What Triggers the Feeding Frenzy?
By Steve B. Reed, L.P.C., L.M.F.T.
Nita is an expert at losing weight. She has lost the same 50 pounds over and over again. She has tried all the fad diets, diet pills and diet centers. She is on a weight gain/loss roller coaster. Each time she goes through the cycle of dieting, she gains a little more weight than she loses. At 270 pounds, she fears that she is gaining on 300. Ironically, that fear also contributes to her eating binges.
Nita, like many people, is an emotional eater. Food is no longer simply fuel for her body. It has become her drug of choice, her friend, companion, comfort and distraction from the unpleasant emotional experiences of daily life. At some point she discovered that eating helps to medicate her pain. That association between eating and easing her emotions gets reinforced daily.
There are many different triggers that can send a person into a feeding frenzy. For Nita, loneliness is a common trigger. Having been raised in a family that says “I love you” with food, eating has become associated with love. Now when Nita feels lonely, she feeds her hungry heart. A big meal feels like a warm letter from home. It’s the easiest way to fill her emptiness.
Julie, at 135 pounds, is only 10 pounds over weight but she too is an emotional eater. Her eating is triggered mainly by stress. As a customer service representative who deals with angry people all day, she soothes her frayed nerves with comfort foods. Ann’s critical, demanding boss sends her through the roof and to the candy machine to choke back her anger with something sweet.
Susan’s nemesis is fear. Her biggest fear keeps her big. As an adolescent she was raped several times. The trauma of these experiences lead her to believe that it isn’t safe to appear attractive. Weighing an extra 80 pounds, she feels more solid and secure. She also eludes male attention which feels threatening to her. Any attempt at reducing her size is sabotaged by the size of her fear. Being within 30 pounds of her goal weight triggers her subconscious need for protection.
Patricia eats when she’s depressed or bored. Appetite suppressants and antidepressants can mask her problems for a while. Eventually, however, she comes face to face with not liking herself and the way she lives her life. Jane has difficulty dealing with her marital problems. Conflict with her husband triggers a fight or flight to food response.
For these people, emotional eating and the resulting weight gain is a symptom of deeper issues. Each issue has certain triggers that we can track to the root cause of the problem. When people deal with the causes, interventions can be designed to create positive change. A therapist who has experience with emotional eaters can help them resolve underlying traumas using Quick REMAP & the REMAP process and develop better coping skills to manage stress. There are new treatments available that can make this work easier than ever before. By treating the causes of emotional eating there is hope for breaking the cycle of self-defeating behavior, reducing unwanted weight and living a healthier life.