Emotional eating – eating when the body is not hungry – is one of the most common ways our culture deals with life’s stressors. Whether it is uncomfortable feelings, fears, change, or stressful events, overeating is a tool used by many to avoid feelings, to withdraw, and to soothe pain. The problem with compulsive eating is that after the eating stops, those initial stressors are still there and on top of that, there are additional feelings of “badness” for overeating. To deal with those feelings, the pattern is to want to eat more.
Many people go through decades of diets, over-exercise, low self-esteem and/or a self-defeated attitude in the battle with food. There are endless pledges that tomorrow will be different, and then when it’s not, we feel hopeless, blame our lack of will power and beat ourselves up.
Eventually there comes a point when the pain is significant enough that we are willing to stop avoiding ourselves and instead stay present to see what we are actually running from. Yes, it can be painful to stay present with uncomfortable feelings, but the alternative, overeating to avoid ourselves, has already proven to be painful. The difference is that by staying present, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is a way out of the vicious cycle.
Through our therapy sessions together we look at what is causing the overeating to continue, and what triggered the eating to start in the first place. We distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger. And we learn new tools to remain present with scary feelings, to have more loving thoughts, and to ultimately release the need for overeating.
It is important to understand that overeating is a tool that has served a purpose. It has helped you cope with life when there weren’t other tools available. But now, with guidance in therapy, we begin to explore new tools for coping. As a result, we learn to be kinder to ourselves, to recognize that food isn’t “good” or “bad,” and neither are we. Research shows the more understanding and forgiving we are to ourselves, the more motivated we are to do what we need to take care of ourselves, including eating well.
Compulsive eating is only the symptom; believing that you’re not worth your own love is the problem. Go for the love. You’ll never be sorry.
– Geneen Roth