Feb 01, 2011
There was a statement that caught my attention in a recent article from the Washington Post's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column. The author of a new book "Fat Boy, Thin Man" (2010) told about his success in overcoming emotional eating. He said that once he became serious about breaking the emotional eating habit, he had to acknowledge that his own personal development was suspended when he started to use food for relief and reward. He decided that if he was to sustain his weight loss success, he would have to pay just as much attention to his personal development issues as he would have to do work on nutrition, new eating habits, and exercise.
In all of my experience with the Shrink Yourself program and with the patients that I treat I find this principle to be absolutely correct and essential. I see it every day.
Just yesterday I saw a patient who was suffering great anguish about her binges. At the same time she was so ambivalent about accepting help. I insisted we talk only about her ambivalence until we understood it. In an obvious way she was simply looking for magic, the old kind of magic that a child might look for by letting a parent know how much pain she was in and hoping that the parent could fix it. More accurately, the child believes the parent can fix anything, so she was really hoping that I would fix it.
Of course, I cannot. I can not tell her cravings to go away and I can not stand by her side every moment of the day to make sure that she eats the right things. Almost everyone who comes to the Shrink Yourself program is hoping for the magical fix. That's human nature. But that's really only a cover-up for something deeper. I saw it clearly in my patient. She insisted on the magical fix because she did not trust herself to follow through and do what she needs to do to understand and master the emotional eating habit. She was afraid of success. Her greatest fear was that she would lose weight and try again to have a fulfilling romantic relationship. Of course there's nothing wrong with that. But for her there was something wrong since she was predicting that every romantic relationship that was possible for her would end in failure. She was sure she would suffer such great hurt that it would take her months or years to recover. Her catastrophe image was in full bloom.
That's the personal development issue. She starting emotional eating because of her disappointments. She stopped trying and stopped learning. Now she has to pay attention to this piece of development. She has to learn how to have a successful romantic relationship. If she is not willing to try to do that, then her pain and loneliness and emotional hunger will not go away, and eating to soothe that pain and fill that gap will be something she has to live with.
I tell this story so that you may find your own story. Think about your ambivalence about success. Trace your ambivalence to your fear of success. Try to identify the personal development work you need to do but are afraid to do. If you have read and followed the material on this site you probably know what you need to do. If you can't remember it for very long or put it into practice then you can be sure that you have ambivalence about succeeding.
Ask yourself why you are afraid to succeed. Explore your ambivalence. Ambivalence will set off a binge. Ambivalence is the source of the self sabotage that makes you so angry at yourself. Ambivalence will stop you from even starting a program like this.
Are you ready to identify your personal development issue?