If you truly want to understand the nature of emotional eating, you should study Geneen Roth’s best-selling book, Women, Food and God. It is beautifully written and filled with really useful information.
“I tell them [people in my retreats]that if compulsive eating is anything, it’s a way we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don’t want to notice what is going on. Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be. I tell them that ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. To not leave themselves. I tell them that they don’t have to make a choice between losing weight and doing this. Weight loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lost weight. But I also tell them that compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul. We refuse to take in what sustains us. We live lives of deprivation. And when we can’t stand it any longer, we binge. The way we are able to accomplish all of this is by the simple act of bolting—of leaving ourselves—hundreds of times a day.”
Apart from the lovely way that Geneen says this, she is extremely perceptive when she says that compulsive/emotional eating is the refusal to face reality, the refusal to face anything uncomfortable or difficult. So emotional eating is a way to escape reality.
Again Geneen describes the real issue so well:
“Her [the compulsive eater] problem is not about the food she consumes. Her problem, though it eventually would become excess weight, is not weight. It’s that she doesn’t know—no one ever taught her—how to “face” (as she calls it) her “deficiency.” The emptiness. The dissatisfaction.”
I’ve found over 20 distinct triggers that cause emotional eating. But what they all have in common is something uncomfortable that we don’t want to face. Emotional eaters chose eating as a way to numb themselves to that discomfort. But as Geneen clearly points out, the real issue is not the eating, it’s our unwillingness to live in the moment and face the uncomfortable.
Solving this problem is three-fold:
First, you need to de-condition eating, so it isn’t what you automatically use to go unconscious, in order to numb yourself to the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings you don’t want to face. Once you’ve done that, you will no longer eat automatically whenever you have uncomfortable feelings you want to escape.
Second, you need to eliminate the beliefs and conditionings that cause the thoughts and feelings that are so scary to you.
Third, you need to discover that you have thoughts and feelings, but they are not who you are. (The “Who Am I Really?” Process will help you with this.) That realization will make it easier to allow yourself to experience and just “be with” your negative thoughts and feelings, without needing to do anything to escape them.
For more details, please see my eBook, The Secret to Ending Overeating For Good, at http://emotionaleatingreport.com. You also can get answers to specific questions at my office, 415-884-0552.
Copyright © 2011 Morty Lefkoe
5 thoughts on “It’s About Escape, Not Food”
Thanks for your blogs on emotional eating. I read them avidly. Am now reading Geneen Roth’s book. It is my dearest wish to rid myself of this most horrendous of all problems. So far I have had no break throughs. I still overeat and am gaining weight which was earlier controlled by a rigid diet. So will continue to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps you can see that I am quite desperate.
Thought i should report an interesting appetite reaction. I recently had a death in the family that brought up a lot of emotional history (abandonment, grief, inadequacy). I found myself eating and being really sad. My boyfriend suspected i was getting depressed, so he drove down 400kms to spend a few days with me (i am nursing my mum at the moment). To my surprize i didn’t feel hungry at all. I learned just how quickly we can fall into this eating trap.
Your boyfriends arrival eliminated the trigger, and when the trigger disappeared, the need to eat also disappeared.
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