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Overeating: A Habit to be Broken


Gold Member
S: 20st0lb C: 16st7lb G: 12st12lb BMI: 36.2 Loss: 3st7lb(17.5%)
(from an e-letter I get - thought it might be of interest to others)

If you're just realizing that you're an Emotional Eater, you're probably starting to see that your diet failures haven't been due to lack of willpower but something deeper. Rest assured: overeating is a habit that can be broken.

There are two reasons that people eat. They eat for health: to nourish their bodies and minds. And they eat to soothe their emotions. Once a person learns to eat for emotional reasons, food becomes a necessary component of dealing with the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Emotional eating is a learned behavior, and it can be unlearned. If you're an emotional eater, at some point in your life you learned that food could make you feel better. Maybe it was when you were a child and your parents fought, maybe it was at college when you felt out of place, maybe it was after your children left home and you didn't know how to fill their absence. Each time you ate when you felt lonely, angry, upset, or bored you reinforced the belief that food is an effective coping mechanism. After awhile your mind began to believe that food was the only option. When that happened, controlling your weight became impossible. That's why it's been so difficult to succeed on a diet.

Through working with thousands of dieters, I've found that people overeat when they are emotionally hungry (there is an important need in their life that is unmet). What turns this emotional hunger into physical hunger is the belief that the unmet need is never going to be satisfied. When that happens, they feel powerless. I have been able to identify five different kinds of powerless experiences that contribute to emotional hunger and overeating. In my book Shrink Yourself I discuss these five conclusions at length.

Conclusion #1 - Self-Doubt Layer
1. You are asked to do something at work that you don't know how to do. You automatically come to the powerless conclusion that this proves you're stupid. To feel this way is devastating but you don't have to go to the vending machine and eat to numb this feeling. I'll show you how to talk back to your inner critic and erase the idea that the real you is stupid or defective.

Conclusion #2 - Reward/Frustration Layer
2. You go on your eighteenth date from Match.com. No one feels right despite all the hope you have going into each date. You come to the conclusion that you're defeated, and there's nothing you can do about it. The search for a good mate can be disappointing but you don't have to deal with it by stopping at a fast food restaurant on your way home. I'll show you how to work on your relationships so you don't need food as a reward.

Conclusion #3 - The Safety Layer
3. You were hurt as a child or have had bad experiences as an adult. You come to the conclusion that you're unsafe and can't protect yourself. The trauma and pain you're feeling are real, but extra layers of fat can't change what happened to you and won't protect you from anyone. I'll show you how to create real safety by dealing with real issues.

Conclusion #4 - The Rebellion Layer
4. You're angry at your kids or spouse or parents. You come to the conclusion that eating is better than expressing how you really feel. You're afraid that if you express your anger you will lash out uncontrollably. Anger can, in fact, be a frightening emotion to deal with. I'll show you the difference between childish defiance and mature assertion.

Conclusion #5 - The Emptiness Layer
5. You almost never have plans at night. When you're alone you feel empty inside and can't experience fulfillment. You come to the conclusion that food is the only thing that can fill you up. Being alone can be really overwhelming, but I'll start you on a pathway to being able to fulfill yourself.

The good news is that each of these powerless experiences is a false experience. You're not powerless even though at times you feel powerless. And feeling powerless leaves you feeling emotionally hungry. The hunger switch turns this emotional hunger into physical hunger. You actually get hungry.

The way to stop overeating is to prove to yourself that you are not powerless by finding ways to satisfy your emotional hunger in the real world. In other words, you must prove to yourself, through a series of defining experiences that you can live without using food to shut down your mind.

Overeating is the main cause of obesity and many other major health problems. Once you learn how to recover your power and satisfy your emotional hunger, you'll be able to stop eating compulsively. You'll deal more effectively with life's problems, and eating sensibly won't be a losing struggle. You'll still have to pay attention to the facts about calories. It's very easy to gain weight. If you only eat an extra 100 calories a day, one apple (or a cookie, or a latte, or a soda) more than you need, you will gain twelve pounds a year. Do this for five years and seemingly harmless overeating has made you sixty pounds overweight and obese by definition.

Overeating can take many different forms. You can overeat by going on an occasional binge. You can overeat by snacking during the day, taking larger portions than you need, or sneaking in an extra dessert. You can overeat by taking in too many liquid calories in the form of soft drinks, alcohol, or lattes.

You will have to realize the ways in which you've felt powerless and recover your power by exploring each of the five powerless conclusions above. After all, you are not really powerless. Understanding yourself better and mastering your emotional responses to life is the key to breaking this habit. Your goal is to think and act instead of overeat. You learned this pattern one food choice at a time and you unlearn it one food choice at a time, too. Each time you stop yourself from emotional eating, the stronger your mind gets and the weaker your dependence on food gets.
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