Ep. 263: Overeating

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Today we’re exploring that seemingly unavoidable drive to overeat, and I’ve got the goods on how to free yourself from it once and for all.

It happens to us all: you’ve had a great day and stayed on track with your calories, but then you sit down on the couch to relax for the evening and suddenly you can’t stop thinking about those chips in the pantry. You want to get to your weight loss goal, but also? You REALLY WANT THOSE CHIPS. And before you even know it, you’re over the day’s target by a couple hundred calories and can’t figure out WHY.

Well, in today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast, we’re exploring that seemingly unavoidable drive to overeat, and I’ve got the goods on how to free yourself from it once and for all.

What You’ll Learn

👉 The REAL REASON you find yourself overeating
👉 A peek into MY OVEREATING JOURNEY, and
👉 The 4-step PROCESS that works every time

If you’re ready to get over the habit of overeating, I’m ready to show you how – let’s go!


You're listening to the Fitness Matters Podcast with Pahla B, and this is episode number 263, "Overeating". Welcome to the Fitness Matters Podcast, where every week we talk about the fitness matters that matter to you. I'm Pahla B, YouTuber, certified life and weight loss coach, soon to be author and your best middle aged fitness friend. Are you ready to talk about the fitness mindset that matters to you? Me too. Let's go.

Real quick, before we get into today's topic, I want to invite you to join the Pahla B Wellness Over 50 Book Club, in partnership with Chirp Audiobooks. The book we're reading for November in December is The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride, which you can grab a steep discount with no monthly subscription fees at chirpbooks.com/pahla. That's P-A-H-L-A. While you're there, be sure to click the follow button to get exclusive access, updates and register for the Live Book Club event on Friday, December 16th. I'll see you there.

Well, hello, hello my goal friends, it's so good to be here with you. You guys, I've got a great one for us this week. We are talking about overeating. I know that I really frequently, when we are talking about the 5-0 method and losing weight for women over 50, I talk so much more about how we have gotten it in our heads that we have to eat less and move more because we've got years and years and years of social conditioning, and so many of us are actually undereating to get to our weight loss goals, that it has the exact opposite effect than we want it to. That undereating can actually be the cause of menopausal weight gain, but also so can overeating. And I want you to know that even though I don't talk about this as often, I actually come to weight loss, or used to come to weight loss from this side of things.

I'm going to say my entire life I struggled with overeating, and for the longest time all I had to do to lose weight was actually to eat less and move more, because when I was a young woman, I mean, when I was a young woman, I didn't exercise at all. And I know that might be really hard for you to understand, but I really truly came from a place where I thought I was uncoordinated. I thought I was unathletic. I thought I didn't like to work out. I worked out sporadically in my early twenties a little bit and then just didn't for a very long time. I didn't realize that I actually liked to exercise until I was in my late thirties, very late thirties. So for the longest time until I was in my late thirties, I could just eat less and move more, because I wasn't moving and because I was overeating.

So that handy little phrase totally worked for me. Then as I got older and I was exercising a lot more, I realized that throughout those perimenopausal years, I realized that I was eating less and less. I was really losing touch with my hunger cues and just having a lot of, well of different issues, but really specifically I was exercising to the point where I was losing my hunger cues and I didn't recognize it until I found myself at the point where I was undereating and over exercising and gaining weight from that. It's why it tends to be my main message, but I also deeply, deeply understand that for lots of us we're coming at it from a place where we would rather eat more. And to lose weight, we have to think about, I'm going to say restricting our calories and I don't love that word, but we have to think, well, how about constraining?

Constraining sounds so much more friendly. Constraining sounds like something that you do from a place that's closer to self-love than restricting. Restriction always sounds, I always think about parental controls and when I think about the word restriction as a parent, how you, not have to, but often do restrict your child from doing certain things. Restriction, I think it has a lot of emotional baggage for lots of us, which is why I like the word constrain better because it sounds a little bit more like self-discipline, but in a good way, which I understand that self-discipline might have emotional baggage too. Here's what I'm going to say, go ahead and use whatever word feels best to you about eating within your calorie target for the purpose of losing weight from a place of self-love. How about that? My friend, here's what I want you to know about overeating.

First of all, it's completely normal. It's completely natural. Lots of us do it. It's not a problem that I'm trying to help you solve. It is a thing that happens that we do in response to other things going on in our lives. There's a lot of different reasons why you might find yourself overeating, and I'm really specifically using that phrase, find yourself, because I do not want you to think that you are overeating on purpose. I truly, in my heart of hearts, do not believe that anybody overeats on purpose. I, in my experience, have found myself overeating as an automatic reaction to other things going on in my life. Now, I do have a couple of other podcasts that I want to mention that cover other parts of this topic, because I am really specifically going to talk about one reason why you might overeat.

I believe I have an episode about stress eating. If not, I have a really specific episode about stress that I can lead you to. I've talked about comfort eating, which also I tend to think of as a stress response. I have another one that's actually really related to what we're talking about today, that is dealing with cravings. And I think if you have the time and inclination to listen to all of them, I know that there will be nuggets out of each of them that you can take home with you and really put to use. What I'm talking about today with overeating is something very subtle that happens to a lot of us. We don't necessarily eat because we are stressed out or eat because we are seeking comfort. We eat because the food looks good, because it sounds good, because we want it. This might also fall under the category of almost boredom eating, but in my opinion, it's even more subtle than that.

It really is that you find yourself eating, which by the way is an action, and by the way, let me actually just go through this little chain of events really quickly in case it's the first time you've heard it. The reason we do anything and the reason why I really specifically used the phrase find yourself, we do things automatically all the time. All the time. Your brain is actually set up for automatic actions much more so than intentional actions. What happens is, we have a thought and then that thought creates a feeling, always, every time. By the way, that's a larger conversation about sometimes we think that other things make us have feelings, but you always have feelings because of your thoughts. So you have a thought, that thought creates a feeling. That feeling drives actions. Biologically, this is exactly the way your life is supposed to go.

You are supposed to behave automatically. You're supposed to do things because of your feelings. By and large, honestly, this gets us every place we want to go. It is not a problem to have automatic thoughts, creating automatic feelings which drive automatic actions. The problem, the reason you might think of this as a problem, the reason you might come to this podcast and be like, Hey, Pahla, help me with my overeating problem, is that sometimes you have an intentional goal for yourself in your life. Right now, if your intentional goal is to eat within a calorie target so that you can find yourself a healthy weight, then my friends, your automatic thoughts, creating automatic feelings and driving automatic actions can be examined so that you don't just find yourself eating. But rather you can eat intentionally in a way that will get you where you want to go.

And I really do feel like peeling back that layer of judgment and releasing the idea that overeating is a problem can be hugely beneficial to you. This is, in my opinion, an opportunity to come at your habits with curiosity. I noticed myself doing this thing. I'd rather not do this thing, so why am I doing it? And what is it that is driving this behavior that I could do intentionally in a different way? Versus, well, I'm just going to make myself eat in my calorie target. I'm just going to stop myself from overeating when I want to eat some things. Making yourself, stopping yourself, restricting yourself, dare I say, can work short term. I mean we have the ability. Your brain is set up to work automatically, but we also think goodness, have the ability to do things intentionally. The thing about trying to do something intentionally though is it's not the way your brain would rather work.

Your brain would rather be efficient. This is a biological imperative. In fact, it's something that your brain is supposed to do on purpose so that you can stay alive. Your brain is really set up to not have a lot of resources at its disposal, so it's always trying to be as efficient as it can so that it doesn't waste any extra energy. This is mother nature at work, truly, and yes, we can override mother nature, we can think things intentionally. We can do things intentionally, but it's not a long term solution, because it takes more energy. I mean, I know that sounds like really good news right now. You're like, wait a second, so if I'm using willpower, it's burning more calories? Yes, technically it is. Not a lot, but technically it is. But also, I'm inclined to say doom to fail and I don't love that, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyways because fighting against mother nature never works in the long run.

The way your brain is designed to work is the way that you will get the best results. When you are working with nature, you will always get better results than when you are fighting against nature. So let's take a look at what might be going on when you find yourself overeating. I will tell you that in my own life, in my own work, and yes, I have done this work, in fact, I've done this work a lot. I'm going to say, I started doing work on my desire to eat more probably, oh my gosh, when did I really start doing this work?

I probably started doing this work about three years ago. And I'm going to say that, all told, beginning to end it took me about a year to a year and a half to get to the point where I truly do not think of myself as somebody who finds myself eating anymore. I find myself wanting to eat sometimes, and because of the work that I have done, I know exactly what the next steps are and I am actually going to lay out specific steps for you here in just a little bit. And I can follow through on those steps. And I'm trying to think of when was the last time I found myself overeating and I can't come up with something in recent memory. Which to me feels like I can go ahead and say I don't overeat anymore. It's a really nice place to be, and here's how.

So for me, the thought that I found when I went looking for it, because like I said, the thing that happens is you have a thought, it creates a feeling, and then from that feeling you do things. I found myself overeating. I recognize that I wanted to eat, that it was a wanting situation. And that feeling, I'm actually going to call it urgent desire or wanting, either one is fine. I just like the sound of urgent desire, because the word urgent really does help you understand why it feels so uncomfortable, why it feels so urgent. You need to do something to relieve it right away. And what I found was that the thought that I was having was so simple. I want that. That's all. I want that. Now here's the other thing about how your brain works. Your brain will automatically think a thought over and over and over, not necessarily in a row.

It's not like I want that, I want that. I want that. Can't even say it quickly, but it's not like it's in a row a million times. You'll think other thoughts in between, but it'll come back around. This is again, exactly how your brain is supposed to work. Again, not a problem. But again, something you can notice because when you don't listen for it, don't hear it, it's just rolling around in the background. And I'm sure you've felt this before where let's say for example, what would happen to me is it would be like evening time and I would be relaxing maybe reading or playing on my phone, something where I'm just sitting on the couch and don't necessarily have something else that I need to be doing. And I would hear in my brain by the time I started listening for it, I want a snack.

It'd be nice if I had something to munch on right now. I want that, and it would usually be something relatively specific. And for me, I will tell you my evening snack of choice with gold fish crackers, which is so funny to me now, because they don't even really taste that good. It's not necessarily a good food. It was not some deep pleasure that I was creating for myself with some delicious food. It was just something crunchy, salty, snacky to have in my hand and put in my mouth to have. I wanted that. So before I started listening for it, I didn't recognize just how much it was rattling around in my brain, how many times it would come back around and around and around and around. By the time you hear it or notice it or actually just stand up and walk over to the pantry and go get something for yourself, it is probably run through your brain. I'm going to say on average hundreds of times. And what has happened with the repetition is that feeling gets a little bit stronger every time.

Now, what also can happen here is that you might hear it once or twice and think to yourself, no, I'm not going to eat right now because I'm on a diet. I am restricting myself. I'm laughing, because I hope you don't think that, and here's why. I'm on a diet. I mean, how do you feel when you say that to yourself? Does that actually feel good? Does that feel like self-love? I don't think it does. That's total guess on my part. If I'm on a diet sounds amazing to you, like, ah, this is exactly how I want to feel. This is exactly what I want to think. This is exactly right for me in my life. Then please continue thinking that. If it feels restrictive, if it creates for you a feeling of pressure, if it creates for you a feeling of unhappiness, then my friend, that thought is not helpful to you anyway.

What happens sometimes when we hear the thought, I want that, is we try and shove it down. Or even let's just say you've been working with me for a while, maybe you're in the Get Your Goal group and you have heard me talk about gently redirecting your thoughts. I'm trying to remember right this second if we have talked about gentle redirection here on the podcast. And that gives me an idea that maybe we should talk about gentle redirection, because I don't think we have. It is one of the tools at your disposal when you notice that you are having a thought that is unhelpful for getting you to your goal. The way you know that a thought is helpful or unhelpful by the way, is by the way it makes you feel. We just displayed this with the, I'm on a diet thought. If it doesn't feel good, it's not a helpful thought to get you where you want to go.
So if you notice that I want that, creating a feeling of urgent desire for you is not going to get you to your goal of eating within your calorie target and eventually getting to your healthy weight, then you might have recognized and even labeled this thought as unhelpful. Now, all of your thoughts, as we just discussed, are going to come back around. They do. That's just how they work. And one of the tools at your disposal is to gently redirect an unhelpful thought that comes up again and again and again. Here's what happens though when you try to redirect really specifically this, I want that thought, that creates a feeling of urgent desire. Urgency, and urgent desire is a particularly prickly, uncomfortable sort of a feeling. So when you are trying to gently redirect the thought, and it comes back around again. You might actually notice yourself feeling a little bit urgent about getting rid of that thought.

Am I right? Have you ever noticed that when you try to, and the words that we usually use is deny a craving or deny yourself from wanting to eat something, it makes it worse. Because, I wish I wasn't thinking this thought is urgent also. Trying to get rid of, I want that, actually doubles your urgency. No wonder it feels so terrible. It legitimately, in my opinion, feels worse to try to deny yourself a craving than to well do almost anything else. Now, here's the thing. And I'm going to say the word give in or cave to your craving. This is actually exactly what biology is designed to do. When you have an urgent desire, you are supposed to act on it. This is what we were talking about with your thoughts. Create your feelings. Your feelings drive your actions. When you have a feeling of urgent desire, you are actually meant to do that thing that you want.
It's not a matter of giving in. It's biology. It's the way your brain is supposed to work, it's the way your body is supposed to work. You are supposed to do the things that you want to do. So again, peeling back that layer of judgment and just recognizing this is biology can be really, really helpful for you here. However, again, coming back to this idea that what you want, overarching what you want is to get to your healthy weight, which means that you do want to eat within your calorie target. It means that you need to figure out what to do with that thought, I want that. And I will tell you that the way to, I'm going to call it, interrupt the chain of events of you have a thought. It creates a feeling. The feeling drives your action. To get yourself to not do the action, means that you can feel the feeling without acting on it.

Now, I know some of you are like, mm, I've tried that before. I have felt the feeling and then I still go eat anyways because that feeling doesn't really dissipate, especially when we're talking about cravings, especially when we're talking about urgent desire. What we often do when we think we are allowing the feeling is that we are actually acknowledging that it's there while also wishing that it wasn't. We are, like I said, doubling the urgency by trying not to feel urgent. Here's how you actually feel a feeling. I use the acronym IDEA just so that I can remember it. I love acronyms. I love pneumonic devices of all kinds. I'm always a fan of having a way to remember things. I used to have a really brilliant memory. I remember in my youth, I do still remember, in my youth before I had kids, really specifically, I vividly remember being pregnant with my oldest son and noticing that my memory was not the way it used to be.

I got lost in parking garages. I had a lot of pregnancy brain fog. Some of it came back to me afterwards, but my memory is nothing like it used to be, and I find myself struggling quite a bit with menopausal brain fog also, and I'm like, I got to hang onto as much as I can. In any event, I love pneumonic devices. They work really well for me. It is my particular brand of hanging onto my memory is by finding ways to remember things on purpose, so the way to feel a feeling all the way through without resisting it, without white knuckling it, without doubling your urgency because you just want this feeling to be over with is to think of your feelings as an IDEA.

I is identify. Identify that you're actually having a feeling. And if you can, if you want to, give it a name. I like giving my feelings names. I don't necessarily choose from what you might consider normal names for feelings. I love being able to be creative in this area because there are certain feelings, that in my opinion, defy a traditional name. For our topic today, I do like the name of urgent desire because I feel like it's very descriptive, but identifying that you are having a feeling, whether you name it or not, but identifying that you are having a feeling helps you gain agency over it. Knowing that this is a feeling and recognizing that because it's a feeling, it just means that you had a thought, and that that feeling is supposed to drive you to action, it can really help bring you into a place of seeing it for what it is rather than something terrible, something uncomfortable, a problem, something that you have to get rid of, something that you have to do something about.

You can simply see this, oh, I'm having a biological moment right now, like here I am being biological. Identify that you're having a feeling, and then in my opinion, the most powerful thing that you can do is to describe what's going on in your body. Here's the thing with feelings. Your feelings are a chemical reaction in your body. You have a thought, it's a spark of electricity in your brain, and that spark quite literally sparks a chemical reaction of hormones that get released into your bloodstream. Now, what those hormones do are going to depend on the exact thought that you had. They will create a specific feeling for you. But feeling it's just physical sensations in your body. It's things like a pounding heart or a rapid breathing rate, clammy skin, dry mouth, your throat clenching, your stomach may be squeezing. There are lots of physical sensations that you have from those chemicals, those hormones being in your bloodstream.

This is exactly what hormones are supposed to do. They're supposed to do things to your body. When you can describe what it is that you are feeling in your body, it takes your brain to a place where it is occupied with a task, so that you are not thinking other thoughts like I hate this. This is so uncomfortable. I wish I could get rid of it. Why am I still feeling this way? I want to be so good. I've been so good all day. The more you are thinking, the more you are creating other feelings or perhaps even the same feeling 10 and 20 fold inside your body, that urgency that keeps ratcheting up, up, up. When you can occupy your brain with noticing and describing what's going on in your body, it allows the hormones to just keep doing what they're doing versus having another rush of either the same hormones or different hormones, creating another feeling in your body simultaneously.

Describing, gives your brain something to do so that the hormones can dissipate. I like to get really creative with this personally, I like to do a full body scan. What's going on in my head? What's going on behind my eyes? What's going on in my throat? What's going on in my chest? What's going on in my stomach? What's going on with my fingers and toes? Will I describe this feeling or sensation with a color or a smell or a taste? Is it moving in some way? Is it stabbing or squeezing or bubbly? What words can I use to describe what's going on in my body?

Now, the next one, E is express. And I like to give you a little bit of caution here on express. I prefer to say express safely. You will notice with certain kinds of feelings, not necessarily urgent desire, but really specifically, I always think of anger. I find myself behaving from anger sometimes by doing things like throwing my phone down or stomping my feet. Sometimes I will slam doors. Those kinds of expressions of your feeling they serve the purpose because that is what your body is supposed to do. This is an action that you do from the feeling. Your feelings drive your actions. These are actions that you do. So you want to be really aware that you are not just acting from the feeling.

Really specifically, the thing that I noticed myself, the behavior that I noticed when I was working through this urgent desire is that I would find myself bouncing in my seat a lot, that it had that very kinetic feeling to it. I didn't want to sit still. I caution you not to do something like get up and walk it off, or get your wiggles out or something like that because it can dissipate the feeling in a way that isn't the same thing as allowing yourself to feel it through description. Getting rid of your feeling isn't the same as allowing it to dissipate on its own.

The fourth thing, A, is allow. So we've identified, we've described, we've expressed safely, and we are allowing. It takes about 90 seconds and sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, but about 90 seconds for the hormones to do what they're going to do in your body and dissipate on their own. Sometimes, during that 90 seconds, it can feel like the longest minute and a half of your entire life, and you will need to remind yourself, this is normal, this is natural, this is completely okay, and I can do this. I don't recommend saying that to yourself very much, because again, it is a thought. And if you don't quite believe it could actually create the feeling of self doubt or get you back in that urgent mode of, no, I really can't do this. This is very hard. This is very difficult. I don't like the way it feels, where you're thinking more and therefore creating more feelings for yourself in a way that's not going to be helpful.

To me, saying it to myself maybe once the 32nd mark, and once again, probably about the 60 to 72nd mark, because right about that two thirds of the way through, sometimes I'm like, oh my gosh, this feeling is never going to go away, so I remind myself I'm capable of this. I can allow this, and then I come right back to describing. Allowing the feeling to be in your body is a very important part of feeling it all the way through, and it's almost, it is every bit as important to recognize that you can allow and also to be listening for thoughts that are along the lines of, I don't want this. I wish this wasn't happening. I've got to get rid of this quickly. The not allowing thoughts. Hearing, not allowing thoughts and reminding yourself, it's okay, I can completely allow this, and then getting your brain back to the task of describing, is an important part.

All four of them honestly are important for their own reasons. Identifying, just even knowing that you're having a feeling and being willing to go through this process. Describing it, so that you can give your brain the task of paying attention to what's going on with you physically. Expressing yourself safely without trying to get away from the feeling. And then allowing and reminding yourself that you are capable of allowing all work together to give your body the time and space that it needs to do what it's supposed to do, which is to say, send out hormones. And then what it does is it actually sends out other hormones. I always use the word dissipate because that's what it feels like. But that dissipation of the original feeling happens because other hormones get sent out to bring your body back to homeostasis. Homeostasis, it just means balance. It means that your body isn't having a strong feeling currently.

The reason this works is because once you have a feeling, and this is something that I really... It's on my list of things to study more and understand more, because I don't know the exact mechanism, which is why I'm going to tell you it's magic because it feels like magic. When you allow yourself to have a feeling, it doesn't react the same way ever again. When you have the thought, I want that, and you allow yourself to feel the urgent desire, the next time you have the thought, I want that, really specifically from the same exact thing. Like me sitting on the couch, reading a magazine, wanting goldfish. The next time I thought that it didn't feel as urgent, it didn't feel as strong. It didn't feel like as much. Which is not to say that I never had to do this IDEA thing again. I never had to feel it again.

I did. I actually worked through it, I'm going to say, three or four times. Oh, it probably wasn't even four times. I know for sure it was at least two, so I'm going to say two or three times. I worked through it two or three times. The first time it felt very uncomfortable. The second time it felt kind of uncomfortable. And if there was a third time, I'll go ahead and say that there was a third time because I'm pretty sure there was, but it was almost nothing, which is why it doesn't even feel like there was a third time. It was like, oh, that's right. I can feel this.

This is the magic that your brain and your body do. Once they get that feeling felt, they don't feel like they need to anymore. Oh, okay, we've done that. It's all good here. And I do think that part of the magic is something along the lines of simply recognizing that you can feel it. You feel like a superhero after you feel through a really uncomfortable feeling, and it's like, oh, that's all there was. Well, I can feel that, ain't no thing, no big deal here. So it became no big deal to sit on the couch, reading a magazine and notice that maybe I could eat some goldfish, but also, ah, I'm done eating for the day. Feeling your feelings is the magic that will solve the problem that isn't a problem of overeating.

I know that this... No, I don't know. I suspect that this doesn't sound like very much fun right now. I know that sometimes when I talk about feeling feelings and, oh, they're so uncomfortable, and then they last 90 seconds. And I know that sometimes that's a hard sell, and I know that sometimes there's even maybe a little bit of doubt. There's no way that feeling my feelings is going to stop me from overeating. I urge you to consider that this might be the way for you to move intentionally towards your goals. And I would love to hear how this goes for you. I always love hearing this, but this one, to me, felt like really practical advice. Find your thoughts, feel your feelings, allow your feeling to exist and then see what changes it brings about in your life. I would love to hear from you. Thank you so much for listening, you guys. Have a great rest of your week and I'll talk to you again soon.

If you are getting a lot out of the Fitness Matters Podcast and you're ready to take it to the next level, you are going to love the Get Your Goal Coaching And Accountability Group. We take all the theory and knowledge here on the podcast and actually apply it in real life on your real weight loss and fitness goals. It's hands on, it's fun, and it works. Find out more at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal, and let's get your goal.

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired November 27, 2022
Today we’re exploring that seemingly unavoidable drive to overeat, and I’ve got the goods on how to free yourself from it once and for all.
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.