NewMe asked this question the other week:
Diane, your posts are incredibly honest and truthful, but I’d be interested in hearing more about how you overcame what was clearly a huge (pardon the pun) problem with emotional eating. What did you do from a psychological point of view to address your emotional need for food? It seems to me that without getting at the psychological reasons for your overeating, you wouldn’t have been able to repress your clearly disordered behaviour and get on a positive track food-wise.
I can definitely pardon the well placed pun for such an important question. NewMe brings up the most common question those who are on their own journey ask. “What about emotions?” She is 100% right. Until we have some sort of victory over the emotional aspects of our relationship with food it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to lose weight and keep it off indefinitely.
We’ve all seen it happen. A friend or family members gets completely on board with a particular weight loss program and sticks with it. They reach their goal weight and are “over the moon.” But just as rapidly as the weight came off, it slowly begins to come back on. Often times he/she ends up gaining more than they lost in the first place. What happened?
I don’t know the answer in every case, but in many cases I believe it’s because they had not dealt adequately with the reasons they ended up overweight in the beginning. Obviously I’m excluding folks who have medical conditions, etc. from this scenario. But for the average person, there are some emotional issues with food.
For me, the emotions started with a controlling, domineering family. I ate to have something that was all mine. No one could stop me from putting food in my mouth when they weren’t around. In high school and college it wasn’t a tragedy to eat too much because I had a young metabolism and was fairly active. But later in my early adulthood the problem with eating spiraled out of control. And thus did my weight.
After trying everything under the sun to lose weight with no success, I reached the point where I was emotionally ready. I don’t think I did any prep work before that moment, but I certainly had a lot of emotional issues to deal with from that point on. Things like:
♦ Why did I eat in secret?
♦What drove me to binge?
♦Why did I have no control over my choices?
♦What void was I trying to fill?
It would take a book for me to answer those questions here, but suffice it to say that I dealt with each of those issues and more. One of the first things I did was keep an emotions journal. For several weeks after I began my journey I wrote down the emotions I was feeling whenever I ate, whether good emotions or bad. I realized that for me, there was an emotion almost every time. I rarely wanted to eat because I was truly hungry, but rather because I was sad, happy, bored, stressed, comfortable, content, upset, mad, excited, etc. This shouldn’t have been surprising to me, but it was.
Then, after realizing that the majority of my food was eaten based on emotion, I took some steps to separate the emotions out. I still felt the emotions, but instead of eating in response to every emotion I really tried to examine what I was feeling and what I could do to satisfy that feeling without eating. This was not easy. Not easy.
And it didn’t happen overnight. There were many, many times along that weight loss year where I fell off the wagon, but I quickly got back on track by reminding myself of some of those Life Goals I talked about yesterday.
I’d love to know how you are working through the emotional part of your journey. Have you found a strategy that keeps you from eating based solely on emotion? To this day, I still sometimes find myself standing in the pantry after an upsetting phone call. But now I tell myself, “Diane, get out of the stinkin’ pantry and deal with the problem.” Eating because of the phone call wouldn’t do anything except make me mad at myself. Diane