Health & Fitness - Physical
The Three Most Common Reasons For Overeating

by Roger Gould
For overeaters, food may be cure as it helps temporarily quiet negative emotions. At the same time, it could be a curse in that a considerable amount of negative emotions stem from being overweight in the first place. How to achieve the balance is a milion dollar issue.
For overeaters, food is both the cure and the curse. The cure in that overeating helps temporarily quiet negative emotions; and the curse in that a considerable amount of negative emotions stem from being overweight in the first place.

We can think of food and overeating, then, as both a cure for the symptom, and a symptom of the problem. Or, more simply: eating makes you feel better and worse all at the same time.

And that's an exhausting cycle to be in.

It might help, then, to understand just why you overeat in the first place. Over the last three decades of treating overeaters I've discovered three common reasons. These are the big three that many overeaters claim to feel constrained by in their lives:

  1. Self-doubt.
  2. Disappointment at how your life is turning out.
  3. Fear of trying because you might fail or things might not turn out perfectly.

It's these reasons that will need to be addressed if you are to control overeating. And, naturally, the degree of each will occur differently in different people.

If you're already identifying with one or more of these reasons, that's great, you have your starting point. If not, then perhaps none of them apply to you. Or, perhaps you just need more time to sit and think about your overeating and the situations and emotions that turn you to food.

Remember: be patient with yourself. This is about progress; not perfection. You are not perfect, and you never will be. You are progress, though, and you can always be progressing... improving your life, your health and your spirit each day. Progress is real. Progress is achievable. Progress is what we are interested in here.

An interesting thing that can happen as you give more thought to your overeating is your urge to eat may actually increase at first. The reason for this is simple: as an overeater, you've made food a mental mechanism, meaning: the minute you start feeling emotional discomfort, your body asks for food.

Please also remember, then, that the increased urge to eat is very normal at this stage and should in no way deter you from continuing to examine your overeating. Think of it instead as a green light. A confirmation that you've touched on something very important, and a real opportunity for growth and change.

This process is challenging. You may have been stuffing down negative emotions with food for many years, and if so, it's going to take time to reverse the pattern. Ironically, this is where the first and third reasons can immediately kick in i.e. Self-doubt at your ability to ever control overeating; and fear of even trying because you might fail or things might not turn out perfectly.

Yes, we all have a little voice inside our heads that forecasts nothing but cloudy skies and showers. But, to walk around under an umbrella and heavy coat each day would only prevent us from ever looking up and seeing the sun.

Roger Gould, M.D. Psychiatrist & Associate Clinical Professor, UCLA
One of the world's leading authorities on emotional eating and adult development Author & Creator of Shrink Yourself
Shrink Yourself uncovers the issues behind your emotional eating, then provides you with the tools to handle them, leaving you with the ability to eat for health and simple pleasure again, and in control of your weight for good.
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