If you’re trying to make sense of food compulsions like overeating, binge eating, night bingeing and sugar seeking, a fresh perspective might make all the difference.
Most approaches to overeating focus on these four things:
- Healing physiological factors – like diet, nutrition, healing the physical body, supporting the brain
- Teaching skills – mindfulness skills, self care skills, emotional skills, and stress relief skills
- Changing behavior – in simple terms, how to stop overeating and make different choices
- Changing thoughts and beliefs – how to change your self concept (what you believe about yourself), how to change painful thoughts
The desired end result for all these approaches is the same – less overeating and food compulsion, as well as freedom from the impulse itself. And all of these things can be helpful – they are not wrong.
But they are incomplete.
Here’s why: they’re missing an understanding of what enables you to change behavior, what organically leads to changes in your thoughts and beliefs, and what supports you in implementing a new way of eating and learning new skills.
Most people know that they need to eat less sugar, or that they need to eat more vegetables, or that they tend to overeat in the afternoons. Knowing what to do and a willingness to change are often not the problem.
What’s missing is development. It’s development, not skills, that helps us change our behavior. It’s development, not thinking, that helps us regulate emotions, strengthen impulse control, and stop doing things (like overeating) that cause suffering and pain. It’s development, not knowledge, that helps us follow through on all our good intentions to eat more whole foods or less sugar.
Add a layer of development underneath the teaching of skills, nutrition or healing the body’s physiology, and these things can “stick” and take root.
I’ve created a course, When Food is Your Mother, that integrates this developmental perspective to foster relief from food compulsions like overeating, binge eating, night bingeing and sugar obsessing.
Here’s how a developmental approach frames the solution to overeating:
- Compulsive overeating points to a need for human development, for maturation and growth. So the key for healing is this: how do we support development?
- You are where you are. The fact that you got stuck in your development is not your fault, a character flaw, proof of spiritual failure or evidence of faulty thinking. It simply means you didn’t have the luxury for growth.
- What fosters maturation and growth is secure, loving attachment: loving relationship.
- Loving relationship and secure attachments are what enable you to care for the pain that, in the moment, drives overeating.
- Attachment can be found in your relationship with yourself, with others, and, if you’re spiritually oriented, with God or life.
With a developmental approach, your goal is the same – freedom from the overeating. But how you get there looks different. Rather than focusing on skills, changing behavior, or modifying thoughts, you support the development that naturally leads to changes in your behavior, your thoughts, and your relationship with food. And you support this development through attachment: through loving relationship.