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Emotional Eating 101: Denial

I’m dedicating February, the month of love and sentiment, to emotional eating. I’m calling it “Emotional Eating 101” because it’s an introduction to some of the powerful emotions that play into our food choices. I’m going to talk about emotional eating as it affected me but also in a general way; to some extent you’re going to have to dig in and see how these emotions might be playing out in your own life.

There are four potent emotions that frequently impact our food choices, but of course even these are just the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately for us, each of these negative emotions has a corresponding and equally formidable positive emotion to counterbalance it. They are:

  1. Denial: on the other side, acceptance
  2. Fear: overcome with contentment
  3. Hopelessness and futility: conquered with hope and optimism
  4. Shame: contrasted by pride

Denial is hiding from your own personal truth.

Somewhere along the course of my beleaguered food life I learned to detach from unpleasant feelings by mindlessly eating. This behavior became a way of quieting troublesome thoughts, and eventually to stem the physical and mental discomfort of obesity itself. The sensations of my physical body (discomfort, pain) and the interminable anxiety that was triggered by my unhappiness about my weight were too difficult for me to confront. The only way I knew to cope was to push it away from me, or more accurately, stuff it down.

Quite literally I would stand in my pantry on these days and eat until I could eat no more.

In clear-headed moments I would berate myself and say, “Stop doing that! You don’t want to do that!” and occasionally while I was mindlessly eating, those thoughts would float to the surface of my consciousness. But most times I would stuff the thoughts back down because the wall of denial was up; letting it down would mean facing things I felt I could not face.

Detachment from my physical body and my painful thoughts was primarily how denial played out for me. But I hear from people who say they cannot step on a scale because they can’t face what it will tell them. Or they continue to bring unhealthy food into the house because they “should” be able to control their cravings, and why should their families suffer just because they cannot moderate their intake of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey?

Denial comes in many guises, but it all boils down to a refusal to accept your own reality.

I can’t tell you if this is the be-all, end-all answer to your weight problem, but getting over this – ending denial – has been the solution for me.

I refuse to look away.

I finally got over denial when I realized I could no longer look away. There is no one to answer to except myself. When I “cheat” the only person who loses is me.

Why would I do that?

I wouldn’t.

I don’t.

The eating plan I stick with – and the one that will work for you – is one that I do because I want to. I do it even when no one is watching.

Denial is a not a safe haven. It is a house of cards. It will crumble down around you and leave your frailties exposed. Why not figure them out for yourself and then create strategies to deal with them?

Play to your strengths. Manage your weaknesses.

But don’t try to bury them. It doesn’t work.

Losing weight is hard, because there is nowhere to hide. But it gets easier. And you’re so damn worth it!

C’mon! Let’s go get it!

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