Revisiting my problem

Monday, August 09, 2010

Here's my honest, embarrassing, but necessary confession: I have gained a good deal of weight in the last six months. Probably about half of the 70 pounds I originally lost with the help of Sparkpeople - frankly, I'm not quite ready to look at the numbers. It happened slowly at first, then at a pace that was frighteningly rapid. Obviously, it's time to reevaluate my life as it relates to food and health.

So I've been reading some Geneen Roth, and it seems I'm a compulsive eater. I never thought of myself as a compulsive eater - those are the people who go to meetings, for goodness sake. But defined broadly (no pun intended), anyone who habitually eats when they're not hungry is a compulsive eater. That would be me, clearly, since if I ate only when hungry and stopped when I was satisfied, I would not be overweight at all, much less gaining weight like crazy.

I have searched for the answer to this issue of "emotional eating" ever since I adopted a healthier lifestyle almost 3 years ago, with no real success. The solution most people, including Sparkpeople experts, give is essentially distraction: when you feel upset or anxious or mad, do something else besides eat. Go get some exercise. Talk to a friend. Take a relaxing bath. As long as you don't eat to mask the feelings, it's OK to mask them in any other way you can invent.

But then there are still those pesky feelings. I'm discovering that pushing them away by eating, by escaping into a book or a computer game, by doing anything besides facing them, doesn't really solve the problem, does it? They are still there. They come back over and over, and I have to fight the same battle of distraction over and over ... and eventually, inevitably, I lose.

Geneen Roth's solution is unbelievably simple - and very scary. Face them, she says. Just sit with your feelings. Don't allow yourself to run away, don't numb them with food or anything else. Examine them, without trying to change them or make them go away. Just notice their color, their shape, their weight, how old you feel when you experience them directly. Give them space to be felt. At the same time, hear the stories you have told yourself about them, and recognize that the stories are not the same thing as the feelings. No, you will not fall to pieces if you let yourself feel that sadness. No, that anger will not consume you and burn you up if you don't bury it. Yes, you are strong enough to feel that grief, and yes, it will pass.

I have spent so many years keeping feelings at bay that this "solution" seems exponentially more difficult than the "problem" of eating when I'm not hungry. But in the end, I think, the eating is a symptom rather than the problem itself. Geneen Roth says that eating is so fundamental to our identities that it is a doorway through which we can discover amazing truths about ourselves. It's not a "problem" - it's a clue and an opportunity to figure out what drives us.

So I'm embarking on this journey again, at the moment without counting calories or making elaborate meal plans. I know what a healthy diet looks like, and I know what healthy habits help my body be its best. Right now I'm just going to listen to my body and my emotions and work on learning to distinguish between their very different wants and needs. It feels like flying without a net. But if I can't learn to trust myself, I'll never fly at all.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • TIARAG03
    You are AMAZING!!!!!! Good Luck and let your body be the loudest voice of all!!!!!
    3759 days ago
    I agree with the fact that one must face the problem. Even if it takes a few days of mulling over it.

    I am a compulsive eater as well and I have to handle depression too! It isn't easy. I have always disagreed with the fact that one must have a bath, read, or other things in order to relax. That has never been a solution. (The problem is still there and the choice as to whether to act upon it or not to.)

    It is too bad about you gaining back some weight, but with it, there will be learning. I have lost 40 lbs and then gained back 20. I then joined Spark when I noticed that I was really starting to let go and gain even faster. Now, I am basically where I was when I joined Spark. I haven't gained anymore nor have I lost lots. I am not impressed with myself, but I am content with the fact that I don't have to figure out in the clothing store what will fit me.

    Life is always about new things and challenges and just when you think that you have everything figured out about doing something...It doesn't work out.

    I think that listening to your body is a great idea. Just don't do go deaf when it shouts at you! emoticon
    3763 days ago
  • JUDITH1654
    Hang tough, my friend. Every revelation gets you one step closer to your goal. emoticon
    3764 days ago
    Thanks everyone for the supportive comments!

    I have done the Beck thing (not that book but another) and it didn't exactly work for me because it was all disciplining yourself, imho. Building up the part of you that sticks to a plan and weakening the part that gives in to temptation, and sticking to a plan no matter what. I'm finding that I need to go deeper, to what's behind all that. I desperately want to be able to listen to my body and trust it when it says that it needs 2000 calories today, but tomorrow it will only need 1600. I'm not particularly interested in a "food plan" per se, but in finding a way to take food out of the spotlight and breaking the cycle of deprivation, indulgence, and guilt that centers around it now.
    3766 days ago
    I've been doing a ton of work with Beck's 4 Day Win book.
    I totally hear you on this.
    And- fyi-, there's a team called 'Seperation of weight & Church" (you can get it off my main page) that has a 2010 challenge that natters on and on and on about this stuff with one another. The -you have to change the way you THINK stuff- they way you FEEL- and her stuff has sort of neuological challenges that help to reset your brain to more of a thin person... Take a peek. It's a great and way too active team!
    3766 days ago
    First - good to see you on SP again! :) We have missed you!

    I totally understand where you are coming from, by not quite accepting the 'emotional eater' label. In fact, I wrote a very similar blog about a year ago! I love what you say about facing your emotions, instead of trying to bury them. Burying never works. Facing them is hard, but in the long run, it's the only thing that really makes sense.

    Good luck sorting through this. If you want to meet up for a walk/coffee/whatever, I've got a few weeks before classes start! :)
    3766 days ago
  • RHALES199
    I've re-gained some weight in the last year, too, so please know you're not the only one who has :)!
    3767 days ago
    I am a compulsive over eater as well. I can't tell you how many times I have taken off a large amount of weight and put it back on. I am learning that making lifestyle changes are the only thing that will really work for lasting weight loss. I have to quit making exceptions to go on and off my food plan and give up the all or nothing attitude and forgive myself when I make mistakes and move on. There are lots of us out there but we can do this!
    3767 days ago
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