YOU UNHAPPY BECAUSE YOU’RE HEAVY,
OR HEAVY BECAUSE YOU’RE UNHAPPY?
By Shari Schreiber,
We've become a society preoccupied
with body weight and physical image, and this is acutely reflected
in the fact that nearly every fast food chain has added low-carbohydrate
choices to their regular menu. Is this just a trend, or has obesity
reached epidemic proportions in our country? Between
over the counter drugs, fad diets, twelve-step programs, diet and
weight control programs and extreme measures such as painful (and
dangerous) surgical procedures to dramatically reduce stomach size,
we're apparently trying to manage an issue that has gotten way out
Overeating isn't generally
considered an "Eating Disorder" because
we don't think of it as life-threatening, and yet many die
from eating-related illness. Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and
ruptured hiatal valves (leading to acid reflux disease, and cancer
of the esophagus) are all symptoms associated with sfood consumption.
In short, compulsive overeating poses a far more prevalent threat
to our health than Anorexia Nervosa (starving oneself due to distorted
body image) or Bulimia (purging/regurgitating food after eating to
control body weight).
As with so many health issues,
we seem focused on treating the symptom, instead of the cause
of the problem--and eating disorders always
have an emotional basis. Basically, it's not really about what
you're eating, it's about what's eating you! Addictive/compulsive
issues are symptomatic of psychic and emotional difficulties in childhood.
It may be simpler to understand the food addict's
inability to regulate their consumption, if you think of him/her trying
to fill an inner void or wound, that's never had opportunity to heal.
I struggled with my own weight
issue for many years--so I'm not just talking the talk, I'm walking
it (scroll to the bottom of this page, for a photo). You'll have the
benefit of my personal experience, plus some very simple tools for
dropping the pounds, if you really want to surmount this problem.
are not inherited--but depression sure is. Core issues like
shame (feelings and beliefs surrounding unworthiness, unlovability)
that drove your parent to self-medicate with food,
drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, over-work, gambling, etc., to manage
his/her internal pain, were passed onto you! Their parenting skills
were limited in terms of giving attention, affection, praise, support
and guidance, just as their parents were limited in supplying
these crucial elements to them: We learn to love ourselves
and others, by how we were loved as children.
Eating compulsions begin extremely
early. Many of us became orally fixated during infancy and early childhood,
when our mothers wanted to quiet us. If we were sad, tired
or cranky, she stuck a pacifier/bottle, lollipop or cookie in our
mouth, instead of attending to our need for comfort or closeness--which
may have been less convenient for her to offer. Thus, we
were programmed to anticipate that each time we experienced uncomfortable/difficult
feelings, we should eat--and began
associating food with soothing or distraction, and make things seem
Having been conditioned to expect
a reward (usually something sweet) every time we abandoned certain
emotions, kept us from learning how to tolerate those feelings,
and self-soothe in healthier ways! Before long, we stopped living
with a full range of emotions, because when they weren't adequately
responded to, we experienced frustration and despair. Given that virtually
all difficult sensations were gotten rid of (with food) during our
formative years, we've continued this pattern as we grew to adulthood.
Without opportunities to experience and accommodate various types
of feelings, and no capacity to comfort ourselves when we need emotional
rebalancing, we're trapped in a perpetual love/hate relationship with
Food conditioning in
childhood, implants the belief that certain feelings are unacceptable/bad,
and that we're "bad" for having them!
Food/feeling issues have forced
many of us to adopt narrowly defined self-images and become 'People
Pleasers,' which can be hazardess to our health, and even
be deadly! When we demand of ourselves only nice, positive, light,
generous and "right" feelings, because we've been taught
that other feelings are bad and wrong, the only sensation
that can exist inside us, is emptiness. I've assisted
people who (initially) felt suicidal, yet were unable to recognize
that they were depressed, because depression was considered
an 'unacceptable' emotion they weren't allowed to have in childhood!
Some have wanted to kill themselves, because they were unable to access
lighter feeling states, and harshly judged themselves for this. Hence,
not only were they in tremendous psychic/emotional pain, they
trauma by making themselves "wrong" for
it. The upshot? Because certain emotions had virtually been amputated
out of their personality structure since infancy, many have gone
through life as half-feeling individuals--and it's far easier to consider
killing off half-a-self than
a whole one!
with a variety of emotions is a very natural and normal part of being
of any type, is driven by the need to flee darker feelings of
anger, sadness, emptiness, lust, envy, shame, etc., that might be
judged by others (or ourselves) as "negative." The compulsion
to eat is related to swallowing or shoving-down these uncomfortable
feelings! Since emotional sensations have been dulled over the course
of many years, physical ones have too. This is evidenced
by the food addict's inability to discern when he/she
has eaten enough, to where hunger or a specific appetite
is sated. Compulsive overeating is a covert addiction like all others;
we're most likely to engage in it during quiet/alone times, when self-deprecating
thoughts or feelings from early psychic trauma begin to emerge. Even
elaborate planning that goes into thinking about
our next meal (or two or three) is an obsessive activity that distracts
us from whatever material is trying to surface, and make its way to
our conscious minds in order to be dealt with and resolved.
Obesity is a symptom of 'dis-ease'
that's connected to deeper concerns, and might be thought of as Walking
Depression. Overweight people have told me they're "never depressed,"
and this may be true for you--but try giving up the foods you normally
eat for several days, and try to stop yourself from automatically
reaching for a snack when your stomach's not truly empty. If you're
willing to experiment with this, I'm sure you'll notice the emergence
of some fairly uncomfortable (but authentic) feelings.
I view excess weight as body
armor. In a metaphorical sense, extra padding or insulation doesn't
let another get "too close." Subconsciously, we might need
to maintain it, especially if we've survived incest or sexual molestation
during childhood (whether we're able to recall that trauma,
or not). While body armor can help us feel physically/emotionally
safer in relationships, it may also provide convenient justification
for somebody leaving us. If we can blame being rejected/abandoned
on our weight, we never have to explore why/how we've come
to regard ourselves as unworthy or unlovable--which is the
core of compulsive, self-sabotaging behaviors!
Overeating can serve to avert
our concerns (and complaints) about a close relationship. When we're
feeling disempowered because of poor body image, we'll be less inclined
to be conscious or critical about elements that trouble
us in a partner: "If I feel bad about Me, I'll feel
more grateful to You, for sticking around." Shoving
our feelings down, helps us avoid making choices or changes that
could empower us--but threaten our attachment(s).
Sugary and/or starchy foods
are usually craved when we're feeling anxious, upset or depressed.
A series of chemical changes occur in brain tissue when we consume
carbohydrate-rich foods, which ultimately leads to an increase in
This chemical produces calming and soothing we seek in times of emotional
distress--and since foods that help our brains produce it are readily
available, bingeing impulses become reinforced. Serotonin is
the key ingredient in some types of antidepressants designed to help
us maintain sufficient levels of it. SSRI's
(Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) can curb tendencies to
crave and overeat foods known to raise brain serotonin, and weight
loss can be facilitated by balancing neurochemistry. Once
brain chemistry is normalized, we're able to
approach challenging situations more effectively, because we aren't
overwhelmed or immobilized by feelings that
would formerly have prompted compulsivity! Think of it this way; if
you could take a tablet that would help you feel and function considerably
better than consuming a box of donuts, which would you
Overeating is not a behavioral
issue--it's a feeling one. You can literally try
every diet and exercise program that's ever been invented (I certainly
did), and continue to watch your body weight fluctuate
with each new effort and ultimate failure.
As a former compulsive eater, I'm intimately aware of your struggle.
Throughout the course of my personal healing, I was determined to
find tools that allowed me to eat what I wanted "like a skinny
person," lose my weight, and keep it off. The unique
methods I discovered will be shared with you during our sessions.
One thing's for certain; whether you believe it or not--there's real
hope for putting an end to this torment once and for all.
It's not your fault that you've had to live with this obstacle,
and Healing means you'll never have
to struggle with a "weight problem" again.
Schreiber, in late forties @ 5'9" and 122 lbs. If you're seeking
assistance with this issue, or your group/organization would like
me to speak on this topic, feel free to contact
me. I've taken food combining to a whole new level, and can teach
you a few simple principles on having your cake, and eating it too!
Are you planning a cruise--but afraid you can't resist those tempting
goodies at the buffet table? You won't have to, and we'll get you
back home, even thinner than you went.
you use an I-phone or an Apple PC, this app will let you hear
my articles; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/web-reader-text-to-speech/id320808874?mt=8
about Gettin' Skinny with Phone Sessions!
PsychSavant at Twitter.com
Copyright © 2004 -
2013, Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.