Have you ever heard someone say: “The reason I overeat, is because I just love food”? I hear this a lot from my patients with food and body image issues. But when you think about it – food doesn’t taste any better if you eat just enough versus if you binge or overeat. So the question is: can you love food without having to eat more than your body needs. How does know this change your behaviors such as binge eating, emotional eating or food addiction?

  1. How impulsive behaviors around food are driven by deeper needs.

  2. Why your journey to healing is sacred.

  3. How do you build resilience?

  4. How does your family’s dynamic affect your current food and body image issues?

Resources mentioned in the video:

Webinar “How to stop feeling crazy around food.” – http://bit.ly/2sEH7dS

Email me about what kind of family dynamic you grew up in: carolyn@carolynrossmd.com

The Anchor Program is a 12 week non-diet approach to healing the root cause of your binge eating, compulsive overeating, food addiction and binge eating. https://AnchorProgram.com


Hi everyone! Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross here with Episode # 56 I overeat because I just love food. Don’t miss it.

It’s a beautiful day in Southern California today and I hope you’re enjoying the weather wherever you are. I know I dodged a bullet by moving from Denver to Southern California, because I just heard last week that there was a huge hail storm in Denver. And just a few weeks ago, there was a big snow storm. So I’m feeling very blessed with my Southern California weather, even though we do have what we call June gloom, where it’s cloudy in the morning. In the afternoon it’s sunny again. Yay.

So today I want to talk to you about something I hear a lot from my patients. Often they say the reason I overeat is because I just love food and I hear this so many times and what I stopped to think about it. I just wondered does food tastes any better if you eat just enough, versus if you binge or overeat. In other words, can you love food without having to eat more than your body needs? That’s my question for you. That’s like a homework question. So think about that. And I’ve given you my email address in the show notes. I’d love to have some more communication from my listeners. So today I want to dig a little deeper into this notion of overeating, just because you love food, you know, one of the things that I’ve talked a lot about is the connection between early life adversity and binge-eating, emotional eating and food addiction. And one of the things that is part of that, that I haven’t really addressed is the trait of impulsivity. Impulsivity is a trait associated with binge eating, food addiction and emotional reading. So for example, if you grew up in a family that did not validate you or allow you to express your emotions, you may not have ever learned to identify or regulate your emotions appropriately. And therefore, as an adult, you may have had difficulty tolerating, strong emotions, and may have used impulsive behaviors around food just to manage those emotions. So I know that, one of my patients said that. When they get upset, it feels like they’re putting their finger on a live electrical wire, or it feels like the dam is bursting and they’re going to be flooded. So that’s very common in, especially in people who have experienced early childhood trauma or early life adversity. So how does that all come together? Well, let’s look at a definition forImpulsivity first. So if you are impulsive, you may just live and act from the present moment without regard to future consequences. For example, the food tastes so good, so I’ll just keep eating. And that makes sense from the impulsivity point of view right now, when we talk about may live and act from the present moment, we’re not really talking about. You know, the eating mindfully, right? So I don’t want you to get those confused because impulsivity is like having blinders on you can’t see or anticipate how you’re going to feel the next moment. You’re not aware or not paying attention to consequences of the overeating until it’s over. And so that’s how impulsivity can kind of hook you in to doing, to having unwanted behaviors as a way of controlling your emotions.

So let’s dig a little deeper on that and why? Am I impulsive? Well, we know that low levels of dopamine in the brain can be a cause of impulsive behaviors, such as the ones we mentioned, binge eating, food addiction, emotional eating, and it can also be the source of compulsive behaviors like compulsive reading. So most people with who have food and body image issues hold onto the belief that the only thing that keeps them from. You know, gaining more weight or being in an even bigger body is that they have to whip themselves into shape periodically, or they have to get mad at themselves when they “make a mistake”. So I think this is a really I mean, the example of negative self talk and body hatred, that is part of the diet mentality, and it doesn’t address in any way, the underlying reasons for obsessions around food for chronic dieting for, you know, bingeing and purging, it doesn’t really give you any help about any of those, but the diet mentality leads us to believe that we’re the cause of all these problems if we could just have more willpower, if, you know, if we could just not disappoint ourselves, if we could just keep our word to ourselves, if we just weren’t such a big failure in this area and that’s really not going to help and it’s not true and I’ll say more about that as we go along. But what I want you to remember right now is that these food and body image issues have their basis. First, in what happened to you so many times people might say to you, well, you know, why can’t you get your weight under control? Why can’t you get your eating under control? And they’ll say, they’re essentially saying what’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you? And what I’d like to do is to reframe that into a question that’s more useful, which is what happened to you? And you may yourself have internalized. Society’s biased  against people of size and if you are, then you may be asking yourself what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? You know, I’m just a failure. I must be weak. I must don’t have enough willpower. And again, I really want to hone in on this so that if not, if you take nothing else away from this podcast, take away that this, these behaviors are not your fault and they’re not under your control and most importantly, they’re not going to be cured or changed or in any way fixed by going on yet another fat diet or another weird exercise program. So when, when we think about this, we have to kind of connect the dots and recognize that part of what happens to you or what happened to you is that if you have had early life adversity, remember changes the function of the brain, it changes the architecture of the brain. So any kind of toxic stress in childhood, and remember the toxic stress is excessive or prolonged stress without having any adult supervision. So if you were a child and you experienced some kind of severe or prolonged stress, and you didn’t have an adult, either parent or a friend of the family or grandparent who could support you through those difficult times, then that again, changes the brain chemistry. When the brain is changed by what happened to you, dopamine levels are low. And therefore we don’t get the same amount of pleasure out of natural pleasures, like eating then one as someone who has not had early life adversity. And the other thing that happens when the brain changes is that it is likely increases the likelihood that you will have impulsivity as a trait.

So I hope you’re putting those little dots together and we’ll talk more about that as we go along. So the journey to healing from food and body image issues is important, it’s even sacred. And there are, you know, when we, when we actually put the focus on the number on the scale, when we’re trivializing this sacred journey, what is this journey about? Well, it’s really a journey towards self-realization, it’s a journey towards being your true, authentic self. When you move in that direction, then you, in order to move in that direction, you need to recognize that this is more than just looking at the number on the scale. As matter of fact has nothing to do with the number on a scale and you also have to recognize it going on another diet or starting out there. You know, CrossFit program or trying something you’ve read about or that someone has told you about is not going to provide you with the long-term changes that you really desire. Just think about what, what would be like if you could spend time doing what really works, changing your lifestyle, learning about how to heal the brain and healing early life experiences or coping and learning how to cope with current life stressors. So think about that for a moment.

Now, another piece of the puzzle has to do with what we absorb as children? So many early childhood educators, not just me say children are, are like sponges. They soak up all kinds of experiences in their environment, whether they be good or bad. So I was just looking on YouTube recently and Serena Williams and her daughter Olympia were on a video and Serena was saying she’s like a little mini me she wants to do everything I do. So what is she doing there? She’s soaking up. What it means to be a woman, maybe what it means to be a black woman, what it means to be in her family. That’s that’s the work of children to soak up all of the stimuli that are provided in their environment. But just imagine, and I don’t know if this is true for you or not, but if you were, if you grew up without a safe, secure, nurturing person in your life, then you may identify with this component of children are like sponges where the things that they are soaking up in this dysfunctional family are things that are often harmful for them. So children’s soak up, you know, all, all the things they see much of what they hear. Certainly things they experience and this explains how you may have come to use food for comfort or to numb your feelings. So again, this goes back to these early life or early life experiences, early life adversity. So just imagine, first of all, knowing that you know, our family life, whether it be good, bad, or different, defines a lot of who we are, what our behaviors are and especially those behaviors around food and our body. So, you know, most of us live within a family system for at least 18 years and often longer and if you didn’t live within your biological family system, maybe you lived in an adoptive family or a foster family, et cetera. But my point is whatever was happening in the family had its impact on you. So think about how your family’s dynamic might have affected you throughout your lifespan. Starting with being a baby, was there someone there to give you the bottle when you cried and you were hungry? was there someone there to pick you up and kiss your boo-boos when you fell as a toddler? when you went away to kindergarten or went to kindergarten and experienced that normal stressor. Was there someone there to help you feel reassured that your fear or your anxiety were normal and would go away in time when you went through adolescents? Did you have someone that you could talk to? Did you have someone you could depend on and so on and so forth? So just imagining your own life and maybe if you have children, how your children’s lives have gone so far within the family dynamic. Now we know in families the dynamic is very dysfunctional that can cause a lot of problems and it can be a source of adverse childhood experiences.

So I just want to share with you a couple typical family scenarios. Okay. So the first scenario, if you as a child we’re raised in a permissive and overly indulgent home, you may not have learned to respect others and you may have poor internal limits and, and also poor boundaries. So you may have gotten easily frustrated when you didn’t get your way leading to impulsive behaviors to get what you want or feel out you need it. So that’s the permissive and overly intelligent home or children are kind of given everything they want and never, they never hear the word no. Number two, children from homes where they were taught to put aside their own needs and emotions to gain approval or love, maybe come what we call people pleasers and constantly put the needs of others before their own. Now this can lead to impulsive behaviors with food, to cope with anxiety and stress around whether people like you or don’t like you, but even more importantly, the stress of never having your own needs met. And then finally, number three, a family scenario, children who grew up in a home with too many rules. And where their parents or caregivers are very controlling. They learn to suppress control or ignore their feelings. And even more importantly, they are very careful to avoid making mistakes. They’re often waiting for the other shoe to drop or they’re so afraid to express any emotions that they may stuff their feelings down with food. So, I don’t know if any of these applied to you, if not, you may want to think about the impact of your families dynamic on you growing up.

Now not everyone who has experienced early life adversity or toxic stress develops food and body image issues. But I have to say that almost at least in my experience in working with people in the anchor program and in my private practice, almost everyone with food and body image issues has a history of early life, adversity, abuse, or neglect. Now, many times people will say to me, well, I don’t see that as abuse or I don’t see that as neglect like that’s just the way it was in my family. Yeah. That’s and that’s a common response when you are in a dysfunctional family, you, you don’t know. You don’t have any comparison, right? You just know what happens in your family, unless you have friends who have different families, and that may be a comparison, but we tell ourselves to get through these tough times. Well, that’s just the way my mom is there. That’s just the way my dad is. So the effects of even severe childhood abuse or neglect though, can be reduced by having a strong family caregiver, peer relationships, grandparent relationships that foster resilience. Having someone in your life who is supportive, safe and nurturing is what builds resilience. Now, whether you were a child or you’re now an adult. As an adult, hopefully if you came from one of those dysfunctional family systems, you have found people, friends, or a partner who is safe and nurturing and you have built resilience. Resilience is the ability to get through tough times in a healthy way. So this tells you that while some factors in your environment can cause problems like obviously abuse and neglect, others can help to keep the brain in balance and that’s because children are like sponges. It doesn’t take much. If you have a caring person in your life, when you’re young in particular for that little bit of nurturing to help the brain develop more normally, and knowing more about the impact of life events on your current behaviors can help you to understand why you may have had more difficulty with binge-eating, compulsive eating, emotional eating or food addiction than say other people, you know, but understanding while helpful, doesn’t always change behavior.

So I want to ask you again, what if you could focus on these very real issues and with each action you take with the time you invest, see long lasting change, what would it would be worth it to you? Would it be worth it to you? What would change in your life? So I’m really asking you that question and asking you to ponder about question and if you are interested and ready to do the work of recovering from food and body image issues, I encourage you to take the little bird’s-eye peek into the way that I work with my patients in the anchor program and you can do that by checking out the three big tips I offer in my webinar “Stop feeling crazy about around food” So I’ve left the link to the webinar in the show notes, and you you’re very welcome to take a look at that at no charge and I think it will help you to kind of understand how all of this can shift with the right work, with the right kind of approach. So I hope that’s been helpful to you.

Please leave a review for our podcast, tell your friends about it, you know, share it as much as you can. And I want to thank you for joining me and helping you to understand what the work of recovery really looks like and it has nothing to do with the number on the scale. See you next time.