Reasons you may feel out of control around food

  Apr 20, 2018  |  #Intuitive Eating

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a great week. We are still adjusting to mommy-hood over here and my mom has left. So, now it’s the real thing – just our little family.

I hope to have a 2 week recap ready for you on Monday because it’s been an adventure!

I’m enjoying all the bonding time and little faces she makes. We’ve seen her smile a bunch, but at this age, I don’t think it’s on purpose. I can’t wait until it is intentional though!

This is a post I had started before giving birth and had been wanting to share. I had gotten a few requests through Instagram for a post on this topic, and I love to honor your requests!

Graphic for Reasons you may feel out of control around food

Why Do You Feel Out of Control?

I often have clients who come in and tell me that they feel out of control around food (or certain foods).

I like to start by asking them to clarify, or tell me more about that. What does feeling out of control “feel” or “look” like to you? How would you describe it?

Is it around all foods, or certain foods? And if certain foods, is it at a certain time of day, a time of stress, a time of socializing – are there any more concrete details you can give me about how you feel?

Feeling out of control, Intuitive Eating

I think it’s important to gauge as much information about ourselves as possible – and more often than not, it takes talking to someone else to learn this information.

Kind of like, when you hear yourself saying things out loud, sometimes things click.

So, let’s list out some reasons that when you get to a certain meal, or when it’s time to eat, you start to feel out of control.

I think you’ll find that oftentimes, we’re mistaking this feeling of no control for something else.

You’re Only Eating Certain Foods (Or Not Enough)

If you’re categorizing foods as “good” and “bad,” or banning certain foods from your diet, you may start to feel deprived of them. Our bodies are smart and will always seek equilibrium.

So, maybe you’re nixing added sugars from your diet and wondering why you can’t stop munching on the french fries or bread bowl when you’re out to eat. Maybe it’s your body’s way of getting adequate carbohydrates.

Remember, sugar is a carbohydrate. Or, maybe you’re limiting yourself to 1 tbsp of peanut butter per day.

You’re so used to measuring a measly teaspoon of olive oil each night for cooking because you’re scared of fats. Your body may seek out those calories in other forms, or may turn towards the pastry and baked items for some fat.

Feeling out of control, Intuitive Eating

Similarly, if you’re not eating enough, you’ll likely feel out of control around any food because your body is just plain old deprived.

It doesn’t matter what food is in front of you, your body is trying to tell you that you’re hungry. That’s a biological response, but we may mistake it as feeling “out of control,” and hence feeling guilty.

There’s a huge difference here.

You’re Stressed

We’ve heard this before, right? But there is a true biological connection between how we feel and what we eat. Eating is emotional, and feeling stressed can play a role in our food choices.

For some, that may be eating more pizza or ice cream, while for others, it may mean not eating enough (of anything).

Either way, whether it’s more emotional or biological, being stressed can muddy our intuition, and make us choose things we may not necessarily even want.

Lack of sleep is also a major stressor. It can raise our cortisol, skew our hormones, and put our bodies in a state of higher alert.

Our hunger hormone, ghrelin, may become falsely elevated when we’re sleep deprived, making us think we’re hungry when we may not actually be hungry. Now, eating when we’re not hungry isn’t always a big deal at all – there are plenty of other reasons we may eat, like for enjoyment, comfort or social time.

However, if we’re always eating when we’re not hungry, we’ve lost a huge signal that our body is reliant upon for an intuitive relationship.

Lack of Control, Intuitive Eating

You’re Not Eating Often Enough

This plays into not eating enough overall because if you aren’t eating often enough, your body probably isn’t getting all of the fuel it needs. We talk ALOT about this in my Ebook. 

Have you ever skipped a snack or gone so long without eating?…

What happens at the next meal or snack?

You probably eat more than normal. I know I’ve been there and if I don’t plan well, I can still fall victim to this. Our bodies are meant to receive food (fuel) regularly, to break down and fuel our engines.

When we skip these eating instances, we get more and more hungry, even if we don’t realize it. So, of course the body is going to try to “catch up” at some point in time – it may not be your next meal and it may not be that same day.

But, your body will try to restore equilibrium, which may be construed as “feeling out of control.”

Feeling out of control, Intuitive Eating

Our hunger signals aren’t the best determinant for if we’re getting enough fuel. I work with many clients who don’t have regular hunger signals after suppressing them for so long.

When working together, we usually plan snacks and meals around designated times to reteach our body what regular fuel feels like.

Once hunger cues are re-established, we can lean more towards intuitive eating.

You’re Still Rebuilding Trust in Yourself

When you’ve experienced a dismantled relationship with food, it takes time to rebuild it. It will take time to completely trust yourself again.

Oftentimes, the pathway to freedom includes letting go of food rules, and accepting all foods as neutral. The beginning part of this journey often includes eating more highly palatable (high sugar/high fat) foods.


Because oftentimes, that’s what has been banned for so long.

Feeling out of control, Intuitive Eating

People may mistakenly think they’re feeling out of control around food when they find themselves wanting a palatable food item. However, it’s part of the process.

It’s not about feeling in control around food, but instead, about building that trust.

Allowing yourself to have those foods when you want them, to take them off any pedestal. To retrain your body to eat what it needs in the moment.

Rebuilding trust is often confused for feeling out of control.

However, they are two completely different ideas.

This is one of my favorite topics to discuss with clients, and if you are suffering from this mentality, I’d recommend working with a specialist who understands disordered eating and thoughts.

Reframing Out of Control Thoughts

Feeling out of control around food can be quite subjective. You may feel it, but no one on the outside would think of you that way. We’re oftentimes our own worst critics.

What if you tried talking to yourself with a kinder voice? Or acknowledging that you’re just hungrier today?

Or, you had a tough workout so your body is trying to rebuild your muscles?

Maybe you have a lot going on in other aspects of your life, and it’s carrying over to your food choices.

Maybe meditation, yoga, or some self love practices can help you reframe these thoughts. Fresh air helps. Adequate sleep helps.

Surrounding yourself with positive influencers can make a huge difference. Unfollowing those who bring you down, or start the comparison trap helps. Get the negativity out of your mind by surrounding yourself with positive people and thoughts.

If you find yourself thinking you’re feeling out of control, try coming at it with a curios mind next time. Figure out why you feel that way.

Is something else going on? Can you give yourself permission to enjoy this food, this meal, this dessert, this appetizer, etc?


11 responses to “Reasons you may feel out of control around food

  1. Lovely post Sarah and very informative 🙂
    It must be a little different since your mom has gone home, but I am sure you are managing well. Take care 🙂

  2. Sometimes, especially when I am in peak training, I eat so much I think it’s out of control, when really it’s simply what I need to do. The times I feel most perplexed by food is choosing what to eat sometimes. Not out of what is the “best” but often choosing between what I want and what I should eat because it’s about to go bad or it’s the oldest/will get thrown away if I don’t. I hate throwing food away, so often I’ll eat it even if it’s not what I want =P

    1. I’m like you and hate food waste. I’ve come to accept that it’s okay if all my meals aren’t “omg amazing” because sometimes they are just throwing things together to get rid of them before they go bad. All good!

  3. It’s amazing how the body is so sensitive to changes in sleep, stress, eating enough, or restricting food. I am so SOOO thankful you wrote this post; it really helps to reframe those thoughts and think about why you might be feeling out of control. I know that one of the biggest reasons for me had been saying, ‘No! I can’t have that food,’ and that always makes me more agitated around it.

  4. It’s honestly so true that your body figures out what it needs to stay in equilibrium! Crazy how having something sweet every day works perfectly for me and I don’t go crazy when I’m at a party or dinner.

    Glad to hear you’re adjusting well Sarah! I hope Phil had a great race in Boston even though the weather was awful.

    1. I need something sweet (or two) daily too – it’s just a normal thing for me now, but can be hard for people to introduce sweets regularly at the beginning.

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