Sunday, February 27, 2011

Can't stop eating? It's NOT about willpower!

At a social function recently, I talked to a guy (let's call him Trevor) who kept going back to the dessert table.  Trevor said his problem was willpower.   If he had more willpower, he could stay away from all those desserts.   If he had more willpower, he'd lose the extra pounds that he'd packed on in the last year.

His wife was across the room talking to another couple, looking animated and having fun.  At one point she glanced over and saw Trevor checking out the cakes.  An expression of revulsion crossed her face and she turned away.  She paid little to no attention to Trevor the whole night.

I asked Trevor what was going on a year ago, before the weight gain started.  He and his wife started having problems at that time.  He turned to food for comfort, but the weight served an additional purpose.  As painful as it was for him to think about the weight he gained and to struggle with food, it was easier to focus on the those things than to feel pain, helplessness and disappointment about the marriage.

The extra weight also gave Trevor the illusion that he could repair the relationship by losing weight.  He told me, "If I could just lose  the 20 pounds, I think she'd like me again."

The real problem was the relationship, not the food.   The next time you focus on what you're eating, think about what's eating you.

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Angela said...

I definitely use my eating disorder and restriction of food as a way to take the focus off of painful things in my life. Also, because I was raped as a child, I think it is a way for me to feel like I have control of my own body. I wish that I could find a replacement behavior that worked as well.

Dr. Nina said...

Angela, it sounds as if you've got a lot of insight into your behavior around food. It can be so frustrating when what "knowing" doesn't translate into "changing" (at least not as immediately or as consistently as you'd like). I hope you find peace along your journey to recovery...

Joanna said...

Nicely said, Nina. My focus is on women with eating disorders. So I especially appreciate your telling a man's story. It might help women to know that men struggle with these issues too.

warm regards,


chad-roscoe said...

It's like that old joke, "Yeah, well I can lose weight, but you'll still be a jerk!" If the weight is always there to be lost, there's always a problem, that could, might, possibly be fixed, that could make your life perfect. If there's no "problem" and things still aren't working what does THAT mean? That's one reason why the weight can be hard to let go of. W/o the weight to be the "problem" it could be that your just a jerk too, or a loser, or a ....