My Relationship With Food: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do - But So Worth It

From the WebMD Archives

Newsflash: "This just in -- Diana Potter wants the world to know the truth about her longstanding on-and-off relationship with food. In a hastily called press conference following the explosive announcement that she's ending her career as a professional overeater, Potter said today:

'Despite the swirl of rumors surrounding my relationship with Rich Food, it is not true that we are getting a divorce. We remain good friends, and we will continue to have respect and even affection for each other. However, the excitement and magic are gone, and we've agreed it's time to move on.'

"Stay tuned as we follow the twists and turns of this absorbing human drama being played out under the bright glare of public scrutiny."

Yes, the excitement and magic of uncontrollably stuffing myself with food are gone now. But what a ride it was! I vividly remember the passions my "forbidden love" for food aroused in me: desire, ecstasy, despair -- a classic romantic rollercoaster.

Only it was a roller-coaster with only me on it. A wild ride, yes. But a lonely one.

Meanwhile, during the many years I lived this way, the vast, incredibly rich drama and excitement of real life -- friends, interests, love, social activities, growth toward goals -- went on. And finally the day came when a tiny voice from the deepest part of my mind and heart broke through to protest my fat, lonely life. At last, I began to want more.

It took awhile, though, for that tiny voice of reason to strengthen until it could override the unreasoning fears that food and fat had helped me control for so long. But in therapy, I gradually began to respond to it.

I've told you about some of the first actions I took to express my growing desire for change: reading self-help books, writing down my feelings, even loving teddy bears as a step toward having the courage to love the people around me -- and to let them know it.

Finally one day I presented myself for therapy, scared of revealing how "bad" I was, fearful of criticism, and amazed that I was actually taking the chance of reaching out to an "other" for help after keeping my distance from others for so long.

Continued

But it was time. And so, as I made progress in understanding my emotional eating, I happily discovered I wasn't "bad." I was just me, a person who had made certain choices for getting along in life that worked, yes, but at a cost I no longer wanted, or had, to bear. I found I could make other choices now that would work better.

And I did. Slowly, sometimes painfully, I became able to envision a happy, satisfying life without my "love relationship" with food. A life without my love! The idea of it scared me until I realized that by not letting other people get close to me, I'd been living a kind of "life without love" all along.

Oh how I wanted a real life once I opened my eyes to it! As my wanting grew stronger, I began a gradual but lasting shift away from wanting food to wanting closeness with others as well as love and respect for myself.

But I needed to consider something else along the way: When I came to realize how much my fat had meant to me over the years, I couldn't just turn off my feelings about it. One evening I found myself actually talking to my fat. I did something I've heard people sometimes do when a dying loved one is holding on to life out of concern for the feelings of those who will be left behind: I gave my fat permission to leave me. I thanked it for being there when I didn't have other ways to take care of myself. I told it that leaving me now was okay, I'd be all right. And I told my fat I loved it, as an important part of myself, and would continue to love it and myself after it was gone.

As time passed, I steadily lost weight. My formerly uncontrollable cravings went away, and I experienced a sense of peace I hadn't known in all the years of my life.

Just one little (ha!) food-related problem remained: I still needed to eat. How was I going to keep a former love interest around without drifting back into its dangerously passionate embrace?

Continued

This proved to be more difficult than I'd expected. Even after I "graduated" from therapy, I still thought about food. And I still liked to eat a lot of it when a good meal presented itself. I wondered if these things were more or less in the normal range, or if I was in danger of slipping back into overeating and getting fat.

So I went back to my therapist and presented her with my concerns. As we talked, I realized I'd been expecting to put food on a further-back burner than was really possible. Of course I thought about food, especially when I was hungry, as everyone does. As for eating a lot of something I liked, I did need to watch out there, but not because I was craving the food -- I wasn't. It was because like everyone else, if I ate more than I needed, I'd gain weight! What a concept!

Bottom line: It was still early in my process of growing out of a powerfully compelling lifetime habit. I needed to relax and give myself time to adjust to what in fact has proved to be real and lasting change.

This is the last chapter in this series. I hope that some of what I experienced in breaking free from emotional eating may be helping you do it, too.

If you answered the self-questions accompanying the chapters in this series, you may have a strengthened sense that your emotional eating and your fat are concealing things about yourself that you want to know. From my experience, the people who can help are out there now -- and they'll be there to help and support you whenever you're ready to begin your quest. Good luck!

Diana

Should You Consider "Breaking Up" With Some Foods?

To learn more, ask yourself:

  • What foods do you really love to eat until you can't eat any more?
  • How do you feel while you're eating those foods?
  • Do those foods have the power to make you feel good or bad about yourself?
  • Do you love the foods so much, you can't imagine life without them?
  • Do you give up other activities you might enjoy in order to get and eat the foods you love?
  • Do you feel you can never get enough of those foods?
  • When you want the food you love and can't get it, how do you feel?

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

Sources

SOURCES: WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Healthy Eating." Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, nutrition consultant; author of Stealth Health: How To Sneak Nutrition Painlessly Into Your Diet. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, nutrition consultant; author of Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's alone and have not been influenced by WebMD.

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