They look shy and meek on the outside knowing they are being mocked judged, but the drive to eat emotionally is powerful and too strong to simply resist.
If you are an emotional eater then you know deep down that some people look at you with disgust, as if the whole of you has no ability whatsoever to resist temptation or exercise discipline in any area of your life. To them you are weak-willed. What they see is the surface image you present, which is a very quiet and reserved one. You’ve learned to become ashamed of this coping behavior and by ‘hiding’ what’s inside, you hope not to attract any attention to yourself.
Underneath it’s a different story.
The emotions that drive you to overeat are deep and intense, and nothing at all like what you see on the surface. The pull they exert is tremendous and simply can’t be ignored. They’ll have to be dealt with somehow and when they become too much to bear people start looking for ways to avoid them. Eating is one way. Eating changes your body chemistry and calms you down in the same way drugs and alcohol do. It’s a perfect distraction and source of pleasure.
The problem is that your mood change is temporary, the effects lasting (weight gain) and you must do it again and again to get the same effect.
What Rages Underneath
The most common phrase that is repeated on tv talk shows and advice columns is that food is a substitute for love and that you can’t get love from food. That’s about as far as it goes though. As if pointing out the cause in simple terms is enough to make a person do an about face and change their lives. They then go on to say that overeaters have to ‘explore their relationship to food’ and then don’t tell them how to go about doing this exactly. The audience claps, the presenter takes a bow, the show’s over and then the message gets repeated over and over again in different ways on different shows.
What most people think:
If you ask most people what they think lies at the root of their emotional eating they’d say:
– Feeling bored
– Not being aware of their eating habits
– Lack of willpower
– Feeling like they deserve to have a treat
– Dissatisfaction with their lives
– No time for other activities that may calm them down
– Self hatred
The above answers have some truth to them.
The Single Biggest Emotion
Although there are many reasons people overeat emotionally, the majority share a root cause which is a feeling of:
The feeling of being deprived is a difficult one to bear. Say you’ve been left in the middle of the desert and have been walking for days without water. It would be safe to say that you are deprived of water, and when this is the case your mind wants to find it BADLY. It thinks of almost nothing else and gets you to focus all of your efforts on finding some. It’s not a choice, you need it.
More examples include:
– Being deprived of food. When people go hungry the same thing happens. They can’t focus on much aside from food, and end up thinking of nothing but how to get some.
– Sunlight: Neuroscientists know that some people deprived of sunlight are more prone to depression. It fuels an increased demand for sunny vacations for those living in northern climates in winter.
– Sleep: if you don’t get enough your body will make sure you know it. You’ll get achy muscles, headaches, confusion and a feeling of malaise in hopes that you’ll get the hint.
The deprivation that emotional eaters feel is a lack of love early on.
Children need love consistently when they are growing up, in the same way they need food and shelter. They can’t eat sometimes and expect to fully grow or be sheltered part time and expect to live a normal life. They need those things ALL the time and the same is true with love.
Love is a Need, not a Want
A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy – it changes your teeth. A lack of love causes brain trauma – it changes your entire life.
Love is not something that is just ‘nice to have’ as a kid. It is a real need. When we lack adequate nurturing, we don’t grow the same way and florish as well others do who did get it. Because we can survive with food, shelter and protection, it’s harder to see the difficluties that arise from a lack of love early on. If one does have problems when they are older it is assumed that it’s their fault, and they are looked upon unfavorably. In reality most adult problems stem from inadequate emotional care in childhood.
What wasn’t given in childhood is searched for with fierce desperation for the rest of that person’s life. Like the man trapped in the desert looking for water – nothing else matters.
Almost everything people do with the rest of their lives is in some way connected to trying to get what they lacked as a child in some way (emotionally).
Here are some examples:
Success – Seeking your definition of fame and success no matter what it looks like, is one way to ensure you’ll be looked at in a favorable light by others. It could be anything from being a rock star to living through your child’s acheivments. In any case, it’s usually not easy.
That’s how powerful DEPRIVATION is! Think about how much work has to go into trying to become the best at something, or to be so good that you are in the spotlight in some domain. The amount of time and energy you have to put in just to get what you parents didn’t give you is colossal.
People who were brought up with unconditional love feel the ups and downs of life for sure, but are okay with who they are and are grounded by it. They don’t need to strive to these impossible standards to be alright.
Body Modification – Think of women going under the knife to get a face lift or tummy tuck or any other form of plastic surgery. They spend thousands of dollars and have their body sliced open, accepting all the risks that go with it, just to ‘feel’ that they are now more acceptable. The same dynamic is at play with men who go to the gym (especially young men) and lift heavy weights and buy all kinds of supplements. Many push so hard they hurt themselves. I need to repeat that they hurt themselves, in the hopes that they will feel like they are ‘better’ and that maybe now people will notice and want to be with them.
The emotion that exerts the most influence on people who overeat for emotional reasons (and for those who use other methods) is deprivation.
Deprivation is not an emotion that can simply be pushed aside or ignored while one carries on with their lives.
It affects almost every part of a person’s life for the rest of their lives, and that usually includes: the partner they choose, the amount of education they get, the friends they have, how they take care of themselves, the jobs they take on, and so much more.
The only way to lessen the hold that your feeling of deprivation has on you is to first get in touch with it, and then learn to deal with it. It can take years to do this, which I know can be depressing to hear, but at least it can be changed.
And, it’s worth it.
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