out of control eating

My client was crying. She was upset about what she thought I had just asked her to do. She was afraid she”™d have to go hungry all day and starve herself. She was afraid she”™d end up over-compensating with a binge the following day — or even for several days afterward.

It wasn”™t true that she”™d have to starve, but her emotional reaction was genuine.

What had I asked her to do? Simply to try an exercise that I”™ll share with you in a moment.

I knew the exercise would ground her in a solid awareness of her body”™s signals of when to eat. I expected a bit of pushback, but not quite like this. As she cried, I addressed her concerns point by point.

So What Was The Scary Food Exercise? [private PRO-Platinum|PRO-Monthly|PRO-Gratis|PRO-Seasonal|Platinum-trial|Monthly-trial|PRO-Military|30-Days-of-PRO|90 Day PRO|Stages-Instructor|Schwinn-Instructor|Instructor-Bonus]

I won”™t keep you in suspense. The client picks one day — or even half a day — to try this. Here”™s what you might tell him or her to do:

The goal is to get hungry as often as possible during the day. Eat only small amounts each time you feel hungry. That will ensure as many hunger experiences as possible throughout the day.

BUT!! Every time you feel hungry, it”™s time to eat! Eat only enough to take away the hunger, rather than to satiate yourself completely. But do eat.

One of the points of this exercise is to develop body awareness. Part of that is avoiding eating on autopilot. So before eating when you usually do — say, first thing in the morning or when it”™s “time” for lunch or dinner — check in with your stomach first to see if you”™re really hungry. Discover what hunger feels like.

Another key is to avoid “preventative eating” (eating now to prevent hunger later). Stay in the moment with your hunger and your eating. Keep the behavior logical and predictable: I”™m hungry. I eat. I get hungry again. I eat.

Important suggestion: If you have a cycling participant try this, suggest that he/she do it on a day that with a light schedule — or no set schedule at all — to really tune in to the process.

I Didn”™t Invent This “Mean” Food Exercise

Many years ago, I read about this process in a book. Unfortunately for me — the PhD who always cites her sources! — it was a long time ago, and I”™ve forgotten whose exercise it is. I”™m definitely not trying to claim it as my own; I simply can”™t recall who came up with it. My apologies (and thanks) go to the author.

This Exercise Is Great Because It Works

What happens? Every client I”™ve taken through this process — every single client without exception — has reported feeling grounded and aware of the hunger/eating cycle after trying it.

My clients report that they now feel confident in their ability to tune in to signals that tell them when their bodies need food — and when they don”™t. They feel confident that they can trust what their bodies are telling them. They feel confident that they can respond appropriately.

I have never asked a client to eat this way longer than one day. But it has never been necessary. Each and every client who follows the instructions seems to have the same positive experience.

To be clear, your participants don”™t have to go through life eating only a bite or two of food at a time — just the day of the process.

And What Happened To My Crying Client?

She did understand what I had really asked her to do and agreed to try it for half a day. She ended up doing the whole day — and said she “got” what I”™d been trying to help her discover regarding hunger, food intake, and much more.

Anything that helps my clients feel more aware and sure of their decisions is a boon to their self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-image, and self-efficacy. This “scary” exercise makes them more effective in following my system and getting results.

The exercise is also in keeping with one of my favorite quotations. It”™s from Simone de Beauvoir: “Confidence in the body is confidence in the self.” [/private]

Joan Kent

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