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Breaking the Habit: How to Stop Overeating

written by Laura Dabney, M.D. January 23, 2020
Breaking the Habit: How to Stop Overeating

Overindulging is a problem I hear about all year but especially during this time of the year. Let’s talk about habits because overeating is just a bad habit. Habits are tough to break; they’re especially hard to break if you don’t know the origin. There are a lot of different origins to overeating; that’s why when you start indulging in various diets, supplements, or mantras, it often doesn’t work, and then you can find yourself discouraged. It’s not that they don’t work; it’s just that they work for a specific type of overeating.

Where your overeating comes from is very important. Neediness is typically a source, but also people have symbolic meanings attached to being overweight or thin.

Interestingly, I had a patient who had a gastric bypass, and she was thrilled. She started losing weight and looked great, but she started saying, “I feel boney.” She kept saying it in a negative way, which led me to ask her to associate boney and what that meant to her and it was all negative; she associated it with hard, edgy, unapproachable. We had to get to the bottom of what was causing her to think this way. If one thinks they look bad, or unapproachable, then, of course, you aren’t going to get there.

Overweight tends to be associated with kind, soft, warm. In media or advertising we see this association and a lot of people buy into that, that somehow they’re softer or warmer if they’re overweight. You may hate being overweight, but there may be something unconscious that you don’t like about being thin or something you do like unconsciously about being overweight, and that needs to be dealt with.

Fear Factors from Our Parents

I encourage people to look back at the patterns of eating when they were young. This is so important, and unfortunately, I get a lot of people who say they don’t want to blame their parents. We don’t want to blame anybody; this is your problem, and you’re owning it, but we do have to understand where it comes from. We’re not blaming anybody when we look back at our childhood patterns; we’re understanding. Were you shamed for eating too much or a lot? It’s very common, right? Parents may have said things such as, “Oh, you’re going to eat another one? You shouldn’t eat that; you’re going to get a stomach ache.”

Fear factors from our parents can be playing around in our heads and impacting us today, which will make breaking the habit harder. Also, not eating can be a problem. Some parents panicked when their child said they aren’t hungry or only ate a little bit; they had associated eating a lot with always being prepared. I’ve talked to a lot of parents who panicked when their kids don’t eat a lot, no matter how overweight they are because they feel they aren’t going to have enough to get through the day. We have to unpack that and understand what that means.

Finding the Origin

To find the origin of your overeating and break the habit, you’ll want to take a look at:

  • What the meaning of neediness is
  • What you associate with being thin or overweight
  • The meanings behind not eating or overeating

All of these are very different and come from a different angle, but understanding the origin of your overeating will help you with breaking the habit of overeating.

If you would like help with finding the origin of your overindulgence schedule a free 15-minute consultation or call (757)340-8800.

Dr. Laura Dabney

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