When people come to me to lose weight, they aren’t really just trying to lose weight. Whether it’s five pounds or 50, my clients are struggling the most with their thoughts — about food.

It’s like they’re in a kind of prison, thinking ALL THE TIME about food. Do you have this constant commentary in your head? Buzzing thoughts like, “What should I eat?” “What did I eat?” “When did I eat?” “Why did I eat?” “Should I have not eaten that?

Social gatherings come with a layer of dread: Can I even eat anything here? Should I let people see me eat? Crap, she’s so thin, and she’s eating cake? Why can’t I? I want cake, too!

The back-and-forth fight in your head about food takes up a staggering amount of mental energy...and it feels awful. You can’t stop and you fear you’ll never be able to stop obsessing about food.

The truth of the matter is: You simply can’t live a full life when your thoughts are tangled up in food. Focus is one thing—think of an Olympic athlete, focused on improving her butterfly stroke or high jump, her focus pushing her to continually get better. That’s a useful tool for improvement. Obsession, however, is entirely different. Obsession doesn’t make you better or healthier; it owns you.

The good news—yes, I promise, there is good news!—is that you can break the grip of food-obsessed thoughts. But first, you have to really look them in the eye so that you can understand what’s driving them.

This is something my team and I have been addressing in our community for years—because it always comes up. Here are three of the most common ones, and how to quiet them down.

“What did I just eat!?”

Maybe it’s that darn cake. Or the entire bag of barbecue potato chips. Either way, the thought brings up regret, judgment, the urge to punish yourself by killing yourself at the gym or eating even more (because today is obviously a lost cause). The fact that you ate that piece of cake, bag of chips, fifth helping of anything feels monumentally important, like you’ve put a big red X across your face for life.

Freedom is the goal. It’s feeling fine with what you ate, and not obsessing over it, either before or after it happens. It’s seeing it as a one-time event. You become able to observe the feelings and move on, knowing that you have many more chances to eat and make better choices! The piece of cake isn’t a prison sentence. It’s just a piece of cake.

“What will I eat?”

This thought projects you into the future and into endless worry. Eating becomes this huge, endless task—I have to choose the right food, in the right amount, at the right time, every time.

But the pressure is so high and constant, you’re terrified that you’ll fail—“But, what if I can’t get that food?” “What if company comes?” “What if I lose track of what I ate before?” ”What if I can’t stop myself from eating the whole package of cookies?” You can barely pay attention to what you’re eating right now, because you’re already thinking about what you’ll eat next!

What I help people do is feel in control, to feel free to make choices, without being weighed down with regret or anxiety. And the irony is, when you are finally free, and experience that freedom, you probably won’t want that box of cookies after all.

“How can she eat that?”

Comparing yourself to others—and usually feeling bad as a result—never serves you. We just don’t know the other person’s life, or her body, or how that body works or feels. Comparison gets you stuck in the vicious cycle of thoughts—that life is unfair, that other people have something you don’t, or that you’re a terribly tough case who will never get to feel happiness or pleasure. (You’re not an unsolvable problem, by the way — here’s why!)

To counter this awful thought, you turn the attention inward. You want to stop feeling hungry, or bloated, or fatigued, or cranky. You want to eat what makes your body feels good. That’s what you need to figure out, and that’s what living a full life is actually about, shifting loving attention back to what serves you.

We think food is the problem, but the real problem is being out of alignment with what we need. The goal (and what we achieve in our coaching program) is for food to be just one fulfilling part of what keeps us happy, healthy, and whole.

Ready to take the pressure off your eating? Check out my Ultimate Real Food Recipe Book! With the best (and satisfying!) balanced recipes and a whole month of meal plans, you’ll boost your metabolism and shed pounds—without obsessing about your food!