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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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e-mail to CBC, re emotional eating

This morning's local CBC Radio One show featured a guest who discussed her problems with being overweight and how she has begun to treat it through the Hypertension Clinic at the local hospital. Part of her treatment was with a dietician, who exhibited signs of actual insight into emotional eating as opposed to what I remember from any dieticians I've met, who basically just outline what I'm supposed to eat and don't deal with that in any way.

Anyway, I was moved to send in an e-mail in response to this guest. Maybe it'll be read on air, I dunno.
Information Morning
CBC Radio One
Halifax, NS

Good morning,

I was moved to write in this morning because of one of the key challenges your guest mentioned with respect to losing weight, that being the emotional motivations we have to overeat. As a classic yo-yo dieter who has gained and lost more than 200 pounds throughout the past 20 years, I am intimately familiar with the challenges associated with losing weight when your eating habits are so hopelessly entangled with sadness, helplessness, and other emotions. It's impossible to make any long-term positive changes to your eating habits if you're hurting emotionally or if you are one of those countless people who comfort themselves mainly with food.

Almost everyone I know who is overweight struggles with this key issue. For any number of valid reasons usually stemming from our childhood or teenage experiences, overweight and obese people learn to comfort and soothe ourselves through eating. We find genuine comfort in food, and filling ourselves with food has become a kind of replacement for the love and respect we feel we're lacking in our lives. Depending on our personal history, our emotions can become so deeply entangled with our eating habits such that we're scarcely aware from one meal to the next if we're even hungry. Many of us simply eat whenever we feel like it, and we only stop eating when we can no longer physically fit any more food into our stomachs.

A number of months ago, I recognized my emotional overeating for what it was and I sought the help of a professional psychologist experienced with eating problems. After several sessions with her, along with supplemental readings from the seminal American author on this topic, Geneen Roth, I've finally begun to make the kinds of permanent lifestyle changes that are resulting in my losing weight and improving my physical health. But I could only do this AFTER I started to deal specifically and effectively with my own personal emotional reasons for overeating.

The mechanics of which foods to eat in which quantities and how much exercise you need are well-known to most of us. But how to deal effectively with the emotional underpinnings of our eating problems is far more mysterious. And they require just as much, if not more work, than learning how to eat "properly."

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dani_namaste August 31st, 2006
Good response. I've gained 45 pounds since last year (on top of the 20 pounds I still NEEDED to lose when I moved up to Somerville) for various reasons, most of them related to stress and emotional eating. I swear I know when I'm depressed whenever I start eating meat again, but sometimes it's just too hard to make the changes if you can't directly leave the situation that's causing the emotions. The good news is that I am moving into a new apartment starting today, so a good amount of my stress will be gone by the end of the weekend.

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