All day, every day, 24/7, non-stop – why, oh, why do I think about food all the time?!?
There are 4 main reasons why:
- You’re not eating enough
- You have too many restrictive food rules
- You’re obsessed with weight loss
- You struggle with body image
However, there is something sadly ironic:
Most people who think about food all the time care deeply about their health. One of the reasons they think so much about food is because they care so deeply.
However, thinking too much about health actually blocks healthy, vivacious living.
The very thoughts you might be constantly having about food can block you from the health you desire!
I see this ironic pattern all the time at the eating disorder center where I work. People come into the center because their obsessions about food, health and weight loss are making them miserable and unwell!
Fortunately, learning about the reasons why you think about food all the time can help you to reduce the intensity of these thoughts.
Let’s explore these reasons in more detail so that you can learn how to stop thinking so much about food!
In the process we’ll also address some other common questions that come up:
- Is it normal to think about food all the time?
- What is orthorexia?
- Why do I keep thinking about food?
- How do I stop being obsessed with food?
Reason #1 -You’re Not Eating Enough Food
When your body runs low on fuel, your body’s natural response is to make your brain think food thoughts.
Have you ever felt hungry and then started thinking about your next meal, where you would eat, what you order? This is your body making you think about food so that you go eat some!
If you are thinking about food all the time, the most likely reason is because you aren’t eating enough food.
When you don’t eat enough food, your body enters starvation mode. In this type of state, your brain pathways become wired to seek out food.
Imagine eating just a celery stick.
Even though you ate something ‘healthy’ your body would not be satisfied. Your body would still be hungry!
Therefore, it’s totally possible to eat healthy but still be under eating.
And … if you’re under eating … your body will enter starvation mode and you will think about food all the time!
Is It Normal To Think About Food All The Time?
Not all the time, but thinking about food some of the time is normal.
Here’s the guideline:
If you think about food right around when it’s time to eat, that’s normal.
Like you think about food when you start to get hungry, about 30-60 minutes before eating. That’s normal.
But if you keep thinking about food even after you eat, then that’s not normal.
As mentioned above, one reason you may be thinking about food even after you finish a meal is because you’re not eating enough food.
Are You Accidentally Not Eating Enough?
Here are a few reasons you may be undereating without realizing it:
- Simply forget to eat, life gets busy
- Skip meals because of work, life is stressful
- Eat food, but not enough fats or proteins
- Prepare food for family, but not for yourself
- Never feel full
As you can see, there are many reasons why you may be accidentally undereating. This alone could easily explain why you can’t stop thinking about food all the time!
Here Are A 3 Things You Can Do To Eat Enough Food:
- Eat regularly: Eat 3-5x per day, every day. Your body needs fuel. For example, eat breakfast at 8am, lunch at 12pm, snack at 3pm, and dinner at 6pm.
- Eat more proteins / fats: If you just eat carbs then you may technically be eating, but you aren’t eating foods that will sustain you for very long.
Carbohydrates (like pasta, bread, cereals, or sweets) will go through your system quickly. They will provide you a quick burst of energy but then you’ll be hungry and thinking about food shortly after you eat.
Foods with high fat (like nuts, yogurt, avocados, eggs) digest more slowly. Even a few hours after you eat foods with high fat, the fats will still be digesting.
Paradoxically, this is why high fat foods help with weight loss. Since you’re full and no longer have food on your mind, you don’t snack as often. Overall you eat less, but now you are eating enough.
Here’s another way of thinking about it:
Carbohydrates versus fat and proteins is like the difference between gasoline and charcoal.
A fire made of gasoline will burn bright, but die out quickly. A fire lit with charcoal will last a long time.
If you eat fats and proteins, your belly will stay fuller longer. Therefore, you won’t think as many food thoughts.
- Plan your meals ahead of time: It might sound obvious to plan your meals ahead of time. However, do you do it?
You don’t need to physically write down what you plan to eat, but that can help.
I advise clients to simply know what you’ll eat next and approximately when you’ll eat next.
Overall, this first reason – you’re not eating enough – is the primary reason why you think about food all the time.
All the other reasons we’ll discuss below also relate to this reason of insufficient food eaten.
Reason #2 – You Have Too Many Restrictive Food Rules
People who have a lot of food rules are always thinking about food!
Here are some examples of food rules:
- Don’t eat carbs
- Refrain from eating in the evening
- Don’t eat fats
- Eat less than 1000 calories per day
- Every food you eat must be measured
This is why some people believe they have a food addiction!
They are always asking themselves whether they have been ‘good enough’ that day to eat something.
For example, you may be thinking about whether you successfully avoided carbohydrates that day.
And maybe you have a rule that if you successfully avoided carbs during the day, then you can have a cookie after dinner. But your rule also says that if you ‘gave into temptation’ during the day then you were bad, and now you can’t have that cookie.
Either way, this means that you’re thinking about the cookie or lack of the cookie. You’re also thinking back about what you ate that day too. It’s a lot of thinking and totally exhausting!
Food rules can prevent people from eating enough, and therefore make people fixated on food.
This is why food addiction can seem so real and powerful. The biological craving signals commanding you to eat can seem like a true addiction.
However, the root cause of some food addiction is simply not eating sufficiently.
And one of the reasons people don’t eat sufficiently is because they have food rules!
Overall, too many food rules can become dangerous.
Some people pick up these food rules from various diets. Then they switch diets but keep the food rules!
Keto says don’t eat carbs; then vegetarian says eat vegetables. Soon you are only eating celery sticks!
At the eating disorder center, I’ve seen food rules literally hospitalize people from starvation.
While people who get hospitalized from food rules are extreme cases, this type of thinking might still apply to you.
Don’t underestimate disordered eating.
The weight loss industry is worth $1 trillion globally. Yet 70% of people in America are overweight.
We are spending money to lose weight, but we can’t stop thinking about food! This is disordered eating.
A common thought pattern of disordered eating is where you ‘think’ about whether you ‘can’ have something if you are ‘good’. Does this type of thinking sound familiar to you?
“Oh, I was good, so now I can have this sugary treat!” or “Oh, I was bad, now I have to skip a meal or exercise.
This type of thinking is called ‘compensation’.
It’s where you get to eat certain things if you were ‘good’, but if you were ‘bad’ then you have to ‘compensate’ by avoiding certain foods or undergoing excessive exercise.
If you are in this pattern, please seek help. This ‘compensation’ behavior is what causes bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.
This pattern can run very deep! Trust me, when I wrestled and starved myself for weight loss, I would think to myself “All I want to do is eat!”
And then when I would eat, I would have to run for miles or starve myself later on to make up for it!
It’s possible to learn how to not think about food.
You’ll need to be willing to make some changes, seek help, keep learning, and most of all, be compassionate to yourself.
Reason #3 – You Are Obsessed With Weight Loss
Obsession with weight loss is an easy trap. Here are a few reasons why:
- Our culture promotes weight loss
- Celebrity diets are in the news and make great headlines
- Diet industry is worth over $1 trillion globally
Overall, our society is obsessed with weight loss. This alone can be the reason why you are obsessed with weight loss and think about food all the time. Everybody else is doing it too!
Another reason why weight loss and food obsession is common is because our society is fat phobic and discriminates against bigger people.
I have had numerous clients tell me that as they lost weight, people treated them differently.
For one client going into clothing stores after losing some weight, the clerks would say ‘welcome to our store!’ However, previously when this client had been living in a bigger body, the store clerks would never say anything.
This is why weight loss, body weight, burning fat, losing weight quickly can become people’s obsessions.
If weight loss is your obsession, then of course you’ll be thinking about food all the time!
Unfortunately, the pursuit of weight loss is often more harmful than what it’s worth. For example, we now know that diets are incredibly dangerous and cause health problems.
Most people who lose weight subsequently gain the weight back by yo yo dieting. This makes people feel like they are failures and can ruin someone’s self esteem!
Furthermore, weight loss obsession can lead to disordered eating and eating disorders.
One such eating disorder, orthorexia, is the obsession with healthy foods.
What Is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia is an eating disorder. Here is the definition of orthorexia:
Orthorexia, or orthorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Unlike other eating disorders, orthorexia mostly revolves around food quality, not quantity.
Like other eating disorders, orthorexia can greatly diminish well being.
One client of mine reported “All I think about is food!” I asked her what her thoughts with food were, and she reported that every single food she ate must be ‘clean’.
If she ate a food that wasn’t clean, then she would have to either skip a meal or fall into a depression.
Of course, this type of thinking wreaked havoc on her mind. She barely ate out with friends, avoided birthday parties, and even made excuses to avoid visiting her family during the holidays!
Reason #4 – You Struggle With Body Image
It’s tough these days with body image and social media.
Social media is filled with people looking ‘beautiful’.
Our media culture – like magazine covers and lots of social media shots – mostly only shows thin people.
Studies have shown that the people represented in the media only represent 5% of the population.
Even worse, magazines and other media outlets airbrush their models to be impossibly beautiful!
Since we see these images every day, if you don’t look thin, then you may obsess about food in order to look a certain way.
Summary: Why Do I Keep Thinking About Food?
To summarize, you keep thinking about food because you aren’t eating enough.
(Or, you may be eating too much, but you aren’t getting enough proteins and fats to stay full long enough. A huge bowl of pasta that equals 5000 calories does not count!)
It can be hard to eat enough.
There’s weight loss pressures, body image and social media, and you may have accumulated tons of rules from past diet plans.
So How Do I Stop Being Obsessed With Food?
Overall, to stop being obsessed with food you’ll need to choose a different paradigm!!
A paradigm is a new way of thinking. Eating Enlightenment is based on this notion because ‘Enlightenment’ is where you experience a fundamental shift in your perception and thinking.
Fortunately, more awareness of these alternative paradigms is growing.
For example, there is more awareness of Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating and other new paradigms.
These paradigms all incorporate the mind, body, and soul into developing better health habits.
Health isn’t just weight loss!
Your worth in society and how you judge yourself should not be 100% dependent on how much you weigh!
This can be hard to accept, but the alternative is worse.
People struggle with weight their whole lives. They spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on weight loss programs that only harm them (and causes weight gain) in the long run.
People waste years of their life thinking about food all the time.
To learn how to stop thinking about food you really need to think about what you could be doing with your life instead of focusing on food.
Are you food thoughts holding you back from traveling? Dating? Being lovable?
I remember one woman at the eating disorder center saying that she felt she had to lose weight in order to get respect. She absolutely thought that she had to!
Of course, there is no guarantee that weight loss would lead to more respect.
From my own healing journey, I’ve learned that people respect you when you respect yourself.
Remember, the means equal the ends.
If you are torturing yourself in the name of health, you probably won’t have much health or well being!
Instead, I encourage you to try a more holistic approach to health — like one of the alternative paradigms I described above.
How will you start to eat enough food and approach health in a way that feels good to you? Let me know in the comments below!
I think of food all the time even when not hungry or feel nauseated.