Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle in Seven Steps
By Michelle May, M.D.
If your commitment to eat right and exercise always seems to lose its steam, you’re not alone! Ask yourself these questions:
Do you think about food and eating more than you think you should?
Do you feel guilty when you eat certain foods?
Do you have trouble passing up tempting food even if you aren’t hungry?
Do you often eat when you are bored, stressed, sad, lonely, or angry?
Do you often feel too full when you’re finished eating?
Do you fluctuate between dieting and eating too much?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve probably discovered that dieting hasn’t really solved the problem. In fact, for many people, restrictive dieting leads to feelings of deprivation, cravings, overeating, guilt, and more overeating. I call it the eat-repent-repeat cycle.
The only way to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle is to learn how to eat what you love fearlessly and love what you eat mindfully. Here are seven steps to get you started:
- Let go of the idea that there is a perfect diet that will finally solve your problems. The answer lies within you.
- Whenever you have an urge to eat, instead of focusing on the food, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?”. Remember that hunger is a physical feeling. It’s not the same thing as appetite, cravings, or the desire to eat.
- If you are hungry, remember that there are no “good” or “bad” foods. You’re less likely to over eat certain foods if you know that you can have them again when you really want them.
- Eat mindfully—with intention and attention. Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention to the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures and to your body’s signals of satiety.
- Stop eating when hunger is gone but before you feel full, even if there’s food left. Remember, eating the right amount of food isn’t about being good, it’s about feeling good.
- If you’re not hungry, ask yourself if something in your environment triggered your urge to eat and what you could do to reduce the trigger or redirect your attention away from it. For instance, could you put the candy dish out of sight or do something else for a while until you’re actually hungry? If there was an emotional trigger, ask yourself what you could do to better cope with that emotion. For instance, if stress triggered your urge to eat, could you try a relaxation exercise instead? When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it.
- Don’t expect yourself to be perfect—it’s not possible—or necessary. Instead, treat each “mistake” as a learning opportunity.
Has your commitment to eat right and exercise lost its steam? What steps are you taking to get your steam back?
Michelle May, M.D. broke her own eat-repent-repeat cycle and founded of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program to help others break free from mindless and emotional eating. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. (Download chapter one free.) ©2012 Michelle May, M.D. Used with permission.