Emotional eating has you in it’s clutches. And it will keep you prisoner until you satisfy the need you have that is going unmet.
I’ve mentioned before that most emotional eating or overeating stems from loneliness. That’s why the name of this website is eating love, because what you’re trying to do when you eat is to comfort yourself from the pain that you’re in because you feel disconnected from other people.
Namely the people who are closest to you, or who are supposed to be closest to you like your parents good friends, spouse and children if you have any.
What does it mean to be connected? Many people feel that they have a close relationship with the important people in their life because they spend a lot of time with them, or because they talk a lot with them or are in their proximity for much of the time. They equate speaking and being close to people to being connected to people. But that’s not the same thing.
We all know of families who are very dysfunctional – and that likely includes most of us – who spend a lot of time together, who seem like a tight knit family who have each other’s backs, yet are still depressed and miserable. We also know of people who have been married for decades who spend the majority of their days together, eating, traveling and so on, who remain perfect strangers to each other even after all that time.
Many of us have friends who we hang out with often enough but still feel not that close to.
Some of us have no friends, no partner, no children and our parents have long since deceased or we are estranged from them. Those of us in this category feel the same as those in the categories above who have lots of people around them. In this category we feel lonely and disconnected and so to do the people in the other category who have plenty of relationships.
And so to combat this loneliness, which is really pain, we eat to soothe and satisfy that unmet need.
CONNECTION AND BEING SEEN
What we need are authentic relationships. An authentic relationship is one where you are able to fully be yourself in front of the other person.
Once you have that with at least a handful of people, again the important people in your life, then that need is met, your anxiety goes down because you feel secure. To feel secure means that you are authentically yourself, 100%, and everything is okay.
Notice that’s the exact same thing that you needed when you were a young child. Young children need to feel safe and seen, and for that to happen they need to be able to express themselves as they truly are and know that everything will be okay.
The problem is that when you are honest with people they tend to get offended, or passive aggressive or judgmental. In other words they might not like you and that feels destabilizing. So instead of being honest we are very careful about what we say around them, especially our parents, boss or spouse, and then we wonder why we don’t feel right. We wonder why we’re lonely.
Feeling disconnected makes us anxious because our relationships are somewhat fake or superficial. And so we are alone and that makes us feel vulnerable because nobody really knows us, and nobody has our backs.
It’s only when we can be authentic (as scary as that is) with the people closest to us, and then seeing that the world hasn’t ended, that we start to feel better.
Now that doesn’t mean everyone around us will be happy. Chances are your parents will be disapproving of your career choice, your choice of spouse, how you raise your kids and even your political point of view, and that’s really uncomfortable. So a lot of the time the people in your life won’t be happy and they may pull away somewhat or even completely. This is what most people are afraid of and it may happen to some degree but by staying hidden and not really being authentic you are already isolated from them and will be till the end of your days unless you change the way you are.
People not liking you, pulling away from you and ostracizing you are probably the biggest fears we have when it comes to relationships. Our anxiety distorts how things really are and makes us think that as soon as we are ourselves the entire world will pull away and we will be alone forever, vulnerable to predators and unable to survive on our own.
That’s our anxiety speaking. When people do get mad and pull away somewhat it only validates what our anxiety has been telling us for decades now, “stay down, hide, don’t rock the boat or say anything that might upset anyone, our survival depends on it.”
It really feels like that. We are absolutely certain that the world will pull away and we will die and so we go home, isolate and eat to sooth our pain.
The reality is different. Some people may pull away (even for good) but not everybody will. But if by chance everyone you know does then you continually try to reconnect, on your terms ( very important) which is a way of showing that you are the adult and they the child, and once you see this you don’t feel so threatened anymore.
A connected relationship doesn’t need to be a happy one. Just an honest one.
A DIFFICULT POSITION TO BE IN
So on the one hand if you continue to hide and not be truthful to the people around you then your psyche gives you no choice and finds a way to soothe that pain, and one of the most common ways is through emotional eating. You live out the rest of your life in despair and loneliness, AND now you have a medical issue as well. Not fun.
On the other hand if you do begin to tell the truth and be yourself then you risk people getting mad at you. You risk getting kicked out of the family or having no friends. Not fun either.
So what do we do?
The choice is obvious. We can hide, survive and die a slow painful death (but at least we’re alive and have people around us who don’t like “us” but like the mask we wear, the person we pretend to be,) or we can walk towards the other pain that is our anxiety and confront the discomfort that often comes with telling the truth to the people you love.
There is no way of getting out of feeling any pain. But if you make the correct choice then the pain is reduced over time and slowly turns into a feeling of confidence, security and connection.
HOW DO WE DO THAT?
So what does it look like to have an honest relationship with people? Well, here are some examples of things that you could say or do that show you’re on the right path:
– “Mom I’m sorry but I don’t believe in God.” … or “Mom I have become religious and I know you don’t like that but that’s who I am.”
– “Dad I know you’ve always wanted me to follow in your footsteps and take over the family business but I want to do my own thing.”
– “Honey, I harbor a lot of resentment towards you because of A, B and C. What can we do about it? Also when you do this and that, I find you less attractive. Here are some other faults that I see as well that I know you don’t want to hear but I feel it’s best for us to be honest. I say this to better the relationship not to put you down.”
– “Boss, I like to talk to you about the way you’ve been treating me lately.”
– “Friend, I hold the complete opposite political view that you do. But I don’t see why we still can’t be friends?”
– “Friend 2, sometimes you can be pushy in certain situations and it can be a little bit annoying.”
Those are a few of the thousands of examples of things that you might say to people every single day. On top of that is showing emotion. Are you able to express and show your displeasure, your anger or even your happiness and joy around the people who are close to you? That’s not always easy either but it’s part of being honest and very important in creating connections with people.
And we know now that one of the most important needs we all have is having authentic connections with others. It regulates our anxiety and makes us feel better, and once that happens all of the issues we have in the rest of our life seem to resolve much easier, or are not as big as they once were.
CAN’T JUST STOP
This is why you can’t just stop emotional eating. You can read about tips and tricks and follow the latest Instagram motivators and psych yourself up to really discipline yourself to not do it anymore, but it doesn’t work that way.
It doesn’t work because that’s not the source of the emotional eating. Discipline knowledge and motivation are not the source.
The source of your emotional eating is your dysregulated anxiety. You have no choice. Something HAS to be done about it and so you either create authentic connections with people, in every interaction if you can (usually it’s a slow build up to being able to do this which usually takes about 5 years,) or you find other coping mechanisms like eating or Netflix etc.
One is healthy and one isn’t. Again the one that’s healthy is very painful at first which is why we choose not to take that path. Usually it’s when we’re in enough pain, and we’ve had enough that we decide to do anything to make ourselves better.
And that’s when we finally have enough resolve to walk towards the threat.
THE EATING LOVE GUIDE (FREE)
The Eating Love Guide has helped many people regain control of their eating patterns, resulting not only in weight loss but also better health and improved self-esteem. To read it online, click here.