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Psychology of unhealthy eating

So I have been contemplating why I go out and buy unhealthy food "to make myself feel better" and "get through the day".

Here are the events and triggers:

1. Anxiety levels high, I don't think I can get through it and last time I let people down.

2. I need this treat! (Just made an excuse and gave myself permission there, didn't I! Excitement level 8/10)

3. On my way to the shop. (Excitement level 10/10).

4. At the shop, decisions decisions. Dairy milk, but those white chocolate chip cookies look realllly nice. Ooooh a brownie!! I can get one.... Or get them all! (Excitement level 8/10).

5. Ashamed at the checkout but I buy it anyway. Hey its for sharing... (hoping the other person thinks this - excitement level 5/10).

6. Get to a quiet corner and hope nobody is there or hide everything in the bag and sneak little bits out while nobody is looking (excitement level 7/10).

7. 20 minutes, all gone. Guilty, stuffed, feel sick. That was probably about 2000 calories (I know, I once put all of it into myfitnesspal).

8. Anxiety levels start to climb up again. Usually either I go back to step 2 or stressed that I cannot control the anxiety. Step 2 normally wins!

There, I have just put into writing everything I go through and the sole reason for my weight!

It is true what they say - the chase was better than the catch!

14 Replies

That's a very indepth analysis protonz and the more you/we recognise what's going on in our lives (and shine a torch on it all), the more likely we are going to be able to create plans to to make better choices.

Good for you.


Interesting read, for a long time I had a very unhealthy relationship with food. Thankfully in alot better place now.


Hi protonz, totally relate to your cycle of anxious/restless energy, excitement, shame and disappointment. It is a horrible trap.

I don't know if I can say I'm out of the trap because I keep ending up back there. But I can definitely say it isn't hopeless because I've escaped for times. It does take willpower, particularly to begin with, to override that voice that says "I know what will help - something delicious". If you can dismiss that desire to eat a few times, the voice quietens. For me, I then feel more in control, less anxious, more trusting of myself and more hopeful. And i wonder why I ever let myself get so badly entrapped in the comfort eating paradox.

However, it only takes a slight shift to send me back to the old ways. And i ruminate miserably on why I am back there when i was so happy in the better habits. (The lifelong puzzle)

Then it takes hard work to get out again but I do it. Again and again

It can be done protonz and we are all here to support each other xxx


I hear you protonz . I have learn that through focus and distraction that sometimes behaviours can change. It might be impossible to stop this pattern of behaviour everytime though and that's ok. What is that saying about battles and wars?


I too have had a very unhealthy relationship with food throughout my adult life and am at last beginning to overcome my tendency to binge eat. One book I found very helpful was The End of Overeating amazon.co.uk/End-Overeating... This explains how our brain controls eating and is manipulated by processed foods including sugar. Recognising the behaviours is a great start, which your post truly does. Good luck!


Good tip!


Thank you all! This is exactly why I decided to join the forum - to find people that share my patterns!

We definitely need to work together, as you say HappyBeee it is always a cycle! Also thanks for your book suggestion orcadiana.

Are any of you afraid of the person you will become if you stop the cycle? My anxiety issues go all the way back to childhood (not in a traumatic way, it is just how I have always reacted to stress).

The worst part about anxiety (for me at least) is that it always manifests itself as either anger, hopelessness (not being able to find meaning or connect to anything) or being extremely overcautious. My fear is that my anger and "depression" will destroy everything I've worked so hard to build.


Perhaps try CBT protonz? If your subconscious can be worked on this may help these self-sabotaging urges. There are many self help hypnotherapy tapes/audio downloads out there. My personal favourites are Glen Harrold and Paul McKenna. Don’t cost much and may just help if you listen each night before sleep. The subconscious mind is so powerful and can have a profound effect on our thoughts and actions, for good as well as bad. The main thing is that you don’t give up as your health and mood will benefit so much from eating more healthily. Best wishes to you. EJ


I discovered something on this weightloss journey protonz - the more weight I lose and healthier my habits the LESS anxious and angry I am. I feel much more in control of my moods, I am less terrorised by anxiety and panic and less haunted by self doubt. We have to get over this idea that mind and body are separate entities. Everything that we feed ourselves and the weight we lose has a direct impact on our mental health. THAT is a huge lesson I am learning.

Like you i have always had an "anxious personality", it goes back as long as I can remember. So I accept that risk aversion, anxiety and over thinking will always be something I need to monitor. But the healthier I live and the more discerning I am about what I eat the happier I am.

Don't be scared protonz, there is only good to be gained from breaking unhealthy habits and addictions. In the short term it might be hard, but it will only lead to a happier you!

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Thanks HappyBeee that is actually exactly what I needed to hear.

I just hope I have the strength to be able to go through the mood swings that come with a change like this.

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My advice is to do this gradually. Make some manageable changes, then push a little further, and keep doing that until you have a food intake that you are happy with. Try to up the whole foods and plant based cuisine, and try to edge out the processed and high carb items.. If you do it gradually it neednt feel like jumping off a cliff. I think most people on here will agree that doing it in steps or stages worked for them.

My other advice is to look at this positively if you can - there are so many exciting gains to be won from being healthier! If you are watching yourself expectant of misery or mood swings you might just bring those things on.. if that makes sense? You are likely to have ups and downs, possible setbacks or failings, and you can still make a roaring success of it all. Just keep reminding yourself of the positive things to come!

Last piece of advice - stick with us on the forum. This group has been the absolute difference.

You so have the strength Protonz! And it will all fall into place!


I can relate to this but my obsession is crisps. Needless to say I have to avoid them like the plague as one bag is never enough. I mean a big bag. That salty fatty taste just triggers something inside me so I just have to do without.


Hi Protonz,

Your self analysis is amazing.

Even the best researchers could not have come up with a more detailed emotional graph.

I would like to suggest few things, you can try it out.

1. Firstly accept that its okay to eat whatever you want to eat. This is important. Don't run away. Say that 'I love Brownies' without any guilt/shame.

2. Accept that its okay to have a good taste.

3. Whatever you eat, try to eat mindfully, slowly, chewing properly, with bits of water, enjoying every grain/ every molecule of the food that you eat.

4. Profess self love without any limitations. 'I love myself, more than anything in this world'.

5. Say out aloud 'I don't need the weight on me now, I am ready to give up this weight'.

6. ' I don't need these habits now, I am ready to give them up.'

7. Take it one step at a time.

8. Try to dissolve any negative feelings. Don't fight, just resolve, dissolve, any negative emotions that crop up.

Maybe this can help. All the best! :)


I love your honesty in this post, thank you!

For me, I try to prevent the cravings from taking hold by planning exactly what I am going to eat for the whole day (I log it into myfitnesspal in the morning and then do my best to stick to it).

I try to take a strategic / calculated approach and can now pretty much anticipate when I am likely to get food cravings so have an apple / banana bread / nuts / low cal jelly / carrot sticks etc waiting ready in my bag.

I don't always manage to keep to it - but it does help to have things lined up in tupperware controlled portions. Things that takes a while to eat (like peeling a satsuma - or getting through a whole apple, or peeling a boiled egg) also helps to combat the urge to stuff unhealthy food down me.

I agree that stress is a key trigger - so avoiding stressful situations as far as possible is probably a good idea (not easy, I know).

Good luck - you can definitely beat it!!! Every time you fall down - just grit your teeth and get back up again...


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