Weight loss – what does that food mean to you? Insight, reflection, and replacement in achieving weight loss goals.


Quick summary: I will discuss why certain foods seem or feel impossible to give up and offer a brief suggestion as to what you can do to overcome such an obstacle. Food (as with many other things in life) often has a symbolic importance which is more influential or otherwise important that the simple tangible object that it seems to be.


The theory is that insight into the unconscious drives related to a food can liberate a person to address those drives and the person therefore gains a degree of power over the automatic impulses related to that food.


Insight by itself in no way solves a problem related to eating unhealthy foods… in fact some research is suggesting that certain people are less likely to make a healthy food decision when nutritional information is offered to them in an attempt to encourage a more healthy choice.


  • the researches who found such evidence have suggested that our drive towards freewill trumps our desire to make the most intelligent or healthy decision… in short, when we are told to eat something because it is healthy, we often don’t want to comply simply because we perceive someone else as telling us what to do… we are more concerned with choosing our behavior than in taking suggestions which are in our best interest.


Insight into unconscious drives frees a person from a degree of automaticity.

  • An ability to reflect on an impulse is created thereby giving a person an opportunity to choose what behavior they will engage in. For many people insight into an impulse does not dissuade them from succumbing to the impulse.


What if you could find a more healthy replacement behavior to satiate the burning drive of that impulse?


Exercise to find insight about the hidden drives of the ‘impossible to give up’ food


Firstly I want you to list a food that you can hardly imagine not eating.


Symbolism – What does this food mean to you?


History – what is your history with this food?


Feeling – what is the desired feeling that you want to experience while eating this food?


Cognitive – what are some of the reasons that you tell yourself that encourage you to eat this food?


Importance – what are all the reason why you do not want to give up this food?

To reduce the amount of willpower that it will take to restrain yourself from this food it would be in your best interest to find a replacement means of attaining the above variables.


  • Example, if you are trying to feel that lazy, satiated, completely satisfied feeling is there another way of accomplishing this?
  • – for many people eating comfort foods is a way of attaining feeling similar to those acquired in a healthy adult sexual relationship.


With insight about the above variables you can free yourself to make appropriate decisions on a moment-by-moment basis.


  • Example, if your cognitive reason for eating the food is “that it doesn’t taste good without out it” ask yourself if this is always true or if it is more true in certain situations than in others.
  • – if you absolutely love cheese on your burger ask yourself if you would even taste the cheese if you already are getting three other toppings.


Make a decision before the impulse is present to avoid having to make a difficult choice when the food is begging for you to comply with its demands to be eaten.


  • Example, if there is a certain food that has a lot of meaning to you and your family then choose the best times to indulge and choose times where it is not necessary to indulge.
  • If you and your family love a huge greasy slice of lasagna have it when someone that knows how to make it is going to be serving it and make the decision to avoid it at cheep chain American restaurants.


“Do I really want this food or do I actually want something that this food is symbolic of?”


  • Example, sometimes it is best to find the symbolic importance of the food and meet your needs another way.
  • – if you associate eating BBQ with your father who you have not seen in a while perhaps sometimes it would be better to call your father than to over-indulge in BBQ.
  • – If you are longing to feel young again and eating pizza makes your feel young perhaps there is another way for you to achieve such a feeling.



The Best plan is moderation and not abstinence… giving up your favorite ‘not so healthy’ food is unnecessary and incredibly difficult…


How can you enjoy the food with more moderation and still meet the above needs adequately?

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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