THE BLOG
09/12/2014 08:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Reasons Why Eating the 'Wrong' Thing (or Eating Too Much of It) Is a Good Thing

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You swore off sugar (or dairy or white flour or grains or squirrel or whatever) because you've decided you're addicted to it and it's horrible for you and you just cannot have it in your house. You just can't control yourself around it. It's ruining your life, dag gummit! (That's the correct spelling of that word. I actually looked it up.)

Or perhaps you've promised yourself that from now on, no matter what, you are only going to eat one serving of dessert (or carbs or cheese or fish sticks) per week. Period. That's it. And it has to be organic. From Whole Foods. Made with no refined sugar. And also it should be low carb. And possibly infused with sunshine. And it shouldn't have GMOs. Definitely no GMOs.

And then you know what happens?

You eat it all.

At some point or another, in a day or a week or six months, you eat the thing you swore you wouldn't or you ate way, way more than you "should" have, and now you're living in a big ol' deep dark hole, created by you, yourself, and... yeah, we're back to you again.

So you're probably pissed. At yourself, at the world, at grocery stores, at lingerie models, whomever.

I'm here to tell you why what just happened is a good thing. Yes, a good thing.

1. When you eat something you think you shouldn't, you have a golden opportunity to figure out the why behind your food rules. You care about figuring out this because these rules developed over time, as you started coming up with reasons why you needed to change something about yourself. Next time you want to lay down the law with a new food rule, ask yourself what you're trying to get from it. My hunch is it's probably because you want to lose weight. Because you don't like your body. Or maybe yourself. Or both. Figuring this stuff out is the beginning of you healing your relationship to your body and food. All food. Not just green leafy foods with lots of fiber.

2. Because if there are foods on your "no" list, you're still on a freaking diet. This is valuable information because you will never make peace with food and your body if you're always on a diet. This is not to say I'm not all for improving your food choices if you're living on a steady diet of Red Bull and Cheez Whiz, nor to try to tell you it's not okay to try to lose weight. It's just that dieting, as we (you) know, is totally impossible to maintain and really bad for your self-esteem and brain. And it doesn't work. And it makes you fatter. And also miserable. (I can see why you're dying to do it over and over again, yes indeed!)

3. It's a big red stop sign telling you it's time to practice some gentle self-care. You are your most valuable asset, and you're also stuck with yourself for a long, long time. With that in mind, use last night's cookie hoedown as a way to figure out the ways in which you need to take better care of yourself (hint:not another diet) instead of yelling at yourself for the next three days.

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4. Overeating is a gift. Before you punch me in the face, hear me out: you're overeating for a reason. Maybe you're overtired and you're eating too much because you need to get more sleep. Maybe you're avoiding doing boring paperwork. Maybe you're avoiding breaking up with your boyfriend. Bottom line: the overeating is trying to tell you something. Get yourself together and start listening.

5. Eating too much is often a coping mechanism. Know why coping mechanisms are called coping mechanisms? 'Cause they help you cope with stuff. These behaviors didn't develop in a vacuum, and you actually do them because you're trying to protect yourself. Instead of beating the crap out of yourself and trying to diet your way out of it, give thanks that you're getting such a clear signal that you've got some stuff to work out.

Next time you eat the "wrong" thing, go ahead and learn something from it!