How to Address Emotional Comfort Eating
So you have your goals written down, you know exactly how much weight you want to lose and you can’t wait to start your new regime.
But first, you will need to conduct a little investigation.
Ask yourself – when did you first realise that you needed to lose weight? Maybe you were overweight as a child and can’t remember being any different. But if not, you have to think back to the time when you started putting on weight.
Quite often an emotional event in our lives, if left unprocessed, can lead to comfort eating and therefore weight gain. Rather than deal with the situation, we panic and start eating to comfort ourselves. When a decision needs to be taken, we postpone it by eating, then put on weight and then complain that we can’t possibly take any decisions until we lose weight.
Simon realised that he started overeating after being fired from a well-paid job of 10 years. Simon liked his job and being made redundant was a shock to him, especially since redundancy has been a result of a complex intrigue by his deputy. Instead of facing the problem and challenging his deputy, my client spent his days at home and started comfort eating. In a course of several sessions we explored the reasons why Simon allowed the intrigue to unravel behind his back and preferred “not to notice” what was going on. Realising that he had a choice in the situation, Simon felt a surge of energy and went on to sue the company for the breach of contract. His comfort eating tendencies disappeared in a matter of days and he lost all the extra weight he gained sitting at home within weeks.
Our relationship with food is formed very early, before we can walk or talk. Food is one of our first sources of comfort, so it is not surprising that we rely on it in times of distress. It is a “friend” that is always there when we need it.
Angela started putting on weight after her husband of 15 years left her for her best friend. Angela was still hoping that her husband would come back and, coming home from work, spent her evenings at home, drinking wine and eating a lot. After she had put on some weight, she started going out even less, as her old clothes no longer fit her. Since her relationship with her ex had no resolution, she could not start a new one. After working with me for a few months, Angela was able to process her feelings of anger and betrayal towards her husband and her best friend and was able to let the situation go. This allowed her to face the future and make plans, which did not involve sitting at home and comfort eating alone.
Sometimes the event, that precipitated weight gain, seems to be a happy occasion, so we need to look deeper into it to understand it’s significance.
My client Sharon started gaining weight after her wedding. It was a happy event for Sharon, her friends and her family. Sharon was in love with her husband and he was in love with her. At first, Sharon put her overeating down to being happy and content at last. However, when I asked Sharon if anything is bothering her at the moment, she said that her relationship with her husband’s family is getting worse and it really upsets her. Tim’s family was never very welcoming to his new girlfriend, no matter how hard she tried to fit in. Sharon started comfort eating to stop thinking about the situation. Interestingly, Tim’s parents and siblings have all been “big”, so unconsciously Sharon was trying to fit in by getting bigger! Understanding of what was happening allowed Sharon to make decisions about how to deal with her in-laws and to stop trying too hard to please them. She started seeing less of them and soon got back into her pre-wedding dress size.
Allowing yourself to remember the time and place when your relationship with food went wrong, you will understand the real reasons behind your weight gain. Letting go of the past traumas will, in turn, facilitate letting go of the excessive weight.
All names and details of the case studies have been changed for confidentiality reasons