Feel out of control with food? Here’s 3 reasons why.

DietingEating DisorderIntuitive Eating
April 3, 2022

If you feel out of control around food, you are not alone. This is a common feeling that many of our clients struggle with.

This article outlines 3 common reasons that people come to feel out of control around food, and our suggestions to help you feel more normal around food again.

Reason 1: you’re letting yourself get too hungry

This one is key if you feel out of control with food. Neglecting to feed your body regularly each day, puts your body into survival mode.

Skipping meals, forgetting to eat, or not eating enough food? Your body knows. It has smart mechanisms to ensure its survival.

If you’re putting your body into an energy deficit (through dieting or restrictive eating), it’ll respond by ramping up hunger hormones (NPY and Ghrelin) and reducing your fullness hormone (Leptin).

You will be more likely to seek out and obsess about food – hello sugar cravings! Getting to a point of ravenous hunger, or underfeeding your body in general, means we are more likely to inhale the first foods we see and feel unable to stop when full.

The solution:

  1. Don’t ignore hunger signals.

Respond promptly and eat! (If you have trouble feeling your hunger signals, you might benefit from an appointment with us where we can coach you on how to get better at noticing these)

  1. Eat regularly, and limit gaps greater than 4-5 hours between eating occasions.

A good starting point for most people is 3 meals, and 2-3 snacks, spread roughly every 3 hours.

Reason 2: not allowing yourself permission

The foods we feel most out of control around are often the ones that we actively try to limit/avoid. Is this the case for you?

Having foods that we label as bad, or naughty can induce “last supper” eating. This is where our brain isn’t convinced that we will have access to the food again. Our brain anticipates future restriction, and we therefore feel out of control and are more likely to eat past comfortable fullness.

When we perceive we have had “too much” of a “bad food”, based on diet cultures unrealistic standards, this can be enough to induce guilt (often linked to fear of weight gain). We then revert to restrictive eating, which in turn fuels out of control eating.

The solution:

To feel more comfortable and in control around food, we have to STOP labelling foods as good or bad and allow ourselves permission to eat all foods.

We have to take the perceived “bad” foods down off of their pedestal and bring them onto a level playing field with all other foods (we want chocolate to be equally emotionally charged as a piece of fruit), you get to actually taste the food.

This creates room to ask: “do I even like this?”, “do I want this right now”, “does this feel good in my body?”, “will I feel deprived if I don’t eat this”, “will this satisfy what I need right now?”.

This way, you can finally decide what foods make you feel good rather than being driven by rules and restrictions. This sounds scary, we know. The biggest fear is that you will just eat ‘junk food’ all the time. Whilst it may feel that is the case in the short term, this dissipates as time moves on when you keep a curious and non-judgemental mindset. This process is called habituation.

This is a process we work through with clients all the time at Centre for Intuitive Eating. If you want help with feeling at peace with ALL foods, book an appointment with us for one-to-one support.

Reason 3: food is your main way to cope with tough emotions

Are you already eating regularly, not restricting any foods, and still feeling out of control? It could be emotional eating. Whilst it is normal to turn to food for comfort or distraction sometimes, if food becomes your primary coping mechanism, it doesn’t usually feel great.

The solution:

If emotional eating is the reason you’re feeling out of control around food, then getting in touch with the NEEDS underlying your emotions is key.

For example, if you’re feeling lonely or sad and eat a block of chocolate to distract yourself, this will likely provide temporary relief from the discomfort. But in the long run, you will probably remain unsatisfied because the NEEDS underlying your emotions were for connection and/or joy, not food.

In Summary

There are some common reasons why people tend to feel a loss of control around food. Regaining control and tuning back into your body is 100% possible but it is a process and will require being brave, compassionate towards yourself and trusting the process. Intuitive eating is a proven framework we use with clients to help them rediscover a positive relationship to food and their bodies.

Read more about intuitive eating here.


Accredited Practising Dietitian + Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor

Book an Appointment with Us


Accredited Practising Dietitian + Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor

Book an Appointment with Us