Picture this. You go on a summer trip you’ve been looking forward to for months. You normally eat pretty well but decide to live it up on vacation (aka overating). You only live once, right?
Then, you return home and get on the scale and your weight has increased by 7 lbs. It doesn’t seem fair. If only it were that easy to lose weight! It does seem like the weight is so easy to gain, yet so hard to lose, especially after age 40.
Why do we gain weight anyway?
Well, simply put one reason we gain weight is because we overeat. We take in more calories than we burn. I’m not telling you anything new, I know. But the real question is what causes us to want to overeat in the first place?
We overeat for 2 reasons.
The truth is we ALL only have a limited amount of willpower. That’s why willpower never works long-term.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a 30-day challenge to lose weight and I do, but as soon as I go back to a more sustainable way of life, the pounds slowly creep back on. And before too long, I’m back to where I started.
I’m done with these yo-yo diets. They don’t work long-term and they are hard on the metabolism.
In functional medicine, we look to find the root cause of the problem. If we can fix the root causes of overeating, two of which are over-hunger and over-desire, then weight loss becomes easy.
Overhunger is a common medical problem.
It results from insulin resistance and adrenal fatigue, which both come from chronic stress. These problems lead to dysregulation of 2 key hormones: insulin and cortisol. To fix over-hunger, these hormones need to be regulated.
When insulin is high, the body stores fat. To lose weight, insulin needs to be low. The quickest way to decrease insulin is by fasting. The good news is, we all fast. You are fasting from the time you eat your last bite at night before going to bed until you eat your first calorie in the morning. You can extend this window by skipping the evening snack, by delaying breakfast for an hour or two, or both!
Here’s the catch. The other cause of over hunger is adrenal fatigue which results in a dysregulation of cortisol. One thing that is important in stabilizing cortisol is to keep the blood sugar stable, letting the body know that it isn’t in danger. Fasting, which can help fix the insulin, is also stressful, which can worsen the cortisol.
These problems often occur simultaneously and make weight loss hard! Add to this the effect of leptin and ghrelin, the satiety and hunger hormones respectively, which are also dysregulated by cortisol and you begin to understand why this is so difficult.
Before you give up, read on. Better news is coming. Promise.
It’s not your fault.
Hormones are making this hard for you to control overeating.
So it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you and you lack willpower. This is hard. It is a struggle for almost everyone.
Fixing over hunger is a long process and often requires the help of a medical professional, like me. But are you ready for some good news? Let’s talk about over desire–because once you understand this you can take some control over your weight and your life all by yourself.
Let’s step back and answer the question, why do we eat in the first place? Well we need fuel to provide our body with energy, right? If this is the only reason we eat, why not just eat the same boring, bland thing every day?
One of my mentors, Brooke Castillo, proposes this scenario:
If I could provide you with a bar–sawdust bar–that you could eat 2-3x per day and it would provide you with your nutritional needs–would you do that? Forever?
Most of us, no. Why not?
We wouldn’t sign up for the sawdust bar because we get pleasure from food. We treat stress, overwhelm, boredom, and exhaustion with food. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We socialize with food.
Think of this list of reasons to have a piece of cake. Your birthday or anniversary, a friend or family member’s birthday or anniversary, the first day of school, the last day of school, Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July, new job, last day of the old job, wedding, or funeral. You get the point.
We desire food. The reason we desire food is because of what we are thinking. This thinking creates an urge, which feels urgent and impossible to resist. This is good news because while thoughts happen automatically, we have the power to change them. If we change our thoughts, we change our feelings and therefore our desire. If we don’t desire food that is not in alignment with our weight loss plan, it’s easy to avoid it. Goodbye, the need for willpower!
So here are some thoughts that you may want to look at changing:
I deserve it.
Everyone else is having it, why can’t I?
I want it.
It tastes so good.
These sentences are just thoughts in your brain and they all lead to desire and overeating.
The first step is to notice the urge and the thought that created it. Then you can pause before you act and see if there is another thought, that you ALSO believe, that may make it easier for you.
At first, you’ll feel like you can’t do it. You need to eat that piece of cake. But it’s just a feeling in your body. You can handle it. It goes away quickly, really. Usually, it’s gone in seconds if you notice it and don’t resist it. The maximum it ever lasts is 10 minutes.
Breathe through the discomfort and then pat yourself on the back for making it through.
Practice telling yourself new thoughts like to control overeating:
I know you want it, but your desire to be thinner and healthier is stronger.
I deserve to fuel my body with healthy things.
I’m sticking to my protocol because I’m a person who honors my commitment to myself.
This is hard but I can do hard things.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s worth a little discomfort to feel confident in your body and proud of yourself too.
You can decondition yourself from overeating some of these problem foods over time. Think about that boyfriend or girlfriend you obsessed over as a teen that you never think of now. With time and practice, you can create the same apathetic relationship with brownies!
So here are the 8 steps to stop overeating:
Step 1: Write down exactly what you will eat 24 hours in advance.
Step 2: Eat only and exactly what you have planned.
Step 3: Anytime you have an urge to eat something you haven’t written down, wait 10 minutes. The uncomfortable feeling almost always goes away within this time.
Step 4: Give yourself a checkmark! It’s not nearly as satisfying as a brownie I know, but it’s still nice.
Step 5: Track your weight regularly! Here’s the thing–the number on the scale is just that–a number. It doesn’t mean you are good or bad, it’s just a neutral number.
Step 6: Give yourself another checkmark every time you feel the urge to eat something you haven’t planned and you don’t indulge.
Step 7: Fill your checkmark chart to 100.
Step 8: Tell yourself: I’m good at handling urges.
I filled my chart to 100. It works. You can do it too!
You’ve got this!
Before you go…
In my functional medicine practice, we prioritize identifying the root causes of overeating. By addressing the underlying reasons for weight gain, we create a path towards healing your body and facilitating the loss of stubborn weight.
Introducing my latest program, Mitoboost, designed to assist you in tackling stubborn weight, boosting energy levels, improving cellular function, and enhancing detoxification.