Breaking Free -- My Battle with Emotional Eating

From the WebMD Archives

Talking to the mirror: "How can I be so fat? This isn't my body! This isn't me." But it was me, feeling miserable about my fat, distorted body through more than five decades of helplessness against the power of my food cravings and emotional eating.

I've eaten my way to a size 24 or more, and then lost 50 or more pounds, at least six times over those many years. Each time, after a (very) brief honeymoon with my slender and attractive self, my overwhelming food cravings pulled me in again. I gained the weight back, and more besides. Why? I didn't know, and try as I might, I couldn't figure it out. I was an intelligent and capable woman, but food cravings and being fat -- to say nothing of losing the weight and keeping it off -- seemed permanently beyond my understanding.

I was even unhappy a lot of the time during the periods when I "got thin" -- although you wouldn't necessarily have known it. Fat or thin, I wore a cheerful mask that fooled pretty much everybody but me. I couldn't fool myself, though: Even thin, I knew the cravings were still there, strong as ever. And I was their prisoner. It was as if my "fat fate" were sealed, and nothing I did could change it for long.

Then, after the decades of yo-yo dieting with no lasting result for my body or my life, something happened that did change my fate. And my fat. I decided to work, not on my body again -- at least not right away -- but on my heart. On my feelings (the "emotion" in "emotional eating"). And I lost 60 pounds without the torment of food cravings and backsliding.

WebMD has asked me to tell you my story of how, with professional help, I was able at last to escape the trap of emotional eating and an overweight body. I'm excited about telling it, and a little nervous, too. But because what I did may carry a message of hope for others, here goes!

Looking back over my life, I realize now that I was fat only for as long as I needed to be. True, that was a period of many years. But when at last I didn't need my fat anymore, it went away, along with my cravings.

Of course, the process of letting go of my fat and all that it meant in my life wasn't as simple as those few sentences make it sound. It was sometimes scary, sometimes reassuring. Sometimes puzzling, sometimes revealing. Sometimes it was even funny! But it was never hurtful. And toward the end, it was often joyous, as I realized that my old, self-loathing self had come to love and respect myself fat or thin, now and then. That I was no longer big, but whole.

How all this happened is what I'll be telling you about, and talking to you about, over the coming weeks. Of course, I'm just one person, and my story won't fit everyone who's struggling with food and fat. I'll be so happy if, for some of you who read this, being fat for now will no longer mean being fat forever.


Show 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.

© 2004 WebMD, Inc. All rights Reserved. View privacy policy and trust info