Is food always at the back of your mind? Are you always thinking about your next meal?
It may be that you’ve become obsessed with food. That might make you feel guilty or that you’re doing something wrong.
We want you to know that you’re not alone. Food obsession is so common that we are giving you 5 reasons why it might be happening. Some of the 5 reasons might even surprise you.
We've also added tips to cope with each to help you move on from your obsession with food.
Are you obsessed with food?
Consider these, how many feel true for you?
Are you always thinking about and / or planning your next meal?
Do you label foods ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and spend a lot of time thinking about ‘bad’ foods
Can you have ‘bad’ foods in the house without thinking about them
Are you not enjoying social events because of food options - especially ‘bad’ foods?
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how you should eat less?
If you answered yes to a few of these you might be a little obsessed with food. But, it’s not your fault.
We live in a world where there’s so many rules and restrictions around food. Food is a constant topic of conversation - # food has over 500 million posts on Instagram and what I eat in a day (# whatieatinaday) has over 800,000. It’s no wonder you’re thinking about food all the time.
5 reasons you may be obsessed with food and how to overcome them:
You’re trying so hard to not eat ‘bad foods’
Labelling labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or healthy and unhealthy can really do a number on you. Viewing food as binary creates a restrictive mindset. It makes food stressful, a source of fear or worry, and can make you feel guilty for eating certain foods.
Labelling food as ‘bad’ means when you eat those foods, you have failed. Consciously or even sub-consciously, it means you need to make up it in some way. This might be by eating more "good foods", by purging, or by vowing to eat better.
This starts the cycle of ‘I’ll eat better later/tomorrow/next week’. And you never do. That’s because by making ‘bad’ foods off limits and restricting them your brain wants more of it.
Being told you can’t or shouldn’t have something makes you crave it. And feel guilty after consuming it. And that takes up so much brain space.
Tips to help:
Start to notice when you label food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and try and reframe to just food
Start to listen to your body’s cues - what food does it need? What will make you feel satisfied?
Ask yourself, why do I think this food is bad? Has someone told me it is? Notice if you fear these foods
If you find that foods you label bad are the ones you are told make you gain weight, work on your relationship with your body
2. You aren’t taking care of yourself enough
If you’re feeling super run down, or just low energy it makes sense your body is focusing on what it relies on for fuel. Food is not only a source of energy for the body, but also triggers the release of feel good hormones like dopamine. So it makes sense that when you’re not taking care of yourself that your body turns to food for some feel good hormones.
For some us food can be a form of self-care. This can be fine as a form of comfort. sometimes But if it becomes a crutch when we feel down it can easily become obsessive.
You start to plan your next meal, or eating ‘bad’ foods as a form of emotional soothing. Thinking about your next meal, or a particular food, may be used as a way to avoid an uncomfortable situation or feeling. Thinking about food can help you disconnect from your thoughts and feelings, and over time this becomes a habit.
Tips to help:
Take stock - how are you feeling physically, emotionally, mentally?
Decide what you need to take care of yourself. Maybe it’s resting or moving more, saying no to others or carving some time out to try a new hobby / passion.
Notice when you use food as a distraction / something to soothe. Does anything trigger this?
Reach out for support from others if you need it. Sometimes we can’t fully meet our own needs without help.
3. You're trying to push off eating breakfast and lunch for as long as possible
I know it’s easy to miss breakfast when rushing to work every now and again. But purposely putting off eating breakfast as late as possible has the following affect:
Your blood sugar drops - leaving you tired, irritable and hungry.
Your body produces stress hormones - you
Your cravings increase - your body is hungry. So when you pass a bakery your brain goes wild. And suddenly it’s all you can think about.
You might feel out of control. Rather than having breakfast done and dusted you have to slot it into your day. Meeting runs late? All you can think about is lunch as you realise you’re starving.
This means that food becomes a focus for your brain as it craves fuel. It’s no wonder you become obsessed. This is still a form of restriction and so your body starts to want what it can’t have.
And when blood sugar is low your body will want the quickest source of sugar.
The foods that are a quick supply of sugar tend to be those you may have labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’. So you tell yourself you can’t have these foods. And the cycle begins again.
You can’t have these foods but now you want them more, and your body has low energy. So now you can’t focus on anything else. And maybe then you eat these foods - and you think about that all day, maybe with feelings of guilt and being out of control.
Maybe you don’t eat the food but rather something you’ve labelled as ‘good’. And you keep thinking about how you’d rather be eating the ‘bad’ food you’ve been thinking about. Either way you lean into restriction.
Tips to help:
Prepare breakfast the night before if time is against you.
Have a play around with different breakfast options if you’re just not a breakfast person, there’s a combo that works for everyone.
Take your lunch break. I know some people who eat at their desk, but taking a designated break will help have a set lunchtime.
Stack habits: if you have a coffee every morning, start to eat with it so you get in the habit of doing the two together. Maybe you listen to the radio in the morning, pair this with making breakfast.
4. You’re on a diet – or at least trying to be ‘healthy’
Diets have foods you can’t eat. And restricting food makes us want it more. If your diet says no chocolate all day - chances are you’ll be thinking about chocolate. And notice someone around you eating it. And before you know it you’re craving it.
Food obsession comes from a place of starvation. And dieting is technically semi-starvation. We have a whole post on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment which showed that starvation causes obsession with food, and these thoughts only subsided when the participants were taken off starvation diets.
The diet mentality can make us obsess with foods we can / can’t eat. And how much we should be eating. And how it affects our body. So much mental energy is dedicated to food.
Tips to help:
Start working on eating intuitively with your body, we have a post on how to start here.
Move away from diets and diet culture. Stop following pro-diet pages, and set boundaries when it comes to people talking about diets around you.
Reflect on why you’re dieting, what do you hope to achieve?
5. You're trying to cut back calories, because you’re binging at other times
I won’t be a broken record about restriction leading to obsession but cutting calories will put your body into that starvation mode. And that leads to what is known as the binge-restrict cycle - where restricting leads to food obsession, a binge and then feelings of failure causing increased restriction.
Binging is feelings of guilt / shame around food and what you eat. It is feeling embarrassed about how and what you eat, often meaning you eat in secret and hide binging from others. Binging is often associated with feeling out of control around food. That’s a lot of considerations around your food and meals, coupled with hiding binges that means it’s a constant thought.
If you rebound from binging with restriction then your body sends signals that might alter your hunger cues. This is coupled with mixed messaging about food and whether you’ve eaten enough, and increased stress on the body. So your brain is constantly focused on food, and what you should / shouldn’t be eating.
Tips to help:
Work on breaking free from the binge-restrict cycle. Do this first by stepping away from restriction.
Notice what triggers a binge episode - is it restricting? Or a certain life event?
Work with a professional if you think you may be struggling with binge eating disorder or require more help.
Let's recap. Five reasons why you might constantly think about food include:
Trying really hard to be as healthy as you can. This might mean you aren't eating enough food, or enough of certain food groups.
Struggling to find the time, energy, or commitment to take care of yourself.
Pushing back or skipping breakfast.
You're on a diet that means you aren't eating enough of your favourite foods.
You're struggling with binge eating so you try to make up for binging by eating less.
All five of these contribute to why our clients brain is filled with thoughts about food.
This food obsessive thoughts not only are frustrating. But they also keep the stuck in a cycle of feeling not good enough in their eating, and stop them from focusing on what's really important to them.
We believe that food and eating should take up a small part of your brain. Not nothing - because that's not really healthy either.
Let's work together to find you a healthy relationship to food. Read about our 1:1 Nutrition Counselling support here.
Team Ease Nutrition Therapy x