If you think about food when you’re hungry or making cooking plans, that is completely normal. But do you think about food constantly? That may be a sign something is up.
But the good news is there are lots of really practical things you can do to shift the focus in your life.
Ps. If you've listened to the episode and feel you need more help identifying patterns, if you find you’re constantly thinking about food or can’t stop eating in the afternoon or evening, then check out Lyndi's FREE 5-day course. Where you'll get her top tips to help you feel calm (not obsessed) about food.
Hello, this is the No Wellness Wankery podcast where we discuss all things wellness and help you spot the wankery because it is peppered throughout. My name is Jenna D’Apice and I'm joined by my co-host, Lyndi.
Hi, I'm Lyndi Gohan, nutritionist, dietitian and hater of all wellness wankery. And today we've got a bit of a FAQ, something that often comes up, especially if you've been a yo-yo dieter, you've tried lots of things in your life.
What is it? Yeah, so Lyndi has a Keep It Real program and it has an amazing online community where people ask questions and they support each other. And a really common question that came through has came through once again, and we want to have a little chat about it. The question is, does anyone find themselves thinking about food 24-7? I spend so much brain power and energy thinking about it, what to eat, what not to eat, whether I should or shouldn't be eating, and it can be all-consuming. I'm really struggling to break the habit of constant food thoughts. Any tips?
This is so relatable, and I think anyone who's ever been on a diet is gonna have their hands up going, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, I relate to this. I certainly did when I was in my dieting years. One of the side effects of diet is that they lead to food obsession. So you find that your brain constantly keeps coming back to food. There's a very interesting study, the Minnesota starvation study. You've probably heard of it before, but this is conducted during, I think it was 1945, so end of World War II, and it would not pass ethics these days. The way that they did this, basically what they did is they recruited a whole bunch of university students, men, and they put them in a basement kind of setting, basically, and, well actually, no, I don't know if it was a basement setting. They recruited a whole bunch of university men and they put them on a starvation diet. So what does that basically mean? It just means like low calories. The equivalent calories today for a woman is a 1200 calorie diet. Huh, very relatable. Funny that we've heard that number before.
Yeah, it's so funny.
So you think about, okay, well, the typical diet, a weight loss diet is actually a starvation diet according to like 1945 times. Anyway, they put these men on the starvation diet, restricting them on what they could eat and they were trying to measure how does the body and the mind respond to the starvation kind of climate. And what they found was most startling, not only did the men lose weight as you kind of imagine and have kind of reductions and all those things, but they had extreme food obsession. In fact, these men couldn't stop thinking, talking, reading about food. They wanted to look through recipes. They wanted to talk to their mates about food. They would dream about food. Every single thought kept coming back to food. And so, it's a very interesting thing that this study really highlights is how when we are in a semi-starved state, our brain is gonna be preoccupied by what we are and aren't allowed to eat. Now, you might say to me, well, I do eat enough. In fact, I feel like I eat too much. Why does this still happen to me? So there's two things to consider. One is there's physical satisfaction. Are you getting enough calories? That can kind of create a sense. If you're not getting enough calories, that's going to create a sense of starvation. But the other thing that can create the sense of starvation or not enough-ism is when you are emotionally depriving yourself. So if every time you're eating, you're like, oh, this is bad, I shouldn't be eating this, you're building up on that guilt, you've got all these food rules that are percolating in your brain, all the things that you're not allowed to eat, you're always feeling emotionally restricted by what you're eating. Even if you are physically eating it, even if you're physically eating enough food, it can still be enough to trigger your brain into thinking I have to keep thinking about these things.
Even if you're eating the things that you think you're not allowed to eat? Yeah, even if you're telling yourself you're not allowed to eat them.
So for example, if you have ice cream and you spend the whole time going I shouldn't eat this or you go I shouldn't have eaten that, it was really bad, I need to make up for it. It really negates some of the satisfaction that you're going to have as a result of having eaten that, especially if you're like, well, as soon as I have ice cream or something indulgent, it marks the start of a new diet. You can imagine how your brain's going to constantly be going and coming back to it. So as long as you have a sense of emotional restriction, even if there is no physical restriction, chances are you're going to feel like you're obsessed with food and what you're eating. The food obsession thing also can be a bit of a pattern in the brain. So let's say you've spent your whole life being obsessed with food. It's something that's just-
You're used to thinking about it.
You're used to thinking about it, and so it becomes your default pattern. It might be default conversations that you have with your friends because they're equally obsessed with food and you know this is the same thing you can talk about. When you lie in bed at night, this is kind of that time that you always reserve for going through what you ate. So we do want to try and interrupt some of these passions that you currently have. And so when you notice a food thought, you can go, okay, that's a food thought. And something you can try to do is actively decide to change the channel in your brain like a radio. We've talked about that before. But a very important thing to do is just checking how many food rules you still have in your brain and identifying whether or not you still feel guilty about the foods that you're eating, whether or not you have abundance of these rules telling you, you know I have sugar, you know I have fat, you know I have all these things, of course you're going to be obsessed because you have that emotional restriction going on. Another thing that contributes, sorry I'm going on a whole tangent, is let's say you're on Instagram and 80% of the content you follow is nutrition, health, wellness content, yes, that is going to influence your brain, you're going to think those are the most important things. What we want to be seeing is that you have multi-interests in your life, that there are other things that your brain can actually take on board, whether it's following things that you're, hobbies that you're interested in, or like a book club, or whatever it is going to be, but checking your media. So most people these days, I did a poll recently with millennials, and I asked a whole bunch of friends, I was like, tell me how many hours you spend on social media each day, or on your phones, because whether you're reading the news, that's also gonna help, it's gonna influence your brain, and typically it was around between two to six hours on average every single day is how much time people are spending on their phones, and at least an hour on social media each day. So it used to be that you are a product of who you spend the most time with. These days, it's much more accurate to say you are a product of who you follow and who you subscribe to and what you read online. So just think about as well how much time are you allowing, how much free time are you allowing to be taken up by thoughts around food and thinking, around calories or tracking things in an app or weighing yourself and all the different things that we do. And if you feel like you're doing things like body checking and you feel like this does feel like an obsession, maybe it is an obsession. Maybe having a professional to help guide you into removing this obsession is going to be really helpful. That could look like a psychologist, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a non-diet dietitian, a GP who's holistic and really gets it. I really think that's useful in having someone who's going to support you to end your food obsession because you don't have to live your life being controlled by food thoughts. You absolutely do not. Because I feel like even when I was constantly thinking about food, this is when you don't really have time for hobbies because you're working, you're seeing your friends and then it just overtakes your whole brain and it's all you can think about. Whereas when you step back, all these new great things can have space comes back to food. When I was in university, would have been about 18, 19 years old, my friendship group, I found this friendship group that was kind of like the kind of friendship group you only see on like a Hallmark movie. I was like, I didn't know those kinds of friendships could exist, so you had this girl gang of us and we got along so well. We were all studying nutrition and dietetics. And one day we had a group chat where it was decided, apparently unanimously, that we weren't allowed to talk about food anymore. In spite of the chat, they decided that we talk about food enough during university and between us as friends, we don't also need to talk about food. And on reflection, it was amazing, but on reflection, I think about, well, probably what was happening is I was in my eating disorder days and I was obsessively talking about food, and I was triggering others to not feel amazing about food, and changing the energy of the group, and the group decided this is a food-free zone. And I think it was a really big part of me recovering, because I actually had a space where it wasn't something I could fall back on, where I had to be a more diverse and interesting creature than simply the calories I consumed. And I wonder if there's something you could learn from doing this in your life, creating more food-free zones where either there are relationships in your life where you go, you know what, every time I see that person, we always chat about how much we're eating and how much weight we've lost. Maybe we just either have a chat to that person like my friends with me. We temporarily pull back for just like a little moment while we recover. You could explain to them, it's not good for my mental health when we have these conversations, but creating more pockets, whether it's on social media, where food is not something that gets through rain, I think that's useful.
I love that. Sometimes it's all about curating whoever you follow on your feed, because if you're following people that all they're talking about is even recipes or cooking, or if you're all the same things, it's gonna be like all-consuming.
Yeah, less food. You know, like less food, Chad, I think that's gonna be really useful. And I think I've missed this one point that I think's really important. So we talked about this idea of the starvation study and how interesting that was, and emotional restriction, but what I haven't tackled is the fact that many people aren't eating enough, especially if you are coming from diet land where you're like, oh, I'm not allowed to have carbohydrates. You're probably dreaming about carbohydrates. You're probably dreaming of the very thing you're not allowed to have. Or if you come from that calorie-controlled land, you're like, well, I start my morning with a really light breakfast. I eat a good breakfast, which is code for low calorie, let's be honest. And then you get to lunch, you're like, I'm gonna have a salad, I'm so pure and good. But by the time you get to lunchtime, you haven't eaten enough food. So of course your brain's gonna keep coming back to food. Then you probably get into the afternoon, you eat the entire pantry, you lie in bed at night feeling obsessed about how you got this whole thing wrong. What you fundamentally didn't do right was eat enough. You didn't eat enough during the day and you didn't eat enough without satisfying food. I think we really need to rectify that. So yes, the solution to reducing our obsession with food, yes, giving ourselves permission, making sure we're eating enough and changing the echo chamber around us so that we can be so much more than the food we eat. I love this. If you think food obsession or something is something you need to work through, Lindy has a program called Keep It Real, which really focuses on helping people who have that obsessive
thoughts around food and maybe need some more help.
Yeah, and I think what's really cool about Keep It Real is I'm very much in that program with you. I'm responding to everyone's questions with personalized support and I really go in, I really help. I'm really like a big sister there, helping you out because I've been there and I really want the best for you. So it's a bit of hand-holding, which is what I think you need in these early phases, if you get free from food obsession. And of course, you can use the code CODCAST to get 20% off Keep It Real when you check out on the website.
Thank you so much for listening. If you have any more questions you'd like to send through, New Donsk or Nutritionist, that's where you can send them all through, and we'd love to answer them for you.
Do you feel like you know what you should be eating, but you feel completely out of control with food? You're either eating perfectly or you're face planting into the fridge. Well, if you've got binge eating or you're struggling with emotional eating, I can help. Check out my program, Keep It Real. I've got lots I can teach you and hey, you don't have to be a binge eater for the rest of your life. You can get 20% off Keep It Real when you use the code podcast when you check out via the website. And because I don't want this to be just another failed attempt for you, I'm offering a 30-day money-back guarantee because you know what? You've just got to give these things a go, no risk. You've just got to give these things a go, no risk. Give it a try.