What Causes Obsessive Thoughts About Food?

“The bond between food and me is like other relationships in my life: complicated, evolving, demanding, and in need of constant work. But together we’ve come so far, moving from my childhood obligation to clean my plate, to a mindless need to fill up, to a truly nourishing and pleasurable exchange. That’s the real reward.” ― Ashley Graham

Many of my clients tell me that they are experiencing obsessive thoughts about food, their weight and their body. Worries around weight loss and what foods they can/shouldn't eat... sometimes completely dominates their lives and stops them from enjoying what they are doing and planning for the future. So what exactly causes these obsessive thoughts about food? There are a few common triggers that I see very often for recurring thoughts around food:

- Severe restriction: obsessive thoughts around food go hand-in-hand with restrictive diets and meal-plans. As humans we want what we can't have and the more you restrict your diet and cut out food groups, the more you will obsess about food (particularly those foods that you have banned). It is a clever evolutionary mechanism to ensure that we don't starve - if our body and brain think that we aren't getting the food that we need, they will make sure that we obsess over food until we get that food.

- Food-tracking: whilst tracking macros and calories works for some people - for many people, it can also cause an obsessive mindset around food. Having to meticulously weigh out and stay conscious of exactly how much you are eating at every meal, can leave you craving more... not necessarily because you actually want more food, but because you know you are not allowed more food. Again it comes down to the fact that we as humans want what we can't have!

- Being physically hungry - now this one might seem like an obvious one but many of my clients will often report that they starve themselves throughout the day, only to over-eat at night. They are physically hungry during the day and by suppressing that hunger, their brain goes into over-drive with thoughts around food.

- Feeling guilty for eating certain foods - often obsessive thoughts around food stem from the relationship that an individual has with food. If they feel guilty when eating "bread" or "carbs" or "sweets" or "dairy" ... or other foods, it can lead to obsessive thoughts around these foods and sometimes even binge-eating on these foods.