About a decade ago, all of my thoughts were fixated on food. At this time, I was in college, and I would plan my entire day around what and when I could eat.
Before going to class, I’d compulsively shovel snacks into my mouth. (I later learned that I was “eating for the hunger to come” — a common psychological cause of overeating.)
Then, I’d plan my day around when I would be able to eat. I was also an obsessive calorie counter, so it felt like I was always thinking about food! If I wasn’t doing addition in my head (for calories), I was planning ahead for the nearest take out or what portable snack items to put on my grocery list.
During class, I’d be thinking about food. After class, I’d be thinking about food. I was always thinking about food — to the point where it was a clear problem.
And it didn’t matter how many extra curricular activities I tried to shove into my day. In fact, the busier I got, the more panicked my obsession with food became.
The Psychology of Food Obsession
Before I pulled myself out of this food-obsessive hole (and later created Psycho-Spiritual Wellness), I had major work to do:
I needed to discover the psychological reasons why I was a compulsive eater.
Overeating (and obsessive thoughts about food) was never about the food, in my opinion. Rather, it was always about the intense desire to buffer ourselves from our pain.
And it looks different for everyone.
For example, I used to be a chronic people pleaser. And one way I was subconsciously attempting to please others was by ensuring that I would never by tired or “hangry” around them. Thus: I was constantly thinking about food because I didn’t want to let anyone down!
Of course, this wasn’t a conscious decision. I wasn’t thinking to myself, “Man, I better eat a Snickers or I’ll lose all my friends due to hanger.” No. It was much more subliminal.
It just felt like a panicked sort of obsessive feeling about food.
When Subconscious Beliefs Trigger Food Obsession
Of course, if I was aware of my psychology at the time, I would have been able to access a little more compassion. I would have realized how awesome it was that I cared so much about entertaining my friends.
But when we aren’t aware of the subconscious beliefs that drive our behavior, it just feels obsessive. As a result, we feel crazy around food!
These deep seated beliefs are the reason why we’re constantly banging our heads against the wall wondering why we keep eating past fullness even when we know we’re full!
The psychological reasons for food obsession are endless, so next I will show you how you can discover yours.
How to Stop Thinking About Food All the Time
The first step to overcome food obsession is to acknowledge that it’s not a food-problem. Instead, it’s a feelings-problem and a beliefs-problem.
Let’s discuss both, starting with feelings.
Step 1: Acknowledge the logic
If you’re always thinking about food, it’s often because you’re being hyper-vigilant about buffering yourself from unwanted emotions like anxiety or loneliness.
When we feel sad, we are biologically wired to buffer ourselves from sadness, and food is an all too easy fix.
Of course we can’t stop thinking about food! When you think about it, it’s a great distraction from the larger issues and emotions that we don’t want to face (like that anxiety and loneliness I just mentioned).
So first, find some compassion for yourself. If you’re someone that struggle with food obsession, you’re probably struggling with some hardship in your life, and this is a time to be soft with yourself, not disciplinary.
Step 2: Drop in
The solution to food-obsession lies in flipping the situation around: turning towards our uncomfortable feelings before we reach for food.
No one wants to feel uncomfortable. That’s one reason why we eat when we’re not hungry.
Therefore, by training in feeling uncomfortable, and increasing your tolerance for discomfort, the obsession with food will naturally subside.
This is a beast of a topic, so I won’t dive into it here. Instead, read up on the Stop, Drop, and Feel: a tool to stop a binge in its tracks.
You can also watch a video to see how it works:
Next, we’ll discuss the beliefs-problem.
Step 3: Identifying Subconscious Beliefs That Get In the Way
After you address the feelings that fuel food-obsession, it’s time to look at the beliefs that cause self-sabotage. These beliefs are at the root of always thinking about food!
One of the best tools I have found for discovering the subconscious, psychological reasons for overeating is my workbook Why We Do the Things We Do.
It’s a self-inquiry-style workbook where you can discover the reasons behind your compulsions. Don’t underestimate it!
You cannot think your way through food-obsession! That would only push you further into your head. You need external help — either with a self-inquiry style workbook or by working with a therapist or coach.
Finding Psycho-Spiritual Wellness
Overall, obsessive thoughts around food are a byproduct of our feelings and beliefs.
By training in feeling uncomfortable (with the Stop, Drop, and Feel), we can address the feelings-part.
Then, by performing self-inquiry (with the Why Weight workbook or some coaching), we can address the beliefs-part.
No matter what, try to find some compassion for yourself and the struggle with always thinking about food. In my opinion, it’s a very normal reaction to hardship.
Stay strong, and do the compassionate, courageous thing.