People can get caught up in emotional eating for many reasons, I'm sure, and
at any age. For example, I knew someone who was slim until her 30s and then
began compulsively overeating, and became fat, in response to extreme life
changes. Everyone's emotional eating origins are uniquely personal; what you'll
read here just happen to be mine.
My emotional eating and weight gain go back 50 years or more, to my
childhood. Thus, the story of how I came to say goodbye, with love, to excess
food and my fat is inescapably the story of saying goodbye to my anger and
resentment toward the family who made my growing-up years so unhappy.
Sometimes I think my memory is actually too good. Like when I realize I still know the lyrics to nearly every song released in the '80s. Or that I can recite, verbatim, lines from at least half a dozen episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City. But then I'll go to transfer a load of laundry into the dryer and discover that it's already dry; seems I forgot to ever turn on the washer. Or I'll forget my neighbor's name — again. Could it be that sitcom dialogue and song lyrics are taking...
You won't be surprised to learn that changing these lifelong feelings was a
painful journey. But it was also the crucial breakthrough in my understanding
of how I came to be so dependent on food for getting through life. And it freed
me to become the woman I am now: no longer alone, afraid -- or fat.
Like every child, I needed my parents' love to grow up loving myself. It
didn't happen. Instead I became a target within the family, the child who was
criticized and shamed -- usually without knowing why.
The trouble with this, of course, besides the devastating effect it had on
my feelings about myself at the time, is that I grew up hearing my own
voice, in my head, criticizing and shaming me.
Today I can see how doing this to myself became, over the years, an
expectation that others were doing it, too, when most of the time they
weren't. For example, I tended to think that people who really had other things
on their minds were criticizing me, or just waiting to do so. (Reality check: I
occasionally deserved it!) And I also allowed myself to be shamed -- read:
victimized -- in some very unpleasant incidents even long after I grew up.
In response to these and other real and imagined fears, I learned to isolate
myself from others -- if not always physically, certainly by seldom letting my
real feelings show. But still, like everyone, I needed something to take
the place of close relationships and the richness they add to life.