What’s Going On When Enough Food Isn’t Enough?

red flagWhat’s going on with us liberated eaters when we keep eating even though our stomachs are telling us to quit?

This happens to all of us now and then. Instead of getting sidetracked by guilt or fear, let’s explore what’s happening when enough food isn’t feeling like enough.

There are hundreds of reasons we might feel compelled to overeat – from old habits to new stressors – but let’s divide these myriad reasons into three main categories so it’s easier to find solutions.

There’s always a way through.

When enough isn’t feeling like enough, check in on these 3 possibilities:

1. Your life is raising a red flag: Something needs your attention. You really are hungry – just not for more food. So the question becomes

“What am I really hungry for?”

Could you need more fun? Connection? Creativity? Purpose? Wiggle room? Spiritual meaning? Peace? These are all legitimate needs that can feel a lot like gnawing hunger.

2. Your food-life is asking you to show up again: Maybe you’re not eating as mindfully these days, which is easy to forget in our distracting world. Thoughtful eating, however, is the strongest safeguard for our food-filled lives. Becoming present before we take that first bite sets us up for sanity and satisfaction.

3. You’ve forgotten what you REALLY want: The more future-focused we are the easier it is to align our daily choices with our future dreams. When your goal of feeling great tomorrow is not top-of-mind today, it’s easy for the other half of that panini to look pretty special.

Keeping a shined-up mental picture of myself dancing joyously at my granddaughter’s wedding when I’m 85 makes it much easier to get to the gym at 59.

So there we have it, three different areas to explore. Here are some questions to think through if you’d like to dig a little deeper…

What might your life need more of right now? Or less? Would you be willing to journal about this or talk it through with a trusted friend this week?

How thoroughly have you been enjoying your eating experiences lately? On a scale of 1 to 10 how “present” are you these days?

How strong is your motivation for reaching and keeping your best health? What does this level of health look like for you? What might change if you focused on how you want to feel one year from today?

Ever Stuff Your Words Down With Food?

keep-calm-and-be-assertive-4Did you know that people who struggle with food tend to be exceptionally kind and nurturing, caring deeply about the needs and feelings of others?  They often generously give grace without extending it to themselves, and hold themselves to very high standards with no room for mistakes, while giving others ample mercy.

Those of us who struggle in our relationship with food can tend to be on the passive end of the passive-assertive spectrum. We often let others have the floor while we stand back in silence – even though there is much we’d like to have the courage to say. This frustration can push us to turn to food for relief.

Passivity diminishes personal power. We find it easier to stuff down our thoughts with food rather than stepping up and saying what we mean.

Here’s the good news: No one has to stay stuck there. Assertiveness is a skill that can be mastered. Anyone can develop it; all it takes is practice.

CLARITY: Assertive is not the same thing as aggressive or passive-aggressive. It is the healthy, powerful balance-point between the two. You can act in your own best interest, stand up for yourself without undue anxiety, express your feelings honestly and comfortably, and do so while respecting the rights of others to do the same.

As you develop assertiveness:

  • You get a clearer understanding of who you are and the value you bring.
  • Relationships become more genuine and true, and unhealthy ones may become evident.
  • You discover more wisdom for problem solving and solution finding.
  • You become less anxious when unexpected or difficult things happen.
  • You naturally step into your personal power and get more done (and have more fun doing it) because you have confidence that you can.
  • Other people’s successes are not a threat.  Assertiveness opens the door for us to respect and celebrate others as well as ourselves.

So, if saying what you mean makes you anxious, if you have a hard time saying no and then regret it later, if you feel overly timid when speaking to people in authority, if you tend to stay in conversations or on the phone much longer than you want to, or if you have difficulty expressing anger or other strong emotions – some work around becoming more assertive could be a life-changer.

If you’d like to read more, here are a few articles you may find interesting for starters:

Click here: 9 Signs of Passive Behavior 

Click Here: 5 Ways To Increase Your Assertiveness 


Could That Craving Be A Friend In Disguise?

The dreaded craving.                                                                                                                    sundae

Sometimes it’s a nagging whisper that you NEED a Blizzard. Sometimes, a demanding tyrant ordering you to drive through that drive-thru, or else!

Cravings feel like a powerfully intimidating voice from within.

But have you ever wondered if that forceful pull might mean something?

If it had a language what might it say?

What is it really asking for?

And what if you listened and then gave that to yourself?

What if the craving is your deepest-you knocking on your own heart’s door?

Could it be your own curious mind asking you to add something new and interesting to your life? Or maybe your amazing body letting you know she’s hungry for a new challenge or adventure.

Sometimes a rut can feel a lot like a craving.

We already know cravings aren’t really about the food. It certainly feels like it’s about the food – the sweet Bluebell, the salty Ruffles, the warm macaroni and cheese – but when we’re craving something to eat and our body is not in need of fuel, it has to be about something else – something other than fuel.

Pleasure perhaps? That’s a reasonable possibility – but what kind of pleasure exactly? My guess is that food is often a quick and easy counterfeit for the pleasure our minds or souls or bodies really crave. We are, after all, made for rich, full, whole-hearted living. Everything in us longs to create, to discover, to commune, to cultivate, to keep learning and growing – but our habitually busy schedules and noisy screen-filled lives can drown out our deepest desires. Drown out perhaps – but never drown.

Our deepest desires continue to call to us.

So here’s the compelling invitation before us. Next time you have a craving, instead of silencing the screaming child in your brain with Kettle chips, sit with her a moment – and lovingly listen. Meander down the road of your mind and look around, like an eager hiker on a new path – curious and alert.

Ask yourself some searching questions. What is this craving really about? Is there a craving behind the craving? Genuine heart connection? Engaged companionship? A new and interesting pursuit? Some good ol’ fun? Grief unexpressed? Could your bright mind be hungry to tackle some new venture? Or your soul thirsty for quiet reverence?

Perhaps my persistent cravings are really my deepest self yelling “Hey, if you aren’t gonna do anything stimulating you could at least get me an ice cream sundae. I’m dying of boredom in here! ”

So here’s an exciting invitation next time a craving comes beating on our door:

Stop a moment.
Create some room for silence.
Put your ear down close to yourself.
Just listen.

Become a curious and open explorer of your own inner life. This might feel weird at first – even scary. And you may not hear a thing the first go’round, but even if nothing specific surfaces I bet your deep self will appreciate your kind time and attention.

When we give into a craving without exploring first, we may be missing an opportunity to give ourselves what we truly desire.

This is rich work – work that dieting never ever invited us into. We might discover that our cravings have profound meaning after all. What if these cravings you’ve hated and battled for so long turn out to be a friend – nothing short of the beginning of you knowing and loving yourself like you never have before?

Now wouldn’t that be amazing…

Get Out of Your Emotional Eating Rut

roadI often talk to people who are trying very hard to STOP something. They want to stop eating emotionally or stop eating after dinner or stop snacking at their desk, or stop going through the drive-thru after work. They’re exhausted from the struggle.

The first thing we need to know is that behavior change is quite possible; there is always a way through, and together we can figure it out.

Second, we need to understand this fundamental point:

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does human nature.

If you want to stop doing something, make sure you start doing something else in its place. Replace the negative behavior with a positive one. If you don’t put something else in its place you will end up defaulting to your old behavior. Muscling through only works as long as your willpower lasts – and as we all know, willpower eventually runs out.

It’s usually much easier to start doing new things than it is to stop doing old things, and – this is cool – when we start doing things that work the things that don’t work tend to naturally fall away.

Important Change Principle: Choice empowers us.

Let’s take EMOTIONAL EATING as an example. If I want to stop reaching for food when I feel stressed I’ll need to have other stress-relieving choices easily available – choices that meet the same need eating does, only without the side-effect of regretting it later.

POWERFUL EXERCISE: Have choices ready that fit you. Stop, think and write down some things you can turn to next time you’re emotionally uncomfortable.


  1. ACTIVITIES – List several things you enjoy doing that distract, please or refresh you. [ex: stroll, crossword puzzle, ride bike, solitaire, whittle, magazines, music] Have these things close by.
  2. PLACES – List places that help you calm down. [park, swing, your room, back yard]
  3. PEOPLE – List some positive people you can call anytime, people to whom you can vent your feelings or who make you laugh.
  4. WORDS – Write down some inspiring thoughts that encourage and strengthen you – could be poetry, scripture, quotes, lyrics, etc.
  5. RELAXATION TECHNIQUES – heating pad, yoga poses, back scratcher, deep breathing, etc


Now that you have your list – the next step is very important…

POST IT where you will see it.

Do not underestimate the power of this list. These choices give you POWER. These choices give you options. They keep you from falling into the old default behavior of overeating, and then hating yourself for it later.

Choices change our lives.

Remember, human nature abhors a vacuum. If you stop turning to food when you feel sad, stressed or bored but you don’t have something else to put in its place, it’s just a matter of time before you’re standing in the pantry or in front of the vending machine.

Have your choices ready at all times.

Picture a well-worn dirt road from “Little House on the Prairie”. There are deep ruts made by traveling this way for years. In fact, it’s difficult to take a wagon down this road without falling into them, and once you’ve fallen in its mighty hard to get out.

However, when you fill the ruts with new gravel – everything changes.

So, stop, think, make your list, post it in plain sight – and start being empowered to take good care of your amazing self!


Note: When it comes to emotional eating there is another important piece of the puzzle. Our reoccurring uncomfortable emotions are usually red flags that are trying to tell us that something needs our attention. If you continue to be pushed to eat to cope with your feelings, then it may be time to take a good look at the “why” behind the feelings…the why behind the why.

Feelings come up for a reason. Acknowledging them, being honest about them and listening to them is the first step to handling them well. If you want to explore this further, I’m on your team.

Helping Kids Build a Healthy Food-Life Part 1: Our Words

nomGOOD GRIEF…this parenting thing can be daunting! Our fore-parents worried about protecting their kids from starvation, small pox and hungry bears. Today we’re concerned with protecting them from eating disorders, media addiction, weight and body image struggles, to name a few.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring some ways to help our kids (and maybe even ourselves) grow into a healthy, balanced relationship with food and body.

When Bob and I began our parenting adventure back in 1984, our first pediatrician was the remarkable Dr. Denmark, who helped kids and parents grow up until she was 103 years old. She told us something invaluable…

“Don’t make eating, sleeping or toilet training into control issues

between you and your child.

Both of you will lose.”

With this good advice in mind let’s look at how we might best help our children grow into mindful, intuitive, reasonably balanced adults. By the way, if your kids are grown and you wish you had a do-over in the food area, please know that an honest conversation around what you wish you’d known then can open all kinds of wonderful conversation and healing now.

Our goal is to help the kids we love grow up without food and weight becoming a big hairy deal. This can be tough in a culture that is food and weight focused, not to mention perpetually busy and distracting.

FAMILY PATTERNS: We tend to say and do what our parents said and did, even though our food culture has changed dramatically since the Great Depression. We are over-served rather than under-served now. We often order-out rather than hunt and plant. What worked then is not working now.

Let’s look at a few things we can say, or stop saying, that will help:

Stop saying “Clean your plate” or “Just eat 5 more bites”

This causes children to stop listening to their innate hungry and satisfied cues – which are the most accurate indicators of when and how much your child needs to eat. Babies do this perfectly and we do well not to talk them out of it. Also, please don’t mention the starving children around the world – this attaches guilt to eating.

  • Start saying things like:
    “You’re done? Ok, you can save the rest for later. If you get hungry it’ll be in the frig.”
    “You’re done? Ok, time to play!”
    “Ok Love. Please take your plate to the kitchen.”

Stop saying things like “Eat your vegetables before you get dessert”

This glorifies dessert. Vegetables seem like something yucky to be endured before the glorious sweet prize.

  • Start saying something like:

“I love trying new food – it’s like going on an adventure!”
“What’s your favorite nut/fruit/vegetable right now?”
“When I was your age I didn’t like that either; did you know that our taste buds grow up as we grow up – that’s pretty cool.”
“Hey, did you know these carrots give me supermom powers?”

FOOD-FUN IDEA – Make a SUPER-FOOD POSTER: You and/or your kids can make a poster of Super Foods to hang in the kitchen. Let them add to it as they find out about new super-foods. Talk about the “super powers” these food have and make it a family adventure to try a new one each week. This makes nutrition fun, relaxed and not about being good or bad, right or wrong. Make sure, as you try new foods together, that everyone is safe and free to have their own likes and dislikes.

Stop saying things like “You’re a big eater” (or picky, sloppy, etc.)

It isn’t helpful to label your child’s eating behavior. Remember, we want to help food be a safe subject in our homes. Calling someone a picky eater can have an undertone of shame.

  • The less we say – and the more we lead – by being relaxed examples of intuitive, mindful eating ourselves, the better.

Stop calling food “good” or “bad”, fattening or non-fattening.

I know this can be tough if you’re concerned about your child’s weight – but please understand: making food “good” or “bad” leads to unhealthy extremes and disordered eating. We tend to eat all or none of the foods we view in this way, and feel deprived or guilty in the process. We eat none when we’re being “good” and we eat a ton when we’re “bad”. This view of food encourages binge eating, sneaking food,  and makes food emotionally charged.

A few statements to try on for size:

These are just starters; you will think of your own…

  • I love being with y’all at this table – this is one of my favorite places on the planet!
  • Wow, thank you for washing up all our fruit – it looks so pretty in the bowl!
  • Hey Gang, let’s make good use of our food budget. Remember to check in and find out how hungry you are before you serve your plate. [Be careful NOT to make them feel they must clean their plate. The goal here is mindfulness – not food monitoring.]

BIG PICTURE: As parents and grandparents we will help our children most by relaxing about food, trusting and honoring our own bodies, having nutritious and delicious foods easily available, ascribing no guilt or shame to eating occasional treats, and by helping our kiddos stay life-focused (children are born this way so we can learn from them on this score) and not become weight or food focused.

Let’s begin to retrain ourselves to think and speak in ways that help us and our families be well fueled for LIFE!

Please let us know your biggest child/food concerns in a comment below and I’ll be sure to touch on them in the weeks ahead…