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“I shouldn’t be this hungry.”
Judging your appetite is one of the things that will keep you very stuck.
We are trying to heal the body and mind of all restriction, not just physical under eating, but the guilt and overthinking that comes along with restriction, too — mental restriction.
If you feel guilt over your eating, you are experiencing mental restriction. It’s the kind of guilt that makes you feel like you should or shouldn’t be eating a certain way. It is very common to make major improvements with actual physical restriction and finally be eating what you’re hungry for, but still be completely plagued by mental restriction.
Guilt and overthinking about food affects the body, metabolism, hormones, stress, and appetite, and will keep you stuck in the yo-yo just like physical restriction.
Mental restriction will also take the form of anxiety, panic, and constant cycling thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, or what should or shouldn’t be happening. Without mental restriction, this whole thing would be pretty easy. The body would fix itself in a few months, and eating would normalize. But thanks to our brain. Our brains freaking get in the way.
Mental restriction often sounds something like this:
I shouldn’t be this hungry…
Maybe I’ll just do this for another week and then go on another diet if I keep eating like this.
Ok, I’m allowed to eat whatever I want, but if it doesn’t prove to me that it’s working soon, I’m quitting.
I can eat this brownie, but I’d better only eat half.
I shouldn’t be craving so much.
I’ll eat this piece of pizza and then have a salad later.
Oh I shouldn’t be eating all of this bread. I’m ruining everything.
Oh if I were really being intuitive I’d probably be eating more vegetables!
If I were really being intuitive I’d be eating less by now!
Mental restriction is constant bargaining, judging, guilt, and is normally run by old diet rules and subconscious beliefs.
A lot of this mental restriction is so habitual, and feels so normal, that we barely notice it’s happening. What we notice more, is just the general anxiety and mistrust of the process.
It also doesn’t help that everywhere you look, every person you talk to, and every magazine you’ve ever read seems to confirm, add to, and applaud your ‘responsible’ mental restriction. Our collective and cultural disordered eating just makes it harder to identify that the way we are thinking about food and weight is really weird and messed up.
Most of us have always believed that this constant judgment and worry about food was ‘responsible’. It’s not. It is actually the reason you may still be bingeing, and the reason why your relationship with food became so dysfunctional in the first place.
Without mental restriction, bingeing would just be eating a lot and it would do exactly what it was supposed to do: re-feed the body. Once we start judging the food we are eating and subconsciously deciding there will be a diet (famine) the next day, it spirals out of control.
So if you are bingeing, but haven’t been restricting physically, the cause is mental restriction, and the answer is awareness of the beliefs that are perpetuating the anxiety.