Weight problems are created one bite at a time. That extra few mouthfuls, the second or third helping, the mindless nibbling... What is it that motivates these behaviours? Is it hunger, restlessness, anxiety, or pleasure seeking?
If you ask people why they overeat, the usual answer is "hunger," but when this takes place only an hour after a meal it can't be "real" hunger. It can be more accurately described as an "impulse," which means simply an urge to act in a certain way. The basis for the impulse is habit, which is a learned reaction to a specific set of conditions.
For example, one may get the urge to eat as soon as she/he sits down to watch television in the evening. The sequence of events is: turn on the tv....think of eating....feel an "urge" to eat...go eat! Pretty simple, and not much thought involved. Sometimes a battle ensues, as the person simultaneously has anticipatory guilt feelings ("I shouldn't"). A test of self-control, with the outcome depending on the momentary physical and emotional state of the person and the strength of the habit.
The essential nature of impulsive overeating is what is often called "mindlessness." The sequence of thought, feeling and action is so quick and automatic that there seems little opportunity for conscious self-control.
Examine your thoughts and feelings the next time you're about to cross the line into eating excess. Ask yourself what it is you really want. Is it really more food? What do you think will happen if you don't eat? How does your body feel? Can you relax and let go...wait for the urge to pass? Is it worth the effort? Are you worth the effort?
Bringing awareness to automatic reactions is step 1. Choosing an alernative course of action is step 2. It takes effort, repetition and consistency to change habits. You have to really want it, but it can be done...
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.