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Guide - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Emotions 1 - Emotions 2 - Emotions 3


"Our greatest enemy is the enemy within. - anonymous"

We are driven by unconscious personas within us. Impulses that drive our behavior and who all compete for dominance every single day of our lives. Because we are in our heads much of the time, we are not even aware that our hidden emotions are in the driver's seat and that we are sitting at the back of the bus that we call 'ourselves,' at the mercy of these shadows.

This is especially true for people who overeat for emotional reasons. They are on automatic pilot much of the time and are cut off from the emotions driving them to eat to excess. All they know is that they feel they NEED to eat and that they can't help it.


Because over time they've learned that food can help alleviate some of the pain they're feeling from not having their early needs met (at the very least). And, food may even be a substitute for these unmet needs.

Being loved consistently is a deep biological need, especially in the early years. It is not something that is simply 'pleasant' to have had as a child or something that if you had it, great, but if not no big deal.


Without it we don't develop fully. That used to be said metaphorically but now researchers are able to prove that physically/biologically. Take for instance the following quote from well known neuroscientist below, who spoke about brain development in infants and children;

" ... certain experiences are needed. Those experiences are embedded in the relationship between the caretaker and the infant ... there's something necessary ... that the human brain needs in terms of other human contact, for it to grow. It's a 'use it or lose it' situation. Cells that fire together, wire together. Cells that do not, die together. "

- Allan Schore, a member of the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCLA

What this researcher is saying is that in order for our brains to grow and develop, to wire properly and function optimally, we need our parents or caretakers to consistently interact with us in a kind, joyful way.

In other words they need to love us unconditionally. To be happy to see us when we come home, and to be kind and gentle when we are there. To express their joy in what we do and simply in our presence alone.

Those who were not lucky enough to grow up in this above environment (most of us weren't,) will end up having LESS neurons in one part of the brain than a person who did get the unconditional love. The love you get or didn't get can now be measured!

That is why it is a need, not a want. Infants have actually died in extreme cases of not getting it (google 'maternal deprivation experiments'.) Of course children generally don't die if they don't get enough love but their development is definitely affected. A child deficient in Vitamin D will develop rickets which means they'll be bow-legged the rest of their lives. A child deficient in love will develop all sorts of problems including the inability to regulate their emotions properly, lower IQ and a diminished sense of self. The impact of that on a person's life can be mild or it can be disastrous depending on the individual's personality and their other relationships and experiences.

Now if you didn't get that, or get enough of that, don't despair. As one therapist who I like to read once wrote, "nobody makes it out (of childhood) unscathed."

We've all been wounded to some degree or another and some part of us knows of our own damage. Even as kids we know that something went wrong. There is an emptiness that we shove out of our awareness.


Our void is outside of our awareness yet it affects our state of being and our behavior regardless. It makes us do things in our day that satisfies its' desires and cravings - the unmet emotional need. It does so with the same ferocity as a person seeking water in the desert, where nothing else matters and all thoughts are for water. This need inside the void is so important to us that we spend our whole lives chasing its' fulfillment and will even risk hurting ourselves to get it; the young guy in the gym who lifts weights at extreme and unsafe levels, trying to get bigger so girls will notice. The young woman who will take unsafe diet pills and even go under the knife with almost any plastic surgeon, hoping men will find her more appealing.

Although we're generally not aware of our void and of our intense longing, if we were to slow down and pay attention, we'd feel it - just a little, in the background, gnawing at us. We don't pay attention though because we dread it. If it tries to surface we shove it back into our unconscious and carry on with whatever helps us get through the day.

That void and the feelings that come with it are unbearable and painful, and so we want to fill it up, or distract from it by whatever means necessary, and one of our chosen ways to do this is to overeat.

Some people gamble, some drink, smoke, do drugs, use sex, shop or work too much. Others, eat too much.

All are forms of coping with the unbearable pain mentioned above. I believe that all of those coping strategies share the same core issue that began in childhood, and that they are ways that people use to try to fill the void and/or to distract from it.

Consider these images:

Soothed from Eating

This image is of a baby getting everything she needs - food, shelter and clothing. Look a little closer and you'll see that she is getting much more than that. In this display of affection and care taking, this baby is getting:

- Soothed (Emotional Regulation)
- Touch
- Protection/Safety
- Pleasure
- Love/Connection
- Acceptance

Assuming that the mother above is able to consistently attune to her child in a joyful and nurturing way, imagine what that must feel like for the child.

Now compare that first image to this second one:

Eating and Calming

This second image is of a grown adult woman who has the same body posture, tone and facial expressions as the baby did above. She's not getting quite what the baby did but what she is getting is quite similar:

- Soothed (Emotional Regulation)
- Touch (something tactile)
- Pleasure
- Feeling full and warm.

The only problem is that the baby receives nothing but benefits in both the short and long term. The grown woman gets the same short term (very short) benefits but then inherits long lasting, unwanted consequences.

What one gets by eating comfort foods are feelings.

The problem with getting those feelings through comfort eating is that they don't last, and so one has to repeat the behavior again and again. But, that's how we cope with what is too hard to bear.

Our Shadow is strong and has a firm grip on us. Becoming more conscious of it is how we tame it - more on that in upcoming chapters.

The next chapter will talk about some of the hurdles we face which prevent us from looking at the issue (our shadow) and really examining our harmful eating behaviors. All of the mentioned coping strategies above (smoking, drinking etc.) are harmful to us to some degree. Many have the advantage though of not being so visible to others and so it's easier for people who use those other strategies (non food related) to hide their 'dirty secret' from the outside world.

Not so with overeating.


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Guide - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Emotions 1 - Emotions 2 - Emotions 3