Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Is it ALWAYS emotional eating?

Ever wonder something like THIS:

“If I’m overeating or bingeing, is it always about something emotional?  Can’t it just be about the food?”

First, it’s important to distinguish between and overeating and bingeing.

Overeating means, “eating to excess” and that’s different from bingeing.     There are reasons you may overeat that has nothing to do with feelings:

Many Americans overeat on Thanksgiving, which has to do with food, not feelings. 

If you don’t eat enough and you get to the point where you’re starving, you may not be able to stop once you start eating, and end up overeating.

Binge eating is different. 

Binge eating is a way of coping with something psychological through the physical action of eating.

Whatever that psychological piece is, is the root of the behavior.  It may be emotional, or it could be something else. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of emotional eating – which means you turn to food to avoid uncomfortable emotions.   But that’s only part of the story.

But it can also be…

A way of translating emotional pain to physical.

When emotional pain is too much to bear, painful feelings can be unconsciously converted into physical sensations.   

Linda’s Story

Shortly after Linda broke up with her boyfriend, she ordered a large pizza because that’s all she could think about.  Over the course of the next few hours she ate the entire pizza by herself. 

“I ate so much it hurt,” she reported.  “I was in so much pain I literally couldn’t move.”

Linda was more focused on her painfully full stomach than on the heartache she felt about the breakup.  By eating until she was in physical pain, she converted emotional hurt to physical hurt.

Also, she made herself very full, which symbolically filled the void she felt at the loss of the relationship.

Makes sense.  Now what?

If you find yourself in physical pain from eating, ask yourself what is hurting your feelings.

That needs to be your focus (tough to process, but practice makes progress).

When you heal your heart, you won’t feel the need to use food to cope.  When Linda grieved the end of her relationships, she no longer expressed the ache of loss of the wish for fulfillment through food.

And that's how she made peace with food (and you can, too!).

Food For Thought:
  • What is hurting your feelings right now?
  • How are you deprived?
  • What are you conflicted about in your life?
  • If you weren't thinking about food, weight and body image, what thoughts would occupy your mind?
When you identify and process what's weighing "on" you, you won't be as focused on what you weigh.  And that's how you make peace with food!

1 comment:

Shirl said...

As you know, I totally agree with everything you say about emotional eating and there will be countless reasons for it, some of which must go very deep. So it's no wonder people, myself included, struggle to get the weight off as really, we are dealing with "Drug" use.

I see what you mean about people overeating at Thanksgiving and other events too. Weddings and parties etc. But if it's not about emotional eating, then it's about the food. And if you are overweight and want to lose the weight, it should be easy to just cut back or go back to eating healthily when the event is over. But I'm willing to bet that more often than not, this doesn't happen.

Also, Thanksgiving and parties, weddings etc could be the ideal excuse for emotional eaters to over indulge.

So I think weight gain is on the whole, an emotional problem.