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Old 05-15-2012, 12:25 PM   #1  
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Default Eating out of spite, anger eating?? Emotional eating.

"They" always say: "It's not what you eat, but what's eating you!" I am digging really hard trying to find out why and how I have become obese. I want to be successful at this.

I have never been thin, but after high school just continued slowly to gain. I think I suffered from growing portion syndrome after marriage and turned to junk food when I became sad or happy or in times of stress....I think.( Is this emotional eating?)......but there may be more....

One of the triggers that I have noticed was that I was eating out of spite at times. For example, a family member told me at dinner that I could not eat fries because I was on a diet, that I was watching what I ate....I proceeded to eat the fry " I am watching what I eat as I put it in my mouth." I ate the fry out of spite. This happens on occasion.

Does any one have experience with this issue? Any psych majors out there? Why do I do this? Do I have mommy issues or something?
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:20 PM   #2  
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I sure wish I knew too! The very first thing I have a compulsion to do when I'm happy or sad or mad or feel out of control or want to celebrate or want to sulk, is EAT! I really have to take notice of these feelings and fight them. I still don't know exactly why though.

When I was born through age 3 I lived with my mom at my grandparents' house. At age 3 my mom married my adopted father and we moved out (of course). My mom has told me that when I would go spend the weekend with my grandparents that when I came home Sunday night I had visibly gained weight! My grandma loved with food. Perhaps I get that coping mechanism from way back then when I assume I probably felt a little out of place moving out of the home I'd always known with my mom and grandparents to living with my mom and a dad I'd only known for 6 months at the time (they're still married and I've always known him as my dad). That's just my best guess. Still don't know how to make it go away though.

I can definitely related to what you are saying! Wish I had some advice, just commiseration though.
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:28 PM   #3  
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Originally Posted by dstalksalot View Post
"They" always say: "It's not what you eat, but what's eating you!"
I think "they" are often mistaken. It can be true, but I also think it's untrue far more often than we tend to assume.

I DID strongly believe this most of my life, and even got a bachelor's degree and master's degree in psychology as much for wanting to figure myself out as finding the subject interesting.

And I've come to the conclusion, sometimes it IS what you eat, not what's eating you!

I spent more than 35 years trying to find out what was "eating me." I read self-help books, I saw therapists (one concluded it was "abandonment issues from having been adopted," another concluded that sibling rivalry was to blame...)

Then a miraculous coincidence helped me see the root of my issues.... carb addiction.

Turns out I wasn't fat because I was an emotional wreck, I was an emotional wreck because of my high carb diet.

The miraculous coincidence was my doctor recommending that I try low-carb dieting for my insulin resistance, but warning me not to go too low.

I had tried low-carb diets in the past, but never gave them more than a three to four week shot, and only the most restrictive stages (like Atkins Induction).

I would get so ill (and it got worse after the two week mark, not better) to the point of actually passing out (I now recognize these symptoms as low-blood sugar).

By experimenting with low-carb I found a strange side effect... on moderately low-carb (but not super low carb), I found that my emotional state was much improved. I didn't get as easily upset as when I was eating high-carb (even healthy carb diets like post phase I South Beach).

It turns out that I wasn't fat because I was crazy, and I wasn't even crazy because I was fat, I was crazy and I was fat because I was eating a diet that made me crazy and fat (to be clear I don't mean crazy literally. I mean crazy in the sense of being very prone to emotional upset, and to eating in response to the emotional upset).

Sugar (and carbs that break down into sugar - which is all carbs but fiber) acts as both a stimulant and a narcotic. I was using sugar to medicate a problem caused by sugar.

On high carb diets, my emotions are a rollercoaster. On a low (but not too low) carb diet, the roller coaster is replaced by a boat on calm seas.

I'm not saying that emotional problems (even my own) don't contribute to obesity, but because of my experience I do wonder how many people's emotional problems are being exacerbated by their diet.

I do find it exceedingly difficult to stick to the diet I feel best on (physically AND emotionally), and the pessimistic side of me (and the part of me that wants to believe that my education and career choice wasn't wasted) wants a deep psychological reason for that difficulty, but the rational part of me suspects that the difficulty sticking with the diet is more complicated (and yet more simple) summarized by the statement "Change is difficult."

Especially a change that puts you in the position of having to rebel against cultural norms. You have to "swim upstream" and "march to a different drummer," and all the other cliche' analogies that mean "you can't do what everyone else is doing." And it's hard to be different. It's so tempting to think and feel "why can't I eat what everyone else around me is eating (whether or not those people are overweight or carb-addicted)...."

Food (especially carbohydrates) can be used as a drug, and in our culture it's a drug that we receive a lot of pressure to use recreationally, and some of us can't, and it doesn't necessarily mean that there's anything psychologically or emotionally wrong with us. It may be strictly physiological. Some of us may even carry a gene that makes carbohydrate-abuse more likely (although some suggest that we all carry the gene).

In "The End of Overeating," by David Kessler, the author argues that the salt/sweet/fatty flavor/texture combinations are difficult for humans (and rodents) to eat in moderation. Rather than "addiction" he uses the word "conditioned hyper-eating."

I think we WANT to believe as a culture that fat people are defective in some way, but the American obesity rate is climbing much faster than can be accounted for in a rise in emotional problems. It's not particularly likely that we're "crazier" than our ancestors or modern people living in countries without as large an obesity problem, and I suspect the food environment and the food culture is to blame. We're eating on a daily basis, what our ancestors ate only a couple times a year, and we're actually pushing the foods on each other (please, just have a bite. I made it just for you. One bite won't hurt, don't be a party-pooper).

I know I've written a blasted novel again, but in a nutshell I just want to say don't assume there's anything at all wrong with you or your emotions until you have evidence. Counseling isn't a terrible idea, but don't expect the counselor to know you. And consider experimenting with a whole-food, paleo, or moderately low-carb diet and see if that helps the "emotional stuff." I was absolutely amazed (and so was hubby).

Hubby used to call me werewolf because of my severe PMS (really to the point of PMDD). A combination of birth control, a low-dose antidepressant, and a paleo diet has largely tamed the werewolf. The irrational werewolf only comes out when I eat off-plan carbohydrates. And I don't think that when I do, that deep-seated emotional issues are to blame. It's just very easy to be tempted to eat off-plan foods because they taste wonderful and "everyone else is doing it." I don't beat myself up for eating off plan (even if it means I have to ride the emotional rollercoaster for a day or two until the carbs are out of my system), I just get back on my food plan, which I consider almost a medical "prescription." If I want to feel good emotionally and physically I have to keep carb intake within a specific limit.

Again this might not be true for you, but what if it is? Experimenting with your food plan can't hurt.

Last edited by kaplods; 05-15-2012 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 05-15-2012, 01:29 PM   #4  
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Food is 100% my comfort/drug/numbing agent. I even fell into the trap yesterday when I felt like my world was crumbling. What I really needed was a hug and sleep, but instead I ate my favorites - and whatever else I could find. It happens. Step one, for me, has been acknowledging the fact that I do this and naming the problems. I used to closet eat - and that's extra bad. At least now it's out in the open for me to look at, analyze, and deal with. One thing I do now is make a note (for it's on Excel...because I'm a dork) of every time I overeat for emotional reasons. It's interesting to see the pattens.

Good luck!! Hugs for you.
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Old 05-15-2012, 03:44 PM   #5  
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I totally understand where you are coming from. Comfort eating is where it all started for me, i moved to a place i didnt like and had my first baby- i overate and since then when i get angry, have a fight etc i turn to food straight away. When im feeling down i think how buying cakes and choc will make it all better and just chill out by myself. But its got to that point where I have to realise eating doesnt make life better, it doesnt sort out the problem, it doesnt control your anger and it doesnt fill that void. It only adds to all these things. I think what kaplod said is very interesting and something i would like to maybe try. I can identify because i also have a high carb diet- I hate fish etc so hard to have a high protein diet but is worth a try. But i defintley think its worth identifying your problems, what is the source of it, what is making you upset and in those times come up with some sort of plan, you'll do anything but eat, thats what im trying to do. Its ups and downs but when you feel angry or upset and you dont eat that cake or anything its really an amazing feeling...
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:33 PM   #6  
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Yep I totally relate. I've never really been an overeater, I'm very good at portioning my meals and sticking to it. But I always used food as a way to numb anger or sadness, and always on my own.

Honestly the only way I finally broke this cycle which spanned most of my teen years was a really awesome ED specialized therapist who taught me to actually BE angry or sad, and not eat my feelings away. Food was like, my voice when I was hurting, because I couldn't verbally let anyone know I wasn't happy. Sometimes I'd just sit in my room packing away serious amounts of food totally brimming with all kinds of emotions because of something which has happened-It never occurred to me to put the food down and confront the source. I guess I do tend to think of binge eating problems more to do with something emotional-I used to think I understood why I had my food issues, then I went through therapy and really got what it meant to understand my psyche.

That said I think Kaplods does make a really good point. In relation to it, I did find after many years of yoyo dieting and crash diets etc, after a few months of consistent healthy meals I did feel much more emotionally stable too-Rational I guess. A lot of people yoyo diet and similar to high carb/high sugar diets, they can really mess up your hormones. I remember once bursting into tears because I couldn't get across a road and missed my bus-I can't imagine doing that now.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:00 PM   #7  
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kaplods - I agree with you 100% about a high carb diet being the cause of my obesity and emotional mood swings. I too have found that a lower carb diet has been great for both my waistline and emotional stability. That being said, I too, have a hard time sticking to this diet that has changed my life in such a positive way. I am a bona fide carb addict and probably always will be. I certainly crave carbs less when I restrict them, but whenever I get a craving or am tempted to go off plan, it is always some form of carbohydrate I desire.
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Old 05-16-2012, 01:54 AM   #8  
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my brother is in AA and they have a lot of slogans and catch-phrases. one simple one is HALT. once it is established that drinking (or eating in excess, or eating foods that have negative affects on your body or emotions) has become destructive for you, and when you want a drink (or to eat), stop (or HALT) and ask yourself: am I (H)ungry, (A)ngry, (L)onely or (T)ired? Obviously, if we ARE physically hungry, we need to eat, but to mindfully eat nourishing foods in the right amount to sate our hunger. Binge eating or eating junk food will probably not soothe the hunger, but create more cravings. Any of the others, food is not the solution. I'd probably add a "B", for Bored.

My brother and I can joke about the corniness of some of the AA slogans, but there is surely a nugget of truth in them. AA has helped him take control of his life, though from the outside few would have thought he had a serious drinking problem. But he did drink to numb his hunger (not just for food), anger, loneliness and fatigue. When he quit drinking, he had to find other means and skills to manage discomfort in his life. And he is thriving. He also is happy to remind me that I might want to stop at the wine store on our way home- his sobriety is what helps him, but he knows it's not one-size-fits-all.

While we cannot, of course, quit eating, we can choose to quit certain destructive eating habits or patterns, we can quit eating junk foods or whatever foods we discover are not healthy for us emotionally or physically.

Just a thought.
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:25 AM   #9  
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I eat when things get me down and I get really depressed. But I now recognize that depression will make me eat. So when I had a bad day yesterday at work and was really down/upset when I got home, instead of eating I got on my bike and went for a long ride (about 20 minutes; I do this several times a week). The fresh air and movement made me feel better so that when I got home, I didn't want to "waste" all that exercise by eating junk! So not only did I not binge, but I got exercise to boot.
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