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I can’t eat what I love without overeating!

Michelle May


When people hear the title of my book series, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, they sometimes respond with, “I can’t eat what I love without overeating!

“If I ate what I loved, I’d overeat!”

I-cant-eat-what-I-loveI get it! That was my experience in the past too. I’d start another diet (or have rules in my head leftover from the last one) and restrict certain foods. Of course, those foods were often my favorites – salty, sweet, crunchy – you know the type.

At first it felt pretty easy, even good, to be back in control again. But over time (a month, a week, a day, sometimes just a few hours), I’d find myself craving the foods I wasn’t supposed to eat. When I finally gave in, I felt out of control and couldn’t seem to stop eating them.

For a long time, I thought I was weak-willed (even though I managed to graduate from medical school) and that certain foods were just too hard to resist (even though I observed my husband and children eating those foods without “losing control”).

Resisting your favorite foods gives them power

It turns out my experience – and yours – is the norm, not the exception! The problem wasn’t me or the food; it was my attempts to restrain myself from eating those foods that gave them power.

Here are some of the reasons resisting your favorite foods gives them power:

  • When you decide to limit or avoid certain foods or ingredients, your brain goes on high-alert to monitor the environment for them.
  • You have to constantly think about what you can’t eat.
  • At first this seems to help you filter out those foods, but you end up thinking about them more than you did before.
  • You label foods as good or bad to help you make decisions about what and how much to eat.
  • You need to keep track of foods you eat that are “bad,” further keeping those foods at the front of your mind.
  • You find yourself craving the foods you aren’t supposed to eat.
  • When you eat a food that’s “bad” or exceed the allowed amount, you feel guilty.
  • You plan to pay penance by limiting your food intake and/or increasing your exercise.
  • You think, “I’ve already blown it. I might as well keep eating, then I’ll be good and I won’t eat this food tomorrow.”

This becomes a vicious cycle, giving food more power over you, causing you to feel “addicted” and out of control around certain foods.

If I eat what I want, I won’t be able to stop!

If I eat what I want, I won’t be able to stop!Once you’re trapped in this cycle (I call it the eat-repent-repeat cycle), you start to believe if you eat what you want, you won’t be able to stop. This is like giving your brain instructions and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you start eating something you think you shouldn’t, your brain knows exactly what to do next: Don’t stop!

It’s easy to understand why eating what you love can feel so scary after years (decades) of trying not to!

Take the power back

As difficult as it may be to fathom, giving yourself permission to eat what you love helps you take the power back from food. This is why “fearless eating” is one of the essential skills in Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating programs.

Here’s what happens when you’re free to eat what you want:

I can’t eat what I love without overeating!

Let’s be real: At first when you let yourself have restricted foods, you’re likely to want them frequently! It’s like holding your breath for a long time, then gasping for air.

Eating more of your favorite foods will trigger those old feelings of fear: I can’t eat what I love without losing control!

Your impulse might be to restrict those foods again. After all, that’s what you’ve done in the past.

But remember, you are not eating those foods because you’ve lost control. You’re eating them because you are in charge and you decided to! Big difference.

Trust the process!

So stay calm and trust the process. Over time, as you’re free to choose from all foods, certain foods lose their power:

  • You’ll crave your previously forbidden foods less often.
  • When you want them, you can eat them with pleasure and without guilt.
  • You’ll find it easier to stop when you’re satisfied instead of stuffed.
  • You may be surprised to discover that some of the foods you thought were so special aren’t even that great once they are no longer forbidden.

When you’re ready to take back the power from food, join us for an Am I Hungry? mindful eating program and read chapter 5, “Fearless Eating” in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. Believe me, you can eat what you love without overeating!

This article is updated from a previous version.

If you enjoyed this article, here are three more to help you:

Cravings 101

Mindful Eating with Health Issues: What If I Can’t Eat What I Love?

Got Cravings? Three Words to Eliminate from your Vocabulary

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