This may seem a very simple approach to changing your eating habits, but it’s very easy to do. You might believe that your overeating needs something more than the approach I’m going to outline, but you might find it quite effective. I learned this technique when I was a counsellor for an eating disorders charity. I tried it out with several clients. Initially they were sceptical, but they became thrilled at how easy it was. I used to say, “Just try it. What have you got to lose?”
The rationale behind the approach is simple: when you do the same thing over and over again, you get the same results. (When you think about it – why shouldn’t you?) If you’re constantly doing the same thing then nothing will change. You have to change something to get a different result. You have to do something else. Here I want to apply this approach to overeating, or to eating the wrong sorts of things.
You should take a look at what you’re actually doing. Ask yourself the questions:
- How often does the problem occur? (Once an hour? Once a day? Once a week? etc.)
- When does it happen? (Time of the day, time of week, time of month, time of year).
- How long does the problem last?
- Where or in what situations does the issue or problem usually occur?
- What do you do when the problem’s happening?
One of my clients overate when she got home from work. I asked her each of these questions in turn, and these were her answers:
- How often does the issue occur? – Once a day.
- What time does it happen? – After work.
- How long does the problem last? – Until my husband gets home from work one hour later.
- Where or in what situations does the issue/problem usually occur? – In the kitchen.
- What do you do when the problem’s happening? – I feel sorry for myself and I eat even more.
What my client was telling me was that as soon as she walked into her house, she went to the kitchen – keeping on her coat – opened the fridge, and started picking. She would reach for a yoghurt (yes – healthy but not when combined with lots of other foods), some cold chocolate and a Coke. She would then move on to one of the cupboards. Because she’d started eating, she thought, “What the heck,” and would grab a packet of crisps, and maybe some sweets. She would then go upstairs, get changed, and then come down to start preparing dinner for when her husband arrived home.
Doing Something Different
Now that she’d answered the questions and reflected on what she was actually doing, we explored what she could do that would be different. She decided to change things just a little. She decided that instead of going into the kitchen when she arrived home, she would go straight upstairs instead, change, shower, and play some music. This would make her feel better and would stop the feeling of needing to eat because she was stressed. By the time she’d done all this, she would then go downstairs and start preparing dinner for her and her husband.
When we first discussed making this change, she said that it was all too simple. But I encouraged her to try it for a week and to tell me how things went at our next session. She returned to me the next week – she was so pleased. She had found that it was indeed easy and simple, but that it had really helped her cut out many unnecessary foods – and all the guilt that went with eating them. She started to use this solution at other times when she found herself overeating. For instance, she was in the habit of keeping a packet of biscuits in her drawer at work, and having one with every cup of tea or coffee during the working day. She decided, quite simply, not to take biscuits into work anymore. This was quite hard for her, as she was so used to eating biscuits with her hot drinks, but after a few days she started to forget about the biscuits, and another unnecessary food was cut out of her life.
Try small changes – they’re so simple but they can be so effective!