’ intuitive eating, because it’s not a diet- it’s a lifestyle. Even though basically every diet in the world claims that, intuitive eating actually means it. It’s a journey, a process, and a set of principles.
The reason intuitive eating is truly a lifestyle is the way you’ll live your life is completely different from diets. You’ll quickly realize that diet culture is very outcome focused, and very short term. It’s not about the process or the journey- it’s about how you can lose the most amount of weight in the shortest period of time. Intuitive eating is entirely about the process and the journey. Its about learning to be uncomfortable, listening to your body, and having moments where you feel like you’ve taken ten steps back and recognizing that you just have something you need to learn.
When it comes to overeating daily, the fact that you’re worrying about that says to me that you have mental restriction going on. There’s nothing wrong with overeating- it’s not a bad thing. I would urge you not to put judgment on overeating. It happens. When you judge yourself for it, you inevitably feel way worse than if you just accepted it and moved on.
Here are some other things you can do to help you with overeating:
- Eat consistent meals throughout the day, even if you’re not hungry.
- Read the Intuitive Eating book.
- Ask yourself why. A lot of the time, overeating happens because of stress or not getting enough sleep- these all make it harder to listen to your body and throw your hunger and fullness cues way off.
Once you give yourself unconditional permission to let yourself eat (and overeat), you’ll eventually get to a point where overeating is just uncomfortable. Then, you can work on eating more evenly and consistently.
Question 3: What are the steps to overcoming fear foods?
If you feel like you can’t keep certain foods at home, that only feeds fear in your mind. Keep the food in your house. You might binge at first- but the longer you keep the food available, the faster ‘habituation’ happens.
What I mean by habituation, is when you’re exposed to foods long enough, you get used to them. Then, they’re just ‘there.’ This is why you don’t obsessively crave the foods you always keep around in your house.
This process requires a lot of patience, so give it some time and accept that binges will happen at first. Try not to judge or shame yourself or feel guilty- this is part of the process. Honestly, life is too short to be afraid of food.
Be bold, keep the food in the house, eat it to your heart’s content, and you will get over it and be able to move on with your life without being afraid of food. It is scary and anxiety-inducing at first, but I promise that if you aren’t restricting and you just let yourself do it, you will get over it. You will. The first time habituation happens, you’ll know that it works which will make it so much easier to do it with the rest of your fear foods (until they’re not fear foods anymore)!
Question 4: How do I accept the fact that I’m gaining weight as I adopt intuitive eating?
It sucks to gain weight, especially if you were proud of your weight loss. There’s often a lot of baggage and internalized weight stigma, fatphobia, oppression, and need for acceptance behind why you wanted to lose weight in the first place. But addressing that is all part of the journey.
This is why rejecting diet culture is such a life-changing experience- your relationship with food is a mirror for your relationship with the rest of your life. As you change your relationship with food and your body, the way you approach life is completely different. You can literally feel the change.
With weight gain comes this incredible journey where you’ll learn so much about yourself. You’ll gain confidence that is separate from your weight and has nothing to do with what your body looks like, but instead everything to do with how incredible you are.
If the journey you’re on with intuitive eating doesn’t focus on body acceptance, here are some ways you can dive into it:
- Read some books that cover body acceptance- The Body Is Not An Apology is a great book on radical self-love
- Work with someone if you can
- Listen to podcasts
- Buy some clothes that fit your new body
- Write out your ‘big picture’ and the important shifts you’re having
Remember- it’s not just about the food.
Think of it this way too- what else are you gaining with the weight? Everyone gains weight at some point. Two things can happen when you get old: you either gain weight and you live longer, or you lose weight and become a concern to your health providers.
If you can get to a place where you’re confident regardless of your body right now, you’re going to be so much better off in the long term. If you’re struggling with your body image at 20 and you don’t face it and deal with it, it doesn’t go away. You’re going to continue to struggle with it and it’ll likely get worse at some point because you don’t have as much control over your body when you age.
If you feel yourself getting insecure, get angry at diet culture. Don’t get mad at yourself- get mad at the society we live in. Reel it back in and focus on what you’re gaining. That weight is usually your freedom.
Question 5: What do you think about veganism?
I have a lot of friends who are compassionate, ethical vegans, and I believe it’s a really great thing to do. It reduces your impact on the environment, it’s compassionate to animals, and it’s extremely admirable.
Do I think that everyone who goes vegan is doing it for the compassionate and ethical reasons? Absolutely not. You can read the full article on this here.
Veganism has been hijacked by diet culture and turned into something that will help you lose weight, and is healthy and good for you because animal products are ‘bad for you.’ If those are the reasons you’re doing veganism, I would urge you to unpack that. Doing it for those reasons won’t serve you while you heal your relationship with food. Even if you started it for diet reasons but now you’re all about the compassionate and ethical side of it, you’re probably going to have to take a break from veganism, focus on your recovery, and then go back.
Veganism is about living a compassionate lifestyle. If you’re not showing yourself that same compassion, you’re inherently not vegan. That doesn’t mean you’re harming yourself, but if you’re a vegan despite your recovery or if you can’t let it go to recover even though it would benefit you, then you’re not showing yourself the compassion that this lifestyle is about.
First, you have to fill yourself up so much that you overflow into the saucer and people can drink from that saucer. Fill yourself up both physically with food and mentally with life and love and it will spill over. Then you will have the capacity to make a value-driven decision for yourself. If at that point it feels aligned and you can make that decision, not from a diet centered mindset, then do it.
Question 6: How do I deal with public events? For example, being a bridesmaid when I’m in the refeeding phase?
For those of you who don’t know, the refeeding phase is what I’m referring to when I talk about letting yourself binge after a period of binging and restricting.
Hopefully, in this specific scenario, the wedding you’re in is with people you want to spend time with, and you can just eat. If it’s not, and you’re in the corner eating, who cares. It’s not anyone else’s experience, but you need to decide how you feel about it, regardless of what happens. Anyone who’s paying attention to what or how much you eat is thinking about themselves WAY more than they’re thinking about you. People are often just judging you for the sake of comparing you to themselves. It’s not really about you, so don’t worry- you can’t control what people think.
Here are my top suggestions for how you can make this the best experience for yourself:
- Give yourself permission to eat consistently up until the event. Eat regular, solid meals every day, including the day of the event. This will ensure you’re not in a place of deprivation and restriction when the event comes.
- Focus on having fun and socializing. Focus on spending time with people and just being there. Pay attention to the people you’re with and truly give yourself permission to enjoy yourself.
- Get yourself an emotional accountability partner. This is someone who will help ground you if you feel anxious. Someone who knows what you’re going through, can empathize, support you and can bring you back down if you’re getting emotional. Someone who will help you come out of your shell and have fun and focus on what really matters.
- Eat what you really want first at the buffet. Don’t try to fill up on salad. Have what you want and savor every bite. Hopefully, there’s some good food, so enjoy it (and if not, add salt).
Question 7: How do you handle a partner whose diet journey was a success when it screwed me up mentally and physically?
This is a tough question. For starters, go seek professional help if you have the means. As you said, it screwed you up and that’s worth getting help for.
The next thing is to have an open, honest, and vulnerable conversation about it. Explain that the way you feel about the diet isn’t a reflection of how they should feel about it. That can be really scary to someone who may feel like you’re trying to take away their success and their happiness about it, when really you’re just trying to share and be vulnerable. So, sometimes you need to go that extra mile and say that you’re not trying to tell them how to feel- instead emphasize this is how you feel. Tell them you need to talk about it because it’s putting a strain on how you feel in the relationship, and that you want their support in getting help.
The next thing is to ask for what you need. You might say:
- I need you to support me
- I need you to stop talking about dieting in front of me
- I need you to stop weighing yourself in front of me
- I need you to stop celebrating weight loss in front of me
It will take some time to establish those boundaries and break that routine. It might also create some tension at first. But if someone cares about you enough, they will want to learn and support you.
If they’re not willing to do that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t care about you. It might just mean they’re not in the place to, it’s not the right time, or maybe they’re going through their own thing. It doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means they don’t have the capacity or the self-awareness to support you in the way you need. In that case, you’ll need to figure out what you’ll do next.
For now, start with the initial conversation of by the way. You’ll also need to take it upon yourself to seek help- it’s not their job to make it all better for you. You need to go the extra mile to figure out what you need and do that, regardless of what they say.
Question 8: How to overcome feeling too ‘big’ for your male partner because females are socially expected to be smaller?
My first question is: do you care because YOU care, or do you care because you think other people care?
If you care because you care, that’s something you need to look at and unpack, talk to a therapist about, or talk to your partner about. Ultimately, you’re going to need to deal with that internally, on your own.
If you care because you think other people care but you don’t actually care, that’s an easier fix. Realistically, you can’t control what other people think. Even if you think you can, you can’t. Other people’s judgments say more about them than they do about you. Let them judge. Who cares? You’re always going to care to a certain extent about what other people think, and that’s not a bad thing. But there are certain things that you have to decide what’s more important- what other people think or your happiness. If your happiness is being sacrificed and you’re changing the way you live your life because of how other people are judging you, then that’s a problem. People will always judge. Always. Screw ‘em.
Finally, talk to your partner. They’re your partner for a reason. You two need to be vulnerable together and work this out. Again, you don’t have to do this alone.
Question 9: What are your thoughts on competitive bodybuilding?
I don’t want to offend anyone with this, but I have really strong opinions on this topic. I believe in body autonomy. If you want to be a bodybuilder, it’s your body, and your life- so do it.
That being said, it scares me- especially the impact on their bodies. It scares me when I hear about the binge eating bodybuilders go through after a competition. It scares me that they cut water and other things that are necessary to survival before a show. I think that the calorie-free, sugar-free products that bodybuilders use to prepare really sketchy and you’re potentially doing a lot of damage to your hunger and fullness signals. You’re playing a dangerous game with your metabolism and your health. I’ve never looked into bodybuilding research, but I don’t think we know the long-term effects of it, although I can’t imagine it’s good. It scares me.
But what scares me more is that with Instagram and social media, young, impressionable and body-conscious people will look and see these bodybuilders, think that is what health is supposed to look like and try to emulate it before they’re old enough to understand the long-term impacts.
The other thing is that it totally promotes disordered eating, if not eating disorders. I don’t see how you can be mentally okay with cutting and restricting then regaining weight and being judged for your body. I don’t see how that would ever work out positively for someone’s mental state. But again, if it’s positive for you, don’t listen to me.
Question 10: Not eating 2-3 hours before bed is medically necessary, but what do I do if it makes me feel restricted?
It might help if you reframe it. Not eating before bed because it’s medically necessary is supportive of your body. It might feel restrictive right now, but is there a way you can look at it and think about it in a way that feels positive for you? For example, are the results of eating too close to bed worse than the results of not eating? This is how I always approach food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies. If the outcome of not eating that food is good, then it benefits you and supports you to not eat the food that will put you in physical pain.
If there is a way to reframe if so you’re looking at it as a method of supporting yourself rather than restricting, then do that.
I would also say that you need to have really satisfying and nourishing meals for dinner so that you feel satisfied enough to just go to bed.
Disclaimer: this is an example of a question that I can’t really answer without knowing more and working with you. If you have ever sent me a long personal question on Instagram with your medical history, your weight and something really long and emotional, I’m not going to be able to respond- I don’t have the emotional energy for those kinds of DMs. If you need to vent, then go for it but I just can’t promise that I’ll respond. The second thing is that this crosses over into the territory of what you need to be working on with your health care professional.
Question 11: How do I work on intuitive eating while depressed without access to therapy?
If this is your situation, I am sending you all my love because this is really hard. I’d say you could:
- Read books (like the Intuitive Eating book for example)
- Listen to podcasts
- Talk with a friend- ask for help, ask for support, and ask for what you need
- Talk to your health care provider (if you have one) about medication
- Get outside and get some sunshine- it won’t fix your depression, but it might help with your mood temporarily
If you want to work on your depression, know that none of these will fix it by any means. Depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain and it is not just fixed with diet and exercise. But, intuitive eating can be really helpful for overall mood and it can help reduce anxiety. People who eat intuitively actually have fewer incidences of depression and anxiety, so it can aid in your healing at least in some areas of your life to make it a little easier.
Again, sending you so much love.
Question 12: How to not fall back into diet culture when people around me are dieting?
I commend you for being aware of diet culture. For starters, that’s huge.
To not fall back into diet culture, figure out your values and your priorities. If you value your recovery, your freedom, your peace around food, growing and accepting your confidence regardless of your body, then make those a priority. Don’t budge on them- your values are sacred. They are for you and they will ultimately help guide your entire life. Find out what you value in life, then figure out a way to prioritize it regardless of what other people are doing.
You can also keep a list of the reasons why you left diet culture behind. This is particularly helpful for when you’re feeling vulnerable or anxious or whatever else. Have a list of why you left it behind, why you’re pursuing recovery, and why you don’t want to go back into dieting. I also have my clients write a letter of commitment to themselves as to why they’re doing this process and what they’re hoping to get out of it- when you’re struggling, go back to that.
Hopefully, you can set your boundaries around how people talk about dieting in front of you. Sometimes (or a lot of times) you can’t, especially if you don’t know the people. But if you notice the people around you talking about it, it’ll remind you why you decided not to do that again and make you glad that you made that decision. It’s helpful to see how restrictive it was and see all the ways that you’re not restricted now. Are you willing to give that up again? Probably not, and that comes back to values.
Ultimately, this is going to be a challenge that will be a huge opportunity for you to learn from if you see it as such. Every single challenge in your life, especially when it comes to recovery, is an opportunity to learn. That doesn’t mean they’re not hard- the hard things in life are still hard AND an opportunity. You can be mad, sad, anxious, upset, stressed, AND you can use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself, grow, identify your values, and get closer to yourself. That is beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed this Q&A! If you want me to do more of these, I will probably do them when I’m running low on content and time. But if you want more, let me know!
This post was transcribed and edited by Brittany Allison, Intuitive Eating Counselor. You can find her on Instagram @brittybfit.
Mentioned in this episode:
- The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
- Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- My blog post on veganism: https://whitneycatalano.com/veganism-diet-recovery/
- Podcast recommendations: Food Psych with Christy Harrison
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