Today I had an experience that sparked a topic that I haven’t seen many people talk about and that is overeating.
I think the first thing worth mentioning is that everyone overeats once in a while. Sometimes the food is just so good you simply can’t refuse another serving, or that extra slice of cake. Of course when it comes time to leave the table you usually end up feeling stuffed as opposed to just full – occasionally with a stomach ache to boot. But most of the time it’s worth it, because hey – you gotta live a little.
Most people treat overeating pretty flippantly – although that word comes with a pretty bad connotation. When we think of overeating we think of stuffing ourselves till we can’t move, or (worse yet) intense emotional eating or binging. But the fact of the matter is that overeating is a part of life – something that everyone does once in a while. Having such a horrible stigma attached to the word definitely doesn’t help us feel any better about ourselves when we do.
In my opinion there are also 2 different kinds of overeating. There’s the physical kind, where you feel extremely full, maybe bloated and with a bit of stomach trouble. And then there’s the mental kind – where we beat ourselves up because we ate too much of a “bad” food. This is usually something like eating too many bowls of cereal in one sitting, or stealing one scoop of ice-cream to many, or “tasting” one too many cookies. They are not one and the same and should not be treated as such.
Overeating is something that happens occasionally and should be tolerated and laughed about. If it occurs on a regular basis perhaps it’s a good idea to examine the cause of it, and become more in tune with your body. Mental overeating on the other hand, is a battle that needs to be won primarily in the mind. I think people that have suffered from eating disorders are particularly affected by this, because of the way we tend to overthink and analyze everything we eat. Occasionally we’ll eat something that is a normal occurrence for everyday people, but because we “dared” to eat it we feel guilty, dirty and out of control.
This breakfast – although delicious, didn’t have much staying power for me. About two hours later I was already hungry. I needed to bake some cookies for my co-workers, and since they were going to be Mama Pea’s health cookies I figured I could enjoy one for snack once they were ready.
Well turns out I couldn’t wait – the hunger beast was insatiable. I ended up eating a cookie nearly raw because I was so hungry, and then a few more to make up for the first one.
That’s when the guilt set in “You fat pig – how could you let yourself eat so many cookies. You’re overeating again, just as you have in times past. Now you’ll never be able to control yourself and your eating habits ever again. You should skip lunch and restrict the rest of the day, just to make up for this little stunt”. Well, it’s obvious where THOSE voices were coming from. So I stopped for a moment and thought about it. Did I feel like I overate? No, I was perfectly satiated. Did I feel like eating more – no I had enough. This was no binge, or emotional overeating. This was my bodies way of telling me I needed more calories now that I’ve switched to a pretty intense weight training routine.
I ate a smaller lunch then usual, because I was still kind of full, but I didn’t want to skip it all together. Then I had a kick-ass workout, followed up by a solid post workout snack. Gotta fuel those growing muscles you know?
And I fully intend to have a decent, normal sized dinner and maybe a glass of Rose wine for dessert. I’m happy I had yet another chance to put my new, healthy eating habits into action and that I have the opportunity to talk about this.
(And by the way all my co-workers ended up eating 4-5 cookies in one sitting, which kind of proved to me that it really was just all in my head.)
I think a good criteria for defining physical overeating vs mental overeating is to ask yourself these questions:
– How do you feel physically? Do you feel sluggish and weighed down or energetic? Are you stuffed or uncomfortably full? Is your stomach distended, in pain or bloated? If not, chances are you didn’t actually eat that much and it’s all in your mind. Which brings me to the next question…
– How much did you really eat? If you had eaten the same amount of fruit, or salad, or any other lower calorie food – would you still consider it overeating?
– Why do you feel bad about eating as much as you did? Is it because of any unspoken mental “food rules” you laid out for yourself? And why did you even make those rules in the first place?
These questions helped me get my feet back on the ground and ignore the guilt my old ED mindset tried to place on me. Life was meant to be enjoyed, a few indulgences now and then included. Healthy eating and living doesn’t change from day to day – it’s the overall sum of your choices, decisions and actions. And you shouldn’t let anyone (or anything) else dictate the way you are “allowed” to treat yourself. So go ahead, have that extra cookie once in a while. Eat another scoop of ice-cream if that’s what you want. Go to town and break all those stupid food rules once in a while, just because you can.
You only have one life – so live it up a little?
Do you think there is such a thing as “mental overeating”? Any thoughts or opinions on the matter?