Halfway through a kg bag of Peanut m&ms, I’m pissed at myself… because I just know that I’ll eat the whole bag. I feel out of control. I literally can’t stop eating.
Binge eating like this was practically my norm during my Dieting Days. I would be a “good” little calorie-counter all day, only to find myself in the kitchen at night compulsively shovelling food into my face.
At the time, I thought it was just a frustrating lack of willpower. But it was actually something else: hedonic eating.
Luckily, there’s a way to end this type of food obsession, and I’ll show you how.
What Is Hedonic Eating?
Most reasons why we want to eat past fullness are emotional. Hedonic eating, however, is different: it’s biological.
While emotional eating is an attempt to avoid something bad (i.e. buffer negative emotion), hedonic eating is an attempt to gain something good (i.e. pleasure).
It often feels like an addiction.
When you feel like you literally can’t stop eating, it’s because you’re probably addicted to food.
The Reason Why You Literally Can’t Stop Eating
When we eat pleasurable foods, it releases rewarding, feel-good neurochemicals in the brain.
As indulgent behaviour becomes reinforced, food addiction begins. This is why we feel out of control around pleasurable food.
When you feel like you literally can’t stop eating, it’s because, at this point, you’re fighting your biology; and even the strongest-willed person cannot strong-arm their biology…
The reason why you feel out of control around food is that this is the same cycle of addiction that drug addicts suffer from.
Hedonic eating occurs when food has literally become your drug.
How to Know If You’re a Hedonic Eater
If you hyper-obsess over when you’ll have your favourite foods, then you’re probably a hedonic eater.
But if you find yourself inhaling a low-quality meal (“stress eating” anything in front of you), then you’re probably not a hedonic eater.
For example, I was both an emotional and hedonic eater. I healed my emotional eating first when I became aware that I was choosing to run away from my feelings and did the inner work necessary, but the hedonic eating took a long time to conquer!
In other words, you might be a hedonic eater if you…
- Obsess about overeating your favourite pleasurable foods
- Can’t seem to stop once you get started
- Find yourself thinking about these foods all throughout the day, even if you’re not hungry
*Oh! And some people are both emotional eaters and hedonic eaters. (That was me!)
It’s a sucky combo, but don’t worry – there are ways to overcome both. Here’s my solution for you:
How to Stop Obsessing Over Food
The reason why we fixate on food is that we’ve got our psychology all wrong.
When we tell ourselves that we can’t have something, it makes us want it more! That’s why I encourage you to stop dieting so that you can learn how to eat normally.
Because when you give up the food rules, you begin to untangle the neuroses – like the addiction to pleasurable food.
Now, giving up dietary restriction can be a scary step. Many of us feel that allowing ourselves to have chocolate will make us inhale the entire bar!
But a funny thing happens when you give yourself fully, unrestricted permission to eat what your body wants: you eventually don’t binge.
Preventing the Binges and Freakouts
Personally, I never thought I’d be free of the urge to eat the whole bag of peanut m&ms.
But things changed when I gave up dieting and all dietary restriction: I became free.
These days, I only really think about food when I’m hungry.
I never thought I would be free from night-eating junk food, but here I am. And I want to help you get here, too.
A critical step is developing emotional tolerance. However, that mostly helps with emotional eating.
To overcome hedonic eating, try this exercise:
An Exercise to Start With
Think of a food that you’re addicted to… one that you don’t really keep around the house because you know you’d eat all of it.
Now, go add some to your pantry. When you do, practice following my eating guidelines by allowing yourself to have that food whenever you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
Make sure there are zero restrictions aside from hunger and fullness. If you have one foot out the door (i.e. “I can have it as long as it’s before 9:30pm…”) then it won’t work!
You must be 100% committed to giving this zero-food-rules thing a shot.
So, if you want to make peace with chocolate but are currently addicted to it, then you’re probably going to want a couple of (family size) chocolate bars for dinner. I know I did. And that’s fine!
At first, we may eat unhealthy things as we’re unwinding our food patterns. But as time goes on, you’ll find that you don’t really want chocolate for dinner…
Regaining Self-Control Around Food
Many of us think that if we “let ourselves loose” around food, that we’d eat everything in sight! But it’s actually a powerful form of reverse psychology.
When you know you can have any food you want whenever you want it (as long as you’re hungry), you’ll be far less tempted to overeat.
You literally CAN stop eating when you’re full.
And although my tips will help you master your psychology, it takes time for your biology to get on board. So be patient.
Also, I recommend you get help from a professional (I’m raising my hand right now!) during this journey because you WILL freakout and that’s ok and normal and I can help you through it.
Recovering from food obsession is never a straight path, but have faith that reverse-psychology works especially when you work on your body image.
And if you want more tips, I have a free 5-day course right here.