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Topic 4 - Emotional Eating

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Old 06-22-2007, 10:00 AM   #16
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Valerie, loved your post. But regarding this:

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I think of the things we already know that make successful maintainers, daily exercise, constant weight monitoring, continued focus on food and healthy eating. Those things are what successful maintainers do. They *aren't* what the never been fat folks do.
I actually know quite a few never-fat women who do just that. Whether they need to or not is an open question, but they do.

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Old 06-22-2007, 10:10 AM   #17
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Yes, I was generalizing. There are always never-fat people that do all that.

I really don't believe any of this is cut & dried. There are overlapping areas and conflicting forces and different motivations and priorities everywhere for all of us that make everyone's weight issues their own private puzzle to figure out.
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Old 06-22-2007, 12:18 PM   #18
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Anne -- I DO think you're a success. Overwhelmingly so. In fact, at the end, Kolata claims that it's the OVERWEIGHT who live longest! Not the "normal" weight. But... that claim is probably controversial too.

I could see myself in you, as well. I know that I engage in some of that "extra" eating... one of the many reasons the scale has not moved down for me. I don't engage in emotional eating to the extent I used to -- but it is still a struggle sometimes.

Valerie -- I like your interpretation: Kolata's claims are an explanation that provide us strategies. If I buy the argument that I may LOOK like a never obese person, but inside I'm different, then I know that I will need to behave differently to keep the weight off. I know Meg talks about this all the time.

I think another thing to like about the biological argument is that it can take some of the stigma away from being obese -- it's NOT just as simple as "eat less move more" for many people. I mean, it IS, but we're fighting against something that never obese people fight against. And maybe some of the "never obese" people need to hear that.

But again, I don't want to absolve myself of the responsibility I have to myself and of what I did to myself to get obese in the first place...
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Old 06-22-2007, 12:40 PM   #19
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I got into a semi-related discussion with my dad the other day about social stigmas, when they were acceptable, etc.

Basically, its OK in modern society to dislike or stigmatize someone for something that they DO, not something that they ARE. Thats the basic rule of political correctness. So if her point is that tending toward obese is a biologically based thing that someone IS, the social stigma toward obesity would lessened once everyone is convinced of that. If obesity is a result of something that a person DOES, however, its OK in our society to stigmatize.

This conversation actually came up in a discussion about gay rights, but its relevant here. (thats the fundamental reason why many feel it is ok to berate or otherwise criticize gay people...they see it as something that you DO, not something that you ARE. Its a VERY critical distinction in terms of how things are viewed and a fundamental disconnect between the two sides on MANY issues)

From my personal point of view, I'm somewhere in between believing that obesity is something that you DO or something that you ARE. I do know that there are PLENTY of people around me who eat and drink to excess who remain incredibly normal-weight or under-weight (my friend Adrienne had a rough day, as did I. We were talking about our desserts - me, a modest portion of homemade fat free frozen yogurt. Her, half a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and a bag of pepperidge farm cookies. No joke. She is 5'8" and weighs 130 lbs), and I do know that if I had eating habits like MANY of my friends, I would be gaining rapidly...so from that side, it is something that I AM - I AM a person who tends toward obesity. However, I have control over that, so it is ALSO something that I DO (I CHOOSE to eat, move, and manage my life to counteract my propensity toward obesity).

Sorry for rambling :-)
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:00 PM   #20
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Meg - would you start a new thread on biology based on Chapter 7?
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:00 PM   #21
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mandalinn82, you put into words what I couldn't. Very good distinction between "being" and "doing" as far as how we are perceived.

I liked the book, but my over-all feeling was one of discouragement. I think because I am on a "roll" now with my weight and eating, I am not letting it bother me. If I were looking for motivation to change, the book wouldn't help.

An aside: I loved the cover on the book. The simplicty of the photos really spoke to me. I emailed the photographer and told him I liked the photos and got a really nice email back from him. He said they used a heck of a lot of lemon juice trying to keep the fruit from turning brown during the photo shoots.
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:09 PM   #22
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Meg - would you start a new thread on biology based on Chapter 7?
Caroly, we'll hit that chapter next week. We'll take a break on new topics over the weekend and then get to the rest of the book starting on Monday. You're right, it's a really interesting chapter.

I need to get the rest of my thoughts organized over the weekend. You should see my book -- it's nothing but highlighter and Post-Its.
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:14 PM   #23
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Having read various threads on various forums since joining 3FC, it seems that when overweight people eat for emotional reasons, they far out eat thin people when they're overeating for emotional reasons.

When my thin DH overeats because he's bored, he'll eat 2-3 servings worth, not the whole bag of chips or cookies. When my thin friends eat extra pizza because 'they couldn't resist' they only eat an extra slice, not the whole pie.

Before I had my medicine induced weight gain and I ate because I was bored, I ate far, far less then I did when I was bored and on the medicine.

So maybe there is a link between the quantity of what overweight/obese people eat and emotional eating that Kolata's study examples did not evaluate.
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:46 PM   #24
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Carolyn, I am with you on the quantity issue. I have a very close friend who is quite thin and has always been thin. For the record her father is very thin and her mother is slightly overweight -- I haven't seen her brother since we were kids but I am guessing he's a normal size. She and I talk about emotional eating a lot, because both of us love sweets and desserts and both of us eat sweets and desserts when we are stressed or upset. However, here is the thing about her eating habits compared to mine. If I am upset about something and indulge in junk food, I will still go ahead and eat all the rest of my meals as if that indulgence never happened. My friend will eat significantly less at her subsequent meals, in addition to usually eating far less of the junk food than I do (or than I used to).

So yes, she does do emotional eating. But if we both ate an ice cream cone at 4:30 in the afternoon, I would still eat a normal dinner at 6:30 whereas she would probably have a piece of toast at 8pm and call it "dinner." I've seen her indulge at meals and eat large quantities of food (still far less than the quantities I eat even at my current low weight), but she will then not eat much at all for the next day.

Is she thinner than me because of genetics? Maybe there is some component there, sure. But really, she eats less than I do. I find that most people I know, who have never been overweight, if I look carefully at their eating I find that they eat smaller portions than I do. Does genetics make them less hungry? Does genetics make me keep eating even when I am full?

If there really is a huge biological factor, then maybe it is like having a family history of high blood pressure. If you are careful about eating and exercise, you may be able to avoid ever getting high blood pressure. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

I have a really hard time believing there is little to no cultural influence. Consider just the diets of different ethnic groups (including the popular "mediterranean" diet). I'm Jewish, and my comfort foods are things like dense noodle puddings, pot roasts, egg breads, etc. A lot of Jewish foods are similar to eastern european foods, which have a lot of meat and fat. OTOH, consider the Japanese diet, which is full of lean fish, vegetables, and rice. Which has more calories, a fish cake or a matzoh ball?

I know the book has a study about twins separated at birth, but I wonder if there is a study about children adopted into different countries. I know a lot of my neighbors have children they've adopted from China, who are being raised with a traditional American diet. I wonder how they will compare to a child of european descent being raised in China, in terms of their weight as adults?
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:55 PM   #25
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I haven't had a chance to read the book yet - still on the wait list at the library. Her focus on biology as the source of obesity is fascinating to me, based on my own personal experiences. As far as I can tell, I had no biological reason to be fat (although I spent a lot of years making excuses that it was genetics because my dad is heavy). I was fat because I ate really really bad at least 80% of the time. Muffins, venti full fat lattes, M&Ms in the afternoon, pizza for lunch, lots of nachos, lots of taco bell, lots of candy bars - that is what I ate EVERY day. Now, I eat really really well +80% of the time and I am thin.

I am not discounting biology as a reason for other people, but biology (and stress/emotional eating as well) were not the reasons that I was fat.
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Old 06-22-2007, 03:01 PM   #26
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We have a large asian community where I live, and I can tell you what happens - and have heard from their parents. Those who stick to the traditional home diet are fine, thin, typical asian builds. Those who migrate to the US culture and develop a liking for fast food, pizza and video games develop problems. I see quite a few overweight asian kids (mostly boys, the gamers) and it ain't pretty. It would indicate basic biology and math rather than genetics in their case.

I think you really do have to read the book and be caught up to appreciate the discussion. The early chapters are not as exciting as the modern day stuff, but they serve to build on the case of just how long this problem has existed - for centuries! It may seem like only since the low fat craze of the 80's, but that's probably just what we can remember back to. I do know there was diet rite and AYDS candies when I was little - the diet aid of the 70's!!

I think there are 2 things I'm taking away from this book (I'm up to the final chapter, chapter 8). One is, there are people who report never feeling full. That is a distinct case, of leptin challenged, metabolically challenged, or something. That's not me - I do feel full. Then there are the others, like me, who work hard to be overweight. We work hard to hit the 7-11 for a Super Big Gulp or decide to have fast food when it would be just as easy to make a s'which at home. For us, I want to know what is wrong in our brains that we attack our own successes and derail our progress and make an effort to pursue bad rewards. One of the big authors (Dr Phil maybe?) said that obese people work HARD to stay that way. I think it's true, it's hard to scheme how to consume 3000 kc a day. But WHY? Why do we feel the need to do this to ourselves? Is this just what WE do, whereas our sisters choose other things - overspending, overdrinking, promiscuity,..... and food is just our thing? That's what I'd like answered. So yes, I think there IS emotional eating, but I don't think it's what has ever been defined before. I think our emotional eating separates us from the THIN, in that somewhere in our brain or emotions, we are driven to derail our progress. Unwanted attention from others, fear of removing our insulation from the world, keeping our anxiety at bay (for me I think), don't know what the causes are, but that's my definition of emotional eating. Why do we eat the BAG and others eat 2 servings?

By the way, the end of chapter 7 - TEN MONTHS UPDATE - is all me. Can't wait for that section, it was like reading my diary. The same thought patterns, the same actions. Frightening.

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Old 06-22-2007, 04:03 PM   #27
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I think that it depends. (Do you like my lawyerly answer Meg? )

For some obesity is a purely biological thing. They are the ones who literally eat clean and exercise and their weight is still high.

For some, obesity is a matter of culture. These are the ones who may be biologically pre-disposed to obesity, but that being in a culture with very cheap and accessible ever so tempting high fat food just leads them awry.

For some, obesity is a psychological issue. These are the folks who are emotional eaters and/or addictive eaters and that need their underlying psychological issues to be identified, dealt with and constantly managed in order that the weight may stay off.

For many, obesity is some type of combination of the aforementioned.

For myself, I consider my obesity to be a genetic predisposition but one that was aggravated to an astounding degree by my psychological issues. Once those issues were identified and managed I was able to eventually move on from using food as a source of self-medication, a crutch and a means of hiding myself from the big, bad, scary world. And as a result, the pounds came off.
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Old 06-22-2007, 09:42 PM   #28
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I'm joining in late today & enjoying reading everyone's posts - maybe this is a better time to get in on the discussion.

Here are my thoughts after reading your posts -

Meg's post - "What are your thoughts on the chapter and the idea that emotional eating is NOT a cause of obesity?"
I think emotional eating definitely IS a cause of obesity, but VERY possible, those emotions are influenced by our chemical make up.

Wyllenn's post - "I'm a cultural psychologist, and I would like to believe culture and environment are significant factors in all sorts of our attitudes and behaviors. In my work, I tend to ignore the biological to a degree."
For most of my academic learning years, the emphasis in society was on the role environment played in our behavior. Since the DNA research, that has shifted to the role nature plays. I think this book is in keeping with current thought on the influence of nature over nurture.

Gailr42's post - "I have mixed feeling about the concept of obesity as a disease."
Me too! Especially, if it's an incurable one. NOTE: you refered to the similarity of Kolata's perception being similar to how one would view diabetes. As a newly diagnosed diabetes 2 person, I kept making the same connection as I read the book. Especially bc my dietitian told me that just 20 years ago, a major diabetes specialist wrote that everyone with diabetes would end up dying from complications of the disease - it could NOT be managed. (Sound like the Kolata premise?). If obesity follows the same path as diabetes has, it should be MUCH more manageable in 20 years.

SusanB's post - "I really did not enjoy this book."
I understand this feeling. I did not "enjoy" the message, but I found it fascinating. After reading tons of books promising me I could lose weight quickly and forever (I have a bookcase full of them), it was kind of interesting to read a book that said, "You might be able to do this, but you have a tough row to hoe to get it done." As I look around at my friends/family, I know only 1 person who lost over 50 lbs and kept it off for more than 10 years. I have been on and off diets for 40 years and am about 30 lbs heavier than I was when I started dieting!

SusanB's post - "... also wish that just once she would have talked to folks who have been successful."
I REALLY believe that my df and those of you who ARE successful SHOULD write a book. If you are as rare as this book indicates, you DEFINITELY have something to offer.

Now - my personal experience. I have successfully lost weight (down to my expressed goal weight) more than 5 times in my life. Each time, someone close to me either died or got SERIOUSLY ill soon after I reached goal. Each time, I gained all the weight lost + more. Were these coincidental occurrences - the problems occurred when my body was ready to re-gain the weight anyway? OR - were they causative occurrences - I engaged in emotional eating as a result of the problems and gained back my lost weight?

I teach research & one of the things I teach my students is - don't try to answer the question "why" with research. The "why" of things is part of philosophy and religion - NOT research. The best we can do with research is some answers to "what," "how," and "when" questions.


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Old 06-23-2007, 07:59 AM   #29
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Lynn -- You and I need to talk! Another person who teaches research!!

I'm a psychologist and teach exclusively to undergraduates. You?
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Old 06-23-2007, 08:19 AM   #30
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Lynn -- You and I need to talk! Another person who teaches research!!

I'm a psychologist and teach exclusively to undergraduates. You?
I'm an educator and teach exclusively to graduate students. Typically, teachers who want to become educational administrators. Generally they HATE and/or are TERRIFIED of research and statistics.

I am now retired and teach a few online courses each year for the Univ of Phoenix. I used to be the director of an Educational Leadership program at a small private college in PA. Before that, I worked as a researcher at ETS (Educational Testing Service).

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