Perspective on Eating and Overeating

Overeating permeates our society. At the holidays, but really all year long. The strategies that spring up, such as calorie or portion control, weight watchers, focus on an external system. Eating healthier is also important. I’ll admit I have binged on some ice cream now and again as well.

Other wisdom about eating tells us that sometimes we’re eating for comfort, for distraction, or mindlessly (while watching TV), or out of boredom. Of course we are. That doesn’t quite tell us the how to eat differently, though. Aside from maybe not while watching TV.

I was in the middle of a session with a patient, discussing food. A novel thought came in. Well, it was novel to me. To “naturally” skinny people there is probably nothing new about the idea.

There are signals built into us that are absolutely clear on when to start eating, and definitely when to stop. The clear start signal includes hunger pangs, that gnawing feeling of hunger in the stomach, or it might show up as weakness. There’s no doubt that’s the right signal to start eating.

The time to definitely stop eating is the feeling of “fullness.” For many of us, this is the point of “I have no more room.” Some people even eat past that point, especially if eating for other reasons than hunger.

But what if the trick was not calorie counting, but just retuning the signals. WHAT IF the correct STOP signal was just the ABSENCE of the START signal. Once the pangs are gone, STOP.

Now of course food takes some time to digest, and once the start signal goes we may get so desperate to eat a lot. So the portion control comes to asking – “Is this amount enough to turn off the start signal?”  And have you given yourself a little time to let that signal go away?

And then there’s the “I just will eat until I’ve finished this box/pint/cookie/etc.” This seems to stir a sense of scarcity internally that if it doesn’t get eaten now, it might be wasted or the last of the junk food to be savored.

To which I remind you to remind yourself:

There’s always more junk food available tomorrow. We’re not going to run out anytime soon.

Perspective on Eating and Overeating
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Paul Puri

Dr. Puri is a board certified psychiatrist, in private practice in Los Angeles. He practices multiple forms of psychotherapy, including hypnosis, in addition to managing medications. He attended medical school at University of Rochester, and specialty training at University of California, San Diego. He is currently on the Vol Clinical Faculty at UCLA. In his non-clinical time he writes TV pilots, and designs iPhone apps.