Stop Your Emotional Eating —a new weight-loss book for women in the Using Psychology to Lose Weight series
Posted Mar 27 2012 5:00am
The Function of Emotional Eating
Emotional eating serves some useful functions for you. And don’t you ever forget it. You can dispute this all you want. But you’d get nowhere. Only when you can open yourself up to thinking about the value for you of emotional eating, only then will you be taking the first true step to doing something about it.
First, you have to face what you’ve been thinking of as maladaptive—your pattern of eating—and think of it as being adaptive in some way(s) for you.
Next, try to discover the reason(s) you made this adaptation of eating like there is no tomorrow or eating up all the sweets.
Want to make a little wager that at the heart of the matter will be something about you emotionally. What’s adaptive about eating so much or eating so much comfort food that’s no good for you, is that it is good for you.
Let’s just take a quick case in point. If you’re feeling anxious for instance, you usually have to find a way to discharge the anxiety, get rid of it before it affects you too much, or before it consumes you, which is the worst thing anxiety can do. It can eat you up. But before it eats you up, you eat it up—or rather you eat over it, just like you might smoke a cigarette or take alcohol or go on a shopping spree; anything to escape. You have to escape the anxiety, dampen its effect, or else. Or else what? Well, you don’t want to find out “or else what”.
Eating over your anxiety becomes an adaptation you make. It is maladaptive because it contributes to unwanted weight gain, and to feeling bad about yourself. It is maladaptive because it keeps the same solution in place—eat over it, again and again—and doesn’t lead to new, more adaptive solutions, such as facing down your anxiety so that it doesn’t stay so powerful and influential.