When You Can't Stop Thinking About Food

October 19, 2022 Emma Parten

I'm currently changing my routine of constant busyness to a routine that includes more rest and more time in stillness. I'm spending more time alone in silence to practice observing my thoughts. I've only just begun to practice, and I've noticed how often my thoughts tend to revolve around food and eating. It's almost like I can't stop thinking about food. I'm at a stage now where I'm ready to lean further into eating disorder recovery, and I can learn from observing the thoughts I observe that revolve around food.  

Thinking About Food in Recovery

Have you noticed how often you think about food?

It can be difficult to notice thoughts as they come and go. We're used to being immersed in our thoughts, especially if we have experience with binge eating disorder (BED). You might think about previous binges and how they made you feel or what you can do to prevent a binge in the future. Maybe you think about food that you're craving. You might not notice if you spend hours a day thinking about food if you're absorbed in thoughts. 

One time I was answering intake questions before starting in-patient eating disorder treatment. One of the questions was, "How often do you think about food?" 

I realized the answer to this question was the exact reason I was there, asking for help. My answer at the time was, "about three times a minute."

I felt tormented by my mind with constant intrusive thoughts about food. The thoughts about food made it difficult to focus on anyone or anything else.  

If you are experiencing constant thoughts about food, I want to pass along hope that your state of mind right now is not permanent. Even if you are at the point where every moment of your day revolves around food and disordered eating, there is a way out. It's possible to have more ease and mental quiet in the process of recovery.

Tips for When You Can't Stop Thinking About Food

I'm only beginning to learn how to observe my thoughts and change the way I respond to them. There are also ways I've learned to cope with thinking about food that helped me regain mental space and energy for life outside of BED. Here are some tips that have helped me.

  • Allow all foods -- This is my most effective tool for regaining mental quiet. Our minds focus on what we want (or don't want), and we tend to want what we can't have. If I tell myself I can't eat certain foods, those will be the first foods I reach for during a binge. If I tell myself I can eat whatever I want, I might indulge for a while. Eventually, though, I'll eat what sounds good to me in the moment and stop when I'm satisfied. When you aren't dieting or restricting, your mind tends to grow quieter and less concerned with food. 
  • Write down your thoughts -- Writing your thoughts down as they come gives them a place to exit your mind and live somewhere else. When I fill a page with thoughts, I can recognize my current state of mind more clearly.
  • Show yourself compassion -- Thoughts usually surface from feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, or discomfort. The function of thinking is to help alert us that something isn't okay. If you notice yourself thinking about food, try to go one level deeper. What is happening around you, causing your mind to respond this way?
  • Come back to your senses -- Your senses are always available for you to use as a way to give the thinking mind a break. What does the air smell like around you? What do your clothes feel like on your skin? Does your breath feel shallow or deep?

I hope these tips are helpful for you as you continue your journey and practice not thinking about food so often.

What do you do to reconnect with the life around you when you are struggling with BED thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

APA Reference
Parten, E. (2022, October 19). When You Can't Stop Thinking About Food, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Emma Parten

Connect with Emma on her personal blog.

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