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Old 06-21-2007, 09:10 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Posts: 9,160

Default Topic 4 - Emotional Eating

I'm guessing that most, if not all, of us here at 3FC would describe ourselves as emotional eaters. Anger, boredom, joy, loneliness, depression, stress -- we respond by eating. We reward ourselves with food and we console ourselves with food.

Some of us even say that we're addicted to food, or to certain foods such as sugar or carbs.

And many of us would say that emotional eating is what made us fat in the first place.

Chapter 4 of Rethinking Thin is devoted to debunking the ideas that fat people got that way because they’re emotional eaters and that overeating to the point of obesity is a psychological problem. To the contrary, the book reports on studies showing that the incidence of emotional and stress eating is the same in normal weight and fat individuals:

“Most obese people are no different than non-obese people,” Stunkard [the researcher profiled in the chapter] says. They are not eating because they’re depressed or because they have a pathological relationship to food or to their parents. If all you had was their scores on psychological tests -- if you could not actually see the people you were testing – you would not be able to tell who was fat and who was not.

… There is no psychiatric pathway that spells obesity. And there is no response to food that is not shared by people who are not fat. You can’t say you got fat because you, unlike thin people, are unable to avoid temptation. Both fat and thin people are tempted by the sweet smell of brownies or sight of a dish of cold, creamy ice cream. You can’t say you got fat because there’s a lot of stress in your life. Thin people are just as likely to eat under stress. You can’t say it was because you used food as a reward. If that is the reason, why do thin people, who also use food as a reward, stay thin? (p 93-94)
Bottom line, according to the book, is that we can’t blame our weight problems on emotions or psychological issues. "There is no distinctive fat person's eating behavior; no fat person's psychology ..." (p 97)

When I read this chapter, it seemed counterintuitive to me. So many of us accept -- without questioning -- that our emotional and psychological responses to food are what made us fat. Yet here the book is saying, no – studies show that normal people have the same emotional responses to food as the obese.

What are your thoughts on the chapter and the idea that emotional eating is NOT a cause of obesity?
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