Becoming a Food Anthropologist Helped End My Binge Eating

When I used to binge on peanut-butter chocolate-chunk cookies while hiding in my dark kitchen late at night, my internal dialogue afterward sounded something like this:

“I’m so disgusting. I have no self-control. My willpower sucks. I can’t be trusted to have cookies in the house. I should know better by now. Why can’t I eat like a normal person? Starting tomorrow, no more sugar; I'm addicted!”

These voices in my head were anything but helpful, especially since I would find myself back in the same place doing the same thing again just a few days later.

Unable to take this torturous binge-repent-repeat cycle anymore, I reached out for help. A very wise teacher taught me that I had a choice: I could either ban the cookies or ban the voices.

Since I loved the cookies and hated the voices, the decision was pretty easy—even though it seemed like an impossible feat considering how ingrained in my brain the voices were.

A Powerful Ally Voice
Making peace with food and your body requires silencing the voices in your head that are constantly critiquing, criticizing and condemning your eating.

Replacing these disempowering, unhelpful voices with empowering, supportive voices is key for reclaiming the Intuitive Eater within you.

One of the ally voices identified in Intuitive Eating that my clients and I really gravitate toward is the Food Anthropologist.

The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer of your thoughts and actions.

It doesn’t make any judgments or emotionally react. Instead, it witnesses what’s going on from a place of pure objectivity.

Unlike your internal Food Police that dictate if you’re good or bad based on what or how you ate, the Food Anthropologist simply states the facts. It sounds like this:

  • I ate six cookies at 10:30 p.m. and experienced stomach pain and feelings of guilt, regret and shame.

  • I skipped lunch, which led to strong sugar cravings at 3 p.m.

  • My eating felt out of control with all the different food options at the party.

  • The uncomfortable pressure in my stomach indicated I was full, yet I continued eating. I was angry at myself for overeating.

  • When I felt anxious yesterday, I ate a pint of ice cream while watching TV.

Distant Perspective, Deeper Connection
The Food Anthropologist voice gives you much-needed distant perspective. Yet, it also helps you stay in touch with your physical and psychological cues by eliminating all the noise that typically disrupts this connection and clouds your thinking.

When coupled with curiosity, the Food Anthropologist helps you expand your self-awareness and empowers you to better understand and release beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving you.

Not a Lack of Willpower
When I became an objective observer of my binge-repent-repeat cycle, I was able to see clearly what was driving my cookie binges. It didn’t have anything to do with a lack of discipline or willpower, a character flaw or a sugar addiction.

Instead, I discovered my binge eating was driven by multiple factors including a restrictive diet, rigid food rules, a false persona, perfectionism and a pleasure deficiency. By addressing the root causes of my behavior and amplifying my ally voices, my binge eating eventually stopped.

If the loudest voice in your head is a critical one, it can take time to shift to a neutral, nonjudgmental voice like the Food Anthropologist. If you would like help identifying and strengthening your ally voices, give me a shout.

Swap Junk Food for This...

Junk foods get a bad rap.

As they are usually low in nutritional value, they’ve earned a cruddy reputation.

And because they are often put in the “bad foods” bucket, we tend to feel like we’re being bad when we eat them.

However, when you think about it, junk foods do have value in that they can provide a tremendous amount of pleasure—an essential component of the eating experience.

Since they do have intrinsic value, thinking of them as worthless garbage is actually unwarranted.

For this reason, in Intuitive Eating, junk foods are referred to as “play foods.”

Like unrestricted playtime, we can experience a lot of fun, joy and pleasure when eating play foods like candy, cupcakes, donuts, fries or chips. Sometimes foods like these are exactly what we need to feel nourished and satisfied.

Unconditional Permission to Eat
When you’re new to Intuitive Eating, it can feel scary to eat the play foods you’ve long considered illegal or off-limits.

Perhaps you’re worried you might lose control and overeat them. If this has been your experience, it's totally understandable. Food restrictions and rules often lead to overeating and binge eating.

However, when you truly give yourself unconditional permission to eat what feels right when it feels right, and honor the messages your body is sending you, you will develop a more relaxed relationship with all foods—versus a rigid, reactive or reckless one.

When this happens, play foods will simply be just one component of an overall balanced diet.

I Was So Bad Yesterday, I Ate Too Much...

How often have you thought or said something like the following?

"I was so bad yesterday, I ate way too much…"

"I was a good girl today, I didn’t eat any..."

"This food is one of my guilty pleasures."

"Oh my gosh, this is sinfully delicious..."

"This has only X calories, so I can eat it guilt-free."

If you can relate to any of these, you’re not alone.

I’ve heard thousands of different versions of these statements from my clients. And, for many years, I said or thought them myself.

Removing Morality
A primary focus of my coaching practice is to help my clients cultivate a positive relationship with food and their body. This requires making peace with food.

One of the ways this happens is by removing all morality and judgment from eating (which is often learned from diet culture).

This means not labeling foods as good or bad—and not labeling yourself as good or bad based on what you ate or want to eat.

Labeling foods bad—and yourself as bad based on your food choices—leads to a lot of unnecessary suffering, including all-consuming feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment and despair.

Your so-called food transgressions may make you feel like you have to repent and punish yourself with food restrictions (e.g., cutting calories, eliminating sugar), excessive exercise or abusive self-talk.

Categorizing foods as bad can also increase the reward value of those foods and trigger intense cravings, overeating and binge eating.

Emotionally Equal
Of course, nutritionally, all foods are different. Emotionally, however, all foods must be treated equally in order to have a peaceful relationship with food.  

For example, carrots and carrot cake may not be nutritionally equal but they need to be emotionally equal. Neither one is good or bad.

Unless you stole a food or harmed someone to get it, there is absolutely no reason to feel bad, guilty or ashamed about your food choices. 

Liberation is Possible
I’ve seen with my clients and with myself that when you free yourself from food moralism, your eating will be a lot more pleasurable and satisfying.

Thoughts about food will take up less real estate in your brain.

You will trust food and your body more. Feelings of liberation, empowerment and ease will bubble up.

You will discover that there is nothing more delicious than a peaceful relationship with food.