• Wendy Lee Johnson

"I’m Eating Out Of Control"

Updated: Feb 9, 2020

You’re eating toast with peanut butter and chocolate chips straight from the pantry. You went back for seconds at dinner when you weren't even hungry. And two desserts? What is going on?

Your Lower Brain Has The Reins

My daughter called from college at the beginning of last semester and said she just couldn’t stop herself from eating everything. She was constantly grazing and never felt satisfied. She said that her discomfort level with her new classes and work load felt unbearable. That’s when her lower brain had slipped in and convinced her that eating would provide the relief she needed. Of course, she got a bit of relief, but still felt a lot of anxiety and stress. Then the lower brain told her that’s simply because she hasn’t eaten enough….more eating, more relief. And so the “story” goes.

In your life, maybe there is a big event coming, like a wedding or a family reunion. Or even something as simple as the grandkiddos coming over for the day. You anticipate what’s coming and think about the negative emotions you don’t want to feel. Your lower brain sees the perfect opportunity to take control: you’re vulnerable and desperate not to feel.

Your Lower Brain Starts in with a Familiar Refrain
  • “You’ll feel so much better if you just grab a couple crackers.”

  • “This is no big deal, we’re back on tomorrow.”

  • “That sounds so good. Just a bite.”

  • “You’ve been so good. You deserve this.”

Your brain is clever and knows to start small. It probably suggested your usual gateway food, maybe it’s even healthy. The point is, you’re not hungry and just eating for relief. Nothing has gone wrong here. This is what it’s like to have a human brain. Our lower brain is wired to get us more pleasure, comfort and security. It’s just doing it’s job.

What To Do to Get Control


Become the Observer

Typically your lower brain is always running a dialog in the background. Most of the time you hear it and think it’s your thoughts. But think about it, since you can hear it, then that means it’s not you. You can listen to that conversation and even take notes. It’s like someone is talking inside your head.

This is when you shift into becoming the observer. You can say, “I hear you brain and I’m on to you.” I love to hear what my lower brain is coming up with. It’s usually not very creative, but often very convincing. I like to jot down what it’s saying for a little clarity.


Take a Couple Minutes to Hit Your Reset Button

Check in and see what your feeling right now. In addition, see what feelings you’re running from. These feelings are caused by thoughts and jotting your thoughts down can be a game changer. This is observing at its best.

Also, take a minute to slow down the din in your head. Maybe that looks like a walk or a brief meditation on the couch or even 3 deep breaths at the kitchen counter.


Put your Higher Brain Back in the Driver’s Seat

Your higher brain is interested in your longterm well being and this is what you want to tap into. When you make a game plan, no matter how simple, it puts your higher brain back in charge. So jot down a doable eating plan for the rest of your day. Planning puts your higher brain in control immediately. No need to wait till tomorrow or even Monday.


Send Your Lower Brain to the Back Seat

Walk out of the kitchen and proclaim, “I’m on to you Brain.” Let your lower brain know it’s relegated to the back seat. Like a small child, it’s still coming on the trip, but it’s for sure not going to drive the car. Its job is to harass you and that means nothing is going wrong. You just happen to be done with back-seat drivers for now.

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