have said before that emotional eating is something that we all do to some extent. But when you come to Shrink Yourself we invite you to take a diagnostic that will let you see the “X-ray” of your particular relationship to food. This is the first step to breaking the emotional eating habit. While you are unique, I would like to offer you a look at the composite picture of the emotional eating profile and share my insights. As we look closer at the most common answers below, you may find yourself similar to others or you may find yourself having different issues. Ultimately however I am sure it will let you see that you are not alone.
Frustration, Food and Failure
Does this sound like you?
I would like to lose weight in order to fit into my clothes better, become physically healthier and have more energy. I would also like to look good and attract more attention, approval and respect from other people. I think that, if I were to lose weight, I would become less critical of myself and improve my self esteem.
However, when someone criticizes me, takes me for granted or misunderstands me, it hurts, so I turn to the comfort of food to make myself feel better. When I feel angry, insecure or frustrated, I tend to give into my cravings and find myself binging on junk food in private.
Also when I am anxious or depressed, eating makes me feel nurtured and gives me a sense of satisfaction and control. But then afterwards, I feel like a self-sabotaging failure and incapable of losing weight.
This pattern of feeling frustrated, turning to food and then thinking that I failed, keeps me swimming in a pond of shame and guilt. Then the “perfectionist” in me just gives up, even though I know I am not getting enough satisfaction out of life!
In order to do the work of breaking the emotional eating habit (and yes, it does take work), you have to know what you hope to achieve by all this work. That is, what motivates you to change?
The strongest motivation to break the emotional eating habit is to have a direct effect on your body. The top five motivations for those who take the diagnostic are to fit into clothes better; feel better physically; have more energy; prevent future health problems and to be more healthy.
At first I was surprised that “to fit into clothes” was the top item over to be more healthy. But on reflection it makes a lot of sense. Every time you don’t fit in your clothes, you are uncomfortable and this pain causes you to turn against yourself. I have met no one who thinks of themselves as “fat” and actually likes their own body. The discomfort of tight clothing and the awareness it, is a strong motivating force to do something about the emotional eating that caused it.
When we look at losing weight as it relates to other people. Our responders most often want to be more attractive to other people in general and of course to their significant other.
There was no surprise in this context because the emotional eating diagnostic engenders trust and honesty. But if you would ask this same question in another context I think you would hear a different answer. Most people like to think they are just losing weight for themselves because doing it to please someone else seems like a submission to social pressure and all those who have pushed you to lose weight in the past. The answer to this question simply reminds us that there is such a thing as human nature, and all humans are social beings, and getting the admiration of love from others is an essential and unchangeable part of life.
The next set of motives to lose weight has to do with feeling better about yourself, not about your body, but about your mind and your emotions. Here are the top 4; to have better self-esteem,to be less critical of myself, to stop food from being a source of conflict in my life, and to relieve some of my moodiness, depression or anxiety.
In the world of motivations, the ones that are usually the most immediate and felt the strongest are the most compelling and help people follow through to their goals. These four motives reflect the pain of being stuck in the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting and diet failures which are the inevitable consequences of emotional eating. Emotional eating takes its the toll on your self esteem, fuels your self criticism, and has a pervasive effect on one’s daily life.
If emotional eating and excess weight cause so much pain, and there are so many good reasons to stop, why is it so hard to end the vicious cycle? Can you related to any of these?
Part of me wants to keep eating the way I do because...
1. food calms me down when I'm angry or frustrated
2. food is the only thing that lets me feel in control
3. food keeps me occupied when I'm bored
4. when I'm lonely food makes me feel better
5. I don't want anybody or anything to stop me from eating what I want
These top five answers tell the under part of the story, and hopefully add weight to what I have been saying about emotional eating all along. Over eating is a way of self medicating, it is a short term way of feeling better. It is seen as emergency self care for a bruised set of emotions. And it has tenacity. These are all strong statements, and strong motives to keep the emotional eating habit, and in most cases, until examined, are far stronger than all of the good positive motives stated above.
These last two statements point to deeper issues involved with overcoming an eating disorder. When you start the Shrink Yourself program you have to be willing to look at your self doubts, fears and stubborn defiance in order to end your emotional eating habits once and for all. Most people don’t believe that they can do that productively and safely.
1. I feel frustrated, bogged down, and not getting enough satisfaction out of life.
2. I am a perfectionist or very critical of myself and I bothered by self doubts.
The hundreds of testimonials we receive regularly from Shrink Yourself members tell us that almost everyone started the program scared that they would be putting themselves into danger if they started down the path to getting better. They anticipated a loss. However, they received a great benefit instead.
Are you ready to resolve the “real” issues that cause you to self medicate with food?
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)
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