Lani has been a Guest Lecturer in Kinesiology at San Francisco State University and is an Associate Professor in Kinesiology at Butte College. She has a Master’s degree and several teaching credentials in Physical Education, and holds multiple fitness certifications including Fitness Instructor from the American Council on Exercise, Yoga, and Pilates-based instruction from the PhysicalMind Institute. She is certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University and holds a Fitness Nutrition Specialist Advanced Credential from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Lani created and starred in her own CBS TV show, “Lani’s All-Heart Aerobics.” Recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Instruction, and regularly speaks and writes about healthy living, plant-based nutrition, and fitness. She overcame her own lifetime struggle with weight over more than 15 years ago when she lost 50 pounds, which she has maintained easily with the tools that she uses to coach others to be successful with in weight loss, body shaping, and health. Multiple resources for you for healthy fitness, weight loss, and plant-based nutrition at lanimuelrath.com.
The answers I got did not come as a total surprise (remember, I said total–there is one thing that really has me reeling), but they are a welcome reminder of all that is important to remember on this journey. And boy, do I always need reminding!
Still, the frustrating and excruciating experience of continuing to eat on an overfilled yet hungry stomach continued and the long term relief from it eluded me. And all the self-exploration and screams of supplication on my knees never made a difference until I got a few things straight.
To boil it down to the bones, the answer was found wrapped in three gifts. These I refer to in my practice as the 3 Pillars. The are a critical trio for healthy success. They are food, fitness, and the most often neglected third door, frame of mind.
In the event that you are up against the wall of compulsive overeating, maybe these lessons from my experience will give you insights and possibly the breakthrough that you are looking for. Even if you, like me, are happy, well-adjusted, have a good job, happy relationships – yet can’t seem to get it together in this arena. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask.
It’s not a character flaw. And guilt just makes it worse (I’ll explain that, too).
6 Steps to Ending Compulsive Overeating
Here are six pivotal points that turned my life around when it comes to food, eating, and my body.
1) Eat enough – in time. Don’t dismiss this one quickly, even if you think you ARE eating enough and believe the problem is that you are eating too much. If you have a weight problem, it seems self-evident, doesn’t it? That’s how it seemed to me. Once I even put an overweight picture of myself on the refrigerator as visual proof to myself that “see, there’s plenty of fuel on your body!” to help me through a fast to – you guessed it, lose weight. The idea was to discourage me from eating. Perhaps you’ve done something similar.
This set me on a mission to continually cut back, delay eating, or otherwise under eat. This is the worst thing I could have done to lose weight. Hunger presents a primary stress to your body. It threatens your very survival instinct, for nothing is as basic to our survival as getting the fuel needed to think, move, and be.
Let’s say another stressor enters your day – you think? The toast burns, the traffic makes you late for work, you have a verbal scrimmage with your SO, the car runs low on gas and where is that gas station anyway?
Which of these stressors is 1) the easiest to relieve, and 2) the one your body will prioritize as needing relief? You guessed it. Satisfying the hunger. And instead of seeing the wisdom of our bodies, we blame ourselves for being weak, compulsive, ’emotional’ overeaters.
Action item: Eat to satisfaction early in the day and watch the night munchies evaporate.
2) Eat a whole foods, low fat plant-based diet. This has to do with hunger satisfaction and satiety. Your body is designed to respond with appropriate fullness signals when presented with food it was designed to thrive on, and that means full of fiber and low on fat and as close as possible to how it was delivered in nature. Some people need to be more prudent about this than others – you need to discover your own niche for getting to your goals.
Action item: Edge out lower quality food with high fiber, low fat plant foods: vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruit.
3) Move your body. This means also not sitting too much. Not only because it burns calories, which it does, or because exercise shapes muscle, which it does. Activity also restores equilibrium and willpower, giving you more resources for sticking to your plant. See 5 minute willpower workout #1: Exercise, the closest thing to a willpower magic bullet.
Action item: Find small chunks of time throughout the day to move your body. Even if you are getting in your workouts, be mindful of the power even 2 – 5 minutes of moving your muscles to restore well-being and inner strength.
4) Meditate. Breathe and be. Cultivate some kind of practice or quiet time that has the simple objective of restoring mental and emotional equilibrium. This is huge with mindset mastery, and the one most often neglected leg of the 3 Pillars.
5) Abstain from negative self-talk. Look back to #1 above, where I gave the example of a fat photo on the fridge. Somehow this was supposed to shame me into avoiding food – and it did, until I couldn’t take it any more and it backfired in a binge. But what kind of a message is this to send yourself anyway? You cannot hate yourself to a better figure. And if you’ve been using the tight belt trick or the fat photo strategy yourself, something is going to need to shift out of the negative for you to be successful.
Action item: This one has many layers, but for starters, begin by making note of every time negative self-talk hijacks your inner world. Every time. It starts with awareness. From there, create positive alternatives to the negative messages.
6) Give up the guilt. Indulgence in feeling bad about ‘breaking’ your healthy eating plans compounds stress, driving us straight into the stress-relieving properties of – you guessed it – breaking your healthy eating plans with pleasure-promising foods. Ironic!
Action item: Instead, allow wiggle room for less-than-perfect.
I believe in the 3 Pillars so firmly, they are the heart of my book. Fit Quickies: 5 Minute Targeted Body Shaping Workouts sounds like a fitness book – and it is, but it is truly a Trojan horse of healthy success. For inside that horse is solid attention to practices of eating, activity, and mastery of mindset for success.
Once I got the 3 Pillars in place, things changed radically for me when it comes to food, eating, and my body. So much so that I haven’t had a binge since 1996. And I lost 50 lbs for good. Have I sometimes had too much to eat? Maybe more mousse pie than I really needed? Certainly – that is normal. In contrast, random acts of overeating beyond fullness, repeatedly, is disturbed eating.
The good news is there is a way out. I’ve done it and have seen it done over and over again. Once you see the interconnectedness of eating, moving, and thinking, you can take action for change.
Was anything on Lani’s list a surprise to you? What was it?