What Is Emotional Eating? My Story
Do you remember when your out-of-control emotional eating first began? I
can, even though it was more than five decades ago. I was 9, a skinny, active
child -- and suddenly I was stuffing myself with entire cans of spaghetti for
lunch, two or more desserts at dinner, and, throughout the day, all the soda,
candy, cupcakes, and potato chips I could buy or find.
At 13, I weighed 180 pounds; at 15, I starved myself and lost 50 pounds; at
18, I was back up to 180 or more. The stage was set for a lifetime of yo-yo
weight gain and dieting.
Sound familiar? Then you also know how out-of-control emotional eating
feels. Inside, whether I was fat or slim, I despaired. Whatever was
"wrong with me," I thought, would never go away. How could it, when I
didn't know what it was? I tried for years to understand why I was doing this
to myself. And to stop doing it. But mostly I ended up making myself more
unhappy. And fatter.
Finally one day I began to search for practical clues to the problem. Were
there small steps I could take to start bringing the reasons for my emotional
eating out into the open? I started by reading self-help books, especially ones
that had places in them where I could write my personal responses to the
questions and challenges they raised. It was like the "journaling"
that's often recommended today as a way to help emotional eaters start to get
control. And it really helped.
Looking back, I'm amazed at what I wrote. A lot of it was so angry, so hurt,
so despairing, so scared. But that was how I felt. And as things turned out,
writing it was an important sign that I was making progress toward
understanding my emotional eating, although I didn't realize it at the time. I
was saying things I'd kept inside for so many years because I was
feeling them -- at last.
I also found my way to counselors and therapists from time to time during
especially painful periods when I'd get so depressed, and my desperate food
cravings, binging, and weight gain would get so out of control, I didn't know
if I could go on.
The counselors and therapists usually helped me, for the moment at least.
And somehow I did go on. But I still didn't know why I couldn't stop
binge-eating and why I kept making myself fat, over and over again.
Then one day several years ago, weighing well over 200 pounds, I again began
working with a therapist. And this time something clicked. Slowly but surely,
and then with increasing excitement, I began to "get it." And I started
taking those first steps toward finally letting go of my need for emotional