Depending on the time of the month, my reading repertoire at the gym expands from my usual subscription magazines I bring from home (Fitness, Shape, Self, Cooking Light, Women’s Health) to magazines I find there, such as Yoga Journal, Body & Soul, Women’s Day and Good Housekeeping.
This morning I came across an article worth sharing in the (now-ancient) March 2008 edition of Good Housekeeping, written by emotional eating expert Geneen Roth, author of seven books and numerous published works.
Titled “The Cookie Burglar: Stop Binge Eating”, the article resonated with me so much that I just had to share it here.
Her premise is that we binge for a reason, and if it was all bad, we wouldn’t do it. In some way or another, we get something positive from bingeing, even if we don’t see it that way.
As Roth says, “… if it weren’t helping you in some fundamental way, you’d stop. Regardless of how it may appear, what we do really does make sense. Our actions — especially with food — are inherently sane. In fact, they are expressions of our brilliance at getting our needs met. ”
So though it sounds counter-intuitive to wanting to lose weight, bingeing sometimes helps us–perhaps it helps us combat boredom, or avoid intimacy (if I’m fat no one will want me). And until we listen to what our “fat” is telling us, how the bingeing is “helping,” she argues, we won’t be able stop the vicious cycle.
This graph really hit home for me. “Emotional eating is a language of its own, like hieroglyphics or braille. Instead of trying to understand it, we’re more likely to try to ignore it or shut it up. But we can’t rid ourselves of emotional eating until we listen to what it has to say. Our relationship with food is expressing a true need, so unless we learn what it’s trying to tell us, permanent weight loss will be impossible. Once we “get it” and understand the needs that food fulfills, emotional eating, having served its purpose, will stop.”
So she asks,
1) How is my apparently crazy eating benefiting me?
2) If I were eating for exquisitely good reasons, what would those reasons be?
3) And finally, if my weight/bingeing could talk, what would it say?
I asked myself, what does my fat have to say?
I realized my crazy eating benefits me because during my “midnight incidents” I am out of control…and it almost feels good to be so “bad”… whereas during all of my waking hours I am always always always IN control. This is clearly indicative of a Type A personality. Maybe if I loosened up a little more during the day–lived a little–I wouldn’t wake at 2 a.m. and “be bad.”
And I think if my bingeing/weight could talk, it would ask me why I work out so hard every day, weigh and measure my food, eat so cleanly, am so “good” all day …. only to undo it at 2 a.m. in a half-awake daze in secret… not even savoring it, like I might if I were sharing dessert with my husband or out having drinks out with friends. That would make more sense. If I am going to “indulge” why not enjoy it and be awake for it?
I’d ask myself, Melissa, would you sleep through a Dave Matthews concert? Sleep through a shopping spree? Sleep through sex? Sleep through The Dark Knight? No., of course not! You enjoy these things, as well you should! So why not enjoy food, too? Why not be awake to enjoy it?!
Perhaps my fat is also telling me to take the stigma off certain foods, to learn to savor them in broad daylight, to live a little and enjoy meals out or social functions so I don’t (subconsciously) wake to enjoy peanut butter, for example, alone, at 2 a.m.
I’ve always enjoyed Roth’s monthly columns, but this one truly hit home. Today, I can actually hear what my fat is telling me. And I’m not happy with myself when I wake up having had an “incident.” It only works against my efforts to ditch these last five pounds (again), and frankly I’d rather be awake for my life, for indulgences small and large. But even more than that, it damages my sense of self.
Listening to my fat, I realize what I need to do–and I’m ready to talk back and turn this cycle around!
How about you? What does your fat tell you?