October 1, 2021

How to Stop Thinking About Food

Do you find yourself constantly thinking about food and obsessing over it? 

Are you wondering how to stop thinking about food? 

Wondering if it is normal to think about food all the time? 

Do you feel obsessed with your weight and food? 

 

You are not alone. We hear this from our clients quite a bit. Hence today’s post! We’ll give you a run-down of our definition of food obsession, talk about where this often stems from in our experience, and review some ways to stop thinking about food so damn much so you have the mental space and time to live your life. 

What is Food Obsession?

Food obsession is a preoccupation with food that interferes with other aspects of life. It can manifest in a lot of different ways, but here are some common signs:

  • Constantly thinking about food, talking about and planning meals/snacks incessantly
  • Having intrusive thoughts about food that affects one’s ability to focus on other tasks
  • Feeling like there are “good” and “bad” foods and being bombarded with those associations when you are faced with said food
  • Having lots of food rules, such as only eating whole grains (never white), avoiding all bread, only eating certain types of fruit because you were told they are lower in sugar, only eating nonfat/low-fat dairy products 
  • Feeling anxiety around upcoming events that may involve food, such as worrying about if there will be safe foods or trigger foods. Thoughts like “what if there will be cake at the party, I can’t control myself around cake” or “what if there won’t be any ‘healthy’ foods for me to eat and I end up eating junk food?”
  • Being around a food that you have rules with and not being able to focus on conversation with others or whatever task is at hand
  • Always wondering if eating a food or meal, or skipping a food or meal, will make your weight go up or down

 

 

Let’s establish something before we move on — it is NORMAL to think about food. Food is after all one of the greatest pleasures in life in my opinion, hence why we love experimenting with our own recipes. Thinking about food is a sign of hunger for many people. 

Sometimes though, for some people at some chapters in their life, thinking about food may increase in frequency and/or intensity. When thinking about food starts to interfere with other aspects of life, this can impact quality of life and one’s relationship with food, mind and body.

In these situations, it is best to reach out to talk to someone so that you can realign and start feeling better. We got you.

 

Understand the WHY Behind Thoughts About Food

The first step, and arguably the most important step, in how to stop thinking about food constantly is to understand WHY you are thinking about food constantly.

This can be a lot to unpack. It takes time and introspection, and is often much easier to navigate with the help of a professional.

 

Where Does Food Obsession Come From?

In our experience, food obsession most often stems from a place of restriction. There is no denying that many cultures value thinness, and this message is pervasive. You can receive it explicitly, as in someone (could be a loved one, a stranger, a health professional) tells you that you should lose weight. You can also receive it implicitly, simply by noticing that most actors/actresses you see on TV reside in small bodies.

There are a million other messages in between, but let’s not get sidetracked here. It is completely understandable to respond to diet culture messaging (which is everywhere) by feeling like you need to change your body to be valued and respected. This does not mean you are broken or wrong. Who does not want to feel valued and respected? 

This pervasive messaging leads many people to engage in some form of dieting in an effort to change their bodies. Could be the keto diet, a low carb diet, intermittent fasting, having lots of food rules, and there are about 3,465 other options out there. 

We are not shaming people who diet, but we are shaming the constant pressure from diet culture to change our bodies, be smaller, be healthier, be better, blah blah blah. ESPECIALLY when this leads people into the trap of diet, restrict, feel deprived, binge, feel guilty, repeat.

picture of cycle through diet and restrict, feel deprived, binge, feel guilty

 

In fact, research has shown us that feelings of shame and guilt are associated with increased binge eating (1). Additionally, one recent study demonstrated that restrained eaters actually experience less joy from food and less joy even from the mere thought of indulging in a food (2). 

How NOT FUN. This messes up our relationship with mind, body and food. Life is really too short for that. We all deserve more.

That place of restriction can lead to food obsession, thinking about food constantly, having lots of food rules, anxiety around food or even anxiety in response to the thought of food. This food obsession can affect our physical health, as well as mental, social and emotional health.

 

Our Top 7 Ways to Help You Stop Thinking About Food All the Time:

 

  1. Talk to someone — a trusted physician, a therapist, a dietitian, all 3 if available to you. Seriously. After this past year plus, we all could use some extra support. Being a human right now is hard AF.
  2. Give yourself grace. No one is perfect. There is no “perfect” way to eat.
  3. Take some time to reflect on what “food rules” you might have. Food rules are common when you have dieted. Even if you aren’t on a specific diet, they can stick with you consciously or subconsciously. This helps get at the WHY behind our thoughts and behaviors. Again, doing so with a qualified health professional cannot be recommended enough here.
  4. Give yourself permission. Depending on your relationship with food, this is best done with the guidance of a health professional. If ice cream is your forbidden food, plan out a time to eat it. Use all of your senses to enjoy it. Notice what thoughts and emotions come up. And repeat. This is called habituation, which essentially is repeated exposure to a stimulus leading to a decrease in responding. In other words, we are working to eat ice cream regularly enough that it starts to feel neutral. You still enjoy ice cream, but it is no longer off limits and so the neurological and emotional response to it neutralizes. This is how we find peace and feel calm around food. There is a good deal of research behind this (3, 4, 5, 6).
  5. Practice mindful eating (check out the linked article where we wrote more about this). When we get enjoyment out of our eating experiences, we are more likely to feel satisfied. Practice using ALL of your senses when eating and try to be in the moment. 
  6. Work on including a carbohydrate, protein, and fat with each meal and snack to meet your nutrient needs and feel more full and satisfied. Our clients learn to do this like champs, and it is such a powerful way to ensure your body gets what you need.
  7. Practice letting the thoughts pass. Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to accept our thoughts as truth. We do not have to act on every thought or believe every thought we have. An analogy that has resonated with many of my clients is to view your thoughts as clouds passing by. Instead of judging them or latching onto them, notice them and see if you can sit back while they pass by.

 

Did you expect me to tell you to drink water when you’re hungry, or take a walk around the block to distract yourself from thoughts of food? Sure, those things may help. Hydration and movement after all are important. 

But if we do not address the root cause of constant food thoughts and really try to understand the WHY, those tricks and tips are kind of like putting a flimsy piece of worn out tape on a broken hose that’s spraying water everywhere. Ya feel me? 

Did you sense a theme here? Seek support. Be kind to yourself. Practice.

If any of this resonated with you, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Pinterest, and check out our other blog posts. We have a podcast coming out SO SOON! So stay tuned for that :)

You can sign up for our biweekly newsletter to stay in the know by scrolling down on our home page. If you are ready to dive in, shoot us an email or schedule a discovery call so we can help you stop thinking about food all the time and live yo’ damn life!

 

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is for educational purposes only and should NOT be used as individual medical or nutritional advice. 

 

infographic with top 7 tips to stop thinking about food all of the time

 

 

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About the Author: Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including dialysis, ICU, as well as one-on-one nutrition counseling and groups.