The Psycho-Spiritual Wellness Eating Guidelines: 3 Essential Pillars of Stopping Compulsive Eating

the 3 eating guidelines of psycho-spiritual wellness: a path to feeling normal around food

Are you tired of the endless cycle of dieting, only to find yourself still struggling with overeating? Have you diligently followed diets or exercise plans, yet self-sabotage anyway, leaving you feeling frustrated and defeated? It’s time for a different approach — one that goes beyond food and exercise, delving into the very core of your being.

Welcome to the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness — a path to stopping compulsive eating crafted for those who crave a deeper understanding of their emotional and even spiritual relationship with food. It’s time to address the root causes of overeating because, let’s face it, it’s not about willpower or food itself. It’s about the intricate dance between our feelings and beliefs.

Through Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, I invite you to embark on a transformative journey that frees you from rigid diets that don’t work. Here, you won’t find any of that. Instead, I focus 100% on psychological and spiritual practices that unveil the root cause of struggles around food.

Before we dive into the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines, it’s crucial to understand why diets consistently fail. Diets create a battle against our own biology, triggering an equal and opposite binge response. 

Prerequisite: Letting Go of Diets

Many individuals who struggle with dieting and overeating have experienced the restrict-binge cycle — a continuous loop of strict dieting or food restriction followed by episodes of uncontrollable eating. This cycle is not a result of low willpower, but rather a complex interplay of biological and psychological triggers.

The body has a biological response to restriction — a response that rebels against it.[1] That is one of the primary factors contributing to the restrict-binge cycle. When we manipulate our diet too severely, our bodies respond by releasing hormones that slow down metabolism and intensify cravings for high-calorie, rewarding foods — the very ones we try hardest to restrict.[2], [3]

A key hormone involved in this process is ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone,” which increases our appetite and motivates us to seek food. Research has shown that periods of calorie restriction and prolonged dieting can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones, leading to a dysregulated appetite.[4]

The hypothalamus, a region in the brain responsible for appetite and metabolism regulation, plays a significant role in this process.[5] When we restrict our food intake, the hypothalamus signals our brain to increase metabolic efficiency and trigger intense cravings.[6] This heightened response to restriction is a survival mechanism ingrained in our biology.

The restrict-binge cycle doesn’t only have biological consequences but also profound psychological impacts. Constant deprivation and rigid food rules can create a sense of deprivation, guilt, and shame. 

These negative emotions often trigger a desire to numb discomfort, leading to emotional eating. The restrict-binge cycle is perpetuated as the need for relief from emotional discomfort drives us back into the cycle of restriction and subsequent binge eating.

If you’ve found yourself trapped in the cycle of gaining and losing the same 10 pounds, exhausting your willpower in the process, it’s time for a change. Fortunately, there is a better way forward — the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines.

The Psycho-Spiritual Wellness Eating Guidelines: 3 Steps for Making Peace with Food

The three Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines provide a solid foundation for honoring our bodies and achieving food freedom. They are to…

1) Eat exactly what appeals to you when you’re hungry, 2) stop when you’re full, and 3) do the Stop, Drop, & Feel when you want to eat when you’re not hungry.

Let’s dive into each step.

1. Eat Exactly What Appeals to You When You’re Hungry 

In the journey towards breaking free from the restrict-binge cycle, two essential components come into play: Permission to eat exactly what your body is craving and attuning to your body’s physical hunger cues. By understanding and embracing these aspects, you can relearn how to trust your body and become a more intuitive eater.

Permission to eat, a cornerstone of this approach, challenges the traditional notion of restriction. It emphasizes giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what truly appeals to you when you’re hungry. 

This can be difficult, especially if you have a long history of dieting, and even more so if you have specific ‘fear foods’ or ‘forbidden foods’ that you are afraid to let yourself have. For example, if you’re afraid of allowing yourself to eat carbs because you think it will either lead to weight gain or spark a binge that might also lead to weight gain, then pizza could be a fear food.

Then, when confronted with the prompt to eat exactly what appeals to you when you’re hungry, and you have a craving for pizza, it can trigger some anxiety. A great way to work through this anxiety is to work on trusting your body. 

If you eat only when you’re hungry — enjoying the foods that you actually find appealing — and stop when you’re full (discussed more soon), your weight will regulate itself. It is only when we eat past fullness that we get in trouble, and we will discuss tips on that part soon!

In other words, if you’re craving pizza, it’s important to eat the pizza. Otherwise, you run the risk of eating something else, leaving you full but unsatisfied. In turn, many of us end up eating the food we’re craving (pizza) anyway, but we do it late at night (when it’s not exactly being used as fuel).

As I worked on regaining trust with myself around food, I noticed that I ate significantly less once I just started letting myself have the food I was craving in the first place. It gives you a sense of satisfaction that cannot compete with dietary restriction, and that satisfaction also helps you relearn how to stop eating when you’re full.

Alongside permission eating, it’s crucial to reconnect with your body’s physical hunger cues. However, many individuals who struggle with overeating have lost touch with what true hunger feels like

Physical hunger manifests in various ways, including sensations such as an empty or gnawing feeling in the stomach, hunger pangs, growling or rumbling in the stomach, feelings of weakness or low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, dizziness or light-headedness, headaches, and nausea. These signs indicate that your body requires fuel and sustenance.

[Related: Learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger]

[Premium content: I talk about Permission to Eat and What Hunger Feels Like – and dozens of other related topics – in my online course about eating psychology, Food Normal]

2. Listen to Your Body: Stop When You’re Full 

The Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines provide a framework to both heal your relationship with food and reach your natural set point weight. The body already has all the wisdom it needs to regulate its weight. When we eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full, we allow equilibrium to be reached.

Of course, stopping when we’re full is where many of us struggle. After all, it is the essence of compulsive eating. Don’t worry – I have specific advice for this in step 3. But first, let’s talk about fullness.

Fullness, also known as satiety, is the sensation of satisfaction and contentment that arises when your body has received enough nourishment. It’s important to note that fullness is not the same as feeling stuffed or uncomfortably full, which can be a sign of overeating. Instead, fullness should leave you feeling comfortably satisfied and energized.

To recognize fullness, pay attention to physical cues from your body during meals. These cues may include a sense of abdominal fullness or pressure, a feeling of heaviness, a decrease in appetite or interest in food, and a general sense of satisfaction. Everyone experiences fullness differently, so it’s important to tune in and understand your unique sensations.

If you really struggle with knowing when you’re full, I suggest doing whatever feels like the kindest possible solution. For example, some people might recommend “portion control” if you don’t know when you’re full, but many of us take this too far.

When we have been conditioned by diet culture to eat as little as possible, we take this to mean that “portion control” means limiting our meals to 400 calories each, and this is not enough food. Take into consideration your body’s actual needs (i.e. did you exercise today, or move around a lot?) and make sure you’re fueling your body with enough calories.

Remember, the body slows down metabolism when we restrict our diet too much. Even though we feel like we’re ‘being good’ by eating small meals, it perpetuates the restrict-binge cycle.

In other words, if you struggle with fullness, try to make kind decisions with your meals, such as “portioning” something around 600 calories onto your plate. Try to assess your fullness throughout your meal and especially when you’re done eating. Even if you don’t know when you’re full, practicing the act of paying attention to it will help you get back in touch.

3. Feeling Your Feelings When You Want to Eat When You’re Not Hungry

Now that you know more about 1) eating what exactly appeals to you when you’re hungry and 2) stopping when you’re full, let’s talk about step 3) what to do when you want to eat when you’re not hungry.

It is my firm belief that whenever there’s a desire to eat without hunger, there is an uncomfortable emotion floating beneath the surface that desperately needs our attention. Uncomfortable emotions such as stress, depression, anxiety, or loneliness drive us towards food – even without us consciously realizing its due to emotion.

However, when we stop to make room for these feelings, and we allow ourselves to fully feel them, the desire to eat fades. This is the premise behind my Stop, Drop, & Feel method to stop binge eating:

how to stop a binge in its tracks with the Stop, Drop, & Feel®️

To implement the Stop, Drop, & Feel method, follow these steps: 

  • Stop what you’re doing. Take a pause and bring your attention to the present moment. 
  • Drop into your body and bring gentle curiosity towards your emotions. How are you feeling? Try not to intellectualize it and just see what comes up. 
  • Feel your feelings and give them the space to be processed without judgment.

Engaging in the Stop, Drop, & Feel method allows you to create space between yourself and the compulsion to eat when you’re not physically hungry. It enables you to listen to your body and honor its true needs. By feeling and acknowledging the emotions that trigger unwanted eating patterns, you can begin to develop emotional tolerance — the ability to feel uncomfortable without seeking food as a buffer.

It is essential to give yourself permission to eat exactly what appeals to you if that’s what you genuinely want after going through the Stop, Drop, & Feel process. Restriction is not the goal here. Instead, the focus is on developing emotional tolerance and allowing the emotions to flow freely.

By making space for your emotions to coexist with you, the intensity of cravings and compulsion to eat without hunger can diminish. If you want to dive deeper into this method and receive comprehensive guidance on stopping a binge in its tracks, consider exploring the Stop, Drop, & Feel Masterclass.

Addressing both the emotional and psychological aspects of overeating is crucial for long-lasting change. In addition to the SDF method, you may also find it beneficial to explore resources that address any limiting beliefs that may be fueling self-sabotage. My workbook Why We Do the Things We Do is perfect for this.

Getting Back to Feeling Normal Around Food

When used as a system, the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines touch upon the most important aspects of stopping compulsive eating: trusting your body and giving yourself permission to eat, stopping when you’re full to reach or maintain your natural weight, and doing the Stop, Drop, & Feel to be able to stop when you’re full to begin with.

Learning how to trust your body again can be a long process for some of us, especially if you have a long list of fear foods and cringe at the idea of bringing carbs or sugar into the house. Fortunately, the more you learn to trust yourself, the more in sync you will feel with life and all its rhythms.

Transformation doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength that’s already inside of you.” -Beloved Geneen Roth quote

Keep It Going: Get The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating (Free Ebook)

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Ready to dive even deeper into your journey of self-discovery? I proudly present my most celebrated workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do. This 75-page digital workbook reveals your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating. By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up.

Some say ‘feel it to heal it’ but this workbook takes it a step deeper and helps you ‘see it to heal it.’ If you’re the kind of person who logically knows how to live a healthy lifestyle but you compulsively do the opposite, this workbook will illuminate what’s standing in the way. Then, you know exactly where to focus your energy.

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10 thoughts on "The Psycho-Spiritual Wellness Eating Guidelines: 3 Essential Pillars of Stopping Compulsive Eating"

  1. Lindasays:

    After battling myself (and my weight) since the age of 4 (now 73), I think it’s time to be friends with me. Thank you for what you’re offering. At this moment, it’s like a surprise gift to me.

    1. Jesssays:

      Me, too, Linda! At 64, I realize that since the age of 12 I have NEVER not been on a diet of some sort and/or bingeing (and later, worse!). Everything Kari said would occur, has. I’ve been on the trail for about 2 weeks. And there’s an ‘ouch’ around every corner. Since this startling epiphany, I have not weighed my body or my food and I haven’t restricted. Carry on, Sister…

  2. Teresa Lambertsays:

    If I get the workbook and the book, does it contain the information in these videos and links? I feel like I don’t know which to watch first. Thanks for your help.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Yes, the first section of the book outlines the entire foundation of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, so it’s a nice catchall. The workbook is more for the inner work – less education, more action. 🙂

  3. Fredasays:

    Just like to say I have started the SDF approach to my binges. I am learning but realise it will take time.
    I already feel free from the burden of having to restrict certain foods from my eating. Dieting. Oh to live a life permanently free of the all time consuming thoughts in my head of what to eat and what not to eat.
    Really thought provoking comments. Thank you.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Freda! It sounds like you’re in the right place 🙂 getting to a place of not thinking about food every second of the day is exactly what we’re doing here. You’re in good company! Thanks for the comment. 🙂 And good luck with the SDf — I know it can be challenging, but sooo worth the effort. xo

  4. Belénsays:

    Hi Kari! I want to ask you about not being able to recognize when I have to stop eating. After many years binge eating on a regular basis, I find that I only know I have to stop when my stomach hurts, because if there is enough empty space, I don’t quite realize if I’m still hungry or not. Does it make any sense? Will it ever get back to how it’s meant to be? Thank you for your work, it really gives me hope about my journey and my capacity to overcome self harm.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Belen! Yes, what you are saying makes sense, and I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling. As you continue to work on trusting your body again, I think you will heal in all ways: mind, body, and spirit. Let me know how you’re doing since you last left this comment!! x

  5. Margaretsays:

    For being such a young soul you are very wise! Thanks for the work you have done to put together your program. I believe you have definitely hit on what needs to be done to stop the habit of binge eating. I appreciate that we can benefit from a free crash course too. Shows you are doing this because you want to help people in need ASAP and not for the money.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thank you Margaret! I appreciate that. I hope you enjoy the free crash course and hit reply to an email some day! I do this for the love of it, and that means I love to hear feedback!! xo

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