Have you ever caught yourself eating something that you know is bad for you, but you do it anyway? Have you ever changed your eating patterns for a period of time and then found yourself going back …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 197 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today, Why You Keep Going Back For More.
So have you ever caught yourself eating something that you know is not good for you, but you do it anyway? Or maybe you’ve changed your eating patterns for a period of time and then you find yourself going back to the junk food you used to eat even though you know, you probably should steer clear of it.
This was me for sure. I found myself going back for more to the junk food I used to eat even after long periods of healthy eating. Why do we do this? And what can we do to stop it from happening in the future?
In this episode, I hope to shed some light on why you keep going back for more of the foods you should probably not be eating and what to do to stop it. And this includes over eating, eating to excess. Okay.
But first, if you want a little bit of help getting started with all the stuff that I talked about here on the podcast, I put together a free training that you can check out it’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner.
I put together the last three years of podcast materials, everything that I’ve taught here on the podcast, I kind of distilled it all down into about a one hour training that’s totally free, you can go through it, you can find it on my website, just go to runningleancoaching.com click on Free Training.
But the goal of this is to teach you how to lose weight and keep it off for good as a runner. A lot of coaches, a lot of dietitians, a lot of nutritionists out there, they have advice for losing weight, but it’s really not geared towards runners.
And this is where I specialize in helping you as a runner, not only, you know, improve your running and get stronger, run longer distances, run faster, but also to be able to change your body composition for the better to lose the weight to get leaner.
A lot of people say you can’t do that, or you shouldn’t do that. I disagree. I wholeheartedly disagree. And you can learn at least a good chunk of how to get started with all this stuff by going through this free training. Like I said, it’s just about an hour of your time. That’s called Five Simple Steps To Becoming A Leaner Stronger Runner. Check it out, go to runningleancoaching.com click on Free Training. And I hope you enjoy it.
Okay, let’s get into this topic here. Why you keep going back for more? So one reason that I wanted to share this with you guys is because I’ve been working with a lot of people recently who find themselves slipping back into old patterns or craving the food that they used to eat even though we’ve changed their eating patterns, or their their chronic overeaters, you know, they just keep going back for seconds and thirds and fourths or whatever.
And there’s this idea that you know what, there’s something wrong with us, if we keep going back to the foods that we used to eat when we weren’t eating healthy, or there’s something wrong with us, because we tend to eat past the point of being full. Okay.
This has definitely been my experience in my life. So I can relate to both of these concepts of going back for more, I’ve changed my eating patterns. I started eating really healthy, and then I found myself slipping back into old patterns again, because what I was doing was uncomfortable, it was hard.
And maybe I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted. And then I’ve also been a chronic overeater in my life. This is one of the reasons why it was really hard for me to lose weight. Even though I was eating, you know, I was trying all these different diets, but I was just eating way too much of a lot of the foods even when I was doing the plant based thing.
Of course I was eating nothing but carbs, because that’s basically what a plant based diet is, is basically all carbs, tough to do for some people. Some people love it, and that’s great, more power to you. But for me, it was really challenging because I’m very sensitive to carbohydrates, number one and number two, I tend to overeat. I’m an overeater.
And you know, I don’t think calories are the whole picture. I think calories do come into the equation at some point and they definitely did for me when I would go back for seconds and thirds, and eat until I was way past the point of being full.
You know, there was a Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who used to say, “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. I stop eating when I hate myself.” I was like, Oh, my God, I feel so seen. Because that was definitely me and my experience around food.
And even today, I struggle with this sometimes, you know, I can, I can go out to dinner, I’m eating a nice big steak and maybe, you know, a baked potato or something on the side. And I find myself just eating until I’m past the point of being full. And why do we do this?
So I’m going to give you guys a couple of reasons why I’ve got like five reasons why we keep going back for more. More of the junk food that we’re not supposed to be eating, or we want to try to stay away from, or we’re chronic overeaters. And why we do this, and I want you to think about this in this concept of that there is hope for you that you’re not broken.
I’m certainly not broken, you’re not broken, we all do these things, you might be able to relate to a couple of these things I’m going to share with you here more than others. But we all have done these or some some of these in our lives. And it doesn’t mean that just because you can relate to some of these issues that there isn’t hope for you, there is hope for you like you can change.
Most of the things I’m going to be talking about are learned behaviors, and if a behavior has been learned, it can be unlearned. Alright, so just I want to put a context on this as you’re listening to this episode of you know, that these are things that you have probably taught yourself or been conditioned to over the years and that you can on teach yourself that you can decondition yourself to these patterns.
Okay, so the first one is this. The first one is that the foods that we tend to overeat are the foods that we tend to go back for the junk foods and stuff like that. It just, it feels good to eat that stuff. Let’s be honest, it tastes amazing. And it feels really good. Your brain loves pleasure.
Your brain is always seeking pleasure. Your brain’s job is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe, is to avoid discomfort. Seek out comfort, seek the familiar, seek out pleasure. That’s your brain’s job. And you know what does a really good job of that? The comfort foods that you love. Junk food feels amazing, right?
A lot of times, it’s because these foods have been engineered to produce the maximum pleasure possible. That’s why people don’t binge out on broccoli. I hear people all the time. They’re like, oh, I just needed a snack. I’m like, okay, go eat some broccoli. And they’re like, I’m not gonna use broccoli as a snack. And I’m like, yeah, but if you’re really hungry, and you need to eat something, broccoli is great, you know, or some like raw carrots.
People are like, I don’t want raw carrots, I want some chips. I want some nuts. I want a candy bar, I want something that’s sugar, or salt or crunchy or a combination of all those things. Snickers, there you go. It’s got all those things all blended together, right.
But we don’t go for broccoli as a snack because it doesn’t light up our brain the way that this junk food does. So your brain loves pleasure. And this is one of the reasons why it’s really hard to change your diet. Because if you’re used to eating a diet that is full of pleasurable foods, pizza is a great example. You know, pizza is one of those things that like, oh my gosh, it’s like gooey and cheesy, but it’s also all that bread.
The crust is so amazing and chewy and it’s warm. And it’s just like, oh my gosh, that’s a very pleasure inducing food right there. So if you’re somebody that’s eating pizza on the regular, and then and then you switch your diet you’re like okay, pizza’s off the table, you’re gonna be dreaming about pizza. Your brain is gonna be like, where is the pizza, bro? Like, how come you took the pizza away from it? You know I want that pizza. So we seek out pleasure and junk food gives us lots of pleasure.
You know, you got to remember that there’s a dopamine response when you eat these pleasurable foods. Even thinking about the pleasurable foods gives you a dopamine response and it feels good to just think about it. If I start describing the most delicious chewiest pizza crust with the red sauce that’s just hanging off and the pepperoni on top and the melted cheese that’s got just a little bit of burned on there you know I’m you know, I’m talking about right.
You start to drool like your brain is like lighting up right now just even thinking about that just listening to a description of pizza like that will light up your brain and provide a dopamine response, but also when you eat as food, you get oxytocin release, serotonin, endorphins, all the feel good chemicals get released.
And listen, eating pizza, it feels amazing. Eating ice cream feels amazing, eating candy bars feels amazing. All these hyper palatable foods increase this dopamine response to increase the field good hormonal response. And why wouldn’t you crave that stuff, right?
We don’t tend to go back to eating hoards of broccoli or chicken or something like that. Even though that stuff is great for you. That stuff is what your brain and your body actually needs for nutrition to keep you healthy and safe and alive. But that’s not what we crave.
We crave the junk food, we crave the hyper palatable foods, the foods that have been engineered to be amazingly delicious. Okay. So number one, you have to understand that your brain loves pleasure. And that’s just your brain doing what it’s supposed to do. Seek pleasure, avoid pain, you know, it feels painful to your brain.
Eating broccoli feels painful to your brain, because it’s like, oh, I know, it’s good for me. But I really want the pizza, but I mean, the broccoli and so that seems terrible. It’s like a terrible place to be like, who wants to do that?
Okay, so your brain wants to seek pleasure and wants to avoid pain. So there’s your brain doing what it’s supposed to do. So just understand that part of the thing that we’re fighting against here, if you’re trying not to eat this stuff, is that your brain is going to drive you in the direction of the junk food.
Alright, so we got that kind of going against us here. But just listen, that is one of five different reasons why you might be going back for more.
Number two, a lot of times you are using your eyes instead of your body to know when it’s time to stop. And this refers to overeating. So a lot of times we look at our plate, and we look at you know how much is on our plate and we need to finish every bite that’s on that plate no matter what even though we’re full, even though we don’t feel good.
Now, this was me. And this is one of the reasons why it’s been decades of me trying to stop this overeating habit. But it was drilled into me as a kid that I had to finish everything on my plate no matter what or I would get in trouble.
And I had to sit at the table and everybody else left the table was able to go eat their dessert and get on with their life and I had to sit there and eat everything. Eat the tuna fritters that my mom made. I just bring that up because I just thought about, I haven’t thought about tuna fritters in like 40 years, honestly.
But I just thought about those because it was one of those things I was like this gross I don’t want to eat this stuff. You know, just imagine like a crab cake but not as good and it’s tuna instead. Okay, and it’s hot.
But I would have to sit there and eat that stuff. And if I did need it, I couldn’t leave the table. And if you didn’t eat everything on your plate you had you didn’t get dessert either, which doesn’t make any sense. Okay? Like, if you don’t finish all this plate and make yourself miserable, you don’t get more food afterwards.
So these ideas were drilled into my head that it didn’t matter how you felt, it didn’t matter if your body was like you’re full. Like your eyes and what was in front of you had to be devoured no matter what.
This is really, this is weird that we do this to kids. Don’t do this to your kids. If you want to, like help your kids now, don’t do this to them. Let them eat whatever they want. Who cares? You know they’re kids, they’ll figure it out like eat what feels good to you. Oh, you don’t want to eat much. You don’t want to eat the brussel sprouts. Fine. Don’t eat them. It’s fine.
But don’t make your kids eat everything because that is not teaching them good eating habits that’s like disordered eating in a way. Okay. So I was trained that I had to eat everything on my plate no matter what.
And mentally right now it’s really hard for me to leave food uneaten. Like my girlfriend, she’ll go out to dinner, or even eating dinner here, and when she’s done eating, she’s just done. And she’ll sit there and they’ll be like one bite left.
And I’m like, you’re not going to eat that? Oh my god, you’re driving me crazy. Just eat that last bite. I don’t want anymore. I’m done. I mean, I just got to this point where I was done, and then I’m done. I don’t have to keep eating and I’m like, how do you do that? I don’t understand how you do that. That’s not me. I gotta eat whatever is on my plate.
And a lot of times I’ll put too much on my plate but I got to eat it anyway. And so that’s one of those things where I had to really work on that and I’m better about that now. I can leave food. I’ve been better about that lately, especially as we go out to dinner. And you know, you get what they give you on the plate like I don’t have control over that.
And I’m good about like leaving some behind. Sometimes I don’t, sometimes I do. So, there’s this idea that you can’t trust your body to know what’s best for you, you because you’ve been conditioned to go by other rules, you know, you can only trust the conditioning that you’ve been exposed to, you know, and so, this is a, this is a big problem, you know, this is something that we have to undo this whole clean plate club, you got to be a member of the clean plate club.
No, you don’t. And a lot of this is just families, you know, bless my parents, you know, they were trying to try their best, they did their best, they had a bunch of kids, you know, I was always the problem child too.
And, you know, I have four siblings, and they would, I was always, always the one in trouble. I know, hard to imagine. But I was the one that would get what I thought was getting picked on all the time, but I was just, I was rebellious, you know.
But I have this conditioning, this family conditioning of overeating, really. And to this day, it still lingers here and there, sometimes it creeps it’s ugly head every now and then. But just understand that, you know, you got to start listening to your body. And when you’re feeling full, or even before you feel full, like when you feel like satiated, it’s time to stop, okay. So that’s number two, using your eyes instead of your body to know when it’s time to stop.
Number three, you believe that more is better. So if a little food is good for you, then more is great for you, right? This is the same issue that alcoholics and drug addicts have. So they think that, you know, if one drink makes you feel good, or if one hit or pill or whatever makes you feel good, then two or three drinks or 10 is going to be better, or 10 hits or pills or whatever is gonna make you feel better.
And so we think that since we’re eating a little bit of french fries, or a little bit of pizza is good for us, or it feels good, then eating the entire pizza is great. You know, we don’t want to, we don’t want to find it. And we don’t want this good feeling to end, we’re getting this dopamine response, we’re getting all these, you know, chemicals released, that feel really good.
And we don’t want that. And we want it to feel even better. So we think that eating more food, going back for more and more and more, is going to feel better and better and better. And again, this is conditioning. It’s not really genetics, we are not genetically predisposed to overeat, we’re not genetically predisposed to eat until we’re uncomfortable.
This is something that you have learned. Because you think if I stop eating halfway through this pizza, then this good feeling is going to end, it’s going to go away. And honestly, the only thing that happens is you start to feel really terrible. And then you feel really awful. And you and you do sort of hate yourself, you know.
And it’s one of those things where the behavior is so ingrained in us and again, these are just things that we’ve been conditioned to over the years we’ve trained ourselves to do these things. You’ve got to be able to unlearn this, we have to be able to learn better behaviors and start practicing eating to satiety, not to uncomfortableness, okay.
So we believe that more is better. And more is not always better, more is just more, and a lot of times more is worse. But it feels like more is better. Again, this is our brain sort of tricking us, okay.
Number four is this and I know that we have all thought this before, that I’ve already blown it for today so I might as well just keep going, right? So I ate the cupcake. You know, my kids wanted, you know, we take cupcakes to school. So I like made cupcakes, and I was just gonna get into the garage, but I had one.
And then I was like, you know what I’ve already blown it for today. So I’m just gonna go ahead and eat 10 more cupcakes and the entire pizza and all the ice cream in the house, right. And because I’ve already blown it for today, or, you know, I’ve already had like one piece of pizza, I might as well eat the entire pizza.
This is why so many diets fail because people don’t have any strategies in place to be able to deal with these occasional setbacks or fails or whatever you want to call them. And I believe that we have to build some of these exceptions into our plan.
So if you have a healthy eating food plan, there should be some exceptions in there every now and then it’s like, yeah, you can have a couple pieces of pizza, you can have the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But you got to do these things in a very intentional and purposeful way. You got to do them mindfully.
You don’t want to do them because you’re reacting to how you’re feeling in the moment. You want to plan them ahead of time. One of the strategies that I work with all my clients on is planning, like plan ahead and then stick to the plan and plan ahead and stick with the plan. Don’t make decisions in the moment because we tend to not make good decisions in the moment.
Another rule that I think everybody needs to follow is, you never have two bad meals in a row or two cheat meals in a row. You can blow it with one meal, you can eat a cupcake, fine, okay, you blew it with that meal, you failed, great. Next meal, you’re back on track, that’s it.
Another way of looking at this is divide your day into four quarters, you might lose a quarter, but never lose the day. So if you blow it in quarter number three, and you had you know, some cupcakes or you had a piece of pizza, whatever, great, don’t blow the next quarter. Right, get back on track with the next meal. And that’s it. If you just kind of adhere to that right there.
This one can take care of itself pretty easily. But you have to be disciplined about that. And you can’t get into this attitude of like, well, I’ve blown it for today. I might as well just, you know, keep going. Or here’s another one I’ve heard people say is like I’ve already blown it for today, so I’m just gonna, like, make the next week a total eating binge fest, like, oh, I’ve gone one day, so I might as well go and blow the whole week.
Like don’t do that, but a lot of people do that. A lot of people do that. Right? Oh, you know, I was going great with my nutrition plan until work got really stressful. And then I had this one meal that was no good. And then that ruined everything. And now I’m back to eating garbage every single day. Like really, one meal can do that to you. It really can, it can set you back.
And then you think, you know, well look at me, I’m a failure, I can’t do this. So I might as well just go back to doing what I used to do. Just a piece of crap. And you know, you’re not, you’re not, you just made a bad decision, or, you know, you had a slip up whatever could get back on track with the next meal.
And again, I like to build in some of these, whatever you call it, cheat meals, you know, I like to call it the release valve. Like, we have this pent up craving sometimes for stuff and you know, talk about pizza, like just because that’s my thing. I love pizza.
And every now and then I gotta eat some pizza. Because that craving can get a little bit out of control sometimes. And every now and then I’m like, I’m just gonna go eat a couple of pieces of pizza. And then I’m fine. You know, I’ve had pizza twice this year. I know it’s crazy. And I just had some recently and it was so good. And I was like, This is so good. I’m glad I don’t do this all the time anymore. But it was so good to do it every now and then.
Okay, so don’t get into this attitude of a balloon offer today might as well just keep going or bonus for today. So might as well just blow the whole week, don’t do that. Get back on track with the next meal. Okay, that was number four.
Number five is this marketing and social pressures. So here’s the reality. The food companies do not care about your health, they don’t care about your well being, they want to make money. And the way they do that is they get you to eat more food, that is their goal.
They care about their bottom line. That’s it, it’s a business, and they’re making billions of dollars. And so they make this hyper palatable food that you keep going back for more and, and they know what they’re doing.
They spend billions of dollars on research and marketing to make sure that you crave the junk food, right, and then you keep eating it that you keep going back for more and more and more, even though, you know, it’s not good for you. They know it’s not good for you. They don’t care.
Okay, so if you think the food companies are putting stuff out there that is good for you, you’re wrong. They don’t care. It’s not good for you, they know what they’re doing. And they market this stuff to you. And they make you think that you have to eat this stuff.
Are you like some kind of weirdo? And our friends do this too. Our friends sort of like treat us like we’re weird if we’re eating, you know, good, healthy food, like we’re the weird ones. What? Really?
So there’s people in our lives, usually it’s the people that are closest to us who mean well, but they treat us like we’re in middle school. You know, they’re like, Oh, it’s okay, honey, just have one piece of pizza. It’s not going to kill you. You deserve it. You’ve been good all week. Have some fun. Live a little, let your hair down. Don’t be such a Debbie Downer.
Have you had anybody in your life that’s like this? Some people call them food pushers. And a lot of times they’re, they’re well meaning. They mean well, they’re trying to be positive and just say like, hey, have a little bit of fun. You deserve it. It’s okay.
You know, but what they’re doing is they’re putting pressure on you to do something you don’t want to do. And you don’t want to eat the junk food and they’re pressuring you into doing it and so a lot of times you do. You slipped back into it, you go back for more because they want you to, because that makes them feel good.
If you’re doing what they’re doing, and then they don’t feel so bad about themselves, because they’re like, oh, as long as you’re doing it with me, you know. But for those of us who have difficulty controlling how much we eat, saying no to certain foods, this is me totally.
You know, people in our lives that are like this are going to keep us going back for more. Doesn’t matter how much discipline we have, or how much willpower we’re using, we will keep going back for more because we’re feeling pressured by the people who are closest to us.
And again, they mean well, but we have to ignore that. And we have to stand up for ourselves in those situations. And listen, willpower, like discipline is great, willpower is a finite resource, though willpower diminishes as the day goes on, like you only have so much willpower, think of it as like a fuel tank.
And by the end of the day, that fuel tank is pretty low, you don’t have much willpower in the evening, you have a lot more in the morning, right. And then by the evening, it’s gone, right? It’s because it’s like, you’re tired, you just want to like chill out or whatever, like, your willpower is gone in the evenings.
And that’s when a lot of people, you know, go out with friends. And then that’s when the social pressures happen, and they want you to drink and then once you start drinking, you’re, you’re making even poor choices around food. And a lot of people blow it at night, like they do great all day long. And then they blow it at night because of this lack of willpower because the willpower kind of diminishes as the day goes on.
So I’m not saying you gotta avoid your friends, but just understand that, you know, you got food companies who are marketing food to us and putting pressure on us to kind of eat this food, we got friends and family who are kind of pressuring us to eat this food. It’s hard.
This is a hard one right to navigate around all this stuff. But I guess you just got to be okay, being the weirdo at the table, the one person who’s not partaking in the alcohol, the one person who’s not partaking in the junk food, and you got to be okay with that. It doesn’t feel good, it feels uncomfortable. But sometimes we got to just get used to being uncomfortable in those situations, it’ll get easier after a while.
Okay, so those are the five reasons why we typically keep going back for more, and then just understand that there are some things we can do about this. Like, I know, this feels daunting, it probably feels like oh my gosh, Patrick, like this sounds terrible. Like how am I supposed to overcome all this stuff, there’s all this pressure, there’s all these things, you know, working against me here.
The first step though, is just understanding that you have this self awareness about all of this. A lot of times is self awareness and understanding what’s happening within you and to you from the outside world.
Just having that self awareness is enough to keep you from going back for more for like slipping into those old patterns. Right. Another thing is, like I mentioned earlier, is having a plan, you gotta have a plan, make a plan, what’s your food situation? What are you eating tomorrow? What times are you eating? What are you eating, for lunch, dinner, whatever, make a plan, make it ahead of time and stick to the plan. Right? That’s it. Most people don’t do that. They just wing it every day.
If you want to change your habits around food, winging it, it’s probably what you’ve done your whole life. So don’t do that. You got to have a plan, and you got to stick to the plan.
And it’s like training yourself to practice good habits like new behaviors and behaviors, winging it is not how you do it, though. Because you’re never going to be able to like lose the weight, keep it off change eating patterns, if you’re winging it every day.
So make a plan, stick to the plan, make a plan, stick to the plan, right? Once I started doing this, I started, like seeing results consistently. Because the only way you’re gonna see consistent results is if you do something consistently, you got to stick to your plan consistently. And then you’ll get consistent results. And eventually you’ll get your goals.
Most people they just wing it every day, they get some results. And then they slide backwards. And then they get some of these backwards, they say why should I even bother? This is demotivating. Right?
Consistent results will keep you in the game. They’ll keep you motivated, keep you going forward. And eventually you’ll reach your goals, if you can stick with it long enough. There’s a big mindset shift though, right?
Because you’re you got to switch from being reactionary, like reactive to the world around you to being proactive and actively making a plan and sticking to it. That’s a very different way to do this, to go through life. Most people don’t do it, that’s why they fail.
So we got to switch from allowing the world around you to dictate your actions and behaviors to using your own mind, your own principles, your own goals, your own beliefs to guide your decisions and your actions and your behaviors.
Okay, so we don’t want to be driven by what’s going on out there but what’s going on inside by our own body, our own thoughts, beliefs, our own emotions, all of that, okay? So it takes time. It’s not something that’s gonna, you know, you’re gonna be, you’re gonna make a decision and you’re gonna say, Oh, I just want to change how I feel about food. And it’s going to happen overnight.
No, it takes some time. Alright, it’s, it feels daunting, but I promise you, there is hope you can do this. You got to give it some time, you got to embrace the discomfort of change, because that’s going to be ever present.
But if you can stick with it long enough, you will get the results that you want, I promise you and again, as always, if you’re looking for some help with any of this, we can talk about coaching, this is what I do. I help people navigate this stuff every single day. And we have fun doing it too by the way.
Just head over to runningleancoaching.com and click on Work With Me. Click on that link. You can fill out a short little application, get on a call. We’ll talk about coaching and how it might help you. And if it seems like a good fit for you, great. If not, that’s cool, too. Okay, cool. That’s all I got for you today. Love you all. Keep on Running Lean. And I’ll talk to you soon.