What’s Eating You?
How to Solve Emotional Eating from the Inside Out
Catherine is sitting in my office upset that she’s gained 50 lbs. since her gastric bypass surgery a couple of years ago. She’s terrified that her weight might continue to increase unless she’s able to put the brakes on her emotional eating.
“During the past two years my father’s illness progressed and he finally passed on. I’m still reeling from that. However, I spent a lot of time traveling to take care of him and dealing with my mom and siblings. I felt so hurt, angry, sad, and overwhelmed. All that seemed to make me feel better was to eat and drink extra calories. I hardly knew I was doing it. And now I’m eating because I’m relieved and happy that it’s all over.”
She does recognize that she has gained weight because of emotional eating. Many of my clients don’t recognize that at first.
Emotional eating is eating in response to emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, happiness, or boredom, rather than true body hunger. When emotional eating becomes severe, I call it Binge Eating Disorder.
Do you eat out of emotional pain, to feel better quickly, numb out or avoid your problems? Have you not dealt with a current or past trauma (divorce, emotional or physical abuse, accident, bad marriage, illness, accident, for example)? Are you trying to distract yourself from your problems? Are you afraid to eat what you really want to eat or do you eat to please others? Is your weight gradually increasing?
If you answered “YES” to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from emotional eating. Emotional, or non-hunger, eating usually leads to weight gain, which is just one more problem that causes you pain and for which you seek help.
Many of my clients have tried every diet in the world. They have lost weight, regained weight, and added even more weight back over the years. Now many of them are out of energy and hope, so they are investigating lap-band surgery, thinking that, finally, that will cure them or fix their weight problems for good.
They are often still afraid that even lap-band surgery won’t work. Sometimes it does, but usually not without having to deal with the source of the emotional eating, either before or after the surgery. This can set you up for another failure and even depression and anxiety unless you are ready to do the real emotional work necessary.
Many of my clients have been able to avoid bariatric (lap-band or gastric by-pass or gastric sleeve) surgery by following the emotional, nutritional, and life strategies that I’ve designed for them. What a relief! They saved the time, expense, and recovery of that. Now you can have great, life-long skills to solve your inner problems on your own most of the time!
It’s important to know that the way to overcome a co-dependency with food is not to take it away first, but to find appropriate and satisfying replacements so that emotional eating is no longer an issue. You can do this more quickly and easily than you can imagine when you discover the right tools for you. Sometimes you DO need to do the harder work of learning how to deal with some of your traumas first. So if you can no longer eat for emotional security, how will you deal with your pain and problems or another crisis down the road?
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