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5 Reasons You Feel Out of Control Around Food

5 reasons you feel out of control around food

Many of us have experienced moments where we feel powerless against our cravings, eating habits, or food choices. This sense of being out of control around food can be frustrating and often leads to guilt or shame. Understanding the underlying reasons for these feelings can help you regain a sense of balance and take the stress out of food. Here are five common reasons why you might feel out of control around food and what you can do:


1. Restrictive Dieting

The Backlash of Deprivation

It can seem counter-intuitive and often something we turn to when eating feels out-of-control but diets that limit calories or certain foods can lead to feelings of deprivation. This often results in an overwhelming urge to binge eat in the evening or weekends once the restrictions are lifted or the intense hunger drive takes over, creating a vicious cycle of dieting and overeating.


Finding Balance

Instead of turning to diets to “make-up” for out-of-control eating, focus on nourishing your body with enough energy from a variety of foods throughout the day. Allowing yourself to enjoy all foods can prevent the feelings of restriction and help maintain a healthier relationship with food.



2. Emotional Eating

Understanding the Connection

It is normal for emotions play a significant role in our eating habits, both positive and difficult emotion. While we may not overthink eating for connection and celebration, often eating for stress, anxiety, sadness, or even boredom can trigger guilt and shame.

When eating for difficult emotions we often crave comfort foods, typically high in sugar and fat. This can be a result of:

  • the release of certain mood boosting chemicals in the brain when we consume carbohydrates and fats
  • the ease of consuming these foods which is appealing when mood is low
  • memories of the comforting effects of these foods
  • or simply our hunger drive, especially if we are dieting or have missed meals in the day.


Breaking the Cycle

Firstly, reduce the impact of the physical drives on your eating behaviours by making sure to eat regularly throughout the day. Then support a healthy relationship with food by reframing thinking of food as good and bad; you are more likely to crave foods you think of as bad but really all foods can serve us emotionally.

Finally, identifying any emotional triggers. Are there some recurrent short term stressors that drive you towards food or any deeper underlying emotional patterns such as related to your relationships or finances or work or sense of self. Sometimes we subconsciously avoid dealing with deeper emotion by blaming the food but this can stop us dealing with the trigger itself.

It’s perfectly normal to use food as one way to cope, but also healthy to have other coping tools as well. Writing a list of ways to soothe emotions such as movement, meditation, or talking to a friend can also remind you of other things to support you so there is less reliance on food.


3. Biological Factors

The Role of Hormones

Hormones play a crucial role in regulating hunger and satiety. For instance, ghrelin, often referred to as the "hunger hormone," signals your brain when it’s time to eat. Leptin, on the other hand, signals when you are full. 

High levels of stress hormones such as cortisol impact your digestion and metabolism of food, low levels of serotonin can increase carbohydrate cravings which is crucial to producing serotonin and lifting mood. Changes in thyroid and pancreatic hormones such as insulin can also impact metabolism and how we feel around food.

Imbalances in these hormones can lead to increased hunger and cravings.


Working with Your Body

While our world can often encourage us to work against our bodies with diets, work and social pressures; switching to working with our bodies can help us to get more of the basics we need for healthy hormone regulation. A focus on getting enough calories, a variety of foods, sleep and coping with or reducing stress can help keep your hunger hormones in check. 

Beyond this, if you suspect hormonal imbalances or something not being right, it’s important to get this checked out.



4. Environmental Triggers

The Influence of Surroundings

Our environment influences our eating behaviours even more so when we are dieting or have a poor relationship with food. If we are avoiding certain foods or not eating according to our own body’s hunger cues, then availability of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods at social events, in the workplace or on advertisements is more likely to trigger cravings and overeating.


Creating a Supportive Environment

Fostering a healthy relationship with food allows you to feel in control around all foods. An abundance of foods high in fats and sugars does not have such a strong pull if you are not over hungry and you know these foods are allowed any time you want them.

A bit of planning around food can go a long way to ensure you have a variety of nourishing foods available for when you are hungry at home, in the workplace or out and about.

We can pay attention to hunger, self care and emotional cues to guide what food our bodies need while allowing food to also serve a place in social connection and culture in a comfortable way.



5. Confusing Nutrition Information

Understanding What Your Body Needs

There’s a lot of conflicting and confusing food information around which can lead to not knowing what constitutes a balanced diet. This can lead to eating patterns that don’t satisfy nutritional needs and often results in frequent hunger and cravings.


Develop body knowledge

Your body is your number one guide in getting your needs met, no one can ever know more than your own body. It can be helpful to draw on nutrition information to help guide us too but nutrition information should always add to your own body knowledge and feel supportive. If it draws you away from connection with your own body then it likely is not helping you overall.

If it feels hard to trust your own body a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor can help you understand and connect with your body. If nutrition information feels confusing, a Registered Dietitian can provide personalised guidance.


Learn how you can get personalised support from a Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor- click here.


Feeling out of control around food is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By understanding the reasons behind these feelings, you will be better equipped to develop a healthier, more balanced relationship with food. Remember, eating is not perfect and it is normal to feel uncomfortable from time to time. But it doesn’t have to feel stressful or out-of-control.


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