Diet, Will Power, and Emotional Eating

This is my question…Why are people always blamed for not being able to “stay on a diet?”   Why are they scolded and shamed when they “don’t eat the way they are supposed to?”  Why are they described (or describe themselves) as lacking will power, having no self control, being overly controlling?  More importantly, why do we believe it?  They are all messages that are so frequently communicated and yet they are completely untrue.  People trying to control their appetite, their eating and their bodies are some of the strongest willed people I’ve ever met.

It’s not a matter of being weak willed, it’s a matter of needing food because it serves a purpose.   We’re not people that eat to live, we’re people who live to eat.  We use food as a substance.  We use food to change our feelings.  We use food the way others may use alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex.  Many of us have tried all of those too.

But food is what works…in that moment.  In that moment, when we restrict, overeat, purge, we feel ok.  Ok in that we don’t feel as bad, sad, anxious, miserable as we do when we try not to use it.

It’s like our magic formula.  When used in the right way, in the right combination, in the right ritual we have found a way in that moment to escape pain.   It comforts us, it relaxes us, it helps us not be overly emotional. If we’re angry we can turn to it and avoid having conflict with others.  We love it and hate it all at the same time. We want to be rid of it and yet can’t imagine parting with it.

The biggest myth of all, however, is that we believe if we can just figure out a way to control our eating we will be better.  The belief that our problems lie in our bodies is false.  The truth is that the solution does not lie in trying to control our eating, the answer lies in remembering how to eat without using food as a substance. The answer lies in finding other ways to feel loved, accepted and relaxed.