When I finally started reading Overcoming Overeating: How to Break the Diet/Binge Cycle and Live a Healthier, More Satisfying Life it was shocking how well the authors described me in the beginning. Of course they weren’t describing me specifically, but me and you and all the people like us who have disordered eating habits. Still, it felt strange to read about my own thought processes and habits in this book.
In the first part of Overcoming Overeating they talk about compulsive eating, what it is and why it happens.
They talked a lot about how when compulsive eaters feel uncomfortable they need to eat and how eating is rarely triggered by feelings of real hunger but instead compulsive eaters eat when they feel discomfort.
I know that for me all of this rang true. Too true.
Additionally they focus on explaining that “Compulsive eating is a serious, very real problem that cannot be solved through willpower. ” Basically, it’s the diets don’t work philosophy.
The second part of the book is about what compulsive eaters can do to overcome this, mainly by teaching themselves demand feeding. For me this part of the book was hit or miss and some of the ideas worked for me and some didn’t.
- Success: looking at yourself in the mirror and describing what you see without judgement. I was surprised at first how hard it was and how many negative thoughts popped into my mind, but keeping up with it helped. Also successful was tossing the scale. I’ve done it before temporarily but this time it stuck and felt good. It freed up so much space in my mind not having to think about my daily weigh in.
- Failure: committing to eating anything you want without judgement. This worked in some ways, because with savory food it was easy. I can eat chips or popcorn or whatever until I’m full then stop. Sweets however? It just didn’t work for me and after a couple weeks I realized that it wasn’t going to work because there was never a point where I stopped wanting them like the authors said you eventually would.
- Success: paying attention to physical cues and recognizing stomach hunger (real hunger) in order to eat. This has been very helpful to me in the past but I can slip into periods where I don’t pay attention to it. It was a good reminder that being hungry isn’t bad and can guide healthy eating habits.
The third part of the book talks about how to relearn the right way to feed yourself and break free from the trap of the diet/binge lifestyle.
I really like this book because the focus isn’t on food. Because for most overeaters it is not actually about the food, it’s about the things that drive us to use food in the wrong way. I’ve really benefited from reading this and stepping away from caring so much and thinking so much about food and weight. I think it will also be useful for anyone who is very out of touch with their body and hunger signals as it focuses on getting in touch with those things.
I did not like the strict focus on nothing is forbidden, eat until you don’t want it anymore. For some people, myself included, this doesn’t work with some foods and it can be bad for some people (nothing works for everyone). I think this book works best in addition to making healthier food choices and utilizing other forms of change like therapy. If you read it take some of the things in it with a grain of salt as it isn’t the right technique for everyone.
So overall I liked some things and disliked some things about Overcoming Overeating. I’d give it a 3 out of 5.
Have you read this book? What did you think?