Take Control of Your Eating


If you could calculate how much time you spend each day thinking about food, do you think you would be classified as obsessive? Playing mental mind games about what you should and should not be eating is not only mentally exhausting but also tends to achieve little. In fact, twin studies have shown that cognitive restriction of food intake is actually correlated with obesity.

While each and every one of us will have a different eating style which has developed during the course of our lives depending on what we were taught as children, who we spend our time with and our individual food preferences, there are a few common patterns of disordered eating. Unlike “eating disorders”, disordered eating is not a clinical condition and can often be managed with a few basic behavioural strategies.

1) Restrictive eating

Restrictive eaters base their food choices around what they think they should be eating as opposed to what they feel like eating. They tend to have very strict food rules such as, “I never eat carbs at night”, and can be prone to overeating when a situation has resulting in their self-imposed food rules being broken. Restrictive eaters are often on a diet, may avoid social situations for fear they will not have access to the foods they think they should be eating and tend to spend far too much time mentally calculating the fat and kilojoule content of their diets.

2) Emotional eating

Some of us stop eating when we are sad, stressed, lonely or distressed while some of us eat more. Emotional eating is frequently reported as a behavioural side effect of emotional distress, and if not identified and managed early can result in many kilograms of extra body weight courtesy of chocolates, ice creams and biscuits – the most common foods sought out by emotional eaters.

3) Serial dieter

You name it; the serial dieter has tried it! The Soup Diet, Low carb, Atkins; to no real avail as a serial dieter never seems to lose weight as too much energy is being spent on trying out weird and wonderful diets instead of concentrating on developing long term healthy eating behaviours. 

4) Night binging

Night bingers eat next to nothing all day, only to arrive home famished and eat everything in sight. Consuming a disproportionate number of kilojoules during the second half of the day not only means that energy is often lacking during the day but weight gain can result as high kilojoule foods such as pasta, rice, alcohol and treats are foods frequently chosen at this time of day.

5) Health Enthusiast

Health Enthusiast’s may look fabulous from a distance but a closer look can reveal dry skin, fatigue and low mood as the obsession with all things natural and healthy has resulted in a life without much pleasure. While eating nutritionally balanced food should be a goal for every one of us, taking it to an extreme in which one will not eat out or eat any type of food unless it is organic, natural and unprocessed can become mentally draining and may be a sign that things have gotten a little extreme. 

Change your food thinking


1) Restrictive eating

The first step in managing disordered eating patterns is to identify the main areas you know you need to work on to move forward. In the case of restrictive eating, a good starting point is to always ask yourself, “What do I really feel like eating?” before each of your meals to try and tap into your natural hunger and appetite. Always remember that there are no rules about what we should and should not be eating – instead there are balanced meals with everyday foods and foods that we eat sometimes in controlled amounts. Removing the cognitive programming which has become entrenched in your mind that has been telling you that there are foods you should not be eating, is the most important thing to practice if you are a restrictive eater. Once you have started to challenge these thoughts, it will gradually become easier to start to eat foods you would have avoided previously and not feel out of control if you do try a dessert or eat a controlled portion of carbohydrates at dinner. 

2) Emotional eating

There are a number of proven behavioural steps which have been shown to help manage emotional eating. The first thing to do is to identify the key times when you find yourself eating high kilojoule food after certain emotional triggers. Once you have done this, you can practice having a “time out” in between the trigger and the eating – try calling a friend, getting out of the house ( a change in environment works very effectively) or writing down he pros and cons of eating. This space makes it much easier to think rationally about eating rather than rushing to the fridge and downing a tub of ice cream. Most importantly, if you know you are prone to emotional overeating, never keep your comfort foods in the house, at least if you have to go and buy there will be some time in between the event and when the food is available which may help you to make a rational decision not to binge. 

3) Serial dieter

If you are a serial dieter, basically it is time to stop. Think about all the precious time and energy (and not to mention money) you have wasted on these programs for no real outcome. If there was an easy way to lose weight, we would all be 5kgs lighter, but basically sustainable fat loss is hard work. If you are serious about getting healthy, book yourself into an Accredited Practising Dietitian (www.daa.asn.au) and get your own personalised food plan to deal wit your weight issues once and for all. 

4) Night binging

If you are a night binger, you too need to get organised and start to support your metabolism rather than sabotage it. Practice planning ahead each day so you can ensure that you have all the food supplies you need to at least eat 3 meals each day and try having a protein rich snack such as a nut bar, milk based drink or protein bar on the way home from work so you do not walk in the door ravenous. And, like emotional eaters, you may find it helps if you do not keep too much “easy to eat” snack foods such as biscuits, crackers, dips, chocolates and potato chips at home as these are foods which are too easy to grab and over eat when we are starving. 

5) Health Enthusiasts

If you cannot remember the last time you ate out or even enjoyed your food, you need to loosen the food rules a little. There is nothing wrong with choosing to eat healthy but if it is limiting you socially, there is a problem. To break free of this health obsessed pattern, spend some time thinking about what foods you really enjoy eating and make sure you have those included in your meal plan. Practice eating out at new places and making decisions on regular menu items. And most importantly, remember that food is meant to nourish your body and eating is meant to be a pleasurable experience. If you do not find this is the case, you may need to speak to a professional on issues relating to control in your life.

Susie Burrell

Please note: This blog aims to supply user-friendly nutrition information for busy people without comprising on food taste and quality but should be used as a guide only and not in place of advice from your own dietitian or medical specialist. For further information on this topic, please consult your health professional. The content of this blog, including attachments, may be privileged and confidential. Any un-authorised use of this content is expressly prohibited. Any views that are expressed in this message are those of the individual sender, except where the sender expressly, and with authority, states them to be the views of Susie Burrell Pty Ltd.
Category: Nutrition

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