I am an emotional eater. Due to my emotional eating, I am also obese. For decades, I have been trying to lose the extra weight. I have found that the world is full of (bad) advice on how to do that. The problem is that as long as my emotional eating goes untreated, none of the diets will work in the long term. And the same will go for you, dear reader, if you are a pathological emotional eater too.
At first, I was not even aware of being an emotional eater. A year in therapy has helped me to figure that out. So, now, my common sense tells me I need to deal with this emotional eating issue first. That seems to be one of the root causes for why I am not able to keep weight off. I mean, losing weight is easy. I have probably lost 200 pounds during my life, so that’s doable. I’ve never managed to keep it off, however, so that is the part that needs work.
Unfortunately, that’s not how many other people see it. They just see the extra weight and rush me to shed it. It seems that they think that when all the extra weight is gone, I will be happy and all my problems will disappear. Well, I have been there and done that, and it did not work that way. Most of my problems and issues stuck, even though I got rid of the weight. Go figure.
Sometimes I try to tell these people who are pushing me on a diet that I have an eating disorder. I am a binge eater that eats to cope with her feelings. This, however, is never received well. I probably don’t tell it the best possible way, because it is such a sore and difficult issue for me. I cannot even write it down here without crying. The feedback I get when I tell this to people is along the lines that I’m making excuses. That I am solely responsible for what I put into my mouth, and it is just about choosing well. And motivation. And willpower.
I suppose this is the main approach to “treating” obesity. And if it doesn’t work, blame the fat-ass who cannot control herself. No need to reconsider the method.
On the bright side, it looks like there are professionals who understand obesity and eating disorders a bit better. Yesterday someone showed me a slide from an obesity treatment workshop. It was titled treatment of pathological emotional eaters. The first bullet point said “It is not realistic to try to achieve giving up the symptom (overeating) in the early phase of the treatment. The function of the symptom is critical to survival.”
I got so happy when reading this. Someone else also understands my feelings! For me, when I have the binge and emotional eating urge, trying to resist it leads to a panic attack. Restricting my ability to binge when I need it to cope with my emotions feels like someone is trying to cut off my oxygen. I need the binge to survive, to stay alive, that moment. It is so crucial.
If you have been in the same situation, you probably understand. If you haven’t, you probably don’t. But I am glad that at least scientists and some health care providers have started to understand, because only then can proper treatment and help become available. And what is the proper help and treatment? An emotional eater needs to learn alternative ways to cope with emotions. An understanding of how the emotional eating started and how it serves in the present moment is needed as well. Often, the roots of severe emotional eating are in emotional and/or physical abuse in childhood. That needs to be dealt with in long-term psychotherapy.
I’d like to end this post by reminding you that very few things in life are simple and easy. If someone says losing weight for good is simple and easy, they are wrong. It is not. Human beings are complicated. One simple solution that worked for Amanda next door, may not work for you. And that is just because you are not Amanda. You are you, with your own unique situation and root causes. There is no need to feel bad that the cabbage soup diet that did wonders on Amanda did not work for you. It was just the wrong approach to weight loss, and there is nothing amiss with you.