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Monday, July 16, 2007

Emotional Eating

What is an emotional eater? Show me a person who is not an emotional eater, and I will show you the dead eating!

It's one of the axioms that roll off the tips of peoples mouths like sweat rolling off my nose while on the ski machine. Now, I don't have anything against the notion of emotional eating. My problem is that the definition is so broad that everyone should be tipping the scales because everyone falls under the category of emotional eating.

If the definition is that we have emotional attachments and feelings toward food then I humbly suggest that this is a worthless definition that will do nothing to help those truly seeking to get at the root of their problems which lead them to over eat unhealthy foods. To say that I have an emotional attachment to food begs the question. Everyone does. How do we celebrate holidays? How do we celebrate birthdays? What do we do after a funeral? What do we do for family reunions? The list could go on and on and on. Yet, many people still manage to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I suggest that if you have no emotions regarding food then you are dead.

On the other hand, I like the Mayo clinic's definition of emotional eating:

But emotional eating — eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, anxiety, boredom, sadness and loneliness — can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Often, emotional eating leads to eating too much food, especially high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods.


Eating to suppress or soothe negative emotions makes a lot of sense to me. I can buy this definition. Thinking about this, I am not so sure that what happened the other day was actually emotional eating. It was simply a myopia resulting from stress. I was not eating to suppress anything. It was still a learning moment and a problem and yes very emotional, but in a different sense.

However, I can admit to having eaten out of boredom, but not enough to account for the weight I reached. If I have been trying to suppress other emotions, I have not figured out what they are. Maybe I need a shrink to help out. Certainly, I have felt a lot of depression, but that was only recent and could not account for it. I didn't eat any worse after the feelings as before.

Actually, I have come up with some issues I believe are related to the weight gain. I believe that one of the issues is control. I know that sounds strange because it seems like a lack of control is what got me that way. I think that I have felt that things in my life have been out of my control. I couldn't change people. I couldn't change my circumstances. I couldn't change this or that. Some I realize was just perceived and some I truly couldn't do anything about. Instead of dealing with my feeling of not being in control, I turned to food. If I wanted it, I could eat it. If I wanted this or that, I could eat this or that. If I wanted to eat half a pie or a dozen cookies, I could. I was in control of what I put in my body. I was in control of how much I put in body.

In reality, I was out of control...WAY OUT OF CONTROL. As I look back as to why I started this journey of fitness, I think I knew that I was out of control. Now, I believe that I am learning to control what I can, and learning to confront my feelings where I have no control.

In addition to the control issue, I believe I had an issue of self-respect. My lack of self-respect was passive rather than active. I simply didn't consider respecting myself. I didn't consider what I was doing to my body or how I was affecting myself and the people around me when I didn't eat healthy nor exercise. Now, I am trying to respect myself and to respect this body God gave me. This is where one of my greatest revelations came. When I respect myself, I show respect for every other aspect of my life. I show more respect for my wife and kids, my friends, my work, and everything else.

So I have discovered two main issues: Control and Self-Respect. I don't see how I was eating to suppress anything by these. Perhaps, I was and just don't realize it. In the broad sense of the term, I will always be an emotional eater. In the Mayo Clinic sense, I am still uncertain whether I fit the definition.

I am very thankful that I have come this far. I give credit to all you bloggers and commenters. You have been a tremendous help and motivation. I am looking forward continuing this journey for the rest of my life.

Living Fit Is My #1 Job!

16 comments:

Sayre said...

Food for thought, as it were. Having been there myself, I can tell you that anorexia is a mirror for the other side of control. It's not necessarily about being skinny (or fat) but about controlling your body by what you do or don't put into it to an unhealthy extreme. I never made the connection before - that they are two sides of the same coin.

You made me think today.

Christine said...

I don't know why I overate. I think boredom, I think lack of self respect, lack of self esteem...that I had high my highest weight, so I might as well just eat whatever - what difference is it going to make? My husband still still says he loves me, he won't leave - might as well eat. OH gosh - I guess I was an emotional eater. ;)

I have found control as well, it feels good to be in control of some things now. Great blog today.

Spidey said...

I don't overeat all the time due to emotional reasons. However, I think that sometimes when I am stressed out (like you were about your brother), it can lead to situations where I just completely go off any plan and go eat at a pizza buffet, chinese buffet, or something else that is completely bad for me.

ArleneWKW said...

Excellent points. Am I respecting myself now would be an excellent question for me to ask myself. The trouble is that I sometimes allow myself to be emotionally unconscious when I get the reckless eating urge.
I've got to make an effort to be conscious enough to give myself the respect I deserve.

"The Captain" said...

When I am upset I tend to undereat now. I never realized I was emotionally eating until I listened to the Dr. Phil Cd's on weight loss. I will be back on Friday. I told you before your site brings back the excitement of the beginning of the journey and is helping me lose my last 15 pounds.
Jeff

Rebecca said...

I am definately an emotional eater. I think it started some when I was a kid, and was rewarded for good things with a treat of some type. Now, I shop as my reward...and eat when I am upset, bored or or just feeling lifeless.

I enjoyed your post.

celtic_girl said...

You raise some good issues re control or lack of it. Fo me it's the impulsiveness and lack of disicpline.

Also, well done on your losses over the last two weeks, your in the zone.

CactusFreek said...

My definition of emotional eating has always been, when you feel stressed or whatever, and you raid the pantry and eat everything you can get your hands on.
I never really thought about it as anything else. Because you are right, we are all feeling something when we eat.

Half Man said...

Thank you all for yoru feedback. I never was a pantry raider. If anything, when I am distraught, I tend to lose my appetite. When my mother died, I don't think I ate...or slept for three days.

Pandora Woman said...

Another interesting blog to add to my weekly rounds. Your last post was inspiring and very honest.

I have always realised that eating with me was a way to reward, sooth, calm, an any other emotion you can mention. It wasn't untill I started loooking for the deeper reason for it when I stumbled on the naked truth. I did not respect myself. It showed in the way I dressed, presented myself, referred to myself. I was always the one making the "fat" jokes about me, thinking I avoided others making them, when fact I made fat jokes that others would never have made.

And that was the saddest part. From then on it was a hard upwards struggle, which makes loosing weight look like peanuts. Perhaps that is why right now I do not really feel my new healthy way of living is that difficult.

But then, I dread the day when my willpower and motivation wane, and I have to rely on the fact that healthy eating is a part of me, a habit as it were.

Well, the proof is in the pudding! I will add you to my links, I hope this is alright.

Lily T said...

I know I eat certain foods to sooth overly negative feelings, and I’m notorious for gaining weight when stressed. I never thought of it as a control and self-respect thing, and the more I think about it the more I think your observations also applies to me.

It sucks that you are feeling depressed. Even if it doesn’t affect your weight, I feel you should find a way to take care of yourself. Have you talked about it with your wife? She might want to know. I know I would like to know if my husband is feeling depressed. However, I’m glad that you are aware of it. That’s always the first step to feeling better.

Lisa said...

Wow, everything you said made total sense. I've always felt the same way. When I can't control other aspects of my life, I can control food. It's a crutch I can blame for my weight and so much more, but it's something that I could control (or at least I use to feel this way, not realizing that i was way out of control, and the food was the one in control of me).

I think the self-respect comes with the realization that you are taking charge of your life. I'm starting to feel that way too, and gaining a lot more respect and love for myself.

Great blog! I found it through another diet site, and I'll def. be checking in, giving some support.

Keep up the good work!

WeeeSplat said...

Hey dude, am new to the blog scene... have just looked at your progress pics and OMG you have come so far! Congrats :)

Kim Ayres said...

The problem is the COMBINATION of reasons. We can eat out of boredom, which then triggers a addictive binge, after which we feel self loathing which causes us to emotionally medicate with food, which creates a sugar comedown the following day that sets up a craving...

This is an excellent post, Half-man. Personal insights like this are major tools in our journeys

Half Man said...

Pandora - Thanks for visiting. For some reason, bad habits are easy to form and keep, but good ones take a lot of work.

Lily T- Thanks. My wife knows a little bit, but I try not to burden her too much with the pregnancy and all her stress with dealing with the kiddos.

Lisa - Thanks. Self-respect been an important key so far.

Weeesplat - Thanks for your comments and for stopping by.

Kim - I am sure that it must be a combination of reasons. Some reasons are related as you list, some could be unrelated. I think one of the things that concerns me is what is different between the healthy and the obese. I know healthy people that have the same struggles, but once they binge, they do not repeat it day after day. What is the difference?

Kim Ayres said...

The difference is like the alcoholic with alcohol. Non alcoholics can still drink far too much and get blind drunk, but they will not feel compelled to repeat it every night. The alcoholic is compelled because of their constitution and addiction.

I think it's exactly the same with us and food.